Nintendo of Japan quietly announced today that its president, Satoru Iwata, passed away July 11, 2015 due to complications relating to a growth in his bile duct.
Iwata, who was 55 when he passed, was appointed to President of Nintendo Co., Ltd in May 2002 and would also assume the role of CEO in June 2013. As President, Iwata would see the company through both some of its most financially prosperous and most tumultuous times, overseeing the launches of the immensely successful Wii and DS systems, as well as the launch of the divisive WiiU and accepting his role during the slow-but-steady period surrounding the company’s first fully disc-based system, the GameCube.
A popular figure in the gaming industry among both professionals and fans alike, Iwata was known for a rare sort of transparency and friendliness that one normally wouldn’t get from the head of a multinational electronics concern. In his many efforts to outreach to his company’s fans, such as the beloved series of “Iwata Asks” videos, he would pull back the curtain to reveal Nintendo’s inner workings and provide a level of detail and insight into the company’s internal teams, often showing rare concept art and providing interviews with less public-facing members of the Nintendo staff.
It was perhaps in this spirit of transparency and inclusion that, when appointed CEO, Iwata bucked standard industry practice when it came to major trade shows. Instead of having one monolithic display at E3, the yearly massive game industry conference, he instead decided Nintendo would have smaller events highlighting different segments of product to target the widest audience possible. This approach would bring about Nintendo Direct, a series of online video presentations designed to provide information on a more direct basis about upcoming Nintendo products. While unconventional, the videos provided the company a way to reach its fans directly amid the usual industry hubub, and stood as a prime example of the ways in which Nintendo would attempt to become a more populist and all-inclusive company during his tenure, a divisive approach among more ‘hardcore’ Nintendo fans and gamers in general.
Before becoming President, Iwata was employed by long-time Nintendo partner HAL Laboratory. During his time there he would work on several landmark works such as Kirby’s Adventure for NES and the first two games in the Mother franchise, the second of which would arrive on SNES as EarthBound and the first of which was just released to WiiU Virtual Console as Earthbound Beginnings. After his promotion, he would remain involved in the creation of many of Nintendo’s more prominent franchises, contributing to many of the later Legend of Zelda, Mario, and Animal Crossing games.
Iwata’s dedication to his fans and desire to make gaming a fun pastime to be enjoyed by all have left a mark on how Nintendo operates as a company, and he will be remembered by his many fans for years to come.
At this time, Nintendo has released no information his successor, and have offered a brief press release describing Iwata’s passing.