Nintendo CEO who broadened video game appeal dies of cancer

Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:46am EDT
 
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By Ritsuko Ando

TOKYO (Reuters) - Nintendo Co Ltd (7974.T: Quote) Chief Executive Satoru Iwata died of cancer on Saturday, months after he led the Japanese video-game maker's belated entry into mobile gaming following years of declining sales. He was 55.

The death of the hands-on CEO and president, announced by Nintendo on Monday, comes at a critical time for the company which is betting that its new smartphone tie-up with online game maker DeNA will help make up for declining console sales.

Iwata long resisted investors' calls to move into mobile games for fear of cannibalizing Nintendo's traditional console base. He announced the move in March as stiff competition from console rivals and mobile games continued to drag on sales.

The company did not announce a replacement but Genyo Takeda, senior managing director and one of the lead developers of Nintendo's Wii console, will lead the committee for Iwata's funeral - a sign he could be taking on the leadership role.

"They say it's not yet decided who the next CEO will be, so there's a slight uncertainty," Japan Asia Securities deputy general manager Mitsuo Shimizu said. "This comes just as we saw a glimmer of hope for the company."

Nintendo has forecast it would double annual operating profit in the year through March thanks to the DeNA tie-up.

Despite some concerns over succession, Kyoto-based Nintendo's shares rose 1.49 percent, in line with the broader Tokyo market .TOPX. Deutsche Bank analyst Hanjoon Kim maintained a "buy" rating on the shares and said Takeda and other long-serving board members would likely ensure stability.

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Nintendo Co's President and Chief Executive Satoru Iwata attends an interview with Reuters in Tokyo in this file May 8, 2014 photo. REUTERS/Toru Hanai