Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco, passed away on January 22nd at the age of 91.
Mr Nakamura could easily be considered one of the frontiersmen of video games. Namco had a profound impact on the industry throughout the 80s and 90s and remains one of its most beloved companies to this day. Under his management Namco produced some of the most iconic games ever made and it’s unlikely they would have been able to do so if he hadn’t pushed the company towards video games early on.
When Nakamura founded the company that became Namco it was operating rides for children on top of a department store. This company was able to expand throughout Tokyo with amusement machines, which is where Namco takes its name from; “Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company”. This forever cemented its relationship with the arcade cabinet gaming of the 80s and with Nakamura himself. It was Nakamura who, in 1974, spent an inordinate amount of money to buy and consequently save Atari Japan. Others thought he was crazy, but his vision gave the company the ability to later create games like Galaxian in 1979, the series better known as Galaga in the west, and one year later its best known work, Pac-Man.
Pac-Man might well be its own story. Suffice to say that Pac-Man is the most well recognised video game character ever made (at least in the west).
Namco produced over 60 games during the following decade whilst managing to survive the video game crash that almost wiped gaming out. If that wasn’t impressive enough, they’ve continued to produce high quality titles for home consoles and cabinets, despite how much that landscape has changed over 40 years. The chances are we’ve all played a few Namco titles; button mashing to Tekken or grimly marching through Splatterhouse? Trying to fix your light guns to play Point Blank or ducking behind the arcade machine on Time Crisis? Maybe it was creating a dumb custom character in Soul Calibur? Or calculating the amount of hours spent playing through all the Tales games. Maybe you just played Dig Dug to figure out who the hell those Smash Bros trophies were.
My own first experience with a Namco game was Ridge Racer, a series from the 90s that introduced me to driving games and was later responsible for spawning this memorable performance:
So thank you, Masaya Nakamura, for your profound contributions to the industry we love. Your legacy will reach millions.