Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Japanese video game company Bandai Namco, which in the 1980s released the world-famous game Pac-Man, has died at the age of 91.
Bandai Namco, which informed of Nakamura’s death in a statement , did not give details of his cause of death.
Nakamura, who is also known as the “Father of Pac-Man,” founded in 1955 Nakamura Manufacturing, which would become Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company (Namco).
In 2005 Namco would merge with Bandai to form Bandai Namco.
Namco started out by installing two electric rocking horses on the roof of a Yokohama department store as children’s amusement rides.
As the Japanese economy recovered from the devastation that was the Second World War, so too did the Japanese people’s appetite for entertainment.
In the 1960s, Nakamura would install another rooftop attraction he called Roadway Rides consisting of small replica cars running on tracks. The attraction proved popular and it was commissioned for the rooftops of every Mitsukoshi department store.
It wouldn’t be until the rise of video games that Nakamura would leave his mark.
In the 1970s, Nakamura, who early on believed in their potential, hired software engineers and had his company develop game titles for arcades. By 1980, Namco had developed Pac-Man.
It became hugely successful.
More than 250,000 units of the game were sold during the first year of its release. Of that number, 100,000 of them were sold on the United States, according to according to pacmanmuseum.com .
Its popularity was such that the US Guinness Book of World Records described Pac-Man as the most successful coin-operated arcade game at the time.
In 2016, US online gaming website US Gamer called Pac-Man one of the highly grossing arcade games of all time . The site estimates as many as 400,000 games were sold by 1990 and had generated nearly 7 billion euro in revenue.
Pac-Man proved so popular in fact Nakamura had not anticipated the level of attention the game would generate.
“I never thought it would be this big,” he is quoted telling an interviewer. “You know baseball? Well, I knew it would not be a single. But I thought maybe a double, not a home run.”
Nakamura would actually express concern by how much time young people would be engrossed in the game – an early warning perhaps against the irresistible allure that screens have on people today.
“I am a little concerned about the way some young people play it so much,” Mr Nakamura said. “It’s not a very happy thing to see people spending so much time on it. Once it goes beyond a certain level, it is not good for young people.”
The success of Pac-Man would open the door to other cottage industries including Pac-Man inspired clothes, merchandise and even over games. It is believed to have been played more than 10 billion times in the 36 years since its release.
Pac-Man was designed by then 25-year old Toru Iwatani, who said he became inspired by a pizza with a missing slice to create Pac-Man.
Toru Iwatani shows his original drafts for Pac-Man. pic.twitter.com/PoB3xsKtzD— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPix) January 22, 2017
Nakamura would lead Namco until 2002, when he would become an honorary advisor until his death.
He would receive the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government for his contributions to the country’s industry.
Nakamura’s death was only recently revealed, having taken place more than a week ago.
He was born Dec. 24, 1925 in Yokohama, Japan.
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