Nintendo names HR exec, 65, as president

Tatsumi Kimishima, newly appointed president of Nintendo, speaks to reporters at the Osaka Stock Exchange yesterday, while the company's famous game creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, left, looks on. Picture: Getty Images

Nintendo has named a 65-year-old human resources executive as president to lead the company’s long- awaited push into smartphone gaming and development of its new console.

Tatsumi Kimishima will succeed the late Satoru Iwata, the company said yesterday. 

Kimishima has worked for Pokemon and was chief executive of Nintendo of America, where he oversaw the US introduction of the Wii console and the 3DS handheld device.

Mr Kimishima faces challenges revitalising Nintendo, where its business model has been undermined by competitors’ free-to-play games on mobile devices and weak sales of its Wii U machine. 

Nintendo is set to release its first game service for smartphones this year and is preparing a new console code-named NX.

“It’s a very orthodox choice, which sends a message that the company is choosing to stay the course,” said Mitsushige Akino of Ichiyoshi Asset Management. 

“Investors expecting growth would have preferred to see some bigger changes. Someone with a direct experience in designing games would have been better.”

Nintendo’s German-traded shares fell 0.7%, matching the decline in Tokyo before the announcement. The stock has gained 82% this year on expectations the company’s move into smartphones with DeNA will spark sales.

“The basic direction and strategy won’t change,” Mr Kimishima said. “I will continue along the path set by President Iwata.”

Mr Iwata was the face of Nintendo for 13 years, fronting everything from product announcements to analyst meetings. 

Mr Iwata, the first president from outside the Yamauchi family since the company was founded in the late 19th century, tripled revenue through new devices and interactive figurines called Amiibo.

The Wii U has not replicated the success of its predecessor against Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, and Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The competing devices now sell in China after a ban was lifted, putting the Wii U further behind.

The company last week announced a new Pokemon title that uses a Bluetooth-ready button to interact with characters displayed in the real world. 

Nintendo has 32% of Pokemon’s voting rights. Nintendo is also working with Universal Parks & Resorts to offer attractions based on its intellectual property.

Nintendo’s revenue has fallen six straight years, dropping to 550bn yen (€4.02bn) in the 12 months ended March 2015. That is less than when Mr Iwata took the role. The company has sold about 10m Wii U consoles since its introduction in 2012.

Since July, Nintendo has been led by Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Mario and Zelda series, and Genyo Takeda, architect of the Wii.

Bloomberg


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