What we learn from 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.”

Video games are meant to be one thing: fun. Satoru Iwata is an icon in the gaming industry – best known for his role at the helm of Nintendo as president and CEO, Iwata pioneered many concepts in gaming that still stand up to this day. With Iwata at the helm, Nintendo flourished as the oldest and one of the biggest gaming behemoths in the industry with games like Super Mario and Legend of Zelda.

Today, let’s look at what we can learn from the inspiring life of Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata.

Gameplay over graphics

Nintendo is infamous for being always a generation behind the competition in terms of technology. When the modern home consoles brag about their processing power and graphics quality, Nintendo simply ignores and sticks to what it knows best: making fun games.

This attitude toward technology was intentional. Satoru Iwata himself often emphasizes that games should always prioritize being fun than being simply pretty to look at. It was always the case in every generation from the SNES up to today’s Switch. With games like Pokemon, Fire Emblem, Super Mario, and The Legend of Zelda becoming giant exclusives, Nintendo shows that you don’t need the best graphics to stay at the top.


Nintendo was known for not shying away from gimmicks: the dual screen DS, the Wii’s motion control, and the Switch’s hybrid nature are all products made with innovation in mind. Iwata’s creativity helped spearhead a lot of Nintendo’s design choices. Although not all of them managed to succeed, Nintendo was still hailed as one the pioneer of many game and console design choices. A huge chunk of every genre gaming came from Nintendo’s beloved consoles: the transition of platforming and adventuring to 3D with Ocarina of Time and Mario 64, the very first concept of world building with the first Legend of Zelda, and even JRPG brands like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest started from Nintendo.

Heck, they singlehandedly saved the whole industry during the video game crash of 80s. When everyone else thought that gaming was going to die, Nintendo held on and pushed for greatness: releasing titles like Super Mario Bros., Kirby, and Donkey Kong and holding on to the momentum until the golden age of 90s gaming with Pokemon and Final Fantasy.

Innovation is what’s keeping alive and will continue to do so as we enter more generations of gaming.

Be a kid

Satoru Iwata prioritizes innovation and fun. These are two key traits of a classic game… it’s also something that can be found in every kid. One of the key aspects of Nintendo is on how most of their titles appeal to a younger audience. In Pokemon, you are tossed in the shoes of a young boy on his way to catch all Pokemon and become the world champion. In Earthbound, you are a young child with ESP tasked with saving the world. Many of Nintendo’s games are a far contrast to today’s Call of Duty and Modern Warfare, often choosing to be cute and cuddly than dark and gritty.

And you know what, this makes their games that much more immersive.

Nintendo sparks imagination across all ages by capitalizing on the innate childish nature of playing video games. One of their latest title, Splatoon, revolves around splatting paint across the arena – similar to how kids play with paint. Just look at ARMS which stars robots with, you’ve guessed it, different arms with different powers.

Nintendo is not afraid to be called childish, in fact, it embraces it. It dances around the idea that being childish can be fun for everyone.

Even after his death, Satoru Iwata’s influence in the whole industry can still be felt and will probably survive the test of time. He was a brilliant man with brilliant ideas – a brilliant example to every game developer young and old.



“Satoru Iwata: Remembering Nintendo’s Smiling President and His Lesser-Known Triumphs”, Comicbook/com, July 2017