Reggie Fils-Aime’s lasting legacy: Does he have one?

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I’m sure, by now, you’ve heard the news. Reggie Fils-Aime is retiring from Nintendo, and today is his last day. He even started a twitter account and somehow managed to get the @Reggie tag. Good for him, as he appears poised to have some fun in his next walk of life. As a fan of Nintendo, this day has little meaning to me, aside from seeing a lot of people talking about it, and maybe I am in the minority here. Reggie Fils-Aime, at least from an outsiders perspective, didn’t contribute much to Nintendo. That’s a sad fact that maybe today we don’t want to accept, but ultimately we have to live with as fans, as Nintendo of Japan has, for many years, stripped it’s other regions of most of it’s creative outlets. Today, it pains me to say that it appears Nintendo of America’s most creative impact on the industry is Nintendo Minute, a semi-weekly YouTube segment.

Not to say that there haven’t been significant contributions to Nintendo’s overall business from NoA. The language barrier between Nintendo of Japan and the rest of the world is indeed real, and Nintendo of America has been the bridge in the surge of western games, particularly indies, that have appeared on the 3DS, Wii, Wii U, and now the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, without much transparency, it’s difficult to pinpoint just who is responsible for this progression. Damon Baker, now of Microsoft, was the face and spokesman for the Nindies movement on the Switch, and so, credit most likely would be given to him and his team, not the president, Reggie Fils-Aime. Though that fact is difficult to ascertain.

Maybe it’s ok if Reggie didn’t offer much, himself. Again, we aren’t exactly sure what his contributions were, aside from running a company, albeit to say that Nintendo of America is limited in what they are given as a company. I don’t want to unfairly criticize him, or the company, but what more can be said about what Nintendo of America’s job actually is? For a company that employees anywhere from 1000-1200 people in any given year since 2013, their creative contributions aren’t significant to the industry. Given the uncertain status of Nintendo Software Technology, the only internal game making studio, and the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, in 2019, it is unclear if any employees of NoA are still making video games. Long gone are the days of Nintendo of America making games like Waverace and 1080 Snowboarding, important releases for the N64 and GameCube. NoA appears to be caring for the brand more than anything else, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t make Reggie Fils-Aime, or anyone else at that company for that matter, a rock star of the industry. I guess my point is, this isn’t Shigeru Miyamoto(Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong, etc.) or Keiji Inafune(Mega Man) or Masahiro Sakurai(Super Smash Bros.) retiring, or countless other developers, which would actually warrant a huge outreach of fan support and celebration of a career. The outreach of love for Reggie feels contrived, as his most endearing contributions have been memes, a few videos, and trying to convince the United States that the Wii U was actually, ya know, fun to play. Remember that novel idea of Asymmetric Gameplay?

To understand Reggie’s legacy and lasting impact on Nintendo, and gaming in general, one must put aside the idea that all things Nintendo does are inherently good. Reggie had fine moments with Nintendo. He acted mostly as the face, the spokesman, and the PR rep for Nintendo for many years since his hiring in 2003. Reggie came from a marketing background, where he found success with Pizza Hut, Guinness, and VH1 before coming to Nintendo. One thing I believe to be true about Reggie, is he has a good feel for how to sell things to people. Unfortunately, again, we simply can’t say with any degree of certainty that he was solely responsible for any marketing campaign for Nintendo during his employ, simply because we don’t know, though it can be assumed, Nintendo of Japan always has the final say. Wii U ads were…not great. Where does that blame fall?

Do you see a pattern here? It may seem like I am throwing Reggie to the wolves here, but I assure you, this isn’t a knock on Reggie. If anything, it is a knock on the structure of Nintendo and how Nintendo of Japan handles it’s other regional divisions. Nintendo of America is huge, but the amount of freedom given to the company is unclear, and in all likelihood they aren’t acting without permission from NoJ. Today, on the day of one man’s retirement, the face of NoA, I think it is fair to ask what contributions he, as president, made to Nintendo and to gaming. He was the face of Nintendo in America, and that is significant, at least somewhat. His memes add comedic value, and some of his videos were endearing, some were even awesome. Yeah, I’m looking at you Iwata vs. Reggie.

But, as I approach the end of this article, I have a thought crossing my mind that maybe my heart is just too cold. Am I missing something here? Reggie never struck me as anyone who actually did much of anything. In all my time following Nintendo news closely, I never understood, and still don’t, the love of Reggie from Nintendo fans. Notice I say love of Reggie, not for Reggie. Loving the man is different from loving the meme, and Reggie is a meme, something forum users turn to for a laugh or to express excitement for Nintendo news. My body is Ready, What’s Wrong With You, The Shrug. I guess in the time we live in, I shouldn’t be surprised that fame can be found in these ways, and I must admit I have even used these memes. Maybe I am nothing more than a hypocrite. As a man, I’ll remember him most as the bumbling spokesman trying to keep it together during the Wii U years. The used car salesman trying to sell uninterested buyers something that looks like a lemon, and failing and flailing miserably. That surely shouldn’t be placed on his shoulders. Just as the successes of Nintendo stem mostly from NoJ, so should the failures.

Does he have a legacy in the gaming world? Probably not, and probably not by any doing or undoing of his own. The circumstances of the job prevent any president of Nintendo of America from truly contributing much, creatively speaking. On the business end, it’s difficult to call Reggie’s time with Nintendo anything other than a success. How much of that success should be given to Reggie Fils-Aime? I don’t know, but Nintendo as a brand is healthy right now, so some of that is surely shared by all.

So, happy retirement, Mr. Fils-Aime. I write that, not as a fan of your work. You hold no special place in the history of gaming to me, and that’s ok. But you undoubtedly worked hard, probably harder than this article portrays. Probably harder than anyone realizes, and we all know how difficult work can be. Enjoy everything life has to offer, and I wish you all the best.

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