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Without Pac-Man it's tough to say where the game industry would be right now. Without Bandai Namco we know for a fact that the industry would not be as big as it is today. Well, sadly the man who founded the company that would go on to make Pac-Man has passed away at the ripe age of 91.
Fox News is reporting that Masaya Nakamura, known as the "Father of Pac-Man", has passed away. No cause of death was given. He was responsible for founding Namco back in 1955. 50 years later Namco ended up becoming part of the Bandai brand, being renamed to Bandai Namco. The company recently confirmed the passing of Nakamura, who originally helped get Namco into the gaming business with some coin operated horses in department stores.
It wasn't until 1980 did Pac-Man become a thing. While Nakamura didn't design the game -- that honor went to Toru Iwatani -- he was responsible for helping publish the game at arcades, which eventually allowed it go on to become a blockbuster hit.
The title was published outside of Japan thanks to Midway Games picking up the license to put Pac-Man across stores in the United States. It's crazy to think about because Midway Games is now a defunct publisher that was originally home to other arcade hits such as Mortal Kombat, and various titles under the Acclaim brand such as NBA Jam. Remnants of Midway lives on in the form of NetherRealm Studios, the makers of Mortal Kombat who ended up becoming bought out by Warner Bros., Entertainment.
Namco, meanwhile, evolved greatly after the release of Pac-Man. Nakamura managed to take the company to all new heights throughout the 1980s, and especially the 1990s, where Namco was one of the first console publishers to embrace and successfully establish franchises in the 3D gaming market.
Titles like Time Crisis, Soul Blade, Tekken and Ridge Racer helped shape the huge success that was the original PlayStation game console. Some of these titles went on to become massive blockbuster brands, with Ridge Racer managing to flesh more than a decade's worth of titles across the PSX, PS2, and PS3.
The Soul Blade series also evolved into the Soul Calibur series and went on to become another smash hit across various platforms. The series has been dormant since 2014, but it's been one of the staple series to help keep Namco on the map for nearly 20 years.
Namco's most popular series is undoubtedly the Tekken franchise. While Pac-Man might be their most recognized mascot, Tekken is the real money maker these days. The game series has been going strong for more than two decades, with the newest entry, Tekken 7, due to release in North America on June 2nd.
Pac-Man hasn't been forgotten about, though. The humble beginnings of Namco's pursuit of becoming a leader in electronic entertainment started with Pac-Man and continues to involve the little yellow circle in some form or fashion. In fact, the iconic arcade hero made an appearance in Super Smash Bros., on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS recently as a guest character, along with showing up on the big screen in the movie Pixels with Adam Sandler, proving that he can still transcend genres and mediums.
Regardless, it was all thanks to Masaya Nakamura that Pac-Man found a home in Namco, where he could grow and evolve into the global icon that he's become. Rest in peace Nakamura.