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TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese game maker Nintendo Co. said Friday that Hiroshi Yamauchi, its president for 52 years who is credited with transforming the company into a global business, is stepping down and will be replaced by a software developer.

Yamauchi, 74, will be replaced by Satoru Iwata, a 42-year-old software developer who joined Nintendo two years ago and previously developed game software for Nintendo machines, company spokesman Ken Toyoda said.

Yamauchi has been talking about stepping down for several years because of his age and is leaving his post voluntarily, Toyoda said.

The changes need approval of the board of directors, which will meet Thursday, and will take effect the following day.

Yamauchi became president of the company in 1949 and successfully changed Nintendo from a Kyoto-based card-maker into the global game maker that created Super Mario and Pokemon.

Although overshadowed recently by Sony Corp., Nintendo was once the star player in videogames dominating the less advanced consoles of the 1980s.

Iwata played a major role in Nintendo's latest console, GameCube, which has sold more than 4 million units worldwide.

``He was chosen for his understanding of both the hardware and software sides of the game business, which is very important for Nintendo,'' Toyoda said.

Yamauchi, who will become adviser, is Nintendo's biggest shareholder with a 10 percent stake.