Satoru Iwata, who led Japanese video game company Nintendo Co. through years of growth with its Pokemon and Super Mario franchises, died on the weekend of a bile duct tumor, the company said Monday. He was 55.
TOKYO — Nintendo Co. President Satoru Iwata’s death from an illness at 55 is being mourned by game fans around the world. They’re sharing Iwata Mii avatars, creating pictures with farewell messages on the Nintendo drawing game Splatoon and sending Tweets with “ThankYouIwata” hashtags. Some of the online tributes:
A petition is circulating, amassing thousands of signatures, urging Nintendo to create an “amiibo” figurine in the likeness of Iwata. The small dolls packed with sensors, which already come in Nintendo characters such as Super Mario and Kirby, are used to play games. “Even if the amiibo itself lacks in-game functionality, it serves as a small reminder of Iwata’s legacy and accomplishments,” the petition says. Nintendo had no comment.
An illustration showing Nintendo characters weeping around Iwata lying down with his eyes closed on a bed of flowers is going viral on Twitter. People said they found the drawing moving and a reminder that there would have been no Pokemon without him. “Thank you, Mr. Iwata,” the words say above the picture.
One of the quotes people were remembering from Iwata was: “On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” A YouTube clip of his keynote speech, delivered in English, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco 10 years ago, was attracting droves of views. He showed his business card, pointed to his head and then brushed his chest as he opened his speech with that comment.
Various Iwata images are circulating in online homage, such as the one of him staring at a bunch of bananas, which had set off parody offshoots when it first popped up in 2012, becoming an Iwata meme. A video tribute by IGN includes that image as well as many others, including most recently Iwata’s appearance as a puppet at the E3 conference earlier this year.
Illness and death
In June 2014, Nintendo announced that Iwata would not be present at E3 2014 due to medical-related reasons. It was later revealed that he was undergoing surgery to remove a tumor in his bile duct. A little over a year later on July 12, 2015, Nintendo announced that Iwata died the previous day at the age of 55 due to complications from the tumor. He is survived by his wife Kayoko. Funeral services are planned to be held on July 17.
Flags at Nintendo’s headquarters were lowered to half-mast. Members across the gaming industry and fans alike expressed their sadness on social media over Iwata’s passing and gratitude for his accomplishments. Shuhei Yoshida, president of SCE Worldwide Studios, stated “He has given a great contribution to the development of the gaming industry.
I will pray for Iwata’s soul.” Composer and director Junichi Masuda, most known for his work with the Pokémon games, tweeted “He was a man who understood Pokémon, and a great leader. When I visited the other day, he was well. I will pray for his soul from the bottom of my heart.” Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe took a day of silence on July 13 across all of its social media accounts in remembrance of Iwata. One day after Iwata’s death, a rainbow appeared over Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto and was dubbed as the “Rainbow Road to heaven”, a reference to a stage in Mario Kart.