Round Table: Paying Respects to Satoru Iwata

The staff offer some words on Nintendo’s late president.

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 07/13/2015 15:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

This past weekend, the video game industry lost one of its luminaries when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passed away. His list of accomplishments is too long to enumerate, but few figures have left as big of a mark on their respective industries, and even fewer will be remembered for their warmth and humility. Iwata was more than a mere corporate figurehead; he was the embodiment of Nintendo’s ideals, which is why his loss has been so devastating to so many friends and fans. In honor of Mr. Iwata’s life, the Nintendojo staff share some words on the man and his legacy.

Mel Turnquist

It’s so strange to think of Iwata in the past tense. I remember hearing about his health problems last year, but it seemed like he was out of the woods for the most part. I guess he was dealing with it much more than he let on.

His achievements in Nintendo are unparalleled and his impact is right on par with Shigeru Miyamoto. He made it possible for the Kanto region to be included in Pokémon Gold and Silver, and he pretty much saved EarthBound as well. Plus the hand he had in creating the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. franchises shouldn’t be forgotten.

And that’s not even covering the memes that have sprung out from him, like the image of him staring at bananas, his signature “please understand” line, and the “It prints money!” .gif amongst them. The Iwata Asks interviews were wonderful and he never took himself too seriously. Some presidents and CEOs tend to take themselves way too seriously, but never Iwata.

When I found out about his passing, I had just signed on after dinner and I actually audibly said, “Noooo!” followed by a word that is probably not appropriate to repeat in this area. It’s such a huge and devastating loss for Nintendo. I don’t have any personal memories of meeting the guy, but I do have personal memories of playing countless Kirby games and how eight-year-old me fell in love with the pink puffball by playing Kirby’s Adventure growing up. He and Sakurai were the two big guns for the franchise that enchanted me at that young age and made me fall in love with video games (even if I’ve got the latest Kirby game on my backburner right now).

It’s a sad day for video games in general, let alone Nintendo. May he rest in peace.

Andy Hoover

As someone who has spent his entire life playing Nintendo games and most of his adult life writing about them, I don’t think there is enough I could say to express just how big a blow this loss is to me as a gamer. The man was a legend who, beyond just being an exceptionally skilled designer, was a champion for the art form with a strong desire to share the medium with as many people as possible. While most within the industry were preaching to the choir with increasingly more complex and advanced system specs and gameplay mechanics, Iwata wanted nothing more than to show the rest of the world just how fun games could be.

But looking beyond the game designer and player, I want to show my respect for the businessman, because I think that’s where he actually showed his strength as a human being. Maybe it’s because I’ve been burned several times in the past by large corporations, but I can’t help but feel that most of the business world has come to view people as a commodity, a resource to be used up in the name of bigger profits. Naturally, when Nintendo was struggling after the slow launches of 3DS and Wii U, I assumed we would see a wave of lay offs hitting the company. But that isn’t what happened.

Satoru Iwata and the Original DS, Final Launch Design

Despite losing money for the first time in decades, Iwata came out with the rest of the executive team and took the blame by slashing their own salaries. Rather than cut staff in quick effort to reattain profitability, Iwata cut his own pay in half and praised his employees, stating that effectively releasing good, talented people to be scooped up by the competition wouldn’t help the company. Considering the fact that we live in a world where companies will cut people not because they didn’t make a profit, but simply because they didn’t make enough profit, I found Iwata actions quite admirable.

And history has proven Iwata right. Though Wii U may still struggle, those lucky/smart enough to own it have been graced with a slew of fantastic titles and the company as a whole has returned to profitability. Of course, it is sad knowing that Iwata won’t be able to see where Nintendo goes from here, but at least I’ll be happy knowing that his influence has made the past, present, and future of gaming better for all of us.

Marc Deschamps

To say that I’m shocked would be an understatement. While Mr. Iwata’s ailing health had been a topic of discussion for some time, it seemed that he had been doing better. E3 was just a few weeks ago. There was Muppet Iwata dancing alongside Muppet Reggie and Muppet Miyamoto. It was funny and it was quirky and it was totally unlike any other presentation at E3 this year. Now he’s gone and it’s just so hard to believe.

I guess that presentation was an appropriate one for Mr. Iwata to go out on, all things considered. It summarized why he was just so different from any other president the company had in the past. He always exuded such a liveliness and passion for Nintendo and the video game medium in general. No matter how many times pundits would count the company out, Satoru Iwata would prove them wrong. It happened with the DS, Wii, and the 3DS. Now it looks like Nintendo’s fortunes have finally turned a corner with Wii U, but Mr. Iwata won’t be there to see it. And that really is heartbreaking.

Nintendo didn’t just lose a strong voice. The entire industry did. The way that so many developers, publishers, competitors, and pundits have all come together to pay their condolences is very telling. It really is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. My Twitter feed over the last 24 hours has been inundated with posts about Mr. Iwata. You can tell he really will be missed.

In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see who the company picks as Mr. Iwata’s successor. It will be debated, and examined, and dissected. Right now just doesn’t feel like the time to do that. It would just feel… crass. One of the greatest voices the video game industry has ever had is no longer with us. Let’s take a moment to remember the good times.

Robert Marrujo

Talk about out of left field. First off, I never would have guessed Iwata was in his fifties just by looking at him. He always appeared so healthy and full of life, making when word spread of his surgery last year all the more shocking. To suddenly hear yesterday that the man was dead, though, was as surreal as it gets. His presence at Nintendo went beyond acting as president of the company. He exuded the sort of kindness and warmth that most corporate executives could only dream of. More importantly, however, is the fact that kindness and warmth felt genuine. I think the world lost a legitimately good person this weekend. The video game industry won’t be the same without him.

Kyle England

This hits hard. First of all, I want to offer my condolences to Mr. Iwata’s family, friends, and colleagues at Nintendo. By all accounts, Mr. Iwata was a dedicated, genuine, talented, and kindhearted man. It’s evident from all of his presentations and interviews over the years that he truly cared about video games and advancing them as a medium so many people could share experiences and have fun. He went from being a programmer all the way up to leading the best gaming company in the world. As the president of Nintendo he guided the company through some of its most successful times. And even in the less successful times, he never lost hope.

The news of Mr. Iwata’s passing has made me incredibly sad, and I know many gamers around the world are sharing the sentiment. Although we never met him, I feel like we did know him. We invited him into our homes and screens every few months for the next Nintendo Direct. He wasn’t speaking to journalists or investors. He was speaking to us. His warm smile and endearing attitude brought us many funny jokes and great experiences through Nintendo Direct. Many times we were blown away after seeing a new game that was introduced by Mr. Iwata simply telling us to “Please, take a look at this!”

It’s incredible to see all of the tributes to Mr. Iwata and the discussion of his life’s work that is now being shared across the world. I love the stories! Like how a college-aged, motorcycle-riding Iwata formed HAL Laboratory with some friends in an apartment. And how Iwata reprogrammed and debugged EarthBound, Pokémon Stadium, Gold and Silver, and Super Smash Bros. Melee even after he was an executive! Mr. Iwata truly made his mark at Nintendo, and on the entire gaming industry. I strongly urge everyone to watch Mr. Iwata’s keynote address from GDC 2005 where he talks about his history, as well as his appearance on Game Center CX.

It’s so sad that Satoru Iwata left us so soon. He was definitely not finished guiding Nintendo toward its next breakthrough. It really breaks my heart to know that he won’t be around when many games and projects (tons that we haven’t even heard of yet, too) finally release. Nintendo truly won’t be the same without him, but we can only hope his vision will carry on into the future. Anyone who loves Nintendo or loves gaming truly owes gratitude to Mr. Iwata for making all of these great experiences come to life. Games are more than just games. They become a part of us. In this sense, Satoru Iwata will never truly leave us. I hope the view is awesome up there in Dream Land, pal.

Shawn Wilkins

I grew up with Nintendo consoles. I still consider whatever it is I’m doing now as “with Nintendo consoles.” Iwata, in all senses of the word, was a visionary, an inwardly innovative businessman, and, above all else, a wonderful human. He’s given the people the ability to not only play my favorite Pokémon games (Gold/Silver), but he managed to help Game Freak to free up enough space to allot some for the original Kanto region. He was a man who not only understood games, but knew what it took to make them, and he knew what it meant to deliver a product that everyone would be able to have fun with. Nintendo has garnered an image of being childlike, but maybe that’s what all of us really are at the end of the day. We pretend to be business professionals, conduct ourselves in ways that go with the flow, but what’s the harm in going home and staring at a screen littered with color while you stomp on cartoonish turtles? There’s a place in my heart for Nintendo– there always will be– and it won’t be until I see the end of my days that I’ll allow that space to be taken by something else.

Even with Iwata’s immense love for fun being at the forefront of his video games, he led Nintendo into an all-too-familiar fight with audiences. He fought off investors trying to shovel Nintendo into a grave of cheap money-making schemes, and he fought off the “need” to go to mobile for many years. I commend him for this. I appreciate his realizing that mobile leads to a life where sacrificing what is ingrained into Nintendo’s culture– fun– would not be best for the people on the other side playing the games.

Then there are the videos. So many videos that remove the blind that is often put up when it comes to consumer and business relations. We are usually blocked out from seeing the average life of many executives, but the Nintendo Directs and Iwata Asks always made it seem like Iwata was a person who happened to also know what it meant to be a CEO. He put his heart into his responses, and he gave a piece of his mind to the interviewer with the intention of making sure gamers all knew why certain things were the way they are and how the quality of games was better than the quantity of explosions. It meant going against the grain and releasing things like Splatoon or even giving the green light to games like Smash Bros. when push came to shove.

The saddest part, for me, is that there is no more Iwata, simply. There is no more Iwata for me to read about, inquire upon, and put my trust into when it came to games. There’s no more man behind the scenes that I knew for certain had all of us Nintendo gamers in his mind. It’s a sad time for everyone. It feels like there’s something missing from the overall feel of Nintendo and it’s the man who practically made sure Nintendo stayed Nintendo.

Robert Palacios

There’s been so much written by many more talented writers than myself, but all I can really say is that Iwata always represented a nice feeling of calm and humanity, something that is rare within a big industry like video games. He never appeared reactionary or panicked, simply calm with his choices and confident that his vision and his team would steer the ship correctly and the rest of the world would welcome the end result in due time.

I will also miss sharing his Directs and Iwata Asks with my little son, who always got a big kick out them. It was sort of amusing how my son saw him as the Mr. Rogers of video gaming. We’ll miss his amazing output and the magic he helped create for us.

One Response to “Round Table: Paying Respects to Satoru Iwata”

  • 0 points

    Well said by all you guys, who can say anything more? This is a huge loss, and I didn’t know a lot of these facts about him. I respect him more now than before, and it’s sad to think if Nintendo has a hit with its next system that he won’t be around to see it.

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