Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, who oversaw some of the gaming giant's biggest successes but also painful failures, has died of a bile duct growth, the company said.
Iwata passed away Saturday at age 55 after working 13 years as president, a period that saw the gaming industry transition from dedicated consoles and PCs to mobile devices, a move that Nintendo was slow to embrace.
Nintendo said board members Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto will continue to act as representative directors, a position required by Japanese corporate regulations. A new president has not been appointed.
"His style was to speak directly to gaming fans around the world," said Takuya Yoshimura, a general manager in the company's General Affairs Department, who noted Iwata's presiding over the launch of the Nintendo DS, Wii and 3DS.
"My heart is broken over the passing of Iwata. RIP to a great man who led Nintendo well for many years," a Nintendo user who goes by the handle NintendoFanGirl wrote in a message on Twitter.
Iwata halved his own pay in 2011 to take responsibility for a drastic markdown in the price of the Nintendo 3DS. In January 2014, Nintendo cut its earnings forecast to a net loss of ¥25 billion (US$240 million), citing disappointing holiday sales of the Wii U and 3DS.
The company's policies had been questioned by many who viewed it as resisting the move to mobile gaming.
Iwata's passing comes a little less than four months after he announced a partnership to bring iconic Nintendo characters to smart devices with Tokyo-based mobile content company DeNA.
"We do not share this pessimistic view of the future for dedicated video game systems," Iwata had said in reference to negativity related to the future of consoles. "We are challenging ourselves to redefine what 'Nintendo platform' means."
"On the mobile side, both the platform and games should be on track already," said Tokyo-based video game consultant Serkan Toto. "Overall, I think the shift is not reversible anymore and might actually be accelerated, depending on who follows Iwata. The new president can start fresh and isn't 'chained' to past decisions, such as the year-long resistance towards going mobile."
Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.
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