The news about Tatsumi Kimishima being appointed as Nintendo's President kicked off a fresh round of mourning for the late Satoru Iwata. Kimishima's background in business makes it that much easier to lament the loss of Iwata, who had a direct hand in creating (or assisting with) some of Nintendo's most iconic games and franchises.
Calling Iwata "one of a kind" isn't hyperbole. He truly was unique, and he's still ferociously missed, as he ought to be. But Kimishima's promotion to the head of Nintendo has been met with some backlash and even some scorn. "His background is in banking! What does he know about video games?"
Aside from being disrespectful, this attitude is generally incorrect. Though Kimishima certainly has a robust background in banking (27 years with Sanwa Bank of Japan), he's been with Nintendo since 2000 and steadily moved up the ranks.
As Iwata's own rise to prominence demonstrates, Nintendo doesn't simply award major authority to anyone with an impressive Resume. Something special has to be there. And while Kimishima has been content to conduct his work quietly from the wings, his contributions to (and plans for) Nintendo shouldn't be under-stated:
He was the first President of Pokémon USA
Kimishima was the Chief Financial Officer for The Pokémon Company in 2000, until he became the President of Pokémon USA in 2001. Though there aren't any recorded specifics about his duties at either job, it's important to note he was involved with the franchise at the turn of the millennium, when it was positively red-hot. Pokémon Gold and Silver were on store shelves, and the cartoon made "anime" a household word in English-speaking countries.
As the President of Pokémon USA, it wouldn't have been too difficult for Kimishima to drop the ball at this vital point in Pokémon's American history. Kids' interests have a way of burning hot for a moment before sputtering out for good. With a few missteps, that could've been Pokémon's fate on Western shores. Instead, the franchise is still a million-seller over fifteen years later. The staff at The Pokémon Company is very talented, of course (and Iwata himself helped make Pokémon Gold and Silver great), but Kimishima also deserves a high-five for keeping things on-track.
He intends to keep Nintendo Direct going
Nintendo has always done its own thing, which can be amazing or frustrating depending on the situation. But Nintendo's unique thumbprint has given us one of the industry's most popular broadcasts: The Nintendo Direct mini-conferences, presented by the late Satoru Iwata.
Whereas other game companies make big, sweeping announcements in front of packed theatres, Nintendo prefers to deliver its game news (usually accompanied by lots of video footage) in its own way, and on its own time. Nintendo Direct presentations are laid-back and personal, and on September 15, Nintendo told IGN that they will continue, despite the change in leadership.
He warned that the Wii U is too similar to the Wii
Even though Iwata made some solid business decisions regarding the Wii U and Nintendo DS while he was President, the Wii U's poor sales will probably always be regarded as the low point of his legacy. According to Japanese news site the Nikkei, Kimishima warned that the Wii U might fail because of its similarity to the Wii (this information was translated on September 14 by Serkan Toto, a games industry analyst and consultant).
This revelation is a good indication that Kimishima is very familiar with Nintendo's hardware -- and that he has a good idea of how the general public views the company's products, too.
A strong business background will help keep Nintendo grounded while it builds up its mobile presence
With the increasing presence of mobile gaming, the ever-growing divide between Eastern and Western tastes, and the move from disc to digital, it's not an exaggeration to say this is the most tumultuous time in gaming's history. People name the Crash of '83 as the industry's most chaotic hour, but that event was situated around the United States. The current industry upheaval is worldwide.
Given Nintendo's upcoming push into mobile, as well as its plans to extend its brand familiarity (don't forget about that Nintendo theme park!), Kimishima's solid background in business shouldn't be regarded as a negative. Besides which, the face of Nintendo's franchises -- Shigeru Miyamoto -- is still doing his thing under a newly-appointed "Creative Fellow" title.
He's sticking to Iwata's plan over the next year
Whatever happens, and whatever choices Kimishima winds up making, he'll be re-evaluating his position in a year. Toto translated another Nikkei article wherein Kimishima says Iwata didn't give him instructions on how to run Nintendo, so sticking to Iwata's vision is the plan for now.
Kimishima also said he's not against someone from outside Nintendo becoming President after he's done, which is admittedly a worrying statement. One thing at a time, though. For now, there's no indication that Tatsumi Kimishima has plans to shake up everything Satoru Iwata worked for.
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