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Satoru Iwata (Japanese: 岩田 聡, Hepburn: Iwata Satoru, December 6, 1959 – July 11, 2015) was a Japanese businessman, video game programmer, video game designer, and producer. He was the fourth president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Nintendo. He was a major contributor in broadening the appeal of video games by focusing on novel and entertaining games rather than top-of-the-line hardware.

Born in Sapporo, Japan, Iwata expressed interest in video games from an early age and created his first simple game while in high school. He majored in computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. In 1980, he joined the game developer HAL Laboratory while attending the university. At HAL, he worked as a programmer and closely collaborated with Nintendo, producing his first commercial game in 1983. Games to which he contributed include EarthBound and the Kirby series. Following a downturn and near-bankruptcy, Iwata became the president of HAL in 1993 at the insistence of Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi and brought financial stability. In the following years, he worked in the development of the Pokémon and Super Smash Bros. series. Iwata joined Nintendo as the head of its corporate planning division in 2000.

Nintendo saw growth under Iwata and, when Yamauchi retired, he became the company's president in May 2002. Under Iwata's direction, Nintendo developed the Nintendo DS and Wii game consoles, helping the company achieve financial success. As a self-declared gamer, he focused on expanding the appeal of video games across demographics through a "blue ocean" business strategy. Nintendo attained record profits by 2009, and Barron's placed Iwata among the top 30 CEOs worldwide. Iwata expanded his strategy by defining a quality-of-life product line for the Wii that evolved into a ten-year strategy to create standalone products. Later hardware such as the (Japanese: 岩田 聡, Hepburn: Iwata Satoru, December 6, 1959 – July 11, 2015) was a Japanese businessman, video game programmer, video game designer, and producer. He was the fourth president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Nintendo. He was a major contributor in broadening the appeal of video games by focusing on novel and entertaining games rather than top-of-the-line hardware.

Born in Sapporo, Japan, Iwata expressed interest in video games from an early age and created his first simple game while in high school. He majored in computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. In 1980, he joined the game developer HAL Laboratory while attending the university. At HAL, he worked as a programmer and closely collaborated with Nintendo, producing his first commercial game in 1983. Games to which he contributed include EarthBound and the Kirby series. Following a downturn and near-bankruptcy, Iwata became the president of HAL in 1993 at the insistence of Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi and brought financial stability. In the following years, he worked in the development of the Pokémon and Super Smash Bros. series. Iwata joined Nintendo as the head of its corporate planning division in 2000.

Nintendo saw growth under Iwata and, when Yamauchi retired, he became the company's president in May 2002. Under Iwata's direction, Nintendo developed the Nintendo DS and Wii game consoles, helping the company achieve financial success. As a self-declared gamer, he focused on expanding the appeal of video games across demographics through a "blue ocean" business strategy. Nintendo attained record profits by 2009, and Barron's placed Iwata among the top 30 CEOs worldwide. Iwata expanded his strategy by defining a quality-of-life product line for the Wii that evolved into a ten-year strategy to create standalone products. Later hardware such as the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U proved far less profitable than the Wii, and Nintendo's net sales fell by two thirds from 2009 to 2012; the company saw its first operating losses in 30 years during this time. Iwata voluntarily halved his salary in 2011 and 2014. In 2015, after several years of refusal, Iwata put a portion of Nintendo's focus into the rapidly growing mobile game market; a landmark partnership with mobile provider DeNA was established that March. Throughout his career, Iwata built a relationship with Nintendo fans through social media and his regular appearances in Iwata Asks and Nintendo Direct, becoming the public face of the company.

In June 2014, a tumor in Iwata's bile duct was discovered during a routine physical exam. It was removed, and Iwata returned to work in October of that year. The problem resurfaced in 2015, and Iwata died at the age of 55 from its complications on July 11. Members of the gaming industry and fans alike offered tributes through public announcements and social media, and fans worldwide established temporary memorials. Iwata was posthumously awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 Golden Joystick Awards and the 2016 D.I.C.E. Awards.

Discussions between Iwata, Miyamoto, and Takeda about a new home console began in the first half of 2003.[55] With encouragement from Yamauchi, Iwata pushed for development of a revolutionary product that would later become the Wii.[55] With encouragement from Yamauchi, Iwata pushed for development of a revolutionary product that would later become the Wii.[56] Iwata subsequently assigned Takeda to the project, "telling [Takeda] to go off the tech roadmap".[55] The overall premise was that "a Mom has to like it".[57] During the console's development process Iwata challenged engineers to make the Wii no thicker than three DVD cases stacked together, a feat they ultimately accomplished.[58] Takeda and his team focused on reducing power consumption while retaining or improving levels of performance shown with the GameCube.[59] Alongside the internal hardware designed by Nintendo's engineers, Iwata proposed that the console abandon use of a typical controller to make gaming more accessible to everyone.[56] Miyamoto took the lead on developing a new controller while Takeda's team provided the internal components. After six months and dozens of scrapped prototypes, Takeda procured a CMOS sensor that later became the core aspect of the remote. With the addition of accelerometers, they were able to effectively produce motion controls.[60]

Initially codenamed "Revolution" during a teaser at E3 2004, following Iwata's goal of creating a gaming revolution

Initially codenamed "Revolution" during a teaser at E3 2004, following Iwata's goal of creating a gaming revolution,[31][40] Iwata publicly revealed the Wii at E3 2005, holding it above his head to emphasize its small size and light weight design.[58] Reveal of the Wii's signature Wii Remote controller was withheld until the Tokyo Game Show in September 2005. During his speech at the conference, Iwata reiterated his stance on growing the gaming market but expanded upon it by emphasizing the need to make controls less complicated.[61] The controller's remote control design partially stemmed from Iwata's desire to have a device that was "immediately accessible" to all. He also insisted that the Wii Remote be referred to as simply a "remote" rather than a controller to emphasize its accessibility to anyone.[62]

The Wii ultimately popularized the use of motion control-based video games and proved highly successful for Nintendo, helping to nearly double the company's stock price.[40] Tapping into the market of casual players, the Wii marked "a breakthrough moment in the history of video games":[63] a new genre of gaming was established for the family market.[64] Iwata's former experience as a programmer, a rarity for technology CEOs, was said to help contribute towards his leadership of the company.[65][66] By the end of the 2009 fiscal year, Nintendo saw record net sales and profit of ¥1.8 trillion (US$18.7 billion) and ¥279 billion (US$2.8 billion), respectively.[67] Due to his success, Barron's included Iwata on their list of the 30 top CEOs worldwide from 2007 to 2009.[40][68]

Starting with the introduction of the Wii in 2006, Iwata placed focus on development of products that improved quality of life.[69] The Wii Fit series, conceptualized by Miyamoto,[70] epitomized this movement.[69] At E3 2009, Iwata revealed development of an add-on product to the Wii: the Wii Vitality Sensor. The device measured autonomic nerve functions, namely pulse, and incorporate acquired data into relaxation products.[71][72] Iwata saw the device as a continuation of the "blue ocean" strategy previously articulated. He indicated that the market of motion controls was turning into a "red ocean", whereby too many companies would saturate the market and restrict profits. The Vitality Sensor was developed in hopes of providing a novel way to interact with video games and continue Nintendo's history of innovation.[73] However, testing of a prototype device yielded less than desirable results and Nintendo had postponed the release of the product indefinitely by 2013.[72]

In January 2014, Iwata unveiled a ten-year strategy for the company based on quality-of-life products.[69][74] The target was a new market outside video games.[75] Developed under partnerships with Dr. Yasuyoshi Watanabe and ResMed, the first device in this initiative was a fatigue and sleep deprivation sensor announced in October 2014. Unlike the Vitality Sensor, the sleep sensor was to be a stand-alone product that would not need to be worn.[76] Following Iwata's death in July 2015, analysts questioned whether Nintendo would continue the quality-of-life initiative. Despite a planned United States release in March 2016, some suggested the product had been temporarily shelved, while others believed the product had been indefinitely postponed like the Vitality Sensor before it.[69] The device was formally discontinued by February 2016; however, Tatsumi K

In January 2014, Iwata unveiled a ten-year strategy for the company based on quality-of-life products.[69][74] The target was a new market outside video games.[75] Developed under partnerships with Dr. Yasuyoshi Watanabe and ResMed, the first device in this initiative was a fatigue and sleep deprivation sensor announced in October 2014. Unlike the Vitality Sensor, the sleep sensor was to be a stand-alone product that would not need to be worn.[76] Following Iwata's death in July 2015, analysts questioned whether Nintendo would continue the quality-of-life initiative. Despite a planned United States release in March 2016, some suggested the product had been temporarily shelved, while others believed the product had been indefinitely postponed like the Vitality Sensor before it.[69] The device was formally discontinued by February 2016; however, Tatsumi Kimishima stated that research into quality of life products would continue.[77] Nintendo-based products like the Nintendo Switch designed to encourage use on the go and social interactions, the mobile augmented reality game Pokémon Go that requires travelling outside the house, and its addition Pokémon Sleep that works based on a player's sleep patterns, all represent continuations of Iwata's quality-of-life initiative.[78] The Switch game Ring Fit Adventure, which includes accessories that let players manipulate the game through physical exercise, is seen as a successor to Wii Fit and continuing the quality-of-life program.[79]

Subsequent hardware units under Iwata's tenure, including the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, were not as successful as the DS and Wii, and Nintendo's finances took a downward turn starting in 2010.[85][88] During the development phase of the 3DS, a handheld device featuring stereoscopic 3D without the need of accessories, Iwata stated that his background in technology helped keep Nintendo's engineers in line.[89] It was hoped that the successor to the Nintendo DS would reinvigorate the company after profits began declining.[90] However, weak sales upon the release of the Nintendo 3DS caused the company's stock to fall by 12 percent on July 29, 2011.[91] The console's poor sales prompted a price cut in August from its launch price of US$250 to US$170.[92] Sales of the 3DS continually fell below expectations.[93] Iwata later admitted in 2014 that he had misread the market and had not appropriately accounted for changing lifestyles since the launch of the Wii.[94] He continually placed focus on family-oriented games despite declining popularity.[95]

The Wii U, released in November 2012,[96] was sold below its production cost as Nintendo hoped for stronger software sales to alleviate ongoing losses.[97] The addition of HD graphics, a feature not present in the original Wii, placed unexpected strain on development teams and led to software delays. Compounding the frustration of consumers was Iwata's disinterest in competitors such as Microsoft and Sony,[98][99] both of which experienced similar issues during the releases of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 respectively. Paul Tassi of Forbes claimed that Nintendo could have handled the change more efficiently by drawing lessons from Microsoft and Sony's transition to HD graphics.[100] The console ultimately failed to meet sales expectations and became the slowest-selling Nintendo platform, with 9.5 million units sold by June 2015. Miyamoto attributed the lackluster sales to public misunderstandings of the console's concept and functionality.[101] Iwata later admitted the console to be a failure as a successor to the Wii, with games being unable to showcase notable originality in the Wii U.[102] The back-to-back failures of the 3DS and Wii U prompted Mitsushige Akino of Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. to suggest that Iwata should resign from his position.[95]

Nintendo's overall net sales declined from its peak of ¥1.8 trillion (US$18.7 billion) in 2009 to ¥549 billion (US$4.6 billion) in 2015. Net income losses were incurred in 2012 and 2014.[67][87] In 2010, Nintendo revealed that Iwata earned a modest salary of ¥68 million (US$770,000), which increased to ¥187 million (US$2.11 million) with performance based bonuses. In comparison, Miyamoto earned a salary of ¥100 million (US$1.13 million).[103] Iwata voluntarily halved his salary in 2011 and 2014 as apologies for the poor sales while other members of the Nintendo board of directors had pay cuts of 20–30 percent.[104][105] This also served to ensure the job security of Nintendo's employees, preventing workers from being laid off in order to improve short-term finances.[54][72] In 2012, the company experienced its first operating loss since entering the video game market more than 30 years earlier.[106] Losses continued for the next two years before the company finally returned to profitability at the end of the 2015 fiscal year.[87][88][107] The slight turnaround was largely attributed to blockbuster games such as Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.[87][88]

In June 2013, Iwata took on the additional role of Nintendo of America's CEO.[108][109] As one of his first changes as CEO, Iwata decided that they would not hold large press conferences at E3, and instead have several smaller events, each aimed at a certain demographic.[110] While traveling to Tokyo in late 2013, Iwata sketched an idea for a series of physical toys that could connect with Nintendo's games. This concept soon developed into the [96] was sold below its production cost as Nintendo hoped for stronger software sales to alleviate ongoing losses.[97] The addition of HD graphics, a feature not present in the original Wii, placed unexpected strain on development teams and led to software delays. Compounding the frustration of consumers was Iwata's disinterest in competitors such as Microsoft and Sony,[98][99] both of which experienced similar issues during the releases of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 respectively. Paul Tassi of Forbes claimed that Nintendo could have handled the change more efficiently by drawing lessons from Microsoft and Sony's transition to HD graphics.[100] The console ultimately failed to meet sales expectations and became the slowest-selling Nintendo platform, with 9.5 million units sold by June 2015. Miyamoto attributed the lackluster sales to public misunderstandings of the console's concept and functionality.[101] Iwata later admitted the console to be a failure as a successor to the Wii, with games being unable to showcase notable originality in the Wii U.[102] The back-to-back failures of the 3DS and Wii U prompted Mitsushige Akino of Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. to suggest that Iwata should resign from his position.[95]

Nintendo's overall net sales declined from its peak of ¥1.8 trillion (US$18.7 billion) in 2009 to ¥549 billion (US$4.6 billion) in 2015. Net income losses were incurred in 2012 and 2014.[67][87] In 2010, Nintendo revealed that Iwata earned a modest salary of ¥68 million (US$770,000), which increased to ¥187 million (US$2.11 million) with performance based bonuses. In comparison, Miyamoto earned a salary of ¥100 million (US$1.13 million).[103] Iwata voluntarily halved his salary in 2011 and 2014 as apologies for the poor sales while other members of the Nintendo board of directors had pay cuts of 20–30 percent.[104][105] This also served to ensure the job security of Nintendo's employees, preventing workers from being laid off in order to improve short-term finances.[54][72] In 2012, the company experienced its first operating loss since entering the video game market more than 30 years earlier.[106] Losses continued for the next two years before the company finally returned to profitability at the end of the 2015 fiscal year.[87][88][107] The slight turnaround was largely attributed to blockbuster games such as Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.[87][88]

In June 2013, Iwata took on the additional role of Nintendo of America's CEO.[108][109] As one of his first changes as CEO, Iwata decided that they would not hold large press conferences at E3, and instead have several smaller events, each aimed at a certain demographic.[110] While traveling to Tokyo in late 2013, Iwata sketched an idea for a series of physical toys that could connect with Nintendo's games. This concept soon developed into the Amiibo line of figures which launched less than a year later. Amiibo proved to be a huge success, with more than 6 million figurines sold by the end of 2014, roughly a month after launch.[89] By March 2016, combined sales of figures and cards—a product released in 2015—exceeded 64 million units, proving financially beneficial across all Nintendo platforms.[111]

In early 2010, the success of Apple Inc.'s mobile App Store prompted concern among game developers that the medium was shifting to smart devices.[112] That July, Iwata acknowledged competition from Apple and considered them the "enemy of the future".[113] However, during an interview the following year, Iwata appeared entirely against the idea of Nintendo moving into the mobile market, claiming the company would "cease to be Nintendo" if they did so.[114] He reasoned that mobile gaming would lack integrity over the quality of games in an effort to turn a profit. A slow shift in this view ensued over the following years as the mobile gaming market continued to grow.[115] In 2012 he acknowledged that mobile devices provided significant competition but remained confident in his company's abilities.[116] In a message to shareholders in March 2014 fiscal year, Iwata stated, "… I believe that the era has ended when people play all kinds of games only on dedicated gaming systems."[117] He cited the convenience of mobile devices for quick entertainment and expansive capabilities over a handheld console's dedicated software.[117] Criticism arose over his continued stubbornness in moving to the mobile market,[118] with analysts and investors continually requesting a change in outlook. Yoshihisa Toyosaki, president of Architect Grand Design Inc., claimed that "Nintendo is out of touch", referring to the company's history of ignoring outside input.[94] This ultimately negatively influenced Nintendo's finances and popularity to a degree.[119]

In March 2015, Iwata put part of Nintendo's focus on the growing mobile game market, creating a landmark partnership with mobile provider DeNA to publish games, as traditional hardware console sales began to falter.[28][120] This came in contrast to Nintendo's previous business model which put focus on console exclusives to prompt people to buy their platforms.[121] Iwata emphasized that although Nintendo IPs would be utilized in mobile games, the company would not compromise their integrity. He also stressed that the main goal would be to reach as many people as possible rather than which options would earn the most money, similar to the idea behind the Wii.[122] After the partnership with DeNA was established, Iwata reiterated his stance that the common free-to-play type mobile games, which he referred to as "free-to-start", threatened the future quality of games. Although he acknowledged the practice as a viable means of promoting games in the short-term, he considered the model outdated and not a sound direction for core development.In March 2015, Iwata put part of Nintendo's focus on the growing mobile game market, creating a landmark partnership with mobile provider DeNA to publish games, as traditional hardware console sales began to falter.[28][120] This came in contrast to Nintendo's previous business model which put focus on console exclusives to prompt people to buy their platforms.[121] Iwata emphasized that although Nintendo IPs would be utilized in mobile games, the company would not compromise their integrity. He also stressed that the main goal would be to reach as many people as possible rather than which options would earn the most money, similar to the idea behind the Wii.[122] After the partnership with DeNA was established, Iwata reiterated his stance that the common free-to-play type mobile games, which he referred to as "free-to-start", threatened the future quality of games. Although he acknowledged the practice as a viable means of promoting games in the short-term, he considered the model outdated and not a sound direction for core development.[115][123] He also emphasized that the business model for these games did not match with the core values of Nintendo and could not serve as the basis of "long-lasting relationship with [Nintendo's] customers".[124]

Iwata oversaw development of the Nintendo Switch through the final months of his life, serving as the console's head developer. In a February 2017 interview with the magazine Time, Miyamoto believed Iwata's goal for the system was to make it portable and allow communication between people. Iwata focused on the technical aspects of the device during this stage.[125]

During the earlier years of his presidency at Nintendo, Iwata would often forego media appearances, unless new hardware was being announced, in order to spend more time programming.[127] However, his attitude towards this changed, and he eventually became a prominent part of Nintendo's public relations. Iwata helped Nintendo to improve relations with its fans by regularly responding to them through social media,[66] and he shared insights on Nintendo's employees, games, and hardware through his interview series Iwata Asks.[65] Inspiration for this series, which began in September 2006, stemmed from Iwata's background as a game programmer and his curiosity of the mindset of other developers.[128][129] These interviews often showcased the friendly camaraderie between Iwata and other members of Nintendo as jokes and laughter were commonplace.[29] They also revealed a different side of the normally secretive Nintendo: openness to discuss some of the inner workings of the company.[130]

In 2011, Iwata helped to institute Nintendo Direct, a series of online press conferences open to all that revealed upcoming Nintendo games and products outside of typical industry channels.[66] These videos were often quirky and humorous, reflecting the personality of Iwata himself.[13] This stood completely against the generally serious tones displayed by Sony and Microsoft.[131] One such video displayed a mock battle between him and Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé to showcase the inclusion of Mii characters, Nintendo digital avatars, in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.[66][132] These frequently spurred the creation of Internet memes; such memes include the phrase "please understand" which was often used by Iwata for delays or other negative news, adding "[Iwata laughs]" to forum posts as a reference to his frequent laughter in segments of Iwata Asks, and images of Iwata staring silently at a bunch of bananas as part of a pre-recorded E3 2012 video to promote the Nintendo Direct, a series of online press conferences open to all that revealed upcoming Nintendo games and products outside of typical industry channels.[66] These videos were often quirky and humorous, reflecting the personality of Iwata himself.[13] This stood completely against the generally serious tones displayed by Sony and Microsoft.[131] One such video displayed a mock battle between him and Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé to showcase the inclusion of Mii characters, Nintendo digital avatars, in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.[66][132] These frequently spurred the creation of Internet memes; such memes include the phrase "please understand" which was often used by Iwata for delays or other negative news, adding "[Iwata laughs]" to forum posts as a reference to his frequent laughter in segments of Iwata Asks, and images of Iwata staring silently at a bunch of bananas as part of a pre-recorded E3 2012 video to promote the Donkey Kong franchise.[7][126][133][134]

As a byproduct of his presence in Iwata Asks and Nintendo Direct, Iwata became the public face of Nintendo.[131] Iwata enjoyed conversing with reporters and would prepare stories in advance to entertain them. Even when time did not allow, he would mingle with interviewers and chat casually.[135]

Iwata assisted in the founding of Creatures Inc. and The Pokémon Company which were established in 1995 and 1998, respectively, by Tsunekazu Ishihara.[136][137] Iwata later coordinated licensing changes domestically and internationally with The Pokémon Company when it became its own entity.[137] In 1998, Iwata helped his colleague and personal friend Shigesato Itoi establish Hobonichi by working as the company's IT Manager. He acquired this position after being asked by Itoi one month prior to the June 6 launch date to arrange a website and the company's technical systems, to which Iwata complied. Iwata personally enjoyed the role and even still held the position in 2007, despite running Nintendo full-time by this point.[138] Soon after his promotion to president of Nintendo, Iwata assigned himself to a development team at HAL Laboratory working on Super Smash Bros. Melee, for the GameCube, to continue his programming passion.[9][139] Stemming from his work with the Brain Age series, Iwata assisted in producing educational games such as Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten DS, English Training: Have Fun Improving Your Skills!, and Imasara Hito ni Kikenai Otona no Joushikiryoku Training DS.[140] He also worked on Animal Crossing, Mario, Metroid Prime, and The Legend of Zelda series of games, among others.[16][141] He also had a cameo in WarioWare: Smooth Moves.[142] Iwata partook in the development of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality mobile game, starting in 2013. The game was publicly revealed in September 2015, two months after his death.[143][144]

Illness and deathOn June 5, 2014, Nintendo announced that Iwata would not attend E3 2014 due to medical problems.[145] Iwata issued a public message to shareholders on June 24 that he had undergone surgery the previous week to remove a tumor in his bile duct discovered during a routine physical examination.[141][146] After roughly four months of recovery from a successful surgery, he returned to work in October. During this time he lost a notable amount of weight, but stated he was feeling healthier as a result.[147] Iwata made his first public appearance on a Nintendo Direct announcement on November 5, but looked "gaunt and pale".[148] He appeared to take this in stride and updated his own Mii, avatars used in Nintendo hardware, in June 2015 to reflect his slimmer self.[149] On January 28, 2015, Iwata came down with a high fever and was suspected to have influenza; a meeting with shareholders was postponed accordingly.[150] Some time after attending a different shareholder meeting on June 26, Iwata became ill again and was hospitalized.[151][152] Despite his hospitalization, Iwata continued to work via his laptop in his bed and provided feedback on Pokémon Go to Tsunekazu Ishihara.[152] He died due to complications from the tumor on July 11 at the age of 55. Nintendo announced his death the following day.[109]

Flags at Nintendo's headquarters were lowered to half-staff on July 13.[153] Nintendo's regional offices took a day of silence on July 13 across all of its social media accounts in remembrance of Iwata.[154] Members of the gaming industry and fans alike expressed their sadness on social media over Iwata's death and gratitude for his accomplishments.[153][155] Fans established memorials across the world, including at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow, Russia, and the Nintendo World Store in Manhattan, New York.[156][157] Shuhei Yoshida, president of SCE Worldwide Studios, stated: "I pray that Mr. Iwata, who contributed so much to the development of the gaming indus

Flags at Nintendo's headquarters were lowered to half-staff on July 13.[153] Nintendo's regional offices took a day of silence on July 13 across all of its social media accounts in remembrance of Iwata.[154] Members of the gaming industry and fans alike expressed their sadness on social media over Iwata's death and gratitude for his accomplishments.[153][155] Fans established memorials across the world, including at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow, Russia, and the Nintendo World Store in Manhattan, New York.[156][157] Shuhei Yoshida, president of SCE Worldwide Studios, stated: "I pray that Mr. Iwata, who contributed so much to the development of the gaming industry, rests in peace."[158] Composer and director Junichi Masuda, most known for his work with the Pokémon games, tweeted: "He was a man who understood Pokémon, and a great leader. When I visited the other day, he was well. I will pray for his soul from the bottom of my heart."[159] The Tokyo Institute of Technology issued a memorial statement on August 4, with Iwata's former classmates and professors contributing their memories.[10] At The Game Awards 2015, Reggie Fils-Aimé delivered a tribute to Iwata, describing him as "fearless" and "unique, in the fullest meaning of the word".[160][161]

Several hours after the announcement of Iwata's death, a photograph of a rainbow over Nintendo's headquarters in Kyoto was posted to Twitter and widely shared; it was dubbed "the Rainbow Road to heaven", in reference to a stage in the Mario Kart series.[162][163] Funeral services for Iwata were held in Kyoto on July 16 and 17. Despite stormy weather produced by Typhoon Nangka, an estimated 4,100 people attended to pay their respects.[164][165][166] Following the wake, Iwata's remains were cremated and his ashes were buried at an undisclosed place in Kyoto.[167]

Following Iwata's death, general directors Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda temporarily managed the company together.[168] On September 14, Nintendo announced that Tatsumi Kimishima, head of its Human Resources Division and former CEO of Nintendo of America, would succeed Iwata as the fifth president of Nintendo.[169]

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, keynote speech at GDC 2005[139]

Throughout his life, Iwata was known for unconventional ideas and changing the medium of gaming.

Throughout his life, Iwata was known for unconventional ideas and changing the medium of gaming.[13][170] He was seen as the embodiment of Nintendo: playful, quirky, humorous, and fun.[171] Iwata's proficiency in programming led many to refer to him as a "genius" in the subject, with some likening him to a Japanese Bill Gates.[10][172] His hands-on approach to business earned him admiration and respect from both developers and gamers.[13] The opening to Iwata's "Heart of a Gamer" speech at GDC 2005 is regarded as the "essence" of who he was: a humble businessman dedicated to video games.[3] He, alongside others at Nintendo such as Miyamoto, are credited with vastly expanding the gaming market and creating a new genre.[61][64] By targeting a new audience instead of competing against Microsoft and Sony, Iwata avoided a "straight fight" with Nintendo's competitors and successfully achieved his goals.[13][170] Accordingly, Iwata was referred to as a "gentle revolutionary".[13] The simplistic appeal of the Nintendo DS and Wii served to expand the market.[13] Chris Kohler of Wired magazine stated that "thanks to Nintendo's Satoru Iwata, we're all gamers now," referring to the surge in video game popularity following the releases of the Nintendo DS and Wii.[173] Although widely respected, he received criticism over his stubbornness in moving Nintendo to the mobile market.[118] Following Iwata's death, Reggie Fils-Aimé remarked, "... it will be years before his impact on both Nintendo and the full video game industry will be fully appreciated."[174]

In October 2015, a fan-made Amiibo featuring Iwata's Mii avatar was crafted and auctioned for US$1,900 on eBay; all proceeds were to be donated to the Child's Play charity in his mem

In October 2015, a fan-made Amiibo featuring Iwata's Mii avatar was crafted and auctioned for US$1,900 on eBay; all proceeds were to be donated to the Child's Play charity in his memory.[175][176] Iwata was posthumously and unanimously granted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 Golden Joystick Awards for his influence across the gaming industry.[177] Iwata was also posthumously granted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 DICE Awards.[178][179] At the 2016 Game Developers Choice Awards, Iwata was honored with a short animated film by David Hellman, the artist who worked on Braid.[180] In July 2019, Hobonichi published a book, 岩田さん (Iwata-san), by Yasuda Nagata in Japan. The book includes excerpts from many Iwata Asks interviews and interviews with Iwata's closest friends, including Shigeru Miyamoto and Shigesato Itoi, after his death. In response to public demand, the agency is planning to localize the book in multiple languages with the Tuttle-Mori Agency.[181][182] Viz Media will publish the title as Ask Iwata in North America in early 2021.[183]

A tribute in honor of Iwata, reading "This game is dedicated to our wingman who fell in battle", was placed at the end of the credits for Star Fox Zero.[184][185] Another speculated tribute appears in the Nintendo Switch 2017 launch game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game in development at the time of his death.[186] A non-playable character, who bears a striking resemblance to Satoru Iwata, asks for the player to go atop Satori Mountain in search of the mystical Lord of the Mountain. Given the similarity between "Satori" and "Satoru" and the fact that the Lord of the Mountain is seen as a guiding spirit, the quest is thought to be an elaborate tribute to Iwata.[187] In September 2017, modders discovered that an emulated version of the NES game Golf, which Iwata programmed, is included in every Nintendo Switch console's firmware, and can be accessed by moving the Joy-Con controllers similarly to how Iwata would move his hands in Nintendo Direct presentations when the system clock is set to July 11, the day of his death;[188] this appeared to be removed by Nintendo with a system update issued later that year.[189] Within Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, visiting the Game Freak building with Pokémon introduced in Pokémon Gold and Silver has a non-player character relate how they were having trouble getting data onto the Game Boy Color game cards until they were helped by an "amazing guy"; this acknowledges Iwata's contribution to Gold and Silver that allowed them to include the whole of the world from Pokémon Red and Blue without compromising the size of the Gold/Silver world.[190]

Notes