Former Ninetendo for America President Reggie Fils-Aimé keynotes SXSW 2020 on Monday, March 16

SXSW Keynote: Reggie Fils-Aimé

The Forrest Four-Cast: February 11, 2020

The keynote lineup at SXSW 2020 represents some of the top-name visionaries and thought leaders in the various creative industries that come together in Austin every March.

Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former President and Chief Operating Officer for Nintendo for America, serves as one of these keynotes and is scheduled to speak at SXSW on Monday, March 16. Fils-Aimé gained celebrity status among gamers following his appearance at Nintendo’s E3 2004 press conference in May 2004, and helped to revitalize Nintendo’s business with the launches of the Wii, the Nintendo DS/3DS and the Switch.

We caught up with Reggie for a few minutes to learn more about his goals for SXSW 2020, as well as his ideas for how to cultivate the next generation of leadership. His keynote speech is part of the new Game Industry Track that runs Monday, March 16 through Wednesday, March 18.

At SXSW 2020, gaming industry professionals will have the chance to connect with professionals from the technology, film and music industry. Why do you think this kind of cross-industry pollination is important?

I believe the best ideas come from listening to diverse points of view and leveraging all these different voices to identify the very best next steps.

That is why I chose to take my message to SXSW … both to provide a stimulating point of view, and to be stimulated by other opinions and perspectives.

Gaming, film/television/video, and music dominate the entertainment landscape. And I believe they are increasingly cross-pollinating each other. Technology provides an underlying capability to get new ideas to scale.

Have games become core to cultural identity like music, fashion, and movies? If so, how do they shape an individual’s identity and why is this important to understand?

As an industry, gaming is bigger than music, bigger than movies and bigger than television in terms of annual revenue. It is a central entertainment activity. People self-select the entertainment areas where they want to invest a dominant amount of their entertainment time and more people are choosing games.

This means that gaming culture will continue to seep into other areas. Nintendo had success with collaborative projects involving Vans and Uniqlo, and I can see more gaming franchises collaborating with fashion in interesting ways. The Witcher is having a great run on Netflix. Gaming music has help bring a love for symphonies to millions of young people across the world. The growth of gaming means that it will intermingle with other forms of entertainment to create even more fans and players.

Before mobile gaming expanded the scope of who a gamer was, there was the Wii. With such phenomenal success in the lifetime of the Wii, and remarkable success seen recently with the Switch, what have you learned about who gamers are and where do you see new innovations for the modern gamer happening next?

You are absolutely right that the definition and the number of gamers has expanded dramatically. At Nintendo, I talked about “bringing gaming to the masses.” We certainly helped make that happen. When I first joined the industry, about one in three adults played video games; now more than seven in ten play games.

I believe the biggest innovations have been in three areas. Gameplay, and I think Nintendo has led this with the Wii, the DS and 3DS, and now the Switch. Innovations in immersion, driven by a breadth in storytelling. And lastly, innovations in the quality of content at a range of price-points. This has been driven by the great content coming from independent developers as well as the big studios.

Where does the industry go from here? Well, just like everyone else, I get to sit back and watch. Certainly, technical innovations like 5G will drive innovation. I think more can be done with AR. VR has yet to break through.

Your hope is to grow leadership not just in the game industry, but for businesses across the board. What is the first step in your approach for fostering new leadership in enterprise — and what key lessons from your time at Nintendo will carry into the work you do from here on out?

I believe in principles. I was fortunate to be exposed to principle-based thinking very early in my career. For example, principles for being an effective brand manager at Procter & Gamble; principles for the development of effective advertising; even Stephen Covey’s principles highlighted in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Over my 35+year business career, I have honed my own Principles for Next Generation Leadership. These are seven principles that I believe differentiate highly effective leaders and enable them to drive unimaginable results for their organizations. For example, the principle of Courage in Decision Making. I am evangelizing these principles in a variety of ways: in my Leader in Residence role at Cornell University’s Undergraduate Dyson Business School; in my non-executive board roles; in my consulting practice; and in speeches across the country.

To be clear, these principles are not just from my Nintendo experience, but from my time across a variety of industries and roles throughout my career. Reaction so far has been very positive which is spurring me to think about other ways I can even more broadly share my learning with others.

You just joined the world of social media with @Reggie shortly after retiring from Nintendo. What have you learned in your time on Twitter now that you are proactively involved as an individual and not as the head of an international corporation?

In my role at Nintendo, I was featured across all our social media platforms. I was driving the creation of certain content, and the company’s entrance onto certain platforms … the Nintendo Power Podcast as an example. In that role I did not feel it was possible to separate Reggie the individual from Reggie the leader of Nintendo of America and a key “face” for the brand.

My retirement created the perfect opportunity to emerge. Now, I comment about what is important to me. So, there is more content about leadership … more content about education … more content about principles and values.

Sure, I still comment about games because I still play. But now all the opinions are completely my own.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

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Hugh Forrest

Hugh Forrest

Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.