Here are a video link and images from a memorial at the Nintendo World Store near Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.
Iwata-san was the face of Nintendo, an entertainment company that was a core element in the upbringing of an entire generation. While I had owned the Intellivision beforehand, and played coin arcade cabinets like Pac-Man; it was the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) that truly captivated me, a child of the 80’s. Nintendo’s games were well produced, full of color and sound, and story! Playing through "Super Mario" and "the Legend of Zelda" were unheard of gaming experiences that were meaningful and lasted. While those first years playing the NES were predominantly alone in my bedroom, Nintendo games always had an appeal to both kids and adults, which has grown over the years, hitting its peak with the Wii.
A talented programmer, Iwata first joined Nintendo’s HAL Laboratory in the 1980s, where he worked on games like Balloon Fight and EarthBound. He became a Director of the company in 2000, and in 2002 was appointed as only the fourth President of Nintendo when he succeeded Hiroshi Yamauchi.
In his time as President, Iwata oversaw some of the strongest (Wii, DS) and weakest (GameCube, Wii U) periods in Nintendo’s history as a video game company. In recent times, he developed almost cult status as the host of the Nintendo Direct programs. Here is one of his most famous speeches:
Iwata-san was also beloved by the video game community for his many appearances in promo videos, some featuring Reggie Fils-Aime (President and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America), Shigeru Miyamoto (legendary Japanese video game designer and producer at Nintendo) and even Nintendo characters:
Mr. Iwata was born on Dec. 6, 1959, in Sapporo, Japan. He majored in computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
As a former developer, Mr. Iwata displayed a fluency in the language of gaming and an ease with young developers that was a change from his predecessor, Hiroshi Yamauchi, who led Nintendo for 53 years while professing not to understand video games.
Mr. Iwata got his start in video games as a contract programmer for HAL Laboratory, a game developer that works closely with Nintendo. The company, which Mr. Iwata later revealed was named because each letter is one ahead of IBM, gave him his first experiences creating games.
Over the 1980s, Mr. Iwata worked on a number of the company’s biggest titles. He became company president in 1993, just after he helped put out the first installment of the Kirby franchise, Kirby’s Dream Land.
A former video game development star, Mr. Iwata was appointed president of Nintendo in May 2002 and became the chief executive of Nintendo of America in June 2013, the company said.
He was the first chief executive to come from outside the Yamauchi family, which founded the company in 1889 as a manufacturer of playing cards and ran it until Mr. Iwata was appointed.
At the start of Mr. Iwata’s tenure, Nintendo, long a leader in home gaming systems, was fending off fierce competition by rivals like Sony and Microsoft. Under his watch, the company surged ahead with the release of the Nintendo DS, a hand-held gaming system, the popular Wii home gaming console, and Amiibo, a line of interactive toys.
But the company struggled to adapt to a changing video game business and resisted the industry trend to develop games for smartphones and tablets, preferring to stick to a more traditional approach of designing games to be played on its own hardware.
It did reverse course in March, but Mr. Iwata said then that the company remained committed to producing its own game platforms. It had planned to share more details about a new system, code-named NX, in 2016.
With the success of Nintendo’s Amiibo Figures, and it’s upcoming foray into Mobile Games with their new partner DeNA, Iwata was leading Nintendo to new heights.
In an interview posted to “Iwata Asks,” Mr. Iwata explained that his drive to expand Nintendo’s game offerings and user base was motivated by more than the lure of making money or beating competitors. While those things mattered, he said, he was also driven by a desire to improve “the position of video games in society.”
“I believe that if we don’t make moves to get people who don’t play games to understand them, then the position of video games in society will never improve,” Mr. Iwata said. “Society’s image of games will remain largely negative, including that stuff about playing games all the time badly damaging you or rotting your brain or whatever. If that happens, then even people who enjoy games will start to feel a strange guilt when they play them.”
Satoru Iwata will be sorely missed by an industry, a generation, and this sad gamer.