Why Nintendo chose Tatsumi Kimishima to be their new CEO and not Genyo Takeda or Shigeru Miyamoto

Kimishima

Today Nintendo Co Ltd. announced that, former Nintendo of America CEO, Tatsumi Kimishima will be the new CEO of the house of Mario. It’s an interesting decision, to say the least. Many people, including myself, thought that they were going to stick with Genyo Takeda who has been leading the company (together with Shigeru Miyamoto) ever since Satoru Iwata passed away.

Takeda would have been the obvious choice. He is the general manager of Nintendo’s integrated research division, and was, in that outfit responsible, for producing the Nintendo Wii. He also created the Punch-Out!! and StarTropics series. He is a hands-on kind of guy, just like Iwata was, and is credited to be the creator of both the analogue stick and the cartridge battery back which made it possible for NES cartridges to keep save data after the console was turned off (which was first used in Miyamoto’s The Legend of Zelda). Creations which are still very relevant today (could you imagine playing a 3D console game without the analogue stick today? Neither can I). Also just like Iwata, he grew into different management positions as the years went by.

Punch-Out StarTropics

Then why didn’t Nintendo choose Takeda? Well, there’s the language aspect, of course. As far as I know, Takeda’s English is not on the same level as that of Iwata (nor is Miyamoto’s, for the record), meaning that he probably wouldn’t put himself as much in the Western limelight as Iwata did with his Nintendo Direct series of announcements, meaning that in the eye of the beholder Nintendo would once again become this faceless Japanese giant that doesn’t speak your language, nor understands you… which, of course, wouldn’t be good for sales in the Western market. Also, in this respect, I expect that, for a company whose profits are quite dependent of its international successes, having a president who doesn’t speak the international language par excellence is a bit of a hard sell for shareholders as well.

One of Nintendo’s biggest current issues is that, while it has been doing quite well in Japan these last few years, it has been struggling to generate that same interest in the West, and especially in the Americas – although Amiibo are a huge success in the States. Choosing for a president and CEO with a similar track record as his predecessor and whom may have limited knowledge of the West and of the Western market, would probably not change anything to this situation.

Enter Tatsumi Kimishima whom was not only the CEO of Nintendo of America from 2002 until 2006, but whom has lived – and still lives – in the States for more than half of his life (he is currently 65). Unlike many of Nintendo’s other big names, Kimishima wasn’t with Nintendo from the beginning. He joined the company in 2000 after having worked for 27 years at Sanwa Bank of Japan where he was, among other, responsible for corporate planning and international business development. Also unlike many of Nintendo’s other big names, Kimishima didn’t start out as a developer. When he joined the company in 2000 he became the Chief Financial Officer for the Pokémon Company, after which he quickly became the president of Pokémon USA Inc. in 2001.

Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo Co., center right, speaks as Tatsumi Kimishima, managing director, listens during a news conference in Osaka, Japan, on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Nintendo posted second-quarter profit that beat analyst estimates, helped by a weaker yen that boosted the value of overseas sales and demand for new games including Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8. Photographer: Yuzuru Yoshikawa/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Satoru Iwata; Tatsumi Kimishima

Kimishima will be a very different president than Iwata was or than Takeda or Miyamoto would have been. He’s more of a numbers guy, less of a hands on guy. That’s not necessarily a problem. Miyamoto and Takeda will still be there advising him in this respect – as can be learned from the press release – while he makes sure the shareholders are happy. Also, Kimishima probably knows more of the Western market than any other Nintendo employee from Japanese descent. That may be a good thing, but not necessarily either. One of the main reasons I love Nintendo is because their products are so different from what Western companies produce. On the other hand, if Kimishima finds a way to actually attract a bigger audience for Nintendo and still lets them produce these unique experiences, I’m all for it.

Will the appointment of Kimishima lead to a new golden age for Nintendo? It’s hard to say. For, one it’s hard for an outsider to judge what actual power the new president and CEO will have. What power remains with Miyamoto and Takeda after Kimishima becomes the new president and CEO. His knowledge of the Western market may indeed entice Nintendo to walk an new path, but given Kimishima’s age (65) it may well be that he is a transitionary president who’s there to fill in the void left by Iwata’s unexpected passing, until the next generation is ready to take over. Then again, what’s to stop Kimishima from ruling Nintendo for the next decade or so?

The future of Nintendo: what’s to come after Spring 2016 (4)

E3 has come and gone and all the big players have made some exciting new announcements about their upcoming and future games. Unlike, for instance, Sony, Nintendo decided to focus on games they will be releasing in the coming year instead of in the coming years. For some (including myself) their digital E3 event was a bit underwhelming. Mostly because we already knew about most of their games that will release before the Spring of 2016. Especially when looking at WiiU.

In this series of articles I will look at what Nintendo will most likely deliver after Spring 2016. Of course I do not have a crystal ball, so what I will be presenting here are just some educated guesses about what Nintendo’s (affiliated) studios are most likely to be working on right now.

Next up: the Western third party studios in charge of Nintendo franchises that are coordinated by SPD 3


CURVE DIGITAL

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Curve Digital Ultratron May 2015 Fluidity series

Stealth Inc. series

The Swapper

Lone Survivor

Thomas was alone

Titan Attacks

Action Henk

Ultratron

What are they working on?

Curve Digital is known for developing, porting and publishing digital titles. They work on the Fluidity series for Nintendo and develop the Stealth Inc. series, of which the latest title Stealth Inc. 2: A game of clones, came to WiiU before it was ported to other consoles. They also ported Lone Survivor, Thomas was Alone, The Swapper, Titan Attacks, Ultratron and OlliOlli to the current generation of Nintendo consoles.

While a new Fluidity title may be in the works for Nintendo WiiU, it has already been confirmed that they will still be porting Action Henk to Nintendo WiiU. The title will still release this year. Most likely Curve Digital will add other indie titles to their portfolio in the coming months, which may end up on WiiU (and 3DS) as well. A good contender is OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood.

 

What does this mean for WiiU?

Curve Digital has been very generous in releasing digital titles for Nintendo’s home console. Action Henk and Ultratron will be the sixth and seventh title they release on WiiU. More will definitely follow, with OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood being a very good contender.

KUJU ENTERTAINMENT

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Kuju Entertainment Art Academy: Atelier July 2015 Art Academy series

Battalion Wars series

Zumba series

(?) New Zumba game

Art Academy Atelier

What are they working on?

Kuju Entertainment has two studios working for it, namely Headstrong Games and Zoë Mode.

Headstrong Games just released Art Academy Atelier (Home Studio in the U.S.) for Nintendo WiiU. They have developed every Art Academy title so far. It is, however, unlikely that we will see another Art Academy game for current generation Nintendo consoles. Work on a new Art Academy for the next Nintendo console may have started.

Headstrong Games also developed both Battalion Wars games in the past. It is not unlikely that they would be asked to develop Battalion Wars 3, which may still come to WiiU. It is, however, possible that the franchise (together with the Advance Wars series) lies dormant for the moment.

Zoë Mode is best known for its work on the Zumba series which is published by Majesco Entertainment. The series had its most successful entries on Nintendo Wii. Zumba Fitness: World Party was released for WiiU December 2013. No titles in the Zumba series have been released since then. Zoë Mode has also worked on games with the Grease license (for Nintendo systems) and has developed SingStar and EyeToy games for Sony. It is uncertain what games they will still release on Nintendo consoles in the future. Maybe in 2016 we will see the return of the Zumba series of WiiU? Get your dance moves ready!

 

What does this mean for WiiU?

Kuju Entertainment just released Art Academy Atelier on WiiU. Chances for another one of their games being published by Nintendo on WiiU are slim. In 2016 we may see another Zumba game on WiiU though, unless Majesco Entertainment doesn’t hold the license to that series anymore.

MONSTER GAMES

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Monster Games Xenoblade Chronicles 3D April 2015 Excite series

Donkey Kong Country series

NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona

(?) Diddy Kong Racing 2

Xenoblade 3D

What are they working on?

Monster Games’ specialty is racing games. They have worked on the NASCAR and Test Drive series in the past (mostly for non-Nintendo platforms), but have been working exclusively on Nintendo franchises ever since the release of Excite Truck for Nintendo Wii in 2006. They have made two other titles in the Excite series (Excitebots and an Excitebike remake) since the release of that game. The Excite series has been dormant for this generation of consoles and it is unlikely we will be seeing another game in the series anytime soon, unless a port (or remake) is in the works.

In 2013 Monster Games ported Donkey Kong Country Returns (a Wii game) to the Nintendo 3DS. They also assisted Retro Studio in the development of its sequel on WiiU, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Most likely they have been given the Donkey Kong Country IP to work with now, so that Retro Studios can focus working on another (or entirely new) Nintendo franchise. Because of their track record in the racing genre, the next Donkey Kong game may not be a Country game, but may be Diddy Kong Racing 2, which has been rumored to exist. They may be working on it by themselves or in cooperation with Retro Studios. The game could be a cross gen game for WiiU and NX.

The last game Monster Games released was Xenoblade Chronicles 3D for the New Nintendo 3DS. They may be releasing another port of a Wii game on (New) Nintendo 3DS in 2016 (or possibly in 2017). Maybe they will get to port one of their own franchises this time around: Excite Truck 3D? Let the race commence!

 

What does this mean for WiiU?

Because they have  a WiiU development kit and have only assisted Retro Studios on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for WiiU, it would seem likely for Monster Games to still produce a game of their own for Nintendo WiiU. Diddy Kong Racing 2 seems possible, though the title will most likely be playable on NX as well, and may be a collaborative effort with Retro Studios.

NEXT LEVEL GAMES

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Next Level Games Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon March 2013 Punch-Out series

Mario Strikers series

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon

Transformer: Cybertron Adventures

Metroid Prime: Federation Force

Luigi's Mansion 2

What are they working on?

Next Level Games is currently working on Metroid Prime: Federation Force for Nintendo 3DS. After the big success of Luigi’s Mansion 2 on 3DS it was expected that they would get to handle another big Nintendo franchise. Metroid is definitely big enough.

In 2014 Next Level Games announced that they will be working exclusively with Nintendo from now on. And who knows, if Federation Force turns out to be a better game than people are expecting it to be, maybe they’ll get a chance to develop the next big Metroid Prime game for NX?

Next Level Games is also known to have a development kit for WiiU in their offices. They have, however, not released a single game for the console yet. With a team of 70 people working for them, it is unlikely that the only game they were able to produce in a period of five years is a Nintendo 3DS game. We may thus still see a game from them on WiiU. Most likely a sports game. The next Punch-Out? Probably not. The next Mario Strikers? Far more likely. Super Mario Spikers? The pitch for that Nintendo Wii game was never greenlit in the first place and probably never will be.

What does this mean for WiiU?

A team of seventy people which has a Nintendo WiiU development kit and which only has released one (very successful Nintendo 3DS) game in the last five years? That must mean they have been working on something else as well. Perfect contender: Mario Strikers WiiU which will be released after Spring 2016, and even more likely: around Holiday 2016. As such it will not be released too close to Camelot’s Mario Tennis (Holiday 2015) and Sega’s Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Spring or Summer 2016).

N-SPACE

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
n-Space Skylanders: Swap Force October 2013 Geist

Heroes of Ruin

Skylanders 3DS series

Call of Duty DS series

007 series

(?) Sword Coast Legends

Skylanders SwapForce 3DS

What are they working on?

n-Space is mostly known for developing spin-off games of big name franchises for mobile platforms. They have made, among others, Nintendo (3)DS versions of entries in the Call of Duty, Skylanders and 007 series which are all published by Activision. They have not been making mobile versions of Activision franchises since the release of Skylanders: Swap Force in 2013.

They also developed the Nintendo Gamecube exclusive shooter Geist, which was published by Nintendo itself, and the Nintendo 3DS exclusive RPG Heroes of Ruin, which was published by Square-Enix. It is unlikely that they are working on sequels to these games.

n-Space is known to be working on a Dungeons and Dragons RPG, called Sword Coast Legends which will release on current gen home consoles and PC this September, though not on Nintendo WiiU. It is not likely to receive a port to WiiU, but since it is unlikely that they are producing anything else for WiiU at the moment, let’s just dream that they will eventually port this game to WiiU. Dream a little dream for me!

What does this mean for WiiU?

n-Space will not release any games on Nintendo WiiU.

RETRO STUDIOS

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Retro Studios Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze February 2014 Metroid Prime Series

Donkey Kong Country series

Maro Kart 7

(?)Diddy Kong Racing 2

 Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

What are they working on?

Retro Studios is best known for its work on the Metroid Prime series and the Donkey Kong Country series. All of their games have been praised by critics. They finished working on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze somewhere in 2013. From the credits of that game, it became clear it was not the whole team at Retro Studios that did work on the game. Production of an entirely new WiiU game may thus be well underway. This game may be a third Donkey Kong Country game or it may be another Nintendo franchise (old or new) entirely. A follow-up to Donkey Kong 64 isn’t entirely out of the question either.

Also, because Retro Studios have assisted EAD 1 with the development of Mario Kart 7 (they developed the retro courses and provided the Donkey Kong character assets), it has been rumored that they have been working on Diddy Kong Racing 2. It is possible that they are co-developing this game with Monster Games, who also have experience in the racing genre, as well as with the Donkey Kong franchise. Diddy Kong Racing 2 will most likely be a cross generation game and will have a WiiU and an NX version.

What does this mean for WiiU?

We may still see one more Retro Studios game on Nintendo WiiU. This game will probably be cross gen and will most likely be centered around everybody’s favorite ape. Possible contenders: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3, New Donkey Kong 64, Diddy Kong Racing 2.

TT Fusion

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
TT Fusion LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin March 2015 LEGO City Undercover series

LEGO (3)DS series

(?) New LEGO 3DS game

LEGO Ninjago Shadow of Ronin

What are they working on?

TT Fusion is a subsidiary of TT Games, which itself is a subsidiary of Warner Bros.

TT Fusion has made two games in the LEGO City Undercover series which were published by Nintendo in 2013. One game for Nintendo 3DS, and one game for Nintendo WiiU. Because the original WiiU game was generally well received and because the engine is already there, it shouldn’t prove to be impossible for TT Fusion to make LEGO City Undercover 2 for Nintendo’s current generation of consoles. Spring 2016? Why not. TT Games has been pushing out LEGO games like crazy!

TT Fusion also develops most of the mobile versions of LEGO games (Nintendo (3)DS and Playstation Vita). Sometimes they get to create original games for these mobile platforms (e.g. LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin) and sometimes they develop the mobile spin-off of a home console LEGO game (e.g. The LEGO Movie Videogame). They will, most likely, produce another LEGO 3DS game before the handheld console’s successor shows up. Possible even 2… or make that 5!

What does this mean for WiiU?

TT Games will still release LEGO Marvel’s Avengers on Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo WiiU and LEGO Dimensions on Nintendo WiiU this year. The next few LEGO games, whatever licenses they may use, will also appear on Nintendo WiiU. Whether TT Fusion will get to make another Lego City Undercover game for WiiU remains to be seen, but here’s hoping! One thing is for sure: there will never be a shortage of LEGO games on Nintendo platforms.

CONCLUSION

Nintendo’s (former) Western partners have mostly been focusing on developing Nintendo 3DS games. From Cruve Digital we can still expect to see some digital only releases on WiiU. From the other Westerns partners we should not expect too much. And if another game from these studios does come to WiiU it is most likely ape related.