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For 130 years: gaming fun grown from experience

Interview with Dr. Bernd Fakesch, Nintendo General Manager DACH

European Business:  Mr. Fakesch, Nintendo is one of the inventors of the games console and after some ups and downs revolutionized the console games market with the Wii. Now, your latest product, the Nintendo Switch, is conquering the market. How do you explain Nintendo’s magic touch?

Dr. Bernd Fakesch:  I think this magic comes to life because of the combination of experience and company philosophy: Nintendo has been making toys for nearly 130 years and from the beginning played a key role in the video game world. Long before the arrival of Nintendo Switch and Wii, we set industry benchmarks with the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy and accompanying games – and made hearts leap for joy even then. An understanding born of experience of what makes gaming fun is now practically part of the genetic makeup of our hardware and software developers.

This is reinforced by a corporate philosophy that sees things entirely from the point of view of the person playing the game. Our developers always take the game concept as their starting point. They ask themselves what a new game or console needs to be capable of for a great gaming experience and what will make players smile. Only then do they think about the technology to turn these ideas into reality – and which characters they would suit best. The process always leads to unconventional and unexpected results.

This is also how we developed Nintendo Switch, the first TV console which thanks to its integrated display screen, can also be played on the go, anytime and anywhere, regardless of whether there is a television nearby. But perhaps the best example of unconventional thinking at Nintendo is Super Mario himself. He is a typical anti-hero – a craftsman who, though smart, is nothing like the traditional superhero – but who has been winning hearts as a racing car driver, sportsman and, of course, rescuer of damsels in distress for more than 30 years. But he is only one of a host of unique characters and game-series including The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, Yoshi and Splatoon, all of which promise endless gaming fun and that unquantifiable Nintendo magic.

The best example of unconventional thinking at Nintendo is Super Mario himself. Dr. Bernd Fakesch

European Business:  Your sector thrives on innovation. How does Nintendo manage to keep coming up with creative new games ideas and how long is the development period for new projects?

Dr. Bernd Fakesch:  As soon as a new console hits the market, we start working on the next generation. The same goes for games. In both cases, it can take several years because Nintendo only wants to market sophisticated, versatile games – preferably multiplayer titles – with which our fans will be able to have plenty of fun for multiple hours.

Perhaps Nintendo has an advantage arising out of a particular feature of Japanese culture. In the Shinto faith, even inanimate objects can have a soul. That is why they must be made and handled with care. This can be seen in traditional Japanese artisan craftsmanship but also in the manufacture of technical equipment such as our consoles. Japanese perfectionism is certainly one of the reasons why Nintendo games are so easy to use and intuitive.

European Business: Digitalization is making great strides forward. Will it be possible to do other things with games consoles in the future than just play?

Dr. Bernd Fakesch: Nintendo consoles always let you do more than just play games. The Game Boy could be connected to a printer and the GameCube was internet-ready. Since the Wii and Nintendo DSi it has been possible to surf online, look at videos, shop online, use communication platforms and much more on our consoles. What is more, there is software which allows you to learn to cook, paint or appreciate classic literature via the screen on the Nintendo DS.

But our focus continues to lie firmly on providing gaming fun. Nintendo consoles and games are developed for one purpose: They want to make players smile. We believe that a dedicated game console is better for achieving this than other devices on which games are just one of many functions. We expect this to be the case for the foreseeable future. As to the question what game consoles will be capable of in the future? The only limit is our own imagination when you think about how much potential there is in virtual and augmented reality. Let’s wait and see.

(Kopie 1)

Japanese perfectionism is certainly one of the reasons why Nintendo games are so easy to use and intuitive. Dr. Bernd Fakesch

European Business: You are the author of a book about management through employee participation. How exactly do you implement this method in your position as General Manager with Nintendo?

Dr. Bernd Fakesch: „Management through employee participation” is the title of my doctoral thesis which was published in 1991. The style of management that I promote in my thesis and practice here at Nintendo Germany features a collaborative leadership approach and flat hierarchies. I simply trust in our employees’ competence and ability to work independently. This makes processes significantly quicker, more flexible and more productive than when someone at the top feels responsible for taking every decision. Speed and flexibility are big advantages, particularly in our sector.

However, this is only possible in a company with a positive working atmosphere based on trust. For example, there has to be a tolerance of mistakes. People will only trust their own initiative and be motivated if the pleasure they derive from doing a job well is greater than their fear of making a mistake. As a rule, companies that include employees in their decision making are more successful than those with rigid hierarchies.

European Business: A personal question to finish: Which game do you most enjoy playing in your free time?

(Kopie 2)

People will only trust their own initiative and be motivated if the pleasure they derive from doing a job well is greater than their fear of making a mistake. Dr. Bernd Fakesch

Dr. Bernd Fakesch: At the moment, that is clearly Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. Up to eight players can race against each other in this high-speed cart race. Differences in racing experience can be compensated with driving aids such as Smart Steering and Auto  Accelerator. That makes Mario Kart the ideal game for playing with family or friends.

My wife and children are loving another new game for Nintendo Switch: ARMS, which is a strategic, motion-controlled boxing game. You control your avatar on the screen by holding a controller, a Joy-Con, in each hand and moving them like boxing gloves. What is special about this game is the ability to give each character a different set of arms with different strengths and weaknesses. That means that winning is not only about fastest reaction or precisely hitting  the target but who has the best strategy. ARMS is a good example of how Nintendo takes an existing game-idea and gives it an additional and unexpected twist. Thus unfolds magic in the boxing ring also.

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