Goodbye, Iwata-san…


Dear siblings, to day I write to you with sad tidings.

The past week for me has been incredibly hectic, but Saturday I turned off my PC, and I only turned it on again today. My intentions when getting out of bed were simple, get on and get some of my articles written up and finished. I’d been meaning to have gotten them don last week, but I’ve been unexpectedly busy, and today I was ready to make some headway.

Today I turned on my PC to find a news report that Nintendo’s president, Satoru Iwata, had passed away.

When I first read it, I simply could not believe it. It wasn’t true, it had to be some sick joke. I was furious! I couldn’t believe someone would say something like that. I was about to unfollow Zelda Informer on Tumblr, when I came across a similar post on Facebook, and messages on Twitter. This is real. This is really happening.

However it wasn’t until I saw this, that everything hit home.


Screenshot 2015-07-13 16.05


It’s difficult some times to really comprehend the death of celebrity. I recall when Steve Irwin died, it felt like a joke, a despicable prank. To some extent, I still catch myself wondering why he hasn’t done any new shows and documentaries, before remembering that his death was real.

These people, though obviously real people, almost feel like fictional characters some times. They are bigger than we us, better at what they do and somewhat heroic and ethereal. Their feats have propelled them into positions of power and influence, they are your role models, and people you look up to and respect. This especially so if you’ve always worshiped them from a distance, and never met them personally. You’ve read about them on the internet, or in magazines, you’ve watched them on YouTube or TV, and when a person like that dies, it’s hard to get your head around it because, well, were they ever really real to you in the first place? Despite this awful event, you are still interacting with them the same way as you always have done, and seeing them as you’ve always seen them. Pictures on a screen, and information from a third party.


For me personally, and I suspect for many others, Satoru Iwata was different.


13001756732227Iwata-san was making waves in the gaming world from day one. Ripe out of university in the 80’s Satoru Iwata joined HAL Labs as a programmer, working on games such classic games as Balloon Fighter and the Kirby series. Later he would help int he founding of Creatures Inc. and contribute to games produced such as Pokémon Gold and Silver. However, it was in 2000, after joining Nintendo actual, that he was made Director of Nintendo, and head of the corporate planning division. Iwata-san was ambitious, but not greedy, and his hard work and passion for gaming caught the attention of then President of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, who in 2002, gave his blessing to make Satoru Iwata President of Nintendo, the first President of Nintendo from outside the Yamauchi family.

After hitting the top however, Iwata-san didn’t coast on the glory. He took the reigns and worked even harder to turn around the ailing fortunes of the company after the relative failure of the GameCube, overseeing the development of the Nintendo Wii and DS gaming systems, designed to try new things, and to open the gaming market up to a less hard core audience. This proved incredibly successful.

Iwata-san wasn’t content with just a financial turn around and sought to change the companies image in general, to reward long time fans, and really make them feel like they were a part of the Nintendo family. He started this with is hugely popular “Iwata Asks” series on the Nintendo website, where he would sit down with out developers and interview them about the games that they were developing. It was clear from these interviews that Iwata-san wasn’t just a suit, he knew what he was talking about from a programming perspective, and as a gamer too, and in November 2011, we got to see him as a person, with the release of the very first Nintendo Direct!

The Nintendo Direct was a brilliant idea, not only was it direct marketing from the company to the fans, but it put a face to the company in a way that had really never been attempted before. If you were a hard core gamer that followed the E3 conferences religiously, you may have recognised a number of the gaming industries big wigs, but the Nintendo Direct approach, regularly put Iwata-san, Reggie Fils-Aime, as well as Treehouse members like Bill Trinen and developers and producers like Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma in the homes of the fans, making them household names, and showing all these people for who they were. These developers and company corporate leaders were gamers first. They do what they do because they have a passion for it.

This is best summed up in a line from Iwata-san’s keynote speech from the Game Developers Conference 2005:

“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.”

In 2014, it was revealed that Iwata-san would not be able to attend E3, due to an operation that he was having for a tumor that was discovered on his bile duct. Following this small stay in hospital and recovery time, it was believed by everyone that Iwata-san was back to full health. He continued to appear in Nintendo Direct videos, he continued to produce Iwata Asks interviews, and he took an active role in the Shareholder’s meeting on June 26th. Even colleague and friend Junichi Masuda, best known for his work on Pokémon, tweeted in response to his sudden and unexpected death:

When I visited the other day, he was well.

This returning illness appears to have been sudden, and proved fatal. He died on July 11th 2015, at 55 years of age.

Far too soon.


iwata-003-1024x683Satoru Iwata has worked on many games in his time at HAL, Creatures Inc. and Nintendo, including Mario, Kirby, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, and Animal Crossing. He’s even appeared in a few. If there is anything to take away from this tragedy it is this: Satoru Iwata was a brilliant, ambitious young man, who through determination and passion for games, actually made it to being head of Nintendo, and was able to affect change in Nintendo for the better, and made the world fall in love with his consoles, his employees, and himself.

Since his passing Iwata-san has been called “a titan”, “a game changer” and “a great leader” by people int he industry, his attitude and love for gaming has been called “infectious” and “inspiring”. I may not be a games developer, but this man was role model and an inspiration. A true prophet of the faith.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for everything that you have done in my life. Many people such as yourself will live and die not knowing the impact they’ve had on the lives of individuals who have played their games. However, gaming means so much to me, it has kept me sane, and it has saved my life many times, and a great deal of gratitude is owed in no small part to you Iwata-sama.

Thank you again, and goodbye. You will be sorely missed.


If you don’t mind dear siblings, I’m going to leave it at that for today. Out of respect for Iwata-san, I’m going to spend the rest of today playing games.

Peace and High Scores, brothers and sisters.