It was with great sadness that I received news of Satoru Iwata’s death this week. Nintendo president from 2002, he was the first to inherit the title outside of the Yamaguchi family and saw the company through some difficult and prosperous times.
Although I would not consider myself a huge fan of the Nintendo franchise, I do have a deep appreciation for their consistent dedication to quality and the approachability of their titles. The first console I ever owned was the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES), which I remember very fondly. I would hurry to finish dinner so I could play Duck Hunt with my dad and since passed grandfather. I think they got even more from this game than I did, but I take some enjoyment from their frustration of being unable to shoot “that bloody annoying dog”.
I also owned the original Nintendo DS and was so excited to get my hands on it, I actually imported it from Japan months ahead of the UK release. It was around this point that Nintendo, under Iwata’s guidance, began to really explore making titles for all ages and preferences. Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training – part of my daily ritual at the time, had more in common with a modern smart-phone app than Super Mario Bros. And yet, it was an entertaining experience which promised the benefits of an active, healthy mind. It was the kind of thing even my grandmother could play and enjoy.
One of my lasting memories of Iwata, was when I discovered he reduced his own salary, and the salary of other executives within the company in order to reduce the loss of jobs at Nintendo during a rough financial period. It was such refreshing news, given that executives with capitalist mindsets typically tend to secure their own needs above those of their subordinates.
Ultimately, Iwata was a gamer. He was able to develop his career as a game developer as a result of his passion, and love for games:
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.
Memorials to his life and accomplishments are popping up on Twitter (#RIPIwata) and news sites throughout the web:
- BBC News
- The Verge
- IGN (Accomplishments, Quotes)
- Polygon (Video memorial, New York City Memorial, all others)
Truly, his death comes as a blow to the gaming community worldwide. He has left a very large shadow.
Thank you, Iwata-san.