Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata, Who Changed the Gaming Industry, Dies at 55

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, who had led the company since 2002 and presided over the launch of the monumentally successful Wii video game console, died Saturday. He was 55.

Nintendo announced Iwata's death with a brief statement Sunday, saying he had died due to a bile duct growth.

Known to be in ill health, Iwata had skipped North America's largest video game trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, for the last two years.

Iwata was named director of Nintendo's operations in June 2000. He assumed the role of president of the Kyoto, Japan-based company in May 2002, after the retirement of Hiroshi Yamauchi, a descendant of Nintendo's founding family. Yamauchi ran Nintendo for 52 years and died in 2013.

Iwata held the reins of the company during the launch of two of its most successful gaming consoles, the handheld Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii home system. The Wii was released in 2006 and has sold more than 101 million units worldwide.

Born Dec. 6, 1959, in Sapporo, Japan, Iwata was the son of a politician who was a municipal mayor.

He became interested in video game programming as a teenager, fashioning simple games on his calculator.

While studying computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, he took a part-time job as a programmer at HAL Laboratories, focusing on development of games such as the Kirby series. After his graduation in 1982, he worked full-time on game development for HAL and did contract work for Nintendo.

When HAL Laboratories verged toward bankruptcy in 1992, Iwata was made the company's president, and he helped restore it to fiscal soundness. He left in 2000 to become head of corporate planning at Nintendo.

Shortly before Iwata became Nintendo president in 2002, the company launched what became one of its bigger flops: the GameCube console, a successor to the Nintendo 64. The...

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