Founder of Namco and Father of “Pac-Man” Dies

Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco, died on January 22nd at the age of 91. Nakamura grew the gaming company into one of the most influential Japanese gaming organizations, and “Pac-Man” was released on his watch. His leadership of the company has granted him the title of “father of Pac-Man” – he was one of the key influences behind the evolution of your “Pac-Man cocktail arcade game. Nakamura’s love for arcade gaming and dedication to his vision drove the arcade gaming industry forward for decades.

It Began 62 Years Ago

Nakamura first founded Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company (Namco) in 1955. The company began by building amusement park rides for rooftop carnivals, a popular attraction in Japan after World War II. Nakamura was an early proponent of arcade technology. He hired software engineers in the 1970s, directing them to work at creating original games. Namco’s first creation, “Galaxian,” was a huge hit, followed by “Galaga.”

But Namco’s ultimate achievement was “Pac-Man,” conceived by a young employee named Toru Iwatani. Nakamura never anticipated the level of success that would follow. “Pac-Man” has been named the world’s most-successful coin-op arcade game, played over 10 billion times. It has cemented its place in pop culture, spawning films, music and art. Today, “Pac-Man” is more than a game, it’s an icon.

Nakamura’s Achievement

Nakamura stepped down as Namco CEO in 2002. In 2005, Namco merged with Bandai. In 2007, the Japanese government awarded Nakamura the Order of the Rising Sun, Japan’s third-highest honor conferred by the government. It is bestowed to individuals who have made significant contributions to Japanese society, either by achieving a certain height in their field, promoting Japanese culture or dedicating themselves to a long military service career.

Even though Nakamura was not a game designer, he was intensely involved with the testing process. He is said to have been a key influencer in the global success of all of Namco’s products. Nakamura’s industrious life was honored by Bandai Namco in a press release, asking for privacy for his family. Next time you play your “Pac-Man” arcade, think about one of the people who made the game come to life.