After the untimely passing of Satoru Iwata, the future of Nintendo seemed uncertain. The company was finally signaling a move towards mobile and was still struggling with the flagging success of its console offerings. A relatively unknown president taking over for a beloved outgoing one made its fortunes that much more unstable.
In many ways Iwata's successor, Tatsumi Kimishima appeared the polar opposite of the late Nintendo president. He often appears stern, and he hasn't put himself front-and-center. His management is more traditional, less playful. To many industry watchers, he was seen as a caretaker president, chosen for his ability to stay on course and not rock the boat.
In truth, Kimishima's quiet, steady hand has been at work for quite a long time. He was promoted to Managing Director of Nintendo in 2013, taking over Iwata's old role. It was at that point that Kimishima began mapping out the future of Nintendo.
"Three years ago, all of us together — the previous president, Genyo Takeda (technology head) and Shigeru Miyamoto (creative head) — created a plan to revitalize our business, which included smart devices, our new hardware and maximizing our intellectual property," Kimishima told Bloomberg in October. "Quite simply, the biggest issue was not about whether I change this, but how do I execute these projects? Now the critical period is finally here."
Far from a mere caretaker, Kimishima has been instrumental in the plans we're now seeing come to fruition. While we should recognize Iwata's role in overseeing this plan, Kimishima's contributions shouldn't be underestimated either. He helped create the modernization of Nintendo of late, from smart phones to the Switch, and in his new role he's in a position to personally oversee the execution of the plan he helped create.
So far it has been working brilliantly. Pokemon Go was a bona fide phenomenon, breaking records and raising the profile of an already beloved series. Super Mario Run debuted as a top grossing app, and received plenty of mainstream attention from the Apple stage to The Tonight Show. The Nintendo Switch has attracted a striking amount of hype based on one brief sizzle trailer. Nintendo is also currently licensing its properties to appear in theme parks, signifying one possible avenue of Kimishima's third pillar.
For guiding the company with a calm and reserve in the face of overwhelming shifts, Tatsumi Kimishima is Shacknews' Person of the Year.