The real Super Mario died, still waiting for his royalty cheques
02 November 2018 16:23
The man who was named after perhaps the world’s most famous video game character, Super Mario, died at the age of 84 last week. If it wasn’t for Mario Segale, an Italian-American property developer from Washington, the beloved protagonist of our favourite games would still be called Jumpman.
As legend has it, the iconic mustachioed plumber was renamed during the 1980s, when Segale owned the warehouse that Nintendo of America was leasing. Depending on what version of events you believe (and we choose to believe this one), he stormed into their office one morning furiously demanding missed rent payments.
In order to buy themselves some time to find the cash, Nintendo of America agreed to add him to a little game they were working on – a western version of Donkey Kong. Super Mario was born. It is understood that Nintendo only officially acknowledged the connection between Segale and the game in 2015, during their 30th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros. celebration. The property developer has said it was Minoru Arakawa, the man responsible for launching Nintendo of America in the 1980s, who informed him that Mario was, in fact, named after him.
Whilst most people would give their last golden coin to be immortalised in one of the most recognisable games of all time, it seems that Segale wasn’t too keen on all of the attention. By all accounts, he spent the latter part of his life attempting to distance himself from mushroom power-ups, non-linear overworlds and the relentless quest to retrieve those golden coins.
When he was interviewed by Seattle Times in 1993, he was described as ‘media-shy’. ‘You might say I’m still waiting for my royalty checks,’ he quipped when asked what he thought about his name being used to make Nintendo one of the world’s most profitable tech companies.
By 2015, Nintendo had sold over 310 million copies of Super Mario games, making it ‘the biggest franchise in video game history’. But, according to his obituary, Segale ‘always ducked the notoriety and wanted to be known instead for what he accomplished in his life’.
Mario A. Segale (1934~2018) left behind his wife Donna, four children and nine grandchildren. Our condolences go out to all his family, friends and loved ones.