Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata has passed away at the age of 55 following a battle with cancer.
Iwata’s influence in modern gaming is virtually unrivalled. Beginning life as a programmer at HAL Laboratory in 1980, Iwata was a key creative figure on titles such as Balloon Fight and the prolific Kirby series of platformers.
The Japanese studio later developed several of the record-breaking Pokémon games, a series whose combined worldwide sales of 215.36 million make it the best-selling RPG videogame series by considerable distance. HAL’s RPG contributions to the series included Pokémon Ranger.
Iwata joined Nintendo in 2000 and was a popular choice to succeed Hiroshi Yamauchi as the face of Nintendo in 2002. Revered for his passion and boundless creativity, Iwata’s tenure would oversee some of the most important developments in recent gaming history.
The Wii console, launched in November 2006, used motion sensors and Wii-remote controllers, and revolutionised the way people played games. It also broadened gaming’s demographic and popularised “fitness” gaming with such titles as Wii Fit and the balance board peripheral.
The Wii sold 101.17 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling seventh generation videogames console and reversing Nintendo’s then reported-ailing fortunes.
Wii Sports was the beacon for its runaway success. The motion-control, multi-sports was sold with consoles and instantly became the best-selling videogame of all time. The series (including its sequel Wii Sports Resort) picked up a combined 7 BAFTA gongs in categories such as Innovation, Best Game and Gameplay – the most BAFTA wins for a sports videogame series.
The critical acclaim poured in for many of these new consoles’ other key titles Mario’s 3D space adventure Super Mario Galaxy (2007) – perceived by many to be one of Mario’s finest outings - is the most critically acclaimed platform game on any system, with an aggregated reviews score of 97.64% according to Gamerankings.
Iwata’s brief for technical innovation was felt in the handheld market, too. The Nintendo DS had a giant legacy to live up to when it succeeded the GBA in November 2004, but the console with its unique split-screen and stylus pen control soon became the best-selling handheld console of all time with sales of 154.88 million.
The DS is second only to the PlayStation 2 (157.68 million sales) as the best-selling videogames console of all time. Its follow-up, the 3DS (February 2011), was the first handheld console to support glasses-free 3D gameplay and was also a commercial success.
Other notable records for Nintendo and HAL during Iwata’s reign include the first console videogame to transfer data from a handheld in Pokémon Stadium (1999), most mini-games in a videogame for WarioWare: Twisted! (2004), best-selling simulation videogame for Nintendogs (2005), and most trophies in a videogame for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (2014).
Iwata is survived by his wife, Kayoko. Inevitably the tributes have been flooding in from every corner of the games industry who have both mourned his loss while also being quick to celebrate his phenomenal contributions to the games industry.