Satoru Iwata
Image: Nintendo

On 11th July 2015, Satoru Iwata passed away, with Nintendo announcing the sad news a day later. It was rather sudden to those outside of the company, and undoubtedly had a profound impact on many around the world that felt a keen sense of loss.

You can find our original features paying respects to Satoru Iwata at the end of this article, and in this case we're going to not only remember the former Nintendo President but also consider the early impact of his legacy, and how his imprint is still very much found on Nintendo's work.

Satoru Iwata was, above all, a gamer. As a business leader he also wanted Nintendo to be at the vanguard of expanding the 'gaming population', encouraging individuals of all types, ages and preferences to find joy and pleasure in gaming. That noble mission statement was not only key to the company's business in the cold metrics of profits and revenues, but spoke also to its philosophy and identity. Nintendo systems, especially since Iwata-san assumed the company Presidency, strove to break down boundaries and allow all to share gaming experiences together.

Critics would suggest - and not without evidence, in fairness - that for a period Satoru Iwata and his management team were slow to translate this goal into modern ideas. The runaway success of Wii and DS weren't matched by the 3DS and Wii U, with the former doing well in a tough marketplace but the latter struggling badly. Yet Iwata-san, after his illness in Summer 2014 and before his death around a year later, was perhaps at his dynamic best at this point. That period yielded key changes in the company approach that reflected his willingness to learn, adapt and seek new opportunities.

Satoru Iwata

A key example was the partnership with DeNA, which has so far delivered Miitomo and is confirmed to be bringing us Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem apps next, with those new arrivals set to be more conventional gaming experiences. Mobile apps are and will be a vital part of Nintendo's business, and the current runaway success of Pokémon GO also benefits the big N along with The Pokémon Company, with both being heavily invested in the app's developer Niantic. Iwata-san had been resistant to Nintendo going into mobile for quite some time, but his adjustment and switch in direction not only significantly boosted investor confidence in early 2015 when the deal was announced, but continues to be a pillar in the company's future profitability.

Satoru Iwata made other key moves in the latter part of his Presidency. He spoke often of the desire to utilise Nintendo IPs in more effective ways - in terms of the direct impact on gaming we saw sponsored DLC such as Mercedes in Mario Kart 8, and the more important example of the amiibo brand. It's no coincidence that talk of Nintendo movies and TV shows emerged in Iwata-san's last year or so in charge of the company, and though the approach seems to be on quality over quantity, it's evident that the big N is keen to push forward with strengthening its brand in various ways - we've seen the Vans shoe/accessory range recently, and long-term there'll be a theme park attraction in Japan, also. After some years where Nintendo was arguably a little slow to capitalise on its brand power, it's upping its game in terms of merchandise and lucrative tie-ins.

Perhaps the most integral of Iwata-san's legacies is that on which we know the least - the Nintendo NX. Its conception and design came together during Satoru Iwata's closing period as company President, being provisionally announced along with the DeNA partnership in early 2015. Satoru Iwata spoke of the NX concept surprising people and changing their gaming lives, and current President Tatsumi Kimishima has maintained a similar line, emphasizing it's a new way to play games. When we do see the NX, presumably to be unveiled later this year, in many respects we will be seeing the final console concept developed with Satoru Iwata at the helm.

Beyond areas such as these in which Nintendo is continuing on with Iwata-san's ideas and policies, there are the intangible yet important aspects of his legacy. His imagination, creativity and love of gaming permeated through Nintendo's entire corporate culture, from the board room down to development teams. Tatsumi Kimishima, perhaps in the greatest sign of respect of all, hasn't tried to manage the company in the same all-encompassing way, but has rather changed the business structure to ensure that the right people maintain that gaming legacy. As Creative Fellow, Shigeru Miyamoto can keep those principles of fun and clever gaming at the core of the company's efforts.

Nintendo Direct endures, too, the communication format that brought us some of our most treasured Satoru Iwata memories. As NX is unveiled and a new console era begins, along with more and more mobile titles, we expect Nintendo Direct to once again become a regular part of our routine.

Satoru Iwata's legacy, much like Hiroshi Yamauchi's before him, with forever be a part of Nintendo and the video game industry. He changed the way we play games and who we play them with, and he did it with a smile on his face and with the desires of gamers on his mind. After all, he was the greatest gamer of them all.

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.

Our articles in honour of Satoru Iwata when his passing was announced: