Nintendo Wii makes Yamauchi Japan's richest: Forbes

Nintendo Co's Wii game console is displayed as a woman looks at a game software title for Wii at at a Sofmap store in Tokyo's Akihabara district April 24, 2008. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Soaring sales of Nintendo’s Wii game machine have made former Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi Japan’s richest man, worth $7.8 billion, Forbes magazine said in its annual rankings.

The net worth of Yamauchi, 80, jumped $3 billion in the past year -- boosting him from third place to surpass property tycoon Akira Mori, Japan’s richest man last year, the magazine said.

Nintendo’s Wii, with its motion-sensing controller and quirky games that attract casual users, has far outsold rival game machines such as Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 since its launch in 2006.

Shares of Kyoto-based Nintendo have more than tripled in the past two years, boosting the value of the company to around $79 billion, and the fortune of Yamauchi, who owns 10 percent.

Mori, whose Mori Trust is one of the Tokyo’s biggest landlords fell to second spot with a net worth of $7.7 billion, the magazine said.

Kunio Busujima, the 83-year-old founder of pachinko gambling machine maker Sankyo Co Ltd, was third with a net worth of $5.4 billion, Forbes said.

A new arrival to Forbes’ Japan 40 Richest List is a 32-year-old Kenji Kasahara, who created social networking site Mixi, Forbes said.

Forbes said its rich lists calculations were based on public share prices and its own estimates of privately held wealth.

Reporting by Taiga Uranaka and Nathan Layne