I was greeted by very shocking news this morning. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata is dead at age 55! I feel I have to comment on this because my blog’s first post is about the death of Nintendo’s former CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi. Yamauchi actually died in September 2013, so two Nintendo CEO’s have died in less than two years time! (Of course Yamauchi was 85 when he died, so it was not an untimely death like Iwata’s.)
Iwata’s career actually parallels Yamauchi’s in a lot of ways. Iwata came on as CEO in 2002. This was during the Gamecube’s console cycle which was Nintendo’s worst selling console at that point. So Yamauchi passed the torch to Iwata at the worst time possible. What were the next consoles to come out? The DS in 2005 and the Wii in 2006. The DS is the best selling console of all time! The Wii was also hugely successful being sold out for 3 Christmases in a row in the US! Iwata essentially returned Nintendo to its glory days!
However the glory days under Iwata were even more short lived than under Yamauchi. Yamauchi had 3 consoles that were hugely successful: NES, SNES, and Gameboy. After that Nintendo made huge flubs by releasing a 3D portable console (the Virtual Boy), and they lost the home console market to Sony’s PS1 by releasing the N64. Iwata had 2 hugely successful consoles: the DS and the Wii. After that Nintendo made huge flubs by releasing a portable 3D console (the 3DS), and they lost the home console market to Sony’s PS4 by releasing the Wii U. Isn’t it funny how history repeats?
Well I don’t want to trumpet Iwata’s failures too much, because the video game industry is one of the hardest industries to succeed in. The fact that he had two successful consoles means he is a grand champion of business. Under Iwata’s leadership Nintendo was declared the World’s Top Company by BusinessWeek in 2009 beating out even Apple under Steve Jobs leadership. Nintendo has just lost another legend. He will be missed! R.I.P. Satoru Iwata.