Masaya Nakamura (1925 - 2017)

Masaya Nakamura, the founder of the video game company Namco who was also known as the Father of Pac-Man, died Jan. 22, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 91.

The death was announced this week by Bandai Namco, the Japanese video game company. At the request of Nakamura, news of his death was withheld until after the conclusion of his private wake and funeral.

The arcade game Pac-Man, which Namco developed and released in 1980, became a smash hit among video game enthusiasts. It also became a pop culture phenomenon of the 1980s, spawning other products that feature the video game's characters as well as the "Pac-Man" animated TV series and the top-10 hit single "Pac-Man Fever."

The tremendous success of the video game surprised Nakamura, according to his interview at the Pac-Man Museum's website.

"I never thought it would be this big," he said. "You know baseball? Well, I knew it would not be a single. But I thought maybe a double, not a home run."

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Nakamura's translator, Hideuki Nakajina, praised his boss in an interview as a business owner who has the customer foremost in mind.

"He's oriented to the player feelings," Nakajina said, "unlike some in the industry who care only for the profitability. So he personally tests games to make sure they are something a player will like."

After testing the video game, he gave his approval but had trouble coming up with a name for it.

"The idea is to eat the monsters," Nakajina said, "so he wanted to use the Japanese equivalent of 'munch, munch,' which is 'paku, paku.' But it didn't sound English, the international language, so he wanted to use 'puck, puck' instead."

The phrase soon morphed into Puck-Man, the Japanese version of the arcade game, and Pac-Man everywhere else.

With 10 billion plays and counting, the Guinness World Records organization named Pac-Man the world's most successful coin-operated arcade game in 2008. Guinness also gave the game's creator, Toru Iwatani, a certificate declaring that Pac-Man had the most coin-operated arcade machines installed worldwide with 293,822.

Nakamura was born Dec. 24, 1925. He graduated from Yokohama National University in 1948 and established Nakamura Manufacturing in 1955; the company is now known as Bandai Namco Entertainment. Nakamura Manufacturing was renamed Namco in 1977. Nakamura became Namco's president in 2002. Three years later, he was named the senior adviser of Bandai Namco Holdings.

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