Following the incredibly sad news earlier this month on the passing of Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai has been offering his thoughts and memories of his dear friend and superior.
“My mind went white and even now the reality hasn’t sunk in,” he wrote in his column for Japanese video game magazine Weekly Famitsu.
Sakurai remembered that Iwata was one of the interviewers for a job he had applied for at their former workplace HAL Laboratory Inc. He went on to add, “Our positions and locations changed throughout our long association. He was the best superior I ever had and a man who understood me better than anyone.”
In a touching tribute, Sakurai then went on to describe Iwata in his own words:
“He was a man of virtue. Where a normal person would get annoyed or angry, he would never show such emotions and would instead analyze, organize, and offer ideas. He was someone who could bow his head and apologize for things that weren’t his fault. I often worried about his stress levels, but he always talked with a smile.
“He had a brilliant mind. Even when people would talk at length or without focus he was able to quickly say, “so, what you’re trying to say is…” and quickly summarize their point. He was able to see to the heart of people and things and was a master of simplifying them so that anyone could understand their point. He could immediately make a call on changes to improve. I have no doubt that many people were saved by this quality.
“He was a man of effort. Even though he didn’t start out in the managing field, he read numerous management books, he would ask for advice from the necessary people that he would take to heart, and managed to become the president of Nintendo. What he gained from his years as a programmer allowed him to take many long-term projects to successful fruition.
“He was open and generous. Things like his Iwata Asks, and Nintendo Direct weren’t things that necessarily required the president of Nintendo to stand at the front and do. There was always the risk of frivolous criticism. And yet, by being the spokesperson, I believe he showed the importance of properly conveying a message to his audience.
“He was empathetic. After he became the president of Nintendo, he would write emails to all employees to communicate and as hard as it was, took a stance to try to treat everyone as equals. He would often ask third parties to see how people were doing. As an individual, he had no self-righteous qualities.”
Sakurai not only knew Iwata in a professional capacity, but also as a close friend, and recalled his last meeting with him earlier this year:
“It was this past January. I had dinner with Mr. Iwata at a Tokyo hotel and then drove him to Narita International Airport for a business trip to Seattle. He was still very healthy after his surgery and happily said, ‘I’ve recovered enough that I can eat this much meat!’ During the drive, we talked and laughed about many things.”
Sakurai ended by saying how Iwata helped him after leaving Nintendo to go it alone, and the subsequent work he had done for the company was supported through the mutual respect they had for each other. Now he has gone, he is unsure what will happen now.
Iwata’s funeral took place in Japan last week. The ceremony was attended by numerous well-known names of the industry, including Shigeru Miyamoto, Reggie Fills-Aime, and former Sonic Team boss Yuji Naka. Iwata’s final resting place, a temple in Nintendo’s home city of Kyoto, has already been visited by over 4,000 people.