While Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi very sadly died in a traffic accident in 1997, an old article by Yokoi written directly after leaving Nintendo in Bungeishunju was re-published. In it, he talks about how the Virtual Boy wasn’t the reason he left to form his own company, Koto. [Thanks, Livedoor!]
Here are the highlights:
- “Actually, I didn’t leave for the reason of ‘taking responsibility for the failure of the Virtual Boy. Since before, I’ve thought about becoming independent after turning 55. That’s why I don’t have any hate or ill will towards Nintendo.”
- Before the Game and Watch’s release, apparently Nintendo had 7-8 billion yen in borrowed money, but due to the Game and Watch’s success, they not only paid back in full, but also earned another 4 billion on top of that. President Hiroshi Yamauchi then took all of that and threw it all into Famicom investment. This sort of leading why Yokoi thinks that Yamauchi’s one-man style of leading Nintendo is how Nintendo got to be so big.
- Yokoi decided to leave Nintendo as Nintendo started to increase in size and had more responsibility towards shareholders. Nintendo couldn’t continue to create ‘niche market’ playthings that didn’t at least match the Super Famicom and Game Boy, which were the two large pillars. As such, Yokoi felt that the point of him being at Nintendo was decreasing. In other words, he wanted to keep creating ideas, and continue making toys.
- “I wanted to continue to tweak the ‘niche toy’ ideas that were part of the founding spirit of Nintendo – this was the only reason for my departure.”