Masaya Nakamura, the man who founded video game publisher Namco and was in charge of the company during the video game boom of the 1980’s, has died at 91.
Mr. Nakamura founded the company Nakamuru Manufacturing in 1955, later changing the name to Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company, or Namco for short. Namco began life building simple rides and parlour games, but changed direction in the 1970’s when a particularly bold business decision by Nakamura saw the company acquire Atari’s Japanese subsidiary. Suddenly Namco had a serious grasp on the then nascent coin-op and arcade video game market and they didn’t waste it.
Galaxian launched in 1979, but it wasn’t until 1980 when Namco found themselves with what would become the first of many monster hits on their hands. Pac-Man, the game about a yellow head devouring ghosts in a maze, was a runaway success and became a true cornerstone of video game popular culture around the world. Pac-Man’s grinning yellow visage is to this day considered the face of gaming in the 80’s.
Under Nakamura’s guidance, Namco quickly followed Pac-Man with an equally successful sequel, Ms. Pac-Man, in 1981. Galaga released in the same year and remains one of the accomplished and beloved arcade shooters ever made. Namco then continued their winning streak with Pole Position and Dig Dug.
Continuing its history of aggressive moves that involved Atari, the company then opened a licensing division in North America located directly across the street from Atari’s headquarters and promptly sold them the home console rights to all of their biggest hits. This move ultimately bit Namco as the garbage port of Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 is still considered one of the major reasons for the video game boom of the early 80’s becoming the video game bust of the mid-80’s.
Pac-Man was originally designed by Toru Iwatani. Mr. Nakamura was given an emeritus position within Bandai Namco following the merger of the two companies in 2005. According to a statement issued by the company overnight, Mr. Nakamura passed away on January 22.
Bandai Namco has stated that, in honouring the wishes of his family, they will not comment publicly on the cause of Mr. Nakamura’s death.