We are sad to report that Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo's former president, passed away this morning of pneumonia. He was 85. Many of today's gamers may not know his name, though he was easily one of the most influential people in the industry. Under his leadership, Nintendo transformed from a simple maker of Hanafuda cards, into a multi-billion dollar video game company.
He took control of Nintendo in 1949, following the death of the current president, his grandfather. He was the one responsible for discovering Gunpei Yokoi's “Ultra Hand”, making Nintendo into a company who focused on toys and family fun. He would later give Shigeru Miyamoto the assignment that led to the creation of Donkey Kong, and oversaw Nintendo's video game era up until the Gamecube. He was known for being a bit reckless, making large promises to investers and those who supplied Nintendo with components for their consoles. Luckily for him, Nintendo and possibly the gaming community in general, his intuition was almost always correct.
Yamauchi officially retired in 2002, giving the reigns over to Satoru Iwata, who remains as Nintendo's current president. However, his influence wouldn't end there.. He is credited with telling Nintendo that the DS handheld was the direction they should go. He famously stated:
If the DS succeeds, we will rise to heaven, but if it fails we will sink to hell.
While this statement comes across as a bit dramatic, one must realize that Nintendo had just reported their first operating loss and that the Nintendo Gamecube was struggling in a way the company had never seen before. Turns out, Nintendo flew to heaven on this handheld. It is currently ranked as one of the best selling video game systems of all time, possibly even surpassing the PS2.
There is great sadness behind the death of Hiroshi Yamauchi. Nintendo changed into the company it is today because of his strong leadership. The company still follows his ideals, focusing first and foremost on family entertainment. Perhaps Nintendo can find some inspiration within Yamauchi's passing, to help guide them through their current difficulties with the Wii U.