Satoru Iwata, Chief Executive Officer of Nintendo, passed away on July 11, 2015. He was 55 years old. His death was mourned across the industry, especially for many for whom his name was synonymous with that of Nintendo itself. Iwata took over Nintendo in 2002 and was the push behind many of Nintendo’s most innovative devices, including the Nintendo DS and the Wii.
When the Nintendo DS first came to light, early in 2004, many questioned Nintendo’s decision to move away from their earlier, extremely popular Game Boy series (which would continue on for sometime after the DS was revealed). The Nintendo DS, with its dual screen and stylus was a novelty then, and it took the world by storm. It is the second best selling console of all time, beaten only by Sony’s Playstation 2. The Nintendo DS eventually became the successor to the Game Boy series and was eventually succeeded by the DSi (a more streamlined version of itself) and finally the Nintendo 3DS. All of these consoles have remained extremely popular in the market and Iwata was instrumental in carving out a niche for Nintendo in the gaming world.
Not only the handheld console, but Nintendo also broke ground in the home console markets under Iwata’s leadership. It introduced the Wii, a home console which competed directly with the likes of the Playstation 3 (Sony) and the Xbox 360 (Microsoft) and even against these giants, Nintendo was able to hold its own. The Wii has more worldwide sales than both of the above consoles and has remained extremely popular because of its broad and family friendly appeal. It was succeeded by the Wii U which became the first 8th generation console.
Iwata is also fondly remembered in the Industry for his contribution to the wildly popular Pokemon games. He worked on both Pokemon Gold and Silver for the Gameboy Colour as well Pokemon Stadium for the Nintendo 64, though he was not employed by Nintendo and initially worked for HAL Laboratory. It helped that Iwata’s background was in programming which allowed him to understand the nuances of the gaming industry as well as gaming itself. As Iwata put it, “On my business card, I’m a corporate president. In my mind, I’m a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.”
This simple logic and understanding took Iwata from strength to strength. If he was liked within the Industry he was loved within Nintendo, with the company flying its flag at half mast following the announcement of his death after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was a man who was not afraid to take risks, as shown with both the Wii and the Nintendo DS. All his risks did not pay off, as is evidence with the Wii U, but Iwata did not let this stop him and he soon unveiled the Nintendo 2Ds, a cheaper version of the 3DS for younger children as well as announcing Nintendo’s move to mobile gaming, a move which is likely to bolster Nintendo’s recent flagging sales.
In an industry vying for the next most popular game or console, he was a man who remembered what it meant to be a gamer at heart. He will be missed.