Bollocks?: President and CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, Dies

Satoru Iwata

If you were to ask me what my first video game console was, I’d probably tell you it was a Sony PlayStation. It’s true that I consider the chunky plastic PlayStation to be my first gaming console, but the fact is that my first introduction to the world of video games was via an old Game Boy with the games Super Mario Land and The Lion King.

I played those games for hours, whether it be on long car journeys or rainy days, and after that there was no going back. It’s true that over the years other consoles have mean’t more to me, and that my gaming taste is catered for more by the likes of Sony and PC gaming, but I will never forget that dusty old Game Boy, nor the little plumber named Mario.

satoru iwata

Nintendo is without a doubt the most recognized gaming company in the world, and rightfully so. You may not be a huge Nintendo gamer, but any gamer worth his or her salt has to respect the fact that were it not for Nintendo, there would be none of the rich gaming history we have today. It was easy for Microsoft, Sony, and Valve to throw their hats in the ring once gaming was mainstream, but Nintendo was a company which stood by gamers at a time when gaming was having to fight tooth and nail for its existence.

Nintendo has a large role in any gamer’s life, and even if you prefer to play Halo 3 on your Xbox 360 over Splatoon on your Wii U, Nintendo is still one of the biggest gaming giants around, and it’s as synonymous with gaming as The Beatles are to music or Shakespeare is to literature.

On July 12th 2015, it was announced by Nintendo that the President and CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata had died due to cancer. This came as a huge blow to the entire gaming community, not just because Iwata was an important figure, but because he was an important gamer.

satoru iwata

1959 – 2015

Iwata wasn’t just a guy in a suit tasked with making Nintendo as much money as possible, he was a gamer at heart. Obviously, he want to make Nintendo successful and influential, but he also wanted to create. To have Nintendo continue making fantastic games that have brought joy and inspiration to million of people across the globe, regardless of their beliefs, cultural backgrounds, or language. If art is most successful when it transcends cultures and speaks to the soul in us, then Nintendo has made this art with its iconic video games and characters. This is what Iwata never forgot.

Iwata became the President of Nintendo in 2002, and was the first President of the company not to be related to the Yamauchi family who first founded Nintendo in 1889. When Iwata first became President, Nintendo was struggling to keep up with other gaming companies like Microsoft and Sony. Under Iwata’s guidance, Nintendo managed to return to form with the release of the Nintendo DS and the hugely popular Wii. The Wii faced very fierce competition from Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console as well as Sony’s PlayStation 3. The Wii ended up outselling both consoles by a decent margin and spokespersons for both Sony and Microsoft have stated that the higher ups at both companies completely underestimated Nintendo. As I said earlier, Iwata wasn’t just a guy in a suit looking to make money, he was a gamer and had worked on programming games in his early career, this experience is often credited as the reason why Iwata was able to steer Nintendo so well.

satoru iwata

Flowers left by gamers at Nintendo HQ.

No corporation is bulletproof and the release of Nintendo’s new console, the Wii U saw poor sales and little enthusiasm from gamers. Iwata once again proved his good nature by voluntarily cutting his salary by 50% in order to help Nintendo’s finances and to prevent people from being sacked.

In June 2013, Iwata was made the CEO of Nintendo America and he kept the company afloat during the past few difficult years as Nintendo tried to get the Wii U more popular amongst gamers.

In 2014, it was announced that Iwata would be unable to attend E3 2014 due to medical reasons which were later revealed to be an operation to remove a tumor from his bile duct. As far as the public knew, the surgery seemed to be a success and Iwata continued working for Nintendo and public appearances, including being part of a humorous video recorded for Nintendo’s E3 2015 appearance, which was hosted only a few weeks before he died.

Unfortunately, it seems the cancer was too far gone and Satoru Iwata passed away on July 11th 2015 at the age of 55. He is survived by his wife. Since Iwata’s death, the gaming community has been full of messages expressing sadness from both everyday gamers and notable figures in gaming.

Sony’s official Twitter account published the following Tweet:

The head of Microsoft, Phil Spencer Tweeted:

The flags at Nintendo’s headquarters have been raised at half-staff and Nintendo took a day of silence across all social media platforms out of respect.

Satoru Iwata

The flag flies at half-mast at Nintendo HQ.

As if Iwata’s achievements over his life weren’t impressive enough, it should also be noted that in the last year or so, the Wii U has seen a huge surge in popularity with great games such as Super Mario Kart 8, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Super Smash Bros, Bayonetta 2, and most recently, the hugely popular Splatoon. Nintendo has also seen a huge surge in popularity with the release of Amiibo, which are cool little statues of your favourite Nintendo characters which unlock extra content on your Wii U games, and they’ve been selling like hot cakes. I can only assume that Iwata knew he was nearing the end, and yet he still managed help Nintendo reach calmer seas despite facing his own mortality. I’m truly glad that at Iwata at least lived long enough to see the company he was responsible for reach a place where its future was optimistic.

satoru iwata

A rainbow appeared above Nintendo HQ today.

The gaming world is still reeling from the shock and sadness that has followed the loss of Iwata’s passing and Nintendo gamers in particular will be feeling the loss of such a talented, passionate, and good man. Satoru Iwata was wonderful human being and an excellent leader for Nintendo, but above all he was a gamer. He was one of us.

satoru iwata

Farewell, Mr Iwata. Thank you for everything!

 


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