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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My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.