Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata has passed away at the age of 55 due to bile duct cancer, the Japanese gaming company has just announced.
Iwata's health problems first came to light in 2014, when he decided not to travel from the company's headquarters in Japan to the giant video game show E3 in Los Angeles on the advice of his physician, though the company said it was "business as usual" at the time. Later that year, Iwata revealed that he was diagnosed with a bile duct growth he said was "difficult to treat," but that he was lucky that it was detected early. Iwata had surgery to remove the growth and returned to work shortly after.
Iwata skipped E3 again this year due to health problems.
Iwata saw Nintendo through extraordinary times. He was president for the launch of the immensely popular Nintendo DS and Wii, and CEO for the launch of the struggling Wii U, which Nintendo's legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto recently admitted failed to connect with players.
Iwata was also Nintendo's CEO when the company recently announced it was going to begin experimenting with free-to-play mobile games—which would have been unimaginable just a few years prior—and that it's already at work on a new platform codenamed NX.
Iwata began his career at HAL Laboratory, a developer closely associated with Nintendo, where he helped create classic games such as Balloon Fight, Kirby, and EarthBound. He joined Nintendo in 2000, and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming president in 2002 and CEO in 2013.
Iwata was a great, friendly face for Nintendo. His on-stage presence at E3 and other events was always charismatic and endearing, his "Iwata Asks" interview series was a fascinating, inside look at Japanese game development and history, and in 2014 he cut his pay in half following poor fiscal results.
He helped bring joy to millions during his life, and he will be missed.