Video game industry left without its standard-bearer

Video game industry left without its standard-bearer

TOKYO - After taking the reins handed to him by Nintendo's legendary President Hiroshi Yamauchi in 2002, Satoru Iwata steered the company to a wider spectrum of gamers thanks to the Nintendo DS and the Wii.

But the death of Iwata on Saturday has left in a quandary an industry trying to figure out new business models that will fuse video games with smartphones.

If Yamauchi, Namco founder Masaya Nakamura and Sega's Hayao Nakayama are considered to be part of the first generation of pioneers of home game systems, then Iwata was member of the second generation. He is joined by such individuals as former Sony Executive Deputy President Ken Kutaragi, former Square Enix President Yoichi Wada, and Marvelous Chairman and President Haruki Nakayama.

The first generation brought the gaming experience previously available only in downtown arcades right into the comforts of home. The second generation took it upon itself to further grow and develop the market. Iwata was the standard-bearer, the tireless promoter who attracted new gamers with his mild-mannered speaking style. He and his Nintendo brand conquered the world with the highly successful DS and Wii systems.

In 2007, Nintendo's market capitalisation broke the 10 trillion yen (now $81 billion) mark, putting the then-40-year-old Iwata among the ranks of famous business chiefs. But soon afterward, Nintendo and other Japanese game hardware manufacturers were faced with a whole new set of challenges. One came in the form of encroachment by overseas competitors who grew up on "Super Mario," "Final Fantasy" and other games created by the first generation.

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