We were deeply saddened to hear the news that Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo, passed away yesterday. It is only fitting that we remember him by sharing what we loved about his contributions to the gaming industry.
“In our minds, the Nintendo difference has always made up our foundations. The first is innovation. Our goal is always to do something different, something no one has thought of before. In truth, some of our inventions aren’t better than others, but we never stop trying to innovate. Mr. Yamauchi always tells me we should achieve something that brings fresh, surprise, and joy…I like that.”
-Iwata, E3 2001 (Before becoming President)
“Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone!”
Satoru Iwata was responsible for more gaming memories, specifically in our younger years, than any other single individual or even group of individuals combined. Under his leadership, Nintendo released the GameCube, DS, Wii, 3DS, and Wii U. The DS was a huge and monumental release for Nintendo, cementing its place probably forever with enough cash reserves to make mistakes and pick itself back up again.
The first quote above foreshadows inevitable failure. No one is perfect, and when you strive to create something new and fresh all the time you will eventually land yourself with a flop, or in the case of Nintendo a struggling system or two. When systems in the past (and present) struggled for Nintendo, Iwata cut his own salary in half rather than see the company’s employees be let go. He took responsibility for “failure” and did not let executive decisions fall upon the shoulders of the company’s workforce. Iwata didn’t bow to the pressures for Nintendo to join the ranks of free-to-play or to change its practices or abandon its principles to simply align with common times.
“I do not like to use the term ‘Free-to-play.’ I have come to realize that there is a degree of insincerity to consumers with this terminology, since so-called ‘Free-to-play’ should be referred to more accurately as ‘Free-to-start.'”
-Iwata, Time Magazine 2015
Iwata-san was the mind behind the regularly-released Nintendo Direct “live”-streaming events where Nintendo would regularly discuss what was happening and coming up in the near future. These Nintendo Direct mini-conferences replaced Nintendo’s larger conference showings at E3, proving that a major company or publisher needn’t bring a huge production value show to a stage in order to reach its fans.
Mr. Iwata was also largely responsible for Nintendo’s push toward first-party titles. In a sea of awful and truly lacking (in quality and number) third-party releases, Nintendo developed and innovated more on first-party titles than any of its competitors to ensure that not only their brands were kept alive but the players had something to enjoy.
We sincerely hope that the next President of Nintendo will hold true to Satoru Iwata’s principles and philosophies. They were not always a guaranteed success, but they meant fun, fresh, innovative ideas for a consumer-first company.
“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.”