Earlier today it was confirmed that Nintendo's new president is Tatsumi Kimishima, a 65-year-old veteran who has previously held several senior roles within the company. While many believed that one of the interim bosses Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda would be given the nod, Kimishima does, on paper at least, represent a more sensible appointment - even if he's unlikely to strike the same chord with gamers.
While Miyamoto and Takeda have experience in game creation and development, Kimishima's background is in finance. He studied at Hitotsubashi University's Faculty of Law, and before joining Nintendo was employed by The Sanwa Bank (now UFJ Bank Ltd.) for 27 years, dealing with aspects such as corporate planning, international business development, communications and promotions. His tenure with the bank would give him valuable global experience as he found himself posted to a wide variety of locations in the US, including New York, LA and San Francisco.
His entry point into Nintendo was The Pokémon Company, which he joined in 2000 as Chief Financial Officer. He would hold this role for a year before being promoted to President of The Pokémon Company. His meteoric rise continued in 2002, when he was appointed as successor to outgoing Nintendo of America President Minoru Arakawa. He would oversee the launch of the Wii in the US - one of Nintendo's most successful hardware releases ever - and four years later would be promoted again, this time as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, making way for current Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. In 2013, he was promoted to Managing Director of Nintendo Co., Ltd., with Satoru Iwata taking his place as Chief Executive Officer of Nintendo of America.
Which brings us pretty much up to the present day. The death of Satoru Iwata has come at a very difficult time for Nintendo, which is on the cusp of a sensitive hardware transition and is about to set foot into the fiercely competitive world of smartphone gaming. Clearly Iwata's successor needed to be a safe pair of hands rather than a maverick, and Kimishima fits the bill perfectly in that regard. While Nintendo fans would have loved to have seen Miyamoto take up the challenge, he is first and foremost a creator and would perhaps not be the right man for a role which involves so much more than simply focusing on games.
That's not to say that Miyamoto - and Nintendo's other interim boss, Takeda - won't be involved with the big choices at Nintendo; both have been given "fellow" positions, which are described as such:
An individual selected from among the Representative Directors who has advanced knowledge and extensive experience, and holds the role of providing advice and guidance regarding organizational operations in a specialized area.
Clearly Kimishima's role isn't quite the same as Iwata's. With Miyamoto and Takeda acting as his "wingmen" we could see a more team-focused stance this time around, with Kimishima making use of the talents and experience of individuals within the company to make informed choices, rather than the "all-in" approach that Iwata was famous - and highly respected - for.
Still, Kimishima's prior experience will be absolutely invaluable when it comes to launching NX, possibly one of the most important hardware releases in Nintendo's long history. The company finds itself in very much the same position as it was in 2006; back then, the GameCube had underperformed in the face of competition from the PS2 and Xbox, and the Wii was seen as a last-gasp attempt to win back players - which it did, becoming the best-selling console of the subsequent hardware generation. Its successor the Wii U has, despite some amazing games, totally and utterly failed to replicate the same level of commercial success, and Nintendo once again finds itself backed into a corner with something to prove. Kimishima will be in charge of bringing the NX to market, just as he was when he successfully launched the Wii at Nintendo of America almost a decade ago.
Kimishima has spent much of his working life in the west and his experience at Nintendo of America will surely have made him very aware of what it takes to succeed in what is easily the biggest market in the world. With that in mind, his appointment raises some interesting questions - will it trigger a slight shift of power away from Kyoto? It is often joked about that Nintendo's global offices have a lacklustre track record when it comes to communicating with one another, with each one seemingly operating without any thought of how it might impact its siblings. We've heard on numerous occasions that the western Nintendo offices are often stymied or overruled by Japan - could Kimishima's appointment change this? Will we see a more western-focused Nintendo moving forward, given his strong ties with Nintendo of America? Time will tell, but Kimishima will be blessed with a unique perspective on what it's like working outside of - and answering directly to - NCL, and he may even be a little sympathetic to whatever grievances NoA has moving forward.
Despite Kimishima's suitability for the role, it's hard to shake the impression that this is very much a stop-gap appointment. At 65 he's no spring chicken, and it may be that Nintendo is looking to inject some stability into the company during turbulent times before locating a younger, more dynamic successor. Still, it's unfair to see Kimishima as little more than a band-aid - in the next 12 months the company will need his experience and wisdom as it seeks to launch a new home console which - if rumours are to be believed - will unify its domestic and portable interests. Add to this the evolution of its smartphone game business - a business which could very well result in never-before-seen profits for the firm - and Kimishima's appointment makes even more sense. These are exciting times for Nintendo and it now has a sensible and experienced veteran at the helm - and one who may well have the interests of western players at heart.