“My name is Reggie. I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names, and we’re about makin’ games.”
That was the first line spoken by Reggie Fils-Aimé at the 2004 E3 Nintendo press conference and the line the opened the presentation that year. It was his first press conference after being hired at Nintendo and the first time any of us would have seen the man and his beginnings as the face of the legendary games company in the west. And I don’t think there’s a better line that sums up his time as President of Nintendo of America. Reggie Fils-Aimé always gave off a distinct and kind of hard to read vibe, a serious businessman with a cheeky fun side hiding just underneath. His tone is stoic and posture is imposing, but actions show a man with a distinct weird sense of humour and a deep understanding and love of games and gamers.
On the news of his upcoming retirement, I think it’s a good moment to look back at some of the most iconic moments Reggie has delivered to the gaming zeitgeist.
Never afraid to let the press know why Nintendo knows better
In the aforementioned press 2004 conference, his first facing the world as the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Reggie stood on stage and let the world know exactly what he thought of Sony and Microsoft. “One of our competitors…wants to capture every one of your entertainment dollars, transporting all your content, between all your electronic devices, on their memory sticks. We’re not that company. And there’s another company out there, who doesn’t care what you do, as long as you do it on their operating system. We’re not that company either.” While he didn’t explicitly say their names, it was obvious who he was talking about and the point of this statement still holds true today. Nintendo puts games first, and home media and connectivity second. For better or for worse Nintendo has continued to stick to this ideology. This straight forward, no holds barred attitude can be seen in so many interviews through his career. He was never afraid to let the world know that Nintendo did things differently to their competitors.
Embracing memes with a weird and unexpected sense of humour
Watching over his retirement video I was reminded what a weird sense of humour defined Reggie amongst gamers. Even in the goodbye video, he was still referencing that legendary moment from E3 2007, when he stood up on stage to demonstrate the Wii balance board and said the line ‘My body is ready.’ Now a meme well and truly passed its prime, but still somehow brings a smile to faces when it’s muttered. Some other highlights include such moments as puppet Reggie from E3 2015.
And who could forget the time Reggie and then CEO of Nintendo Satoru Iwata had a literal box-on and proceeded to beat the ever-loving crap out of each other in a hilarious and cartoonish manner. This moment seemed absolutely alien to the strictly family-friendly image that Nintendo that for the longest time seemed scared of even glancing away from.
And as a double whammy, this was in the same year that Nintendo partnered with Robot Chicken to produce part of their E3 presentation where we were all treated to the moment that action figure/stop motion Reggie literally lit a journalist on fire with a fire flower for asking where Mother 3 was. We all still have the nightmares from that one.
But all this served to highlight that Reggie was a leader that understood his audience. The family-friendly image could be saved for the posters, demo units and other bits of media you might see in a games store where the unprepared eyes of parents looking to buy little Johnny and Suzie the latest Mario game might see it. But the internet, and especially E3 night? Well, that was for the Nintendo fans, the people who loved the company just as much in their adulthood as the day they unboxed their Nintendo 64s. Reggie understood this, and by taking part in ridiculous videos, not just from Nintendo itself, but also other online content producers such as Mega64, we knew that he really got us, and that just made him so much more likeable.
Businessman on the streets
But it wasn’t always fun and games. Or maybe it was, it is the games industry. But Reggie also leaves behind a legacy of smart business decisions that helped Nintendo stay on top during the mid-2000s to mid-2010s. When Microsoft and Sony were going more adult with violence and faded grey filters, Nintendo innovated with motion controls and touch screens while never losing the feeling of wonder that their games evoke. Behind the scenes his tactics for ensuring the 3DS was the hottest, most in-demand item for its product life flipped how consoles were sold. Instead of convincing cautious store owners that Nintendo could fill the projected demand for the 3DS, Reggie made vendors agree to buy a minimum amount of stock before the device went on sale, meaning if that if a games retailer wanted the 3DS at all, they had to buy a lot. This resulted in the 3DS being front and centre of every display in every store so that retailers could sell their large inventories, practically guaranteeing its success in North America. Reggie is also personally credited with changing how Nintendo of America marketed to and maintained an adult fanbase. When he came to Nintendo, they were largely seen as a company whose games and brand only appealed to children, while Microsoft and Sony were viewed as more ‘adult’ gaming companies. Today Nintendo is more popular than ever amongst adults and this is largely in part to Reggie understanding that adults also like fun, colours and simplicity, and that Nintendo’s large roster of IPs can appeal to everyone.
So thanks Reggie, you’ve been a blast and your legacy won’t be forgotten any time soon. We’re all excited for the future of Nintendo, with new ideas and fresh faces it should be a fun ride. But there will always be a little Reggie shaped hole in our heart containers.