This is a sad day for the gaming industry as Nintendo released an official document announcing that CEO Satoru Iwata has passed away at the age of 55. Iwata died on Saturday after succumbing to a bile duct growth, the official document states.
Iwata began his career in the industry as a programmer shortly after finishing college in the 1980s. Working for HAL Laboratory, he helped create cult classics such as Balloon Fight and EarthBound. He became president of HAL Laboratory in 1993, and then joined Nintendo in 2000 as the head of the company's corporate planning division. In 2002, Satoru Iwata became the 4th President of Nintendo after Hiroshi Yamauchi, who had led the company for 50 years, stepped down. Under Iwata's guidance, Nintendo saw both massive successes (the Wii and the Nintendo DS) and huge failures (the GameCube and the Wii U).
Even though Iwata held a powerful position inside the company, he was also immensely popular in the gaming industry and among Nintendo fans for his accessibility and willingness to engage with the community. Iwata interacted with the fans via social media, made frequent appearances in Nintendo Direct where he updated the community on upcoming titles, and was the host of “Iwata Asks” series of developer interviews which shed light on the company's creative process.
It is unclear who will take Iwata's place as the President of Nintendo. Until a new CEO is elected, Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto have assumed joint leadership of the company. However, it is clear that Nintendo and the gaming industry have lost a very important figure that will be hard to replace.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Iwata.