Masayuki Uemura, the lead architect behind the creation of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the accompanying Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) passed away at the age of 78 on Dec. 6.
Revolutionary: Uemura pioneered two consoles that would contribute to the revival of a declining home video game industry, and it all started from what he thought was a joke from his boss.
- “It all started with a phone call in 1981. [Nintendo] President Yamauchi told me to make a video game system, one that could play games on cartridges,” Uemura told Kotaku. “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.”
- Before the NES and its resulting international fame, the cartridge console was developed for Japanese players and named the Famicom, which was short for “family computer.” Yamauchi tasked Uemura with inventing a rival to the Atari console.
- After Famicom was adopted by the U.S. market in 1985, the success of the consoles exploded. Nearly 62 million consoles were sold globally by 2004, and games like “Donkey Kong,” “The Legend of Zelda,” “Mega Man,” “Castlevania” and “Metroid,” among many others, bolstered the video game industry.
- Uemura also contributed to the early work that would lead to the popular NES “Duck Hunt” game, reported NPR.
- The highest-selling game for the NES was the 1985 “Super Mario Bros.” In August of this year, a vintage copy of the cartridge reportedly sold for a staggering $2 million on the collectibles site Rally, shattering every record for any existing game on the market.
His journey: In 1943, Uemura was born in Tokyo and would go on to study at the Chiba Institute of Technology to earn his degree in electrical engineering. In 1971, he was employed by Nintendo, according to the KRON4.
- After his retirement from the game company in 2004, he would go on to teach as Ritsumeikan University’s Director of Game Studies.
- The university announced his death in a statement and did not go into further details on the cause.
- “We offer our heartfelt appreciation for Mr. Uemura’s huge contributions to the development of the game industry by introducing a variety of video game consoles including family computers,” Ritsumeikan University wrote. “May he rest in peace.”