Monday, 13 July 2015

Goodbye Iwata-San

The world of gaming has just lost a great man; a man who has been an integral part in forming us all as the gamers we are today. Satoru Iwata, president and CEO of Nintendo for the past 13 years, died on July 11, 2015.

Iwata was something as unusual as an actual gamer, who had risen through the ranks at one of the world's largest gaming companies, to finally become the leader of the whole thing. He started developing electronic games already in his high school years, and later on he chose to study computer science at Tokyo Institute of Technology, in order to pursue his dream of working with video games. While studying he did some freelance programming for HAL Laboratory, Inc. - the well known Japanese video game developer that has always had a very close relationship with Nintendo. After finishing his degree in computer science, Iwata joined HAL full-time working on titles like Balloon Fight (NES), EarthBound (SNES), Kirby's Dream Land (GameBoy), Kirby's Adventure (NES), Kirby's Dream Course (SNES) and more. In 1993 Iwata became president of HAL Laboratory, Inc., but even as a president of a big company he still found time to program himself, and he e.g. aided Nintendo in the development of titles such as Pokémon Gold and Silver (GameBoy) and Pokémon Stadium (N64).

In 2000 Iwata was hired by Nintendo to head off their corporate planning division, and when Nintendo CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi retired in 2002, Satoru Iwata became Nintendo's fourth president - and the first one of those not directly related to the Yamauchi family. In his time at Nintendo, Iwata has worked on classics such as the Mario and Zelda franchises; and seen great successes in the hardware department such as the launch of the Nintendo DS and the Wii, which, whether you like them or not, are devices that have had a huge impact on the gaming industry. The DS introduced the world to gaming using a touch screen and the Wii got us all interested in motion controls, balance boards, etc. which had us all interacting with our games in new and interesting ways. In recent years Nintendo has been struggling a bit with its Wii U console, which is in my opinion the best current gen console simply because of the brilliant line-up of first party games available at the moment. Third party support has been lacking though, which is probably why the console is seeing little success. That doesn't mean Nintendo as a company is struggling though, as their Nintendo 3DS series is still going strong.   

Satoru Iwata was a great man with a great legacy, but perhaps most importantly for us as gamers, he was a gamer who, while being the president of what is one of the most important companies in gaming history, remained a gamer at heart and thus ran a company that consistently put out excellent titles and hardware. At GDC 2005 Iwata-San is quoted as saying: "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." Well Iwata, you and your games are in our hearts and you will be in our thoughts forever.

We here at the retro gaming club would like to take this moment to honor not only a great creator but a fellow gamer, taken from us too soon. Rest in peace Iwata-San.

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