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Nintendo shifting away from individual leadership

Incoming president Shuntaro Furukawa to continue a trend moving away from the style of long-time leader Hiroshi Yamauchi

With Shuntaro Furukawa set to take over as president of Nintendo in June, there are some open questions about how his tenure atop the company will differ from that of his predecessor, Tatsumi Kimishima. The current and future Nintendo presidents attempted to answer those questions in a Q&A session with investors translated and posted to the company's English website today.

One question directed at Kimishima referenced an anecdote about Hiroshi Yamauchi, who took over the presidency of Nintendo in 1949 and transformed it from a playing card producer into an entertainment giant by the time he stepped aside in 2002. When he was succeeded in that post by Satoru Iwata, Yamauchi supposedly defended the choice of Iwata by saying, "the president of Nintendo needs to be a little unusual."

When asked if Furukawa fit that description, Kimishima laid out his own view of how the company has evolved.

"Mr. Yamauchi worked for more than 50 years in the game business and he stubbornly stuck to his beliefs," Kimishima said, adding, "I imagine he would say that a person who would readily bend Nintendo's core attitudes would be unfit for the job. In a sense, he was calling for a stubborn person, or as he might say, a thoroughly unusual person. My understanding is that he used that word to mean someone who would not change, no matter what other people or what other companies said, and would want to preserve any aspect that makes Nintendo different from the others.

"As to whether Mr. Furukawa is in any way unusual, I can just say he has extremely strong inner fortitude. He has clear and articulated opinions, he understands the Nintendo point of view, and he can express that to everyone in his own words."

Kimishima added that there was a change at Nintendo after Yamauchi stepped down, and "no longer could any single person decide matters on their own." That began with Iwata, and carried through Kimishima's tenure, where he said an early focus was "to change our directorial structure to speed up decision-making and execution on a variety of projects that members of the management team were considering at the time."

Nintendo is apparently stepping even further toward a collaborative process at the top with Furukawa, who said he intends to run the company "under a next-generation collective leadership system."

"Mr. Kimishima has shown through his own actions what it means to manage a company collectively rather than relying on the efforts of a single person, and I understand my role as one of continuing on the same course," Furukawa said.

He later added, "The one thing we must never forget when running Nintendo is that we are a company that makes entertainment products and playthings, not necessities. It is a business where our mere existence could be quickly forgotten if consumers stopped considering our products to be fun and interesting... This is a high-risk business by its very nature, and that will not change. But we need to be a company that continues to ask ourselves what we can do to maintain our relationships with consumers, and how we can leverage our ingenuity to mitigate the risks even a little bit, and never come to the conclusion there it nothing we can do."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.