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Farewell to a legend: NAMCO founder Masaya Nakamura has passed away

Pac-Man, one of the most popular video game characters of all time, came into development under the leadership of Masaya Nakamura. (Source: PacMan.com)
Pac-Man, one of the most popular video game characters of all time, came into development under the leadership of Masaya Nakamura. (Source: PacMan.com)
The Founder and CEO of NAMCO brought joy to millions with arcade hits like Pac-Man, Galaxian, and Pole Position.

Masaya Nakamura, founder and CEO of Namco, died January 22. The “Father of Pac-Man” was 91 years old.

Nakamura founded the Nakamura Manufacturing company in 1955. Originally created to sell mechanical coin-operated horse rides to a department store, the company grew quickly. Nakamura later renamed the business to the Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company, or NAMCO, and began focusing on arcade machines. Nakamura, a shrewd businessman, led NAMCO to purchase the struggling Atari Japan. Offering over 10 times more for Atari Japan than the competition, the acquisition secured the exclusive rights to distribute Atari games in Japan for the following decade.

In 1979, Namco released Galaxian, a Space Invaders derivative that was the first arcade machine to use RGB graphics. The sci-fi game was a financial success and paved the way for one of the most famous video game IPs of all time: Pac-Man.

Released in 1980, Pac-Man soon took the world by storm. It quickly became the must-have machine for arcades in both the United States and Japan and led to a cultural phenomenon known as “Pac-Man Fever.” In addition to the arcade smash, Namco released other classics in the early ‘80s, including Galaga, Dig Dug, Xevious, and Pole Position. Namco has capitalized on these IPs and continues to release arcade hits in these and new franchises, like Tekken, Ridge Racer, the Soul Edge series, and Time Crisis.

Nakamura was a hands-on leader. Unlike the CEOs of rival video game companies, Nakamura would extensively test and play NAMCO games himself before their release, sometimes for entire days at a time. Nakamura also led NAMCO in several other business ventures, including food-themed amusement parks and the purchase of a film production studio. In 2002, Nakamura stepped down as CEO and became a chairman and representative director of the company. He advised on NAMCO’s merger with toy maker Bandai in 2005 and continued on as an honorary advisor until his death last week.

Nakamura leaves behind an incredible legacy as the leader of one of the most consistent and popular gaming companies in the world. If it wasn’t for Nakamura’s business savvy, the world may never have spent hours upon hours chasing ghosts in a digital maze, one quarter at a time.

Masaya Nakamura in 2006. (Source: Getty Images)
Masaya Nakamura in 2006. (Source: Getty Images)

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2017 01 > Farewell to a legend: NAMCO founder Masaya Nakamura has passed away
Sam Medley, 2017-01-31 (Update: 2017-01-31)
Sam Medley
Sam Medley - Review Editor - @samuel_medley
I've been a "tech-head" my entire life. After graduating college with a degree in Mathematics, I worked in finance and banking a few years before taking a job as a Systems Analyst for my local school district. I started working with Notebookcheck in October of 2016 and have enjoyed writing news articles and notebook reviews. My areas of interest include the business side of technology, retro gaming, Linux, and innovative gadgets. When I'm not hunched over an electronic device or writing code for a new database, I'm either outside with my family, playing a decade-old video game, or sitting behind a drum set.