Nintendo’s lead architect Masayuki Uemura has passed away at 78.
The video game world has lost a legend as engineer Masayuki Uemura passed away on Monday at age 78. He was the lead architect of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and its successor, the Super NES. Uemura joined Nintendo in 1971, working on new tech for the Laser Clay Shooting System game. This was a ‘ray gun’ based arcade game that sold well and proved successful for Nintendo. He eventually became head of Nintendo’s “R & D 2” division, which focused on hardware.
In November 1981, Uemura received a call from then-Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi.
He was asked to “develop something that lets people play arcade games at home”. Thus the 8-bit home console was born. After the Video Game Crash of the mid-1980s, retailers had no interest in stocking video game products. The oversaturated market and pervasiveness of low-quality consoles and games dissuaded consumers. But Nintendo’s devoted approach to quality control and accessibility proved to be a masterstroke that renewed public interest in the industry.
Originally envisioned as a home computer complete with a mouse and keyboard that played arcade games, Uemura opted to make the NES a cheaper, cartridge-based system. As a result, gamers would have the choice to switch between proprietary game cartridges. Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros., and Donkey Kong proved the most popular.
The original codename for Nintendo’s revolutionary console was “GameCom,” but Uemura’s wife suggested calling it the “FamiCom,” a portmanteau of Family Computer. The NES made its debut in Japan in July 1983, and by the end of 1984, it had sold 2.5 million units. The time had come to bring it the West. The NES underwent a massive redesign to market it to a hesitant consumer base in America. The cartridge slot bacame a front-loading mechanism to mimic a VCR. In addition, the Zapper Gun was included because of America’s interest in guns.
By 1989 one in every four American homes owned an NES.
Uemura also developed the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) that succeeded it. The SNES ended up being the best-selling console of the 16-bit era. By the time it was discontinued in 2003, it had sold over 49 million units. Uemura retired the following year to become a professor at Ritsumeikan University to teach about, of course, video games.
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