Gamers continue to mourn the loss of Satoru Iwata, the president and CEO of Nintendo. Satoru Iwata started his career at HAL as a game programmer, where he helped to develop Balloon Fight, Earth Bound, Kirby and Pokemon games.
It’s rare anymore for someone involved in game development to go on to lead a game company. But in 2002, Iwata took over as president of Nintendo. He brought a different perspective to the job, taking the struggling company in a new direction after two successive struggling consoles in the form of the Nintendo 64 and GameCube.
It was a risky move. A lot of hardcore gamers derided Iwata for taking Nintendo in a more casual direction, but he ultimately proved his critics wrong. The Nintendo DS and Wii — which debuted in 2004 and 2006, respectively — were stunning international successes. He opened the industry up to people who never would have given video games a second thought. It took visionary leadership to make that possible.
Iwata spoke of his many roles during a speech at GDC in 2005: “On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. In my heart, I am a gamer.”
This fact manifested in his interaction with fans throughout the years, eschewing the elite gaming media in favor of a direct conversation with fans. Iwata was very much the public face of a company that many of us grew up to love. He was also known for interaction with game developers, pushing their creativity to the limit.
Game on, Iwata-san. Game on.