When Yamauchi inherited the Nintendo presidency from his grandfather, the firm's origins lay in the manufacture of hanufada, or "Japanese-style playing cards." [Image: Flickr user matsuyuki]

Nintendo was behind one of the first home gaming systems, the Famicom, which traveled across the Pacific to become the Nintendo Entertainment System. [Image: Twitter]

Yamauchi's first artistic hire was Shigeru Miyamoto, the iconic designer behind Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, and Zelda. No game, however, went out without Yamauchi's say so. [Image: Flickr user kristin_a]

Canadian actor Avan Tudor Jogia left this tribute on Twitter. [Image: Twitter]

After Yamauchi did a licensing deal with Disney to bring branded Western-style playing cards to Japan, he traveled to the U.S. While there, he realized the cards market was too limited for his Nintendo vision. So the firm made its first pivot: to toys. [Image: Flickr user Sam Howzit]

Twenty years ago, Yamauchi became the majority shareholder of the Seattle Mariners baseball team. The club is now run by a former chairman of Nintendo America, Howard Lincoln. [Image: Flickr user Keith Allison]

The firm's first foray into electronic gaming was the Nintendo Entertainment System console, a clever remarketing of the Famicom, as it was known in Yamauchi's home country. [Image: Flickr user El Tabanero]

If you thought Richard Simmons should never grace a Fast Company slideshow, then let us apologize in advance. Normal service will resume in a minute. [Image: Flickr user goodrob13]

Behold Nintendo's sixth-gen console, the Gamecube. Released in 2001, it went up against the Playstation 2, Xbox, and the Sega Dreamcast, and was the first Nintendo product to use optical discs for its game-storage system. [Image: Flickr user Ian Muttoo]

Hiroshi Yamauchi, Gaming Innovator And Nintendo Visionary, Dies

The 85-year-old college dropout took the reins at the family firm in 1949 and was responsible for one of the biggest business pivots ever: transforming a playing-cards manufacturer into one of the biggest names in electronic gaming.

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the man who turned Nintendo into a gaming force to be reckoned with, has died at the age of 85. The firm, which he took over in 1949, following the death of his grandfather, made hanafuda, or "Japanese playing cards," on a small scale: Yamauchi took it from its origins, via toy manufacture, to the electronics behemoth it eventually became. His success made him Japan's 12th richest man and bought him a West Coast baseball team.

Most of the firm's success has been attributed to Yamauchi's marketing nous and brand insight. Iconic game creator, and Nintendo's first artist, Shigeru Miyamoto, was Yamauchi's first artistic hire—from his pen came Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Brothers. Yamauchi's nose for what consumers wanted meant only that he would decide which games were to be released. For a brief look at Yamauchi's milestones, eat a mushroom and then check out the slideshow above.

[Image: Flickr user Toobydoo]

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