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The name Reggie Fils-Aimé may not be familiar to everyone but in the modern world of gaming it’s a name bestowed upon a man, a myth and a legend. Two days ago on April 15 Reggie Fils-Aimé, President and COO of Nintendo America, retired. Not only was Reggie the first American to hold this position in the Japanese company but for 13 years Reggie Fils-Aimé was the most powerful black man in gaming. No small status considering that the majority of those involved in major league games development and publishing are all white.
From the start Reggie endeared himself not just to Nintendo fans and stockholders but to gamers everywhere. He was a widely recognisable figure throughout not just the gaming world but across the internet itself. Memes like his famous proclamation of “My body… My body is ready” at E3 2007, his aggressive, invigorating presentation at E3 2004 and his appearance as a puppet version of himself at E3 2015 made him not only a fan favourite but a leading figure in the now disreputable brand culture we find ourselves in.
Reggie was an incredibly successful figure outside of gaming with marketing and sales positions at VH1, Guinness, Pizza Hut and Panda Express but it was his impact at Nintendo that remains the most important. The last two decades have not been easy on Nintendo. Both the GameCube and the Wii-U, though not necessarily failures, definitely struggled against the behemoths produced by Sony and Microsoft. With Reggie on-board Nintendo went from strength to strength and garnered mass appeal across demographics. Though the Wii-U was decidedly a stumbling block for Nintendo as a whole Reggie and the company learned from their mistakes not just their successes.
Without the success of the Nintendo DS and the relative disaster of the Wii-U it’s unlikely that the Nintendo Switch would have been the monster success it was and continues to be. But Reggie’s marketing strategies, new way of clearly presenting the company’s ideas and his all around likability were a big help in pushing Nintendo back into the race. As much as Satoru Iwata (RIP) and Shigeru Miyamoto contributed to the games and business practices that made Nintendo a force to be reckoned with in the latter decades of the 20th Century it was Reggie Fils-Aimé that dragged the company kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
The above quote comes from Reggie’s first E3 as Executive VP of Sales and Marketing of Nintendo. It’s taken directly from the presentation he gave that day. The year before the Nintendo presentation at E3 2003 had been seen as stodgy and conservative which didn’t really match with the company’s fun and light-hearted games. In 2004 Reggie reignited the passionate displays Nintendo had been lacking in the early 2000s as well as inspiring interest from those who might not have been traditional Nintendo fans. He brought a vim and vigour to proceedings that easily outmatched anything Sony and Microsoft brought to the table. Though 2004 would not be his first moment in the meme spotlight it would be the one that guaranteed Nintendo’s future for the next decade and a half.
The gaming industry is home to many legends, living and dead. Hideo Kojima, Johnathan Blow, Phil Spencer, Geoff Keighley, Marty O’Donnell and Shigeru Miyamoto are all names that resonate with a lot of gamers. But no one changed the game, so to speak, of actually selling games, products and, most of all, a brand to gamers than Reggie Fils-Aimé did. In an industry increasingly dominated by numbers, percentages and, shudder, loot boxes we need more people like Reggie. The new COO, Doug Bowser (yes that’s his real name), has mighty big shoes to fill. We’ll have to wait and see at this year’s E3 but for now the gaming industry as a whole salutes a legend. Thanks Reggie.