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