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Discussion in 'Site Commentary' started by Geoff, Jul 13, 2015.
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I read a great IGN article on Iwata from a couple years back today, so I feel like summarizing it
There was a great number of things that set Satoru Iwata apart from his predecessors at Nintendo. He was the first to lead the company who did not belong to the Yamauchi family. Nor did he begin his career with Nintendo. He understood video games - he played them (Hiroshi did not) and he began his career as a developer and programmer. He worked his way up the ladder.
In his early days, as a developer, he rewrote the hopelessly complicated mess of scripting that was EarthBound on the SNES - which he also directed and produced. His first Nintendo game was NES Open Tournament Golf - the mechanics of which are still used in the Mario Golf series today. His work on Nintendo/HAL's early pinball titles formed the codebase that was used and reused well up to at least Pokémon Pinball on the GBC.
Speaking of Pokémon, his skill with compression and data storage enabled GameFreak to include Kanto alongside Johto in the Generation II era. He also ported Pokémon's battle system to the N64, on a whim, in a week, without accompanying documentation from the GB releases. This led to the development of the Pokémon Stadium games. …it also probably accounts for some the quirks in the game mechanics introduced in Stadium that eventually maid their way to the main series.
Not too long before being announced as Yamauchi's successor, and long since moving on to being a Director and Producer, he spent time debugging Super Smash Bros. Melee and leading a quality assurance team to ensure it's release within the GameCube's launch window.
As president of HAL Laboratory, he strengthened the company's ties with Nintendo and brought the little company back from the brink of collapse. No doubt catching the attention of higher-ups at Nintendo. Alongside Masahiro Sakurai, Iwata created the Kirby series. He wanted a game that was simple for people to approach, yet instantly charming.
Even after becoming president of Nintendo, he continued to contribute to the development of several games that generation - Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, Animal Crossing, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
He was a creator and a programmer. He was a developer, leading fellow developers. He had a passion for games and what he felt they should be. His "Iwata Asks" interviews with developers and game creators demonstrate this passion. He knew what they go through having experienced it first hand.
On the business side of things, he led Nintendo through their most successful period of the Wii and DS, carried a steady hand during the remainder of the GCN and GBA era that began under Yamauchi, and somewhat admirably continued through an uneasy transitional period with the Wii U and 3DS (slashing his own salary to support his employees). During the GCN's time he sought out partnerships with Sega, Namco, and Capcom. The number of second-party developers for Nintendo increased under his leadership. The Wii and DS were designed as developer-friendly systems and revolutionized the industry.
Under his tenure at Ninendo, there was also focus on the fans. From the 3DS Ambassador games, rewards programs and physical trinkets, the informative Iwata Asks, the delightfully quirky and enduring Nintendo Directs and Digital Events, Zelda and Pokémon concerts, Miis and Amiibo, etc. There was a constant feeling of fun and good will; an appreciation of fans. By highlighting the personalities of the likes of himself, Reggie, Miyamoto, Sakurai, and Aonuma he strengthened the connection between the brand and its fans.
The last year in particular has been very transitional for the company under his leadership - DeNA and mobile, Quality of Life, the NX, a new rewards program, more integrated online and community accounts, a theme park deal with Universal, opening up of IP to media producers, partnerships with developers and cross-over games, etc. We'll be enjoying these and things we aren't yet aware of for years to come.
But all of that aside, I've enjoyed turning into a Nintendo Direct, watching an E3 conference or a Digital Event, or reading Iwata Asks and seeing that admirably delightful and quirky smiling man. It's been fun.
Rest in peace, and condolences to his family and friends.
He really was one-of-a-kind. He could be professional and respectable yet joyful and goofy at the same time. He embodied the philosophy of Nintendo: refined but most importantly fun.