The world of gaming took a heavy blow yesterday when console gaming giant Nintendo announced that their president, Satoru Iwata, had died of a bile duct tumor on Saturday. He was only 55 years old. Our thoughts go out to his widow.
Iwata was well-beloved by fans of Nintendo and gaming in general for quite a few reasons. It’s perhaps best summed up in what he said at a keynote address at the 2005 Game Developers Conference, “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.”
He started his career as a programmer at HAL Laboratory and helped work on some of the most beloved game franchises ever, such as Kirby and MOTHER. He joined Nintendo itself in 2000 and was made president in 2002. However, he definitely wasn’t the stereotypical president of a major corporation. For instance, unlike most executives, when Nintendo was doing poorly, he actually cut his own salary in half to save the company money. He did this twice!
As a president who started out in the trenches, he also understood what it took to get the product made, and never really stopped programming. He would occasionally personally step in and help with coding or debugging games. By all accounts it wasn’t because he felt the team working on it wasn’t up to snuff, but because he wanted to help out and it was something he was darned good. For example, while president, he ported the battle code for Pokemon Stadium to the Nintendo 64 without any reference documents!
Twitter and other social media outlets have been practically exploding with tributes for Mr. Iwata and it is clear that he will be sorely missed by the video games community as a whole.
We’d love to hear any personal reactions in the comments below.