Satoru Iwata: A Retrospective


It’s been a bit of time since the unfortunate passing of Nintendo President , a man who understood the pure joy and element of play. But rather than mourn for the loss, we wanted to take a quick moment to look back at the wonderful things he did for the company.

A long time lead programmer for Nintendo’s HAL Laboratory, Satoru Iwata helped bring to life such games as Balloon Fight, Shigesato Itoi’s Earthbound, Super Smash Bros., and various Kirby games throughout HAL’s early years. He even assisted Game Freak, at the time a very young development team, accomplish the astounding feat of programming and compressing the entire Kanto region into Pokémon Gold/Silver when no one thought it were possible.

In 2002, Iwata became the Global President & CEO of Nintendo, succeeding Hiroshi Yamauchi. In this new position, Iwata was able to usher in the Nintendo DS in 2004, arguably one of the best-selling handheld systems ever released. He also inducted the Nintendo Wii in 2006, which became a contender for one of the top-selling consoles of all time.

The company faced a bit of financial hard times after the release of the 3DS and Wii U in 2011 and 2012, respectively. However, instead of laying off employees to make up for the money lost from the systems’ lukewarm launches, Iwata cut the salaries of himself and other fellow high-ranking executives in half in order to make sure his employees still had jobs at the company. It’s a move unheard of for most corporations, but none too surprising for someone who cared deeply for his employees.

Iwata was definitely the type to find ways to interact directly with developers and fans, from the series of “Iwata Asks” interviews that gives friendly in-depth looks into the development of upcoming games, to the introduction of the “Nintendo Direct” series which brought regular updates and announcements of Nintendo products.

Iwata passed on July 11, 2015 from complications with a tumor in his bile duct, but he still had big projects set in motion after his passing. Earlier this year, he partnered with mobile company DeNA to push upcoming content to mobile devices, and already set a footprint for Nintendo’s next system codenamed “NX”, which we will hear more details of early in 2016. Representative Director Genyo Takeda and Game Designer Shigeru Miyamoto will be temporarily taking over the company as interim presidents until the company elects a proper president.

Satoru Iwata was a man praised for the fact that his experiences in the company lead him to understand all sides of Nintendo: the business to keep the company viable, the designers who create such amazing gameplay experiences, and the gamers who play through them first hand. A unique individual like him is always hard to come by, and we of the Lunchbox will never forget him.


December 6, 1959 – July 11, 2015

Alex D is a contributing Editor for Teh Lunchbox Publications. Follow him on twitter @tehlunchboxpub