Late last night it was announced that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata had passed away as a result of a bile duct growth. It was impossible to be on any game-centric social media outlet and not hear of the news or see the innumerable tributes to the man who defined Nintendo as the company as we know it today.
I was never a Nintendo faithful when I was younger. For some reason I ended up with Sega systems in my house, although we took a long term loan on a friend’s Super Nintendo in college that served as a base station for gaming for many people in the dorm. The original GameBoy was the first video game device I bought with my own money, but I didn’t fall into Nintendo proper until the DS, then the Wii, and then the 3DS (my family has had at least eight DS devices through upgrades or replacements as a result of wear and tear).
Satoru Iwata was responsible for most of what gamers know Nintendo as today. From an operating performance standpoint, there were successes in the Wii and the DS, and some stumbles in the GameCube and WiiU, but while Microsoft and Sony focused on battling it out in shades of grey and brown, Nintendo under Iwata opted for taking a different direction through green fields and blue skies. The industry could be particularly cruel to Nintendo when they fell down, but whisper about a new Legend of Zelda game, and even the most hardened gamer would hold his breath in anticipation. Nintendo is a company that people love, even when they don’t always love the products.
That credit has to go to Iwata. Aside from retrospectives, two quotes attributed to him have been circulating this weekend:
“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.”
“Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone!”
These are not quotes of someone concerned with just one thing: making people happy. Nintendo tried many things during Iwata’s tenure, pitching idea after idea to an often unappreciative and overly cynical crowd, but it always seemed like they were one announcement away from winning people back. I think people always want to be won back by Nintendo, and Iwata seemed to have the right philosophy needed to make that happen.