R.I.P. Satoru Iwata
July 13, 2015

The industry is full of stories of Satoru Iwata being an awesome person, particularly today as many learn about his passing. I won't summarize them here, because it's better to let those other people tell their own stories, some of which are truly touching. They paint the portrait of a man who surely deserved to live much longer, another victim of cancer that left us too soon.

Of course I didn't know Iwata, and so I could only do what nearly everyone else did and watch his Nintendo Direct appearances and such, but he was perhaps the perfect leader for Nintendo. He really "got it," as his numerous interviews made clear. In particular, there is a quote now making the rounds that originated at the 2005 Game Developers Conference:

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.


Iwata got away with saying that, because at least some of it was known to the people seated in that room, or easily verified after the fact. A gamesindustry.biz obituary does a beautiful job of summarizing his career up to that point and beyond. Iwata truly knew how to build games, and played a hand in building some of the most influential ones in my childhood. I only just recently learned that he was responsible for the Dragon Warrior port to North America, which had immeasurable impact on that genre's subsequent performance on consoles in North America, even if the core experience that was being ported wasn't as amazing as the sequels it inspired.

Because Iwata had that background and (as far as I can tell, based on remembrances from people who knew him) was just a great person in general, I didn't have to worry over the last decade or so that Nintendo would lose its way.

When Iwata gained the position he held until his death, I'll admit that I wasn't sure who he was and I was afraid for the future of Nintendo, the company that has meant so much to me for more than a quarter-century now. Quickly, he made it clear that he knew what he was doing. He went up against financial analysts and shareholders many times, successfully delivering great experiences to long-time fans and turning their amusement into profit for the men in fancy business suits who had invested so much money in the rising tide that Nintendo briefly was the biggest company in Japan. But Nintendo didn't chase trends, sometimes to its detriment. Instead, Iwata retained the vision that made the company--and for me, the industry--so exciting in the first place.

Some will disagree, but I also feel that Nintendo's output over the course of the past decade has ranked among its best since I started playing. Nostalgia adds value to the oldest of titles, and their quality and place in history should never be discounted, but I feel that Iwata did the most for Nintendo when he was in charge and working tirelessly to ensure that the talented staff had the luxury of using the company's growing resources to build great entertainment experiences.

I am deeply saddened by Iwata's passing, which I didn't expect. I had thought he was recovered, or at least mostly recovered, so it hit me like a ton of bricks when I found out yesterday that now he is simply… gone.

But of course, he won't ever be truly gone, because he left behind a legacy worth celebrating. And that's something I'm proud to say we do beautifully here at HonestGamers: we celebrate games. I look forward to continuing to celebrate the great games that Iwata helped create, the many more great games he helped make possible, and the games made by those he inspired. I look forward to continuing to examine, experience, and enjoy games of all sorts, and I think Iwata would do the same if he were still with us. After all, he was a gamer too.

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joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - July 13, 2015 (07:23 PM)
Besides Shigeru Miyamoto, Satoru Iwata really was the face of Nintendo. Looking back, he was always talking to his customers through the Nintendo Directs and press events. He not only loved gamers, but game developers too, as shown in the Iwata Asks features and the countless anecdotes from members of the industry.

He was truly a great man. I will miss him when Nintendo broadcasts their next Direct.
honestgamer honestgamer - July 13, 2015 (07:37 PM)
I've been trying to brace for a time when Shigeru Miyamoto is inevitably no longer able to be involved in Nintendo and games, and dreading it. It never occurred to me that we'd lose Iwata first, or that I'd care quite as much as I do. This is a really crap week for me, but I'm trying to remember the good he accomplished that even mortality can't take away.
overdrive overdrive - July 14, 2015 (04:56 PM)
When I got home on Sunday from a weekend away from home, technology and all that, it took no time at all to find out what had happened due to my Twitter feed being taken over by people posting goodbyes, tributes and similar messages. It was the first time in a long time that something in or relating to gaming caused my Twitter to blow up and the sentiments were worth reading, as opposed to just being annoying to the point where I hate social media for a few days. That in itself was noteworthy; it's just a shame it was because of the passing of a very noteworthy and influential person in the business.

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