It has been just over a week since the internet was torn asunder by the news that CEO and President of Nintendo, Mr. Satoru Iwata, had passed away. The world quickly took to social media, posting tributes and condolences over a fallen hero. Even rival companies, Microsoft and Sony, paid respects to Iwata and his family at the news showing that a good person transcends the everlasting console war.
Even if you aren’t like me and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning (because Australia) to watch the latest Nintendo Direct and see all the goodies that Iwata and his peers would announce, if you have played anything remotely Nintendo, you have more than likely played something that Satoru had a hand in bringing to life.
From an early age, Satoru had an interest in games. As a high schooler, he designed games for him and his classmates to play on electronic calculators. It’s no surprise that he went on to major in computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and take his first role in software development as an intern at Commodore Japan. Following this, he rented an apartment in Akihabara to form a game development club, which would eventually evolve into HAL Laboratory (a developer that often work in close collaboration with Nintendo to this day).
HAL laboratory might not ring a bell to you if you aren’t a Nintendo nerd, but some house hold names of the last few decades might; Earthbound, Kirby, Super Smash Bros. and the early Pokémon games just to name a few and all of which Iwata had a stake in creating.
In the year 2000, Satoru took a corporate position at Nintendo and oversaw growth in the company as its Head of Planning. A mere two years later, Mr. Satoru Iwata became the fourth president of Nintendo, being the first new leader in more than half a century and the only president to not have been related to the Yamauchi family who founded the company in 1889.
It’s safe to say that Mr. Iwata saw the company through its best and worst times financially. He was at the helm of implementing the Nintendo strategy of abandoning competition in the console war (between Xbox and Playstation) and focussing on keeping games fun and accessible to people of all ages. This would lead to great success with the Nintendo DS and Wii.
Sadly this trend did not carry on to the Nintendo 3DS or WiiU, with the market for accessible games shifting to mobile devices. Seeing this paradigm shift, Satoru setup a partnership with mobile platform developer DeNA to bring Nintendo characters and franchises to mobile devices. This move may help Nintendo live on for many years beyond his passing.
I tear up writing this article because Satoru was a great role model for me and kept a company I hold dear alive and created games that helped me grow throughout my life. I know I’m not the only one as thousands of heartbroken fans in Japan stood in pouring rain to pay respect to a lost legend. You will be missed. Rest in peace…our leader, Iwata-san.
Article by Pat Braithwaite/Zael