“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.”
– Satoru Iwata 1959-2015
As of today, July 11th, it has been one year since we lost a truly great man. We lost somebody that held a true passion for video games, and focused on making them fun over being mature and technical powerhouses. We lost somebody that completely revolutionised the gaming industry, bringing in a whole new market of gamers, in addition to touching millions of hearts across the globe. That man, was Satoru Iwata.
Satoru Iwata was probably best known for being the president and CEO of Nintendo from 2002 up to his death just last year. Over this time he pushed forward the Nintendo DS and the Wii, both selling over 100 million units worldwide and bringing in a whole new wave of people into the world of gaming. Regardless if you see the Wii as a ‘cheap gimmick’ that was left untouched for years after the first time it was switched on, you can’t deny the countless good experiences people have had with these consoles in particular. And that stretches into their games of course, with Mr. Iwata being a big contributor to a lot. He created Balloon Fight, a relatively iconic game amongst Nintendo fans. The Kirby series may not be the same without Satoru Iwata, seeing as he programmed the very first game of the pink puffball’s life in addition to other early games in the series.
But that wasn’t all of it. Using his knowledge, he re-programmed Mother 2 (more commonly known as Earthbound over here in the west) from scratch, saving the game from being cancelled all together. The game has spawned a dedicated fan following since then, with fans of the series begging for Mother 3 to be brought over here for years on end. Pokémon Gold and Silver is another key title, as he shared a compressing technique that enabled the developers at Game Freak to fit in two whole regions in the title, making it one of the most unforgettable post-game content in gaming. In addition, he reverse engineered the battle mechanics of the Pokémon games in order for Pokémon Stadium for the Nintendo 64 to work. Most importantly for me, was the Super Smash Bros. series. He helped programming with Super Smash Bros. Melee, which resulted in no delays for the game. Even now, the GameCube classic is regarded as one of the most competitive fighting games. The story for the N64 original is more heart-warming for me personally. Working closely with Masahiro Sakurai (the director of the games), the two pitched the idea of Nintendo characters beating the utter hell out of each other to the company. Naturally, this raised some concerns, but after they sat down to play it, they were smiling. And this single bit shows the talent Mr. Iwata had, which was to bring people together and just have a good time. Even now, it’s probably one of the only games that I can play with mates that don’t give much of a toss about the big N.
Satoru Iwata was knowledgeable about not only Nintendo fans, but also the concept of video games as a whole, the latter point we saw with the aforementioned Nintendo DS and Wii. He introduced Nintendo Directs, a fun and at times quirky way of announcing new games coming to Nintendo systems via a livestream. Iwata Asks articles were posted on official Nintendo sites too. These involved the CEO interviewing developers about recently titles (like Splatoon from last year), which only further demonstrated his intellect for the gaming industry. If you want to know more about him, I do suggest this Wikipedia article. After all, his page is the featured article as of today (July 11th 2016).
So, it was only natural that Nintendo fans were absolutely devastated by his sudden death last year. Not even this community, but the whole world of gaming mourned his passing. The outpouring amount of tributes that I saw on Twitter that day held as testimony to that. Some of the staff here, including your’s truly, shared some memories of the man, and you can check it out here.
Just to add a bit to my part in that article, I just wanted to say I feel that part of the pain I felt that day was because we lost a great leader. Mr. Iwata held an almost incomparable love for video games, and if you want proof just see the quote at the top of the page. It shows that he put his identity, as a gamer, at the forefront. In front of the position that earns him a living even. He had so much left to give the world, but he was taken away so early.
Yet, looking back on his passing now that it has been a whole year, part of me is glad. And don’t worry, it’s not a maniacal kind of happiness. I’m glad to see how well his legacy has been lived on, and that it hasn’t died. Tatsumi Kimishima is doing a great job as current president, as he is not losing focus of what makes Nintendo Nintendo, whilst still figuring out what is best for the company. Before his death, Satoru Iwata pushed forward a deal with mobile developer DeNA to publish various games and apps using Nintendo IP for mobile devices, with the first of which being Miitomo. We will also be seeing Nintendo themed attractions at Universal Parks sometime in the future, in addition to TV anime (which excites me to no end), and possibly cafes and restaurants. But I also want to share a couple of particular games.
This one in particular is the recently released Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. After coming across Daan Koopman’s tweet in which he showed Wataru Hirata’s (the chief director and game designer on the game) message, I felt it was fitting for this occassion. I want to draw attention to the bottom of his message, where he wanted to thank Satoru Iwata for granting him the opportunity to make this truly one-of-a-kind JRPG. In a similar fashion, Bayonetta 2, easily one of the best action games of all time, may have not existed if Nintendo hadn’t funded it, which would have been down to Mr. Iwata yet again. You can see the message mentioned earlier below:
Especially in recent times, it’s worth mentioning Pokémon GO. Yeah, there is a tad bit of negativity surrounding the app, seeing as it has lead to the discovery of a dead body, brought about some robbery, and even involving the police on more than one occasion. Yet it’s doing something I haven’t seen for a truly long time: it is bringing people of all walks of life together. A Nintendo Life article shows how it has encouraged people to be more social and active, with the possibility of even combating depression and anxiety. You only need to glance at your Twitter timeline to see the phenomenon it has become on the Internet. It may very well die out within a week, but right now, it is connecting people more than before. Satoru Iwata was one of the members that pushed the idea forward, so he is one to thank for the game’s existence.
The most important project in the company’s future, however, is the upcoming NX system. We know next to nothing about it, although it will be something entirely new; a new way of playing. Sound familiar? Well, it can be paralleled to the Wii almost a decade ago, and look out how that reached out beyond the core gamer market and succeeded! If they can recapture that essence, then Nintendo will have something truly magical on their hands. And I sure hope so, as it will be Satoru Iwata’s final legacy, his last gift to us.
So, even though part of me is still saddened by Mr. Iwata’s death, I’m more than happy to see what he has left us, and how lucky we were in the first place to have such a great man influence our lives. July 11th will always be a chance to remember this great man, and the astronomical impact he had on my life. Thank you Satoru Iwata, for the laughs, the excitement, and your contagious love for video games.