After 15 years at Nintendo of America, including a memorable stint as the company’s president, Bronx-born Reggie Fils-Aime is still a force in the video game industry. In addition to his recent autobiography Disrupting the Game, he’s a regular at industry events like the recent, where we caught up with him for a conversation about the future of gaming.
You can watch the full conversation in our video above, or read the highlights, lightly edited for length and clarity, here.
On the metaverse and VR
Reggie Fils-Aime: I find when we’re talking about the metaverse, we really need to be clear what it is that we’re talking about. I’m old enough to remember that people loved to put “.com” on the end of a business, just to try and make it interesting and provocative 30 years ago. And so when I think about the metaverse, for me, it’s an environment where you’ve got a range of different experiences, you’ve got a common currency, the environment is progressive in terms of what you can do and the things that you can participate in.
As I think of the metaverse, there are early examples of it. Whether you look at Roblox, whether you look at the work that Fortnite and Epic Games are doing, it’s going to continue to become more and more immersive. I do believe it’s going to be gaming-led, I don’t believe that it has to have an element of VR. I actually believe that augmented reality is going to progress much further and much faster. I’m a much bigger proponent, in part because I’ve seen great AR experiences brought to the consumer. I haven’t yet seen that wonderful VR experience that I find compelling.
I believe that blockchain as a piece of technology can be interesting, but it has to provide value to the player. It can’t just be a new way of monetizing. There needs to be something inherently positive for the player for this as technology to take off. So I’m not for or against NFTs. I want to see an example that really adds value and I have to say, I haven’t yet seen that example.
Would Nintendo ever go back to making separate living room and handheld devices again?
At this point, I’m like any other passionate fan of [Nintendo], you know, wondering, trying to figure out where the company goes next. I think that the company certainly has seen a lot of benefit from having all of their development activity focused on one platform, versus having it support two different platforms. I think that’s going to be very difficult to walk away from, but Nintendo is a company that is always looking at the same marketplace that everyone else sees but they’re approaching it somewhat differently. I think you can never say never with that company.
Should the people who make video games unionize?
Well, I think it’s important to step back and really think about what does a worker need in order for that part of their life to be fulfilled? The first thing they need is economic stability, right? They need to know that they have a job, they need to know that they’re going to have a paycheck. The second thing they need is economic mobility, meaning, when as a worker, you’re ready to grow and ready to take on that next big challenge, the company needs to provide that. The third thing that workers need is to be recognized at their workplace. There needs to be not only the basics of safety, but there needs to be emotional rewards provided by the job and by the employer.
I believe that when one of those three needs aren’t being met, then you have a problem. And that is where we’ve seen unions step in and, not only in the gaming industry but, across all other industries and situations. Specifically within gaming, you see that when you have a workforce that doesn’t have a stable work schedule, or they feel that they’re not being paid adequately, or they’re being forced to relocate and their relocation expenses aren’t being reimbursed, these are the behaviors that have given rise to a push for unionization.
From my perspective, as an employer, you need to satisfy those three base requirements of your workforce. And when you don’t, then you run the risk of a number of different challenges, unionization being just one. You could also have situations where you have a workforce that is completely demoralized where you have a situation where you have a high level of churn in your workforce. These are all bad things. So I am neither for nor against unionization. I think unionization is an output that happens when those three core needs of a worker aren’t being fulfilled.
Is the current trend of big game companies buying up other big game companies good for gamers?
You can point to very specific mergers or acquisitions, and I do believe that there is something positive to come for the player. The example that I would use is Take-Two and Zynga coming together. I think in the end, that’s going to have positive output for the player and for the consumer. I say that because Take-Two has all of these wonderful franchises, but they’ve really never been successful in the mobile space. If you can imagine the best of their franchises now having a really strong mobile experience, I think that would be wonderful and I think a number of their fans would really say that that is a positive outcome.
As these large acquisitions and mergers happen, I do believe that it’s going to spur a boon in the independent developer community. I say that because oftentimes these mergers are happening and the focus is going to be on those big franchises. Well, game developers love to create things that are new, that are different. I’m convinced that a number of senior developers are going to end up leaving these mega industry players and go off and to create their own studios and bring to life that creative idea that is stuck in the back of their head. I think we’re gonna see another renaissance of this great independent developer content.
You can watch the full conversation with Reggie here.