Nintendo announced Sunday that the company’s president, Satoru Iwata, died on July 11 at the age of 55.
Iwata became the first president of the company to not be a member of the Yamauchi family, succeeding Hiroshi Yamauchi as president in 2002. Iwata previously worked with HAL Laboratory, the studio known for the Kirby games and the Super Smash Bros. series. Iwata’s time as president early on included overseeing the launch of the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS, some of the best selling gaming platforms ever created. He’s also supervised through the launch of their successors, the Nintendo 3DS and the Nintendo Wii U.
And while those later two platforms have not reached the successful heights of their predecessors, Iwata continued to expand Nintendo’s direct connection to its fanbase. Among his most famous steps on that front is the series Iwata Asks, a number of interviews with Nintendo development teams about the games they’ve created. The library of these interviews is available online and well worth a read whether you’re a passing Nintendo fan or a longtime player of the games discussed.
He was also known for his efforts to protect his employees, including taking a 50 percent pay cut himself in 2011 after the early performance of the 3DS. He also refused to fire employees despite the lackluster sales of the Wii U and questions from investors about why he did not do so..
“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,” Iwata said in his 2005 Game Developers Conference Keynote, a signifying line to show that, as much of a corporate figure he may be, he was still very much like those who bought Nintendo’s games every day.
Iwata left a large impact on not just Nintendo but the industry at large, as evidenced by the outpouring of thoughts about him in the hours following the announcement from both fans and those working in the industry.
The cause of death was a bile duct growth, Nintendo said. Iwata skipped E3 last year due to health problems. The two Representative Directors that remain at the company are Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto.