The video game world suffered a tragic loss Satuday as the company reported President Satoru Iwata died due to growth from a bile duct tumor. Mr. Iwata was 55.
A sober statement was released by Nintendo.
“Nintendo Co., Ltd. deeply regrets to announce that President Satoru Iwata passed away on July 11, 2015 due to a bile duct growth.”
Mr. Iwata first jumped aboard the video game bandwagon with HAL Laboratory in the 1980s where he worked on games such as Earthbound, Kirby, and Balloon Fight. After years of developing games for Nintendo, he formally joined Nintendo in 2000 as head of its corporate planning division.
He was appointed as the company’s fourth president in 2002 following the retirement of Hiroshi Yamamuchi where he oversaw the massive success of the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii. He later added the title of CEO for Nintendo of America in 2013.
Per the statement from Nintendo after Mr. iwata’s death, the video game giant current management structure is the following:
“The following two Representative Directors remain at the company. Genyo Takeda (Representative Director; Senior Managing Director) Shigeru Miyamoto (Representative Director; Senior Managing Director).”
Mr. Iwata missed E3 2014 after the discovery of a tumor growth in his bile duct. He underwent surgery and later reported that he was progressing well. In a June 2014 letter to shareholders, he explained.
“Recently, as the result of one of my routine physical examinations, an issue was detected. Following a more detailed examination, a growth was found in my bile duct. In general, it is said that a bile duct growth can be difficult-to-treat, partly because of the difficulty of detecting it early. In my case, luckily, it was detected very early and I had no symptoms.”
“I was counseled that removal at an early stage would be the desirable medical option. Therefore I had surgery last week, and I came through it well, as predicted.”
Iwata was thought to be in convalescence and made an appearance at the annual shareholders meeting in June. However, the Financial Times reports that Nintendo said his health retrogressed a few days ago and was hospitalized.
Iwata wasn’t just an efficacious president of Nintendo, he was a very popular figure in the video game community as well. Following his unfortunate passing over the weekend, members of the game industry took to social media to remember Mr. Iwata.
Mr. Iwata was more than just a successful businessman, he was a gamer who “never stopped smiling”. The Wii consoles, DS gadgets and games like Super Smash Bros, Kirby, Pokemon and Earthbound, filled my childhood with boundless joy, which I spent countless hours playing. The games alone not only made the video game industry richer, their sequels continue to entertain gamers worldwide today. Even his lesser- known games like Super Billards, Air Fortress and Roller Ball left a lasting impression in me.
Even as he advanced through the hierarchies of HAL Laboratory and later Nintendo, Iwata always struck me as someone who genuinely cared about the joy of gaming more than anything else. In 2005, when speaking at the Game Developers Conference, Iwata pondered on his time leading HAL, which was responsible for the Smash Bros video game. “Mr Nintendo” stressed that the defining moment for him wasn’t when the original Nintendo 64 version of Smash Bros. and its sequels sold millions of copies worldwide, but rather the maiden opportunity testers picked up the game and provided evidence it was fun. This is what he said.
” I also remember the first version of Smash Bros. developed for Nintendo 64. The concept for this game, as you know, was to take the classic, friendly Nintendo franchise characters and have them — as you say in America — beat the heck out of each other. The ideas not brand new — there certainly have been a lot of fighting games. And the characters looked pretty much the same way they always had. So when we brought the idea to Nintendo, the concept did not sound hip or cool or revolutionary. And because of all this, there were people both inside and outside Nintendo who did not strongly favor the idea. And this was the environment that we worked under.
That attitude remained until the moment of truth — the moment when testers began picking up the controllers and actually playing the game. This is what happened. People smiled. They laughed. Then began shouting at each other. That was the moment when everything for Smash Bros. changed. And I must tell you, this was also one of the proudest moments in my development career. Yes, the Smash Bros. series has become a great worldwide success because it’s sold more than 10 million copies. But the memory of that first moment when the testers began to play stays with me always. That is the moment I call success.
We at HAL found a way to bring our idea to life. Our team believed deeply in the concept and we did not waver in our approach. So in this important sense, we at HAL — we’re just like every one of you. Even if we come from different sides of the world, speak different languages, even if we eat too many chips or rice balls, even if we have different tastes in games, every one of us here today is identical in the most important way: each one of us has the heart of a gamer.”
I’ll always have fond memories of Iwata — as someone who had no qualms to innovate, but who always strived to put gamers first in all his work. The visionary is a class of his own and will be solely missed.
Rest in peace, Mr. Iwata, and thank you for all the joy you brought to my life.