Goodbye, Satoru Iwata

It is not a secret that for many years now the public opinion tends to disapprove in most cases Nintendo’s choices and strategies in the electronic entertainment market. However, no one ever dared to question the important role that the company played to the whole industry. This company now, unfortunately, is left without its leader – the man who many believe that took it to the top when the company was close to getting out of scope. His name is Satoru Iwata and people who believe the above, are undoubtedly right.

The company’s CEO died a couple of days ago at the early age of 55, after losing his battle with colon cancer. Iwata is truly a very rare case in the industry of digital entertainment and in fact the kind that is directly relevant to the Japanese…tradition: He was one on the few examples that started from the lowest ranks of the “hierarchy”. Satoru started his career as a simple programmer, and ended up on the steering wheel of the company, a company that he always felt as a family. Iwata was brought to Nintendo by Hiroshi Yamauchi personally in 2000 and he came from a cooperating company, “HAL Laboratories”.

After Yamauchi’s health was shaken in 2002, Iwata was promoted to CEO – the first person outside of the family to ever achieve something like that. Satoru had already predicted from those years (2001-2004) that if Nintendo continued on the same path, promoting digital entertainment system only for dedicated games and only to its loyal crows, the company would most likely end up like Sega – who a bit earlier had accepted its defeat after the Dreamcast and had withdrawn from that field of the market. Iwata always thought that games should first of all be fun for everyone and that’s why he started working on Wii pretty soon, trying at the same time to bridge the difference that separated Nintendo from Sony and Microsoft on the field of Internet services. With a clever promotion and a control technique that the market had never seen before, Wii managed to make a great progress and noted a big sales success, despite its weak services aspect.

This man may have not managed to offer Nintendo a secure bright future. He may have not managed to right all wrongs (like the company’s arrogant attitude against other independent game design companies) or strengthen all the weaknesses (like the company’s lack of knowledge in building complete services). But at the same time, no one can blame Iwata for not trying. And we can all agree on that. On his defence, he took Nintendo during a transitions period, when it was hard to make any major changes and at the same time the competition on the market was significantly increased, with the appearance of all the smartphones and tablets.

Maybe he should take more bold decisions. Maybe the ones he took (or was planning to take) were not able to come to life. But beyond any doubt, Satoru Iwata is a very important chapter for the company that will now have to walk towards its next big release (the ancestor of the WiiU) without this great man’s guidance. Goodbye Satoru Iwata. Rest in peace!