Nintendo Co. Limited President and Nintendo of America CEO passed away Saturday, July 11, 2015 due to complications from a bile duct growth. He was 55 years old.
Iwata-san began his industry career at HAL as a game programmer while still studying at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Upon graduation he joined HAL Laboratory full time and worked on the Kirby and Earthbound franchises. In 1993 Iwata-san was appointed President of HAL Laboratory in 1993. Through HAL’s relationship with Nintendo, Iwata-san was next appointed to the Director of Nintendo Corporate Planning.
In 2002, Hiroshi Yamauchi, President of Nintendo asked Satoru Iwata to succeed him. This was an astonishing accomplishment because from the start (Nintendo was founded in1889) Nintendo had been a family-run business.
Iwata led Nintendo into the world of disc-based games with the Gamecube. Before Gamecube Nintendo home console games were produced using cartridges. While Gamecube was not a monumental success, it did hang with the best of them as far as power and it’s controller stands to this day as one of the best controllers ever produced.
Iwata also moved away from the Game Boy. Nintendo’s handeld hardware line had been a staple of the company since 1989 and the fact that Nintendo was moving to a new handheld called Nintendo DS was polarizing. Some gamers loved the idea, others thought it was ridiculous, but one thing became certain, it was successful. To date the DS series of handhelds has only been outsold by Playstation 2.
Nintendo Wii was next on the agenda and it was also polarizing. People didn’t know what to make of the controller that looked like a tv remote. Iwata, however knew it would be a success and through it’s cycle, Nintendo Wii sold over 100 million units and bringing “casual gaming” to the masses.
While The Wii U may not be blockbuster that it’s previous iteration was, but it’s interesting and provides new ways to play. That is what is was all about to Iwata-san.
Satoru Iwata will be remembered for many things. His sense of humor, forward-thinking nature, warm personality and above all, his character. He had an unwavering sense of what was fun. Many times as gamers we think we know what’s fun and what we want. Iwata taught us that maybe what we think we want isn’t really what they want. It’s because of Iwata that, as one reporter put it, “When they get it right, Nintendo makes games that other companies only wish they could.”
Rest in peace, Iwata-san. Today the industry weeps at your loss. As time goes on, your impact will be understood, and it will last forever.