I saw the sad news that Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former president of Nintendo, had died at the age of 85. An amazing man who headed the company from 1949 to 2002, he dropped out of Waseda University to take over the Kyoto-based maker of karuta playing cards when his grandfather got ill, guiding it through the awkward years as the company tried operating a taxi service and a love hotel and made an electronic “Love Tester” that tested the compatibility of couples using electric current, before finally settling on electronic games. Nintendo is more than just the company that made Donkey Kong and Mario a part of your childhood, if you’re below the age of 45 or so: it’s also one of the most striking business success stories ever. When the company brought its “Family Computer” game system to the world it also executed a plan for domination of the industry, for example by not allowing outside studios to make more than five games per year so that no single company could exert leverage on the platform. As a result of these smart policies, Nintendo’s stock was more valuable than Japan’s vaunted auto manufacturers at its height in the 90s, and the company achievements are still a source of pride to Japanese.
Nintendo’s former president has gone to another castle.