Remembering the late Masaya Nakamura (1925 - 2017), founder of Namco.
On January 30th, 2017, Namco announced that its founder and former CEO (from 1955 until 2002), Masaya Nakamura, passed away on 22 January 2017 at the age of 91. The reasoning for the delay in announcing his death was due to Namco requesting respect for his family’s privacy.
Nakamura was born Dec. 24, 1925, and graduated from what is now Yokohama National University in 1948. His field? Shipbuilding. However, thanks to Japan’s economic recovery following World War 2, shipbuilding fell by the wayside. And so, in 1955, Namco was born! Initially, it was known as Nakamura Manufacturing, then later on as
Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company before finally being shortened in to the Namco name that would become recognized internationally.
He initially focused on mechanical amusement rides in the early decades, but in the 1970s, Nakamura saw potential in the field of video games after observing the prototypical arcade games that began to rise forth in the very earliest days of gaming, and he wisely steered the company more towards video gaming.
Mere years later, Namco kicked off its still-ongoing string of gaming hits such as Galaxian in 1979, and most importantly Toru Iwatani’s Pac-Man in 1980. The wild success of Namco helped pave the way for the rising video game industry, and with Nakamura at the helm, he is easily one of the most crucial figures in gaming’s history.
An interesting footnote: When Namco purchased film company Nikkatsu, Nakamura dabbled in movie production; he is even credited as executive producer on many of their films!
After 47 years as CEO of Namco, Nakamura decided to settle in to well-deserved retirement by stepping down from his CEO position in 2002 at the age of 77, remaining loosely involved with the company in a more honorary and ceremonial role. He was Japan’s 68th richest person by the time Namco merged with Bandai in 2005.
In 2007, Japan’s government recognized Nakamura’s accomplishments with a very prestigious award: the Order of the Rising Sun, the highest honor one in Japan can receive without being a head of state, royalty or a politician. It’s very similar in concept to Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. And in 2010, he was inducted in to the International Video Game Hall of Fame, where he spoke via satellite feed.
62 years after Namco began as a mere
two mechanical horse rides on a department store rooftop, Namco is a global powerhouse and symbol of excellence in gaming. Nakamura’s efforts have brought many people across the world a whole lot of fun over the last several decades, and Namco will continue to do so long after his passing.
Thank you, Nakamura!