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Meet Nintendo's New President Tatsumi Kimishima

by Neal Ronaghan - September 14, 2015, 7:22 am PDT
Total comments: 23

We give you the rundown on the late Satoru Iwata’s successor and what it means for Nintendo.

Nintendo's new president, Tatsumi Kimishima, has been with Nintendo for 15 years, but he isn't a name most Nintendo fans are familiar with. So, who exactly is the newest head of Nintendo?

Well, the reason you likely haven't heard much about Kimishima is that he doesn't have a development background. For the most part, he's a pure business guy, as from the 1970s to 2000, he worked at Sanwa Bank of Japan, which was the most profitable bank in the world in '90s. A large part of Kimishima's job at Sanwa Bank involved international business relations, and he spent time in a variety of places around the world, including New York and California.

In 2000, Kimishima joined The Pokémon Company, becoming the Chief Financial Officer alongside longtime Pokémon President/CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara (who hosted the Pokémon Go press conference last week). After just one year as CFO, Kimishima went on to become the first president of Pokémon USA, the licensing-focused western branch of The Pokémon Company. In his time with Pokémon, he oversaw the launches of Gold, Silver, and Crystal.

Kimishima's role at Pokémon USA lasted one year, as he was tapped by Hiroshi Yamauchi to succeed Nintendo of America President Minoru Arakawa following Arakawa's retirement. Kimishima helped guide Nintendo of America during the somewhat tumultuous GameCube years, though he was there for the successful launch of the DS in America and likely had a hand in hiring current Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime.

Fils-Aime replaced Kimishima in 2006 following the latter's promotion to CEO of the American branch. He was in that role until 2013, when he was promoted to Managing Director of Nintendo Co., Ltd and Iwata supplanted him as CEO at Nintendo of America. Kimishima still was involved with Nintendo of America, and served on both the NoA and NCL boards. In 2014, Kimishima was put in charge of Nintendo's HR department.

While we all fondly remember Fils-Aime in the successful Wii and DS era in America, Kimishima was a consistent behind-the-scenes presence, much like he will be in his new role as president of the entire company. It's likely to the benefit of Nintendo of America that the new head of the company has strong ties to the USA, as Kimishima has spent ample time there in the past 20+ years, to the point where some of his family lives in America.

It is very unlikely that Kimishima will be as public-facing as Iwata was. However, he has a proven track record of being in charge of companies effectively without being a public presence. With Kimishima's promotion, the previous acting presidential duo of Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda are also taking on new roles with Nintendo as the Creative Fellow and Technology Fellow respectably, where they will be instrumental in advising the company on their areas of expertise. It's likely Miyamoto will become the more prominent public face of the company. With Miyamoto's new role, Shinya Takahashi takes over as the General Manager of the Entertainment Planning and Development Division, which seems to be a fusion of Miyamoto's EAD division and Takahashi's SPD division. Since Kimishima is on the older side (65 years old), it is likely that Takahashi, who is 52 years old, could be the eventual successor.

Following the announcement of Kimishima's promotion, Takeda has made comments talking about how the goal is to create a future-proof group leadership structure going forward. It makes sense then that the core of Nintendo's leadership is currently made up of business and creative minds that have all been in high-ranking positions at the company for much more than a decade.

Is Kimishima a bold, new exciting Nintendo President? Not really. But is he someone who can be a steady, guiding hand for Nintendo as they move forward with the strategies Iwata and company laid out for the NX, mobile, and more? Very much so. Nintendo's future definitely has some question marks, but at least the company appears to remain in good hands.

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Talkback

KITT 10KSeptember 14, 2015

He sounds like Nintendo and he will do well with him in that position.

fred13September 14, 2015

Does this mean Nintendo Direct RIP?

Luigi DudeSeptember 14, 2015

Quote from: fred13

Does this mean Nintendo Direct RIP?

They'll still be run, just by different people.  The American and European ones were using their people more over the last year and even the Japanese ones had a younger looking guy take over for most of Iwata's duties. 

Iwata Ask on the other hand will probably be over since Kimi doesn't look like the kind of president who loves to casually talk with his lower level employee's about game development. :'(

nickmitchSeptember 14, 2015

I think Miyamoto could takeover the Iwata Asks duties.  It seems like something he would do, and the segment is definitely worth continuing.

TOPHATANT123September 14, 2015

Sakurai did an Iwata asks once, I suppose he could take over although I don't think it's very likely.

Ian SaneSeptember 14, 2015

This shouldn't matter but he looks grumpy in that photo.  Very different demeanor than Iwata or Miyamoto.

ThePermSeptember 14, 2015

reading his description. This guy sounds like the guy to bring third party support back.

jarodeaSeptember 14, 2015

Quote from: Ian

This shouldn't matter but he looks grumpy in that photo.  Very different demeanor than Iwata or Miyamoto.

Rather than the exquisitely refined 3 piece suits of Iwata, that looks like the first suit I bought at Goodwill when I was 18 for my first real job interview.  Nintendo needs a workaman to fix its glaring flaws so hopefully this choice will work.

EnnerSeptember 14, 2015

There are one or two pictures of him smiling out there. It's just that the other one or two pictures of him with a serious face are getting more play.


As details and interview snippets come out, Kimishima seems to be a good and safe choice for a Nintendo in a state of transition.

AdrockSeptember 14, 2015

Tatsumi Kimishima is a safe choice. However, I'd be surprised if he's president for more than five years, downright shocked if he makes it to 10. Not because he'll do a bad job (he'll probably do at least a decent job for someone with as much experience as he has), but because he's old and more importantly, Nintendo has already started on a new path. It partnered with DeNA, it's preparing NX etc. Are those enough? Well, that's a different discussion. Nintendo doesn't need someone to shake things up; Nintendo was already doing that when it decided to go mobile. Nintendo needs steady hand after Iwata's passing which is exactly what Kimishima provides. You know what you're going to get from the guy. Still, he's a transitionary president, someone who knows how to run a business and to hold the fort down while Nintendo prepares a younger generation took eventually take over. They'll be the ones with the bold new ideas.

Was he the best choice? Well, that isn't fair. I think he's a good choice. Nintendo is struggling financially (for Nintendo) so it promotes a man who ran the most profitable bank in the world for an entire decade and was a big part of the Pokemon company when the IP exploded. He seems to lack Iwata's warmth and charm, but maybe Nintendo needs that right now. I liked Iwata even if his apologetic nature made Nintendo seem soft sometimes. Instead of "Please understand," maybe we'll get "This is our game plan. We know what we're doing. Relax." I definitely don't think that's a bad thing.

BiteThePillowSeptember 14, 2015

Nintendo needs someone who can earnestly contemplate bananas. I feel like that was Iwata's winning strength. I hope I'm wrong about this, but I get the impression that Kimishima has probably has never even held a banana up to eye level before.

Ian SaneSeptember 14, 2015

Quote from: Adrock

Nintendo doesn't need someone to shake things up; Nintendo was already doing that when it decided to go mobile. Nintendo needs steady hand after Iwata's passing which is exactly what Kimishima provides. You know what you're going to get from the guy. Still, he's a transitionary president, someone who knows how to run a business and to hold the fort down while Nintendo prepares a younger generation took eventually take over. They'll be the ones with the bold new ideas.

I think it all depends on exactly what path Iwata started Nintendo down before his death.  If he's aimed the bus towards the cliff I want the new president to be able to recognize that and put on the brakes.  Nintendo does themselves no favours by staying the course if the course charted is their typical insanity.

AdrockSeptember 14, 2015

That goes without saying. I don't think that's an issue anyway. The path Nintendo appears to be headed is thus far the most logical one it could be on. Nintendo seems to be finally catching up which isn't a compliment. Nintendo never should have been so behind to begin with. Still, it's in the middle of a major shake up, one that is brutally overdue. Based on what we know (which is admittedly very little), Nintendo has attempted to address nagging issues with the way it does business. This is not the time to be change directions because Nintendo isn't afforded the luxury of time anymore. Kimishima is a good pick for what Nintendo already planned to do. It has a game plan and should stick with it.

You mention Nintendo's "typical insanity." If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, Nintendo doesn't have that problem. Every time it has failed, it tried something else. It would be far more worrisome had Nintendo acted like Wii U was fine while everyone was crazy for not thinking so.

BlackNMild2k1September 14, 2015

Iwata stepped down!!?

I've been out of the loop...

Luigi DudeSeptember 14, 2015

Quote from: BlackNMild2k1

Iwata stepped down!!?

I've been out of the loop...

So you've been living in a cave for 3 months?

KhushrenadaSeptember 14, 2015

This thread is about to have an unhappy ending.....

ThePermSeptember 15, 2015

I had been worried Iwata would step down or get fired by investors. This was much worse.

hasn't Nintendo had its biggest years of growth immediately after a new president takes hold?

Things Nintendo needs to fix: Third Party Support, Product Output, Obsolescence and future proofing.

Kimishima seems to be a good choice. He ran NOA, that could mean he speaks English. He also will have some NOA connections and this could help getting third parties become helpful. The years he was in charge were good years for Nintendo, not necessarily the best years for third party support.

Product output: Someone with business management skills might be able to streamline the companies focus to improve productivity. Limit duplicated effort and get products out in volume and on time. He had been running the planning for the last couple of years...maybe that's why they always miss deadlines? It's hard to say. I hope they get their act together.

Obsolescence and future proofing: All we can really do is hope they take care of this. Blue ocean was great, but sometimes you can be too blue ocean. I kinda wish Nintendo would reel it in and do something more traditional for a change. All these video games are about is entertainment. One could compare it to watching an annual event where it's the same every year with slight changes of flare. Over the years though, there are other shows going on that are more like your old shows. You can try to dazzle them with new things every year, but there are standard things that people want. I'd rather have something iterative next generation. NX sounds like it could be wacky, but it might not be. I could imagine NX having a tablet controller(but like a good tablet you can take anywhere)

Maybe this is what NX is? NX is basically a ps4 equivalent powered system with a mobile controller. The controller when away from the system can play games. The controller uses SD cards and games can be transferred from console to controller. When playing games on the controller the graphics are downgraded to about Ouya/WiiU quality. Price $500

Ian SaneSeptember 15, 2015

Quote from: ThePerm

Obsolescence and future proofing: All we can really do is hope they take care of this. Blue ocean was great, but sometimes you can be too blue ocean. I kinda wish Nintendo would reel it in and do something more traditional for a change. All these video games are about is entertainment. One could compare it to watching an annual event where it's the same every year with slight changes of flare. Over the years though, there are other shows going on that are more like your old shows. You can try to dazzle them with new things every year, but there are standard things that people want. I'd rather have something iterative next generation. NX sounds like it could be wacky, but it might not be. I could imagine NX having a tablet controller(but like a good tablet you can take anywhere)

When Nintendo was really awesome their hardware was pretty traditional but the games were ambitious and original.  In the Iwata era the games became generic and safe while the hardware became weird and non-traditional.  A 2D Mario game that uses a goofy controller is not innovative or bold or original - it's using a dumb gimmick to hide a lack of creativity.  If conventional hardware means that Nintendo's games have to become less creative then it just means that Nintendo are out of ideas.  To me a conventional console would be Nintendo getting back on the path they already were on before Iwata steered them off.  Donkey Kong used typical arcade hardware for the time with a conventional joystick and buttons.  This idea of using non-traditional controls in lieu of hardware power only started with the DS and Wii.

LucarioSeptember 15, 2015

Dat face tho, (insert grumpy cat memes here)

Seriously though, I hope you do a good job with a great company mate.

Mop it upSeptember 15, 2015

Never heard of him, but seems like a decent choice for the time being.

CericSeptember 15, 2015

I have no faith in him what-so-ever. The NoA years he was leading caused much of the problems that we complain about.

Luigi DudeSeptember 15, 2015

Quote from: Ceric

I have no faith in him what-so-ever. The NoA years he was leading caused much of the problems that we complain about.

Right now everything that will happen to Nintendo these next few years has already been decided and set in motion while Iwata was still alive.  Even if Kimishima disagrees with some of these decisions, it'd be too late to change many of them.  He's not going to be a long term president though, just to make sure all of Iwata's final decisions for the company (Mobile games, new license agreements with outside companies and of course the launch of the NX) go smoothly until a younger longterm President is ready for the big job.

All recent signs point to Shinya Takahashi being the next long-term President that Iwata wanted to be his successor.  I doubt Kimishima will be President more then 5 years unless Takahashi really messes up and makes the board question his ability to be President causing Kimishima to stay longer.

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