Masaya Nakamura, founder of Namco
Masaya Nakamura ( born December 24, 1925 in Tokyo, Japan) is the founder of Namco, the third largest video game developing entity in Japan.
The Japanese government awarded Nakamura the “Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette” in their Spring Conferment of Decorations for his contribution to Japanese industry.
Interview with Masaya Nakamura, founder of Namco
Masaya Nakamura is thrilled about the global success of his creation, but he isn’t crazy about the way some people spend hours playing it.
“I am a little concerned about the way some young people play it so much,” Mr Nakamura said.
“It’s not a very happy thing to see people spending so much time on it. Once it goes beyond a certain level, it is not good for young people.”
Not that Mr Nakamura doesn’t enjoy Pac-Man. On a recent visit to Atlantic City, the bespectacled, paunchy 57-year-old Tokyo businessman stood in front of one of his creations, grimacing and muttering in Japanese as the ominous words “Game Over” flashed on the screen.
“He doesn’t like his, score,” explained Mr Hideuki Nakajina, Mr Nakamura’s translator and the president of the American subsidiary of Mr Nakamura’s Namco Ltd, the amusement game company. “What did he get?”
“…3930. He says he can do much better than that.”
Mr Nakamura is already a big winner at Pac-Man, but the success was something of a surprise.
“I never thought it would be this big,” he said.
“You know baseball? Well, I knew it would not be a single. But I thought maybe a double, not a home run.”
In fact, Pac-Man has been a grand slam. More than 250,000 units have been sold since the game was first introduced in 1979 – 100,000 in the US alone – and a profitable cottage industry of home games, records, books, even beach towels has also sprung up, making Mr Nakamura and Namco very happy and very rich.
Mr Nakamura loves to talk about the reasons for the, game’s widespread appeal.
First, he said, Pac-Man was not violent because the “monsters come back to life after they are eaten”. Second, each monster “has its own personality”. Third, players could gain an advantage by eating energy dots that left them temporarily immune from destruction.
Finally, Mr Nakajina said, the game paralleled life by rewarding players who had good “timing”, knowing precisely when be aggressive and when to walk away.
The game was the brainchild of Toru Iwatani, an engineer at Namco, which before Pac-Man was a 28-year-old moderately successful amusement company. The engineer, recalling schoolyard harassment by bullies, wanted to invent game where “he could beat bullies”, said Mr Nakajina, the president of Namco-America in Sunnyville, California.
“He wanted to put in the game the idea that a good man, even if he is a weak man, can beat a bully,” Mr Nakajina said. “He was, actually thinking revenge.”
After developing a prototype Mr Nakamura took the game out for some personal test runs running up scores as high as 50,000 points. Whenever a new game is developed, he brings in the prototypes and plays up to 23 hours some days,” said Mr Nakajina of his boss.
“He’s oriented to the player feelings, unlike some in the industry who care only for the profitability. So he personally tests games to make sure they are something a player will like.”
Deciding the game would fly Mr Nakamura’s biggest problem was naming it. “The idea is to eat the monsters so he wanted to use the Japanese equivalent of ‘munch, munch which is ‘paku, paku’,” Mr Nakajina said. “But it didn’t sound English, the international language, so he wanted to use ‘puck, puck instead.”
Whatever it’s called, the game is still selling, and Namco is continuing to cash in on the craze. A Ms Pac-Man game was already the market, and Baby Pac-Man, Junior Pac-Man and Super Pac-Man were in the works, Mr Nakajima said.