in Gaming

The Video Game Industry Loses a Father Figure – Goodbye Satoru Iwata

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

Last weekend we had a serious blow in the gaming world with the death of Satoru Iwata. Having grown-up with a NES or also known as the “Family Computer” at home has exposed me to the life of gaming at a very young age. Maybe that is the reason why I’m still very much active when it comes to playing computer games at my age.

The death of Satoru Iwata is the same as losing Steve Jobs’ in 2011, both are iconic in their respective fields and have led their companies with outstanding success through their leadership. I guess great leaders won’t are hard to find beyond the reach of 60.


I researched a bit of Iwata’s life and surprisingly he already started his passion with video games and computers at an early age.  According to him, his passion with codes began in high school when he learned how to program a baseball game running on a calculator.

Passion with codes

“I don’t think anyone can say it had bad graphics because it had no graphics, But when I saw my friends playing that game and having fun, it made me feel proud. To me, this was a source of energy and passion… I think my life course was set.”, Iwata said.Iwata took his computer science degree at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and work for HAL Laboratory becoming the fifth full-time employee in 1983. (Talk about start-up companies at that time)

Early Roots

At HAL, he created Balloon Fight, a simple arcade game that lets players fly balloons way back in 1986. Other notable game he has created were EarthBound and my favorite Kirby.


Balloon Fight, Iwata’s early game

It wasn’t long before Iwata got his first stint on becoming HAL’s president in 1993. While the company was making success with their games, it wasn’t too long that HAL was in financial jeopardy. Under Iwata’s leadership, HAL was able make a comeback and become profitable again.

While at HAL Laboratory, Iwata also help develop new games like Super Smash Bros and porting Pokemon. He joined Nintendo in 2000 with the task of heading Nintendo’s Corporate Planning Division.

From then on, he became president in 2002 and has led Nintendo to a wide array of success with their new products the Nintendo DS, WII and appearing in some of their games with a cameo role.

Leadership despite Cancer

However, in January of 2014, Nintendo profits fall, and Iwata announced that he will cut his salary in half. His health begins to dwindle as he skips E3 the same year.

Another thing that I forgot to mention, Iwata taught himself how to code and turned his passion not just any corporate greed that you can find in other companies but making a vision of his game to be fun for everyone. Not only that, Nintendo games are designed to be family oriented. Not limited to a specific age bracket but rather something universal.

Nintendo might not have games with high-end graphics, they do create games not to impress but to connect gamers and non-gamers alike.

Satoru Iwata is a true bold leader with the passion of success.  His life story alone can spark inspiration in us. He was not only a talented programmer, but a gamer by heart.