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Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata was MORE than a suit – he was a CODER

Pokemon co-programmer dies of cancer, aged 55

Obit Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata died late last week after a battle with cancer.

Born on December 6, 1959, the 55-year-old Iwata headed up Nintendo from 2002 until the time of his death, but prior to leading the world's largest game house, Iwata had already established himself as an icon in the gaming world.

A graduate of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Iwata began his career with Japan's HAL Laboratory. The games studio produced titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) such as Joust, Earthbound, and Adventures of Lolo. While at HAL, Iwata sneaked a programming credit for himself into Star Battle, a Galaxian game he wrote for the Commodore VIC-20 in 1981.

Iwata also helped develop some of HAL's best-known titles – Super Smash Bros, Kirby, and Pokemon – which were published for various Nintendo consoles in the 1990s. At one point, as HAL president, he lent his programmers a hand by porting the Pokemon Red and Green battle code to Pokémon Stadium for the Nintendo 64 without looking at any internal documentation and just studying the source code.

"I created that battle program and it really took a long time to put together," noted Pokemon programmer Shigeki Morimoto. "But when I heard that Iwata-san had been able to port it over in about a week and that it was already working… Well, I thought: 'What kind of company president is this!?'"

Iwata would go on to join Nintendo in 2000 as a director. By 2002 he was named president and representative director of the company, the first person outside of the founding Yamauchi family to hold the title.

Under his watch, Nintendo crafted the Wii, the home console of choice for casual gamers, while keeping a dominant position in the handheld market with the DS.

As CEO, Iwata maintained an active role in developing new products for Nintendo. Earlier this year he told Time how he came up with the idea for the company's line of amiibo toys and, up to his death, was spearheading an effort to port Nintendo games to mobile devices.

"In the digital world, content has the tendency to lose value, especially on smart devices," Iwata said in the Time interview.

"We finally found solutions to the problem. We will not merely port games developed for our dedicated systems to smart devices just as they are – we will develop brand new software which perfectly matches the play style and control mechanisms of smart devices."

Iwata's role will be assumed by managing directors Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto. ®

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