Namco founder and father of Pac-Man dies


It’s never nice when someone influential dies and although we saw more than our fair share of famous deaths in 2016, 2017 is already looking to follow in it’s predecessors footsteps with news that Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco has passed away aged 91.

There are quite literally thousands of unsung heroes and heroines in the video game industry, with a few names that are thrust into the spot-light through either their wonderful exploits or by their sheer incompetence – I’ll leave you to figure out who sits in which camp, but it’s pretty much universally known that Nakamura-san deserves a spot on the highest pantheon of gaming greats.

Nakamura-san was the founded Nakamura Manufacturing in 1955, with his company creating kiddie rides for department stores all over Japan. In 1977, the company was renamed Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company, which was shortened down to Namco – the games company we’ve all heard of today. The company’s name change, was due to the company now expanding into arcade games, with the entertainment medium taking off in the mid-late-1970’s.

Ask anyone to name a retro video game or to name a retro arcade game, and I would put money on 3 games being Space Invaders, Tetris and of course, Pac-Man. The latter being one of Namco’s flagship games which is still massive in its popularity today, along with Galaxian, Galaga and Dig Dug being a few of the arcade games that really helped to propel Namco.

Coming off the back of this success and following the 1985 video game crash, Namco continued to innovate and succeed under Nakamura-san’s leadership, going on in 1987 to create the first multi-cabinet competitive game, Final Lap, which was also able to be linked through a network to allow 8 people to play together using 4 cabinets.

Namco were also the first licencee for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and game sales on the console made up approximately 40% of Namco’s sales.

Namco would also then venture into the theme park business, opening Sennichimae Plabo in Osaka and Namco Wonder Eggs in Tokyo as well as Namco WonderPark in London.

During the 1990’s Namco would continue to innovate, with their Ridge Racer, Tekken and Timesplitters games being high standard benchmark games for a lot of other developers to try and emulate and overtake. In 2005, Namco merged with Bandai, to create Namco Bandai Holdings with games such as Dark Souls and Project CARS breaking ground, as well as the developers continuing with existing franchises such as Ace Combat, Pac-Man and Tekken.

In 2007, Nakamura-san was awarded the “Order of the Rising Sun” due to his contributions to Japanese industry and was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame in 2010.

The video game industry needs pioneers, innovators and those who are willing to do what Nakamura-san did 40 years ago. Those people are out there, and they are doing what they are doing and they are innovating in new and wonderful ways thanks to the foundations laid by the likes of Masaya Nakamura.

Gomeifuku wo inorimasu, Nakamura-san.

What is your favorite Namco game? Was Pac-Man one of the first games you played? Let us know in the comments below, the RGM Forums or on Twitter. If you like what you’ve read then feel free to share this article on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pintrest or Reddit using the buttons available!