Bidding Farewell to the “Godfather of Nintendo”

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the man who transformed Nintendo into the world’s leading video games company passed away aged 85 years. The Japanese businessman stood as president of Nintendo from 1949 to 2002. For a generation of gamers, Nintendo signified a golden era of mainstream gaming, with a series of legendary games such as Super Mario, Bros, Legend of Zelda and Metroid. Yamauchi’s name became a synonym with Nintendo’s success even after his retirement. His philosophy, that gaming is more important to technology, paved the way for even more accomplishments with the launch of Nintendo Wii which featured a motion control device for gaming but relied on cheap off-the-shelf hardware.

What were the attributes of Yamauchi that drove his company to success?

A true visionary

Yamauchi was famous for spotting talented game designers. At a Nintendo factory he once chose engineer Gunpei Yokoi who in the end developed the world renowned handheld console Game Boy. This was the beginning of Nintendo’s expansion into the toy and gadget market. Noticing the great success of video games, Yamauchi later asked young artist Shigeru Miyamoto to create an arcade machine that would attract a global audience and it was then that Donkey Kong became a huge success  and the famous Mario character emerged.

A Shrewd businessman

Yamauchi had a reputation for being a wise and bright businessman, actively protecting the sustainability of his organization. He was always concerned with keeping his company debtless and this reflected Nintendo’s business strategies. Nintendo machines were always sold at a profit rather than loss-leaders for software sales. He also ensured that game publishers paid in advance for the production of game cards, taking the risk away from his own company. His managing and business practices revolutionized the way games industry worked.

The figure of Yamauchi will always signify an inspiring hard working, proactive and outstanding manager. This person grasped better than anyone else the social value of play and the economic potential of gaming according to Ian Livingstone, former chairman of publisher Eidos.


Photo taken from The Asahi Shimbun (