Opinion: How Nintendo Can Move Forward

After saying its fond farewells to Satoru Iwata, Nintendo must be looking to the future and preparing his successor. In making its choice, it has to find someone with the same reverence and respect for the company's culture.


Nintendo fans and the gaming community as a whole were dealt a huge blow a few weeks ago when the company announced on its Japanese investor relations website that President Satoru Iwata had passed away after battling a bile duct growth for over a year. This was truly shocking and tragic news. I have a great deal of respect for Iwata-san and the whole team at Nintendo. It was out of this respect that I decided to not contribute to the business publications that immediately wanted to know my opinion of how this would affect Nintendo as a company.

I have been a long-time Nintendo fan since I first played the Legend of Zelda on my friend's NES and I began investing in the company during the N64 days. This is a company that goes through cycles, and I strongly believe that last year was the bottom of the company's most recent decline. I have been vocally bullish on Nintendo's stock and I believe the turnaround strategy that Iwata-san helped put together will come to fruition over the next few years. In the business world, sadly, we have to look forward to the world without Satoru Iwata. While Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda are running day to day operations in an interim fashion, I believe Nintendo already knows Iwata-san's successor.

Satoru Shibata has come up the ranks of Nintendo over the last few years. He has been President of Nintendo of Australia, and now runs Nintendo of Europe. He has been tasked with running the Nintendo Directs for Europe, and is known for some goofball antics. He is younger than both Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda and has a better grasp on speaking English in public venues. This is a crucial part of being a CEO, as he will be the next public face for the company.

I definitely see a parallel between the passing of Satoru Iwata and Steve Jobs, as they were both taken from us at very young ages. They both were the hands-on public faces of their respective companies. I believe we can look to the Tim Cook regime at Apple Inc. for some guidance on how things could go at Nintendo--the main difference being the financial strength of Apple Inc. when Steve Jobs passed away was quite a bit better than where Nintendo finds itself today. Still, Nintendo is far from bankrupt with a $20 Billion market capitalization and over $8 Billion of cash. 

Shigeru Miyamoto would clearly be the sentimental pick to succeed Satoru Iwata. That would be like Apple replacing Steve Jobs with Jony Ive, so to speak. Miyamoto loves his job and is happy where he is. As Shacknews Senior Editor, Ozzie Mejia, put it: Miyamoto, Iwata, and Reggie were Nintendo's triforce. While it is impossible to replace someone like Satoru Iwata, a man with a tremendous skill set and track record, it is possible to find someone who can help the company operate.

Iwata-san had a lot to prove when he became Nintendo's first President outside of the Yamauchi family. He had the guts to walk away from the Gameboy brand and introduce the world to touch-based gaming with the DS. He also presided over the dawn of casual motion-controlled gaming with the Wii. These remain two of the most successful consumer electronics devices of all time. While the Wii U may not be living up to its predecessor's success, I believe the true legacy of Satoru Iwata's time will be the upcoming NX console, the implementation of Nintendo's smartphone strategy, and the great gaming experiences that all the amazing teams at Nintendo have become known for.

The key for Nintendo of Japan's next President will be to carry on the tradition that Hiroshi Yamauchi, Satoru Iwata, and the rest of the outstanding team at the company have created. Nintendo must always be willing to take risks, create new experiences that broaden the gaming landscape, and surprise and delight their loyal fan base for decades to come. It is a sad time for the Big N, but history has shown to never bet against them when they are down. This transition of leadership is crucial for the company's future. I believe Satoru Shibata has been groomed for this position, but clearly no one can truly replace Satoru Iwata.

Nintendo is a company with this culture ingrained deep in its DNA. Nintendo must choose a President who truly understands the history, culture, and opportunities in front of the company. Nintendo cannot replace Satoru Iwata, but it can move forward. 

Asif A. Khan, his family members, and his company Virtue LLC owned shares of NTDOY (Nintendo's ADR) at the time of this article.


Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

From The Chatty
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    July 27, 2015 11:55 PM

    Asif Khan posted a new article, Opinion: How Nintendo Can Move Forward

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      July 28, 2015 12:12 AM

      Whomever earns it, please do one of those five parters that Wong does sometimes, written by you.

      Or craddock, learn Japanese and write this book in 5 years.

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      July 28, 2015 1:31 AM

      How can Shacknews move forward?

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      July 28, 2015 4:43 AM

      ;( love me some Nintendo. A new Earthbound is the answer though

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        July 28, 2015 5:04 AM

        God damned right it is

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        July 28, 2015 6:23 AM

        Feek yeah

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        July 28, 2015 3:09 PM

        5% - gamers that even know what this is.
        15% - gamers that see something about it and are possibly interested in it, until they see something shiny.
        30% - gamers that saw it and wondered wtf is Nintendo wasting resources on this instead of game-x, which they wouldn't buy because they have no intention of buying the console. Bonus: they're also upset that they can't get game-x for the iPhone.
        50% - gamers that didn't look past the Nintendo logo because they were looking for news about the next CoD.

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        July 28, 2015 7:34 PM

        Mario RPG Earthbound cross over for the WiiU. Also make the table do some interesting stuff with that.

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      July 28, 2015 5:39 AM

      A new Mario..wait..that's been done before.

      I've got nothin'.

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      July 28, 2015 5:57 AM

      I really want them to consolidate their mobile and console lines. They have so many great games out there but I'm not going to buy two different platforms to play them. Nintendo doesn't need bleeding edge graphics as we have learned so something mobile that could also be a solid console experience is totally possible these days It would mean that all of the developers working on the two current platforms could be turned to working on one. The concerns about a small library would mostly be alleviated as would the issue of getting 3rd party developers back.

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      July 28, 2015 6:07 AM

      Nintendo should get out of the mainstream console hardware and just focus on mobile gaming hardware and putting out great games.

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        July 28, 2015 6:48 AM

        I hate when people suggest this. It's the "quick buck" solution, and not worth consideration. Mobile games should be one pillar of Nintendo's business, not THE pillar.

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          July 28, 2015 8:36 AM

          They at least need a windows 10 attitude, buy it once play on console/mobile platform.

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            July 28, 2015 9:07 AM

            Yup. Especially when it comes to the Virtual Console. How many time do they expect us to buy the same games?

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              July 28, 2015 9:11 AM

              Cross-play between CONSOLES and HANDHELDS? Yes. Absolutely. Mobile? No. Most games designed for use with a controller do not translate well to touch interfaces. You may think you want to play Super Mario Bros. 3 on your iPhone, but you are wrong.

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                July 28, 2015 9:25 AM

                I don't like gaming on my phone, so don't worry, I'm on your side for this one.

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                July 28, 2015 12:07 PM

                When I say mobile for Nintendo I mean a dedicated hand held not a phone

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                  July 28, 2015 7:46 PM

                  What if Nintendo makes a phone with really good built in hardware controls that hide away? As an aside it comes with Mario Maker as a pack in.

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              July 28, 2015 9:39 AM

              Just give us a god damned nintendo unified online account already. Christ

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                July 28, 2015 1:20 PM

                Question: one of the reasons I frequently see stated that the reason they don't do a Steam-like account service is because of the fact that some amount of their target audience is children. As much as you or I can buy whatever we want on credit cards the laws and practices on minors doing it are different (plus Nintendo can't guarantee the console will be online - especially for handhelds).

                But I have got to think some number of parents have Steam accounts for their kids, or they're doing family sharing, or they're letting their kids use their Steam account and just not let them buy anything, or something.

                How do Shackers with kids handle this sort of thing? And do you think it's the sort of thing a "normal" non techie/gamer parent would be able to handle?

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                  July 28, 2015 1:48 PM

                  It's an utterly nonsense argument. How's iOS doing with kids? The iPod Touch is essentially a mobile gaming unit. Turns out there's no problem providing kids with an internet capable device, an app store, and content controls. You just have to actually know it's possible and execute.

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                  July 28, 2015 7:49 PM

                  It'd be really easy to allow parents to link their children's account to their "master" account so a parent could access it at anytime from their account, and also dump money into it for kids to spend as they please.

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            July 28, 2015 7:45 PM

            Some of those games don't make sense to play on a large screen, or with a controller designed for a large screen.

            I hate the idea of bridging this gap, because it ignores the strengths that a focused home console/PC hardware has, versus what unique gaming experiences you can have on a device like the DS. If what you want is a handheld that plays games at home, and away Sony would absolutely LOVE to sell you a Vita.

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        July 28, 2015 12:01 PM

        No. NO. NO.

        We all want, hell we need, Nintendo to be making weird design decisions in home hardware and software or we're gonna have nothing but the same twin stick shit.

        Every single Nintendo home console has pushed the industry forward. Other companies just play it safe.

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          July 28, 2015 7:52 PM

          I don't think the WiiU or the Gamecube did, or is moving the industry forward at all. I'd also lump the Wii in there as well save for the fact that it did shake things up.

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        July 28, 2015 3:25 PM

        yup totes

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      July 28, 2015 6:33 AM


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      July 28, 2015 6:37 AM

      To be honest, I think they need someone who will shake up the internal culture some. Nintendo seems to swing wildly between excessive conservatism and ridiculous neophilia. Both need to be moderated and be given better and more coherent guidance.

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      July 28, 2015 6:44 AM

      Nintendo can move forward by doing the same shit because that's what they've always done and people have always praised them because mario zelda metroid.

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      July 28, 2015 6:59 AM

      Abandon hardware.

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        July 28, 2015 12:04 PM

        Every time I suggest that people react like I posted a crush video

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      July 28, 2015 7:00 AM

      He does exist!

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      July 28, 2015 7:02 AM

      wrong usage of effect. Should be affect.

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      July 28, 2015 7:52 AM

      What happened to The Man with the Briefcase?

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      July 28, 2015 8:30 AM

      Have you thought about writing more games industry analysis articles for the website? I actually would be interested in your thoughts from the investor/business perspective. I don't know if there are a lot of voices in this arena, other than that Pachter guy.

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        July 28, 2015 11:47 AM

        agreed. Gamasutra is one of the main places that talks a bit more businessy sometimes. Of course it's a more niche topic too.

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      July 28, 2015 9:04 AM

      Good article. Have they given any indication of timeframe for when they would have selected the next CEO?

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      July 28, 2015 9:37 AM

      I still say by creating a console similarly spec'd to PS4 or Xbone, and a competitive online service.

      You're going to tell me you wouldn't have that console as your primary?

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        July 28, 2015 12:09 PM

        Even with comparable specs, it'll be DOA without equal 3rd party support.

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          July 28, 2015 1:26 PM

          Why wouldn't there be 3rd party support if porting is easier?

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            July 28, 2015 2:08 PM

            Porting is one thing, how well they are received and supported by Big N is another. Also how people will perceive which is the best system to play said 3rd party games on. Pretty sure Nintendo will be ranked behind the other two.

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              July 28, 2015 3:05 PM

              If they get their online together it'll be a close race I think, the exception, of course, being existing communities. That's what Nintendo has to fight over and should have been fighting for since '06.

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        July 28, 2015 12:10 PM

        They'll never recapture that market

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        July 28, 2015 12:18 PM

        I go back and forth on this. On the one hand, Nintendo has referred to the competition between Sony and MS as an arms race, and they're right. Consumers really only need one of those boxes. Eventually, one company will lose the race. Why get involved in a shoving match?

        On the other hand, Nintendo's disruptive philosophies cost it a lot of money this generation. When they work, they chance the industry. When they flop, they flop hard.

        I'd like the best of both worlds: a console with competitive hardware so publishers can easily port third-party titles, and some sort of disruptive gimmick that capitalizes on Nintendo's penchant for creativity. I really don't want just another graphics-driven console; how good do games need to look before nobody cares anymore?

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          July 28, 2015 1:00 PM

          I'd like the best of both worlds: a console with competitive hardware so publishers can easily port third-party titles, and some sort of disruptive gimmick that capitalizes on Nintendo's penchant for creativity. I really don't want just another graphics-driven console; how good do games need to look before nobody cares anymore?

          Kinect and Move were this to some degree. Obviously influenced by Nintendo but demonstrates the idea of trying new things within the context of a new console that doesn't involve sinking the whole thing if it doesn't work out. SmartGlass and the Vita offered similar attempts at second screen experiences where when they didn't set the world on fire the console still had significant value. Of course you give up some chance of success by not going as hard into these ideas but you also hedge better against failure.

          VR/AR looks to some degree to be another opportunity like this.

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          July 28, 2015 1:06 PM

          When we can run a 4k tv and 4 sets of 4k vr helmets we'll be set.

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          July 28, 2015 8:06 PM

          I can't see 3rd parties getting behind the gimmick. I feel like Microsoft tried that with the XBO and the Kinect. Even if Nintendo kept the tablet and just moved that over onto the next console would 3rd parties devote significant funding to make it interesting for the NX version of a game?

          I also don't feel Microsoft and Sony are in much of an arms race. The SNES/NES and Genesis had a massive performance gap. I don't feel the gap between the PS4 and XBO is really worth talking about. Even less so on the 360 and PS3. Those two were pretty much in a deadlock, and with the current consoles the games LOOK the same, the differences seem to shake out in frame rates. Which if I'm honest I think frame rates are a big deal.

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        July 28, 2015 3:35 PM

        I'm skeptical that Nintendo could produce such a thing. I would still buy one, but I doubt it would replace my PS4 or even the XB1.

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        July 28, 2015 7:57 PM

        I would more so over the other two options, I just don't think Nintendo could do a competitive online service.

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      July 28, 2015 9:38 AM

      The Nintendo I remember growing up, made simple hardware that anyone could use and made a shit ton of really fun games for that hardware. Nintendo needs to go back to its roots in that regard.

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        July 28, 2015 1:13 PM

        I'd say they generally still do that with the exception of their online support. That shit is not easy to use and really should be.

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      July 28, 2015 11:47 AM


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      July 28, 2015 12:10 PM

      Come back man with the briefcase! We miss you, we summon you.

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      July 28, 2015 1:41 PM

      I think Iwata's overall plan was solid, for sure. Stay in the hardware business, but also make some quality releases for phones and tablets. As long as they maintain the quality of the releases and don't dilute their IP, they will be around for a long time.

      NX is going to have a tough battle for sure, even if it's totally awesome. Mobile games already meet the needs for casual audiences, and PS4, XBO generally meet the needs for the more harcore crowd. So Nintendo will have to carve it's own niche again. That involves pulling a few from the margins of both sides and building on that over the coming years.

      And I'll echo the statement that I'd love to see more material like this from Asif.

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      July 28, 2015 6:28 PM

      That was a real good article Asif, I really dug it awesome job you need to do more.

      I really hope the NX will be powerful( >= PS4), to me this is what will make or break the company with out third party support I hate to say it eventually it will be game over(for hardware) :( but then they go full software only which could be amazing.

      Square Enix clarifies NX support as "under consideration."

      If the NX is so awesome why would a large company like Square Enix use the term "under consideration." would not be a sure thing?

      This has me worried -> http://www.gamespot.com/articles/nintendo-nxs-first-games-announced-by-square-enix/1100-6429233/

      Man I hope I am wrong and the NX is the next SNES and is a successful etc.

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