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Remembering Satoru Iwata

All of us at The Workprint are very sad to hear of the passing of Nintendo President Satoru Iwata on July 11, 2015. While everyone knew of his surgery in the summer of 2014, no one knew the extent of his sickness. His passing was a shock to many in the gaming industry. Gamers may know him as the face of Nintendo, with his recent Nintendo Direct videos and Iwata Asks interviews, but how did Iwata become the head of Nintendo?

Satoru Iwata’s climb in the videogame landscape happened somewhat quickly. Starting his career fresh out of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Iwata found employment at HAL Laboratories. While there, he worked on many iconic games such as Kirby and Earthbound. Those at HAL called him a coding master, where often times he was found helping out on projects, assisting other teams and companies to meet their goals and deadlines.

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This is something that Iwata loved to do, even when it was no longer his responsibility. He was even credited with work on the Smash Bros. series and Pokémon Gold and Silver. Mr Iwata is often quoted saying that “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.” He never lost his love for the intricacies of game creation.

Iwata’s skills and hard work were quickly identified, as he became president of HAL in 1993, and by 2000 found himself the head of Nintendo’s corporate planning division. His rise in the company was eventually noticed by then President of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, who later appointed Iwata as his successor in 2002. What makes this even more impressive is that Iwata was the first President of the company from outside of the Yamauchi family.

With Satoru Iwata as president, he believed: “Above all, video games are meant to just be one thing: Fun for everyone.” This was easily seen with the release of the Wii, the most successful home console in the history of Nintendo; and it didn’t stop there. During that same time Nintendo released their most successful handheld, the Nintendo DS. Both systems met Iwata’s goal of being family friendly and affordable. Nintendo was able to do what many other companies tried, but could never achieve: reaching out to the casual gamer. Many young gamers today have Mr. Iwata to thank for their new love of this exciting hobby.

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While the successors to the Wii and DS, the WiiU and 3DS, have not been nearly as successful, Mr. Iwata still found a way to bring his idea of fun and charm to this generation of Nintendo. Most of this he has achieved through Nintendo Direct and E3 presentations, not afraid of making himself part of the fun and jokes. Many memes have been created in his honor.

Another standout from Satoru Iwata was his “Iwata Asks” interview segments. He would allow us behind the curtain on some of the biggest games, asking questions that we were dying to know. You could once again see his child-like love of game creation as he asked the questions, often times more for his own curiosity of how something was done. Through his entire career, Iwata never lost his love for gaming.

While Satoru Iwata left us far too soon, his footprint on the industry is unmistakable. His love for games, understanding that they are meant to be fun, and that everyone should be able to enjoy this great medium. Hopefully his career has inspired many young minds to become creators, game changers, and the next great generation of gamers. They just need to remember these simple words:

“We do not run from risk. We run to it. We are taking the risk to move beyond the boundaries of the game industry to reach new players and current players.”

Satoru Iwata, you may be gone, but you are not forgotten. This one is for you, DIRECTLY to you.

About James Mikolajewski

James Mikolajewski
James is a freelance writer, who also hosts the Life Of Gaming Podcast on iTunes.

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