Celebrating Satoru Iwata: Programmer, CEO, Nintendo President, and gamer at heart
For most gamers and fans of Nintendo, it was a shock when the company announced late yesterday that Satoru Iwata, president of the company, had passed away from a bile duct tumor.
Here is the official announcement from Nintendo:
Credited with programming, producing, or directing more than 300 games, Mr. Iwata started his career in video games with HAL Laboratory, Inc., as a part-time programmer. While Mr. Iwata cannot be credited with creating the character Kirby, when he did become HAL Laboratory's president he ultimately decided to create Kirby's Dream Land, and did some behind the scenes coding for HAL Laboratory's original hit, Super Smash Bros. This kept the company out of bankruptcy.
Satoru Iwata also reworked the coding for Earthbound, sequel to Mother, in around a month, which is quite impressive. While still president of HAL Laboratory, and on the board of Creatures, Inc., one of the companies that worked on Pokémon Red, Blue, and Green, Mr. Iwata also remade the entire Pokémon battle system on the N64 for Pokémon Stadium. He did this without documentation of the system of any sort, which is stunning.
On top of all that, he wrote the compression technology for Pokémon Gold and Silver that shrunk down Johto enough to allow Kanto to be included, making the games some of the most memorable in the Pokémon series.
After 20 years at HAL Laboratory, Mr. Iwata was hired at Nintendo, and in 2002, he was promoted to the position he held until his death as President of Nintendo. He was the fourth President of Nintendo and the first not related by blood to the founder, Fusajiro Yamauchi.
If this were not enough, he continued to work on their new games even as the president. Namely, he contributed to developing Super Mario Sunshine, Animal Crossing, Metroid Prime, and The Wind Waker. He also did some significant debugging on the well-loved Super Smash Bros. Melee, which, without his help, might have been delayed.
He also brought the industry the Nintendo DS, which has been the most successful video game handheld to date, and has overseen many excellent games including many Pokémon, Zelda, Fire Emblem and Mario titles.
“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
As he moves beyond the final level, perhaps we should all take a moment to enjoy the games Mr. Iwata put so much energy into.
And we will all miss Satoru Iwata, who brought so much to the industry and truly believed that video games should be fun for everyone and anyone, not just a business. And we will hope his legacy lives on, not just through the games he worked on, but through Nintendo.