Meet The Man Who Brought Nintendo To America
Posted by Damien McFerran
Howard Phillips' amazing journey from warehouse to boardroom
Although it's hard to imagine it now, Nintendo wasn't always a dead cert in North America. Back in the early '80s, before the company had launched the super-successful NES system in the States, it was just one of many Japanese coin-op manufacturers attempting to muscle in on the flagging US arcade industry.
Then Donkey Kong happened, and overnight Nintendo became the hottest ticket in video gaming.
One man who has a unique perspective on this defining moment in the company's history is Howard Phillips. Employed by Nintendo to handle the shipping of new arcade units freshly arrived from Japan, he would eventually rise up through the ranks to become one of the most influential figures in the industry, even going as far as to use his expertise to decide which games were released on the NES in North America.
Speaking to Kotaku, Phillips had this to say about the early days of Nintendo of America:
In the early ‘80s Nintendo was a small company (6 staff in the USA!) trying to develop its historically weak arcade business in the US and I was hired by a school friend to manage the warehouse and shipping. I really love games of all types so every day was really fun.
Then Mr. Miyamoto designed the arcade hit Donkey Kong which got things rolling and made me, at 24, the largest volume shipping manager for the entire Port of Seattle, having over 100 40' shipping containers full of games arrive every day and needing to be shipped out by late in the night. My personal record for unloading 11,000lbs of 44 arcade games using a hand-truck was around 9min 30 seconds – I was pretty proud until my skinny assistant Duane bested me by more than 30 seconds.
Elsewhere in the interview, Phillips recounts his reasons for leaving Nintendo in 1991. Interestingly, he was also heavily involved with the inception of Nintendo Power magazine - which recently closed its doors. It's a fascinating read, so be sure to check it out.