One year ago, Nintendo flooded headlines everywhere. Unfortunately, it was for a terrible reason—former president Satoru Iwata had passed away.
It was news that nobody was expecting to hear. It was quite a public fact that Mr. Iwata was ill, but his condition had improved in the months prior to his death. Even so, life is filled with unforeseen occurrences, and Mr. Iwata unfortunately had to deal with the worst of the worst.
Due to his untimely death, Nintendo receded into a cocoon of near total silence for months. The company has always been known for its high level of secrecy, but this silence was even more profound. Towards the end of the year, things began to change. Out of seemingly nowhere, Nintendo suddenly emerged out of the shadows with news of a successor to Iwata—Tatsumi Kimishima. Since the very beginning, president Kimishima has been making big waves in the company. It’s been over half a year since his appointment, and the situation continues to look brighter. Is he the unexpected hero of the company?
Mr. Kimishima may be a new face to many fans, but he has actually been with the company for quite some time. Originally manning the position that Reggie Fils-Aime currently holds (president of Nintendo of America), Kimishima has been residing with Nintendo of Japan for the last few years. It was quite obvious that he knew his way around the company, seeing that he conducted a massive restructure of the whole entity within just a few days of taking the chair as CEO.
What makes Kimishima’s appointment, and his subsequent actions, so interesting is the time in which he was sworn in. Nintendo has been in a very tumultuous situation for quite a few years now, primarily since the beginning of the current generation. After the company came off the massive success of the DS and Wii, the industry hasn’t held back any punches when it comes to criticizing Nintendo for its failure to generate the same levels of momentum with the 3DS and Wii U. In particular, Nintendo’s performance at last year’s E3 was the butt of many jokes and target of massive amounts of negativity. Iwata had actually apologized due to all the harsh remarks, even though he was not present at the event. All of this happened just weeks before his death.
But even before the E3 fiasco, Nintendo was under the burner. Many gamers wanted to see Iwata gone, claiming that his direction is what had the company in such an “outdated” and “out-of-touch” state. Even though he had medical complications, if Iwata was aware of any of the negativity that was directed at him, this no doubt put an even greater strain on his health. With this in mind, it makes the fact that he died so soon after the E3 drama even more unsettling.
Having considered all of this, Kimishima no doubt came in at an incredibly chaotic period in the company’s history.
Seeing that Nintendo had been in a state of almost total silence, Kimishima’s speedy action after his appointment showed that the decision as to who would take the helm was given quite a lot of consideration. That should be obvious considering the fact that this is a multi-billion dollar international company , but it shows just how aware the Board of Directors were when it came to the company’s image.
Iwata’s quirky nature is what made him special, but it’s also why many people thought he was unfit to continue leading Nintendo.
Kimishima has not been as outgoing as Iwata was; for instance, he did not come to this year’s E3, nor has he appeared in any Nintendo Direct presentations—but even so, he’s been working hard. We’ve already discussed the massive restructure, but first let’s address the elephant in the room—the NX. It was Iwata who first made mention of the system at an investor’s briefing early last year, giving a pretty vague description as to what it is. While Kimishima hasn’t exactly elaborated further as to what it is, he has addressed it on several occasions. This is most likely where we will truly see the fruits of the his labor.
We still know next to nothing about the NX, but Kimishima has been doing a pretty good job at generating hype around the system. While he’s been very careful not to give any specific details surrounding it, his statements have proven to be vague but powerful. This, combined with the restructuring of the company, shows that Kimishima means business.
Mr. Iwata was a game developer before he became the president of the company. The way he led Nintendo reflected his mindset, which he formulated during his earlier career. Iwata thought creatively, so he led the company in a unique manner. That’s why he pushed for the Wii and DS, and subsequently the Wii U and 3DS, to be innovative and easy to use. He was a gamer, so he wanted to use his ability as the CEO of a massive game company to introduce gaming to any-and-everyone. Kimishima does not have the same background—he’s a businessman. He knows exactly how to handle a company from a corporate aspect, and he’s obviously shown that ability. Not to mention that he’s even older than Mr. Iwata.
While Iwata’s creativity is commendable, it is arguable that his outlook was leading Nintendo down a problematic path for the past few years. Even though many folks were calling for him to either resign or be fired, I’m sure no one who complained about him wanted death to be the reason why Nintendo would get a change in leadership. Even so, Kimishima came at what looks to be the best time. While we still haven’t seen much of what Nintendo has in store, the little details that’s been sprinkled here and there paint a very exciting picture.
Satoru Iwata is gone, but not forgotten. His (many) contributions to the video game industry will continue to be remembered for decades to come. While he had many opponents, it’s obvious that his employees and partners loved him very much, not to mention the millions of gamers, some not even Nintendo fans, who sent their hearts out to his family and friends after his untimely death. But sometimes, there really is light at the end of a dark tunnel; Kimishima hasn’t even been at the helm for a full year yet and good things are already happening. As we wait for Nintendo to finally show us a glimpse of its future, I think it’s safe to say that we can go in knowing that this outcome has a high chance of being very, very sweet.