Meet A Gamer – Reggie Fils-Aime

Posted: 07/18/06 12:04am PST
By Author: John Lin

Welcome to ‘Meet A Gamer,’ where we talk about the people who make it all happen for you while you sit in front of the TV screen with a controller in your hand. In this series of articles we’re going to take a look at those in the industry whose names you may not recognize, but whose work you most definitely know. Now let’s dig deeper into the who’s who among those that bring you your favorite games. Last 'Meet a Gamer' we dug in to the life of Sony's Phill Harrison. This edition of ‘Meet A Gamer’ covers none other than Nintendo’s own Reggie Fils-Aime.

“His massive footprints fill with beautiful flowers for the children to enjoy.”

No, the subject of this second installment of Meet a Gamer is not actually a deity, although he seems to have attained god-like status among his fans. Reginald "Reggie" Fils-Aime is currently the President and Chief Operating Officer of Nintendo of America, the North American division of the international video game behemoth Nintendo Corporation. But according to one avid fan, he holds at least one other position: “Reggie is the light of Nintendo, nay, the light for the world!”

How did this man get such a loyal following? Well, the story has already passed into industry legend. In May 2004, Fils-Aime was selected to open Nintendo’s E3 press conference. His introductory line:

“My name is Reggie. I'm about kickin' ass, I'm about takin' names, and we're about makin' games.”

Soon after, images and video clips from the conference hit the web where a great deal of people found freshness in Reggie’s approach to presenting Nintendo’s upcoming lineup. In hindsight, it was this quote that heralded a new era for Nintendo and the rest of the video game industry, playfully dubbed the “Reggielution.” The man is considered to be responsible for reviving and revamping the company's public relations in North America.

Not much is publicly known about Fils-Aime’s history aside from his professional life. He was born in March 1961. Graduating from Cornell University, his first career position was with Procter & Gamble.

Since then, Fils-Aime has held a number of positions, mostly in the food and beverage sector. He launched the Bigfoot Pizza as well as The Big New Yorker at Pizza Hut as senior director of national marketing. Serving as the head of marketing for Guinness Imports Co. in the U.S., he was responsible for all the brands, from Pilsner Urquell to Guinness stout. Third-party relationships in the U.K., Jamaica, and the Czech Republic also fell under his supervision.

With Derby Cycle Corp., Fils-Aime filled two roles. Serving as chief marketing officer, he directed sales and marketing efforts for eight brands, which include Raleigh and Diamondback, worldwide. As acting managing director, he oversaw Derby’s U.K. operations. The pinnacle of success in this chapter of Fils-Aime’s professional career was jumping the ladder at Panda Management Co., the world’s Chinese food service leader, to become a senior vice president.

Prior to his tenure at Nintendo, Fils-Aime most recently held the post of senior vice president of marketing at VH1, a subsidiary of MTV. There he was responsible for shifting the channel’s focus towards younger viewers thus resulting in a 30% increase in ratings. He also laid out and implemented the marketing strategy for The Concert for New York City, which ultimately garnered more than $35 million for disaster relief following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

With this track record for success, Reggie signed on with Nintendo of America Inc. in December 2003 as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. His initial responsibilities encompassed all sales and marketing activities for Nintendo in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

“The opportunity here at Nintendo really was to get back to my consumer marketing roots, apply what I've done in the teen and young adult space for the last ten, twelve years and really help take this brand to new heights.”

His remarkable public debut at E3 2004 as Nintendo’s newest figurehead not only drew the spotlight back on Nintendo, but it also sparked a new language. Internet newsgroups flooded with chatter about Reggie “Regident Evil,” the one who would “Reg-juvenate” Nintendo. There were even calls from the extreme diehards for “Regg-Hammer” to run for the “Regidency” of the United States.

The wave continued with Reggie fan clubs, Reggie rap songs, Reggie comic strips, and Reggie action heroes. With approval ratings seemingly higher than the current POTUS, you-know-who, it came as no surprise that on May 25, 2006, Reggie was promoted to his current position in the company, succeeding Tatsumi Kimishima (who moved up to CEO and chairman of the board).

Were there harbingers to Reggie’s rise to the top of the video game industry? Throughout his career, he has achieved recognition for his superb efforts. His professional awards include a Clio, two Gold EFFIEs, an AICP award for advertising excellence, and a Silver Edison from the American Marketing Institute. In 1998, he was named by Advertising Age to the “Marketing 100.”

With broad shoulders and a determined manner about him, he has charisma to spare. Although self described as aggressive and competitive, Reggie is the first to admit that the media is mostly responsible for creating his intimidating persona. He remains modest despite all his accomplishments and media attention, choosing instead to respectfully defer credit to his superiors and the rest of the company.

“…believe me, it's not about Reggie. Mr. Iwata, in his presentation, is going to be fabulous…I've been touched by what the fans have done, and believe me, I've seen a lot of the websites, but I'm just one of the many folks making a difference at Nintendo.”

On the domestic end of the spectrum, Fils-Aime has three children, one currently in college. The other two live in Florida. He’s played video games with his kids since they were 2 and 5 years old.

As you can see, so little is known about Reggie’s past that perhaps the hypothesis from one of his admirers as to his origins is indeed true: “He came from a meteor that crash-landed on Earth on an Asteroid's arcade machine.”