It’s been nearly 3 years since the former president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata passed away and the gaming industry still mourns his loss.
His famous mantra was: “On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” These words cemented him as an icon of the video game industry. This quote was everywhere upon the announcement of his death because it proved how a unique a president Iwata was.
His beginnings were humble his family had no interest in tech however Iwata loved playing with calculators that could make programmable math’s games from a young age. This very much inspired him to create one of the most successful games of all time with ‘Brain training’ on the DS. During the 70’s games were incredibly basic that personal computers and micro processing weren’t even a thing yet.
Iwata eventually got a part time job at Hal laboratories and in 1983 developed his first game Super Billiards for the MSX. Hal laboratories eventually merged with Nintendo. Which started Iwata’s climb of the Nintendo corporate ladder. It was tough for Iwata at the time as Hal was still an unproven company, with Iwata’s father being very disapproving of his son’s chosen profession however Iwata’s enthusiasm for coding made him an exceptional game developer as well as a multifaceted individual due to his commitment in the success of the games he was involved with by working in other departments as well as working on weekends and holidays.
Iwata also had the philosophy of creating uncomplicated and accessible games all through out his career. These first games included Balloon Fight, and the Kirby games, however the challenge was there if hardcore gamers delved into the minutiae of the game. In 1993 Iwata became president of Hal laboratories. He’d always step in however to save games from disaster including Earthbound and the Pokémon games, operating very differently from a typical company president with his hands on approach. Iwata didn’t even work for the company behind Pokémon Shigeki Morimoto, one of the original creators of the Pokémon games exclaimed “What kind of company president is this?” He stepped in yet again to make sure the launch title for the Gamecube ‘Super Smash Bros Melee’ met it’s 2001 release date. A fighting game that is so adored that tournaments for the game are still going on till this day.
In 2000 Iwata became an official employee at Nintendo and then became president of the company 4 years after, the first not to be a part of a family line to hold the title. His bold new vision ushered into the creation of the DS and the Wii which launched Nintendo out of it’s mini slump playing second fiddle to the Playstation at the time. Iwata decided to push new innovations in new ways to play games instead of creating photorealistic graphics and stunning visuals. Some may criticise this decision due to the console lacking any HD function but Nintendo were branching out their audience to appeal to mums by really thinking how they could get them to pick up a controller. Plus Iwata believed the industry was too exclusive and focusing too much on graphical fidelity rather than the games themselves. This proved to be a resounding success with the Wii selling over 100 million units.
During his final years Nintendo suffered though some hardships. The Wii U wasn’t the commercial success the company was hoping for and Iwata took a noble gesture by having his salary cut to avoid layoffs. He also partnered with mobile companies to allow Nintendo games on mobile this was something Iwata was reluctant about yet paid off massively after his death through the success of Pokémon Go in 2016. A game he was working on even on his hospital bed.
Iwata’s illness was heartbreaking to witness his hard work ethic meant he’d refuse not to take time off and was visibly ill during press conferences. He even updated his mii avatar to show his weightloss. His condition was a shock to all even Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo’s competitors sent their condolences. This just shows the impact Iwata had on the gaming industry he paved Nintendo through a new era of success with innovation at the forefront. He made gaming completely accessible and sky rocketed it into the mainstream all the while just creating the games he thought were just fun to play.