Satoru Iwata, the president and CEO of Nintendo, passed away Saturday at the age of 55. "Nintendo Co., Ltd. deeply regrets to announce that President Satoru Iwata passed away on July 11th, 2015 due to a bile duct growth," the video game company said in a brief statement. During his 13-year tenure at the helm of Nintendo, Iwata was instrumental in the development of the company's portable Nintendo DS as well as the Nintendo Wii console.
Iwata joined Nintendo after a lengthy stint at HAL Laboratory, a video game developer that worked closely with Nintendo. At HAL, Iwata worked on titles like EarthBound, Kirby's Adventures and Balloon Fight. After assisting Nintendo on numerous Pokemon titles spread across the company's consoles, Iwata began working for Nintendo in their corporate planning division in 2000.
Two years later, Iwata succeeded Nintendo's longtime president Hiroshi Yamauchi. Taking over after the ill-fated release of the Nintendo GameCube, Iwata helped the company route their resources towards the DS and the Wii, and had a hand in developing those consoles' Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda franchises. However, not all of Iwata's moves were a success: Following the failure of the portable Nintendo 3DS console, Iwata voluntarily chopped his salary in half in an effort for management to take responsibility for the console's underperformance.
In 2014, Iwata was forced to miss Nintendo's presentation at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo video game industry trade show due to medical problems that were later revealed to be connected to his bile duct.
"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," Iwata said in a statement at the time. "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."
"He didn't just create technology. He created a whole culture," Nobuyuki Hayashi, a consultant and technology expert, told The Associated Press. "It wasn't just a consumer product that he had delivered. He brought to people something that's eternal, what people remember from when they were kids. He was special."
Following Iwata's death, Nintendo's Twitter alerted followers, "In remembrance of Mr. Satoru Iwata, Nintendo will not be posting on our social media channels today." Iwata's funeral will be held July 17th. Nintendo fans have paid tribute to Iwata online with a picture of a Mario standing next to a flag at half-staff from Super Mario Bros.