Minoru Arakawa

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Minoru Arakawa

Minoru Arakawa (JP) is an important Nintendo employee born on September 3rd of 1946. He is most notable for being the first president of Nintendo of America from 1980 to 2002. He was succeeded by Tatsumi Kimishima in 2002 and finally by Reggie Fils-Aime in 2006.


Minoru Arakawa was born in 1946 to Waichiro Arakawa and Michi Ishihara in Kyoto, Japan (the headquarters of Nintendo's Japanese branch). His father was the owner of a company named Arakawa Textiles which had employed well over one thousand people while his mother was a decedent of many government officials from long ago including an emperor named Uda and Kyoto's first mayor. His parents were so rich that the two of them owned so much land that when combined it made up over one fifth of all of Kyoto. He had two siblings, and their success was already set in stone with his brother set to own the business when his father retired and his sister marrying a wealthy doctor. Minoru, on the other hand, was told to do what made him the most happy. In 1964 he attended Kyoto University and graduated with a major in Civil Engineering.

After graduating, he took what he learned and headed overseas to the United States. Upon arrival Arakawa bought a cheap van and travelled the various states of the country, learning the culture of the United States. He eventually settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts and went to college again at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduating he went back to Kyoto where he got himself a job and found himself a wife named Yoko Yamauchi. Marrying Yamauchi would turn Arakawa into one of the most important people in the video game industry as she was the daughter of Hiroshi Yamauchi, the president of Nintendo.

Minoru wasn't an employee of Nintendo yet, however, but instead had another job. He was so focused on his job that he barely payed much attention to his wife and their daughter. Yoko considered divorcing her husband, though reluctantly decided not to. During a visit with her parents, Hiroshi Yamauchi gave Arakawa the option to become president of the yet to open American branch of Nintendo. Yoko desperately wanted her husband to object to this, though Hiroshi eventually convinced both of them that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and they headed off to New York.

One of the first orders of business was to order three thousand Radar Scope units for the American audience. In Japan, Radar Scope was a phenomenon, and Minoru was hoping to replicate its success for the American audience. So, Japan sent three thousand units over to America by sea, though unfortunately by the time it arrived it was too old fashioned and Nintendo only managed to move around one thousand units - one third of the amount of games they ordered. So, he contacted Japan and pleaded with Nintendo to create a game that could replace the Radar Scope units. Nintendo's R&D teams in Japan had already started projects, so Hiroshi Yamauchi contacted a relatively new employee named Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto didn't have much experience in game design - he had only created artwork and housing for some early Nintendo games in Japan. Yamauchi assigned Miyamoto to create the game almost entirely by himself, though a man named Gunpei Yokoi, a Nintendo veteran, would assist him and teach him everything he knew. What Miyamoto eventually created was Donkey Kong.

They sent the game over to America, and almost everyone in the company hated what they offered. They had originally wanted a popular space shooting game or a maze title in the same vein as Pac-Man, though instead they got this strange platformer where a man (originally known as Jumpman) hopped over barrels and saved his girlfriend from an ape named Donkey Kong. The name of the game was also a problem, as it made absolutely no sense. Minoru stood by the project, however, saying that it would be a success. They sent two copies out to local bars and the game did incredible, with thirty dollars the first day and thirty five the second. Knowing they had a success on their hands, Minoru had to make the next step and order two thousand chips to replace the Radar Scope units with. While they awaited the units to arrive, they had to gut all two thousand arcade cabinets and, when the chips did finally arrive, put them in their place. There were only five employees at Nintendo, and everyone chipped in. They even enlisted the help of Minoru's wife Yoko as well to gut the arcades and put int he new chips. They sent the arcades out, and the rest is history. Taito, the creator of Space Invaders, offered to purchase the series for a hefty price, and after consulting Hiroshi Yamauchi who simply gave his support for whatever Minoru decided, the NoA president declined the offer. Donkey Kong would inevitably have long legs.

Their success did not go unnoticed. The behemoth that is MCA Universal was keeping a keen eye on this new product, specifically because of its resemblance to King Kong. After the subsequent success of the title, Universal's Sidney Sheinberg sent a letter to Minoru stating to give Universal all of Donkey Kong's profits and to destroy the unsold arcade units. Minoru contacted Howard Lincoln, who had helped him get started, and the two of them decided to take on Universal. They hired Jack Kirby as their lawyer, and he ultimately found that Universal in a previous case fought in support that King Kong wasn't actually their property, but rather that of the public's. With this proof, Universal wouldn't have a case, and Nintendo won with Universal force to hand over $1.8 million in damages. Nintendo had proved that it was a company not to be messed with, and were granted the rights to retain their Donkey Kong franchise. Ironically, Universal Studios later made a game that was nearly identical to Donkey Kong. Nintendo didn't press charges, however.

Years later, Nintendo had given the world various arcade classics such as Donkey Kong Jr., Mario Bros., Donkey Kong 3 and the Game & Watch series. Their success in these markets, however, would not last. Entering the home console market would seem foolish, too, since consumers no longer seemed interested. It seemed like the video game market in America was going down, and going down fast. In Japan, however, Nintendo had already released the Famicom, which proved to be pretty successful. Minoru desperately wanted to release the console in America, though had a hard time convincing retailers.

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