How Shuntaro Furukawa’s promotion could shake things (for better!) up at Nintendo.
We recently reported on the news that Shuntaro Furukawa will be taking over for Tatsumi Kimishima as president of Nintendo in June.
But what does this mean for Nintendo — and for the Switch? Well, let’s take a look.
Furukawa takes over at Nintendo with the company in a much different place than it was in just a few years ago. When Kimishima took over after the untimely death of Satoru Iwata in 2015, it was a shift during perhaps one of the most telling times in the company’s history. After the rocket success that Iwata led the company to during the Wii and DS eras, the Wii U went on to be one of the worst selling products in Nintendo history. Now, Furukawa takes the reins of a Nintendo in a much better position. The Switch is a sales monster, even managing to surpass early sales of the Wii.
Kimishima always — at least from the outside looking in — seemed to be more of a steward of the role than anything else, acting in an almost Wizard of Oz-like way to guide the S.S. Nintendo from outside of the limelight, keeping the company on its current trajectory without doing anything too drastic or radical.
But what does this mean for Nintendo, and for the Switch?
Furukawa, on the other hand, is much younger: 46 to Kimishima’s 68, and could represent the growing influence of a new wave of younger talent inside the company. It’s no secret that the hugely successful Splatoon franchise was brought forward by some of Nintendo’s younger developers, and perhaps Furukawa will continue that trend by taking risks that the older guard of Nintendo may have been weary to do.
It’s also worth noting Furukawa’s connection to The Pokemon Company, something he shares with Kimishima. While the two companies’ histories are intertwined, it’s important to remember that Nintendo is not The Pokemon Company and The Pokemon Company is not Nintendo. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that The Pokemon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara spoke about his doubts on the Switch — some harsh words coming from one of Nintendo’s biggest and most important partners.
In the same way that Iwata’s ties to HAL and Kirby may have contributed to things like Kirby getting several anniversary celebrations and Metroid getting none, Furukawa’s ties to Pikachu and pals could lead to an even closer relationship on Pokemon properties between TPC and Nintendo.
Of course, Nintendo, like any other company, operates years ahead. It might be awhile before we start to see the results of Furukawa’s input. It’s unlikely that any currently-in-development projects will change their plans, though if Furukawa was going to take a more hands-on role in projects like Nintendo Directs, that’s a change that could be felt almost immediately.
Bloomberg also reported, based on Nikkei, that Furukawa spent many years working in Germany. His experience there could mean that fans begin to see more of a united approach for Nintendo and its American and European subsidiaries, further uniting that company that has at times struggled to treat all territories equally.
Furukawa is also starting his new role in June, which just so happens to be E3 season. That would be a good time for Nintendo’s new president to make a grand appearance, perhaps by finally announcing that Ridley and Isaac will be playable in Smash (Well, we can dream).
It’s interesting to note that Furukawa will be only the 6th president in Nintendo’s 128 year history.
It’s interesting to note that Furukawa will be only the 6th president in Nintendo’s 128 year history. For the first hundred-plus years of its existence, it was kept in the Yamauchi family, starting with Fusajiro Yamauchi (1889-1929). Sekiryo Yamauchi followed him (1929-1949), but, the name that should be more familiar to gamers is Hiroshi Yamauchi. It was Hiroshi Yamauchi who brought Nintendo into the video-game industry, leading the company through the days of the NES, SNES, Game Boy, Nintendo 64, and GameCube.
Yamauchi handed control of Nintendo to Iwata in 2002. Iwata — former president of HAL — led Nintendo through some of its highest highs and its lowest lows. He was president through the Nintendo DS and Wii years, where the Wii reversed Nintendo’s decade-long decline in home-console sales it had experienced since the NES days. He continued to serve through the launch of the 3DS and the Wii U, with the latter being one of Nintendo’s worst selling consoles ever.
Iwata was unique in the fact that he was a programmer leading the company — giving him a sense of Nintendo’s business that other presidents might not have.
Following Iwata’s death, Kimishima took over as Nintendo’s 5th president in 2015. He has mostly served as a caretaker for the Kyoto-based company, continuing it on the path that Iwata had laid out before him. He’s also helped the company navigate some of its biggest challenges: Launching the Switch to great success following the failure of the Wii U, helping the company break into the mobile space for the first time, and further expanding the use of Nintendo IPs, such as with the upcoming Nintendo theme park.
Now, Furukawa starts off not with a Nintendo that needs righting, but a Nintendo that is still riding high on the early success of the Switch. It will be up to him to find a way to continue to sustain that success — no easy task, in and of itself — while also bringing his own ideas forward to help lead Nintendo into the future, whatever that may be.
Willie Clark is a freelance writer for IGN, and a great slam and then some. He’s still a little sad he never got to meet Iwata. You can find his scriblings around the internet at many other fine dining establishments. Or, you know, on Twitter.