With news that Reggie Fils-Aimé is to step down from his role as President of Nintendo of America, his successor – Mr Doug Bowser – was probably prepared for the deluge of familiar headlines to flood the web.
He’s been on the radar of Nintendo fans for a while now – with that surname it would be difficult to hold a senior position at the company and go unnoticed for long – but beyond the circus, Nintendo’s current Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing is something of an enigma to fans. Despite being in the spotlight alongside Reggie for the past four years, the gravity of the big man’s ever-ready body is such that he draws attention from those around him, even from the man who’s been shadowing him since joining the company in 2015.
Well, Reggie’s surprise retirement means we’ve got some catching up to do. Bowser makes for a fun headline, sure, but we know very little else about the man. So, let’s see what we can discover about the man behind the meme. What kind of a President is he going to be? Is he a fan of Mother 3?
Time for some research…
What we know...
He’s a Self-Described ‘Original Donkey Kong Arcade Master’
According to his Twitter bio, he fancies himself as something of a demon on a Donkey Kong cabinet. While it’s unlikely he could knock Billy Mitchell, the former King of Kong, down a peg, it shows he’s keen to demonstrate his knowledge of Nintendo’s long history, right back to the company’s very first arcade games.
Bowser obviously embraced his famous namesake years ago and, from the off, he’s able to back up his executive CV with all-important nerd credentials:
He’s a family man and seems to be in touch with the broad demographic Nintendo courts – he’s happy talking to a younger audience. We’ve all seen cringe-worthy attempts of video game execs to ‘get down with the kids’ while promoting some hot new release they’re not intimately acquainted with. While it can sometimes produce gold, it’s very easy to spot inauthenticity; much better an executive admit they’re out of their depth than insist “No, really! I play Style Savvy on the daily commute.”
Bowser appears to have a well-rounded approach, balancing playfulness and seriousness in a way that suggests he’s learned from the master. Speaking of which…
He’s Been Shadowing Reggie For a While
It’s easy to look back now and realise that Bowser has been in training for this for the past few years – we just didn’t recognise the signs due to Reggie’s imposing presence. After joining NoA in 2015, it appears he’s been sponging up the knowledge and experience of the outgoing President.
In his statement, he said, “It has been my great fortune to work with and be mentored by Reggie for four years at Nintendo of America”, and while this is a carefully scripted nugget to calm investors and assure everyone involved that this isn’t a last minute scramble – “Reggie’s leaving?!? Quick, grab that Bowser dude!” – it’s unthinkable that he hasn’t had his eye on the position since the beginning; a logical end point to a career that’s taken him all over the world.
He’s a Football Fan
Whichever side of the pond you’re on, it seems Doug Bowser has sports fans covered – he's partial to football of both the American and European varieties. A scroll through his Twitter feed reveals a passion for the Utah Utes (his former college team), and a silly video he did with Reggie revealed not only a penchant for FIFA (skip to 1:20), but also just how simpatico the two execs really are.
We’re uncertain whether this was a little marketing fib or not – Bowser spent eight years working at Electronic Arts before joining NoA, with his last role being Vice President of Global Business Planning. We’ll be sure to grill him on the pros and cons of 4-4-2 the first opportunity we get.
Before his tenure with EA, Bowser worked for Procter & Gamble, the multinational corporation behind such varied household and healthcare brands as Fairy Liquid, Gilette shaving products and Vicks VapoRub. He spent an impressive 23 years with the firm, working across the globe in various sales positions.
Curiously enough, a certain Reggie Fils-Aimé reportedly worked for the company from 1983 to 1991, too, so it seems not only do P&G do a fine line in razors, but they also knock out future Nintendo of America presidents. Who knew, right?
By all accounts, he's athletic and a keen cyclist. When was the last time you placed second in a 45.6 mile road race?
Bowser's also a golf man, which seems to be a prerequisite for executive positions.
He’s 53 Years Old
When Reggie took over the role of Chief Operating Officer from Tatsumi Kimishima in 2006, he was 45. Mr Bowser, then, has a few years on his predecessor in relative terms, although it appears he’s still game for a laugh – a world away from the straight-laced executives from eras past.
He also looks dapper in a matching two-piece:
Nintendo’s approach to PR has evolved significantly over the past fifteen years. The Direct broadcasts gave the company a more ‘intimate’ connection to its audience, but demand that the personnel presenting them be as comfortable on a soundstage as in the boardroom. While there might be some overlap between the two skillsets, YouTube is full of clips of stiff, awkward presentations, proving it’s tough to be proficient in both arenas.
While Bowser doesn’t quite present the youthful vigour Reggie did when he first commanded the stage with his mission statement, he’s certainly continuing on that trajectory; a far cry from the straight-faced, stiff ‘suits’ of the pre-Reggie era. Going backwards was never an option, of course, but Doug Bowser looks comfortable speaking in a language a global audience expects and can relate to. Speaking of languages...
He Speaks Spanish
He spent six years of his Procter & Gamble career as Director of Customer Marketing for Latin America, and you can see evidence of that in his Twitter feed. There’s an ‘R’ missing from perro there, but we won’t hold that against him – typos happen to the very best of us.
We’re not sure how his Japanese is coming along, but his regular trips to Nintendo’s Kyoto HQ give him ample opportunity to practice.
...And What We Don’t Know
The big block hovering above the new COO poses the following question: How can Bowser follow Reggie Fils-Aimé? Reggie has been a larger-than-life character from the very beginning. Sure, the outgoing big man could be a little 2D at times, sticking to the company script about the ‘great upcoming Nintendo products’ and the like. He would frequently lapse into corporate marketing-speak, but somehow managed to endear himself to fans regardless.
Bowser’s biggest obstacle is the cult of personality surrounding his predecessor; the fact that Reggie has become a figurehead for Nintendo fans. He's up there with Miyamoto and Iwata in the Triforce of personality that took the company into the Wii era. Even in the lean Wii U years with exciting software thin on the ground, we still look back with incredible fondness at those E3 Directs and Reggie was a huge part of that.
Can you imagine how a global audience – not to mention the press – would take a Jim Henson-style muppet of PlayStation gaming boss Shawn Layden? The sort of affection needed to make something like that work takes many, many years and a tremendous amount of skill to foster. It’ll take time for Doug Bowser to build up that genuine relationship with fans. It’ll be a while before he's worthy of being a muppet.
And as you can see from this very article, we're all on a first-name basis with the outgoing President. ‘Mr Fils-Aimé’ would sound ridiculous; he’s Reggie, the Regginator, our Fils-Amigo, the Big Man, the Top Dog.
Even Nintendo’s worldwide President, Shuntaro Furukawa, used his first name to thank him in a statement:
I really appreciate everything Reggie has done for Nintendo. Inside and outside our company, Reggie is known as an exceptional leader.
Yes, it’s likely mandated by Reggie himself and the PR department who’s spent years turning him into your friendly neighbourhood President of NoA, but for the Japanese side of the company, the informality is still unprecedented. Can you imagine Miyamoto-san getting a ‘Thanks Shigsy’ message on the day when – god forbid – he announces his retirement?
Reggie’s carefully-crafted personality is something that Doug (see, it sounds weird) obviously hasn’t had time to build just yet. Hopefully he recognises this and won't dive head first into zany, meme-friendly territory. That'll surely come, but being too familiar initially probably won't go down well while his predecessor lingers in the minds of gamers.
Odd as it may be, that surname is incredibly helpful in endearing him to fans very quickly, as well as giving reporters on news sites the world over an easy 'in' for their story. This year's Nintendo Direct at E3 will be the first big PR test for Bowser. Everything until now indicates he's got the skills to succeed in front of an audience, although there’s still a long way to go before we can imagine Furukawa-san thanking ‘Dougie’ for his long years of devoted service, and longer still until writing sentences like ‘E3 will be the first big PR test for Bowser’ doesn’t elicit the tiniest grin.
In the meantime? It's memetime...
What are your impressions of Doug Bowser? Is he a good choice to step into Reggie's considerable shoes? Share your thoughts with a comment below.