At the time I write this, it’s been a week since we got the news of Satoru Iwata’s passing. Since then I’ve witnessed—just as YouTuber Razorfist predicted in his video Godspeed Satoru Iwata—people who just days before Satoru’s death openly considered him the biggest buffoon in the gaming industry sing his praises.
This certainly took no special insight on Razorfist’s behalf to predict since death tends to make liars of us all. No one wants to criticize the dead, especially not the newly departed. It’s just unseemly because the dead can’t defend themselves and besides, no decent person wants to kick a man when he’s down. And you don’t get much more down than six feet under.
But as I’ve shown in previous articles here, I was not in the camp of Iwata’s critics for whom Nintendo’s demise is always just around the corner. My opinion of Satoru Iwata is the same now as it was on July 11th when I had no idea he was even ill, and that is that he was both a great artist and a great businessman. And this wasn’t in spite of the reasons people criticized him, but because of those reasons.
Software Sells Hardware
As Iwata said, people buy game systems to play the games they love. As I said on Twitter recently:
Under Iwata, Nintendo didn’t fall into many of the same traps as Sony and Microsoft have over the past few years. While many a YouTuber or game journalist constantly derided Nintendo for not chasing after graphics and processing power, the company was far too concerned with making entertaining games and, as a result, actual money. If this were the comic book industry in the early 90’s, Nintendo would have been the one company still concerned with well-written and drawn stories over holofoil covers. And as a result, as the bubble of this industry deflates, Nintendo is one of the only companies still making at least a modest profit.
Crazy Like A Fox
I don’t even need to defend this man as an artist, because the list of legendary games he worked on is awe-inspiring. In fact, I thought of doing a look at the Kirby series as a tribute to him. I’ve been playing a lot of Kirby games this past week, including the first two Kirby’s Dreamland games, Kirby’s Adventure, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, and even a fan-made mod of Sonic the Hedgehog with Kirby as the playable character.
But what can I really say about the Kirby series that hasn’t been said a million other times? What can I say about any of his games that hasn’t already been said? They’re just that legendary.
But as a businessman, Iwata was considered a failure. Yet, when you put aside the fashionable Nintendo bashing, you see that under his aegis, the company did just fine and has weathered the storm of an industry in serious trouble. And he led with good humor and with honor. He even took two voluntary cuts in salary during some of Nintendo’s financial downturns in 2011 and 2013. One has to appreciate that kind of honor and sense of responsibility in an industry full of the likes of Randy Pitchford.
Whether you liked the kind of games Nintendo makes or not, the fact remains that under Iwata, Nintendo sold games. Not day-one DLC, not graphics, not pre-orders, not season passes, and most of all, not hype. They sold games, and more than that, they sold fun. You remember fun, right? Satoru Iwata never forgot it.
Read More: Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata Dead At 55