Why I Cry for Satoru Iwata:
The news of Mr. Iwata’s death hit me like a brick. I was loafing around at work, wasting time, and suddenly see Mr. Iwata’s face which always brought the widest smiles to my face under the most ominous of titles. I clicked on the article’s title hoping I read it wrong, hoping I was simply mixing two articles together. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t do anything else at work. I was struggling not to tear up, knowing I wouldn’t be able to explain it to my non-gaming peers.
Mr. Iwata passed away. That singular thought continues to ping in my mind at each unguarded moment. Realization that someone I admired so much is not here anymore. Realization that for all the sadness I and many fans feel, it must be that much worse for his friends and family.
Today I realize that Iwata, and a lot of what he stood for, are major reasons I love videogames and love Nintendo so much. Simply put, nearly every time I saw his name at the end game’s credit, it was after a much rewarding and fun experience. And this guy had so much to do with it, across the board.
I never could help smiling whenever I hear him talk. He was the embodiment of Nintendo’s purest form, that of joy, wonder, and the many smiles.
Dedication, Perseverance, and Confidence:
For anyone familiar with Japanese culture, they would realize that your day-job is a very important part of who you are. It is both a declaration of statues and input in life. After graduating from college, Mr. Iwata joined the small upcoming company HAL laboratories much to the chagrin of his father. Jokingly, Mr. Iwata used to mention how his father first tried to convince him to get a normal job, and then stopped talking to him all together in an effort to sway his mind.
Young Satoru Iwata, who was the eldest child, was not planning in displeasing his father. He knew HAL was going to be a success, and he planned to stick to it.
We are familiar with the smiling and pleasant face of the man, but he became Nintendo’s president because of the same qualities that led him to defy his father and make a success story out of the small HAL studio.
This is a man who consistently took on difficult tasks upon himself only to solve them in a short manner of time. Earthbound was a mess by all accounts; an over-budget title that had troubled development. When Iwata came into the project, the code was all over the place. The short turn around in programming is one reason the game saw the light of the day, and Iwata and Itoi continued to be friends.
As CEO, Nintendo persisted in their unique ways, only to reap dividends with the Wii and the DS. Similarly, Nintendo persisted in the handheld market in the face of the doomsayers of the smart-phone boom, and while the 3DS had a rock start it is now a success.
In Mr. Iwata’s tenure, Nintendo recorded the most profit in its history, and it propelled its previous president Hiroshi Yamauichi into becoming the richest man in Japan for a year or so.
Through the latter year’s hardships, Iwata planned to continue in Nintendo’s path, convinced that the company would reverse its fortunes (as it started doing) but will still play with its own terms.
Reggie never stood a chance
Not many CEOs would admit to their mistakes, but Mr. Iwata was not any of your run-of-the mill corporate headshots. He worked upwards in the core business of Nintendo, and he was empathetic towards his employees. As we hear from those he worked with, Iwata pushed them as much as he pushed himself, all the while making himself as accessible as possible.
Most famously, Iwata halved his own salary when Nintendo posted their first loss in more than 20 years. He was quoted as saying he would rather not get paid than to fire his employees, as people fearing for their jobs would not be able to perform it the quality Nintendo asks for. People little know that he halved it again the next year, effectively reducing it to one quarter of what it once was.
Ironically, this actually did little to help Nintendo’s financials, because his pay was simply not that much for a CEO. In a world where Don Mattick makes millions by essentially failing at two companies, Mr. Iwata was one of the least paid CEOs in the gaming business.
Iwata was not afraid to show he is as human as the rest of us
It’s All about Fun:
Back when computers used to fill in a room or two, tech enthusiasts like Iwata used programmable calculator to play around with code. In high school, the young Iwata started programing games, and the smiles his games brought to his friends were pivotal in his decision to use his programing skills in working for Nintendo in the future.
For him, the fact that his work managed to bring some fun to another person’s life was a goal in of itself. This was the basis Iwata started his career in HAL lab, and the basis he in which he run Nintendo. The promise of making fun-filled games. While game technology have exponentially grown in the past two decades, Nintendo has always stuck to its roots as a toy company.
The pursuit for fun did not stop at the game development stage though. What Nintendo aimed for was to create an entire experience for its fans that is fun, weird, and simply Nintendo. What other CEO shows up at your video game console as a weirdly shaped avatar, asking you to enjoy e3?
Through the personality Mr. Iwata created, and all the jokes and weird humor that he showed in all the presentation, he became a larger than life figure. He wasn’t only the CEO of Nintendo, but also the guy holding the bananas, the guy surrounded by Luigis. He became another Nintendo character, one that will live on in our memory.
Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's president and mascot
Both as a programmer and as president (of both HAL and Nintendo), Satoru Iwata has made providing fun experiences for all people his goal. He gave us many smiles, to all of us from all walks of life. Today, I am enjoying my time with the Wii U and the 3DS. Before that, I remember the first time me and my siblings ever played together with my parents on the Wii. In college, I saw the brawls that were taking place on the Gamecube. As part of some research I did, I saw old people in retiring homes reliving their sport days on the Wii. Till today, my Grandmother keeps her brain active with the Brain Age series on the DS.
Mr. Iwata, you gave me and many of us innumerable smiles. May your final smile last for eternity.
Thank You, and Good Night