Satoru Iwata was a former president of Nintendo Company, Limited (NCL). He rose to his current position in May 2002 from a head seat in the Corporate Planning department. Though he is a suit in profession, he grew up playing and developing games.
Iwata was born in 1959 in the Hokkaido Prefecture of Japan. As early as high school he was an electronic game hobbyist, getting together with his friends and making games (Boktai had yet to be published). He majored in Computer Science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
He worked as a part-time programmer for HAL Laboratory in the early 1980s, becoming a full-time employee in 1982. Iwata became close to NCL as a result of HAL working with much of Nintendo's in-house development. In 1983 he was already a programming and development coordinator for many titles published by Nintendo.
While not the creator of the Kirby character or game concept, Iwata was instrumental in bringing it to life. The simplistic playing style of the game - made to be easy and enjoyable for players of any skill - was evidence of one of his strongest beliefs, that games shouldn't have to be overblown and bloated to be fun.
Around the same time Kirby's Dreamland was released, HAL Labs went through some financial troubles and its future was in jeopardy. Satoru Iwata became a true businessman when he was appointed president of the company, and over the next several years, returned it to profitability. Then-president of Nintendo Hiroshi Yamauchi observed this prowess and in 2000, put Iwata in a corporate planning position at NCL.
In 2002, amid the Gamecube's uncertain success and the industry-wide paradigm shift to bigger budgets and better graphics, Yamauchi, a man notorious for being stubborn but genius, the man who had transformed Nintendo into the industry giant and leader that it was, who had seen the very creation of Nintendo's first electronic products, handed the company over to Iwata, who he thought could serve it well with his game experience, his business experience, and his comparatively youthful energy.
This was arguably the spark of a revolution in Nintendo. At the urging of Yamauchi, and with Iwata at the helm, in the past few years Nintendo has made itself distinct from its current big-budget rivals Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo, Iwata says, is about fun, enjoyable games, not about powerful electricity-chugging superconsoles or putting a full-featured entertainment center below your television set. Iwata has spoken many times at recent conferences about the unfortunate lack of innovation in the industry today, stifled by dreams of dollar signs and corporate honchos who don't want to take risks.
Iwata's current corporate strategy is to defy this shroud over the industry, and return to innovating and taking risks. With titles to his credit including Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and with Nintendo DS out and the Wii coming in November/December, he's very determined to make Nintendo an industry leader once more.
On July 12, 2015, Nintendo had confirmed that Satoru Iwata, at the age of 55, has passed away on July 11, 2015 due to bile duct growth.