Masayuki Uemura, the pioneer behind the NES and SNES, passes away


Famicom Frontiers

Earlier this week, the world lost one of the single most important pioneers in Nintendo history. Masayuki Uemura, the man behind the creation of spectacular gaming consoles NES and SNES, passed away on December 6, 2021. He was 78.

A long-time electronics engineer, Uemura had worked within various fledgling Japanese companies such as the Sharp Corporation, researching new and innovative forms of technology such as solar energy cells and semiconductors. Joining Nintendo’s R&D2 hardware division in the early 1970s, Uemura would be responsible for the publisher’s groundbreaking forays into video gaming, including the Laser Clay Shooting System arcade and the company’s first-ever console line, Color TV-Game, which launched in the summer of 1977.

famicom masayuki uemura obituary

This was merely the beginning, however, as Uemura would eventually be tasked by then Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi with creating a home console that could replicate the splendor of the arcade market. Leading a team of talented developers and designers, Uemura would create the Famicom unit, which launched to unheard-of success in the summer of 1983, selling 2.5 million units in its first two years of release. The Famicom was redesigned for the western market, launching as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985 and putting Nintendo on the map as a world market leader. In the wake of the ’83-’85 video game crash, the NES revitalized home gaming on a global scale.

Not content with developing one of the most important consoles in gaming history, Uemura would go on to develop one of the best consoles in gaming history, designing the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) in 1988. Working alongside Sony engineer and soon-to-be PlayStation dev Ken Kutaragi, the new console was completed at the dawn of the new decade, launching in Japan in the fall of 1990 before making its way west in the summer of 1991. The rest is history. The SNES was another amazing success, cementing Nintendo as a frontrunner in video gaming.

super famicom masayuki uemura obituary

Masayuki Uemura remained at Nintendo until 2004, when he finally left the company that owes him a great deal of its own success. Uemura spent his remaining years researching and teaching younger developers about the history of electronics, hardware, and game development. I hope that, in just a few short paragraphs, I have been able to encapsulate Uemura’s importance to the gaming industry. Most developers live for the day they create something that truly breaks ground within their industry of choice, and Uemura reached those heights on multiple occasions. The video game industry, from the developers to the manufacturers, to we, the players, have been wholly enriched by his life and legacy.

We at Destructoid offer our condolences to his family and friends