Along with today’s earnings report, Nintendo announced the impending retirement of one of its most important and longest-serving employees: Genyo Takeda. His current position is representative director and “technology fellow” alongside “creative fellow” Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario and Zelda; both assumed their roles when Tatsumi Kimishima took over as CEO following Satoru Iwata’s unexpected death.
Although he wasn’t particularly high profile, Takeda’s ranking alongside Miyamoto should give some idea as to his historical importance to Nintendo. Hired by the company in 1972, he was involved in software development for decades, most famously directing the arcade and NES boxing title Punch-Out. He also designed what could be considered the first video game Nintendo ever released, 1975 arcade horse-betting simulator EVR Race.
In more recent decades, Takeda was associated with Nintendo hardware. After helping develop the cartridge battery backup system first seen in the original Legend of Zelda, he is credited with designing the analog stick for the N64 controller. This turned out to be one of the most influential pieces of hardware in video game history; almost every subsequent mainstream controller used a derivative. Takeda also led development on the Wii, a radically different home games console that ended up being Nintendo’s most successful ever. (For more on the Wii’s development, I recommend reading this interview with Takeda and other engineers from the ever-fascinating Iwata Asks series.)
Takeda, 68, doesn’t appear to have been deeply involved in the development of the Switch, which was led by Yoshiaki Koizumi and Shinya Takahashi. Takeda's responsibilities as representative director are likely to be taken over by Ko Shiota, the current manager of Nintendo’s Platform Technology Development Division and another long-serving employee who worked under Takeda during the Wii project — he features in the above interview discussing his role in semiconductor development. Shiota’s new role is subject to approval by Nintendo’s board once Takeda formally steps down after the company’s AGM on June 29th.