Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Passes Away



Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, passed away on Saturday due to ongoing health complications. He was 55 years old.

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Nintendo announced that the widely respected chief executive died on July 11 "due to a bile duct growth." Two representative directors remain at the company: Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto.

Iwata was first appointed as the director of Nintendo in June 2000. He was promoted to the position of president and representative director of Nintendo in 2002, following the resignation of Hiroshi Yamauchi. He also assumed responsibilities as chief executive of Nintendo of America in 2013.

In related matters:

  • Shigeru Miyamoto has issued a statement: “I am surprised at this sudden news and overcome with sadness.”
  • Tributes have poured in from across the industry, with leaders at Sony, Microsoft, and the development community paying their respects.
  • Nintendo of Europe President Satoru Shibata released a statement addressing the passing of his colleague. "It is difficult to put into words the sadness we feel at this time," he said. "He was a visionary in every sense of the word and we will miss him dearly. Just as Mr. Iwata challenged us to always push forward, we will ensure his legacy lives on through our ongoing work to always surprise and delight our fans."
  • GameSpot has published a gallery tribute that looks through Iwata's defining career.
  • Nintendo composer Hip Tanaka has released a remix of the Balloon Fight theme, a game which Iwata was a key designer and developer on.
  • Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime has said "it will be years before his impact on both Nintendo and the full video game industry will be fully appreciated." Speaking to Benzinga, Fils-Aime added: "He was a strong leader for our company and his attributes were clear to everyone: Intelligence, creativity, curiosity, and sense of humor. But for those of us fortunate enough to work closely with him, what will be remembered most is his mentorship and, especially, his friendship. He was a wonderful man. He always challenged us to push forward, to try the new, to upset paradigms--and most of all, to engage, excite and endear our fans. That work will continue uninterrupted."
  • The Entertainment Software Association has released a statement: "Iwata-san's passing affects us all deeply," president and CEO Michael Gallagher said. "He was a true visionary who expanded our understanding of the amazing art of video games. We offer our condolences to his family, friends, and Nintendo colleagues."

In the wake of Iwata's shock death, Nintendo must begin a new search for its next chief executive. The corporation has told GameSpot that succession plans have "not been decided at this point."

But it adds that the two acting representative directors, Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto, have already taken on the task of managing the business, and as such is hoping for a smooth transition.

The company states: "Other than Mr. Iwata, we have two representative directors (Mr. Takeda and Mr. Miyamoto). Even by now, these representative directors have been together discussing and managing to operate the company, so we anticipate no issue in the near future."

Iwata was absent from E3 last year due to health issues, later revealed to be a bile duct growth which was removed via surgery. He resumed his regular work schedule in October last year, although there were concerns about his rapid weight loss following treatment. Iwata was not present at this year's E3, staying in Japan in order to focus on Nintendo's "other areas of business."

Prior to joining Nintendo, Iwata worked at HAL Laboratory as a programmer and designer. During his time there he worked on several games including the Kirby, Earthbound, and Balloon Fight series. He would go on to become president of HAL in 1993.

Iwata garnered the adoration of fans and the industry as a whole through his candid demeanor and willingness to embody the playful nature of Nintendo's games, even as CEO of the company. Last year he took a 50 percent pay cut to apologise for the company's disappointing financial results, following lower Wii U sales than was projected.

In addition to his regular Iwata Asks column, in which he would interview key members of various upcoming games, Iwata was also the face of the company's Nintendo Direct events. These streams, while primarily designed to make game announcements and provide updates on ongoing projects, became something more thanks to weird and wonderful skits, many of which Iwata would participate in.

"On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer."

Satoru Iwata, 1959-2015

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