The world has lost a great man today: Hiroshi Yamauchi. “Who is this man and why should I care about him,” you may ask? He was the head of Nintendo during the couple of decades when they got into video games. He is basically responsible for the existence of the entire video game industry. Without him video games would simply have been, “that fad during the late 70’s and early 80’s”.
To make a comparison to rock and roll. Let’s just say it’s the late 50’s. Elvis has just joined the army, and several other rockers like Buddy Holly have died in a plane crash. Rock and roll looks like it’s dead. But in a few years rock and roll will be revived by a British invasion of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, etc…. In this analogy to video games Atari is Elvis, and some of the other consoles like Intellivision are Buddy Holly or the other dead rockers. Who is Nintendo in this analogy? THE ENTIRE BRITISH INVASION!!
In home video games there was an entire Japanese invasion, and it was basically one company: Nintendo. Sure later companies like Sega and Sony would come along to steal a big of Nintendo’s thunder, but that is after Yamauchi lead Nintendo to do all of the hard work. Retailers actively hated video games in the US when Nintendo came on the scene, because they had lost so much on Atari. In just a few years Nintendo took this hostile market and turned into this cultural phenomenon where there are cartoons and breakfast cereals based on their video games.
Yamauchi was the real visionary behind the company’s success. He told the engineers to design the console with old technology, so to make it as affordable as possible. He made sure the company focused their efforts on the games instead. And he recognized Shigeru Miyamoto’s hidden talents by making him their game maker. (Miyamoto is the creator of games like Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, Wii Sports….) To further emphasize Yamauchi’s accomplishments I’d like to add that the video game market has not really grown at all in the US or Japan since the NES days. If anything it has shrunk. What he accomplished was truly impressive and has forever left its mark on the world. Yamauchi you will be missed.
Here is a link to the BBC version of the story.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24160150