A memorial compilation of writings from, and about, the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, will be published in English this spring.
Titled Ask Iwata, the book contains excerpts from his popular series of public-facing “Iwata Asks” roundtables with Nintendo developers, as well as recollections from Nintendo luminaries who knew him best. The book was published in Japan in 2019 as Iwata-San, by Hobonichi, a company founded by Shigesato Itoi, the creator of Earthbound. Iwata was Itoi’s colleague at HAL Laboratory, the studio behind the Kirby franchise, in the 1990s, and was also a producer on Earthbound.
“On the day of Iwata’s funeral, it rained in torrents, and [Shigeru] Miyamoto and I were waiting around,” Itoi writes in the book (translations of its excerpts were published in July 2019 by IGN). Iwata died July 12, 2015, at age 55, of complications from cancer. “Suddenly I decided to ask him how much chance Iwata himself had believed he had to be cured.
“Miyamoto responded immediately, in a very natural manner,” Itoi continues, “‘He totally believed that he would become better. He didn’t have the slightest intention to die.’ That answer made me realize just how close Miyamoto and Iwata were, and to what extent they understood each other.”
Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Nintendo’s Mario and Zelda franchises, among many other games, was named to Nintendo’s board of directors by Iwata shortly after Iwata took Nintendo’s helm in 2002. Iwata had come up through the company’s development ranks, which helped form the close relationship he had with the company’s most famous designer.
That background in games production and design also helped Iwata lead the candid roundtables with Nintendo developers, in which they discussed current products and franchises and revealed secrets behind their creation.
“Since he passed away, Nintendo has been doing just fine,” Miyamoto writes in Ask Iwata. “He left many words and structures that live on in the work of our younger employees today. The only problem is that, if there is some good-for-nothing idea I come up with over the weekend, I have no one to share it with the next Monday. That I can no longer hear him say, ‘Oh, about that thing …’ is a bit of a problem for me. It makes me sad.”
Iwata was also popular with Nintendo’s multitude of fans and customers, well known for his campy, cheerful appearances in the company’s Nintendo Direct marketing videos. Often seen waving to the camera, Itoi writes that the gesture had some deeper meaning with Iwata.
“Iwata said that the vision behind his business was to make everyone happy: himself, his friends at work, and his customers,” Itoi writes. “He used the English word for ‘happy’ instead of the Japanese word, which charmed me. It’s funny how you remember the most insignificant things, but whenever Iwata used the word ‘happy,’ he would show you the palms of both of his hands. That’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
Ask Iwata will publish on April 13. It’s currently available in hardcover on Amazon for $22.99.