Nintendo president Satoru Iwata wasn't always in charge of Nintendo -- once upon a time, he was a humble programmer sat at his keyboard with dreams of becoming the next Miyamoto.
In a recent interview with 4Gamer, Iwata admits that before he moved into management he had aspirations of being the company's most prolific developer:
There was definitely a period of time after I began working at HAL when I sort of fancied myself to be the most proficient software engineer in the video games industry. Because I believed things like that I could write better NES code than even Nintendo's (EAD) engineers or that I could write the fastest, most compact code.
Iwata's career would take him in a different -- but no less important -- direction, but he reveals during the interview that the last title he provided programming assistance on isn't as old as you might assume:
Aaah, I wonder if it's alright to admit this? Well, I guess the proverbial statute of limitations is up, so I'll tell you, but my actual last work on programming happened when I was working as the General Manager of Corporate Planning at Nintendo. Something happened and the Gamecube version of Super Smash Brothers didn't look like it was going to make its release date so I sort of did a code review for it (Wry Laugh).
At the time, I went to HAL Labs in Yamanashi and was the acting head of debugging. So, I did the code review, fixed some bugs, read the code and fixed more bugs, read the long bug report from Nintendo, figured out where the problem was and got people to fix those...all in all I spent about three weeks like that. And, because of that, the game made it out on time.
And that was the last time that I worked as an engineer 'in the field'. I was right there, sitting by programmers, in the trenches, reading code together, finding the bugs, and fixing them together.
Iwata admits that despite his considerable programming talent, he has spent so long in charge of Nintendo that "a knowledge gap is inevitable":
Even if I understand the principles, I just can't take the time to fully update my skills. So, with time, I've found myself having to ask what certain things are.
So, even though I'm looking over the system development departments, I find myself having to ask them to explain certain things to me. Through that I'm sort of struggling through trying to not let my judgements standards waste away.
It's OK, Iwata. Just knowing that you helped get Melee out of the door makes up for any gap you might now be lumbered with.