Flags at Nintendo are at half-mast in respect to company president and CEO Satoru Iwata, who died on July 11 at the age of 55. He'd been undergoing treatment for a tumor in his bile duct, but as Nintendo has revealed in a short statement today, the cancer could not be beaten.
Iwata had been president of Nintendo since 2002, and oversaw the launch and fantastic success of the company's industry-changing Wii console, as well as the DS, the biggest selling handheld of all time. He began his career in gaming as a programmer, working on titles such as EarthBound and Balloon Fight, and even helped out on debug duties to get Super Smash Bros. Melee out of the door in 2001—this when he was already director of Nintendo.
In 2014, Iwata announced he would halve his own salary to help combat a company-wide downturn following disappointing returns on the Wii U and its software. He refused to lay staff off as Nintendo was struggling, telling an investor panel in 2013: "If we reduce employees for better short-term financial results, morale will decrease. I doubt employees who fear they may be laid off will be able to develop software titles that could impress people around the world."
He always loved games above the business of them, and opened his 2005 keynote speech at the Game Developers Conference by saying: "On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer."
The games industry en masse has been paying tribute to Iwata, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide president Shuhei Yoshida amongst them. He writes*:
"He was an inspiration as a leader of one of the most influential companies in the game industry, who used to make games himself and has always been a gamer. I have always respected Nintendo's games, how they are super accessible and polished for everyone to play and enjoy, and I understand Iwata-san was one of the key individuals to have kept that high quality standard across all Nintendo titles. I just wish he will rest in peace. Thank you for all your work for the better game industry."
Iwata is survived by his wife, Kayoko. His funeral will be held on July 17. Everyone who's ever played a Nintendo game—hell, everyone who's ever played a video game this side of 1985—will surely feel Iwata's passing, too. Do yourself a favor today and, if you've not played that dusty old Wii that's been sitting in the corner since you upgraded to a PS4, do so. Pop Super Mario Galaxy on and just smile. Games are great, aren't they?
*Quote edited for length
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