Masayuki Uemura was the lead architect for the Famicom (aka the Nintendo Entertainment System) and the Super Famicon (aka the SNES). The mark he left on the gaming industry and popular culture is indelible. According to Oricon News, Uemura passed away on December 6. He was 78.
Ritsumeikan University, where Uemura became the director of game studies after retiring from Nintendo in 2004, announced his passing earlier today.
Originally, Uemura worked at Sharp, selling photocell tech to various companies, including his future employer Nintendo. Once joinging the company, he worked with Gunpei Yokoi to integrate the photocell technology into electronic light gun games. He would go on to work on plug-and-play consoles like Nintendo’s Color TV-Game.
But everything changed in 1981 with a single phone call.
“President Yamauchi told me to make a video game system, one that could play games on cartridges,” Uemura told Matt Alt in an interview published last year on Kotaku. “He always liked to call me after he’d had a few drinks, so I didn’t think much of it. I just said, “Sure thing, boss,” and hung up. It wasn’t until the next morning when he came up to me, sober, and said, “That thing we talked about—you’re on it?” that it hit me: He was serious.”
Uemura got to work on what would become the Famicom—a console that was revamped into the Nintendo Entertainment System for the US market. The console ended up being a global phenomenon.
When asked how that changed things, Uemura replied, “Well, my salary went up. That’s a fact. So I was getting paid more, but the flip side was my job got a lot harder. President Yamauchi’s attitude played a big part in this, but my feeling was one of ‘seize the day.’ Just go for it.” And that he did.
You can read the full interview right here. Matt Alt covers Uemura and Famicom in his book Pure Invention: How Japan Made The Modern World.
Ritsumeikan University will be holding a memorial service for Uemura, which will be announced at a later date. May he rest in peace.