Friends, family, and fans are certainly still reeling from the recent passing of Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata. The world lost not only a legendary figure from the industry this month, but also a great man, and we are all poorer for it. As many would attest, the executive was highly regarded for his humor, compassion, work ethic, and complete dedication to video games, which has deeply impacted gaming’s overall trajectory.
Frankly, Iwata-san’s influence has been so pivotal that his death drove thousands to attend his funeral a while back. Not to mention, the Nintendo President’s passing has led to scores of emotional and heartfelt tributes and memorials that persist to this day. In fact, Masahiro Sakurai—game designer and creator of Super Smash Bros.—recently wrote about his feelings regarding Iwata, paying tribute to the man in his Weekly Famitsu column. Interestingly enough, the Super Smash Bros. mastermind had been interviewed by Iwata when applying for a job at his prior workplace at HAL Laboratory Inc, which was the development base for classic Nintendo properties such as Kirby’s Dream Land and EarthBound.
In his article, Sakurai deftly illustrated Iwata’s honor, integrity, and humanity, saying:
“He was a man of virtue. Where a normal person would get annoyed or angry, he would never show such emotions and would instead analyze, organize, and offer ideas. He was someone who could bow his head and apologize for things that weren’t his fault. I often worried about his stress levels, but he always talked with a smile.
“He had a brilliant mind. Even when people would talk at length or without focus he was able to quickly say, “so, what you’re trying to say is…” and quickly summarize their point. He was able to see to the heart of people and things and was a master of simplifying them so that anyone could understand their point. He could immediately make a call on changes to improve. I have no doubt that many people were saved by this quality.
“He was a man of effort. Even though he didn’t start out in the managing field, he read numerous management books, he would ask for advice from the necessary people that he would take to heart, and managed to become the president of Nintendo. What he gained from his years as a programmer allowed him to take many long-term projects to successful fruition.
“He was open and generous. Things like his Iwata Asks, and Nintendo Direct weren’t things that necessarily required the president of Nintendo to stand at the front and do. There was always the risk of frivolous criticism. And yet, by being the spokesperson, I believe he showed the importance of properly conveying a message to his audience.
“He was empathetic. After he became the president of Nintendo, he would write emails to all employees to communicate and as hard as it was, took a stance to try to treat everyone as equals. He would often ask third parties to see how people were doing. As an individual, he had no self-righteous qualities.”
With such an earnestly penned dedication to Iwata, it’s obvious that Sakurai holds a deep respect for the man. As it happens, the mutual esteem they shared with one another buoyed and encouraged the Smash Bros. creator’s successive work after he left Nintendo. Sadly, when discussing his last memories of Iwata, Sakurai says, “It was this past January. I had dinner with Mr. Iwata at a Tokyo hotel and then drove him to Narita International Airport for a business trip to Seattle. He was still very healthy after his surgery and happily said, ‘I’ve recovered enough that I can eat this much meat!’ During the drive, we talked and laughed about many things.”
While it’s perpetually heartbreaking for such situations to transpire, it’s always important that we remember to cherish the memories of those we love. And although Sakurai is unsure of what Nintendo’s future holds, after his promise to deliver more fan service characters for Super Smash Bros., perhaps the designer will allow Iwata’s spirit to live on as an official playable character in Nintendo’s all-star brawl fest.
Super Smash Bros. is available for the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U.