Masayuki Uemura, NES and Super Nintendo designer, dies

The video game loses a genius with the death of Masayuki Uemura

It is today that we learn of the death at 78 years old on Monday, December 6, of one of the greatest shadow figures in the history of video games: Masayuki Uemura. If the name means nothing to you, know that you are neither more nor less than the designer behind two of the best consoles in video game history, the NES and the Super Nintendo.

Uemura joined Nintendo in 1971 after a stint at Sharp, where he worked on the photovoltaic cells used in Nintendo’s optoelectronic guns, and quickly rose through the ranks. His first project was Laser Clay Shooting. These were old bowling alleys converted into a fictitious shooting area using the same photovoltaic cell technology but on a larger scale. Despite the start of the fanfare, the 1973 oil crisis definitely put a stop to this initiative and plunged Nintendo into the red.

After being saved in part thanks to the thunderous success of Gunpei Yokoi’s Game & Watch, Nintendo continued to use this Uemura technology until it found consecration with the arcade game Duck Hunt in 1976 marketed by… SEGA! It will then be adapted for the NES in 1984.

The creation of the NES

When it comes to the creation of the NES, legend has it that Yamauchi came up with the idea “for a machine that allows us to play arcade games at home on our television” when he first saw Coleco’s ColecoVision. In fact, representatives of the Connecticut company (apparently including Eric Bromley, the console’s designer) had come to the meeting of the Japanese company in search of a hit to include with their console. His gaze was on Donkey Kong, the Nintendo hit of the moment. So as long as Nintendo had offered to join forces to design a console, Coleco representatives would have just laughed at them. In terms of Japanese protocol, that sounds like an insult.

This is what would have sparked the creation of the console and Uemura was appointed as the thinker and architect of the project. The console must also meet three criteria:

  • She must use cartridges.
  • It must be sophisticated enough that it cannot be copied for at least a year.
  • It must cost less than 10,000 yen.
  • You will be able to keep your word on two of the three criteria since the console, called the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan, was released on July 15, 1983 at a price of 14,800 yen. The success is immediate and a real madness takes over the country at a time when, remember, the video game is considered dead and buried in the West.

    Having put the lid back on with the Super Famicom a few years later, Uemura finally retired from Nintendo in 2004. He later became director of the Center for Game Studies at the prestigious Ritsumeikan University.

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