Nintendo has announced that President Satoru Iwata passed away yesterday, July 11th, at the age of 55. The short statement attributes his untimely death to a bile duct growth, a rare form of cancer that is difficult to catch early on. Iwata recently missed this year’s E3 due to heath concerns relating to the growth, which he attempted to have surgically removed.
Iwata’s death is an enormous loss not just for Nintendo, but the industry as a whole. He joined Nintendo in the ‘80s where he worked on games like Earthbound and Kirby, and through the years rose in the ranks until in 2002 he was promoted to President, only the fourth in the company’s history. He succeeded the storied Hiroshi Yamauchi who had been President for 50 years, and who oversaw the company’s extremely successful transition from playing card manufacturer to video game maker.
Iwata’s tenure oversaw huge successes for Nintendo like explosive sales of the DS and the Wii, but also a few hardships like the underperforming GameCube and Wii U. But through it all, Iwata has been a beloved figure in the gaming industry, known for his warmth and accessibility despite occupying such a powerful position.
Nintendo will likely issue a more detailed statement on Iwata’s death soon. Iwata’s future plans for Nintendo including the new NX hardware, an increased presence in the mobile market and Nintendo’s mysterious “quality of life” tech are likely to remain in place, but it will be understandably difficult to process the loss of someone with his significance.
Iwata brought a light and life to Nintendo that few other executives could manage. He will be sorely missed there and in the industry at large.