Former Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime on the Metaverse, NFTs for Games, and the Future of Nintendo

After 15 years at Nintendo of America, including a memorable stint as president of the company, Bronx-born Reggie Fils-Aime remains a force in the video game industry. In addition to his latest biography Disable the gameIt is a regular in industrial events such as recent events Pax Westwhere we caught up with him for a chat about the future of gaming.

You can watch the full conversation in the video above, or read the highlights, edited slightly for length and clarity, here.

Read more: Ex-Nintendo chief says transitioning from Switch will be a ‘big challenge’

On the metaverse and VR

Reggie Fils-Aime: I find that when we’re talking about the metaverse, we really need to be clear about what we’re talking about. I’m old enough to remember that people loved putting “.com” at the end of a business, only to try to make it fun and provocative 30 years ago. So when I think about the metaverse, to me, it’s an environment where you have a set of different experiences, you have a common currency, and the environment is progressive in terms of what you can do and things 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 do, it just keeps getting more and more immersive. I really think it’s going to be gaming-led, and I don’t think it should have an element of virtual reality. I actually think that augmented reality is going to advance much, much faster. I’m a much bigger supporter, in part because I’ve seen great augmented reality experiences delivered to the consumer. I have yet to see a great VR experience that I find compelling.

Read more: PSVR Hands-on 2: Sony’s new VR headset amazed me

on NFTs

I think the blockchain as a piece of technology can be interesting, but it should provide value to the player. It can’t just be a new way to monetize. There has to be something inherently positive for a player like technology to take off. So I am neither for nor against NFTs. I want to see an example that really adds value and I have to say, I haven’t seen that example yet.

Fils-Aime with old friend Mario.

Fils-Aime with an old friend.

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Will Nintendo make a separate living room and portable devices again?

At this point, I’m like any other ardent fan of [Nintendo]I wonder, trying to figure out where the company will go next. I think the company has definitely seen a lot of benefits from focusing all of their development activities on one platform, versus having them support two different platforms. I think it would be very difficult to walk away from it, but Nintendo is a company that is always looking at the same market that everyone sees but approaches it somewhat differently. I guess you can never say never with that company.

Should the people who make video games unite?

Well, I guess it’s important to step back and really think about what a worker needs in order to achieve this part of their life? The first thing they need is economic stability, right? They need to know that they have a job, and they need to know that they are going to get a salary. The second thing they need is economic mobility, meaning that when you’re a factor, you’re ready to grow and ready to take on the next big challenge, the company has to provide that. The third thing that workers need is to be recognized in their workplace. There should not only be the basics of safety, but also the emotional rewards offered by the job and the employer.

I think when one of these three needs is not being met, you have a problem. And that’s where we’ve seen unions get involved, not just in the gaming industry but in all other industries and situations. Specifically in gaming, you see that when you have a workforce that doesn’t have a consistent work schedule, or they feel like they’re not being paid enough, or that they’re forced to relocate and their relocation expenses aren’t made these are the behaviors that have led to a push toward unionization.

In my view, as a business owner, you need to meet these three basic requirements for your workforce. And when you don’t, you risk a number of different challenges, being only one guild. You can also have situations where you have a completely frustrated workforce where you have a situation where there is a high level of disruption in your workforce. These are all bad things. So I am neither with nor against the unions. I believe that unionization is an output that occurs when these three basic needs of the worker are not satisfied.

Nintendo Switch preview event

Fils-Aime debuted the Nintendo Switch at a press event in 2017.

Nelson Barnard / Getty Images

Is the current trend of big game companies buying other big game companies good for gamers?

You can point to very specific mergers or acquisitions, and I think something positive is coming for the player. The example I’ll use is Take-Two and Zynga getting together. I think in the end, this will have a positive outcome for the player and for the consumer. I say that because Take-Two has all these great perks, but it’s never quite succeeded in the mobile business. If you can imagine their best now having a really solid mobile experience, I think that would be great and I think a number of their fans would really say that’s a positive result.

With these big acquisitions and mergers happening, I think it will catalyze a boon in the indie developer community. I say that because these mergers happen so often and the focus will be on those big franchises. Well, game developers love to create new and different things. I am convinced that a number of top developers are going to end up leaving these huge players in the industry and go out and set up their own studios and bring that creative idea stuck in their heads to life. I think we’ll see another renaissance of this great indie developer content.

You can watch the full conversation with Reggie over here.

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