We want to take some time to pay tribute to one of the most influential people in the video game industry, Satoru Iwata. Iwata passed away this past Saturday, July 11th and it was a major blow for the gaming community. Messages of mourning flooded social media. People felt compelled to express their sadness and shared memories of the times they had enjoyed the many things made possible by Iwata. Gamers felt a shared loss.
Iwata started his life in gaming early. His first foray in the field was in high school, where he programmed video games into a calculator that he shared with his schoolmates. Following high school, he was accepted into the Tokyo Institute of Technology where he majored in computer science. While attending school, he freelanced for HAL Laboratories Inc., a game developer that often collaborated with Nintendo.
After graduating university he began working at for HAL Laboratories Inc. full time. Some of the games he worked on at this time include beloved titles like Kirby, Earthbound, and Balloon Fight. He was promoted to president of HAL in 1993 — a bad time financially for the company, but with Iwata’s leadership, the company went from bankruptcy to being a financially stable entity.
This was a foreshadowing for how Iwata would treat the greater gaming industry. He once said, “Video games are meant to be one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone!” and, “On my business card, I am corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. And in my heart, I am a gamer.”
These two declarations defined his leadership in the industry: Iwata was not in business just to make money – he had a passion for development and constant innovation. Gamers saw the Nintendo DS and the Wii under his presidency, two of the most successful products in recent history, which led to nearly doubling Nintendo’s stock prices.
As CEO and president of Nintendo, his direction constantly kept the company moving forward. Creating a partnership with mobile game developer, DeNA, he found a way to compensate for the fact that console sales were diminishing, and jumped into the growing mobile gaming market. For a second time, Iwata brought a company that was financially struggling back into the black.
Developer. Innovator. Passionate GAMER! These words and more have been used to describe this great man who created some of the most beloved characters in games. Though I never knew Satoru Iwata personally, I consider him my friend, and he a friend to all and will be sorely missed by all those whose lives he touched. And, his legacy is secure: he will be forever immortalized in the company he shaped for the last 15 years and in the hearts of those who love what he created.
Every time we play video games we are honoring his memory. So play on, gamers, and take solace in the fact that you are participating in the work Iwata felt most passionate about.
Written by Matt J. Howes. Check out Infinite Grenade Launcher for more gaming news and podcasts from Matt.