Longtime Nintendo president dies
- Hiroshi Yamauchi built Nintendo from a playing-card company into a video-gaming empire
- He oversaw such successes as the Game Boy, "Donkey Kong" and iconic characters such as Mario
- Yamauchi died Thursday in Japan at age 85
(CNN) -- Hiroshi Yamauchi, who built Nintendo from a small playing-card company into a global video-gaming empire before buying the Seattle Mariners, died Thursday in Japan. He was 85.
Yamauchi took over the company from his ailing grandfather as a university student in 1949 and ran it until 2002 -- a remarkable span of 53 years.
He guided Nintendo from its pre-electronic days as a maker of children's games through its emergence as the creator of hugely popular video-gaming platforms such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Game Boy, hit games such as "Donkey Kong," and iconic characters such as Mario, the mustachioed Italian plumber.
Nintendo confirmed the news Thursday in an e-mailed statement to media outlets. The company said Yamauchi died of pneumonia at a hospital in central Japan.
Click through to see people who passed away in 2013.
Photos: People we lost in 2013
"The entire Nintendo group will carry on the spirit of Mr. Yamauchi by honoring, in our approach to entertainment, the sense of value he has taught us -- that there is merit in doing what is different -- and at the same time, by changing Nintendo in accordance with changing times," said current Nintendo President Satoru Iwata in a statement sent to CNN.
Forbes in April estimated Yamauchi's net worth at $2.1 billion, placing him 831st on its list of the world's richest billionaires.
After Yamauchi stepped down Nintendo had another blockbuster hit with its Wii motion-control gaming system, although the company's recent product launches have not fared so well.
Although not a baseball fan, Yamauchi bought a majority stake in the Seattle Mariners in 1992 to help keep the team in the Pacific Northwest when it looked like it might be relocated to Florida. He famously never saw the Mariners play live.
People we lost in 2013
Part of complete coverage on
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2215 GMT (0615 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Bill Beckwith, who co-hosted HGTV home-improvement show "Curb Appeal," has died. He was 38.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Actor Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a car crash in Southern California. He was 40.
November 30, 2013 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Paul F. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, died at age 79.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 2342 GMT (0742 HKT)
Jane Kean, who played diverse roles during a long career but was best known as Trixie on the TV revival of "The Honeymooners," has died. She was 90.
November 25, 2013 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Singer Wayne Mills, whose "outlaw country" songs center on honky-tonk life, died in a Nashville bar shooting.
November 21, 2013 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
A police officer featured on the TNT reality show "Boston's Finest" apparently took his own life, a police source said.
November 21, 2013 -- Updated 0329 GMT (1129 HKT)
Renowned psychic Sylvia Browne died in a northern California hospital, according to her website.
November 20, 2013 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The eldest daughter of Walt Disney, Diane Disney Miller, has died at 79.
November 17, 2013 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
Author Doris Lessing, who won a Nobel Prize for her life of literature, died at age 94, her publisher, HarperCollins, said.
November 15, 2013 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
He had a distinguished voice like actor Robert Stack and the looks of a Hollywood actor. But it was his investigative and storytelling skills that set longtime CNN correspondent and bureau chief Robert Vito apart from the rest.
October 28, 2013 -- Updated 0049 GMT (0849 HKT)
Lou Reed, who took rock 'n' roll into dark corners as a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist for the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, has died at the age of 71.
October 27, 2013 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Marcia Wallace, whose four-decade television career included playing the receptionist on "The Bob Newhart Show" and Bart's fourth-grade teacher on "The Simpsons," has died.
October 21, 2013 -- Updated 1924 GMT (0324 HKT)
K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr., the founder and owner of the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers football franchise and a co-founder of the American Football League, died at age 90.
October 20, 2013 -- Updated 0506 GMT (1306 HKT)
Lou Scheimer, a pioneer in Saturday morning television cartoons with hit shows such as "Superman," "Fat Albert" and "He-Man," has died at 84, according to his biographer.
October 19, 2013 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
"Bum" Phillips, the former NFL football coach who led the Houston Oilers to glory and struggled with the New Orleans Saints, died at age 90.
Today's five most popular stories