Iwata rose from a position at Nintendo developer HAL Laboratories to the top spot in the company in 2002. As a developer, he contributed to games such as Kirby’s Dream Land for Game Boy and Earthbound for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. As president, he shepherded two of the company’s most successful products, the Nintendo DS and Wii. In recent years, Iwata became a more visible face of the company as the host of the company’s “Nintendo Direct” streaming events.
Game Awards host Geoff Keighley introduced a video tribute to Iwata with memories of their last meeting,
“Although he was much thinner than I thought he would be,”Keighley said, “he was still so joyful. He was smiling and laughing, and those are my final memories of meeting with him. He said goodbye to me with a big smile on his face. He wished me well on my E3 preparations. I can’t imagine what was going on in his head right then, what he was dealing with, but he never let it show. He was such an incredible man.”
Iwata died at age 55 due complications caused by a bile duct growth, according to a statement released by Nintendo shortly after his death. His failing health drew the public’s attention in June, when he did not attend E3 on his doctor’s recommendation. In September, Nintendo announced Mr. Iwata’s replacement, Tatsumi Kimishima.
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime also reflected on Iwata’s contribution to Nintendo as a business and to world of gaming as an art:
“For Mr. Iwata,” Fils-Aime said, “it was not enough to repeat the words of Nintendo’s mission, ‘to surprise and delight with the unexpected.’ He lived those words. He was unique.”