One of the most memorable lines of the past two decades in video games was delivered not by a character in a game but by an executive on stage.
“My name is Reggie. I’m about kickin’ ass. I’m about taking names — and we’re about making games,” declared Reggie Fils-Aimé, introducing himself during Nintendo’s presentation at the E3 convention in Los Angeles in 2004.
The line represented a new attitude from Nintendo, a statement that the legendary game company hadn’t given up in its battle against the would-be bosses of the industry, Sony and Microsoft. It marked the beginning of a resurgence for the Japanese company and its Redmond, Wash.-based subsidiary, Nintendo of America, which Fils-Aimé would go on to lead as president and chief operating officer.
But it actually wasn’t how that line was originally drafted.
The story of the last-minute change is one of many behind-the-scenes details shared by the retired Nintendo of America executive in his new book, “Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo.”
The book combines Fils-Aimé’s life story with leadership insights and some eye-opening anecdotes for fans of Nintendo and video games, including inside details about his working relationships with legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and late Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata.
Reggie Fils-Aimé joins us on this episode of the GeekWire Podcast to talk about his career, his book, and what’s next in video games. He also shares the story of that pivotal introductory line, how it was originally supposed to be delivered, and the larger significance of the change that was made on the eve of the event.
Listen below, and continue reading for key takeaways.
The book is part of his larger effort to inform, mentor and inspire the next generation of leaders. Reggie is a first-generation American, the son of Haitian immigrants who grew up in a Bronx tenement, and the first member of his family to go to an American university, Cornell, where he has returned to teach as a professional in residence.
The memoir actually wasn’t his first idea for a book. Reggie originally proposed to write about all of the real-world lessons that people could learn from playing video games. He turned that idea into a speech but hasn’t ruled out the idea of returning to it for a second book.
He was a gamer and Nintendo fan long before he worked for the company. In one memorable anecdote from the book, when he was an executive at Pizza Hut, he stayed up until early in the morning playing Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past on the Super NES, only to come home the next night to the disheartening sight of his son defeating the final boss after picking up Reggie’s save file.
His experience as a gamer informed Reggie’s approach at Nintendo, and boosted his credibility inside the company and with fans.
“That’s the first insight that I would share: whatever it is that you’re doing, you better have a passion for it,” he says.
The iconic 2004 line was originally, “My name is Reggie. I’m about kicking ass and taking names — and I’m about making games.” It was almost scrapped before it was saved at the last minute by changing the final pronoun to the more inclusive and appropriate plural, “we’re about making games.”
Reggie took the time to build a foundation of trust with Mr. Iwata and other key Nintendo executives in Japan, establishing credibility that he used to make his case for key sales and marketing decisions for rollouts such as the Nintendo 3DS, Wii and Nintendo Switch in North America. He goes into detail on the strategies behind those decisions in the book, and shares some of the highlights and pivotal moments in our podcast discussion.
Looking ahead, Reggie believes mergers and acquisitions such as Microsoft’s deal to buy Activision Blizzard will disrupt the industry, but not in the way people might expect.
“As a result of all of those mergers, skilled developers are going to spin out … and it’s going to create a situation where a lot of independent, smaller studios are going to be created,” he says. “And these are the ones that are going to create the really compelling content.”
He’s keeping a close eye on the industry as a leader of a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC), seeking to take a company public in the gaming and entertainment industry.
Reggie is bullish on augmented reality in gaming, due to its social aspects, but not virtual reality, for its lack of social interaction. And he believes the metaverse has big potential, but not as envisioned by Facebook parent Meta.
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Reggie Fils-Aimé’s new book is Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo, published by HarperCollins. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.