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In Memory of Satoru Iwata

Remembering The Accomplishments of One Of Gaming’s Greatest Figures

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In 2013, Nintendo’s stocks were at an all-time low, and suffered one of the most severe monetary losses in the company’s history. All eyes on were on Nintendo’s active CEO, Mr. Satoru Iwata, to see how he’d cushion the blow. And, as would any self-respecting CEO Satoru Iwata let go of a whopping…zero employees, and instead took a massive pay cut to compensate. Here was a man, pressured by Nintendo’s monetary losses, the wishes of the companies shareholders, and the industry at large, to make some tough decisions to save his company… and he did just that, by demonstrating what making a tough decision truly looks like, by accepting the blame and doing his best to save those under him. Mr. Iwata was a man of principle, who deeply, deeply cared about his company, and it is with a heavy heart that the staff here at Emertainment are forced to say our goodbyes.

Among the key figures at Nintendo, Iwata was something of an understated hero. While he was in the public eye, and was a better established name to Nintendo fans than even some of Nintendo’s biggest heavy weights (such as Composer of the Mario and Zelda series, Koji Kondo or the creators of Metroid, Gunpei Yoko and Yoshio Sakamoto), his contributions to the company might not be so visible. A gifted programmer, Iwata started work at a subsidiary of Nintendo, HAL Laboratories, in the early 80’s, becoming the companies’ Software Coordinator in 1983. He continued moving up in the company, eventually becoming its President in 1993. In those 10 years, Iwata played a major hand in the creation of Balloon Fight, Kirby, and most notably, Earthbound. As the story goes, Earthbound, created by Japanese Essayist, Poet, Actor, Writer and Day Planner Designer Shigesato Itoi, suffered greatly from messy code that made the game nearly unplayable in its current state. Iwata rebuilt the game from scratch, allowing it to finally come to life in the form of the Quirky Masterpiece we all know and love.

His unique genius in programming also played a hand in what many gamers might consider a Nostalgic Childhood favorite: Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal. Among the massive leaps it had made for the Pokémon Series was its playable Epilogue, where the player could adventure through the first Pokémon game’s Kanto Region. Players could battle the original Eight Gym Leaders, and train their team up to face off against the legendary Red, the playable character from the original Pokémon Red and Blue. This memorable add-on to the game, however, would not have been possible without Iwata’s immense programming prowess. The designers of Gold and Silver originally used up too much of the games cartridge space to allow for the additional region to be implemented. However, Iwata was able to compress the data for them, allowing just enough space to implement Kanto into the game.

Eventually, Iwata was promoted to CEO of Nintendo sometime in the year 2000. His comfortable position at the very top of Nintendo didn’t stop him from being a hands-on member of the Company. Just as he was settling into his new position, he read a very long, and very troubling Bug report from Nintendo and HAL about the state of Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Bug report detailed a series of bugs that were difficult to fix, and could potentially delay the game, keeping it from having a timely release on Nintendo’s upcoming console, the GameCube. Iwata decided to investigate the code, and was able to find, and fix, the bugs in a timely enough manner to get the game to release in its intended timeframe. Even when he was no longer a member of HAL, and even when his job no longer required him to find and fix bugs, he stepped up to the task and did it anyway.

This last story, in particular, showcases just what about Iwata was so special. He wasn’t your average employee, or even your average CEO. Iwata was a man with passion, and a love for his company and their craft. He was just as much about business and raw data as he was about his company’s morals, visions and mottos. He had a love of video games in every sense of the word. He had a love of the Technical Aspects that made the games what they were, as demonstrated by his amazing programming feats. He had a love of the Artistic Aspects that made Nintendo’s projects stand out, as demonstrated by his interview series Iwata Asks, which dug deeply into the philosophy of play and design. But most of all, he had a love of the Players who played their games, and did whatever he could to make sure that the product Nintendo was shipping out would leave an impact. He interacted regularly with Nintendo’s fanbase, choosing to make statements himself about the state of the company and its projects, so that we, the players, could be just as much a part of Nintendo as possible. It was this love, his deep affection for everything that video games stood for, that made him such an incredible figure… and no one could have said it better than the man himself. “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.”

Your legacy shall always remain a part of us. From everyone you’ve touched, here at Emertainment, we will miss you dearly.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Satoru Iwata.

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One Comment

    1. It’s a tragedy, really. With everything Nintendo’s going through, this is just the absolute worst. But so far, the internet, Nintendo, and the Gaming Community at large have honored his memory in the best possible ways.

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