Chinese gamers express their condolences over death of former Nintendo president

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who led Nintendo from 1949 to 2005, won respect all over the world

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 5:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 8:35pm

Chinese gamers took to the internet en masse to express their condolences over the death of former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 85 due to pneumonia.

“May you have a good rest, Yamauchi-san,” one person wrote on Sina Weibo, China’s largest social media network. “Thank you for giving my friends and me such a happy childhood.”

This Weibo user’s sentiments were echoed by hundreds of other netizens, who forwarded the news of Yamauchi’s death over five thousand times.

Like many gamers in other parts of the world who expressed similar feelings about Yamauchi's death, most of the Sina Weibo community reminisced about the many nights they had spent playing the Famicom and Super Famicom game consoles - known internationally as the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo. Yamauchi spearheaded the development of both consoles, as well as many other hardware and software projects in Nintendo’s line-up. 

“Although I prefer Sony’s [video game products] these days, I was a huge fan of Nintendo back in the days of the little red and white Famicom and the Super Famicom,” another fan wrote. “Rest in peace, Yamauchi-san.”

“All those years spent playing Super Mario Bros., Adventure Island, Ice Climbers and Contra,” another reminisced, listing off the names of popular Nintendo games in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. “There are too many good times to remember.”

This positive response to the company Yamauchi built comes in spite of the fact that Nintendo’s products were only given a limited release in China because of piracy fears, and very few games were actually translated into Chinese.

Nevertheless, Nintendo consoles and games have always been available for sale in China’s grey market, even during a 13 year nation-wide ban on foreign-made video game consoles that was instituted in 2000.

Yamauchi, who headed Nintendo from 1949 to 2005, did not personally develop video games or even play them. Nevertheless, the shrewd businessman was renowned for having a good understanding of the electronic games industry.

After taking control of Nintendo from his grandfather, who had founded the firm as a Japanese Hanafuda (playing card) manufacturer in 1889, Yamauchi steered the company away from cards and made the then-risky decision of entering the world of electronic toys and later video games.

For many years, Yamauchi oversaw all potential video game projects, and only products that caught his eye would be given the green light. Despite this strict management style, Yamauchi also pushed the creators under his employment to create compelling game experiences, and was responsible for steering the direction of the company’s hardware all the way up to 2004's Nintendo DS, the successor to the company’s popular Game Boy handheld.

The Nintendo DS, a dual-screened handheld that was at the time considered another risky venture for the company, ended up selling over 150 million units world wide.

Satoru Iwata, current president of Nintendo, released a statement after Yamauchi’s passing saying the company would honour his memory.

“The entire Nintendo group will carry on the spirit of Mr. Yamauchi by honouring, in our approach to entertainment, the sense of value he has taught us – that there is merit in doing what is different – and at the same time, by changing Nintendo in accordance with changing times.”