If you've ever played videogames, then Satoru Iwata affected your life, on some level, whether you were aware of it or not. He died on Saturday, July 11, 2015, as a result of a bile duct mass.
Iwata was the fourth President and CEO of Nintendo, a title he held since 2002. In his tenure as President, Iwata led Nintendo through groundbreaking eras and innovations for the company, such as the Gamecube, DS, and Wii platforms.
Iwata began his career in the industry at HAL Laboratory Inc. At HAL, Iwata worked on game franchises like Earthbound and Kirby. Iwata also worked on titles like Super Smash Bros and Pokemon Stadium.
He moved from HAL Laboratory to Nintendo in 2000, as their head of corporate planning. Iwata assumed the position of President when the third President, Hiroshi Yamauchi retired. This made Iwata the first Nintendo President to be unrelated to the Yamauchi name.
As he stepped in as President, Nintendo was not faring so well. The Gamecube's sales weren't doing well compared to other consoles. Iwata felt that the gaming community was becoming too exclusive, and not enough games were being made that everyone could enjoy.
As President, Iwata urged for Nintendo to revitalize their handheld gaming platform, transitioning from the Game Boy to the Nintendo DS, changing up the handheld gaming community completely. He also pushed heavily for the motion controls in the Wii, and these products helped to secure Nintendo's financial future- the release of the Wii resulted in Nintendo's stock nearly doubling.
Iwata is remembered as a titan of the industry, a man who helped guide one of the major players of all of videogaming towards innovation. More than anything, Iwata had a goal more noble than bottom lines or overhead. He wanted to make games that people liked, that people enjoyed. This is encapsulated in a statement he made regarding the success of Super Smash Bros:
People smiled. They laughed. Then began shouting at each other. That was the
moment when everything for Smash Bros. changed. And I must tell you, this was
also one of the proudest moments in my development career. Yes, the Smash
Bros. series has become a great worldwide success because it's sold more than
10 million copies. But the memory of that first moment when the testers began to
play stays with me always. That is the moment I call success.
Satoru Iwata may have passed on, but his legacy will be remembered for many years to come. Here was a man who cared deeply for his craft, a tech CEO with an actual programming background, a rarity for the industry. His love for his craft translated across boundaries and showed that there is still room in the industry for innovation and content for everyone.
Rest in Peace, Satoru Iwata, and thank you for everything you have done for us.