With the passing of Satoru Iwata in recent days, announced on 13th July, it's been a difficult period for fans of Nintendo and Iwata-san in particular. We dedicated a day to the former Nintendo President, though we're sure he'd want the company and its fans to now look ahead to the future and all it can bring.
We've already shared an obituary and one personal perspective on Iwata-san's legacy, and now a number of the Nintendo Life team have come together to share their thoughts. We share our memories as we return - elsewhere on the site - to the subjects that Satoru Iwata loved the most: gaming and fun.
Satoru Iwata has been one of the few constants since I started Nintendo Life nearly 10 years ago, it was Iwata-san's promise of a gaming revolution with Wii that sparked me into creating this website. Whilst I didn't really know his games very well I've paid close attention to his leadership style which Tom talked about so fondly in his excellent editorial piece yesterday.
It's comforting to see so many fans talking about the man, his ethos and his beliefs rather than simply the profits he yielded for Nintendo shareholders this past decade. If anything, I'll remember Iwata as someone who showed me that business is about more than money, it's about doing something fun every single day.
His premature passing comes at a pivotal point for Nintendo, now more than ever do they need the strong leadership that Iwata so often demonstrated.
Satoru Iwata, 1959-2015, you shall forever be part of our Nintendo Life.
Satoru Iwata was more than a brilliant and necessary part of Nintendo, he was a great man overflowing with passion, humour, humility, and most importantly tremendous skill. Nothing that I could write here would accurately describe just how much the industry owes this outstanding individual. I personally have never known another president of Nintendo, nor can I think of anyone more deserving to have been in that position. Iwata moulded gaming as we know it today by introducing an entirely new audience through use of the Wii, and the ripples of this are impossible to ignore; smart phones, tablets, everyone and their mum is now playing video games, and we have this man to thank for its evolution and continued inclusion.
None of us can fully appreciate all that he did for our hobby as the scope of his achievements are intangibly vast. Nintendo, gamers, and non-gamers alike have lost a literal legend. To say Iwata-san will be sorely missed is a criminal understatement, but his memory will live on through his work and the innumerable smiles he brought to our faces.
My first memory of Satoru Iwata isn't directly of the man himself, but rather of his work. As a kid, Animal Crossing for GameCube - also one of Iwata's many credits, as it happens - was my first real gaming love, and after over a year of playing, I came across a very special little leaf on Toy Day morning: Balloon Fight, in all its in-game emulated glory.
Having never actually played an NES, setting up the digital version in my villager's house was my first experience with the system. When I booted up Balloon Fight from within Animal Crossing, I was immediately taken in by Hip Tanaka's beautiful BGM, and then by the equally joyous buoyancy of the game's movement - a direct product of Iwata's imaginative programming prowess - and I couldn't stop smiling. I flapped happily leftwards for hours in Balloon Trip, getting a little further each try, and loving every moment. It was, as far as I was concerned, a masterpiece, and quickly became my favourite part of my daily Animal Crossing routine.
Fast forward a decade or so, and Iwata - once only a name I saw in credits sequences - was now a surprisingly regular, personable presence in my life. While I'd been whiling away my days in Animal Crossing, he'd become Nintendo's Global President, and more importantly, a kind, sincere, and endlessly likable human face for the company. With each new Nintendo Direct, I looked forward to Iwata's cheerful delivery as much as I did the games; whether ghostbusting with Miyamoto, hiding in a herd of Luigis, spinning around serenely with Wii Street U, or simply contemplating bananas, he always looked like he was having the best time, and the feeling was contagious.
Iwata's infectious enthusiasm extended well beyond stage presence, too - he understood games in a way that only he could, as programmer, producer, and player, and it only takes reading a single 'Iwata Asks' to see that special insight shining through. He asked questions that demystified design without discarding the magic - a beautiful balance that made reading Iwata's accompanying interview one of my favourite parts of playing any new game.
In fact, Iwata's 'Asks' and Direct appearances have become such a comforting part of my gaming life that it's honestly difficult to imagine it without him - I've always loved Nintendo games, but Iwata was the man who made me love Nintendo. I'll remember him each time I take to the skies in Balloon Trip, each time I check in on my Animal Crossing town, and each time I set out from Onett in Earthbound. I'll think of him when I hear the word 'directly', and when I buy bananas. But most of all, I'll remember him as someone who dedicated his life to making us smile, and of course, (laugh). Take care, Iwata-san, and thanks for everything.
People may always argue whether certain external choices Mr. Iwata made were the best for Nintendo as a corporation, but these debates entirely miss his greatest strengths as president and CEO. When you look internally, to the ways Mr. Iwata treated his employees and co-workers, his worth as a leader is nothing short of phenomenal.
While Mr. Iwata climbed the ladders at HAL and Nintendo, he never lost touch with his experiences as a programmer and the crucial human element that fuels development of a great game. His coding feats over the years have been eagerly shared: the ways he dove in from leadership positions to compress Pokémon Gold & Silver, squash bugs in Super Smash Bros. Melee, or set Mother 2/EarthBound back on track. He never swooped in to overtake a project, but wore the role of servant and guide. This was a leader who was not afraid of getting into the trenches, and in fact loved doing so. After becoming president, Mr. Iwata would occasionally lament that his duties as President gave him no time to program again.
Although he could no longer make games himself, Mr. Iwata used his position to help ensure the creators beneath him had the freedom to pursue their projects. He resisted prodding from shareholders to cut staff in order to reduce losses or pad profit margins. He offered the staff of Mother 2 the option to continue with their current build even though he knew it would be better to start from scratch. He showed a powerful faith and confidence in his employees, and took full responsibility in the form of salary slashes when plans did not perform as well as expected. He knew the importance of morale in creation and pursued it wholeheartedly.
He knew morale was important among Nintendo fans, too. He became a public face of the company, coming across as both outlandishly odd and yet remarkably down-to-earth; both president and gamer, finding amusement in his own products. It's hard to think about, but it's pretty clear now that he maintained this persona even as his health deteriorated, which is why his passing came as such a surprise to so many. I wouldn't say he faked it, though. His passions for fun and happiness were clearly strong, and it wouldn't be surprising if he would hold onto them until the end.
I've seen a lot of fanart for Mr. Iwata; how fans have expressed their grief and gratitude. It's a simple observation, but I've noticed that in every drawing of him I've seen, no matter how heart-wrenching the scene may be around him, he is always smiling. A joyful spirit who loved what he did and the joy it brought others. That's how we remember Mr. Iwata.
Pokémon Gold is one of my favourite games ever. As someone who devoured the original in a matter of weeks, my anticipation for more was almost too much for my young mind to bear, and so I sought out any and all information on the sequel that I possibly could. While I managed to find teasing images of the new setting in a magazine or two, alongside a handful of the new Pokémon themselves, I ended up quite content to simply fabricate my own list of wild expectations just waiting to be fulfilled. When the time came, Johto was everything I wanted it to be, and I logged an embarrassment of hours before even bothering to take on the Elite Four.
I had put off that final challenge because I didn't want it to be over. Though I didn't really understand at the time, I distinctly remember feeling strangely sad as I read through the congratulatory dialogue, shaking it off as I enjoyed the moment of victory. It took a while for it to sink in, and for the initial confusion to subside, but once I realized that I was only halfway done, that I could return to the Kanto region and bring my new team back with me, my jaw hit the floor. It was mindblowing, and the mix of old and new as I wandered through the familiar areas gave me my first sense of nostalgia, even at such a young age. It filled me with joy, excitement, surprise - not in my craziest dreams had I imagined this.
Satoru Iwata made that moment possible, and I don't think I could ever thank him enough for granting me such a cherished memory. We've all been thinking of him a lot recently, with so much of his silliness, happiness, and wisdom to share, but what will always stand out for me the most is how his seemingly innocuous act of efficient compression could make me feel like I was on a limitless adventure. He gave us more because he felt that we deserved more. In my eyes, video games were more than just a way to pass the time from that point on.
He was as talented as he was enthusiastic, and as knowledgeable as he was charming. Mr.Iwata took pride in helping create memories just like mine, and stood at the helm as gaming suddenly became more accessible for everyone. I'm stunned and utterly heartbroken by his loss, but I'll remember him with fondness, smiling. Happiness is his legacy.
Mr. Iwata has indirectly touched all our lives with his unique and powerful vision for Nintendo. I'll never forget opening a Wii on Christmas 2006, or pulling over on the side of the road on a long drive so I could watch Nintendo's first Digital Event on my phone. His passing is a great loss to the video game world.
Losing Mr. Iwata is a tragedy, but looking back on his achievements and contributions to Nintendo and video games in general is cause for great celebration. During his time at Nintendo, he shook up the industry so many times and in so many different ways. From the DS to the Wii to the Iwata Asks and Nintendo Direct series, Mr. Iwata made sure that Nintendo was always marching to the beat of its own (zany and wonderful) drummer. He was definitely the only corporate leader whose personality was so colorful that "Please understand" and "Directly to you!" became memes.
I'll never understand why some people are taken from this world so early and so suddenly, but there's peace in knowing that, although young and full of creativity and ideas, Satoru Iwata left a legacy that will be felt for many years to come.
You may have never personally known him, you may have never even seen him in the flesh and yet he's played a significant role in shaping the person you are today. Now that he's gone a part of you feels empty. For me, that's how it feels.
For Nintendo fans worldwide and lovers of video games in general, Satoru Iwata's passing is indeed a time of mourning, but an occasion that should also be marked as a celebration of his lifetime efforts. He has clearly touched many peoples' lives, including my own, by sharing his passion and enthusiasm for video games with entire generations and morphing them into the fans that they are today.
So don't be hesitant to pick up a controller during this difficult period like I initially was. Celebrate Iwata-san's life by doing exactly what he encouraged us to do during his lifetime – to play and enjoy video games, and most of all, share these experiences.
This is the lasting legacy of Satoru Iwata that will live on through all of us.
I have plenty to thank Satoru Iwata for, but to keep it condensed, I'd like to share something specific. I'd like to thank Iwata-san for contributing to the amazing childhood I had in the late 90s/early 2000s, due to his involvement in the development of Pokemon Gold & Silver. Though not with Nintendo at the time, Iwata-san assisted in the development of the second-gen Pokemon games, which are my favourite games of all-time.
Many people may not realise that Iwata-san helped in the founding of Creatures Inc., and who knows, Pokemon may not be where it is today if it wasn't for his involvement. He was also an integral part of making Pokemon Stadium what it was, by reading code from the original Pokemon Game Boy games and reworking it for the N64 title. Again, a massive part of my childhood - seeing Pokemon in 3D for the first time was something I'll never forget!
Finally, I'd like to thank Satoru Iwata for everything else he's brought to the brand I hold so dearly in my heart, such as his involvement in the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda franchises. There will never be enough words for me to express my gratitude for his work for Nintendo, both as a truly dedicated fan and as an aspiring game developer. I am sure I speak on behalf of all of his fans worldwide, in that going forward, Nintendo Directs will never be the same.
May he rest in peace, and may his legacy forever live on.
It says a lot about Mr. Iwata when you look at the mass show of bereavement, and more importantly, praise and adoration he received upon the sudden news of his passing. After all, how many corporate executives would we even know the names and faces of, let alone mourn them when they're gone? But for gamers, and more so for fans of Nintendo, he was the embodiment of everything we loved about the company's games: Always fun, and never an imitation of others. We'll always remember the meme-worthy Nintendo Directs, the way that he was never too important to not look absolutely silly and that he always looked like he was having fun doing it.
Let's also not forget his career before he became President of NCL - He was a notoriously good programmer as well, achieving incredible things with the Pokemon series and of course Earthbound/Mother II (which he apparently reprogrammed from scratch after some issues occurred with the original programming). There are a lot of great and heartwarming stories out there from people that had the pleasure to work with him, and I highly recommend you read as many as you can, as well as the excellent Iwata Asks series of developer interviews. Thank you, Mr. Iwata, for keeping the games industry fun!
The news of Satoru Iwata's passing hit me very hard. In fact, it's been on my mind almost nonstop ever since. Even though I haven't agreed with many of the decisions made at Nintendo in recent years, that doesn't mean I wasn't massively impressed by what Iwata has accomplished during his time with HAL and Nintendo. I mean, seriously, have you seen the list of games, projects, business decisions and such the man has credited to his name? It's incredible. What's even more incredible is the fact that I've heard nothing but overwhelmingly positive things from people that had the opportunity to meet or work with Mr. Iwata. He was a role model, a visionary, and a smart businessman. He humanized a corporation and entertained us with silly gags while running one of the biggest brands in the world. But perhaps the most impressive thing is how Iwata somehow felt like a close friend, even though most of us had never met him.
The world won't forget Satoru Iwata anytime soon. We'll be revisiting his games until our hands are too arthritic to grasp controllers. We'll be comparing other Presidents and CEOs to him for years and years to come. And you'd better believe we'll be doing the "directly to you" hand gesture and saying "please understand" at every possible opportunity.
Rest in peace, Mr. Iwata. Thank you for everything.
The passing of Iwata reminded me of the untimely death of another Nintendo legend - Gunpei Yokoi. Both were visionaries who drove to expand the enjoyment millions received through video games through unconventional methods, and whose untimely deaths leave us wondering what else these great minds could have achieved had they not been taken so soon. Gunpei Yokoi's "Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology" philosophy can be compared to Satoru Iwata's "Blue Ocean" strategy - both of which grabbed me at various stages of my youth. Just as Yokoi's Game Boy had captivated me as a young child, Iwata's Wii and DS enthralled me as a teenager. Iwata perfectly embodied Nintendo's ethics - capturing an audience through unconventional means and raising the bar to what a video game experience can be.
The fact that the death of a CEO from a large, global company can result in outpouring of emotion from the gaming community speaks great volumes about Nintendo, their fans and of course - Mr. Iwata. Nintendo and their senior staff members are not merely figureheads or suited salarymen - intent on crunching numbers and receiving a wage, they are passionate, driven individuals - intent on preserving Nintendo's glowing reputation while bringing enjoyment to all. This attitude and eagerness to please has seen them embrace their fanbase through self-referential humour, internet parodies and a strong social presence, and their fans embraced them back. Iwata epitomised this very notion, putting himself at the forefront of Nintendo Directs in often humorous ways - eager to bring smiles and laughter; not merely sitting behind a desk making big calls.
When Iwata's death was announced, many felt as if they had lost a family member. People from different backgrounds and walks of life mourned for a kindly uncle they'd never met. Understandably so, when one considers the role he played in many of our childhoods. Here is a man whose work has entertained millions across the globe, providing hours of amusement, and at times - solace through truly difficult times.
Iwata's memory will not be simply confined to the history books, his legacy will live on with the countless experiences he helped craft through his passion for making people smile. I will forever cherish the countless ways his work has brought me joy, and eventually - I'll expose my daughter to his magical work too. While Iwata may no longer be physically with us, his presence and ability to entertain will definitely be felt for generations to come.
What can I say? I am absolutely heartbroken as I know many of you are, but we were extremely lucky to have met this amazing man at all. Having Satoru Iwata as our Nintendo President has been quite a ride and one we will never forget.
Nintendo have always had that special, child like magic that has always made them stand out from the crowd and Satoru Iwata fit into the Nintendo family flawlessly. Let's face it, Mr Iwata is the man! How many big executives do you know who would allow themselves to be turned into a Jim Henson puppet or fight their co-worker, matrix style for the whole world to see? Well, there is just one big executive who would do that, and even though his life was cut short he touched many lives.
I know that every time I watch a Nintendo Direct I will miss him more, who else is going to bring it directly to us? He's been with us through all of the Nintendo highs and lows, he even pulled a Wii -Revolution- console out of his coat like a magician, but way more awesome than a magician!
Personally the most important thing for me is that he seemed like such a genuinely, nice man. I don't think people give the word nice enough credit, there is nothing more important than being a kind hearted person. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don't care for others, then life is meaningless.
The most wonderful thing about being a Nintendo fan is that we are all one big family and I know you'll all appreciate this quote, my favourite quote from Satoru Iwata.
Even if we come from different sides of the world, speak different languages, even if we eat too many chips, or riceballs. Even if we have different tastes in games, every one of us, here today, is identical, in the most important way. Each one of us has the heart of a gamer.
I started playing Nintendo games in the early 2000s when I got my first Game Boy, an original GBA and a Nintendo GameCube quite recently after. Although I became entrenched in the Nintendo family of games later than most, this company has become synonymous with the source of my love of gaming. Nonetheless, the death of Iwata-san was and is still a time of great sadness for Nintendo and the people and generations the company has touched.
Iwata's influence on many earlier titles in Nintendo's history is unforgettable, and since his appointment as President, has gone on to produce many of the greatest games of the past decade. His contributions to Smash Bros on GameCube and the compression of the Pokémon Gold/Silver are games that revolutionized two rapidly different genres of gaming. Iwata's talents exceeded those of purely a game programmer. He was a visionary, developing alongside his workmates some of the most influential games of our time and also a successful business man, allowing Nintendo to prosper under his reign.
Iwata-san, no words can express your importance to the gaming community. You helped mold franchises adored by million. Condolences to your family, friends, and colleagues. Thank you Satoru Iwata.
The news of Iwata-san's passing affected me so suddenly and thoroughly that my reaction itself actually caught me off guard. I have never met Satoru Iwata in person; the only thing resembling an interaction we've ever had took the form of me smiling into my laptop screen as he smiled back from the stage of a Nintendo Direct. Yet, somehow, I felt as though a close friend had passed away. I had to think about it a lot, and as pretentious and silly as it may seem, cry a lot as well. But I think I finally understand why Iwata-san was so important to me (and many other Nintendo fans).
If we can pardon some overwrought philosophical speak: playing a video game is much more than a simple audio-visual experience. It evokes a complete emotional journey; memories that can't possibly be your own. The reason the best game makers are so passionate about what they do is because they want to share an experience with us as purely as possible. The experience of a video game is central to the existence of them as a medium. We play games to connect, whether or not that connection is explicit (such as an online connection), and we play them to experience the bliss of imagination that buzzes around in everyone's minds. When you experience a game which has been made on these principles, there is a moment of understanding. Suddenly, you "get" what the creator wanted so desperately to show you. And the experience becomes shared between you, other players, and the creator. We share the experience by talking with others who have played the game, whether they're strangers or close friends. We share by creating art and expanding the game's universe in your own way. We share by loving these games and allowing the visionaries behind them to reach out to us with more experiences.
This is why I have been so hurt. Satoru Iwata was a person who, even outside the context of games and entertainment, radiated a certain wisdom and peace. In making games, he placed the foundation of the core experience and connecting players to the game above all other factors that may compete for a developer's attention. He was, in my mind, the ultimate realization of what a game maker aspires to be: the mentor of our imaginations. He took so much pride and care in showing us all there was to see in not only the creative minds at Nintendo, but his own mind as well. Thinking back to night-long gaming sessions with my friends, it seems like my mind remembers Iwata-san being there. I remember him being there, or at least I remember feeling as though he were watching us play. Sometimes I feel like he was sitting there with us, holding a controller of his own. I could feel Iwata's presence through every game he worked on. This is what I mean by games being centred around connections. Now, when my friends gather in my home to play the latest Nintendo game, it won't feel quite the same. Someone will be missing from my cast of characters. And it will be the someone who is usually responsible for making these experiences possible.
Games are a very curious entertainment platform. One may ask what draws people to the colorful worlds and characters, and what makes people spend hours on end laughing and playing in a digital world. I can only answer for myself, but I know that video games, and especially Nintendo's games, have served as a supplementary connection-maker. Right now, I hold in the garden of my mind experiences, memories, and friendships that would literally not have grown or happened at all had it not been for these games. For me, games give me a tool to connect to other people, to share with them, to escape to a place of whimsy that makes mutual understanding so much easier and, well... fun. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I have Satoru Iwata to thank for aspects of my personal life which define what I am as a person. When my mind wanders (and it often does), it tends to go to the world of Nintendo. I childishly daydream about fishing in my Animal Crossing village alongside my Pokemon team, and riding a Warp Star over Palutena's Temple. Always present in these daydreams, among others, is Satoru Iwata. After all, he's one of the people chiefly responsible for this world. But now I feel like he's been taken from us, and from the worlds he created.
I should bring my comments to a close, though I could go on for much too long. I'll finish by saying that, though Iwata-san wasn't the person who introduced me to games, or wasn't wholly responsible for my first forays into gaming, he was the person who made me realize what they were, and what potential they have as a medium. He is the person who taught me to love games for the experiences and friendships they enable. I would not be anything resembling the person I am right this moment if it weren't for the beautiful mind of Satoru Iwata. I owe him so very much. The love he poured into making these games will enrich and connect us for as long as we search for each other in the fantastical worlds of Nintendo.
"Games are supposed to be just one thing: fun. Fun for everyone!"
Ron's submission is re-produced from his daily comic strip - Duane, Average High School Werewolf