Hiroshi Yamauchi, Innovator, Husband, Father, Legend.
In the spirit of good and positive news, we at the Daily Diamond don’t want to look upon the passing of Hiroshi Yamauchi with sadness, but instead celebrate his life and amazing achievements.
For those of you who don’t know, Hiroshi Yamauchi was the third president of Nintendo, and the man considered to be behind their incredible evolution from a small Japanese card-making company to an international, multi-billion pound video-gaming giant.
Born in Kyoto, Japan in 1927, Yamauchi ended up returning home from university to take over the family business at the tender age of 22, and would do so for another 53 years.
After planning to extend the family card-making business to America, Yamauchi realised that the market for playing cards wasn’t actually that big, so he decided that Nintendo needed to broaden its horizons – much to the chagrin of his employees.
Several failed ventures later (including a taxi company and a hotel), Yamauchi needed something that would make the world sit up and take notice.
A toy that was originally handmade by one of his factory engineers, Urutora Hando/Ultra Hand was developed and sold, and Nintendo suddenly started enjoying success. Because of this, they naturally moved into the toy making business. With the successes of Atari and Magnavox’s new TV game systems and technological advances of the time, Yamauchi dabbled with creating electronic toys and eventually went on to sell the Magnavox Odyssey.
At this point, arcade fever was spreading across the US, so Yamauchi decided to try expanding Nintendo to America for a second time. Unfortunately, the hits that had done so well in Japan didn’t really appeal to the American people. Yamauchi turned to his family friend’s son, a budding young designer named Shigeru Miyamoto (now often referred to as “the father of modern video gaming”), who was working on a new project – called Donkey Kong. They collaborated and both Donkey Kong and the Nintendo became huge almost overnight.
Since then, Nintendo have been responsible for what can only be called a games-console revolution.
In the years to follow, Yamauchi oversaw the releases of the Gameboy, NES, SNES, N64, and GameCube. The first three alone drastically changed the way people looked at the computer-gaming industry.
At the age of 75, in 2002, Yamauchi decided that it was time to step down as president of the company and enlisted Satoru Iwata as the new president. Yamauchi still wanted to be a part of Nintendo so he became chairman of the board of directors. He left the board just three years later saying that he felt he was leaving Nintendo in good hands.
But Hiroshi Yamauchi’s legacy didn’t stop at his retirement. He was a very wealthy man and declined his retirement pension on the grounds that the company could put it to better use than he could, and besides, he was still the company’s largest shareholder.
With his wealth, Yamauchi had become a generous man and in 2002 he bought the Seattle Mariners baseball team so they could stay in the city – and he didn’t even go to see a single game. But that is nothing compared to the donation he gave Kyoto Hospital in 2006, of about 7.5 billion yen (£45 million).
By 2008, Yamauchi was listed as the 12th richest man in Japan, owed in part to his 10% share of Nintendo and their successes with the Wii and Nintendo DS.
Many people feel that Hiroshi Yamauchi is the reason we have come so far with the development of games consoles, and if it weren’t for him then we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the likes of the Playstation or Xbox today. Many adults remember games and consoles playing a significant part in their childhoods. Defined them, even, and video-gaming is still doing so with today’s children.
Yamauchi may not have single-handedly have taken over the computer-gaming world, but he has obviously played a very powerful role.
Satoru Iwata is still president of Nintendo, and in a statement said: “We will continue to treasure the values Yamauchi taught us – that what makes you unique lies at the core of entertainment. And we at Nintendo will continue to change the company flexibility to adapt to the times, as Yamauchi did, to carry on his spirit.”
Hiroshi Yamauchi was a husband, a father, a pioneer of the gaming industry. Born 7 November 1927, died 19 September 2013.