Hiroshi Yamauchi, the man who brought Nintendo to prominence as a leading player in the video games industry, has died aged 85. The great-grandson of Nintendo's founder Fusajiro Yamauchi, Hiroshi Yamauchi ran the Japanese firm from 1949 to 2002.
November 7, 1927 - September 19,2013
During his time as President of his family's business, the Japanese firm was transformed from being a playing card company, first by entering the toy market and then by being among the first to recognize how electronics could bring a new dimension into play.
As outlined in Nintendo -The Early History, Hiroshi Yamauchi was 21 and was studying law at Waseda University when his grandfather, Sekiryo Kanedam, Nintendo's second president, suffered a stroke and Hiroshi was summoned to his bedside. His grandfather told him that he had to leave university and take control of the company. He agreed on condition that he was the only family member in the company.
Hiroshi sacked all of the managers that had served Nintendo through its earlier years as he wanted none of the old guard to interfere with his command. Unsurprisingly he wasn't welcomed because of his youth and inexperience and his determination to modernize a company that had specialized in the production of the Japanese playing cards known as hanafuda.
A set of hanafuda cards from Nintendo
In 1951 he changed the name of the company to Nintendo Playing Card company and started to produce plastic coated playing cards. In 1959 he agreed to a licensing deal with Disney to produce cards with cartoon characters. In the 1960s he moved the company into toy manufacturing and with the help of Gunpei Yokoi embarked on making electronic toys, the fist of which was the Love Tester, designed "for young ladies and men" to determine how much two people love each other.
It was in the 1980s, and due to Shigeru Miyamoto's conviction that shoot 'em ups were "crude and boring" that Nintendo made the move to games with storylines and in 1981 when Donkey Kong was release it became the first smash hit game. Miyamoto was asked to produce more games and as he produced sketches of his mustachioed hero someone said that he looked more like a plumber - Mario was born and put Nintendo firmly on the road it would follow into future success. For more see Super Mario - Nintendo goes forward.
In an interview at the Tokyo Game Show, Haruhiro Tsujimoto, president of game maker Capcom said:
“Yamauchi made the game industry what it is now. I appreciate his achievement.”