Satoru Iwata, the president of the Japanese video game company Nintendo, has died at the age of 55, the company announced on Sunday.
The company said in a statement that Iwata passed away due to a cancerous growth on his bile duct. Iwata is survived by his wife, Kayoko. A funeral service will be held July 17, according to the Associated Press.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Iwata Had Been Dealing With Health Issues for More Than a Year
Iwata had been dealing with health issues for more than a year. News of his illness was first made public by the company after Iwata was unable to attend the E3 conference in June 2014, according to Kotaku.
The company released a statement on his behalf at the time, saying:
Recently, as the result of one of my routine physical examinations, an issue was detected. Following a more detailed examination, a growth was found in my bile duct. In general, it is said that a bile duct growth can be difficult-to-treat, partly because of the difficulty of detecting it early. In my case, luckily, it was detected very early and I had no symptoms.
I was counseled that removal at an early stage would be the desirable medical option. Therefore I had surgery last week, and I came through it well, as predicted. I have already resumed my business by email and by other means, but it is anticipated that a little more time is needed for me to return to my regular work schedule.
In November, Iwata said his health was improving. He continued to appear publicly in 2015, and oversaw the company’s annual shareholders meeting in June.
2. He Began Working at Nintendo in the 1980s & Helped Create Some of Its Early Video Games
Iwata started working at Nintendo in the 1980s and played a role in developing some of its early video games, including Kirby, while working as a programmer at the HAL Laboratory, according to IGN.com.
3. He Was Named as the Fourth President in Nintendo’s History in 2002
Iwata was named as only the fourth president in Nintendo’s history in 2002 after two years in the role of director. He was also appointed as CEO of Nintendo of America in 2013.
During his time leading Nintendo, he successfully launched the Nintendo DS and Wii gaming consoles. The company also had difficult times during his time as its president, including the disappointing GameCube console and the initial struggles of Wii U. But Iwata is credited with turning Nintendo around after taking over the company.
Iwata also became a popular face of the company, reaching out to its customers through the Iwata Asks series of online interviews and through Nintendo Direct presentations.
4. He Started Working on Video Games While He Was in High School
Iwata was born and raised in Sapporo, Japan, and has said his interest in video games began while he was in high school. He began producing games for his classmates using electronic calculators.
He then attended the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he majored in computer science, according to a 2008 profile by News.com.au.
5. He Recently Began Moving Nintendo Into the Smartphone Gaming Market
Despite his health, Iwata remained active in the company. In March, Iwata held a press conference to announce that Nintendo would be developing smartphone games based on its classic characters, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Nintendo partnered with the Japanese company DeNA Co. to set up the new mobile game platform.