Four Ways Nintendo’s Iwata Changed the World of Gaming

Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, has died. He was 55. Iwata ran the Japanese gamemaker for 13 years. Not everything during his tenure was a success—the Wii U has struggled to find growth. But Iwata leaves his mark in the world of video games in a very big way. Here are four of his biggest hits that have made a lasting impact.

Nintendo DS (2004)

Shoppers are seen on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, at the Toys R Us in Times Square in Manhattan, NY. Photo by Jennifer S. Altman

Shoppers at the Toys "R" Us in Times Square in Manhattan, N.Y.

Photographer: Jennifer S. Altman

The DS took mobile gaming to a new level. It featured a touchscreen years before Apple’s iPhone. Its dual-screen format brought sharper graphics, and meant that a player could focus on a first-person angle on one screen and the whole field on the other. It upped the quality of game play, reaching closer to what you could get on consoles. Wireless connectivity allowed people to play together in groups while still using their own devices, making it more social. Nintendo has sold 154 million units so far.

Wii (2006)


Sony and Microsoft went after the hard-core gamers, but Nintendo found a way to unite the family with motion sensors that could have a group playing tennis, enjoying virtual bowling or throwing a Frisbee. Instead of using a button to steer a race car, players tilted their controller. This was a platform that called for action, with little of the violence other consoles featured. Parents suddenly had a video game system they wanted to play with their kids.  Not only a hit with consumers, it generated its own cottage industry of YouTube clips from people failing to properly attach the safety strap and ending up with a controller embedded in their television sets. It's the most successful game console ever, with more than 100 million units sold.

Nintendo 3DS (2011)

Photographer: ROBIN UTRECHT/AFP/Getty Images

It was the successor to the DS, Nintendo's top-selling handheld device, allowing players to now immerse themselves in a three-dimensional world without awkward glasses. With backward compatibility—enabling owners to run DS titles on the new device—players could invest in a new machine and not consign their library of software to the trash heap.

Amiibo (2014)


While analysts and investors pushed the company to enter smartphone gaming, Iwata went in a different direction with Amiibos. These cute little figurines interact with gaming hardware to personalize the experience and make games mobile. Just bring along your Amiibo characters, and you can play on any console you want. More than 10 million Amiibos have been sold since their debut last year, and it's managed to breathe some life back into the Wii U.


And the analysts should finally get their wish soon. Nintendo said in March that it’s working with DeNA to bring its characters to smartphone games. If they’re a hit, we have Iwata to thank for approving the plan.