Skip to main content

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the man who got Nintendo into video games, has died

nintendo hiroshi yamauchi dead famicom
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Hiroshi Yamauchi, former president and CEO of Nintendo Image used with permission by copyright holder

One of the most influential forces in shaping the course of modern video games is gone. Hiroshi Yamauchi, who led Nintendo from 1949 to 2002, passed away on September 19, 2013 at the age of 85. Yamauchi, the great-grandson of Nintendo founder Fusajiro Yamauchi, oversaw the company’s transformation from provider of trading cards to video game pioneer and tastemaker. It’s Yamauchi who hired Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto in 1977 and it’s Yamauchi who helped to trigger an entertainment revolution with the launch of the Famicom (NES in the US) in 1983.

The longtime Nintendo boss stepped down in May 2002, appointing still-reigning president and CEO Satoru Iwata as his successor. He didn’t fully leave the company until three years later, however. Yamauchi served as chairman of Nintendo’s board of directors from 2002 to 2005. He was around for the release of every Nintendo console from the Famicom to the GameCube, and in his time as board chair he no doubt participated in the run-up to the Wii’s wildly successful 2006 launch.

Interestingly, Yamauchi is at least partially responsible for the influx of Japanese baseball players into the United States’ major league. Nintendo owns the Seattle Mariners, a purchase that came about in the early months of 1992 after the company was approached by a Washington state Congressman and asked to find Japanese investors. Major League Baseball officials initially sought to block the foreign investment, but public backlash ultimately led to a reversal. The league’s change of heart cleared the way for Japanese ball players to sign with teams, a possibility that had previously been denied. It’s a fascinating story, and well worth a deeper look via this great 1992 piece from Sports Illustrated.

For gamers, Yamauchi’s contributions to the industry and overall role in shaping the course of its continuing evolution cannot be underestimated. The Nintendo that gave birth to the NES, the SNES, and a veritable flood of classic franchises continues to be one of the most important forces – if not the most important force – in gaming’s past, and Yamauchi played a big role in that success. We at Digital Trends mourn this loss and offer our deepest condolences to Yamauchi’s friends and family, at Nintendo and beyond.

Editors' Recommendations

Adam Rosenberg
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Previously, Adam worked in the games press as a freelance writer and critic for a range of outlets, including Digital Trends…
70+ Nintendo Switch games are discounted at Best Buy — from $16
Mario, Link, Isabelle, and a Squid Kid race down the track in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch.

If you want to expand your library of Nintendo Switch games (or if you want to add more titles to your list of backlogs --  we won't judge!), you may want to take a look at Best Buy's Nintendo Switch game sale. There's something for everyone, including casual gamers and hardcore tacticians, but you're going to have to hurry if you're planning to purchase any of these video game deals because we're not sure when these offers will expire. Keep adding to your cart, then check out as soon as possible to make sure you don't miss out on the potential savings.

What to buy in Best Buy's Nintendo Switch game sale
The Nintendo Switch game with the lowest price in Best Buy's sale is

Read more
The best games on Nintendo Switch Online
Ness from Earthbound.

Each major gaming platform has its own subscription service, giving players added bonuses such as access to certain games and other perks for a monthly fee. Xbox has Game Pass, PlayStation has PlayStation Plus, and Nintendo Switch offers the Nintendo Switch Online program.

While Nintendo's service isn't on the same level as the other two across PlayStation and Xbox, it does give subscribers access to some of the best retro games of all time -- and even more if you have the Expansion Pack upgrade, which includes N64, Sega Genesis, and Game Boy Advance games, along with DLC packs for certain Switch titles. Included with the basic version of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription is the ability to play online, plus access to NES and SNES games.

Read more
What games will Nintendo Switch 2 launch with? We have some ideas
Mario and friends zip through a race course in Mario Kart 8.

We’re officially on “new console watch.” Reports from credible publications like Eurogamer say that Nintendo secretly showed developers its next system behind closed doors at this year’s Gamescom. While it’s only a rumor, it’s a realistic one. We’re six years into the Nintendo Switch’s lifespan and even the longest-running consoles turn over at eight. If Nintendo’s next system is one or two years away, it’s time to start lining up support from third-party developers.

We’ve speculated on features we’d want in a new system before, but the reality of a new platform has me asking another question: What games would you launch with something like this? The Nintendo Switch’s launch day was crucial to its long-term success thanks to a bonafide classic in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While the rest of its launch lineup wasn’t as impressive, Nintendo capitalized fairly quickly with titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2. If Nintendo’s going to push Switch owners over to a new system, it’ll have to roll out the big guns.

Read more