Reggie Fils-Aime retired as Nintendo of America president in early 2019, and since then he’s become prolific on Twitter and taken up a board position with GameStop. He’s also started a seven-part podcast series, Talking Games with Reggie and Harold, alongside journalist Harold Goldberg. It’s available on Soundcloud, or you can also listen to it on Apple Podcasts and other podcatcher services, like Pocket Casts and Stitcher–just search for “New York Videogame Critics Circle”.
In the first episode, Fils-Aime shares some anecdotes about his time with Nintendo, and what it was like becoming the frontman for the company’s western operations. He also says that he almost messed up his own hiring by demanding to speak with then-president Satoru Iwata during his interview process. Iwata would become a good friend of his, but Fils-Aime was not meant to speak with him during these proceedings, as Iwata would not be his direct superior.
Fils-Aime reveals the reason why he needed to speak with Iwata–because of his doubts about the company. “I needed to feel comfortable with where the company was going,” he says. Nintendo was struggling at the time with the GameCube, which was pacing far behind the PlayStation 2. “While the handheld business was dominated by the Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo was driving that part of the business, on the home console side things were challenging,” he recalls.
Despite Nintendo’s dominance with handhelds, Fils-Aime remembers how when Sony announced the PSP, Nintendo’s stock price took a huge hit. He wanted to make sure that Iwata’s direction for the company was something he could get behind, and the conversation he ended up having with Iwata was ultimately foundational to his work within the company.
He also talks about the crafting of the Reggie “personality” ahead of his first public appearance. “In 2002, 2003, there was a need to communicate to the western community what Nintendo was doing, how we were looking to do things differently, not only from what we had done in the past, but what everyone else was doing in the gaming industry,” he recalls.
“From the day I was hired in early December of 2003, everything was building momentum for my first E3 in May.” At E3 2004, Reggie would take the stage and declare “My name is Reggie. I’m about kicking ass, I’m about taking names, and we’re about making games.” This was also the year that the Nintendo DS was revealed and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was first shown.
The “kicking ass” line came from Don Varyu, who Fils-Aime said was instrumental to a lot of Nintendo’s messaging at the time. “When Don first shared with me that infamous line, I needed to be convinced that it would be the right line, because I knew that I would need to be the one to convince Mr Iwata.” The intent of that E3 was to “reshape the message” for Nintendo, and Fils-Aime believes that it was a big success.
“People didn’t know me. This was really my coming out party,” Fils-Aime says. He remembers at E3, as he gazed out into the crowd, a Nintendo staff member mistook him for a security guard, which is pretty fun.
These observations are just from the first 12 minutes–the rest is also worth a listen, especially if you’re a fan of Nintendo and its history, or want to hear about the first time Fils-Aime met Shigeru Miyamoto.
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