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Namco confirms passing of founder and 'father of Pac-Man' Masaya Nakamura

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Masaya Nakamura was a pivotal figure in the growth of the arcade scene during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The founder of legendary Japanese video game corporation Namco has died at the age of 91. Masaya Nakamura apparently passed away on January 22, but this wasn’t announced publicly until early on Monday, per his family’s requests.

In 1955, Nakamura founded his own company dedicated to the design and manufacture of children’s amusement rides for department stores and other public spaces, according to a report from Kotaku. In 1977, the company was renamed as the Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company — which was later shortened to its initialism, Namco.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Namco was quick to respond to the growing popularity of video game arcades. As such, the company was poised to make a major impact when the arcade boom hit in earnest, prompting a demand for high quality games across Japan and further afield.

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Namco released its first original game in 1978, the now-forgotten Gee Bee. The company hit its stride almost immediately, launching three huge hits over the next three years; Galaxian in 1979, Pac-Man in 1980, and Galaga in 1981. This period was followed by the release of three arcade classics in 1982, in the form of Dig Dug, Xevious, and Pole Position.

In the late 1980s, and even more so in the 1990s, Namco began to take more of an interest in the console market as the gaming industry shifted away from the arcade model. At this time, Nakamura became more involved with film production, as Namco had acquired film studio Nikkatsu.

Nakamura was awarded the Japanese government’s Order of the Rising Sun in 2007, in recognition of his contribution to industry. In 2010, he was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame. Despite the fact that he was a businessman rather than a designer, he’ll be remembered as the father of Pac-Man because of his role in the game’s international success — and given that the character remains popular some 30 years after his debut, that’s some legacy.