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Hiroshi Yamauchi (JP) (November 7, 1927 - September 19, 2013) was the third president of Nintendo. He served as president for over 50 years and was the last member of the Yamauchi family to be president of Nintendo, after Satoru Iwata succeded him. He was a key figure in transforming Nintendo from a small company into a prolific video game developer and publisher.

His great-grandfather was Fusajiro Yamauchi, the founder of the company.

Biography

Early history

Hiroshi Yamauchi was born to his mother Kimi Yamauchi(JP) (died January 20, 1978) and his father Shikanojo Inaba(JP).

Yamauchi's grandfather and president of Nintendo, Sekiryo Kaneda, suffered a stroke in 1949. As he had no other immediate successor, he asked Yamauchi to assume the job of president. Yamauchi would only accept the position if he were the only family member working at Nintendo. Yamauchi's grandfather reluctantly agreed, and he died shortly after. The agreement resulted in his older cousin being fired. Due to his young age and lack of management experience, most employees did not take Yamauchi seriously and resented him. Soon after taking over, he had to deal with a strike by factory employees who expected him to cave in easily. Yamauchi asserted his authority by firing many long-time employees who questioned it. He had the company name changed to Nintendo Karuta and established its new headquarters in Kyoto. Yamauchi was known for being a ruthless and intimidating leader. He was the sole judge of potential new products, and only products he took a liking to went on the market.

Yamauchi was the first to introduce the plastic Western playing card into the Japanese market. Instead of associating the cards with gambling, Nintendo marketed its playing cards as tools for party games that families could enjoy. A tie-in with Disney characters was made towards that end. The strategy succeeded and the product sold an unprecedented 600,000 units in one year. With this success, Yamauchi changed the company name to Nintendo Co., Ltd., took the company public, and became the chairman.

Yamauchi's visit the United States Playing Card Company, the world's biggest manufacturer of playing cards, would make him realize that card manufacturing was a limited venture after seeing their small-scale office and factory.

Upon his return to Japan, Yamauchi decided to diversify the company. Some of the new areas he ventured into included a taxi company called Daiya Transportation (which he left in 1969), a love hotel (which he reportedly frequented), and individually portioned instant rice. All of these ventures eventually failed and brought the company into the brink of bankruptcy. However, one day, Yamauchi spotted factory engineer Gunpei Yokoi playing with a simple extendable claw, something Yokoi made to amuse himself during his break. Yamauchi ordered Yokoi to develop the extendable claw into a proper product. The product was named the Ultra Hand and was an instant hit. It was then that Yamauchi decided to move Nintendo's focus into toy making. Yamauchi created a new department called Games and Setup, manned initially by only Yokoi and another employee who managed the finances.

Game industry success

Yamauchi negotiated a license with Magnavox to sell its game console, the Magnavox Odyssey. After hiring several Sharp Electronics employees, Nintendo launched the Color TV-Game 6 in Japan.

Yamauchi had Nintendo expand into the United States to take advantage of the growing American arcade market. He hired his son-in-law Minoru Arakawa to head the new American division. Their Japanese hits such as Radar Scope, Space Fever, and Sheriff did not achieve the same success in the United States, so Yamauchi turned to designer Shigeru Miyamoto's project, Donkey Kong in 1981, which became a smash hit.

Yamauchi instituted three separate research and development units, which competed with one another and aimed for innovation. This system fostered a high degree of both unusual and successful gadgets. Yokoi, who headed R&D1, created the first portable LCD video game featuring a microprocessor called the Game & Watch. Although the Game & Watch was successful, Yamauchi wanted something that was cheap enough that most could buy it yet unique enough so that it would dominate the market for as long as possible.

The Family Computer success

Yamauchi was so confident with Nintendo's new console, the Family Computer (Famicom/NES), that he promised an electronics company one million unit orders within two years. The Famicom quickly reached that goal. After selling several million units, Yamauchi realized the importance of the software that ran on the game systems and made sure the system was easy to program. Yamauchi believed that artists created excellent games, not technicians. Despite having no engineering or video game background, Yamauchi was the only one who could decide which games could be released.

Hiroshi Yamauchi stated in 1996 that while he wanted to retire from Nintendo, he could not find any good candidates to succeed him. He eventually stepped down as president on May 24, 2002, and Satoru Iwata took over his position. Yamauchi retired from the company entirely after a shareholder's meeting on June 29, 2005, though still chose to keep stock in Nintendo (he was the leading stock holder), leading him to become the 12th richest man in Japan due to the success of the Wii and Nintendo DS.

Hiroshi Yamauchi passed away on September 19, 2013 following complications of pneumonia.

List of games

Special Thanks

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