Reggie Fils-Aimé is an iconic figurehead of 21st Century Nintendo, arriving in the public eye at a pivotal moment of the company's history as it underwent a Satoru Iwata-led revolution. After the GameCube's challenging generation in the face of new competition from Microsoft's Xbox and the all-conquering Sony PlayStation 2, Fils-Aimé famously appeared on stage at E3 2004, introduced himself with a bold line about kicking ass and taking names, and later plucked a DS from his pocket. Undoubtedly, he was immediately a key face of Nintendo with gamers in the Americas and Europe, in particular.
While much of his image and known history among fans relates to meme-worthy E3 moments or his prominent role in Nintendo, his broader story is less familiar. With his new book, 'Disrupting the Game, From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo', we do get to learn more about Fils-Aimé's background and pre-Nintendo career, but any interested readers should know upfront this is not a traditional autobiography. It occasionally strays towards that territory, but primarily this is a business book, the type that outlines how boldness, ideas and determination can see anyone rise and meet their goals. One for the 'Leadership' category in the book store.
any interested readers should know upfront this is not a traditional autobiography, but primarily a business book, one for the 'Leadership' category in the book store
Yet still, the early chapters do give very welcome insight into a couple of things — Fils-Aimé's family and upbringing, and his relationship with Satoru Iwata. Iwata-san is discussed early in the book, and it's clear that he was both a friend and mentor. There's a touching story of asking to visit Iwata-san in hospital when he was first ill, and an insight into the Nintendo president's approach to addressing the return of his cancer and his late work in the company.
We also learn more about Fils-Aimé's Haitian background and family, which is fascinating. Senior members of the family were high-flyers in a pre-dictatorship Haiti, yet their resilience in the face of imprisonment and other punishments clearly influenced him as a young boy. That tough upbringing in the New York's Bronx is also touched upon, before a move to the suburbs courtesy of his father working two jobs, six days a week. The pulling-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps legacy is clearly a fundamental part of his early life, and his journey through high school and a determination to 'make it work' are admirable.
After these early reflections on growing up we have around a third of the book focused on Fils-Aimé's early career, following a savvy route through Cornell University courtesy of scholarships and funding. The book quickly slides into its rhythm as a business leadership book, focused on key themes, lessons and tenets of the industry. Essentially, straight from college there began a varied career in marketing and sales, eventually elevating up to executive positions. The book gives some interesting views of corporate America — the relentless drive for growth, monetising customers and marketing strategy arguments aplenty.
A lot of the expected leadership lessons are shared across these pages — be bold, be ready to push your view, own your mistakes, and so on. It's a career with a lot of success, so it commands respect and those working within corporate business, or perhaps seeking some lessons for life in general, may enjoy a lot of the insights. It feels relatively standard fare in these sections, however, if you've read business-focused books of this nature in the past.
For those that are mostly interested in the Nintendo years, that does command the second half of the book. There are some fascinating insights on NCL, Nintendo's Kyoto-based HQ and upper management, perspective that Fils-Aimé brings as a Western executive that led the company's biggest subsidiary. We see how conventions of Japanese business could clash or cause problems for Nintendo of America, and a sense is given of Satoru Iwata both leading a modernisation of the business as president while cajoling and negotiating with those that had been with Nintendo for decades. This section also highlights how Iwata's leadership helped to evolve that of Fils-Aimé — one segment explains that Iwata-san counselled more listening, more understanding, not just brash confidence and forthright views.
It's clear that Fils-Aimé has great respect not only for Iwata-san, but also for Shigeru Miyamoto and a number of Nintendo's Japanese leadership. Yet the confidence and positivity necessary for a high level executive career, while admirable, does strip the overall book of some qualities. As a 'Leadership' book, it's all about learnings and examples, yet sometimes it slides into congratulatory biography, so the tone can get slightly muddled.
We see how conventions of Japanese business could clash or cause problems for NoA, and a sense is given of Satoru Iwata both leading a modernisation of the business as president while cajoling and negotiating with those that had been with Nintendo for decades
A book heavy on success and examples of things working brilliantly, it also tends to skip away from notable failures, much like a prospective employee in an interview. Examples of struggles are given mainly when there's an obvious turnaround or redeeming response that salvages the situation, but it lacks more useful lessons, such as why some failures happened and were not salvaged. The Wii U is the crux of this, as despite some analysis of why it struggled there's little detail or assessment of how it happened. It doesn't offer enough insight into mistakes leading up to the launch of the product, design or — tellingly — the marketing. Fils-Aime is only too happy to emphasize his expertise as a marketer and leader in success stories like Wii and DS, but doesn't address and confront failings with the Wii U with quite the same vigour, which feels like a learning opportunity missed in this book.
To be clear, though, the book addresses that failures happen in business, and shares some lessons in responding to problems in the right way. Examples are given of tough decisions, too, such as letting someone go in a case where they were technically proficient but had awful people management skills. Though there are plenty of buzzwords kicking around in the book, it seems evident that Fils-Aimé has a key strength in managing people, as the internal promotions over the past 15 years of the company attest. He also cites methodology that helped turn NoA towards excellence in all things; when you look at how far the subsidiary's marketing and performance has come in the last 20 years, it's hard to argue with the results.
What's clear in the book is that the relentless corporate business outlook of Reggie Fils-Aimé — that swagger and push for ever bigger profits in all aspects of the business — is what Nintendo needed in the Americas in the early 2000s. For the calm and quiet leadership of Satoru Iwata at the top of the company, a bold and ambitious Fils-Aimé was a strong counterfoil that helped Nintendo shift the message 'in the West', giving the company a more ambitious edge in marketing and a more confident, industry-leading image.
Though this book is primarily about that very American approach to boardroom business, in which Fils-Aimé built an extremely successful career, it touches on areas that will likely be explored further in an eventual autobiography. There's an interesting backstage story from that famous E3 2004; having removed his credentials before going on stage, a worker offered him his badge as a form of cover. Fils-Aimé contemplates "what it said about the video game industry that a Black man in a suit was mistaken for security versus an executive". He never lingers on issues like these, but their occasional mentions reinforce that he often had to brush past assumptions made of him, powering through them with a singular purpose.
By the end of the book, when discussing retirement and his new path of supporting non-profits and contributing to boardrooms, there's an interesting split that very much summarises his approach to work and life. On the one hand he writes movingly about addressing an organisation supporting minority and low income kids seeking a better life, with an excellent line that "I was you, and you can be me". In almost the same breath there's a section that basically says GameStop pushed him and others out despite a plan to revive the business, a little poke to say he was right but they blew their chance; the competitiveness, and the belief in being right most of the time, still comes through.
As for whether Nintendo fans will be interested in this book? Perhaps, as it gives interesting insight into Nintendo of America, and its evolving relationship with the Japanese HQ; some of these details are quite unique. Be aware, though, that it's wrapped in a motivational business leadership book, and Ask Iwata is a far breezier motivational read. If you're okay with an extended executive career lecture getting in the way of your snippets of Nintendo and Fils-Aimé history, then it's worth a look.
Please note that some external links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you click them and make a purchase we may receive a small percentage of the sale. Please read our FTC Disclosure for more information.
Why is the book not called My Body Is Ready?!?
I can imagine Reggie featuring in an episode of Succession.
'My Book Is Reggie'
As far as American video game executives go, I’d be more interested in reading one from Tom Kalinske. Reggie presumably had it easier than Sega corporate’s interposing
I'd say enuf Reggie. I would like to hear more about Bowser's doing please.
He used to have a little now he’s got a lot.
@Friendly I think Reggie sponsors this site, the amount of coverage he gets. I wonder did he actually really do much? He’s just a suit right? It’s the people behind the game creation that interest me a lot more than a corporate bloke.
I love video game non-fiction, but I don't buy "pep talk" books.
I actually would love to read a book that got the nitty gritty and skinny on the Wii U years specifically. I loved the WiiU and it was an engaging era as a Nintendo fan. It’s too bad this book gives marginal mention
@NinChocolate Reggie marketed a dual screen touch screen device and motion control console & grew Nintendo's base by tens of millions, overcame the failure of the Wii U and helped launch the Switch to be the comeback kid & most successful home console the company has ever had. None of those exactly sound easy.
@quinnyboy58 yeah he did plenty, huge figure in the industry. Left a comment right above highlighting a few things. Plus he's one of the most diverse figures to ever head a Nintendo division for a very traditionally Japanese company. Also helped bridge some Nintendo and Xbox collaboration with Phil Spencer
Looking forward to picking this up! Just finished the "Ask Iwata" book last month & had a good time with it.
It’s a real shame it does not deal the marketing disaster that was the WiiU.
Tho I liked this guy’s personality his lies drove the fans wild!
@Kilamanjaro those are all very nice accomplishments. The Wii U era in particular is intriguing stuff. Reggie did well because NCL did well in creating all that technology and having the best game studios in the industry. By contrast Sega back in Japan was not the same organization. The politics were surely harder. The competition was Nintendo, the king in consoles by the time Sega got going. The technology after initial success was not as fortunate as what Reggie was given before and after the WiiU. I would definitely say Reggie had the greater inheritance to work with.
I’m not a Nintendo hater. I love this company. But the way fans elevate reggie is crazy.
NOA is simply a marketing division of Nintendo of Japan. They don’t make any significant decisions. It’s why bowser can be in charge for a few years now and most of us would walk right by him on the street and not notice him. Yet Nintendo is booming.
Thanks for the review, Mr. Whitehead. Sounds pretty much as expected - too much of the talk and not enough of the walk. I wish Reggie all the best, but ima pass on this book.
@gcunit I’m curious about your comment. Can you explain why you feel that way? I’ve always been baffled by his popularity. I never see anybody say anything other than how they like him,
I don’t think he’s a bad man, he was just a boring corporate figure. Everything he said felt so scripted. Even his viral moments. I always wondered what he was like, once he got home.
@gcunit Agreed. Judging from the blurb published a while back, it was clear that the book was going to be packed with self-congratulatory leadership platitudes. The question was whether there would be enough slivers of substance - or at least juicy gossip - sandwiched between them to make it worth reading.
Well, it was definitely worth reading the review, which touched on a few of them. But I feel the review itself is has been an adequate summary. I’ll save the money I would have spent on the book to buy myself a new set of bootstraps to pull myself up by.
It’s what Reggie would have wanted.
@outsider83 I'm not sure what you're referring to, as I haven't really mentioned 'how I feel' about Reggie in my comment.
The introvert’s curse is to look in on corporate business personalities through books like this and wonder how they make it by consuming and writing material of this kind.
Well, I know the secret.
Communication for extroverted people is not a transfer of information. Rather, it is like an energy conduit. The ability to proceed with a course of action is not based upon the validity of ideas conveyed by the words, but by the invisible metaphysical energies transferred through certain power words. Whoever transfers the most energy wins the contest.
These extrovert energy contests are important for human survival because it helps contain the introverts within their relative creation crucibles. The introvert’s creation crucible is necessary for real creative power, but the introvert must be stymied and confused by the inexplicable communication patterns of extroverted people in order for the creation process to succeed.
Could of not said it better myself.
Yeah, gonna pass on this book for pretty much the same reasons that gcunit and Maxz mentioned above.
@Watchman Wow! That is so deep and rings so true! Are these your thoughts or did you find them somewhere? I only ask because I want to know more. Thanks for posting!
@NinChocolate You might want to check out Console Wars by Blake Harris. It follows mostly Sega of America and Tom Kalinske, and also a little bit of Nintendo of America.
@NinChocolate @Kilamanjaro I thought this was going to be about Sega's Japan and Americas division always being at each other's throats.
@sixrings They did have NST.
@gcunit too much of the talk and not enough of the walk
Maybe I misread your comment. My apologies!
@dugan I was offering a tonge-in-cheek explaination of what appears to be happening from an introvert's perspective. I was spitballing, but it comes from studying personality traits.
The "energy" I was joking about is probably some combination of nonverbal communication, socialization, clothing, grooming, posture, physique, timing, AND diction.
In other words, Reggie's body was ready to be a corporate leader. And it can be confusing to more introverted personalities how all of those things work unless they train themselves to take advantage of their personality strengths while overcoming their weaknesses.
Learn about your personality charicteristics, embrace them, and do them on purpose for a better you and a better world. Because the other personality types do need you and they are paying attention, just not the way you always wish they would.
I'm definitely interested in what Reggie has to say, even if this is more of a business type of book. I already put it on my wishlist on Audible, since he's recorded the audiobook himself.
I know this will be full of throwaway business-speak and stuff I skip over, but I'm curious about getting even the tiniest peek behind the curtain a bit at that era of Nintendo, so I'll probably give it a read. "Ask Iwata" was worthwhile. Like others have said, though, I would prefer more books by the creatives, but they tend not to be so promotional of themselves.
Why is there no score
@outsider83 That was a comment about the book i.e. being too heavy on the business-babble buzz words and BS, at the expense of detailed discussion about the inner workings of Nintendo. I wasn't throwing shade at Reggie, just at the book, though I do think the contents of the book (based on the review provided here) do kinda reflect what Reggie is about. Whenever I've heard him speak he seems to have been spouting corporate rhetoric rather than providing much insight and useful information.
I really don't understand how this guy became so popular. He was a CEO and still acts like one even now. If I had his money I'd be spending time with my family and enjoying life. The very fact that he is constantly selling or promoting himself tells you all you need to know about him.
@Shredderlovespizza this guy is a good presenter. People love him the way people loved steve jobs presenting. The difference is that jobs actually had a say at what happened at apple.
@sixrings But Steve Jobs was interesting.
@NinChocolate I assume you've heard of Console Wars (or perhaps someone else in the comments has mentioned it)? It's focused on exactly what you think it is, but I think more of the focus is on Tom & his team than on Nintendo. There's a lot of fantastic information in that book from his side of the story.
Will check it out in the future, Reggie is a cool guy
I'll grab it when it's $4.99
@Watchman Thank you! I know a little about personality traits, but I want to know more now. I will definitely read more about it. Reading your post again, it is funny, and there is also truth there. Thanks for posting it!
Yeah reggie is an nft bro now in case you guys weren't aware.
He literally thinks animal crossing should have monetization.
F. O. H.
@TommyTendo Scores are for gamers who are not in the book market a priori.
As someone who is about 60% through the book, I think it's a worthwhile purchase. I also think it would be a missed opportunity to view the book simply as a way to extract a few more pieces of gaming trivia to add to your probably giant collection of gaming trivia already while disregarding everything else said. The term "executive" has become pretty nebulous in its actual definition so it's great to see detailed examples of these spaces, what they actually do, and how someone may personally navigate these spaces. Well, the good executives, anyway. The ones who don't harass employees and then leave with hundreds of millions in severance as a reward. Reggie very clearly has a desire and passion for this kind of problem solving and based on what I've read, it's interesting to see his way of thinking, even if it is sprinkled in with a slight tone of self-congration.
Tap here to load 43 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...