Masayuki Uemura, a Japanese home computer game pioneer whose Nintendo consoles sold millions of units worldwide, has died, according to the university in Kyoto where he taught. He died December 6, 2021, at the age of 78.
Born in Tokyo in 1943, Uemura studied electronic engineering at the Chiba Institute of Technology and joined Nintendo in 1971, at a time when the company was just beginning to expand from toys and board games into electronic gaming.
With the success of their 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, Nintendo’s president asked Uemura to make something that would allow arcade game fans to play their favorite games at home on their TVs, with easy-to-use video games stored on cartridges.
He created the NES, originally known as the Famicom when it was released in 1983. Donkey Kong was among the first games available for the NES, which, along with Super Mario Bros., helped make it an international phenomenon.
It started with a phone call in 1981. President Yamauchi told me to make a video game system, one that could play games on cartridges. He always liked to call me after he’d had a few drinks, so I didn’t think much of it. I just said, ‘Sure thing, boss,’ and hung up. It wasn’t until the next morning when he came up to me, sober, and said, ‘That thing we talked about—you’re on it?’ that it hit me: He was serious.Masayuki Uemura
In 1990, Uemura’s next creation, the Super NES, was released. Uemura remained with Nintendo until 2004, also producing video games including Baseball and Ice Climber. In later years, he was the director of the Center for Game Studies at Ritsumeikan University.