Nintendo has seen quite a bit of management overhaul in recent years. The tragic death of former President Satoru Iwata led to the appointment of Tatsumi Kimishima as President, but this was always intended as a stop-gap solution. Kimishima stepped down last year and was replaced by the much younger Shuntaro Furukawa, who is the current President of the gaming giant.
Iwata spent much of his career as a game developer rather than an executive, but time and time again he impressed his superiors and reluctantly accepted promotions to positions of power, eventually landing him Nintendo's top job. Kimishima's background was quite different, as he spent much of his early career as a banking executive before being scooped by up Nintendo to work first for The Pokémon Company and later for Nintendo proper. As such, Iwata was more involved and in touch with Nintendo's development teams than the businessman Kimishima.
So what about newcomer Shuntaro Furukawa? He has spent nearly his entire adult life working for Nintendo, first as an accountant and later as an executive. However, he's also a big fan of video games and grew up playing the Famicom. Speaking with Nikkei, Furukawa recently addressed his management style when it comes to development teams.
You've put out a lot of consoles and software, but there's always a really big risk that comes with it.
Furukawa: We're in the entertainment industry; there isn't much we can do about that risk. To us, the guiding principle by which we operate is offering customers all around the world innovative and unique ways to play games.
I don't want our developers to think too much along the lines of "what should I do if we fail?" My most important role is to facilitate an environment in which they can demonstrate their own abilities. I'm not a pro developer myself, so I leave the actual development to leaders that can tell what a good game is and what isn't.
You're completely hands-off?
Furukawa: Well, leaving everything up to the others would be irresponsible. I spare a lot of time to make sure the people I leave in charge and I have a mutual understanding. With regard to decisions on how we should improve our technology and the direction in which Nintendo should proceed, I base my final decisions on the development leaders' way of thinking.
I don't think it's a good idea to give complete freedom. I want there to be more of a balance between freedom and discipline.
As the company's leader, Furukawa keeps in touch with lead developers to make sure everyone's on the same page at all times. However, he recognizes that professional developers need his trust and room to operate, and he largely sees his role as empowering them to make the best games they can make, so long as they fit Nintendo's vision.