Namco Founder And Pac-Man Pioneer Masaya Nakamura Dies At Age 91

Masaya Nakamura

The gaming community has lost a legend. Masaya Nakamura, founder of Namco and pioneer of arcade hits such as Pac-Man, one of the most iconic characters in the history of gaming, passed away at the age of 91. Namco-Bandi recorded his death as having occurred on Wednesday, January 22, though decided to wait until today before issuing a press release (PDF) on its Japanese-language website.

Nakamura served as an engineer in the Japanese Navy before founding Nakamura Manufacturing in 1955. He started off with two mechanical horses that he purchased for $3,000, while renting space on the roof of a department store. He serviced and ran the rides himself.

As his business grew, he renamed the company Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing, or Namco, in 1958. That is the Namco-Bandai that is recognizable today, though it has roots working with Atari several decades ago as a distribution partner in Japan. Later on in the 1970s, Nakamura would purchase Atari for half a million dollars, giving Namco exclusive rights to distribute Atari games in Japan for a decade.

Pac-Man Arcade
Image Source: Flickr (Lorena Cupcake)

Namco was a driving force in arcade gaming with hits such as Galaga, Galaxian, Pole Position, and Xevious, though it was Pac-Man (invented by Toru Iwatani) in the 1980s that lifted the brand to a new level. Some 40 years later, Pac-Man is still a profitable IP for Namco-Bandai and a well known character to gamers. Pac-Man was even featured in Pixels, a 2015 feature film starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Peter Dinklage.

Nakamura was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame in 2010. He was also awarded the Order of the Rising Sun in 2007 by the Japanese government in recognition of his various achievements.