KYOTO, Japan, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Visionary electronic game developer Hiroshi Yamauchi, who ran Nintendo Co. for more than 50 years, has died from pneumonia, the company said Thursday.
Yamauchi , a majority owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team since 1992, was president of Nintendo from 1949 to 2002, The Wall Street Journal reported.
When he took over, Nintendo was a small company that made playing cards. By the time he retired, it was an electronic game trendsetter competing with the likes of Sony and Microsoft.
He was 85 when he died, the Journal said.
Nintendo did not burst out of its cocoon in 1949. It was not until 1980 that the company released the Game & Watch portable game platform. That lead to the breakthrough product called the Family Computer, which was launched in 1983 and evolved, by 1985, into the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Building on that success, Nintendo created the Game Boy and Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Among his most astute moves, Yamauchi hired legendary game maker Shigeru Miyamoto in 1977, giving him his first job out of college, the Journal said.
Miyamoto created Super Mario, Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda, all blockbuster creations.
Yamauchi, meanwhile, led the company under the assumption that customers bought the game consoles because they enjoyed Nintendo's games -- the software being the deciding factor.
"Mr. Yamauchi has taught us that there is value in being different. We will continue to flexibly change the shape of Nintendo from one era to another, as Mr. Yamauchi has done, and Nintendo, as a whole company, will keep his soul alive," said the company's current president Satoru Iwata in a statement.