“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”- Satoru Iwata
The gaming community all over the world is in deep mourning as the flag bearer of hugely popular Japanese gaming company Nintendo, Satoru Iwata is no longer in this world. The news was confirmed by a short statement released by the company citing a bile tumor as the cause of his death. He was 55 years old.
Satoru Iwata is credited to single-handedly transform the face of Nintendo and the gaming industry itself by his legendary “blue ocean” strategy that had the company build products for people that didn’t consider themselves traditional gamers. That led to the Wii and DS systems, which were among some of the fastest selling and most popular consoles ever made.
Iwata had joined the company’s HAL laboratory as a game developer and a full-time software engineer in 1983 just after graduating from college and worked on beloved classics like EarthBound, Kirby, and Balloon Fight — all games that HAL worked hand-in-hand with Nintendo on.
He was made director in 2000 at the relatively early age of 40 and then went on to become its fourth president in 2002. He was also the first outside the founder family of Yamauchi to hold that position. He also became the CEO of Nintendo of America in 2013.
He was one of those rare executives who were also an expert in programming. He encouraged both the hardware and software teams under him to think differently. And the evidence of that came in 2004 when the company released the Nintendo DS, the first system designed and released fully under Iwata.
That dual-screen device stormed onto the market and succeeded by giving Nintendo a place to make great experiences for its fans while simultaneously introducing new franchises like Brain Age and Nintendogs that appealed more to older consumers or girls.
Instead of trying to compete with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in terms of power and HD visuals, the company went with a motion controller in an explicit effort to simplify the input method for people that typically found gaming joypads intimidating. Nintendo sold more than 100 million Wii consoles and 154 million DS units. The DS went on to become the best-selling handheld gaming console ever released.
In the recent years though, Nintendo struggled to keep itself afloat with the emergence of social media gaming and mobile gaming, particularly iPhones and iPads and had to repeatedly lower the prices of its consoles to woo the buyers.
Nevertheless, Iwata commanded respect from everyone, largely due to his easy going nature and approachability to other employees of the company, unlike other high ranking officials. Moreover he made Nintendo much more than just a gaming company to a company keen to leave a legacy and remain more in touch with its fans.
The demise of Iwata at an early age has certainly left the gaming world shocked and evoked emotional responses from fans as well as his industry rivals.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Iwata,
the official Sony Playstation account tweeted.
Another fan said:
Good bye, Satoru Iwata. Thanks for speaking directly to our hearts.
Miyamoto, the Nintendo game designer, said he was shocked and saddened.
We will upkeep the development approach that we built with Iwata, and we in the development team hope to keep working as one to build toward the future.
A funeral service will be held on July 17. Nintendo did not immediately announce a successor.
The company said that two other executives — Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto — would manage the company in the interim.
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