The entire games industry was in mourning in July of last year when it was announced that then President and CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata had passed away after complications due to a tumor at the age of 55. Several messages on social media were posted honouring his memory, often using iconic characters he had helped create, like Kirby. There was even one image showing a rainbow over Nintendo headquarters that was dubbed ‘the Rainbow Road to heaven’, referencing the Mario Kart stage.
Iwata was momentously influential within the industry - not least because when Nintendo started the Nintendo Directs presentations, he was often the leading man, speaking directly to Nintendo fans. During the Game Developer’s Choice Award ceremony, while there were pats on the back and congratulations in order for development teams who picked up prizes for their work, the organizers also decided to share their own, touching tribute to the late Satoru Iwata.
The animated video is emotional to say the least. It was made by Raber Umphenour, Shawn Benson and Braid artist David Hellman, plus Chris Kohler. In it, they manage to portray the intelligent and innovative mind of Iwata-san. He is seen putting many of his industry changing ideas into physical bubbles, such as the Nintendo DS, and also interacts with fellow Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto. There’s a point that represents his eureka moment, pointing a TV remote and sparking the idea of what would become the Wii’s instantly recognizable controller. The short animation then finishes with Iwata’s most quotable phrase: “In my heart, I am a gamer.”
Throughout his career, Iwata was known for unconventional ideas and his speech at GDC 2005 really expressed who he was as a person. His opening line was met with rapturous applause as he said: “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." He carried on his speech explaining he wanted to speak passionately about his job and the industry he works in, noting that he was hooked on video games as soon as he played Pong. Last year, to honor Satoru Iwata, GDC posted the entire speech on YouTube for people to watch.
Iwata started his career as programmer, originally at HAL Laboratory, becoming only their fifth employee soon after he graduated from university. While at HAL he developed a working relationship with Nintendo, making Balloon Fight, NES Open Tournament Golf, Earthbound and the Kirby games for the company's consoles. Even before he officially become a part of Nintendo, Iwata assisted with development of Pokémon Gold and Silver. He then went on to be a crucial part in the Pokémon series making it over to western markets, and aided in the development of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64. It was in 2000 that Iwata officially joined Nintendo. He became President after just two years there, and his reign is often credited with helping the company discover new marketplaces rather than competing head-on with competitors.
Tributes like this prove that Satoru Iwata’s work, legacy and what he stood for as a gamer, will never be forgotten.