TIME Magazine: Why Nintendo president Satoru Iwata mattered…

TIME (by Matt Peckham):

Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata has died at only 55 years old after battling cancer for over a year. His unexpected passing marks the end of a wildly inventive and broadly celebrated 13-year stretch helming the iconic Kyoto video games company.

Iwata, born in Sapporo, Japan in 1959, was only the fourth person to lead Nintendo since its inception as a playing card company in 1889, and the first president unrelated to the founding Yamauchi family. His ascent to the topmost Nintendo position in 2002 was unusual as it followed a career in software engineering, making him one of the industry’s only corporate luminaries with substantial hands-on game creation experience.

In an exclusive interview with TIME this spring — Iwata’s last with a Western media outlet — he talked about how personally involved he remained in helping drive and evaluate the company’s hallmark unorthodox inventions. He called Nintendo “a company of Kyoto craftsman” and joking “this is where my background in technology is quite helpful, because it means that the engineers can’t trick me.

At Tokyo-based Nintendo affiliate HAL Laboratory during the 1980s and 90s, Iwata helped develop some of Nintendo’s most memorable games. That list includes Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, the opening salvo in a critically lauded and financially lucrative fighting series starring Nintendo characters like Mario and Donkey Kong that’s since sold in the tens of millions for the company. After he was promoted to president of HAL Laboratory in 1993, he continued to work personally on the company’s products, including several titles in Nintendo’s wildly popular Pokémon series.

Iwata’s move to Nintendo came in 2000, when he assumed management of the company’s corporate planning division. Just two years later, then-Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi, who had helmed the company since 1949, decided to retire, allowing Iwata to step in and steer Nintendo through its most inventive period yet.

It was under Iwata that Nintendo ushered in the Nintendo DS, a dual-screen gaming handheld that succeeded the popular Game Boy, eventually going on to challenge Sony for the title of “bestselling games platform of all time.” Nintendo’s wildly successful Wii, now arguably the most recognizable video game system in the industry’s history, arrived in 2006, another Iwata-led gamble that paid incredible dividends following the company’s lackluster GameCube, which launched in 2001. And while Iwata’s critics often accused the company of reacting too slowly to industry trends, Iwata wasn’t afraid to enact radical change: after years of financial downturns (exacerbated by the company’s poorly received Wii U game console), he unveiled plans this March to develop games for smartphones and tablets. The world will now remember Iwata as the Nintendo leader who tore down the wall between the company’s heavily guarded iconic IP and non-Nintendo platforms.

But it was Iwata’s playful, almost mischievous and refreshingly candid personal style that so endeared him to the company’s fans. In 2011, he helped launch a video series dubbed Nintendo Direct, personally emceeing the company’s biggest surprises, often with quirky framing twists, like an effects-laden mock kung-fu brawl with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé for E3 2014. At Nintendo’s E3 2015 presentation last month, he appeared as a Muppet designed by The Jim Henson Company.

Iwata’s other significant public relations innovation was “Iwata Asks,” a remarkable series in which Iwata interviewed members of Nintendo’s many development teams, delving into the anecdotal history of some of the company’s best loved projects. It was a Nintendophile’s dream come true.

Above all, Iwata established and maintained a decorous tone often at odds with his competitors. In lieu of visually splashy, clamorous stage-led events at annual game shows, Iwata chose charmingly simple, almost dignified presentational vignettes. When fans responded negatively to a new Nintendo idea, Iwata’s reaction was often swift and direct: after an upcoming Nintendo DS game built on a hallowed Nintendo franchise was waved off by fans at E3 last month, Iwata tweeted his thanks to fans for their feedback and promised to meet their expectations.

Iwata’s health problems were first aired just before E3 in June 2014, when Iwata, who had been planning to attend the show (I was scheduled to meet with him), mysteriously backed out. At the time, Nintendo said Iwata’s doctors had warned him against travel, but didn’t say why. A few weeks later, the company disclosed Iwata was battling cancer, specifically a tumor in his bile duct. At that point he’d had surgery, and his prospects sounded hopeful because the doctors had apparently found the tumor early. When he resumed appearing in Nintendo Direct videos following E3, he was clearly thinner, but seemed otherwise unfazed. Though he again missed this year’s E3, he remained publicly active to the end, participating in Nintendo’s last shareholder meeting just a few weeks ago.

President of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata passes away at 55

Nintendo has officially announced the passing of Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, on July 11 due to a bile duct tumor. During his time at the video game corporation, Iwata brought to life the epic RPG Earthbound (known by Japanese gamers as Mother 2) and the early Kirby series. The Gamecube and Wii U can also be attributed to his vision, while also ushering in the success of the DS and 3DS, both of which remain popular with casual and hardcore gamers to this day. He was 55.


Japan’s 30 best-selling video games of all time


RocketNews 24:


The following is a list of the 30 most sold video games in Japan in the history of video games across all platforms.  Western Gamers may be surprised that violent shooters take a rather large backseat to RPG’s, mushroom stomping, and Pikachus in the minds of Japanese game consumers.


#30 Mario Kart Wii for Wii – 3.51M copies

This one of many Mario Kart games had few new features courtesy of the Wii and it’s motion controller with the steering wheel add-on.  Not only was it the biggest selling game of 2008. It also is the biggest selling racing game worldwide.

Picture: nintendo.co.jp

#29 Super Mario World for Super Famicom (SNES) – 3.55M copies

Released back in 1990 at the same time as the Super Famicom (SNES) console, it’s improved graphics and deeper six button control scheme led to Nintendo success among that generation’s consoles.  This game also marks the first appearance of Mario’s helpful dinosaur companion, Yoshi.

Picture: www.amazon.co.jp

#28 Wii Fit for Wii – 3.6M copies

This game helped propel Wii sales in 2007 by bringing the concept of healthiness into the world of gaming.  Practicing muscle and aerobic training as well as yoga and balancing using the Wii Board attracted non-gamers who were turned off by figuring out controllers.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp

#27 Tomodachi Collection for Nintendo DS – 3.63M copies

In its first week this game only sold 100,000 copies, but this figure snowballed to 3,000,000 in it’s first year.  This quirky game let’s you make avatars of people in your real life and has them interact with each other on a virtual island autonomously.  Your avatar also takes part in this social experiment with mini-games that change depending on the season.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp

#26 Final Fantasy VIII for Playstation – 3.64M copies

Although this game turned off a portion of its original fanbase, the pop style theme song, input from Hollywood, and junction system got the attention of non-gamers which helped the series grow bigger. It was the 3rd biggest selling Playstation game in Japan.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#25 Dragon Quest VIII for Playstation 2 – 3.7M copies

Released in 2004, this is the first game born of the marriage between Square and Enix. Dragon Quest’s characters which were long drawn by Dragonball artist Akira Toriyama recieved new life in the gameplay thanks to 3D cell shading graphics emerging at this time.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#24 Wii Sports for Wii – 3.77M copies

Released at the same time as the Wii in 2006 worldwide it eventually was called the most sold sports game in the world.  However, since western Wii’s were bundled with the game its place in the record book needs an asterisk.  In this game players can use the Wii remote to simulate playing tennis, bowling, baseball, golf, or boxing and potentially break the TV sets.

Picture :  nintendo.co.jp

#23 Dragon Quest III: And Thus Into The Legend… for Famicon (NES) – 3.8M copies

When this game was released in 1998 in Japan a wave of truancy swept the country as students cast aside the notebooks for a copy of Dragon Quest III.  The highly anticipated game lived up to the hype by introducing concepts like job classes and a secondary final boss fight that is almost considered standard these days.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#22 Super Mario Kart for Super Famicom – 3.82M copies

This first game of the Mario Kart series which was released way back in 1992 had its gameplay perfected from the starting line.  With racing skill challenge by the addition of wacky items, even skilled drivers could get thumped by their grandma with the right luck.  The overall effect of this was a fun party game with huge mass appeal.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#21 Super Mario Brothers 3 for Famicom (NES) – 3.84M copies

When it was released in 1988, Nintendo was boasting that they had created the greatest Nintendo game ever, and they were probably right.  In terms of graphics, controls, and depth of play (raccoon tails, tanooki suits, frog suits, etc) the standard of Famicom (NES) games was taken to its limit.  This was, however, only the second biggest selling Famicom game in Japan.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#20 Pokemon (HeartGold, SoulSilver) for Nintendo DS – 3.9M copies

These remakes of Pokemon Gold and Silver for the Gameboy Color added a lot of new features using the Nintendo DS’s touch screen and connectivity with other DS’s.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#19 Mario Kart DS for Nintendo DS – 3.92M copies

When released for the DS in 2005, Mario Kart’s tried and true formula was hardly touched aside from the addition of special achievements and the dual screen.  This is the only version of Mario Kart to outsell the original.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp

#18 Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day! (aka Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain?) for Nintendo DS – 3.95M copies

Also released in 2005, this game was a hit not only by making full use of the DS’s touch screen and voice recognition but also attracted a surge sales for non-gamers.  It became a go-to gift in Japan for the elderly because of its purported benefits to strengthening our brains.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp

#17 Final Fantasy VII for Playstation – 4M copies

This 1997 game was a smash not only in Japan but around the world.  Square left the Nintendo console for the then-new Playstation claiming that the Nintendo64′s cartridge style was too limiting for them.  The result was a mass exodus to the new game system establishing the Playstation as a major contender in the console wars – all thanks to FFVII.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#16 Dragon Quest VII: Warriors of Eden for Playstation – 4.14M copies

In 2000, the Playstation systems future was cemented in Japan thanks to the release of Dragon Quest VII which became the biggest selling PS game in Japan.  The release of this game triggered a shortage of Playstation systems across the country.  The game itself kept true to many of its original features but focused on an objective to gather stone boards.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#15 Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G (aka Monster Hunter Freedom Unite) for Playstation Portable – 4.16M copies

This edition of one of the most convoluted line of games ever features a cat that fights alongside you as well as newer more difficult missions.  Released in 2008, this game is an updated version of Monster Hunter 2nd which is a game based on Monster Hunter 2 for the PS2.

Picture : capcom.co.jp

#14 Super Mario Land for Gameboy – 4.19M copies

Released at the same time as the fledgling first version of the Gameboy in 1989, programmers had a hard time including key features of the original Super Mario Brothers into this tiny game.  As a result koopas were replaced with more memory-friendly enemies.  Despite its technical limitations it had achieved huge sales in Japan.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp

#13 Tetris for Gameboy – 4.24M copies

Although previously known in Russia, this game achieved worldwide fame with its release for the Gameboy in 1989. This game is another example of Nintendo’s remarkable bility to draw in non-gamers, but it also made use of the link cable that could connect Gameboy users adding a more social element to early video games.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#12 Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for Nintendo DS – 4.3M copies

This game cause Square to boast that systems who host a chapter in the Dragon Quest series will dominate in Japan.  And so it was in 2009 when the first MORPG Dragon Quest game was released.  This game also motivated many to carry their DS everywhere they went in hopes of walking into the vicinity of another player and automatically picking up items from them.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#11 New Super Mario Brothers Wii for Wii – 4.39M copies

An advanced version of the Nintendo DS game, New Super Mario Brothers Wii added 4 person play. It had ice flowers and propellers but kept true to the original Mario style of game that made the franchise so beloved in the first place.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp

#10 Monster Hunter Portable 3rd for Playstation Portable – 4.7M copies

Based on Monster Hunter 3, this PSP game released in 2010 had a distinctly more Asian feel to it.  This version of the game eliminated the water fights but included new monsters and weapons as well as a new material system.

Picture : capcom.co.jp

#9 Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day! (aka More Brain Training from Dr. Kawashima: How Old Is Your Brain?) for Nintendo DS – 5.1M copies

This 2005 sequel to the first brain training game features exercises similar to the previous installment but deepens them by combining math and Chinese characters and memory at the same time.  Counting all the Pokemon variations as one this is the 4th biggest selling DS game in Japan.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp

#8 Animal Crossing: Wild World for Nintendo DS – 5.25M copies

This game managed to stay on the top-selling charts from 2005 to 2007. In the game your character moves into a villiage inhabited with various animals where you go fishing, digging, and shopping.  It’s non linear and seemingly endlessly changing gameplay lets players go forever. Worldwide it sold 10 million copies.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp

#7 Pokemon (Ruby, Sapphire) for Gameboy Advance – 5.4M copies

Variations in the Pokemon series tend to focus on the monsters. However these games distinguished themselves with a unique storyline and the first use of color in a Pokemon game.  It was followed up with a version called Emerald.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp amazon.co.jp

#6 Pokemon (Black, White) for Nintendo DS – 5.45M copies

These games for the DS reached 1 million pre-orders faster than any other video game.  It uses the DS’s internal clock to change seasons every month leading to new opportunities to catch new pokemon.  The pokemon in this game also seem to have different ethnic vibes to them which gives the game a wider feeling.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#5 Pokemon (Diamond, Pearl) for Nintendo DS – 5.8M copies

The first Pokemon games for the DS in 2006 they let players manage their pokemon with the touch screen and wi-fi features for the first time. It was followed up by a version called platinum.

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#4 Pokemon (Gold, Silver) for Gameboy – 6.1M copies

These two games that HeartGold and SoulSilver added to were originally released in 1999.  Their story is based on the original red and green games.  They were followed by a version called crystal.

Picture : nintendo.co.jp amazon.co.jp

#3 New Super Mario Brothers for Nintendo DS – 6.3M copies

This Pokemon game featured pokemon that looked like Mario – I mean this was the first 2D Mario game to be released in nearly 14 years and kept all the fun of the original while adding lots of new features like the ability to become gigantic or microsized.  The gameplay is still accessible to young and old leading to sales similar to the  original which was…

Picture : amazon.co.jp

#2 Super Mario Brothers for Famicon (NES) – 6.8M copies

It’s 40,000,000 copies sold worldwide earned Super Mario Bros. a place in the Guiness Book of World Records.  It also started the unassuming Italian plumber’s career as Nintendo’s official mascot. Its novel yet simple 2D side-scrolling gameplay lent itself to anyone picking up the controller regardless of language or age.  Probably the most well known game in the world it had a rocky start as game programmers were still learning the ropes.  For example, a sharp eye would notice that the bushes and clouds were exactly the same sprite with different colors.  This game also launched the career of Shigeru Miyamoto, a legend of video game production.

Picture :amazon.co.jp

#1 Pokemon (Red, Green, Blue) for Gameboy – 7.8M copies

Selling only a modest 200,000 copies in its first week of release in 1996, Pokemon’s first versions rode a slow rise to fame ultimately equal to Nintendo’s goldenboy, Mario. In Pokemon Red, Green, and Blue you control a Pokemon trainer collecting the cute little monsters and raising them to be champion fighters.  Its gradual rise to fame was attributed to word of mouth advertising spurred by the ability to pit your Pokemon against those of friends.

Although most Pokemon experienced name changes when exported, the developers decided to keep Pikachu’s name intact.  This lead to the very Japanese sounding moniker becoming a household name across the globe.

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Japan’s 30 best-selling video games of all time


Two seasons of Pokemon anime and two movies hit Netflix March 1



Some Pokémon animation — two seasons of the television series and a couple of the movies — will be available to stream from Netflix starting this Saturday, March 1, Netflix and The Pokémon Co. International announced today.

The library of Pokémon content coming to Netflix includes the anime series’ first season, Indigo League, which originally aired from 1997-1999 in Japan and the U.S. Indigo League will be available to Netflix subscribers in Canada, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S. Netflix is also getting the 14th season, Black & White (image above), which debuted in Japan just after the September 2010 release of Pokémon Black/Pokémon White on Nintendo DS.

Season 14 will be available in all Netflix territories, along with two full-length Pokémon feature films: Pokémon the Movie: Black – Victini and Reshiram and Pokémon the Movie: White – Victini and Zekrom, both of which were initially released in July 2011.

Netflix’s Pokémon offering won’t be nearly as comprehensive as the Pokémon library on Hulu in the U.S., which features multiple seasons of the anime series and many of the films.

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Two seasons of Pokemon anime and two movies hit Netflix March 1