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Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passes away at 55

UPDATE: Miyamoto "surprised and saddened", remains committed to Nintendo's "development policy".

UPDATE 11.00am: Nintendo of Europe president Satoru Shibata has released a statement offering his own words of condolence. The full text lies below:

"Nintendo of Europe is today mourning the passing of Mr Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's Global President. It is difficult to put into words the sadness we feel at this time. Mr. Iwata was a strong leader, a unique figure in the gaming industry and an important part of Nintendo's history.

"He was a visionary in every sense of the word and we will miss him dearly. Just as Mr. Iwata challenged us to always push forward, we will ensure his legacy lives on through our ongoing work to always surprise and delight our fans. At this time our thoughts are with his family."

UPDATE 10.20am: Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto has expressed his sadness at the passing of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, and spoken of the company's direction in the immediate future.

"I am truly surprised and saddened by this unexpected news," Miyamoto said in a statement passed to Eurogamer.

"The entire development team at Nintendo will remain committed to our development policy which Mr. Iwata and we have been constructing together and to yield the development results which Mr. Iwata would appreciate."

ORIGINAL STORY 5.15am: Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passed away on Saturday, 11th July 2015 due to a bile duct growth. He was 55 at the time.

Iwata began his career as a programmer, working at HAL Laboratories where he leant his hand to such games such as Balloon Fight and oversaw the likes of EarthBound and Kirby. Nintendo's then president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, formed a bond with the young Iwata, investing heavily in HAL before offering him a position at Nintendo in 2000 as the head of its corporate planning position.

In 2002, Iwata became the first person outside of the Yamauchi family to head Nintendo, becoming the fourth president in its history.

His time at Nintendo was characterised by bold changes, seeing in the Wii and DS era which brought the company great success. His hands-on approach also won him many fans - Iwata's passion for the medium shone through with the Iwata Asks series which saw him probe fellow developers, and he always maintained his love for games.

"On my business card, I am a corporate president," he said at GDC in 2005. "In my mind I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer."

The Wii's successor, the Wii U, was less of a hit - and Iwata announced last year that he halved his salary to help offset Nintendo's financial difficulties - but Iwata's recent push towards mobile gaming as the company bought a stake in DeNA was one of the boldest in its history. Last year Iwata missed E3 due to his illness, and was also absent from this year's event.

With Iwata's death two directors remain at Nintendo: Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda. The flag at Nintendo's Kyoto HQ is flying half-mast today.

"Above all, video games are meant to be just one thing: fun," Iwata once said. "Fun for everyone." Farewell, Mr. Iwata, and thank you for all the fun you helped create.

Cover image for YouTube videoDirectly to you: Remembering Mr Iwata