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Former Nintendo of America COO to execs: ‘Focus on your North Star’

Former Nintendo of America President and COO joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss advice for executives during tumultuous market environments, gaming innovation, the metaverse, and more.

Video transcript

- It is tough out there for corporate leaders. We've been talking recently about CEO confidence, also about market participants not wanting, for example, companies to spend as much on capex in this current environment. Let's turn to a longtime leader within the gaming industry who's out with a new book. Maybe they can get some advice from him. Reggie Fils-Aimé is author of "Disrupting the Game." And he's also a former Nintendo of America president and COO.

Reggie, I'm here with our Dan Howley as well, who I know you have spoken with before. It's good to see you. It's a really interesting book which sort of weaves anecdotes from your business life and your life-life with some lessons that you would have. And so I'm curious first off, Reggie, what you would tell CEOs right now. I mean, this is, as I said, a tough environment. There are a lot of concerns about recession, about corporate spending. What are some words of wisdom for them?

REGGIE FILS-AIME: First, thanks for having me on. My counsel would be, first, focus on your vision. Focus on the key drivers that you're looking to push forward in your business. And don't lose sight of that. Despite all of the supply chain challenges, despite the inflationary pressures, despite all of the noise, you really need to focus on your North Star and drive the organization there.

You've got to be clear with all of your constituents, meaning your employees, your other suppliers and associates within your ecosystem. You've got to be clear. And then the other piece is you have to look hard at your costs and your cost structure. This is the time to take out unnecessary costs and to really make sure that you're well positioned as all of these pressures begin to ease. So those would be some of the pieces of council that I would share.

DAN HOWLEY: Reggie, this is Dan. The gaming industry is so different than other industries. I guess, is there anything in particular for that line of business that you would have to stand out more for at this time than, say, something like the auto industry or even the regular tech industry, hardware, a company like Apple, obviously. Nintendo and Apple, kind of similar minded, very rigid structures. Is there anything in particular about the gaming industry, though, that you think executives would need to look at right now?

REGGIE FILS-AIME: Sure. So, look, the gaming industry today is a $200 billion industry. It's the largest form of entertainment out there on a global basis. And so what has historically driven that industry has been innovation. Innovation in gameplay. Innovation in content. Innovation in delivering that content to consumers in new at different ways. And so for the gaming sector, the focus has to continue being delivering that innovation, coming up with the new content and delivering it out into the marketplace.

Certainly, the platform holders are struggling with supply chain issues. You look at any of the recent reporting by the major platform holders. They're suggesting that their hardware shipments are going to be static, if not down. So that has to be another key area of focus is making sure that you can get all of these devices into the hands of the consumer so that the consumer then can consume all of that great software, which is really where the profitability is for that industry.

- Reggie, who do you think is winning right now in that gaming industry, in that innovation race that you're talking about?

REGGIE FILS-AIME: What I see are a number of key developers that are bringing content to bear in the marketplace that is capturing the attention of the player. One I would call out is FromSoftware. They've got a game called Elden Ring, which is dominating the popular conversation. They've sold just a tremendous number of copies of that software. So they are an example of a company that has stayed true to what they are. They build incredibly difficult games. They launched one with a very high quality metric. And it has truly captured the popular attention out there in the marketplace.

So that's just one example. There are other companies I would highlight. I think Epic is doing a fantastic job with the work that they're doing, both in providing development engines to other content makers, as well as the great work that they're doing with Fortnite. So there's a lot of great companies doing wonderful work. They tend to be the ones who are driving innovation out in the marketplace.

DAN HOWLEY: Reggie, excellent, excellent Elden Ring shout out. Just going to throw that out there. I have 120 hours in that game. And my couch officially has a butt-shaped dent in it now. I want to ask your thoughts on the metaverse. This is something that big companies have been talking about. Obviously, we have-- you shouted out Epic. They have Fortnite. They've essentially made what the metaverse, a lot of people think it will be or is. You have Roblox. Excuse me. Gaming seems to be the real way to get into that.

I mean, Meta, obviously formerly Facebook. They changed their name based on that. Do you see that going forward as something that gamers would get into? I know there's obviously that stubbornness when it comes to gaming consumers. I think the biggest change we've had in the industry really has been the way the Switch was built as a two-in-one device. Huge coup for Nintendo. But do you think that gamers are going to go towards something like that that's such an enormous change of pace for them?

REGGIE FILS-AIME: Well, I think you highlight a number of key things. So as you think about the metaverse, I describe it as a space that is immersive and interactive, a space that has the ability to be modified, but can still be persistent. So imagine walking on the sand and seeing other footprints. So that's an example of where you're able to modify an environment, but it's persistent. You've seen what other people have done. You've got your digital identifier that you make out to be quite different than somebody else's modifier.

These are all things that gamers take for granted. These are all things that are existing in a number of gaming environments today. So I do believe that this vision is something that we're all marching to. I do believe it's going to be led by gaming companies. And I do believe that if delivered in a way that's fun, that's compelling, I do think it's an experience that people will want to have.

- Reggie, we could talk to you for the next hour. I think Dan could talk to you for the next hour just about Elden Ring. But we got to leave it there. Reggie Fils-Aimé is former Nintendo president and COO-- Nintendo of America president and COO and author of "Disrupting the Game." From the Bronx to the top of Nintendo. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.