I honestly don’t like writing editorials like this one because it focuses on a future that is undetermined. Yet I can’t help but wonder what the future of Nintendo will be if the rumor of a scheme to remove Iwata is true. We may never know, and if Iwata does “step down” there is actually a rather convenient public excuse right now – his health is not 100%. Even if Nintendo brass wants him gone, they aren’t going to shame the man when he does have their respect. That’s just not the way business is done in Japan.
Still, in what some may feel is an inevitable future (someday Nintendo won’t be ran by Mr. Iwata), the question remains: what will Nintendo be if these rumors are true? Nintendo management wants to make games on mobile platforms? This is the first we’ve heard of that being a real thing. They want to do more with the internet? They want to focus less on gaming consoles? This is all news to us, as we’ve only ever heard the company line – a line that is set by the one in charge. Nintendo could very well be a very different place if this is true.
We all love Nintendo for various reasons. Stock holders naturally want Nintendo to move to mobile platforms, and that’s understandable to a point. You make a quick buck, increase current profitability, and abandon money sinking platforms like the Wii U. It hurts us as fans, but it makes sense financially in the short term. That’s usually all investors really care about: the short term gains, especially post 2008.
But for us gamers, how would the world change? Given what we know about this rumor, it would seem Nintendo could embrace the mobile phone and tablet market as their next great handheld gaming machines. That they may focus less on their own hardware and possibly offer their console-like content on other, more popular platforms, such as the PlayStation 4. Less hardware, more software, and a lot less overall risk. That isn’t what is said entirely by this rumor, but it’s the feeling I keep getting every time I read it. This would be a complete 180 on what Nintendo is today and actually anger a lot of fans… while gaining some new ones on the other side. Any major change like this would make waves.
Of course, Iwata himself could alleviate some of this before we get to a point of removal by being a bit more open. Maybe Nintendo will stick to hardware as he wants with software parity on the consoles, but he could still open up the doorway to alleviate some of these desires. Things like offering old school virtual console games on the mobile market are mostly a no brainer. Why not take advantage of it? It’s not that hard to truly embrace online gaming, is it? The standards are out there; you would just have to keep moving forward to meet them. Maybe management wants to make games that feature more online use – so let them. Nintendo is always at its best when it does the things it wants to do. It seems what management wants to do may be at odds with what Iwata wants to do. All he would have to do is give in just a little, and everyone could be happy. There would be content on phones, more online gaming focused stuff, and Iwata could still push individual handheld and home console platforms with brand new content. He would just have some additional revenue streams… which seems like a no brainer.
Still, Iwata hasn’t shown any inkling of budging, and we know that just based upon his own phrasing. This could lead us to a future none of us, or very few, really want to see unless it was a last resort option to stay afloat. Nintendo isn’t in any financial crisis to warrant that move.
Of course, this is all a rumor, and the more you read it the more it sounds like investors being upset rather than upper management. Reality is that we don’t know anything about what the management feels, and they will publicly keep repeating the company line because that’s what companies do. They don’t want to look divided, even if they are. Divides have happened in the past over future hardware decisions, so it’s not unheard of. It’s just unheard of at this sort of high level position.
So, what’s next? For our sake… not a whole lot. Iwata either ends up stepping down in the next year and this rumor seems to gain credibility, or nothing happens and Nintendo continues down its current course. Nothing happening doesn’t mean it isn’t true, only that they failed to get rid of him. I have my qualms with Iwata, and I feel he isn’t a very good CEO. I have wanted him gone from that position for a long time, but I am not completely sold on the direction that it seems the rest may be selling either. Iwata may be the lesser of two evils. What do you think?