Henk Rogers, industry veteran and current managing director of The Tetris Company, met former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi through a pitch for a Famicom Go game, and from there established a rare friendship that lasted for decades, according to a piece from Rogers on Wired.
Rogers wrote that his relationship with the Nintendo visionary was both professional and personal — he would meet with him regularly on projects, but always at the end of the day so the two could play Go afterwards. Rogers writes that Yamauchi didn't take many one-on-one meetings, much less casual ones, as evidenced by how Nintendo staff treated him.
"I may have been the only person in the industry who had a one-on-one relationship with Yamauchi," he wrote. "All of the Nintendo executives treated me like a foreign dignitary. I got most-favored-nation status, being able to deliver the gold-master of a game after the deadline and still make Christmas, for example. I liked him. He liked me. We were friends."
Rogers published Tetris for the Famicom and GameBoy, and because some attribute the Game Boy's success to Tetris and vice versa, Rogers writes that this made Nintendo and his company "best friends forever."
"One of my favorite memories of Yamauchi happened on board an airplane," he wrote. "I was flying coach on Northwest Airlines to Seattle to check on my Redmond subsidiary. The curtain to first class opens, and in walks Yamauchi. I had no idea he was even on the plane. He walked over and made a joke about the lousy service. He called the airline 'Northworst.' We laughed. He had a sense of humor."
Rogers write that Yamauchi became "something of a recluse" in the last 10 years of his life, and he stopped traveling "for health reasons."
"Yamauchi was as sharp as anyone I had ever met," he wrote. "He ran his company like he played Go, never giving up a single point. I realized quickly that even though he was my friend, he was never going to give me anything. I had to take it, and in doing so earn his respect. It was how he played the game."
"There will never be another Yamauchi in the game industry."