Today Nintendo announced that company CEO Satoru Iwata died on Saturday of a bile duct growth. He was 55 years old. Iwata had ongoing health issues and took time off in 2014 to have a tumor removed from his bile duct. Iwata was made CEO in 2002 following Hiroshi Yamauchi who had been President since 1949.
Iwata presided over over some of the biggest product launches in the company’s 126 year history. He had a large part in bringing both the Wii and DS to market which saw near immeasurable success and kept Nintendo a major player in the console space after several difficult years. He was the very public face of the company, being involved in many Nintendo Direct online events. Most recently he appeared in puppet form for Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event.
Prior to working directly for Nintendo Iwata worked for HAL laboratories where he was part of many calssic games including Balloon Fight, and the Kirby and Pokemon series.
Needless to say this a shock to Nintendo fans, and all gamers. While Nintendo did nothing to hide Iwata’s health issues he had been back at work for some time and appeared to be healthy again. Iwata did not attend E3 this year, but that was only because there were no major hardware announcements planned.
No successor was named but Nintendo has two other representative directors, Genyo Takeda, and Shigeru Miyamoto who will be continuing in those positions. It is very likely one of them will take over. As another public face of the company, Miyamoto is an obvious choice.
Whoever the next CEO of Nintendo is, they will have a lot of work ahead of them. We know Nintendo has another console being designed, code named the NX, which may be launching as early as next year. Following the disappointment of the WiiU’s launch Nintendo does have some ground to get back in the console space. Still, the contributions of Iwata cannot be understated, whoever takes over will also have big shoes to fill.