Today (local time) Nintendo had its investors’ briefing and the Internet has been caught by storm. Zelda going Twilight Princess on Wii U and NX, delayed until next year but playable at E3, exclusively, with no other games. And the NX launching March 2017.
A bit of other news was reported by Nintendolife as well, something Kotaku didn’t report on, which makes sense as few have been able to make sense of it. I’m talking about this here:
The gist of it is this: Nintendo will now work with an advisory board. This board consists of Nintendo employees both Japanese and foreign, but also with industry experts outside of Nintendo. This is the most important announcement, and has many ramifications. In fact, mark this day as the birth of the new Nintendo.
To really understand why this is so important, and what to make of it, let me briefly take you through the history of Nintendo. I’ll be cutting corners to keep this article short, and most of the information is readily available in all corners of the internet anyway. To understand why Nintendo’s advisory board is so important, we need to look at Nintendo’s management style up until today.
So for the three of you who didn’t know, Nintendo was founded in 1889 (no typo) as a playing card company by a Mr. Fusayiro Yamauchi. This Mr. Yamauchi ran a modest playing card company that has stayed alive on the backs of just a few employees.
Fusayiro’s son had a brief stint as president, but it was his grandson Hiroshi that took this playing card game, and expanded it until it became the video game company we grew to love in the 80's (they stated video game endeavors in the 70's no less). The road to videogames is very telling of Hiroshi’s reign though.
Nintendo went from cards to taxis, to love hotels and various businesses including toys, all based on Hiroshi’s knack for business. It was Hiroshi himself who decided where to go and what businesses to pursue. Hiroshi also had a knack for finding the right man for the right job. This was evident by his appointment of Gunpei Yokoi (of Game Boy fame), who was a maintainance engineer, and his appointment of young upstart Miyamoto (of rockstar fame) to get Donkey Kong going.
Now Mr. Yamauchi was known for his excellent business sense, and for his complete lack of smiling. This was a stern man, always on business with his mind was always on expanding the company. Yet, on making plans to retire, he chose a man who was more of an artistic executive than a shrewd business man. He chose a man who was known for his eternal smiles and soft demeanor. He chose Satoru Iwata.
On face value, Iwata was nothing like Yamauchi. Iwata was a soft and caring individual, someone who really liked video games and coding in general. I really for the life of me couldn’t see Yamauchi and Iwata sitting silently over Tea and a game of Go. Iwata always came across as a man who’d be talkative and friendly where Yamauchi would like to enjoy the rest and ambiance in relative silence.
Still, Iwata was Yamauchi’s personal pick, and while I can’t say I know exactly what Yamauchi was thinking, the results show a remarkable similarity between the two. Something that has defined Nintendo in it’s near 130 years of existence: Vision.
Both these men steered the company in their own direction. Both having the company first and foremost in their lives. Mr. Yamauchi drove business like a classic businessman, never resting. Iwata drove business by putting his personnel and their powers to the forefront (evident by his slashing his own wages in half before firing personnel).
And Nintendo became known for dancing to its own tune.
After the untimely departure of Iwata, Mr. Kimishima was chosen as the new president. It’s been reported that Mr. Kimishima would not have been Mr. Iwata’s first choice, but having been a very successful businessman, not to mention president of the Pokémon company in its most glorious years, what can go wrong?
Now, most actions a company takes are based on decisions made prior. So most of Nintendo’s moves after Iwata’s departure were most likely still his decisions. But now almost a year has passed, and that may not be the case anymore. And the news of the advisory board is a surefire sign of that.
The advisory board means that Nintendo will not rely on its own strengths entirely anymore, and it seems to actively seek out business sense from outside of itself, too. This is common among businesses and makes sense.
However, it’s not what Nintendo has done for the last 127 years. Really if you think about it, samurais had only just been abolished when Nintendo started doing business. Nintendo has always been on its own track. And now that’s changing.
Would the Wii have happened if someone could stop Iwata? Would the DS had a DS lite and touch generations, or would the Game Boy Saviour been called to action and the DS’ “third pillar” line dropped?
Kimishima was not Iwata’s first pick and my hunch is that this was the reasoning: Kimishima is a businessman, but today he has shown himself as no visionary. Whether that’s good or bad is up to debate, but my gut feeling tells me Kimishima will steer Nintendo in a direction similar to Playstation: Less “nonsense”, more “business sense”.
Take your Zelda and NX announcements, discuss them all day if you have to, but the most monumental announcement is the birth of a Nintendo that no longer marches to its own tune.
So.. what do you make of it?