The winds of change kicked up suddenly over at Nintendo this morning, and they're still blowing with the force of a monsoon. Tatsumi Kimishima, who's been Nintendo's President since Satoru Iwata died in the summer of 2015, is stepping down. He's being replaced in June by Shuntaro Furukawa, another long-time Nintendo employee.
Kimishima never intended to be Nintendo's President for the long-term. He resolved to take the position long enough to execute the remainder of Iwata's plan, including the launch of the Nintendo Switch. In fact, Kimishima initially planned to re-assess his Presidential position within a year of taking it; three years might be longer than he intended to remain in charge.
Nevertheless, Kimishima is stepping down into an advisory role (thanks to Nintendolife for the Nikkei article translation / summary), and Furukawa is stepping up. Furukawa's been with Nintendo for decades, but most Westerners aren't familiar with him yet. Here's what you should know about Nintendo's new Prez:
Mr Furukawa is quite young
Shuntaro Furukawa is 46 years old, which means he's roughly the same age Iwata was when he became Nintendo's President in 2002 (42). Former Nintendo President Kimishima is 68. Kimishima's steady personality and background as a veteran in the banking industry proved valuable during the Switch's launch, so it'll be interesting to watch Nintendo return to younger leadership.
He's worked at Nintendo since 1994
Like Iwata, Furukawa's been a Nintendo insider for a long time. However, his background tends more towards marketing than programming. He's been the Outside Director of the Pokémon Company since 2012 to the present day, and he's currently in charge of Nintendo's Global Marketing Department. His CV is impressive.
He was involved in marketing efforts for the Nintendo Switch
Furukawa seemingly fell in with Nintendo's Global Marketing Department in 2016, around the same time the company likely started getting serious about ideas for marketing the Switch (weak advertisements for the Wii U combined with general confusion about its role as a console played no small part in its poor sales). While Furukawa's individual ideas for marketing the Switch haven't been publicized yet, there's little doubt he's considerably involved in the Switch's marketing and subsequent success.
He worked for 10 years in Germany, and is fluent in English
Furukawa worked for a decade in Europe, and like Iwata, he's fluent in English. Atul Goyal, an analyst who works at Jefferies Group and knows Furukawa personally, told Bloomberg "He is fluent in English. He may be the perfect person to fill the communication gap that exists between Nintendo and investors."
He may also be just the person to fill in Iwata's hosting duties for Nintendo Direct presentations (if that role can be filled at all).
Right now, his favorite game is Golf Story for the Nintendo Switch
Surprise: Furukawa's current favorite game is Golf Story, an independently-developed golf / RPG hybrid that's lovably bizarre. Furukawa's willingness to dive into the likes of Golf Story bodes well for the Nintendo Switch's blossoming indie market.
He grew up playing Famicom games, and he appears determined to bring fresh ideas and new vision to Nintendo
Furukawa grew up playing and loving Famicom games, and during a news conference in Osaka earlier this morning, he informed the Press he plans to "balance Nintendo’s traditions: originality and flexibility."
"I grew up playing the Famicom and come from that generation," Furukawa said. "Now as a member of management with Super Mario's creator Shigeru Miyamoto, I have a lot of respect for him. On the other hand, with this new job that can’t just be it, so I expect to say what needs to be said to run the company."
Welcome, Mr Furukawa, and good luck.