Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former president and chairman of Nintendo who helped transition the fledgling trading card company into the video game powerhouse it is today, died Thursday of pneumonia. He was 85.
"Nintendo is in mourning today from the sad loss of the former Nintendo President Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi, who sadly passed away this morning,” the company said in a brief statement.
Yamauchi, whose net worth was listed at $2.5 billion, was also known for being the principal owner of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners. He later sold his stake to Nintendo of America, which still owns the Mariners today.
The former Nintendo president was highly instrumental in the company’s success and showed great judgment when he tapped young artist Shigeru Miyamoto to create an arcade machine. That game turned out to be Donkey Kong, which featured Mario as a minor character. The Italian plumber would later become Nintendo’s most recognizable video game character.
Yamauchi served as president of Nintendo from 1949 to 2002, overseeing the company from its move towards video games, including the Family Computer consoles and the Game Boy.
Satoru Iwata, his successor at Nintendo, said in a statement that the company will still look to Yamauchi for inspiration.
"We will continue to treasure the values Yamauchi taught us -- that what makes you unique lies at the core of entertainment. And we at Nintendo will continue to change the company flexibly to adapt to the times, as Yamauchi did, to carry on his spirit," Iwata said in a statement sent to the Associated Press.
Funeral services for Yamauchi were scheduled for Sunday at Nintendo. His wake was scheduled for Saturday.
The tributes were already pouring in from Twitter, where “Hiroshi Yamauchi” was trending Thursday morning:
Weeping Mario. Rest in peace Hiroshi Yamauchi.
â€” Ted Grider (@TheTedGrider) September 19, 2013
RIP Hiroshi Yamauchi. A visionary that helped create a medium that still brings joy to millions.
â€” danny (@noscopearoth) September 19, 2013
gutted to hear about Hiroshi Yamauchi thanks for allowing 90% of my childhood to happen
â€” Audrey Negro (@audreyjogro) September 19, 2013
Rest in peace, Hiroshi Yamauchi-san. Without your hard work and sacrifices, Nintendo wouldn't be the legend it is today. #LeaveLuckToHeaven
â€” Ryan Rodriguez (@_RyanRodriguez) September 19, 2013