Hiroshi Yamauchi, Who Helped Drive Nintendo Into Dominance, Dies at 85
By HIROKO TABUCHI September 22, 2013
TOKYO — Hiroshi Yamauchi, who transformed his great-grandfather’s playing-card company, Nintendo, into a global video game powerhouse, died on Thursday in Kyoto, Japan. He was 85.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, the company said.
Mr. Yamauchi, who led Nintendo from 1949 to 2002, was Japan’s most unlikely high-tech success story. Named president of the family business at 22, he steered Nintendo into board games, light-emitting toy guns and baseball pitching machines — fruitless forays that he later attributed to a “lack of imagination” — before the company arrived at arcade games.
Its Donkey Kong and the original Mario Bros. became hits and gave rise to Nintendo’s wildly successful home video game business.
The Nintendo Entertainment System, a console first released in Japan in 1983 as “Famicom,” unseated early leaders in the video game industry, selling more than 60 million units thanks to shrewd marketing, close attention to product quality and a crop of games based on unlikely yet endearing characters that soon became household names.
In 1988, The New York Times wrote: “Many Nintendo best sellers, like Super Mario Bros. 2, are based on wildly preposterous premises, this particular one being two mustachioed Italian janitors who endure various trials, such as dodging hammer-swinging turtles and lava balls and man-eating plants, in order to save a Mushroom Princess. No matter. Kids can’t get enough of the games.”
Under Mr. Yamauchi, who professed not to understand video games, Nintendo went on to dominate the business. When a successor machine was released in 1990, fans camped outside electronics stores for days in anticipation; it sold almost 50 million units. Next came the Nintendo 64 and Nintendo Game Cube home consoles, as well as Game Boy hand-held machines. Nintendo dominates the list of all-time top-selling games.
In the early 1990s, Mr. Yamauchi found himself in the middle of an international dispute when he offered to buy a majority stake in the Seattle Mariners. The team, established in 1977, had been threatening to leave Seattle if it could not find a new owner willing to keep it there. Nintendo had its United States headquarters in Seattle.
The team’s owners approved the deal but the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Fay Vincent, and a four-man M.L.B. owners’ committee initially opposed it. They relented and approved the sale in 1992 after Mariners fans and the Seattle news media rallied in favor of it. In 2001, the Mariners signed the star Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, now with the Yankees, helping to open the door for many more Japanese players to join major league teams in the United States.
In a show of his characteristic detachment, however, Mr. Yamauchi confessed at the time that he was not much interested in baseball, either. He said he had never gone to a baseball game and is thought to have never gone since. One of his few hobbies was the Japanese board game Go, which he played at the master’s level.
Hiroshi Yamauchi was born in Kyoto on Nov. 7, 1927. He was raised by his grandparents after his father, Shikanojo Yamauchi, deserted the family.
The Yamauchis had been makers of hanafuda cards, a Japanese playing-card game based on flowers, since 1889. Once favored by the elite, it became popular as a gambling game, often played by Japanese gangsters.
Mr. Yamauchi joined the family business in 1949 after his grandfather had a stroke. He moved quickly to take control at the company, forcing out a cousin and later purging officers appointed by his grandfather.
But the playing-card business was in terminal decline, and Mr. Yamauchi shifted the company’s focus to one toy after another until he found success with video games in the 1980s. He was helped by the renowned video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who joined the company in 1977 and created Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Wii and other products.
Mr. Yamauchi developed a strategy that set him apart from other consumer electronics manufacturers in Japan. From early on, he farmed out the production of Nintendo’s video game machines to smaller suppliers, allowing the company to maintain a relatively small staff and low overhead costs. Nintendo approved only a handful of games each year, whether designed internally or by outside companies, ensuring that prices and profit margins remained high.
There were some misfires under Mr. Yamauchi’s watch. The company’s cumbersome, headache-inducing Virtual Boy portable console — a red box on legs with rubber visors that players peered into to play games in 3-D — was a flop. And beginning in the late 1990s, first Sony, then Microsoft steamrolled into the gaming market with new consoles — the PlayStation and Xbox, respectively — challenging Nintendo’s dominance.
Mr. Yamauchi stepped down in 2002 — “I have no energy left,” he told reporters — and is credited with going outside the family to appoint a successor to steer Nintendo through rocky times. Under Satoru Iwata, the current Nintendo president, the company roared back with its Nintendo DS hand-held machine and the Wii home game console, though Mr. Iwata, too, has stumbled with the most recent hardware releases and is increasingly under siege by smartphone games.
Mr. Yamauchi’s survivors include a son, Katsuhito.
In one of his last interviews, with the magazine Nikkei Business in 2003, Mr. Yamauchi offered a longer view of the gaming market. At the time, Nintendo was being pummeled by Sony’s immensely popular PlayStation 2 console. But he scoffed at suggestions that the battle for supremacy in gaming was over.
“That’s absolutely wrong; the gaming wars, they will never end,” he said, adding: “That’s just not how this business works. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.”
山內溥 | 1927-2013
《大金剛》(Donkey Kong)和第一代的《馬里奧兄弟》(Mario Bros.)風靡一時，使任天堂在家用電子遊戲領域大獲成功。
1983年，俗稱「紅白機」(Famicom)的任天堂娛 樂系統(Nintendo Entertainment System)首先在日本推出，將電子遊戲業的早期領頭企業拉下了馬。依靠高超的營銷手法、對品質的密切關注，以及一大批遊戲，它賣出了逾6000萬台。 這批遊戲的角色設定很離奇，但它們很快家喻戶曉，經久不衰。
1988年，《紐約時報》曾經報道：「任天堂的許多暢銷產 品，比如《超級馬里奧兄弟2》(Super Mario Bros. 2)，遊戲設定都極其荒誕。具體到這款遊戲，則是兩名留着鬍子的意大利水管工歷經艱難險阻拯救蘑菇國的公主。比方說，他們要躲避揮舞着大鎚的烏龜、火球和 吃人的植物。但這些都沒關係。孩子們玩起來就沒夠。」
山內溥自稱不懂電子遊戲，但在他的帶領下，任天堂成為行業 霸主。1990年，後續機型上市，遊戲迷滿懷期待地在電子商店門外露營數日。它最終賣出了近5000萬台。公司後來又推出了任天堂64(Nintendo 64)、任天堂GC(Nintendo Game Cube)家用遊戲機，以及Game Boy手持遊戲機。任天堂還橫掃了最暢銷遊戲歷史排行榜。
上世紀90年代初，山內溥提出收購美國職棒大聯盟 （Major League Baseball，簡稱MLB）的西雅圖水手隊(Seattle Mariners)的多數股份，結果卻陷入了國際紛爭。成立於1977年的水手隊此前發出威脅，如果找不到願意將其留在西雅圖的新東家，就會搬離。任天堂 的美國總部恰好在西雅圖。
股東們批准了協議，但MLB主席費伊·文森特(Fay Vincent)及由四人組成的MLB股東委員會起初表示反對。1992年，在水手隊球迷和西雅圖媒體的齊聲支持下，反對者做出讓步，批准了協議。 2001年，水手隊簽下了日本的明星外野手鈴木一朗(Ichiro Suzuki)，幫助打開了眾多日本球員加入MLB隊伍的大門。鈴木一朗目前效力於紐約洋基隊(Yankees)。
然而，牌類生意已是夕陽產業，山內溥帶領公司一次又一次地 轉型，最終於上世紀80年代在電子遊戲上取得了成功。他的得力助手是著名遊戲設計師宮本茂(Shigeru Miyamoto)。1977年進入公司的宮本茂一手打造了《馬里奧兄弟》、《大金剛》、《塞爾達傳說》(The Legend of Zelda)和Wii等產品。
不過，在山內溥治下，任天堂也有幾次失誤，比如讓人頭疼的 笨重便攜機Virtual Boy就以慘敗告終。那是一個帶支架的紅色盒子，配有橡膠眼罩，玩家則需戴上眼罩來玩立體遊戲。到了上世紀90年代末，索尼(Sony)和微軟 (Microsoft)一前一後，分別挾PlayStation和Xbox大舉進軍遊戲市場，挑戰任天堂的霸主地位。
2002年，山內溥卸任。他對媒體說，「我的精力耗竭 了。」由於任命了家族以外的繼任人選來帶領任天堂走出低谷，他受到了一片讚揚。在現任社長岩田聰(Satoru Iwata)治下，公司憑藉任天堂DS(Nintendo DS)掌機和Wii家用機強勢回歸。不過，也是在他治下，公司近期推出的硬件表現不佳，還越來越多地受到智能手機遊戲的圍攻。
山內溥生前接受的最後一批採訪中包括2003年《日經產業》周刊(Nikkei Business)所做的訪問，其中談到了他對遊戲市場的遠景展望。任天堂彼時遭到了索尼的大熱產品PlayStation 2的連番打擊，但他對遊戲市場霸主之戰已經終結的說法予以駁斥。
Cheerio my deario
Oct 9th 2008
From The Economist print edition
From The Economist print edition
Financial journalism loses one of its greats
Michael CronkAND what would Marjorie Deane, the backbone of The Economist’s financial coverage from 1947 to 1989, have made of all this? Up until a few weeks before her death at 94 on October 2nd, she was wont to greet visitors with, “What about this bank recapitalisation then? What does Paul Volcker think?”
Marjorie was always on the story—sovereign-debt reschedulings, takeovers, hirings and firings. Less a financial philosopher than a real reporter, she knew the numbers, knew the gossip and knew everyone who mattered, not least the former chairman of America’s Federal Reserve. Bankers willingly opened their doors to her in the knowledge that they would be talking to someone almost as well-informed as they were themselves. She was trusted, respected and liked.
A woman operating in what was then a man’s world—the City—Marjorie may have benefited from her scarcity value. In any event, she was sensitive to nuances. One friend tells of a lunch at a City bank at which the men were offered two lamb chops, Marjorie just one. “Come back!” she cried. “Give me my other chop!”
But at The Economist she was part of a generation of clever and powerful women. From her first incarnation as head of statistics (she had read maths at the University of London) through her time as finance editor and then mastermind of the newsletter Financial Report, she showed grit, feistiness, a disarming sense of humour and an affection for bone-dry La Ina sherry.
In the course of her long career she made two fundamental contributions to the paper. The first was to restore an emphasis on accuracy that is central to its credibility today. The second was to spot and nourish talent. As a boss, the gimlet-eyed Miss Deane could be “formidable”; but she sent her devoted protégés out into top jobs in journalism and finance.
After Marjorie retired from the paper, aged 75, she continued to work—for GISE, a consultancy, reviving Fin Rep for a time under its auspices, and for the World Gold Council. In 1994 she produced (with Robert Pringle) a good book on central banking. And in 1998, to further financial journalism, she set up a foundation in her name whose editorial internships and student grants are much sought after.
Marjorie’s contribution was widely recognised. She received a special prize for her journalism from the Wincott Foundation in 1979, and in 2006 she was awarded an MBE. In typical Deane fashion, she took the bull by the horns in receiving the latter: “I gather you don’t much like us journalists, Ma’am,” she said to the queen—from which blanket condemnation Her Majesty said she was pleased to exempt City scribblers.
Outside her work, adoptive family and friends, modern art was Marjorie’s biggest passion. She enjoyed an acquaintance with Duncan Grant, and a painting he gave her was one of two that she was having put up in her room when she died. Bridge, too, and the Reform Club, where she revived her interest in the game, mattered a lot to her.
Marjorie devoured detective stories, and in later years Trollope. During her wartime work at the Admiralty she made a friend of her boss, the poet John Betjeman, and afterwards summarised books for him to review. The gallant aphorisms of Don Marquis’s “archy and mehitabel” appealed to her: “it’s cheerio my deario that pulls a lady through” was often on her lips in hard times.
Throughout her life Marjorie battled against her physical limits, though she rarely spoke of them. Born in Manchester in 1914 with a displaced hip that was spotted too late, she came to suffer from severe arthritis too. When macular degeneration rendered her virtually blind, she used a magnifying glass to get through the Financial Times most days. Until the middle of 2007 she produced a report on central banking each Monday for GISE. She was an admirable lady.
WordNet: Duncan GrantNote: click on a word meaning below to see its connections and related words.
The noun has one meaning:
Meaning #1: Scottish painter; cousin of Lytton Strachey and member of the Bloomsbury Group (1885-1978)
Synonyms: Grant, Duncan James Corrow Grant
archy and mehitabel is the title of a series of newspaper columns written by Don Marquis beginning in 1916. Written as fictional social commentary and intended as a space-filler to allow Marquis to meet the challenge of writing a daily newspaper column six days a week, archy and mehitabel is Marquis' most famous work. Collections of these stories are still sold in print today.
In 1916, Marquis introduced a fictional cockroach named "Archy" into his daily newspaper column at The New York Evening Sun. Archy (whose name was always written in lower case in the book titles, but was upper case when Marquis would write about him in narrative form) was a cockroach who had been a free-verse poet in a previous life, and he took to writing stories and poems on an old typewriter at the newspaper office when everyone in the building had left. Archy would climb up onto the typewriter and hurl himself at the keys, laboriously typing out stories of the daily challenges and travails of a cockroach. Archy's best friend was an alley cat named "Mehitabel," and the two of them shared a series of day-to-day adventures that made satiric commentary on daily life in the city during the 1910's and 20's.
Because he was a cockroach, Archy was unable to operate the shift key on the typewriter (he jumped on each key to type; since using shift requires two keys to be pressed simultaneously, he physically could not use capitals), and so all of his verse was written without capitalization or punctuation. (Writing in his own persona, though, Marquis always used correct capitalization and punctuation. As E. B. White wrote in his introduction to "The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitabel," it would be incorrect to conclude that, "because Don Marquis's cockroach was incapable of operating the shift key of a typewriter, nobody else could operate it.")
Collections of the "archy" stories have been published and re-printed numerous times over the years. The published editions of these stories were originally illustrated by George Herriman, the creator and illustrator of Krazy Kat. Titles in the series include:
- archy and mehitabel (1927)
- archys life of mehitabel (1933)
- archy does his part (1935)
- the lives and times of archy and mehitabel (1940)
- archyology (1996)
- archyology ii (1998)
- The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel (2006)
Play and FilmA short-lived 1957 Broadway musical based on the columns was titled Shinbone Alley and starred Eddie Bracken as archy and Eartha Kitt as mehitabel.
In 1971 an animated film based on the stage adaptation, also called Shinbone Alley , was released. Directed by John Wilson, written by Mel Brooks, and starring Bracken and Carol Channing as the voices of archy and mehitabel, it was not a commercial success.