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Forums - Sony Discussion - Mark Cerny is the Satoru Iwata of Sony

The more I think about it, the more I begin to realize that Mark Cerny, General Producer and System Architect of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, is kind-of Sony's equivalent to Nintendo's late Satoru Iwata. Think about it.

  • A guy who's been involved in gaming since the early days of his career
  • Help shaped iconic mascots
  • Involved with the company's console games since their inception, and continued to support them despite not actually working at said company
  • Company and its image were in shambles after the arrogance of its shrewd leader puts them behind the competition
  • Said leader steps back from the company, and lets the fresh outsider take the reigns on the next system
  • Outsider works to re-think the conventions of not only the company's gaming console, but a gaming console in general
  • His strong leadership and vision delivers a simple, easy to use product with wider appeal than its predecessor
  • Instead of making the most powerful gizmo on the planet, the focus is more on simple, efficient hardware that's easy to develop on, even if it isn't that high-tech.
  • The Console goes on to dominate most of the generation, selling 100+ million units worldwide
  • Console kept alive thanks to large library, several accessories and peripherals that widen its appeal

Cerny's rise and success at SIE is a very similar story to that of Iwata's for Nintendo.



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While you can make parallels in how they were/are dedicated to their brands and improved on the mistakes of past leaders, Satoru Iwata was more than a professional in the field of video games. He was also a very lovable, charismatic man who did the following rare things:

  • Took the blame for poor sales of the WiiU and also a massive pay cut, this while president of the company
  • Initiated interviews with 3rd party developers, building bridges with these people, these artists, with Iwata Asks, shedding this presidential aura (esp. in Japan) and humbled himself to talk directly to devs in friendly, casual meetings.
  • Was courageous enough to be fun and childlike in his Nintendo Directs (which he also initiated), doing things like holding up a Donkey Kong banana and other light-hearted fun jokes
  • He continued to work in complete dedication until the very end, his death
  • He initiated the Quality of Life program at Nintendo, a program intended to improve the health and lives of people through the medium of video games.


While I see the parallels, there are very few leaders like Satoru Iwata, and we were fortunate to have him. I would not compare Mark Cerny to Iwata, as effective as Cerny may be in his management of Sony. Iwata was something else, that we can compare few people to.



padib said:

While you can make parallels in how they were/are dedicated to their brands and improved on the mistakes of past leaders, Satoru Iwata was more than a professional in the field of video games. He was also a very lovable, charismatic man who did the following rare things:

  • Took the blame for poor sales of the WiiU and also a massive pay cut, this while president of the company
  • Initiated interviews with 3rd party developers, building bridges with these people, these artists, with Iwata Asks, shedding this presidential aura (esp. in Japan) and humbled himself to talk directly to devs in friendly, casual meetings.
  • Was courageous enough to be fun and childlike in his Nintendo Directs (which he also initiated), doing things like holding up a Donkey Kong banana and other light-hearted fun jokes
  • He continued to work in complete dedication until the very end, his death
  • He initiated the Quality of Life program at Nintendo, a program intended to improve the health and lives of people through the medium of video games.


While I see the parallels, there are very few leaders like Satoru Iwata, and we were fortunate to have him. I would not compare Mark Cerny to Iwata, as effective as Cerny may be in his management of Sony. Iwata was something else, that we can compare few people to.

While I do agree that Iwata was a special human being (and one that will live on in his work for a gaming eternity) there are a few things that I think are a bit rose-tinted in your points.

1. Iwata took the blame for the disaster of the WiiU because it was his fault. Sure, a pay cut was without a doubt unheard of before, but the WiiU was in many ways a product of his lack of vision, of where the industry was heading, and one that cost Nintendo the dedicated home console market.

2. He initiated interviews/discussions with developers out of pure necessity. ~8 years ago almost no major 3rd party publisher worked with Nintendo, so they tried to reach out in as many ways as possible. This is one of the aspects Sony managed to beat them,m even during their struggles in the 7th generation. It was a nice way, how he handled it, but in all honestly turned out to be a bit pointless.

3. The Quality of Life program, from what I understood, had its fair share of development setbacks and failures, and the only truly tangible late result is Ring Fit Adventure, a game that was obviously born by those works. Still, it was first and foremost a profit-oriented endeavor, and not the humanitarian work so many people try to portray it. It was never meant to be affordable, and it was coined during Nintendo's troubled period. 

4. Working until your deathbed, while it might seem noble (I know I will never have the passion for anything like this, ever) it is also a clear sign of workaholism, a deadly plague in the Japanese work environments. I am not willing to celebrate this.

Now, I know I might seem like a monster, pointing these out, but the truth is, but the fact is that Iwata was a man, just like everyone else, one who worked with passion and dedication his whole life, but one who had flaws and made some proven mistakes.

All in all, I think there is nothing wrong with OP pointing out the resemblance with Mark Cerny, and I think there are some valid arguments on both sides. Now, if the person would have chosen Bobby Kotick, that would be a completely different story altogether



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I miss Iwata :(

He was my favourite part of Nintendo Directs. Seemed like such a kind soul.
I loved his accent and his quote that became a meme "please understand".
The Wii U may have been his "fault", but he also gave us the Wii/DS and now we are enjoying his final vision with the amazing Switch!
His legacy will live forever!



1doesnotsimply

hunter_alien said:

While I do agree that Iwata was a special human being (and one that will live on in his work for a gaming eternity) there are a few things that I think are a bit rose-tinted in your points.

They could be rose-tinted, or we could just see things from two different points of view: mine where I see Iwata as a unique humane business leader, and one where you see him as an ordinary business man, which is completely fine. But, let's be honest, I provided facts we all know are true while you offered a subjective interpretation of the facts I posted.

hunter_alien said:

1. Iwata took the blame for the disaster of the WiiU because it was his fault. Sure, a pay cut was without a doubt unheard of before, but the WiiU was in many ways a product of his lack of vision, of where the industry was heading, and one that cost Nintendo the dedicated home console market.

I'm not sure the WiiU was his fault. The idea of having 2 screens on the DS was his doing, but the WiiU was a product of Nintendo's engineering team, Shigeru Miyamoto and many others involved in the design of new Nintendo consoles. The fact that he took it all on himself, as president, with a 50% (yep) pay cut is testament to his humility.

hunter_alien said:

2. He initiated interviews/discussions with developers out of pure necessity. ~8 years ago almost no major 3rd party publisher worked with Nintendo, so they tried to reach out in as many ways as possible. This is one of the aspects Sony managed to beat them,m even during their struggles in the 7th generation. It was a nice way, how he handled it, but in all honestly turned out to be a bit pointless.

Iwata was a passionate developer. You have heard the anecdotes of his development prowess and feats, let's list some:

  • He re-wrote Earthbound's programming code
  • He remade the Pokemon battle system without documentation
  • He saved Super Smash Bros. Melee from delay
  • He fit two Pokemon worlds onto a Game Boy cartridge

Source

This means that Iwata not only perhaps needed to connect, which truly is your assumption and not a fact, but that he wanted to. Another fact to support my idea is that Iwata made a passionate presentation at GDC, about the love of video game making. The guy just loved making video games.

hunter_alien said:

3. The Quality of Life program, from what I understood, had its fair share of development setbacks and failures, and the only truly tangible late result is Ring Fit Adventure, a game that was obviously born by those works. Still, it was first and foremost a profit-oriented endeavor, and not the humanitarian work so many people try to portray it. It was never meant to be affordable, and it was coined during Nintendo's troubled period. 

The success of the QoL project doesn't matter as much as the reason of the initiative, which explains his character, while the success or failure of it doesn't relate to Iwata's character. As for profit-oriented, that's needless to say since all corporations are profit-oriented and both Iwata and Cerny were/are in executive positions. It doesn't mean that their initiatives are ruled out as being humanitarian in flavor simply because they are driven by businesses. It is easy to see a pattern between the Wii/DS which aimed to make games accessible to more people and thus bring smiles to more people, the motion controls, brain training, and finally the Quality of Life project, which aimed at getting people to go out to walk, and to sleep better, among other things. I can just as easily say that Nintendo could've sought 500 other ways to make money than to aim at the wellbeing and health of people via video games.

hunter_alien said:

4. Working until your deathbed, while it might seem noble (I know I will never have the passion for anything like this, ever) it is also a clear sign of workaholism, a deadly plague in the Japanese work environments. I am not willing to celebrate this.Now, I know I might seem like a monster, pointing these out, but the truth is, but the fact is that Iwata was a man, just like everyone else, one who worked with passion and dedication his whole life, but one who had flaws and made some proven mistakes.

I know personally about workaholism and how it can ruin peoples' lives, because it has affected me personally. However, there is a difference between workaholism and work ethic. We don't know how long Iwata worked per day, and his life habits, so it's not safe to jump to conclusions. All we know is that, even though he was dying of cancer, he cared enough about his legacy and Nintendo as a company to fight to the end. It's courage and devotion.

hunter_alien said:

All in all, I think there is nothing wrong with OP pointing out the resemblance with Mark Cerny, and I think there are some valid arguments on both sides. Now, if the person would have chosen Bobby Kotick, that would be a completely different story altogether

Could not agree more. The OP is absolutely fine, but in my opinion it is limited to business effectiveness, while Iwata shone in something few people do, and in that sense he's kind of incomparable. Also, he's deceased so our love for his dedication to games is even greater than the great things he achieved by being himself while alive.

Many people can make good moves for their businesses, but few do it while being so approachable and human. Of Iwata, Reggie said in memory of him:

"On a personal level, he was my boss, and he was my mentor. And, he was my colleague. But most of all, he was my friend. And I'm a better person for it. And I think every gamer is better for having Mr. Iwata's vision and talent help inspire and shape the passion we all share."

Here's another interesting anecdote about Iwata's approachability, which further highlights what I wrote to you above:

“When I was being recruited for the opportunity to join Nintendo, I asked as part of the process to speak with Mr. Iwata. It was not going to be part of the process and as I learned later, it actually was a bit of a disruption in the process. Imagine from Nintendo’s perspective, ‘Who’s this candidate thinking that he can spend time with our global president. This is not a role that is going to be based in Japan. Why does he want to talk with him?’ I mean, you can imagine the types of conversations that must have been happening. But in the end they agreed for me to speak with Mr. Iwata before I would decide whether to accept the role.”

“It was set up to be a half-hour conversation and it ended up running much longer than that. And it really sets the stage for the type of business and personal relationship we would have. We would talk all the time. He was gracious in sharing his perspective. He was tremendously accommodating in hearing a unique point of view from me, a person who had no history in the video game business other than as a player. But [he valued] my perspective because I brought a consumer sensibility. I brought a Western business sensibility. And the relationship that he and I had for almost 11 years, it was truly special and just, his openness with me and the things that we were able to do truly together, were just magical.”

Iwata also invented the DS, of which Reggie had this to say:

"Beyond his résumé, I can add another signature point: The man was fearless. Remember how you first felt when you heard the name Wii? Or remember what was said when you found out about Nintendogs, or Brain Age, or a dual-screened portable device? You may have been puzzled. But he already knew; he had already heard the criticisms internally. But he always championed an idea he truly believed in, and we all benefited."

Iwata is the reason the Wii and DS existed, and it really shook the industry. Few others made such ballsy moves. Sometimes they didn't pay off, but in the end, the guy did things few others would do.



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Iwata is the reason the Wii and DS existed, and it really shook the industry. Few others made such ballsy moves. Sometimes they didn't pay off, but in the end, the guy did things few others would do.

Tried to edit the quote tree as much as I could, hope I won't mess up the format But yeah, left the last part, as I think this truly captures the essence of who he was, and pretty much I agree with all the rest that you replied.

Going back to a semi-public person's life and analyze his/her life from the tidbits of information that we have will always be a hard task, so taking out the subjective interpretations will be nigh impossible. As with all people he had his good sides and bad sides, but contrary to most human beings, he actually left behind a true legacy, and this is something that I do not say lightly. 

Hopefully, our kids will one day write the same thing about Cerny. I mean Knack is no Earthbound/Smash, but hey, he has to start somewhere :)))



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What about good ol Kaz Hirai?



Xbox: Best hardware, Game Pass best value, best BC, more 1st party genres and multiplayer titles. 

 

Mark Cerny is nowhere near as charming



That's a fair comparison.



Rather than 'Sony's Iwata' I would say 'Here are some similarities/parallels between the two'.
Because they have other defining qualities worth mentioning that they don't seem to share.

padib said:

While you can make parallels in how they were/are dedicated to their brands and improved on the mistakes of past leaders, Satoru Iwata was more than a professional in the field of video games. He was also a very lovable, charismatic man who did the following rare things:

  • Took the blame for poor sales of the WiiU and also a massive pay cut, this while president of the company
  • Initiated interviews with 3rd party developers, building bridges with these people, these artists, with Iwata Asks, shedding this presidential aura (esp. in Japan) and humbled himself to talk directly to devs in friendly, casual meetings.
  • Was courageous enough to be fun and childlike in his Nintendo Directs (which he also initiated), doing things like holding up a Donkey Kong banana and other light-hearted fun jokes
  • He continued to work in complete dedication until the very end, his death
  • He initiated the Quality of Life program at Nintendo, a program intended to improve the health and lives of people through the medium of video games.


While I see the parallels, there are very few leaders like Satoru Iwata, and we were fortunate to have him. I would not compare Mark Cerny to Iwata, as effective as Cerny may be in his management of Sony. Iwata was something else, that we can compare few people to.

Was going to say something similar. Mainly regarding the pay cut.
But your post is more thorough than mine would have been.

Though I have a comment about this:

padib said:
I know personally about workaholism and how it can ruin peoples' lives, because it has affected me personally. However, there is a difference between workaholism and work ethic. We don't know how long Iwata worked per day, and his life habits, so it's not safe to jump to conclusions. All we know is that, even though he was dying of cancer, he cared enough about his legacy and Nintendo as a company to fight to the end. It's courage and devotion.

I sort of agree with hunter_alien here, partially because of what you just pointed out regarding how we don't know the details of his work schedule.
So while I wouldn't reprimand him for it, I'd also chose not to highlight it as something positive either. (Maybe if I knew the details.)

The reason being is that Japan is very overworked. Especially in this type of deadline centric office working industry.
People commonly take on a lot more responsibility than they should, because it is treated as something positive.

So intentionally or not, Iwata working while battling cancer can be weaponized.
How many employees thought twice about staying home when not feeling well after that happened?

hunter_alien said:

While I do agree that Iwata was a special human being (and one that will live on in his work for a gaming eternity) there are a few things that I think are a bit rose-tinted in your points.

1. Iwata took the blame for the disaster of the WiiU because it was his fault. Sure, a pay cut was without a doubt unheard of before, but the WiiU was in many ways a product of his lack of vision, of where the industry was heading, and one that cost Nintendo the dedicated home console market.

2. He initiated interviews/discussions with developers out of pure necessity. ~8 years ago almost no major 3rd party publisher worked with Nintendo, so they tried to reach out in as many ways as possible. This is one of the aspects Sony managed to beat them,m even during their struggles in the 7th generation. It was a nice way, how he handled it, but in all honestly turned out to be a bit pointless.

3. The Quality of Life program, from what I understood, had its fair share of development setbacks and failures, and the only truly tangible late result is Ring Fit Adventure, a game that was obviously born by those works. Still, it was first and foremost a profit-oriented endeavor, and not the humanitarian work so many people try to portray it. It was never meant to be affordable, and it was coined during Nintendo's troubled period. 

4. Working until your deathbed, while it might seem noble (I know I will never have the passion for anything like this, ever) it is also a clear sign of workaholism, a deadly plague in the Japanese work environments. I am not willing to celebrate this.

Now, I know I might seem like a monster, pointing these out, but the truth is, but the fact is that Iwata was a man, just like everyone else, one who worked with passion and dedication his whole life, but one who had flaws and made some proven mistakes.

All in all, I think there is nothing wrong with OP pointing out the resemblance with Mark Cerny, and I think there are some valid arguments on both sides. Now, if the person would have chosen Bobby Kotick, that would be a completely different story altogether

Also some fair points here, though I don't think the outcome or success of something is necessarily as important as the intention behind it when considering someone's character. Which is also in focus here, and not just their ability to produce results.

Last edited by Hiku - on 22 June 2020