Satoru Iwata, 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.”
In his role as Nintendo’s CEO from 2002 onwards, Satoru Iwata helped to define entire generations of games. He lead the charge with the revolutionary Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii, which introduced millions of new gamers around the world to, not just, Nintendo, but also to the gaming medium itself. His more recent cycle of consoles, the 3DS and Wii U, helped to cement Nintendo’s position within the medium of video games by providing ground-breaking hardware and amazing gaming experiences.
Satoru Iwata was not just a CEO though; he was also a game developer. Having worked on video game series such as Kirby and Earthbound, as well as many others, whilst also helping to establish the Pokemon series, Iwata knew how to make great games and he proved it with every game he released and contributed to.
He was an incredibly experienced game developer and one of the few CEOs of a game company who not only knew what was required to make a video game, but could actually go ahead and make one himself. It was this understanding of the process of game creation that put Nintendo in the spot of excellence that it is today, producing games, and by definition: experiences, which no other video game company can possibly come close to. Iwata, due to his deep-rooted understanding of the medium, cultivated Nintendo’s culture of excellence, giving his game developers the space and time to create the amazing games they are known for.
Satoru Iwata understood the business of games like no other. At GDC 2011, during his keynote speech, he talked about how to build a successful game. He did not speak about gaming metrics or ways of abusing the consumer, common things which are mentioned in modern game development, but rather of creating a product that is compelling enough, due to its quality and unique ideas, and using those very features to create a “must-have” experience for gamers which they could share.
During his speech he warned mobile game developers about the “race-to-the-bottom” by providing sub-par gaming experiences and undercharging for their products. This was met with much backlash from mobile game developers at the time. Unfortunately what Iwata predicted in 2011 turned out to be true, as the mobile market has since turned into a marketplace from which only luck and a huge marketing budget can save a game and help it stand out from the hoards of low-quality games.
He was a true revolutionary who understood his medium and its future.
As a person, Iwata was warm, kind and had a sense of humour like no other. When his company moved away from doing more traditional, large-scale, press conferences to digital events, he used this opportunity to inject his warmth and humour into the company’s presentations, turning heads and hearts, as he became a figure which many gamers loved and cared for.
His wonderful youthfulness and kindness most recently came across in the opening of Nintendo’s 2015 E3 Digital Event. During this news event he, and several executives of his company, were turned into Muppets, using the opportunity to indulge themselves in Nintendo’s sense of child-like wonder and fun. Despite his contributions to gaming and all he had achieved, he would continuously poke fun at himself, not taking himself too seriously and was always smiling.
Satoru Iwata was a truly great man, whose seemingly endless contributions to the world of gaming will be eternally felt. He will never be forgotten, with him forever remaining in the characters he created and the franchises he helped to define. The world of gaming will never, ever, forget this truly amazing, wonderful, and creative man. Satoru Iwata will always live on, in our games, in our minds and, most importantly, in our hearts.
You will be so very missed Satoru Iwata.