Masaya Nakamura, the founder of NAMCO and the video game pioneer who presided over the smashing success of Pac-Man, died at age 91. His passing occurred on January 22, 2017, and was announced today at the request of his family.
Nakamura was born on December 24, 1925. He attended the Yokohama Institute of Technology and studied ship-building before his graduation in 1948. Seven years later, in 1955, he founded Nakamura Manufacturing, a company dedicated to running kiddie rides in departments stores. The company would eventually expand throughout Tokyo and by 1970 was known as Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company – NAMCO.
Nakamura led Namco into the arcade game industry with a splash – when Nolan Bushnell was desperate to raise case to keep Atari going, Nakamura bid a cool $800,000 to acquire Atari Japan. Sega, the next highest bidder, offered $80,000. The deal was finalized at $500,000 and became the foundation for Namco’s video game division. From there, Nakamura hired software engineers to develop new games, while Nakamura himself played the games to make sure they were fun.
Under Nakamura’s leadership, Toru Iwatani created Pac-Man, the highest grossing arcade game in history. The company expanded into the console market and was behind numerous video game franchises, ranging from the iconic, like Galaxian and Dig Dug, cult classics like the Xenosaga trilogy, to ongoing series like Souls and Tekken.
In 2002, Nakamura stepped down as Namco CEO and took an honorary role. When Namco merged with Bandai in 2005, forming Bandai Namco, he retained his position. Nakamura was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government for his contributions to Japanese industry. In 2010, Nakamura was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame in Ottumwa, Iowa at The Big Bang Gaming Extravaganza.