Masaya Nakamura, founder of game maker Namco, passed away on Jan. 22 at the age of 91.
Before being awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government, the entertainment pioneer got his start with children's toys, Variety notes. Namco launched in 1955 as Nakamura Manufacturing, which operated mechanical horses on the roof of a department store in Tokyo. The firm later underwent a name change to Nakamura Amusement Machine Manufacturing Company -- NAMCO.
Its first original video game, Gee Bee, was released in 1978, followed by RGB color graphics title Galaxian in 1979. It was 1980's Pac-Man, however, that helped Namco (and Nakamura) make a name for itself. Created by Toru Iwatani, Pac-Man is the best-selling arcade game in North America, and remains an important piece of modern popular and gaming culture.
According to the Associated Press, the hungry yellow dot's 8-bit design was inspired by the image of a pizza with a slice cut out. Nakamura reportedly chose the word "pac," or "pakku" in Japanese, to represent the sound of Pac-Man devouring his prey.
Other Namco titles include Ridge Racer, Time Crisis, Soulcalibur II, Tekken 3 and, of course, Ms. Pac-Man.
In the fall of 2005, Namco merged with toy and game maker Bandai to create Bandai Namco Holdings -- the third-largest video game entity in Japan. Six months later, that game development arm of the company became Bandai Namco Games.
Bandai Namco did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment. Based on a translated announcement, the company -- at the request of the deceased -- did not make public the news of Nakamura's death until after his private funeral services. A separate memorial is being planned, the AP reported.
This story originally appeared on PCMag