Nintendo has said its president, Satoru Iwata, has died of cancer at a hospital in Kyoto at the age of 55.In a brief statement, the Japanese video game company said: “Nintendo Co, Ltd deeply regrets to announce that President Satoru Iwata passed away on July 11, 2015, due to a bile duct growth.”

Nintendo Boss Satoru Iwata Dies

Mr Iwata, who started off as a programmer, took the top post at Nintendo in 2002 – just two years after joining the firm.

He led the company through years of growth with its Pokemon and Super Mario franchises, its hit Wii home console, and also through its recent woes caused by the booming popularity of smartphones.

Last year, Mr Iwata said he would slash his salary in half for several months to atone for the firm’s downturn, which has struggled as rivals Sony and Microsoft outpaced it in console sales.

Mr Iwata had argued that venturing into the overpopulated world of smartphones and tablets risked hollowing out the core business and cannibalising the hard-fought value of their game creations.

But he later acknowledged Nintendo had to move into new areas, and launched a push into the smartphone games market.

“The world is changing, so any company that is not coping with the change will fall into decline,” he said at the time.

Mr Iwata announced his illness last year and did not attend the firm’s shareholder meeting in June 2014, although the severity of his illness was unclear at the time.

He returned to work over the following months, and had continued to be the public face of the company, announcing its financial results in May.

Nintendo reported a 41.8bn yen net profit for the year to March – reversing a 23.2bn yen loss a year ago – while revenue slipped 3.8% to 549.8bn yen.

A funeral service for Mr Iwata will be held on 17 July.