McDonald’s. SEGA. Ubisoft. Disney. Valve.
Each of these companies has characters or people- “mascots”, if you will – associated with them. McDonald’s is Ronald McDonald. SEGA has Sonic the Hedgehog. Ubisoft has Rayman, or whichever protagonist of Assassin’s Creed you prefer. Disney, Mickey Mouse. Valve, GLaDOS, Gordon Freeman, Gabe Newell. Whether or not you like it, these characters have popped into your mind when you read the name of the company. They may have been different than what I wrote, but you’ve still associated the name of the company with some kind of face. These faces make you subconsciously give the company a personality. Mickey is kind of kiddish, with his high voice and soft demeanor, he’s gentle. When you watch the Valve intro, or hear GLaDOS’ voice, you see a company with a lot of mystery, a lot of brain power. A smart company.
So when I say “Nintendo”, your mind may wander to Mario, Link, Samus, Peach, Donkey Kong, etc., because you’ve associated the company’s name with the characters it’s created. The problem with Nintendo’s characters is that they haven’t ever delved into how they are, how they act. Their personalities. They’ve dabbled with Luigi being passive-aggressive in Mario’s shadow, they gave Link the stoic, silent personality, but these don’t matter. You don’t see Nintendo’s name and think “passive-aggressive”, you don’t think “stoic and silent”. You think “The Company that Made Mario, and Mario is for Children”. Mario’s boring. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. He runs and jumps and cheers and that’s it. You can’t build a company’s personality from jumping. They had to do something about that.
Reggie Fils-Aime’s first key line to Nintendo’s audience was at E3 2004,
“My name is Reggie. I’m about kicking ass. I’m about taking names. And we’re about making games.”
In a moment of shock and surprise, the company’s face was changed forever. They suddenly weren’t the children’s company. They were the company that wasn’t afraid of a little cussin’ or roughhousin’. They stepped out of the shadow that they had created, the shadow of kid games and cartoons. Satoru Iwata came on stage, and blatantly made a fool of Reggie, saying Reggie was worse at Smash Bros. than himself and taunting him by asking, “Who’s your daddy?”. It was fun, refreshing, and new. The company hadn’t been so comfortable with an audience in a long time.
Reggie made Nintendo more appealing, at least in the public eye, almost automatically, and almost single-handedly. He was the Kevin Butler of Nintendo. Through the years of him operating as COO, he’s been made the star of the Nintendo show, just by having a personality that gamers attach to. Attachment like that doesn’t happen very often. He appeared, and we loved him, and if you didn’t like him, you still knew who he was and who he worked for. He’s burrowed into your brain with his goofy smile and his stupid quotes.
It seems that he has a real passion for games, and a real talent with communication. One moment, he’s talking about the next big thing in the Big N’s future, with a serious complexion and a tone in his voice that makes you want to listen, and the next he’s shouting about his affinity for French food and giggling as his face turns into a dead eyed, rotted corpse in front of a large audience. He loves what he’s doing. He loves the fans. And he’ll do what it takes to keep them coming back. His dominating stature is a facade, and childlike wonder lies behind his shining eyes.
This is the reason people sit in front of their monitors, waiting for the next meme from the Regginator. He’s a very real person. “My body is ready,” exploded around the web, merely because Reggie was having fun. “I feel like a Purple Pikmin,” followed those footsteps. His face is photoshopped onto every photo ever. He put himself out there, and people responded. They latched onto his personality, and ate up his words like there’s no tomorrow.
Reggie gave Nintendo face. He gave it personality. He gave it his body. His heart and soul are burned into the fabric of history, standing triumphant as a standard for the gaming nations. Reggie gave to Nintendo what no one else could, and exposed the company’s hidden persona. He showed that they aren’t afraid of a little bit of sass. They aren’t afraid of being uncomfortable. They aren’t afraid of having fun. You may think he’s stupid, but the fact of the matter is that you’re still thinking of him. He’s done a great service, a service that couldn’t have been done nearly as well by anyone else.
Once upon a time, Nintendo faced a dilemma. They needed a way to stretch their audience, to expand it. The GameCube failed in this regard, but they had a fresh start with a new console coming out. Unfortunately, without a spokesman with the ability to spark the storm, the console would flop. At that pinnacle moment, Reggie swept down to help. His instant charm and strange personality mixed perfectly, and he brought to life a new generation of Nintendo consoles with a farther reaching audience. Sony and Microsoft tried to keep up with this as well, releasing mildly similar devices to the Wii, but because of their lacking the charisma and meme-worthiness of Reggie, they couldn’t quite reach the spread audience that Nintendo could. Reggie came to expand the “empire”, and expand he did.
Reggie faces another problem right now, though. Because Nintendo spread themselves so thin upon the different audiences available, they’ve lost one of their most loyal followings, a term my brother coined the “Super Nintendo Gamers”, ie, the gamers that want the old company again. Nintendo needs Reggie now more than ever to bring them back. He needs to convince everyone that Nintendo has what it takes to deliver the experiences that they want, in a way that’s convenient, and he needs to use his character to do it.
While Nintendo definitely still isn’t the “hardcore” company, Reggie helped to open up the possibilities. I’m not basing Nintendo’s success with the Wii solely on him, but he was an amazing contributor to their public image. I mean, he swore once on stage. He said a curse word. In front of an audience. An audience that mattered. That doesn’t happen very often. He made people realize that Nintendo may not be the stick-in-the-mud, rod-down-your-back upstanding company it seems they have been. Of course, their company values remain the same, but Reggie shook people’s perceptions of what those values were. They are a serious company with a serious love for games, and they’re willing to do what it takes to help you realize that. There’s an “In your face passive aggressiveness” that they are holding onto right now, thanks to Reggie. He freshened up the company. He made us uncomfortable. He stretched the barriers of “typical Nintendo”, and should be held in highest regard for it.
Thank you, Mr. Fils-Aime. May your body forever be ready.