Reggie Fils-Aimé: The Wii Was Nintendo’s Response to a “Stagnant” Market

Former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé hosted a lecture at Cornell recently where he went over principles the next generation of leaders. In it, he not only lays out the compelling characteristics of a good leader, but he touches on them using real examples from his time at Nintendo, notably around the launch of the Wii.

When discussing the sixth of his seven principles, courage in decision-making, Fils-Aimé brings up the launch of the Wii. He characterized the global video game market at the time as “stagnant,” where only one out of every three people played games and that wasn’t growing.

“Nintendo diagnosed the problem was that there wasn’t innovation in the games,” Fils-Aimé. “It was more and more sequels, fill in the blank version two, three, four, it was all the same. There was a lack of innovation in the play styles. The controllers had gotten overly complicated. Nintendo’s solution was the Wii Remote, the integral part of the Wii proposition.”

He calls it the Wii a “groundbreaking device” driven by both sound understanding of the marketplace and intellectual curiosity. As Fils-Aimé notes, the Wii would go on to sell 100 million consoles, a result that was driven by one key factor: Wii Sports.

“There was one key decision that drove those results, and it was the decision to include Wii Sports as part of the proposition in the US, in the Americas and in Europe,” Fils-Aimé says.

It’s true that you cannot think of the Wii without thinking of its motion controls, and specifically, a family huddled around a TV as someone lines up for their next turn in Wii bowling. It was a system that got families to game together, so whether you think it’s a success or failure, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t immensely successful for Nintendo. And while the Wii U may have dropped off, the Switch is already surging to Wii-sized heights.

Excerpts from Fils-Aimé’s lecture can be found on Cornell’s YouTube channel, and I highly recommend watching them. They have a lot of fascinating insights, both into the decision-making at Nintendo and into Reggie himself. For example, he mains Zelda and Ridley in Super Smash Bros., which shows he has the best taste in Smash picks. He even closed off his Twitter thread of the videos with a throwback joke for Nintendo fans.

It looks like even in retirement, Reggie is still pretty active and happy to talk about his time at Nintendo. He also says there are more videos to come, so please, someone ask him who his favorite Fire Emblem student is.

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