Nintendo announced Satoru Iwata’s passing last week, news that was met with an outpouring of mourning and loss around the world. Thousands of admirers and business associates gathered in Kyoto to pay respects during a two-day funeral service. David Selakovic, creator of Mindtrap, was one of many in the gaming community who Iwata had an influence on.
For video game enthusiasts, Iwata was more revolutionary than even Steve Jobs. Iwata was a visionary president who led the company with sheer creative energy and a love of fun. Under Iwata’s leadership, Nintendo grew to be the largest video games company in the world by revenue. Its success was not built on a traditional corporate approach or clever marketing campaigns, but instead by Iwata’s genuine passion for video games. His predecessor, Hiroshi Yamauchi, famously never played video games. Iwata was the exact opposite. One of his best known quotes captures why gamers across the world are mourning the death of Nintendo’s president. He once told the Games Developers’ Conference, “On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a computer programmer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” This declaration, along with his obvious love of the form, endeared Iwata to many gamers. He was personable and truly wanted to share the joy of gaming with everyone.
Iwata began his career as a programmer at HAL Laboratory, a subsidiary of Nintendo. He helped create many of HAL’s most important titles, such as Kirby’s Dream Land. In 2000, Yamauchi asked Iwata to join Nintendo as head of its corporate-planning division. Just two years later, he was picked to succeed as the fourth president of the company, the first to not come from the Yamauchi family.
To game developers like Selakovic, Iwata was a legend who shaped his childhood and influenced his work. “My teenage years were filled with playing Balloon Fight. I camped out for the launch of the DS and then again for the Wii. Iwata’s innovations connected with the gamer in all of us, no matter what age.”
Nintendo and the world of gaming have lost a rare talent, a charismatic man who led the company with enthusiasm and genius innovation. Iwata was known to those in the gaming community as a passionate creative force with an ability to make anyone smile. His perspective on the role of games will be immortalized: “Video games are meant to be just one thing: fun. Fun for everyone.”