Bloomberg Businessweek

THE LEGEND OF NINTENDO

Once again, the 130-year-old Japanese gaming giant has turned reports of its demise into Nintendo Mania

For anyone who’s ever marveled at Nintendo’s vivid, phantasmagoric, zoologically ornate video games, visiting the company’s understated home in Kyoto, Japan, can be disorienting at first. That such an outpouring of kaleidoscopic products comes from a place so devoid of color can be momentarily hard to fathom. The headquarters are housed in a stark white cubical building surrounded on the perimeter by a sturdy white wall. The lobby is minimally decorated. The sidewalls are sheathed in cool white marble. No Donkey Kong posters. No Mario cutouts. No Pikachu plush toys. The rare sprinkling of color comes from a series of small, framed art pieces: a serene procession of birds and flowers. One Tuesday morning in April, the place gave off the reflective vibe of a monastery or, perhaps, a mental asylum.

On the top floor of the building, Tatsumi Kimishima, Nintendo Co.’s president, took a seat in a wood-paneled conference room, next to a translator. A crescent of handlers settled into chairs nearby while a server brought out cups of hot green tea. She padded quietly about the room, making sure not to obstruct anyone’s line of sight to the president, shuffling sideways here, dipping there, like a spy limboing past a laser-triggered alarm system. Not a drop was spilled.

As the tea was served, Kimishima eased into a laconic summary of Nintendo’s affairs. The past year and a half had been eventful, with the company vaulting back from the brink of irrelevance to reclaim its position atop the global video game industry. Kimishima summed up the triumphant drama with monkish self-restraint: “Certainly, we have been pleased.”

In March 2017, the company released the Nintendo Switch. People were skeptical that the console, which can be used as a portable gaming device or docked to a television set, would succeed. It had been more than a decade since Nintendo’s last hardware megahit, the Wii, and the world of home entertainment had destabilized. Smartphones, some analysts maintained, were the future of video games—not sleek, meticulously

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