Satoru Iwata and his legacy: What it means to me

The last few months have been dramatic for gamers, especially Nintendo fans. We had E3 and all it’s announcements, the success of Splatoon, and the drama surrounding Devil’s Third. Suddenly, all that was cut short by the tragic and untimely passing of Satoru Iwata. I want to have an open exploration of my [quite likely] imperfect thoughts on everything that’s happened over the last several weeks, especially Mr. Iwata.

I, by and large, am a fan of Satoru Iwata’s ethos and actions as President of Nintendo. He was a generous man who put a face on the company and revamped its image for the better. Most importantly, he successfully navigated Nintendo through an industry in a state of flux, finding the right balance of innovation and tradition to put Nintendo in a healthier, and more artistically rewarding, position than much of the industry.

Satoru Iwata had an interesting perspective, as he once used to create games himself
Satoru Iwata had an interesting perspective, since he used to create games himself

He brought us two of the best Nintendo handhelds in DS and 3DS, and two of it’s most underrated systems in Wii and Wii U. Under his tenure, Nintendo delivered more first and second-party support than ever before. The DS has the best game library of all time, the 3DS has the best library of the current generation, and Wii brought us a 2D Mario title, two 3D Mario titles, two Zelda titles, three Metroid titles, a Fire Emblem title, the revival of series like Punch Out and Sin and Punishment, and of course stalwart evergreen titles like Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Wii U has the best console library for adventurous gamers, what with titles like The Wonderful 101 and upcoming Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem crossover. Things weren’t perfect – nothing is – but Mr. Iwata’s persistent humility and ability to acknowledge Nintendo’s limitations made the occasional shortcoming easier to bear, so long as we had the empathy to “please understand.”

Mr. Iwata’s passing throws community drama into a different light. Suddenly, instead of bemoaning the lack of Metroid on Wii U, I’m seeing a holiday season filled with solid games that many are excited for. After E3, some fans felt Nintendo wasn’t supporting Wii U any better than EA; now, it’s hard not to see just a steady stream of Wii U games ready to launch in the upcoming months.

Nintendo has a diverse bundle of games set for upcoming release, and a track record of greatness on all their systems. Now it’s clearer than ever: under Mr. Iwata, this tradition continued without on-disc DLC and 50 gb patches.

Many of us have been pensive in the wake of Mr. Iwata’s passing. We looked back at our relationship with him, looking over what he brought, what he intended, what his presence meant, and how we reacted. It’s understandable to feel a bittersweet positivity reflecting on the passing of a man who brought us so much joy. It isn’t “capitalizing” on his passing, nor is it “glamorizing” his failure. It’s love, and it’s fine if this positivity is born of introspection after tragedy. Earnest expression, visible so rarely in the Internet age, is a beautiful thing.

I know it’s easy to get caught up in drama, to focus on the things you want and the things that aren’t there, instead of the things you have and the things you enjoy. Mr. Iwata devoted his career to combating this cynicism, looking to make people happy. When we look back on his career, his life, and the impact he left on the industry (and us), and as we wait for new announcements and games to discuss with our friends, this is what we should remember: He believed games should be fun for everyone, and he was right.

“Above all, video games are meant to just be one thing: Fun for everyone.”