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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Game Company NAMCO Founder and “Father of PAC-MAN” Dead at 91

JIJI PRESS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

In 1955 Japanese businessman Masaya Nakamura founded a company that manufactured and operated children’s amusement rides on the rooftop of a department store in Yokohama. As business boomed and expanded throughout Tokyo, Nakamura Manufacturing was rebranded into Nakamura Amusement-machine Manufacturing Company, which used the acronym NAMCO, which any gamer would tell you, is a big name in developing and licensing videogames today. To illustrate just how pioneering Namco is in the history of electronic entertainment, one need to look no further than one of the most popular and iconic video arcade games ever made: “Pac-Man”. His company is so defined by that particular game title that Nakamura is considered the “Father of Pac-Man”, thus it’s a sad day in the gaming industry to learn that Masaya Nakamura has passed away.

According to CNN, despite having died back in January 22, Nakamura’s death was only announced by his company on Monday January 30, in accordance with his family’s wishes for privacy. While his wake and funeral have already taken place, Namco plans to conduct their own public memorial service for Nakamura, who had stepped as CEO back in 2002, and last held an honorary advisory position in the entertainment division of the company after its 2005 merge with Bandai to form Bandai-Namco.

Despite being known as the “Father of Pac-Man” for heading the game company that released it, the game was actually created in 1980 by one of Nakamura’s new hires, Toru Iwatani. The Pac-Man character design was said to have been inspired by a pizza with some slices taken out, and the name is taken from the Japanese onomatopoeia of the sound the character makes when eating the dots on the screen.

On its first year “Pac-Man” would sell 100,000 arcade machines in the US and in 1981 was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most successful coin-operated arcade game. From there the franchise would follow the evolution of videogames, appearing on systems made by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, and even got into TV, animation and memorabilia merchandising. Namco itself estimates that the “Pac-Man” has been played globally at least 10 billion times.


Nakamura has been honored by the Japanese government in 2007 with the Order of the Rising Sun medal for his company’s contributions to Japanese industry, and he has also been inducted in 2010 to the International Video Game Hall of Fame in Ottumwa, Iowa.

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