Man Who Made Nintendo Into A Video Game Empire Dies

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who led Nintendo from a trading card company to the video game giant it is today, died Thursday at the age of 85. Some of Nintendo's most iconic characters — including Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong and Zelda — were created under Yamauchi's leadership.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We're going to keep playing in the world of videogames now and hit pause to remember one man's life.

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SIEGEL: Hiroshi Yamauchi.

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SIEGEL: Yamauchi was the president of Nintendo for more than 50 years. He died Thursday in Japan, at the age of 85. Yamauchi oversaw the company's transformation, from manufacturing playing cards to producing video games. And he helped make Nintendo the household name it is today.

DAVID SHEFF: You know, Nintendo means "in heaven's hand," and it was a philosophy that he completely ignored.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That's David Sheff, author of the book "Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World."

SHEFF: It was all about control for him. He was a brilliant, brilliant businessman, incredibly ruthless. Had a special knack for picking talent, which is why - really, that's ultimately why Nintendo succeeded.

CORNISH: Indeed, under Yamauchi's leadership, Nintendo created some of its most famous characters - like Donkey Kong.

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SIEGEL: And Zelda.

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CORNISH: And, of course, Mario.

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SIEGEL: Because of Nintendo's success, Yamauchi became one of the richest men in Japan. He also owned a majority stake in the Seattle Mariners, making the baseball team the first in the major leagues to have non-North American ownership.

CORNISH: In 2002, Yamauchi stepped down as president of Nintendo to assume a more advisory role. But we remember him today as the leader who took the video game company to the next level.

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SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News.

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