I didn’t know Mr. Satoru Iwata and I had never met the man. In fact, I don’t think he and I were ever in the same building. It makes sense when you think about it. I’m just a small scale blogger while he was not only known for being the man who introduced the world to popular Nintendo consoles or gave us information through the Nintendo Direct videos, but more importantly as the President and CEO of Nintendo.
This past Saturday, July 11, 2015, Mr. Iwata passed away from complications from an ongoing battle with a bile duct growth, something he had surgery to try and fix back in 2014. He was only 55 years old.
What’s shocking about this is that Mr. Iwata appeared fine on the outside. While he wasn’t at E3 this year, he had just recently took part in a shareholders meeting and was prominently featured in Nintendo’s E3 Direct Video. While we certainly don’t know what he was going through, he looked like his happy, cheerful self making the news of his sudden passing all the more tragic.
Iwata served a lengthy career at Nintendo, first joining up with HAL Laboratory right out of college. While helping programming a number of games featuring the likes of Kirby, Iwata eventually became president of HAL Labs and even assisted creating Creatures, Inc, the group behind the wildly popular Pokemon games. 2000 saw Iwata join up with Nintendo and became it’s first president outside of the longstanding Yamauchi family.
Under his leadership, Nintendo saw much success, revitalizing the handheld market with the Nintendo DS and taking the world by storm with the wildly successful Wii console.
Even though he’s a prominent figure at Nintendo, working on numerous Mario, Zelda, and Animal Crossing games, the biggest thing about Iwata was his heart. The man always seemed to have a permanent smile attached to his face and cared what people thought. One of the more famous examples of his kindness came back in January 2014 when he cut his annual salary in half to give back to the company over the struggling sales of the WiiU console. This is something he also did back in 2011 for the (at the time) struggling 3DS handheld and look how that system has been doing even since. In this day and age, a major CEO or high ranking official taking a huge pay cut is just unheard of.
Outside of his programming skills and compassion, he also introduced a new level of transparency to the company, even holding a series called “Iwata Asks” where he’d sit down with key people from various games, offering insight behind these projects.
No successor has been named yet for Nintendo, but Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda are jointly running the company in the meantime.
While I may not always agree with the direction Nintendo takes the company or with some of the decisions they make, they’ve given me so many wonderful memories throughout my life and helped introduce me to games. Iwata has been there for a good part of it and the contributions he has made over the years are immeasurable. For that I am truly grateful and no matter what happens, I’m a lifelong Nintendo fan.
Life really is fragile.
Rest in peace Iwata-san, you will be very much missed.