It’s a very sad day for gaming.
This morning, Nintendo released a statement that the company’s much-beloved president and CEO, Satoru Iwata, died in hospital on July 11 due to medical complications arising from a bile duct tumor that had been discovered some time before. Iwata was the first person to assume the role of president at the company who was not immediately related to members of the Yamauchi founding family.
Nintendo had previously released a statement in 2014 that Iwata, 55, would not be present at E3 2015 due to medical reasons; the first indication that Iwata was suffering from something potentially serious.
Iwata entered the video game world immediately after graduating college, joining up with the famed HAL Laboratory and helping to create a number of classic gaming franchises such as Kirby, Earthbound and Balloon Fight – games that surely became the impetus for many a lifelong gamer’s passion for the hobby.
HAL Laboratory and Nintendo had long had a cozy relationship, with the studio frequently working closely with Nintendo on Nintendo-exclusive games, which led to Iwata eventually switching to work full-time for the Kyoto-based behemoth as Head of Corporate Planning in 2000.
After beginning to work at Nintendo, Iwata again proved talented and passionate about games, lending a hand to various iterations of numerous classic Nintendo franchises, including Animal Crossing, Mario and the Legend of Zelda. He was largely credited with championing Nintendo’s shift to more casual, family-friendly gaming endeavors throughout the 2000s. Nintendo released its hugely successful Wii console and Nintendo DS handheld under Iwata’s supervision as CEO.
During his tenure as president at Nintendo, which began in 2002, Iwata was particularly known for his active interaction with fans, appearing in Nintendo Direct presentations and hosting a regular Q&A interview series called Iwata Asks.
Recently, Iwata was credited with helming Nintendo’s controversial move into mobile gaming – a category often conflated with onerous free-to-play shovelware by hardcore gamers – and also with the company’s unorthodox “Quality of Life” program of health monitors and other healthy lifestyle technology, although all indications are that the company planned to continue supporting its core gamer base with new games and consoles under Iwata’s lead.
There is no doubt that Iwata will be sorely missed by Nintendo fans and the gaming community at large.