Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.
The Super Mario Bros. company has a new leader today, but he’s planning to guide the publisher in the same direction it was already marching in.
Nintendo announced this morning that it has appointed general manager Tatsumi Kimishima as president and chief executive officer to replace Satoru Iwata, who died in July. If Nintendo were ready for some major changes, this shift in leadership seems like the ideal opportunity to pursue them. But Kimishima is more likely going to have Nintendo working to further the strategies first put in place by Iwata himself.
Gaming is a huge industry worth nearly $100 billion if you take into account all of the consoles, PC, and mobile — and Nintendo is one of a handful of outfits that could capture a significant piece of that cash. To do that, Nintendo likely wanted someone that could pick up where Iwata left off without missing a beat. The company has done a remarkable job of returning to profitability after a few tough quarters during the early days of the Wii U. With strong game releases like Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 8, and Splatoon, the publisher has found a small but dedicated audience willing to spend money on its Wii U software. Nintendo has also managed to keep people excited about the aging 3DS with hardware revisions and the occasional big release.
Simultaneously, Nintendo has charted a course for the future by revealing it will get into the smartphone game business later this year.
GamesBeat Summit 2023
Join the GamesBeat community in Los Angeles this May 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry to share their updates on the latest developments.
Kimishima will have to manage all of these various businesses to keep Nintendo growing, but market analysts expect that is something he is capable of.
“Kimishima-san is an excellent choice, and could be seen by the markets as a clear statement of intent to continue Iwata-san’s strategy,” Digi-Capital advisory firm managing director Tim Merel told GamesBeat. [That means] leveraging the installed base of Wii U and 3DS users to generate software sales, pushing into mobile with DeNA and Niantic, and launching Nintendo’s new console system NX in 2016.”
Kimishima definitely has experience both with Nintendo and as a leader. He started his career as a banker back in 1973 before joining The Pokémon Company in 2000 as its general manager. In 2002, he rose to lead Nintendo of America as its director.
With that history, it’s obvious that Kimishima is familiar with Nintendo, and the company is also comfortable with him. But that comfort and familiarity — especially when it comes to the previously established executive regime — may mean that Kimishima won’t establish a new identity for Nintendo that is independent of what came before.
And it sounds like Nintendo is aware of that, which is why Kimishima has come right out and said that he’s only slated to hold his president position for one year.
“Nintendo has clearly played it safe here,” gaming analyst Serkan Toto told GamesBeat. “Kimishima is a rock solid successor for Iwata, but not one that will shape the company’s future for the years to come.”
Kimishima has spent the last few years working with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo general manager Genyo Takeda as the three men who ran the day-to-day operations of the company under Iwata. By bumping up Kimishima to the top job, this is essentially Nintendo saying that the triumvirate of Miyamoto, Takeda, and Kimishima are the ones responsible for getting the publisher through the next few years.
“Him and the troika with Miyamoto and Takeda are what can be called an ideal solution to bridge the time it takes to find another person that can run Nintendo in the long term,” said Toto.
Of course, the real question for Nintendo is why it didn’t just go out and find the leader that will see it through the next several decades. A Nikkei report even claims that Iwata wasn’t convinced that Kimishima should replace him because the late CEO wanted someone younger.
But Toto points out that this simply isn’t the time for that kind of bold move — and the lack of that kind of replacement suggests that Iwata was unable to find the ideal candidate before he died.
“Nintendo right now is at a crossroads,” said Toto. “It’s between two console generations. The Wii U flopped, the 3DS is aging quickly, it’s about to enter mobile, and Nintendo IP will soon be found in more places than games — theme parks, movies, possibly TV, even in products from direct competitors like Activision’s Skylanders franchise. In this situation, it would not have made sense to appoint a young and fresh inexperienced leader just for the sake of going for a bolder solutions. So I think the [triumvirate] is a good solution to steer Nintendo through the immediate future as laid out by Iwata before his tragic passing.”
GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.