When Satoru Iwata, the former President and CEO of Nintendo, passed away on July 11, 2015 from complications related to a bile duct tumor, the entire video game industry paused to mourn the passing of a giant. Ubiquitous to gamers and journalists for his famously colorful Nintendo Direct presentations and held in high esteem by colleagues throughout the industry, Iwata epitomized the face the Japanese games industry most desired to wear: A humble, unassuming creator who prized innovation above computing-power and always strived to put the players first.
On Thursday evening, the Academy Of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ DICE Awards honored Iwata with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award, in an emotional presentation by Shiver Entertainment’s John Schappert to Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime.
While a young programmer at Nintendo affiliate HAL Laboratory, Iwata was responsible for porting the arcade hit Joust to the original Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System; after that, he was part of the team that created such enduring game classics as Balloon Fight, NES Open Tournament Golf, the Kirby series and the legendary RPG Earthbound. He eventually rose to become President of HAL, and later contributed programming to Game Freak for the Pokemon franchise – including the celebrated Nintendo 64 classic Pokemon Stadium – and aided Masahiro Sakurai in the development of the original Super Smash Bros.
As president of Nintendo proper in the early 2000s (the first in the corporation’s history to be selected from outside its founding family’s bloodline), Iwata oversaw a realignment of the company’s approach and priorities while facing disappointing sales of the Gamecube and increased competition from Sony and Microsoft. Under Iwata’s leadership (and his decision to elevate Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto to a higher position in the company’s hardware decision making), Nintendo undertook a risky refocusing on innovation and reaching new audiences over hardware power. This resulted in the production and release of the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii consoles: two of the most successful and game-changing pieces of hardware in the history of the games industry. He also took the bold step of breaking with Japanese corporate tradition in presenting himself frequently and openly to the public in live shows and Nintendo Direct videos – clips that stressed a playful sense of humor and an approachable public persona.
The sense of community and heartfelt closeness Iwata had engendered in his colleagues vis-a-vi himself and his company was evident as Schappert took the stage to introduce the award; sharing personal anecdotes of working in the business as a “Nintendo fanboy” himself (even sharing a photo of his family’s Mario-themed Christmas Tree) and his own admiration for Iwata’s hands-on approach and continued programming work even when serving as CEO. A moving memorial video-package followed, featuring clips of Iwata’s public speeches and Direct appearances, followed by Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime coming to the podium to accept the award on his late colleague’s behalf and share several emotional memories of his own.
The awards was the emotional high-point of the 2016 DICE ceremony, where Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker – one of the last major titles to go into development at the company during Iwata’s time – picked up an award for Best Family Game.
Source: Nintendo Everything