Hiroshi Yamauchi Passes Away at 85. RIP Nintendo’s 3rd President

Nintendo’s third President, Hiroshi Yamauchi, has passed away today. A well-known Japanese businessman, Hiroshi Yamauchi was born in Kyoto, Japan on November 7th, 1927; making him 85 years old at the time of his passing on September 19th, 2013 in the hospital following complications of pneumonia. He is survived by five children; his eldest son being Katsuhito Yamauchi, who’s credited as an associate producer on the Pokemon movies.

As the third president of Nintendo, Mr. Yamauchi joined the company in 1949 until stepping down on May 31st, 2002 (to be succeeded by Satoru Iwata). He stayed on as the chairman of Nintendo’s board of directors until June 29th, 2005 when he felt he left Nintendo in good hands for the future, with the at-the-time upcoming release of the Nintendo DS & Wii, which ended up becoming the company’s biggest successes. Although he once again stayed on as executive adviser to the company until the time of his death.

The most prominent part of his memorium is that (over his 53-year career) Yamauchi-San is credited with transforming Nintendo from a small Hanafuda playing card manufacturer in Japan to a global multi-billion dollar video game company. He was respected (and feared by his competitors) worldwide for his ruthless business acumen, as it’s been said he ran Nintendo with an iron fist. In fact, according to his friend Henk Rogers (who made Tetris a hit by making it exclusive to the Nintendo Game Boy at its debut) said that “Yamauchi was the most intelligent person I ever met. He ran his company like a game of Go, and never yielded on a single point.”

Hiroshi Yamauchi’s last message when he left Nintendo:

“Coincidental to my leaving the company, I would like to make one request: that Nintendo give birth to wholly new ideas and create hardware which reflects that ideal. And make software that adheres to that same standard. Furthermore, this software should attract consumers as new and interesting. Lastly, and of equal importance, is completing these products quickly and at a cost comparable to today’s current market. I imagine most people question the feasibility of my request, but Nintendo has always pursued those objectives. I’d ask that the company continue to follow this goal as my final and only request to the new management staff. I can’t say what these new types of software will be, but I’m sure they’ll release it during my lifetime.”

Nintendo’s fourth/current President, Satoru Iwata, issued the following statement:

“We will continue to treasure the values Yamauchi taught us – that what makes you unique lies at the core of entertainment. And we at Nintendo will continue to change the company flexibly to adapt to the times, as Yamauchi did, to carry on his spirit.”

Privately, Hiroshi Yamauchi continued this spirit in 2008 by donating almost all of the 7.5 billion yen (about $83 million) needed to build a huge new cancer treatment hospital, which opened its doors in his hometown of Kyoto on May 18, 2010.

Since he was Nintendo’s biggest shareholder at 10%, as of April 2013, Forbes estimated that Mr. Yamauchi’s net worth sits at $2.1 billion! This made him #13 on Japan richest people list, and the 491st richest person in the world, having a net worth of approximately $2.5 billion.

Hiroshi Yamauchi VS Bill Gates at Go - his favorite board game
Hiroshi Yamauchi VS Bill Gates at Go – his favorite board game

• His favorite board game was: Go (6th dan professional rank).
• His favorite video game was: Tetris (the Game Boy original).

A Brief History of Nintendo’s Legendary Hiroshi Yamauchi:

PS: I’m a huge fan of Mr. Yamauchi’s business strategies and the resulting games we got out of them. A fact that Google must have revealed, as I was flattered to be asked to come on CNN International TV for an interview about his passing, but last-minute scheduling conflicts prevented this from happening or I would’ve included that video.

Our condolences go to Hiroshi Yamauchi’s family.