We read the news today, and our hearts sank. Satoru Iwata, president and CEO of Nintendo, has passed away at the age of 55 due to a growth on his bile duct. Iwata was appointed CEO of Nintendo in 2002 after Hiroshi Yamauchi stepped down, and oversaw the life of the Gamecube and Gameboy Advance, as well as the launch of the Nintendo Wii, Wii , Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS. Originally a programmer for HAL Laboratory, Mr. Iwata was the lead designer and programmer of Balloon Fight, as well as instrumental in the creation of the Kirby series. In addition, he was the lead programmer on Earthbound and was responsible for the creation of Pokemon Stadium and including the Kanto region in Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver. His last act as an actual programmer was when he was working as the General Manager of Corporate Planning and he worked on fixing bugs in Super Smash Bros. Melee to ensure it would release on time.
Not to say that his legacy ended once he moved up the corporate ladder. Under his leadership, Nintendo saw it’s most successful generation ever during the Wii and DS years, and his passion for videogames shone the entire time. From the good-natured series of Nintendo Directs (where he brought news “direct” to you) to the incredibly enlightening Iwata Asks series of articles where Mr. Iwata interviewed members of his staff and got their insights on the games they had helped create. Even during the down years, he was a class act all the way – he refused to lay off employees and instead cut his own pay in half when Nintendo experienced it’s first negatively profitable year in over 100 years. He was a guiding light for the industry and a man who truly believed in what he was creating.
Satoru Iwata was a legend in the industry. Always positive, forever inspiring, and a visionary who could see far beyond his time. His work at Nintendo has made all of our lives a little brighter, and he will be greatly missed. Speaking on a personal level, this news has hit me hard.
Let’s all go and play some Balloon Fight and remember the good times.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Iwata.