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Former Nintendo chief Hiroshi Yamauchi dies aged 85

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the man credited with transforming Nintendo into a multi-billion dollar video game company, has passed away at the age of 85.

The gaming company confirmed the news in a statement sent to BBC News, saying that Nintendo is mourning the "loss of the former Nintendo president Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi, who sadly passed away this morning."

He died of pneumonia at a hospital in Kyoto City, Japan; a funeral will be held on Sunday.

Yamauchi took over the family business in 1949, serving as company president for 53 years, before stepping down in 2002. During his tenure, the game maker released the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Game Boy, Nintendo 64, and Nintendo GameCube.

On 31 May 2002, Yamauchi handed his presidential duties over to current Nintendo President Satoru Iwata.

"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," Iwata said in an emailed statement.

"Mr. Yamauchi has taught us that there is value in being different," he told the Wall Street Journal. "We will continue to flexibly change the shape of Nintendo from one era to another, as Mr. Yamauchi has done, and Nintendo, as a whole company, will keep his soul alive."

At the time of his death, Yamauchi was the second-largest shareholder in Nintendo history, the BBC reported. He also made history in 1992 when he became the first Japanese owner of a US Major League Baseball team, investing in the Seattle Mariners.

Earlier this year, Nintendo announced an executive shuffle that shifted Iwata into the role of Nintendo of America CEO, taking over for Tatsumi Kimishima, who was promoted to managing director of Nintendo Co., Ltd. Iwata will continue his work at Nintendo global president.

Nintendo has struggled of late, with its next-gen Wii U games console failing to set the gaming world on fire. It will get a price cut starting this weekend, ahead of major console releases from Microsoft and Sony in November.