The late president’s book describes the vision of Nintendo Japan Kyoto Sony Switch Hollywood



The late Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, oversaw the video game maker’s global growth as Super Mario and Pokemon became household names.

“Ask Iwata” was published after her death from cancer in 2015 at the age of 55. This month, VIZ Media is releasing the English translation of the book, which was released in Japanese in 2019.

“On my business card, I am the president of a company. In my mind, I’m a game developer. But in my heart I’m a gamer, ”said Iwata, one of the many quotes that stand out from the book.

Throughout the book, Iwata describes her vision for Nintendo Co., which was to provide entertainment that everyone in the family could enjoy, regardless of their age, gender, and gaming skills. The Culture company that he encouraged encouraged individual game makers, showing that he was one of them at heart.

Iwata was a generation younger than the avant-garde of the leaders in Japanese manufacturing who captured global attention: Soichiro Honda, founder of the automaker that bears his name; Momofuku Ando, ​​inventor of the instant noodle; Akio Morita, who threw Sony into a repair shop amid the bombed-out rubble.

Nintendo, based in Kyoto, began making traditional Japanese playing cards, but switched, when Iwata took over in 2002, to video games with offerings such as the Wii console and the Nintendo DS handheld console, as well. as games on cell phones.

The company’s performance has seen its ups and downs like a Super Mario roller coaster ride, but has performed well lately as people stuck at home due to the pandemic have turned to gaming. Profits for the nine months through December doubled from the previous year to nearly 377 billion yen ($ 3.4 billion).

This good fortune might not last as normal operations resume with the rollout of vaccines, a change that may dampen sales to the casual game users who make up Nintendo gamers, rather than the mainstream gamers that rival consoles tend to attract. .

The hoped-for end of the pandemic is likely to coincide, analysts say, with a spike in the so-called “lifecycle,” or consumer appeal duration, of Nintendo console offerings like the Switch. Questions also remain about Nintendo’s ability to monetize in the growing mobile gaming industry.

Consoles could continue to evolve, like those with virtual reality, analysts say. Nintendo also owns intellectual property, driving lucrative businesses such as merchandising and theme parks.

All of these businesses flourished under Iwata’s presidency.

Kenshu Kikuzawa, professor of business administration at Keio University, believes that the strengths of Japanese companies come from its traditional practices such as lifetime employment and seniority pay increases, which still characterize large Japanese companies, including Nintendo.

This in turn breeds employee loyalty, which Kikuzawa says is important in the creative work that drives Nintendo.

Japanese companies should stay Japanese, do what they do best, handcrafted, Kikuzawa said, just like Iwata ran Nintendo.

“Nintendo is in many ways a very old-fashioned Japanese company,” he said. “At the end of the day, Nintendo employees really love Nintendo. Loyalty to the company is fierce.

This type of emotional engagement allows a business to overcome hardship, even during times of financial loss, as employees hang on and work hard for a turnaround, he said.

Iwata showed talent for programming in his youth. He worked part-time at the Japanese laboratory HAL, known for the “Kirby” games and collaborated with Nintendo, before graduating from the prestigious Tokyo Institute of Technology. He first created games for Nintendo Famicom machines, which came out in the 1980s.

Iwata was promoted to head of HAL before taking the helm of Nintendo. His colleagues say he was a good listener, interviewing everyone in the company twice a year, trying to be fair and respectful.

“My plan was to be a sounding board and get a feel for what was going on, but when I sat down with each person individually I was blown away by everything I was learning,” wrote Iwata.

Shigesato Itoi, writer, actor and creator of Nintendo’s “EarthBound” game series, featured reviews of Iwata’s book on his personal website and deeply admired it.

“I never saw him blame anyone or say bad things about anyone,” said Itoi, who had known Iwata for 25 years, and said he loved her like a younger brother.

Instead of big Hollywood-style battles, Japan excels in more peaceful blockbusters like Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing,” Itoi said. He compared the game, which simulates life in a village, to children playing at home.

“It wasn’t exactly something that many experts in the gaming industry expected the world to enjoy,” he said. “What Japan has to offer still has great potential.”

Iwata sought to appeal to people who had never played games before and those who played them before quitting, said Kensuke Yabe, a professor in the School of Global Studies at Chukyo University.

“He had a great instinct about what was going on on the pitch. To maximize their appeal, he made sure the Nintendo consoles were designed for the living room, ”Yabe said.

When the Wii first came out, Iwata insisted that the controller be called “remote,” a more colloquial term referring to televisions, rather than “controller.” He liked games to learn English, go out with a dog and cook.

“A video game is great when you can have fun just by watching someone play,” Iwata wrote.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter


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