Nintendo will likely never see another president like Satoru Iwata. The man wasn’t just unique for Nintendo, but the game industry in general, and the business world as well. Iwata had a mind that didn’t work like other corporate bigwigs, as he always kept the heart of a game developer when coming up what should come next to wow the consumer.

That spirit was very much on display when Nintendo was moving into the Wii and DS era. This was a major shift for Nintendo, as they were heading in two directions that were wildly different for the game industry. Nintendo was no stranger to doing things their own way, but the Wii and DS were different on a whole new level.

The DS is the device that kicked Nintendo’s incredibly popular and profitable era off, but it didn’t come without its trepidation. Plenty in the game industry and gaming press were unsure of the device, but Iwata himself saw the platform as not just a unique path forward, but a must for the industry itself.

Stephen Totilo recently unearthed an interview he did with Iwata all the way back in 2004, prior to the launch of the Nintendo DS. In part of that interview, Iwata opens up on why he thinks the Nintendo DS was the only direction for Nintendo to take, as it solved numerous problems for Nintendo specifically and the game industry at large.

Graphics have become more and more gorgeous each year, and games have become more sophisticated or sometimes very complicated.

But, until now, we have come to understand that we are reaching limits in this direction. When Nintendo leads and has been a world-leading entertainment company, and when it comes to entertainment, I think we know the best.

We have some final destiny in entertainment, and that is [that] whatever gorgeous or wonderful thing we may be able to come up with, in the future, people are going to get tired of it.

In that kind of way, the industry has been able to build up its success by making the games more gorgeous and more complicated by now, but unfortunately I just cannot predict it can keep on going with that direction for a very long time from now.

Nintendo believes that we definitely need a paradigm shift in this industry. For example, when it comes to how to manipulate the industry standard plus key switch, the A-button and B-buttons, there is a great gap between the so-called regular players and the novice players by now. So what we are trying to offer now is: Wait a minute, we have a new system and so you are going to start from scratch without any handicap at all.

[Satoru Iwata]

We already knew that Iwata was wise beyond his years, but this interview snippet only further cements that. Iwata saw the writing on the wall back in 2004, knowing that beefing up graphics couldn’t be the only way to continue iterating on hardware as the years rolled on. He also envisioned the expanded audience that Nintendo has almost exclusively fostered, and continues to reach for with platforms like the Switch.

The Switch very much keeps the spirit of innovation and change alive within Nintendo, which means Iwata’s spirit is intact as well. In another part of his interview with Mr. Totilo, Iwata opens up on just how crucial that exploration of new ideas was to Nintendo’s survival.

Come to think about it, whatever future product Nintendo might make, it’s not the small changes we are going to be introducing. Everything Nintendo is going to create shall be very varied and revolutionary. If we cannot come up with that kind of great change, I’m afraid people are going to get tired of it pretty soon.

[Satoru Iwata]

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