Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco who led the company during the Pac-Man craze and subsequent video game arcade boom of the 1980s, passes away at the age of 91.
Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco who was in charge of the company when it introduced Pac-Man and countless other video game arcade hits to the world in the late 1970s and 80s, has died at the age of 91. Nakamura passed away on January 22 but his death was announced on Monday via a Bandai Namco press release.
Polygon notes in its obituary that Nakamura was often called “the father of Pac-Man” by the company he founded, but he also played a role in the production and promotion of other popular arcade games like Galaxian, Galaga, Pole Position, and Xevious. Nakamura founded Nakamura Manufacturing in 1955 as an amusement ride company, eventually changing the name to Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company or “Namco” in 1977. The company got its start making small, family-friendly rides and midway games for Japanese carnivals and department stores.
Polygon notes that one of the biggest decisions Nakamura made while at the helm of the company was to acquire Atari’s Japanese subsidiary in the 1970s, as the move is what caused Namco to switch its focus to the emerging coin-operated video game market. Namco launched Galaxian in 1979 to critical acclaim as it was the first game to use multicolor sprites, but Galaxian‘s success would soon be dwarfed just one year later with the 1980 release of Pac-Man.
Pac-Man, developed by Toru Iwatani, became a global sensation and made Namco a household name. Pac-Man is the highest grossing arcade game of all-time, earning more than $3.5 billion dollars by 1990. Under Nakamura’s direction, the company made even more money off of licensed toys, a Saturday morning cartoon and even a breakfast cereal. The release of a sequel, Ms. Pac-Man in 1981, was arguably even bigger and additional arcade hits like Galaga and Dig Dug followed.
Nakamura maintained an emeritus position with the company after Namco and Bandai merged in 2005 and would go on to receive numerous awards during his later years. The Japanese government presented him with the Order of the Rising Sun in 2007 for his contributions to Japanese industry and he was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame in 2010 to celebrate Pac-Man‘s 30th anniversary.
Today, Nakamura is being remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of the gaming industry. Forbes reports that his death was not announced for more than a week as his funeral and wake was a private affair, but notes that Bandai Namco is planning a public memorial at some point in the future.