A sad, yet perpetual state of mourning for Nintendo today, as the company announced that their longtime former president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, has died. He was 85.
Yamauchi first became president of Nintendo in 1949, when the company was just a simple card-playing game manufacture. By 1963, Yamauchi had renamed Nintendo Card Playing Co. to just Nintendo. With the boom of video games quickly taking shape in the mid to late-1970s, Yamauchi saw this as an opportunity to take the company into a whole new direction.
One of the company’s first toys was the Ultra Hand, which was developed by the late Gunpei Yokoi. The Ultra Hand was, as you would imagine, an extendable arm used for grabbing out-of-reach items. According to Yokoi, when Yamauchi first saw the product, he immediately wanted it on store shelves by the following Christmas.
The rest, as cliche as it sounds, was history.
Yamauchi would soon overlook Nintendo’s during the company’s golden years from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Super Nintendo. It was here that Yamauchi gave into a huge risk with the NES during a time when the video game industry was beginning to fall apart. However, with much optimism in the Japanese market, the NES proved to be the proverbial adrenaline shot to a fledgling industry riddled with shovelware and unplayable games. In a sense, not just only Shigeru Miyamoto, but Hiroshi Yamauchi helped save video games.
In between the release of two successful home consoles, Yamauchi ventured into another business opportunity: owning a baseball team. With the Seattle Mariners struggling to find an owner, several of the state’s senators asked the team to find a Japanese investor to prevent the team from relocating. Yamauchi soon stepped in and bought a majority stake in the franchise. Unfortunately, in his years owning the MLB club, he never attended a single Mariners ballgame. However, by 2000, the club had already moved into a new stadium in Seattle and made its first profit of $2.6 million since Yamauchi’s acquisition.
With the release of the Gamecube in 2001, Yamauchi soon stepped down from the company almost a year later. Satoru Iwata would soon take his place, marking the first time that Nintendo was not helmed by any member of the Yamauchi family. Up until his death, Yamauchi was Nintendo’s second largest stockholder and the 491st richest person in the world valued at $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.
Yamauchi’s passing is a tough loss for Nintendo, who saw him transform the company from nothing and into a household name. Rest in peace, Yamauchi-san.
What are your favorite or eye-catching memories of Hiroshi Yamauchi? Share in the comments below.