Sunday, July 12, 2015

In Loving Memory of Satoru Iwata

In 2013, Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former Nintendo president and the driving force behind what made them the video game giant they are today, died of natural causes at the age of 85.

To think two years later we'd lose his successor at the age of 55. I'm choking up as I type this.

Nintendo's CEO, Satoru Iwata, has passed away from complications following a growth in his bile duct.

As of this moment, I'm sitting here listening to Space Junk Road from Super Mario Galaxy -- nearly the first in a long line of melancholic/sad Nintendo music I'll be listening to tonight -- while trying to direct my eyes from the endless stream of shocked NeoGAF comments. Here in my soon-to-be writing office, I'm thinking how on earth I'm going to bear making it through the night without collapsing in tears.

One of the many things Mr. Iwata represented to me was an unbridled, genuine passion that didn't just drive Nintendo, but forged the face of their company. When I say genuine, I mean that in the nicest, heartfelt way possible because that's exactly what the man was. Iwata was the CEO who took it upon himself to relay Nintendo's latest announcements in the beloved Nintendo Direct videos so no misinformation from the press would be possible. He was the CEO who, upon being greeted by a poor fiscal report when the Wii U failed to penetrate the gaming market, took it upon himself to halve his own paycheck instead of throwing his own employees under the bus. He was the CEO who took the time to sit down with his developers and discuss the design philosophy behind their latest creations. These interviews slowed down following his diagnosis, but he kept up with them until the end. I remember how happy the Kirby's Epic Yarn one made me feel.

He was the CEO whose last public statement involved his apology for not meeting fans' expectations at this year's E3.

In short, he was a CEO not after money, but whose number one priority was to make fans happy. In a cynical world where individuals in his position come across as faceless entities, Iwata came across as a real, living person who exuded such gentleness, warmth, and humor in achieving his goal of reaching out to fans. Be it making us laugh by randomly staring at fruit in Nintendo Directs, reporting news on Nintendo's twitter, or, as seen in this touching NeoGAF story, actually taking the time to return StreetPass messages, proves just how much he cared in making people smile.

That he achieved all that is no coincidence, since he started out as a former programmer. He's the legend who programmed Balloon Fight, helped get Kirby and Super Smash Bros. off the ground, was responsible for compacting the data within Pokemon Gold and Silver so the Kanto region could be included, ensured Smash Bros. Melee wouldn't be delayed past the holiday season thanks to his coding magic, and singlehandedly saved my favorite game of all time, EarthBound, from cancellation.

He held such love for both his fans and co-workers; in particular, one of the most touching tidbits that've come up tonight was the trust and camaraderie he held with Mr. Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Kirby and Smash. His showering of praise for Sakurai--in who he entrusted development of Super Smash Bros. Brawl--is one of the deepest expression of friendships I've ever witnessed, one I'm sure Mr. Sakurai is looking back upon at this very moment.

The always-smiling, banana-loving Iwata. I'm really going to miss him. And now we're in a time where Nintendo is certainly in their darkest hour. In a time where they're still reeling from the Wii U's failure, are already forging plans for its NX successor, and are about to open a branch for mobile game development, the leader who brought such mirth and compassion is suddenly gone. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like there now.

And for the gaming world, it's the end of an era, one that I'm not sure anyone was ready for.

I won't lie and pretend Iwata was the perfect president, because he wasn't. But that didn't matter to me. That Iwata cared so deeply about satisfying his fanbase brought the same warmth I've associated with Nintendo games all these years. The same warmth from whenever Mario would giggle in glee in his latest adventure, or when I left Pallet Town for the very first time with my Charmander, or whenever Kirby flew in the soft starry skies that recalled the sleepy car rides of my earliest youth, or when Ness would return home to taste his mother's home-baked cookies.

Iwata brought the spirit of Nintendo alive, and for that, I will always remember him with the fondest of smiles.

Leave Luck to Heaven, Mr. Iwata. You left us far too soon, but that warmth we cherished so much will undoubtedly fuel Nintendo's direction from here on.


To respect the passing of Mr. Iwata, I'll be posting my next review, which was ready for today, tomorrow sometime in the afternoon. I'll see you then.


  1. Great article...a touching tribute.. I love his quote that he considers himself a gamer! Mimi

  2. How ironic in that, during the 9 days that I was without internet and down the country due to family obligations... this happens. What's even more touching and ironic is that, while down there, his name scrolled by TWICE in game credits I played during my spare time. The First was in Kirby: Nightmare In Dream Land, where after finishing the Meta Knightmare mode, I felt compelled to face Nightmare again, which that mode lacked, and so I do, also seeing the credits again. The second was finishing Kirby: Triple Deluxe naturally. But with lots of people having their own personal "playing" tributes now, I feel at peace, in a way, that I had my own there, even if I didn't know it at the time.

    I can't find it in me to add anything or critique what you've said, Anthony. All I can say is that you're right. He was a brilliant person, a great worker, and a genuine gamer who always prioritised fun over money when he could. He had courage, spirit, and heart, qualities not all CEOs have. But most of all, he kept Nintendo the way I wanted it kept. For that, I will be forever grateful.