How Reggie Fils-Aime Changed Nintendo And Became A Gaming Legend
Reggie Fils-Aime officially steps down as president of Nintendo of America on April 15, meaning he’s just enjoyed his full week as the man in charge.
For 15 years, Reggie has been the face of Nintendo for Western audiences, and a genuinely fun, vibrant personality in an industry dominated by press conferences and reveals that are so often either thunderingly dull or deeply embarrassing in their attempts at enthusiasm.
Reggie was hired as Nintendo’s executive vice president of sales and marketing in 2003, but it wasn’t until E3 2004 that he burst onto the scene to introduce himself to the world with the now-iconic “my name is Reggie, I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names, and we’re about makin’ games.”
You have to understand that the genius of this short but impactful introduction managed to say everything about what Nintendo and Reggie had planned over the coming years. It was more than an intro – it was a statement of intent.
While the company was never really in any real trouble, everybody knew that the GameCube was lagging behind in the console war. The Xbox and PlayStation 2 were dominating the mainstream, and with that came an increased focus on “mature” titles – something Nintendo weren’t really known for.
E3 2003 saw a reserved – perhaps even dull – press conference from Nintendo with few games of note, if any. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft were running around on their respective stages taking shots at each other, dressing down, and genuinely being much cooler than the Big N.
Fast forward one year, and we’re back on stage with Reggie. Suddenly Nintendo has a face that can throw out cheeky banter, dress well, confidently stare down a room of cynical journalists, and make everyone in attendance feel like it was time to sit up and take notice of the company again.
If Nintendo needed a hype man, Reggie Fils-Aime was quite clearly it. He made it abundantly clear that Xbox and PlayStation could continue to churn out edgy guff for hardcore teens till the cows came home, but Nintendo was never going to stop making games for everyone.
We’re not going to run our company just for hardcore gamers. There are gamers out there who aren’t as knowledgeable as you. Gamers who aren’t your age. Gamers who don’t have your tastes.
Subtle digs were thrown in the direction of the competition. Trailers were shown. Jokes were cracked. Applause rang throughout the room. And then, Reggie unveiled the Nintendo DS.
I don’t need to remind you just how successful the DS was when it eventually launched. I remember being unable to go anywhere without seeing adverts showing properly famous celebrities playing games like Brain Training and Nintendogs.
Any chance the PSP had of finally ending Nintendo’s stranglehold on the handheld market was obliterated when Reggie got up on that stage and showed off the DS prototype for the first time. E3 2004 was where Nintendo’s bounce back to not just relevancy, but global domination. And it didn’t end there.
I am of course referring to the world’s first look at The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It easily remains one of the biggest, most emotional video game reveals of all time, and Reggie had the honour of showing it to the world for the first time. That alone earned him a place in Nintendo history
If you’ve never seen the effect this game had on a room full of professional journalists before, I urge you to watch the video below. It’s truly stunning stuff.
The “mature” Zelda game fans had dreamed of since Ocarina of Time was finally in front of them, and the reaction was wild. This was more than a trailer, this was Reggie and Nintendo finishing their conference by reaffirming what they’d been telling people all day; Nintendo is back, and it’s gonna be a wild ride.
It’s not surprising that two years later, Reggie found himself accepting a position as the president of Nintendo of America. His charismatic presence was matched only by his business know-how. For the next several years he and the late, great Satoru Iwata would indeed kick ass, take names, and make games.
Twilight Princess, Wii Sports, Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart DS, Animal Cross Wild World and so many more incredible, influential titles were released under this new Golden Age for the company. In America, in the middle of it all there was Reggie – always on hand to find the best ways to get these Wii and DS games to the largest possible audiences.
Reggie would go on to cement himself as a passionate liaison to Nintendo’s devoted fans, and crucially, a man who was not afraid to absolutely rip the piss out of himself at every opportunity.
“My body is ready” is perhaps the most iconic Reggie “bit” of all time, as he returned to stage for E3 2007 to show off the features of Wii Fit. It was a seemingly innocuous moment that spawned hundreds of memes over the years, and it’s something the man himself has embraced with good humour.
As Nintendo moved away traditional press conferences in favour of the privately hosted livestreamed Nintendo Direct presentations, Reggie’s appearances got weirder, funnier, and more wonderful.
Over the last couple of E3 Directs, we’ve seen Reggie do battle with Iwata in a mindblowing sketch for Amiibo in Super Smash Bros. We’ve seen the pair, along with Miyamoto, immortalised in puppet form as they show off a slew of new games, and we’ve seen “Reggie Fils Amech” stride into a boardroom and destroy a colleague with his laser eyes for no reason I can work out other than Reggie probably thought it’d be a laugh.
One of my personal favourite Reggie moments, however, is the time he shook his stuff to the song from Yo Kai Watch. The fact he dances with such conviction and keeps a straight face for the whole thing absolutely slays me every time, and shows us once again what an easy, natural charm the man has.
Oh, and of course there was the time he through some unreal shade at those people who either didn’t have or weren’t even thinking about getting a 3DS.
To be fair, if you have no interest in the 3DS, what is wrong with you?
Even when things started to go ever so slightly south for Nintendo again when the Wii U launched in 2012 (and promptly failed to make much of an impression), Reggie remained an enthusiastic and lovable presence in the industry, keeping the flame alive with his passion for the games that his company were creating.
Even in 2015 when CEO and president Satura Iwata sadly passed away and Nintendo faced its darkest hour in some time, the speech Reggie gave at The Game Awards that year in tribute to his former friend and mentor was a reminder of not just the company’s resilience, but Reggie’s own indomitable spirit.
Here’s just a snippet of what he said:
Finally, on a personal level, he was my boss, and he was my mentor, and he was my colleague. But most of all he was my friend, and I’m a better person for it. I think every gamer is better for having Mr. Iwata’s talent and vision shape the passion we all share. No matter what is going on in our lives or in the world, Mr. Iwata wanted Nintendo to be about putting smiles on people’s faces. Nintendo, at its heart, is about making people feel younger than are today. Mr. Iwata – I hope you’re smiling, right now. Thank you.
Reggie Fils-Aime has been with Nintendo for some of its best and worst years. His charisma, business acumen, and genuinely impressive comedic skills helped the company to reach new audiences, and dizzying new heights.
From Twilight Princess to the Wii and DS, to the launch of the Switch and the beginning of yet another Golden Age for Nintendo… when Reggie hands over the keys to the kingdom to Doug Bowser on April 15, he’ll be leaving a seriously impressive legacy behind. I can’t wait to see Bowser’s dance moves.
Thanks for everything Reggie, and have an awesome retirement.