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The gaming world is mourning the loss of one of its biggest stars

Satoru Iwata, who died of cancer at the age of 55, oversaw two of Nintendo’s most successful consoles, the Wii and DS.

Satoru Iwata, left, accompanied by  Shigeru Miyamoto.
Satoru Iwata, left, accompanied by Shigeru Miyamoto.
Image: Koji Sasahara/Associated Press

TRIBUTES ARE BEING paid to the president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, after he died from cancer.

A statement from Nintendo’s said the cause was a bile duct growth, a rare type of cancer, and that he passed away on 11 July 2015. He was 55.

An instrumental figure within the gaming industry, many gamers, developers, and rivals have paid tribute to his work both with Nintendo and for broadening the appeal of gaming as a whole.

Originally a games developer, Iwata joined Nintendo in 2000 as a director and was the first person outside of the Yamauchi family, which founded the company back in 1889, to become the company’s president in 2002.

Before that, he worked with HAL Laboratory, a games developer which worked with Nintendo. Iwata worked on some of the company’s biggest titles including the first installment of Kirby, a round pink character which sucks up enemies and copies their abilities, as well as Earthbound, one of the more popular games from the RPG series Mother.

He also helped with the development of Pokémon Gold and Silver, despite not being with Nintendo at the time, before it was released for the Game Boy Colour in November 1999 (the games didn’t arrive in Europe until early 2001).

When he was president of Nintendo, he oversaw the release of the Wii and its handheld console, the Nintendo DS, resulting in one of the company’s most profitable periods and giving it an advantage over its biggest rivals, Sony and Microsoft.

Both consoles were marketed towards people who wouldn’t define themselves as gamers. The Wii used a motion sensor remote, the Wiimote, to recognise basic movement and helped make it more accessible to those who wouldn’t traditionally play console games.

The same principle applied to the DS which featured a dual-screen display and stylus input for playing games like Nintendogs and Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training.

The DS became the best-selling handheld console to date, selling 154 million units, and the Wii success made it number one in the console market, selling 101 million units worldwide.

One of the Wii’s launch titles, Wii Sports, is the second best-selling videogame of all time, behind Tetris, having sold more than 82 million copies.

Computer game stock The Nintendo DS was one of the best-selling handheld consoles ever released. Source: Katie Collins/PA Archive

Iwata also oversaw the introduction of amiibo, a collection of figurines that interact with the Wii U via NFC and allow users to personalise certain games. More than 10 million figurines have been sold since they launched in late 2014, giving the company a much-needed boost.

He then became CEO in 2013 and while it did make its first annual operating profit in four years recently, thanks to the release of titles like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros., Nintendo has been struggling to recreate the Wii’s success with the Wii U. Because of this, Iwata slashed his salary for several months last year to atone for the company’s current struggles.

Recently, he announced Nintendo’s decision to move into smartphone gaming as well as work on a new console codenamed NX. Little was revealed about the new console except it having a “brand new concept”.

Games-Nintendo-Amiibo Some of the first amiibos released. Iwawa was involved in the creation of Kirby (far right) which has become one of Nintendo's flagship characters. Source: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Yet despite the challenges, Iwata was always committed to creating quality games and ensuring that everyone was catered to.

In an interview posted on ‘Iwata Asks’, he talked about the challenges involved with improving the position of video games in society, and how he wanted to cater to both gaming and non-gaming audiences.

It’s true that Nintendo is reaching out to non-gamers, but this does not mean that we are ignoring game fans. I believe that if we don’t make moves to get people who don’t play games to understand them, then the position of video games in society will never improve.
Society’s image of games will remain largely negative, including that stuff about playing games all the time badly damaging you or rotting your brain or whatever. If that happens, then even people who enjoy games will start to feel a strange guilt when they play them. If people who haven’t played games up til now start playing them, and appreciate how enjoyable they are, it is highly likely this situation will change. Society will be more accommodating towards people who play games, and it will become even easier to produce more conventional games.

Part of what made Iwata so popular with fans was his easygoing and playful nature, a direct contrast to the more serious tone established by rivals.

Even when Nintendo’s rivals focused more on grittier and realistic games, he championed the company’s family-friendly nature and never lost sight of its main aim.

“Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone.”

Iwata Source: Nintendo/YouTube

Read: Happy birthday Nintendo! The gaming giant is 125 years old today >

Read: This is the Nintendo PlayStation that never saw the light of day >

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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