Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata Dies From Cancer

Nintendo’s CEO and President, Satoru Iwata, a legend in the gaming industry, has passed away from cancer at age 55. His death is considered young in Japan, a country where the average life expectancy is 83 years. Since 2002, Iwata had been the CEO and President of Nintendo.

Iwata joined Nintendo in 1983 and was known for helping develop fabled games like Kirby and is a familiar face to viewers of Nintendo Direct, the company’s in-house talk-show. Engadget reports that Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto will be taking over Iwata’s responsibilities, at least for now.

On Sunday, Nintendo issued the notification of Iwata’s death and listed the cause as “a bile duct growth.” The growth results from cholangiocarcinoma, which is considered a very rare form of cancer. In the U.S., there are only around 20,000 new cases reported every year, according to Mayo Clinic. John Hopkins Medicine describes bile duct cancer.

“Cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer that arises from the cells within the bile ducts; both inside and outside the liver. When the tumors arise within the liver, the tumors can be small or large. The terms cholangiocarcinoma and bile duct cancer are often used interchangeably. This form of cancer is slightly more common in males than females and usually affects patients who are between 50-70 years of age.”

Back in June of 2014, Kotaku reported that Iwata underwent surgery to remove a cancerous growth in his bile duct. The operation kept Iwata from attending 2014’s E3 gaming conference. Amidst concerns for his health, Iwata tweeted that he was “progressing well.” But in a press statement, Iwata explained the work complications caused by the bile duct growth.

“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.”

Iwata’s contributions over his 30-years at Nintendo are immeasurable. He’ll undoubtedly be missed by fans across the gaming world.

[Photo via Handout/Getty Images]