The Point - Understanding Iwata's legacyWith the tragic passing of Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, GameSpot's Danny O'Dwyer looks back at his remarkable life, and the lessons that gamers and developers should learn from it.
On my business card, I am a corporate citizen. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer. [APPLAUSE] Hello and welcome to The Point. Now, we promised you a new show last week and we had one planned, but Instead today, we're gonna take a moment to reflect on the life and work of Mr. Satoru Iwata who sadly passed away at the age of 55, late last week. [MUSIC] His name Satoru means. To understand, and this week I spent a lot of time watching over his many off camera appearances to try to get an understanding of the impact that he had on our industry and the lessons he leaves behind. And in doing so, I kept coming back to this building [MUSIC] In fact one particular day, almost exactly ten years ago. you see, this is the Moscone Center West, and it's here every year that the Game Developers Conference keynote speeches are held. And it was here in 2005 that Iwatasan first took to the stage. He would return here numerous times again in 2006. 2011 and 2013, but I want to focus on this day in particular, as it speaks to several aspects of a man who loved games. And who wanted as many people as possible to love them too. So join me today as we celebrate the life of Satoru Iwata, his influence on the game industry, and the many lessons he leaves us behind. Today, I'd like to speak to you from my heart about our job and about our industry. [UNKNOWN] was born in [UNKNOWN] on the northern Japanese island of [UNKNOWN]. His father was the mayor of the city, of the fourth largest in Japan As the story goes, he learned to make games on a programmable calculator. His first, a baseball simulator made solely of numbers, that he enjoyed watching his friends playing. After highschool, Iwata traveled to Tokyo to study computer science at the Institute of Technology, in a time long before video game development was considered a respectable career. [MUSIC] He complimented his education with hands on work, taking on an unpaid internship in Japan. Once he graduated, him and his friends moved into an apartment in the city's famous Akihabara district where they stayed up late making and playing video games. This was the foundation of Hal, a game studio named after the AI, 2001: A Space Odyssey. And a studio that works closely with Nintendo, creating games for the NES and beyond. And it's here that Iuata came into his own; he programmed his first NES game, "Balloon Fight". Saved the troublesome development of Earth Bound and produced the Kirby franchise. The studio is also known for creating the popular, "Smash Brothers" series. The wildly successful brawler has seen releases on every Nintendo console since But when Iwata originally pitched it, Nintendo weren't on board. I also remember the first version of Smash Brothers developed for Nintendo 64. The concept for the game, as you know, was to take the classic, friendly Nintendo front head characters, [MUSIC] And have them, as you say here in America, beat the heck out of each other. The concept did not sound hip or cool or revolutionary. And because of all this There are people both inside and outside Nintendo who did not strongly favor our idea. That attitude remains until the moment of truth, the moment when this goes beyond picking up the controller and actually playing the game. This is what happened, people smiled, then laughed, then began shouting to each other. That was the moment when everything for Smash Brothers changed, and I must tell you, This was also one of the proudest moments in my development career. It's the essence of Iwata's mentality making lateral decisions that most wouldn't. And allowing feedback from gamers to dictate whether it was a success or not. Like his calculator game, the proof was in the faces of those who played it. But Iwata had other plans too. To expand the reach of games, to sail the ship of games into scary uncharted waters. And he was about to become the captain of the biggest ship in Japan. Iwata's business acumen would see him rise through the ranks. Become the head of HAL in the mid 90s, when the studio was on the verge of bankruptcy. He saved it, stabilizing its accounts and ensuring the gains kept coming. HAL still makes games today. They just released Kirby and the Rainbow Curse on Wii U earlier this year. But throughout his time in the boardroom, he never stopped programming, helping Nintendo with the development of Pokemon Gold and Silver for the Gameboy Color, reportedly creating a compression tool, which allowed the game to be quite large. He also programmed Pokemon Stadium for the N64, by rewriting the code from red and green. And then at the crest of the century, right after the release of Super Smash Bros Iwata jumped ship to Nintendo. To head its corporate planning division. Here he would help the company recover from the disappointing selling GameCube. But it was a position he wouldn't hold for long, as in 2002 he was appointed the head of Nintendo. The first with no family ties to the Yamauchis, the founding family who operated Nintendo through three generations. And while Hiroshi Yamauchi would Still acts as his mentor from behind the scenes, Iwata's risk-taking gamer-centric approach to development became the backbone of a new Nintendo. This is where we catch up with his speech ten years ago on this stage, an Iwata buoyed by the critical and commercial response to the DS, a console that many said would be killed by the PSP as the gamecube was by the PS2 Speaks about what he believe is the future of video games. Do you have friends and family members who do not play video games? Well, why don't they? And I ask this. How often have you challenged yourself? To create a game that you might not play. I think these persons form an important challenge for all of us. We, work everyday to make what we describe as video game [MUSIC] We want to give players what they want. But at the same time, we are intent on finding out what else we can use to entertain. Our second goals is to show players something new [MUSIC] Something they may not even know they want. The Nintendo DS would go on to be the highest selling handheld of all time, and second highest selling console period, shipping 154 million units worldwide, beating out the Game Boy by over 30 million. He would do this by using the mind of a developer. Creating a system the programmers found easy to create on like [UNKNOWN] did with the Gameboy by using existing technology. Instead of trying to chase the next big thing. And by appealing to the heart of gamers, by ensuring beloved Nintendo franchises came to the console on [UNKNOWN] [MUSIC] But his greatest achievement was in sailing into those unknown seas. By supplementing Nintendo classics with games BrainAge and Nintendoc, which appealed to entirely new breeds of gamer, massive parts of society that had long been ignored by the video gaming world Specifically young girls, women, and adults. And by using new ways of interacting with the machine, losing complicated body configurations in favor of touch screens, which a decade later we now use every day. And it was in this very building at [UNKNOWN] that he spoke of an even bigger revolution, and it was only a couple months later in his adopted city of Tokyo that we first caught a glimpse of [INAUDIBLE]. We're used to C.E.O.s waxing lyrical about their plans, but there's no denying that the Wii was a revolution and the single most destructive console in the history of gaming. An entirely new way of interacting with a console. New ways of playing games. New genres. And, critically like the DS, with an approachable control method Most people know how to use a remote control. The Wii controller brought the barrier for entry of console gaming lower then it has ever been. This is the essence of his philosophy. New experiences, better experiences and experiences that everyone could enjoy. And even if you weren't a fan of the Wii or a fan of Nintendo, you cannot deny that evolution and revolution Is essential to gaming. That's why we can forgive the Wii U, because risk is essential regardless of the outcome. I want to believe that. I know somebody who loves games, who made games, whose life direction was defined by games, he pushed games forward. This is the CEO who talked directly to his customers, who defined success not by spread But by the smile of gamer's faces. A man who took his responsibility as one of gaming's leaders which such severity and pride that he continued to work at Nintendo right up until his tragically early death. Around the same time we posted this video on July 17th, Mr. Iwata's body will be laid to rest Mary Anne Evans said, our dead are not dead until we have forgotten them so in many ways, Satoru Iwata will always be with us as long as we remember the lessons that he left us. That gamers understand that race gets to be celebrated and that developers understand that success isn't measured on spread sheets. On the faces of those who play their games. Thank you Satoru Iwata, and may you rest in peace. Even if we come from different sides of the world, speak different languages, even if we eat too many chips or [UNKNOWN], even if, We have different tastes in game. Everyone over here today is identical in the most important way. Each one of us has The heart of the gamer. Thank you very much for your attention. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO]