Influential Namco founder dies at 91
Masaya Nakamura may not be a household name in the west, but his legacy certainly is. Founder of Japanese gaming giant Namco (recently merged with Bandai to form Namco Bandai), he was responsible for pushing the growth of Namco’s fledgling gaming division in the 1970s and 80s. His biggest success was in helping get Toru Iwatani’s Pac-Man (originally Pakkuman in Japan) into arcades across Japan and America. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nakamura passed away on January 22nd, with Namco Bandai publically announcing the legend’s passing on Monday the 30th. Cause of death was not disclosed.
He is reportedly known as the ‘Father of Pacman’, although until today I always thought that title reserved for Toru Iwatani. A quick Google search gives us Iwatani, followed by a huge list of news posts just like this one calling Nakamura the ‘father’. Odd, to say the least.
Originally studying in shipbuilding, Nakamura quite successfully predicted a need for light-hearted entertainment in a post-war Japan, which led him to found Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company. Such a mouthful was later shortened to the much catchier and more enigmatic ‘Namco’. Perhaps the similar structure to the word ‘Nintendo’ has always led me to believe it meant something much more intriguing in a foreign tongue. You can thank me when it’s origin comes up on a pub quiz in a few years…
Pac-man holds the record for the highest-grossing arcade game of all time and is synonymous with video gaming, especially the retro and arcade scene, the world over. Nakamura was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame alongside Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario and Donkey Kong) and Pac-Man in 2010.
Nakamura was responsible for Namco’s global success, move into video games and eventual purchase of Atari’s assets upon their collapse. He remained an honorary advisor for the company throughout his retirement, up until his recent death.
The Washington Post says “hits from Namco include driving-simulation games such as “Ridge Racer” and a drumming game.” Their choice of games to showcase Namco’s impact are odd and a little unflattering. Aside from the vague and uninteresting examples of Ridge Racer and a ‘drumming game’, Namco are responsible for the Pacman, Galaga, Digdug, Katamari Damacy, Time Crisis, Tekken and Soul Calibur series, among others. A tribute to the late Masaya Nakamura (or perhaps an odd coincidence) can be seen in Humble Bundle’s latest Namco Bandai bundle.