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Namco’s founder and ‘father of Pac-Man’ dies at 91

Masaya Nakamura led company during arcade gaming’s first great boom

Masaya Nakamura, founder of Namco Ltd.
Bettmann/Getty Images

Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco who helmed the company as it delivered Pac-Man and multiple hits to spark arcade video gaming's global boom in the 1980s, has died. Nakamura was 91 and often called "the father of Pac-Man" by the company.

Nakamura (pictured) founded Nakamura Manufacturing in 1955, the company that later became Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company — Namco. The company began making small carnival-type rides and midway games. A shrewd and aggressive move by Nakamura to acquire Atari's Japanese subsidiary in the 1970s gave it a foothold in the emerging coin-operated video game market, and set the stage for Namco to launch several hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Namco launched Galaxian — the first video game to use multicolor sprites — in 1979 and then struck gold in 1980 with Pac-Man. Pac-Man became a global pop culture phenomenon and the face of the 1980s arcade craze, crossing over into licensed toys, a breakfast cereal and a Saturday morning cartoon.

Namco followed Pac-Man with an even bigger sequel, Ms. Pac-Man in 1981, then Galaga, which still endures as one of the great arcade shooters of all time. Namco pumped out hits such as Dig Dug and Pole Position. After opening a North American licensing division across the street from Atari, Namco sold rights to adapt its hits to that console maker. Indeed, a poorly executed adaptation of Pac-Man for the Atari VCS/2600 is partially blamed for the collapse of home console gaming in the middle 1980s.

Pac-Man was designed by Toru Iwatani, 62. Nakamura had held an emeritus position within Bandai Namco when the two companies merged in 2005. Nakamura died Jan. 22, the company said on Monday.

Masaya Nakamura

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