By Operation Rainfall Contributor / July 15th, 2015
I had intended to get this article out earlier in the week. Unfortunately, Mother Nature would not allow me to work on this article earlier in the week as widespread severe storms had knocked out power in the local area. I would not allow it to stop me from getting my two cents out on Mr. Iwata, an executive I respected.
During the evening of the 12th, I was notified by both my friends and by oprainfall contributors of the unexpected passing of Satoru Iwata. While we knew he had some health issues during the last couple of years, there was no indication it was life-threatening. I was as sad as everyone else when Nintendo released the statement. Even the local radio station I listen to mentioned the news the following morning and took time out of their morning program to explain Iwata’s accomplishments. Despite never knowing him or interacting with him directly, I was grieving with the rest of the world. Many of the Nintendo games I played as a kid up to the present had Satoru Iwata’s influence.
Satrou Iwata was different from most executives in the video game industry. He was proud to be passionate for video games. As he said 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.” The best example was the Nintendo Direct and Iwata Asks series of videos. As the face of Nintendo Direct, he let the world know what Nintendo had planned for the upcoming months and years. Nintendo Direct showed the fans came first before the shareholders. He wanted Nintendo to be connected to fans and was willing to have fun in the process. How many executives would be willing to hold bananas, participate in a demo of Wii Sports, fight against another executive in Super Smash Bros., and become a puppet? Not many. He was also willing to conduct interviews with the developers and the development teams to share information on Nintendo’s latest games.
In his early days, he worked as a programmer at HAL Laboratories. Some of the series he helped create were Kirby and Earthbound. He mentored a young Masahiro Sakurai, who not only created Kirby but also made Super Smash Bros. He had a hand in so many iconic franchises such as Pokemon, Metroid, Mario, and The Legend of Zelda.
When he became the President and CEO of Nintendo, he never forgot his previous experiences as a programmer, game designer, and producer. Satoru Iwata wanted Nintendo’s games to be fun for everyone. He took his role at Nintendo seriously while remaining true to his ideology and principles. The success of the Wii and the DS opened a brand new audience for the video game industry. Iwata was a smart businessman. While there were some questionable decisions, no one could deny both Iwata and Nintendo marched to the beat of their own drum. They were willing to take risks in an industry that is too afraid to do so because they might lose money. One memory that comes to mind is when he made the bold decision to take a pay cut when things weren’t going well for the company. Iwata never had to take a pay cut, but decided to make the bold move. In that situation, most executives would refuse to cut their own pay. He didn’t just say that Nintendo was his responsibility, he acted that way in everything he did.
The legacy Satoru Iwata leaves behind will have a lasting impact for both Nintendo and the video game industry. He taught us to “please understand” and to have fun. He was always humble and wanted to try new ideas and have Nintendo develop games with creative freedom. Sure, not every decision was met with praise, but that didn’t matter as much to him. The most important goal for Iwata was for games to be fun for everyone. Even the competition respected Mr. Iwata as President and CEO of one of the longest lasting companies. As Nintendo and the video game industry move forward, they will never forget Satoru Iwata’s legacy.
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