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‘Pac-Man’ Pioneer Masaya Nakamura, Founder of Namco, Dies at 91

Variety logo Variety 1/30/2017 Patrick Frater
© Provided by Variety

Masaya Nakamura, the arcade entertainment pioneer who pioneered smash-hit video game “Pac-Man,” has died at the age of 91. He founded the giant gaming company Namco, which for 10 years was also owner of the Nikkatsu film company.

Nakamura’s death was recorded as having taken place more than a week ago, on Jan. 22. But it was only announced by Namco Monday on its Japanese-language website.

Having attended technical university in Yokohama, Nakamura reportedly founded Namco in 1955 as a company operating mechanical horses on the roof of a department store. After Namco was merged with another Japanese games firm, Bandai, to form Namco-Bandai  (later Bandai Namco) in 2005, Nakamura retained an honorary position. He was also awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government for his services to industry.

Pac-Man, conceived to look like a pizza with a slice taken out of it, was invented by Toru Iwatani and went on sale as a coin-operated game in 1980. It expanded onto consoles before spawning massive merchandise sales, TV series, theme parks and a film.

Namco bought Nikkatsu in 1993. Japan’s oldest film studio was once famous for its pink-eiga, the free-ranging soft porn genre that gave many contemporary Japanese filmmakers their career start. Nakamura is credited as executive producer on several of its titles (“Warm Water Under a Red Bridge,” “A Stranger of Mine”.) He was also executive producer on Crystal Sky’s 2010 game adaptation “Tekken.”

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