We explored in a recent post how the Nintendo creator Shigeru Miyamoto can be a source of inspiration to designers and marketers alike. There’s another figure at Nintendo who greatly inspired me. The late Satoru Iwata was corporate president of Nintendo, but famously, he would never call himself that. “On my business card, I am a corporate president,” he said. “In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.”

This mindset — remaining grounded in one’s passion for a product, however high one’s corporate title — is what helped Iwata turn Nintendo around from losing millions in 2005 to immediately becoming profitable with the Nintendo Wii. That success began with Iwata asking a fateful question:

“Why is it that anyone feels comfortable picking up a remote control for a TV, but many people are afraid to even touch the controller for a video game system?”

Explore the, “Why?” Behind Every Idea & Plan 

Iwata tried to see this challenge in a new light. He knew if Nintendo continued to try to have the fastest, most powerful game console, they’d never be profitable. Besides, Xbox and Playstation were already at war over who had the most powerful system. Instead, asking why certain demographics weren’t playing video games, set Nintendo on a path to attract them. This lead to the Wii, possibly the most accessible game console ever. Nowadays there’s nary a nursing home that isn’t home to a Wii to host virtual bowling tournaments, even 12 years after it launched.

Asking bigger, broader, “why?” questions consistently led to better results during the Iwata era at Nintendo, and this is a practice that we can apply to marketing. When we’re in the weeds on a project, we often are so focused on what we’re working on that we forget to step back and ask some big-picture questions like, “Are we doing the right thing?”

I constantly have to remind myself to do this, but it always leads to better work. For example, we recently began work on four separate infographics for a client. But when we stepped back and asked why, we ended up telling a larger story in one interactive tool that contained four separate points. The client loved it.

“It is valuable to devise an offshoot of a current idea. But it is invaluable to come up with a brand-new idea of what a game can be.” – Satoru Iwata

Be Original, Even When it’s Risky 

Do you ever wonder why so many movies are sequels these days? It’s because everyone feels more comfortable with banking on something that’s already working continuing to work. But Iwata never ran from risk. “We are taking the risk to move beyond the boundaries of the game industry to reach new players and current players,” he said.

Here at 90octane, we should be approaching all of our programs with that question in mind, especially when it comes to account-based marketing. After all, how will we reach new people if we don’t try something new and different? A different look and feel, a different message, a different touchpoint. Is it risky? Sure, but is it riskier than rinsing and repeating your old marketing campaigns? I say no.

Part of Iwata’s lasting legacy at Nintendo is what is possible when you remain focused on your ultimate goal and why it truly matters. “Above all,” Iwata said, “Video games are meant to just be one thing: Fun for everyone.”

Questions? Contact us.

Asking bigger, broader, “why?” questions consistently led to better results during the Iwata era at Nintendo, and this is a practice that we can apply to marketing.


About the Author

Scott Fassett

Senior Interactive Art Director

Known affectionately around the office as “Scoots,” Scott specializes in user experience, creative conceptualization, art direction and caffeine consumption at 90octane.