Satoru Iwata was a Japanese video game programmer and businessman who served as the fourth president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Nintendo. He is widely regarded as a major contributor in broadening the appeal of video games to a wider audience by focusing on novel and entertaining games rather than top-of-the-line hardware.
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.
Satoru Iwata is born in Hokkaido Prefecture, on Japan's second-largest island.
Iwata studies computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology University. In interviews, he says he'd been hooked on programming since high school. He graduates in 1982.
Iwata joins HAL Laboratory, becoming the small company's fifth full-time employee. At the Japanese games maker, Iwata is a designer, engineer, programmer and marketer, helping develop games like NES Pinball and those in the EarthBound, Kirby and Super Smash Bros. franchises for Nintendo systems.
In 1984, Nintendo releases an arcade version of Balloon Fight, a simple game where players try to fly, thanks to the poppable balloons on their heads. In 1986, it arrives on the company’s new home console, the NES. Satoru Iwata, in his 20s at the time, is the game’s programmer.
Despite creating several notable games, HAL is in financial jeopardy. In 1993, Iwata becomes president of the company he's worked at for a decade and steers it back to solvency.
At HAL Laboratory, Iwata and Masahiro Sakurai develop the prototype for the original Super Smash Bros. The fighting game stars a cast of a dozen Nintendo characters. It becomes a franchise, spanning Nintendo's console and handheld systems. The latest entry was created simultaneously for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.
Iwata joins Nintendo as a nearly 20-year veteran of the industry. He arrives just ahead of the GameCube's release and is charged with overseeing Nintendo's Corporate Planning Division, which has a global reach.
In 2002, Hiroshi Yamauchi announces his retirement, after having served as Nintendo's president since 1949. He names Iwata as his successor, saying that Iwata 'has the instincts to survive in the business.' Iwata is the first president outside of the founding Yamauchi family — and only the fourth since the company was founded in 1889.
Under Iwata, Nintendo releases the the Nintendo DS, a dual-screened handheld successor to the Game Boy Advance. Nintendo iterates its clamshell design for the next decade while selling hundreds of millions in the DS product line.
Iwata's insights lead him to believe that games are becoming too complex to be widely adopted, and that Nintendo is in a unique position to innovate its way to help broad adoption. Released in November 2006, the motion-controlled Wii is an unqualified success, bringing video games — often designed simply, with less graphical fidelity and to be easily playable — to the masses, not just the hardcore audience. To date, Nintendo has sold more than 101 million units, making it the undisputed sales winner of the previous generation.
Nintendo releases the 3DS, the glasses-free successor to the DS handheld. In the years that follow, Nintendo releases larger, XL versions and the New 3DS, which improves and strengthens the hardware and includes new input methods.
Nintendo begins talking directly to its fans through periodic Nintendo Direct presentations. Iwata often hosts these, becoming an even more genial, public face for the company.
Nintendo releases the Wii U. In many ways, it's a console version of Nintendo's popular dual-screen line of handhelds, designed with two screens, including the tablet-like GamePad controller.
After Nintendo profits fall in 2013, Iwata announces that he will cut his pay in half for several months. Other executive pay is cut, too, but Iwata's paycheck takes the biggest hit.
Satoru Iwata passes away at 55. The Associated Press reports that his funeral will be held on July 17.
Hello, I'm Satoru Iwata, global president of Nintendo.
Thank you for enjoying our products.
And please, don't be sad, Everything is going to be fine.