Hiroshi Yamauchi, the man who transformed Nintendo into a videogame giant, has died at 85. A Nintendo spokesman tells BBC News that the company is today mourning the "loss of the former Nintendo president Mr Hiroshi Yamauchi, who sadly passed away this morning."

When Yamauchi became president of Nintendo in 1949, the company was a small playing cards manufacturer. In 1963 Yamauchi renamed Nintendo Playing Card to Nintendo and massively diversified the company's efforts. In the following years Nintendo set up a taxi company, a TV network, and even a chain of love hotels before getting into toys in 1966.

Nintendo's first toy was the Ultra Hand. It was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, who would later go on to create Nintendo's wildly popular handheld electronic game series Game & Watch and the Game Boy. The story goes that Yokoi created the Ultra Hand, which was an extendable arm that could grab items, for his own amusement, but when Yamauchi saw the product he ordered that it be developed as a toy in time for Christmas.

Yamauchi oversaw Nintendo's golden years

With the success of the Game & Watch series established and employees such as Shigeru Miyamoto creating titles like Donkey Kong, Yamauchi oversaw the creation of the Famicom. It was to be Nintendo's first home games console, released worldwide as the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES was a huge risk for Nintendo, but is often credited as the catalyst for the rebirth of the videogame industry.

Yamauchi continued as President of Nintendo throughout its golden years, a period that saw the release of the Game & Watch series, the NES, the Game Boy, the SNES, the N64, and, finally, the GameCube. Following the release of the largely unsuccessful console, which was Nintendo's first console to play games via an optical disc, Yamauchi stepped down as President on May 31, 2002, to be replaced by current Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. At the time of his death, Hiroshi Yamauchi remained one of Nintendo's largest shareholders.