It was only last summer that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata missed a shareholders meeting because of surgery to remove a growth on his bile duct. Iwata and his doctors assured investors and analysts that his health was fine had been detected and dealt with early. Slightly more than a year later, the company “deeply regrets” to inform the world that Iwata has died at the age of 55.
The company flag has been lowered to half-mast at headquarters in Kyoto, and the brand has gone silent on social media out of respect for a revered executive who was deeply respected by the gaming community, which has been in mourning since the news broke over the weekend.
In remembrance of Mr. Satoru Iwata, Nintendo will not be posting on our social media channels today. pic.twitter.com/N2kR0OKEXh
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) July 13, 2015
Iwata’s background was as a programmer and he’s been creating Nintendo games since way back in the ’80s. He became director of Nintendo in 2000 and president in 2002, just the fourth person to helm the company and the first outside of the founding Yamauchi family, Kotaku.com reports. His leadership has paid dividends for Nintendo in the past 15 years as the company sales boomed when the DS and Wii consoles were released. He had some missteps as well and recent years had been tough, but Iwata announced that the company was back to profitability earlier this year for the first time since 2011.
My small tribute animation to Satoru Iwata and some of the games he has worked on. pic.twitter.com/4aZTJD0LN9
— BBDidNothingWrong (@Gendoughnut) July 13, 2015
He was known for actually interacting with gamers and game developers, even writing a series for Nintendo’s site consisting of interviews with the latter. He also hosted the Nintendo Direct program, an online smorgasbord of info for gamers and others built to showcase Nintendo’s latest offerings. So the gaming community was shocked to learn of his death and started to pour out its feelings across the digital landscape, as noted by NBC.
— Ramsés Cabello (@RamsesCabello) July 13, 2015
— Aaron Greenberg (@aarongreenberg) July 13, 2015
— R.I.P. Iwata (@MosqitoLux) July 13, 2015
— Juan (@VrmVrmWeegee) July 13, 2015
While he will have a strong legacy with gamers, TIME notes that Iwata will also be remembered as the person responsible for breaking down the barrier between in-home consoles and mobile devices for Nintendo, which had long been resistant to developing games for the latter. Iwata announced this fall that the company was ready to delve into game creation on mobile devices.