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Hiroshi Yamauchi, bizlord who gave the world Donkey Kong, dead at 85

Venerable old cap'n stomps his last goomba

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The man who took Nintendo from a small family business into an international megacorp has copped it, aged 85. Hiroshi Yamauchi died of pneumonia in a Japanese hospital on Thursday morning.

Yamauchi stepped down as president of Nintendo in 2002, and left the board in 2005, but remained the largest individual shareholder and was worth more than $2bn despite the recent slump in the value of Nintendo shares. He's survived by a wife and three children, but will be remembered as the man who made Nintendo what it is.

He took over the company from his grandfather in 1949, as a maker of hand-painted playing cards, and despite bringing plastic-covered cards to Japan growth was slow. Then there was a taxi company, and some instant noodles, before Nintendo caught the wave of electronic toys and surfed into the games, and consoles, for which the company is now famous.

But Hiroshi Yamauchi wasn't just the president of a company which lucked into the right industry at the right time; he was renowned for his dictatorial style in deciding what products would be pursued and how they would be developed. He was the driver pushing Donkey Kong to attack the US market, not to mention Mario, Zelda and Starfox.

Yamauchi didn't invent them but he recognised their potential and build Nintendo on their sales, making him a key figure in the development of computer gaming as we know it.

The company put out a statement confirming that he had passed away on Thursday morning, but despite Yamauchi's shareholding, the running of Nintendo has been in other hands for some years now – and those hands have more than enough to keep them busy. ®

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