Masayuki Uemura, the lead architect behind the Nintendo Entertainment System and its Super Nintendo follow-up, has passed away at 78 years old. Uemura retired from Nintendo back in 2004 and moved to Ritsumeikan University to become director of game studies at the college.
According to Kotaku, Uemura started at Sharp selling photocell tech to other companies, including Nintendo, on the list of clients. He’d follow with work on smaller plug-and-play consoles, including Nintendo’s Color TV-Game, before joining the company itself to make its iconic video game system.
“President Yamauchi told me to make a video game system, one that could play games on cartridges,” Uemura told Kotaku’s Matt Alt in a 2020 interview. “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.”
The Famicom and its revamped Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States would soon hit the market and become culture forces. The success of the NES cemented Nintendo at the top of the industry and ushered in a popular age of video gaming that ended up leaving arcades behind. Uemura kept it simple when asked how the success changed things.
Masayuki Uemura, the former lead architect of the NES and SNES, has passed away. He was one of the genius minds behind some of our best game memories. pic.twitter.com/KO43DIGuTt
— Archipel | アルシペル (@SailToArchipel) December 9, 2021
“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,” he said. “You have to remember, there was a time, after Donkey Kong, that we really didn’t make another game for about two years. Well, not exactly, but pretty much. That’s the period Super Mario Bros. was being developed. That game basically ended up including everything and the kitchen sink, gameplay-wise.”
Kotaku adds that a memorial service for Uemura will be announced later, but will be held by Ritsumeikan University. Rest in peace to the gaming legend.