In memoriam: Satoru Iwata

It is with a heavy heart that I write this, and a deep feeling of guilt. Death is always a tragedy, but it is the greatest of tragedy when a giant is brought down, far before his time. Satoru Iwata was a great man, a leader of the industry, and a lover of video games. Who am I, but a man, to try and capture his legacy? To dare to attempt to summarize his life in a mere few paragraphs?

Clearly there are those more qualified to write this than I, but such was the impact Nintendo and Iwata had on my life that I feel I must attempt it.

According to a statement released by Nintendo, former President and CEO Satoru Iwata passed away Saturday night due to a bile duct growth. He was 55 years-old.


Satoru Iwata was born December 6th 1959 in Hokkaido, Japan. From an early age he expressed an intrest in the creation of video games and during his high school years he even produced some video games from his home. While he majored in computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology he did freelance work for Hal Laboratory, the game developer most known for the Kirby franchise.

Iwata continued to work with HAL after finishing school and is known for his work on Balloon Fight, Earthbound and the Kirby games. He was appointed to president of Hal in 1993 and helped bring the company back from the verge of bankruptcy. While not officially working with Nintendo, Iwata helped with the development of Pokemon Gold and Silver.

Iwata took a job at Nintendo in 2000 as head of corporate planning. When Hiroshi Yamauchi retired in 2002, Iwata succeeded him as Nintendo’s fourth president. He was the first Nintendo president not related to the Yamauchi family through blood or marriage.

As president of Nintendo, Iwata believed Nintendo should make games for all gamers, and helped lead the charge in the development in the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii, both systems that proved massive financial successes for the company. Iwata also played a big role in the development of many of the Legend of Zelda, Mario and Animal Crossing series of games.


During his keynote speech at GDC 2005, Iwata said “On my buinsess card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.”

A caring and selfless man, when Nintendo’s stock was performing poorly in 2014, Iwata cut his salary in half following the 30 per cent drop in profits. Even at this year’s E3, following a tidal wave of backlash to Nintendo’s digital event, Iwata tweeted (roughly translated) “Thank you for watching. We take opinions of this year’s Digital Event seriously and will work to better meet your expectations.”

Iwata was an amazing executive who always focused on fun. He’s known for his famous phrase “Video games are meant to be just one thing: fun. Fun for everyone.” While some may argue the merits of this statement, the fact that he was so committed to fun in games is a rarity in the Triple-A sector. He himself was always a fun man to watch, especially in his Nintendo Directs; from staring longingly into a bushel of bananas, or engaging in an epic DBZ style fight with Reggie Fils-Amie. Truly, the world is poorer for his loss.


Your game may be over now, but your name will remain on the scoreboard of eternity.


Bujini yasunde kudasai Iwata-san.