If I could sum up Satoru Iwata in one quote it would be from his keynote speech at GDC 2005:
“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.”
Satoru Iwata, President and CEO of Nintendo, has passed away at the age of 55 due to a bile duct growth. It was too soon. At first, my mind was caught adrift in thoughts of “how will things be different at Nintendo” and “what does this mean for future projects like Nintendo’s mobile games and the NX?” But I believe the time for those questions is not now.
Now my thoughts turn to all that Mr. Iwata has given me. A man I never met has left an impression upon me that I will carry with me all the days of my life. That impression comes from the games he helped create and the Nintendo he helped to shape in this new century. His impact upon the video games industry is unquantifiable and his legacy is immeasurable.
In the early days of HAL Laboratory, Iwata helped develop classic titles, such as Balloon Fight, the always-lovable Earthbound, and of course, the widely embraced Kirby games. These games played a huge role in my development as gamer, and I would imagine that I’m not alone in that sentiment. The quirkiness of Earthbound and the always-fun nature of Kirby compel me to approach RPGs and platformers with a higher level of expectation.
These games are pieces of art. Like the arts of literature, paint, film, music, and many more, video games have the ability to bring about emotions of joy or sadness. They can jettison our minds into sheer thrill or leave us absolutely devastated. Iwata then is partially responsible for the joy that you and I have experienced as gamers. The laughter and smiles that I shared with my brother as we challenged each other in Balloon Fight or the countless blissful hours I put into Smash Bros (yes, he had a hand in that, too) are all thanks to Iwata.
His former experience as a programmer being paired with his business-savvy mind is a rarity in this industry that we usually don’t see. Some accomplishments for Iwata would include overseeing the success of Nintendo DS. Transitioning from the Game Boy to the two-screened DS seemed like and impossible task, but Iwata helped guide Nintendo’s handheld to success. He raised the bar for Nintendo and everyone seemed determined to meet the challenge. It’s no surprise that the Nintendo DS is the highest selling handheld console of all time.
And how about the Nintendo Wii? Iwata pushed for this motion control-based platform which changed how we played and who played games in the past decade. People young and old were playing video games with smiles on their faces. This fact serves as an illustration of his outlook on video games:
“Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone.”
The list of his contributions to this industry seems immeasurable. A host of today’s developers have been influenced by his work, and because of that influence, they give us phenomenal games. This is why Iwata’s great legacy will live on. And yes, you could say the same about a host of developers and programmers from that early age of video games – and you should.
Iwata’s passing represents a sobering truth: we will have to part with the past and allow these joyful experiences to live on in our hearts. And as our hearts carry these brilliant people like Iwata in memory, we cannot help but be shaped and motivated by their legacy.
Thank you, Saturo Iwata. Thank you for contributing so many wonderful memories and moments to my life. The GWW family and its community thank you for your timeless work and wish nothing but love and comfort for your family and colleagues.