TOKYO (AP) — Masaya Nakamura, the “Father of Pac-Man” who founded the Japanese video game company behind the hit creature-gobbling game, has died. He was 91.
Nakamura, who died on Jan. 22, held an honorary position at Bandai Namco, formed in 2005 from a merger of two game companies.
He founded Namco in 1955. Its beginnings were humble — just two mechanical horses on the rooftop of a department store. But it went on to pioneer game arcades and amusement parks.
Pac-Man, designed by video game maker Toru Iwatani, went on sale in 1980. Guinness World Record has named it the world’s most successful coin-operated arcade game.
The idea for the game came from the image of a pizza with a slice carved out. It launched at a time when there were few rival games, such as Space Invaders. It’s estimated to have been played more than 10 billion times. Pac-Man is iconic in Japanese culture, having inspired T-shirts and other merchandize, animation shows and the nickname for Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.
Nakamura reportedly chose the word “Pac” to represent the munching of the Pac-Man devouring its prey.
Nakamura was a key player in Bandai Namco’s global growth. The company reported Nakamura’s death Monday, but would not comment on the cause of his death or other personal details, citing his family’s wishes.