Leveling Up with Nintendo’s President

On September 24, the back dining room of Taverna Banfi filled with eleven students anxiously fiddling with place settings and comparing questions. They were waiting for Reggie Fils-Aime, the President of Nintendo North America. Many dreamed of meeting Fils-Aime for many years, and his leadership inspired them to add a business minor onto their mostly engineering and technical majors. Over lunch, Fils-Aimes shared three major insights about entrepreneurship and innovation:


  1. Expand your target market.

When Fils-Aime joined Nintendo in 2003 as the VP of Marketing, he recognized that Nintendo, unlike other many video game manufacturers, appealed to a wide range of ages and gaming abilities. He enjoyed playing GameCube with his children, and games like Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart created valuable experiences across generations.

Fils-Aime expanded this approach with the launch of the Wii in 2006. With the correct design and marketing, the Wii became the gaming system of elementary children, college students, and grandparents alike. “You need to reinvent your brand every six to seven years,” he explained, “otherwise, you will be obsolete.”

  1. Engage both sides of your brain.

“You can’t spend two-thirds of your waking life doing something you dislike,” Fils-Aime explained. However, in order to be a successful businessperson, you need to think both creatively and concretely. While choosing courses, he encourages future businesspeople to explore many realms of thinking.

This kind of diverse thinking allowed Nintendo to transcend its competition. Fils-Aime noticed many of the other major video game makers developing violent first person shooter games with graphic fighting. Instead of following this narrow-marketed trend, Nintendo developed Splatoon, a paint gun game. Instead of shooting at bodies, players shoot paint guns at walls to create canvases of colors. This family-friendly approach to first shooter games would not have been possible without diverse thinking.

  1. Take advantage of your Cornell connections.

While at Cornell, Fils-Aime majored in Applied Economics and Management, but many of his lessons occurred beyond the lecture hall. “Take advantage of the leadership opportunities available on campus,” he recommended. As the President of a fraternity, he had learned how to lead organizations and make difficult decisions. This strategic planning created the groundwork in which Fils-Aime entered the business world and transformed the face of gaming.