When he took over the then 60 year-old playing card company from his grandfather in 1949, it wasn’t long before Yamauchi started to realise the limitations of the business, and was inspired to diversify the company’s output. Disney-branded playing cards quickly followed, as did a succession of eclectic enterprises, including taxis, TV, a chain of ‘love hotels’, and instant rice. In the mid-‘60s, Yamauchi transitioned Nintendo into the toy area, launching a great number of successful products under the design of Gunpei Yokoi, eventual inventor of the Game Boy.
From here, Yamauchi steered Nintendo through the arcade amusement industry, by way of a series of successful light-gun games, and eventually towards video games. Following Nintendo’s role as distributor for the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan, the company started producing arcade games such as Donkey Kong, and from there, the NES. And you know what happened after that.
Although coming in for criticism in his later years, following perceptions of outdated decision-making following the Nintendo 64’s failure to adopt the incoming CD storage format–a move that arguably lost the console a great deal of third-party software support in the face of Sony’s new PlayStation console–Yamauchi was undeniably instrumental in making Nintendo the by-word for video games. Unafraid to push the company into new areas, and possessing an uncanny ability to spot a hit product during development–he personally approved Nintendo’s game designs right into the mid-‘90s–Yamauchi, managing talent like Yokoi and Shigeru Miyamoto, effectively created the company that re-ignited and re-informed the development of an entire medium.