In the statement (found below), the cause of death was given as bile duct growth.

Indications of Satoru Iwata’s ill health were evident past year when the Nintendo chief executive missed the E3 trade show in Los Angeles on the advice of his doctor. In 2000 he became a board director and became president in 2002.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Iwata family and to the Nintendo family in this hard time. More recently, he was named CEO of Nintendo America in 2013.

Iwata famously believed in the power of video games for entertainment and joy and once said, simply, “Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun”.

When HAL Laboratories verged toward bankruptcy in 1992, Iwata was made the company’s president, and he helped restore it to fiscal soundness.

But investors appeared unfazed by the news at the Wii U console maker, with Nintendo’s Tokyo-listed shares jumping 4.48 percent to 20,390 yen (US$166) at the start.

Nintendo has not yet announced a successor for Iwata.

Nintendo highlighted that research and development head Genyo Takeda and creative guru Shigeru Miyamaoto remain at the company as representative directors.

Iwata addressed his illness in 2014, when he wrote a letter to apologize for missing the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.