Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passes away

July 13, 2015 // 11:42 a.m.

Tags: #nintendo #satoru-iwata #shigeru-miyamoto #tsunekazu-ishihara

Nintendo president and chief executive Satoru Iwata, who worked on some of the company's most-loved franchises, has passed away aged 55, the company has confirmed.

Born on the 6th of December 1959 in Hokkaido, Iwata always identified as a gamer: in his school years his hobby was building calculator-driven electronic games, and during his computer science course at the Tokyo Institute of Technology Iwata freelanced as a programmer for Nintendo partner HAL Laboratory. Following his graduation, Iwata became a full-time HAL Laboratory employee, taking the title of software production co-ordinator in 1983 and working on the EarthBound and Kirby franchises.

Not all went well with HAL Laboratory, however: in 1993, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and promoted Iwata to president to turn things around - and that's exactly what he did. Helping found Creatures Inc. in 1995 with Tsunekazu Ishihara, Iwata helped with the development of the Pokémon Gold and Silver for the Game Boy as well as Pokémon Stadium for the N64.

It wasn't until 2000 that Iwata would go to work for Nintendo directly, as head of corporate planning. Just two years later he took over from Hiroshi Yamauchi - who had been president of the company since 1949 - as the first president not to be a relation of the Yamauchi family. As with his presidency of HAL Laboratories, Iwata took the reins of Nintendo at a dark time: the GameCube, Nintendo's flagship console, was being outperformed by its competition. Iwata once again turned things around, reworking the Game Boy platform into the best-selling Nintendo DS hand-held family and pushing for the development of a motion-control peripheral which would launch as the Wii in 2006.

'On my business card, I am a corporate president,' Iwata explained of his ethos in a keynote speech during the Game Developer Conference 2005. 'In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.'

Sadly, Iwata's health began to fail. In 2014, Nintendo announced that he would not be giving a keynote at the Electronics Entertainment Expo due to ill health; this weekend, the company announced that Iwata had died as a result of a growth on his bile duct. He is survived by his wife Kayoko.

Nintendo has announce a replacement president, with representative directors Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Myamoto taking over responsibilities in the interim.
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