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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Console Wars Roundtable: Reggie Fils-Aime, Robbie Bach, and Jack Tretton (Live Reactions!)

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I talk through former gaming console executives talking about the videogame industry for an hour.

Today there was a semi-rare opportunity for former gaming executives from Nintendo of America, Microsoft, and Sony Computer Entertainment America to sit in the same event and talk about the videogame industry for an hour. It was sponsored by the mainstream gaming journalists at The New York Game Awards—so KoopaTV wasn't invited—and streamed by Twitch Gaming. Still, even though we weren't invited to the event, I still watched the stream and provided my reactions below. In case there'd be anything interesting.

The theme is supposed to be about the “console wars”, a fun topic that KoopaTV was supposed to be built on. Back in the day, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony totally went at one another's throats, always trying to pwn one another at E3 events and the like. Nowadays, the companies are seen as much softer and more friendly in their competition. The executives present talk about this.

Specifically, there was Reggie Fils-Aime, the former president and Chief Operating Officer of Nintendo of America, around from the early-mid 2000s with the GameCube to after the Nintendo Switch, leaving in 2019; Robbie Bach, who was part of Microsoft back way before the Xbox was a thing, eventually leaving 2010; and Jack Tretton, who was part of Sony's original PlayStation team back in the mid-1990s, and he was President of Sony Computer Entertainment from 2006 to 2013. Also, it was moderated by some streamer named Okaydrian.

[6:29 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa:
[6:30 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Reggie's talking at "The New York Game Awards", along with Robbie Bach and Jack Tretton.
[6:30 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Apparently representing Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox.
[6:30 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: And not to be confused with "The Game Awards".
[6:31 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: If I don't care about The Game Awards, I won't care about a New York one. But maybe the roundtable thing will be of interest.
[6:31 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: (Tretton goes to PlayStation; Bach goes to Xbox)
[6:32 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: They're talking for charity, which goes to some videogame critics organisation.
[6:32 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Obviously, I'm not going to advocate donating to the media.
[6:32 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: You don't even have to donate to KoopaTV!
[6:35 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Reggie claims his first gaming system was a Super Nintendo, and he was a player before joining Nintendo of America. Unknown why he sucks at Smash so much.
[6:37 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Robbie Bach is "not a videogamer" and he's "horrible at playing videogames." But he finds the marketing and business very interesting. He did zero demos. Robbie is acting like Reggie is good at games.
[6:38 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: While Jack Tretton was an arcade gamer, and he played Atari with his younger brother. And cited Mega Man, so not sure what this timeline is or how he played that with his brother.

New York Game Awards 2021 roundtable console wars Nintendo Sony Microsoft Reggie Fils-Aime Robbie Bach Jack Tretton
None of these people still work in the gaming industry, by the way, so they're reminiscing as opposed to foresighting.
(Unless you count Reggie's GameStop Board of Directors membership. He must be pretty happy right now with the stock price.)

[6:40 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: The moderator wants the former executives to talk about THE CONSOLE WARS, claiming they've "seen Netflix documentaries about it, seen books about it." (Implying they've seen the books but not read them.)
[6:43 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: The industry being healthy was a rising tide lifting all boats, but the competitors also were preventing you from making your sales quotas. Reggie thinks "the Nintendo mentality" was "we're gonna do our own thing." Reggie empathised with other gaming executives.
[6:45 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Bach thought Xbox fought PlayStation on console, and Nintendo fought PlayStation on handheld.
Meanwhile, third-party developers liked to pit the console manufacturers against each other to bid them up.
[6:45 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "It got to the point where nobody would do third-party exclusives anymore." Jack Tretton jealous of Nintendo's first-party prowess, because dealing with third-party executives was hard.
[6:47 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: (They're acting like the console wars are officially over now.)
[6:50 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Talking differentiation of Nintendo first-party content vs. Xbox Live online infrastructure vs. PlayStation's.................... CD-based technology and "more mature audience" for 17 to 24 year olds versus those kiddie Nintendo and SEGA people.
[6:52 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: And Sony did a good job buying off studios early on.
[6:53 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Jack thinks Sony would be out of business without getting into games, while Microsoft would be fine if the Xbox never existed.
[6:54 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Reggie is asked what his crown jewel is. (Clearly isn't the Nintendo TVii.)
[6:55 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Reggie says the Switch was his lasting memory, turning around "the poor performance of the Wii U."
[6:55 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "It was the worst selling platform... I think Virtual Boy was a little worse." - Reggie
[6:55 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Not sure if Reggie should take credit for the Switch and absolve himself of the Wii U.
[6:56 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "I will always be proud of [the Switch]."
[6:57 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Robbie Bach: "I didn't have anything to do with any innovations. My job was just to help fund [the teams that did the innovating.]"
[6:58 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Says Xbox Live was "pre-MySpace", basically proto-social media. Since people did voice chats over it and everything.
[6:59 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Jack's contribution was "being there from day one" of the original PlayStation.
[7:02 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Microsoft had three internal proposals for an "X Boy" (portable Xbox) that were obviously shot down.
[7:03 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: And Microsoft lacked the resources to have an Xbox and an X Boy.
[7:08 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Okaydrian asks if the idea of a console war is still a thing with the executives (while it's still a thing with fans).
Jack Tretton says it's just as competitive then than now. But there's a bit warmer feelings around multiplatform games being more widespread now than back in the day, but you want your console to be the first console someone buys the multiplatform game on.
[7:10 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Robbie says that Microsoft didn't want to make their own hardware for the Xbox, and went across the street in Washington state and wanted to partner with/buy out Nintendo of America. "We decided to go into hardware as a last option." Because every other company laughed them off.
[7:11 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Third-party companies wanted another competitor to Sony and Nintendo (...and SEGA).
[7:13 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: The media situation is crazier now than decades ago, with people talking crap on social media and the existence of gaming websites.
But it's easier to market now and influence people than when there were a few powerful media gatekeepers in magazines.
[7:14 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "It's a great time to be a developer and a great time to be a gamer." Because there are hundreds of thousands of indies and media outlets instead of a handful.
[7:14 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Reggie thinks there is "a lot of noise in the marketplace. A Metacritic score today is meaningless." Referring to review-bombing and stuff.
[7:15 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "Got to weed through all of the stuff to find credible voices." Then plugs this New York Game Awards that is giving awards to videogame journalists.
[7:17 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Now they're talking about "the future of gaming." Since there's a limit to how much the hardware can keep advancing.
[7:18 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Robbie thinks it'll be software-driven, in the hands of software developers and publishers instead of the hardware folks. ...And eSports is gonna be bigger.
[7:19 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Jack is... saying whatever.
[7:20 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: And mentions that cloud gaming needs to make sense for software developers, which currently isn't the case. "I want the greatest variety of games on the greatest amount of devices" and he likes the consumer choice, and doesn't want devices eliminated.
[7:22 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Reggie never had to answer about the future of gaming.
[7:22 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Now they're talking about people of colour and "LGBTQIA".
[7:22 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: And diversity in gaming.
[7:23 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "What direction should companies take to make sure every underrepresented community is represented?"
[7:23 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Very leading question.
[7:24 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Reggie says they did a big push at Nintendo in diversity and inclusion, which drives more diverse gaming experiences compared to a homogeneous culture.
[7:24 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "Sexual orientation, veteran, handicap, it all starts with the people."
[7:25 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Jack says it's ultimately the game creators that make the content, and as more time goes on and the more gaming is in the culture, "the more diverse is gonna get."
[7:25 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "I think the industry is incredibly exclusive. I think there's more people who want to hire talent than there is talent to be hired."
[7:26 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "There's a more diverse audience with a passion for gaming than ever before."
[7:27 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Robbie wouldn't want to come back to gaming because he prefers working with non-profits than for-profits.
[7:27 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: "It turns out we're out of time."
[7:27 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: (What a boring roundtable.)
[7:28 PM] Ludwig Von Koopa: Well, I'm definitely not watching their actual game awards.

Ludwig stopped watching and didn't know what happened in their actual awards show that followed. He didn't find much interesting in the discussion, but maybe you did. If you did, why not share in the comments section? Alternatively, what do you think of the current state of the console wars? There's a common fan perception that Nintendo and Microsoft are best buds, while Sony is just kind of scowling to the side. Do you care?


  1. Replies
    1. I dunno if I hate them, but I'm not a fan of anyone on the panel.

  2. When are we getting Iwata on a panel

    1. They can't get Iwata on a panel, because Japan has an idiotic culture where they go cremate you so you can't be brought back from the afterlife. (And because their country isn't big enough for graveyards.)

    2. What? No, of course not. Next thing you'll be saying is that the King of Koopas is in charge of Nintendo now!

    3. That's a relief. If I found out Bowser was in charge I don't know what I'd do.

    4. Lord Bowser should be in charge of the universe!

  3. Could you imagine Microsoft buying Nintendo, HAHA.... interestingly I've never heard of any of these other people, I wonder if PlayStation/Xbox fans like their company spokesperson as much as Nintendo fans liked Reggie.

    1. Jack Tretton's Wikipedia article said he was liked well enough to be called "Jackie T", and he presented at E3 events, mostly prior to KoopaTV's existence, but he was at Sony's 2013 E3 and we remarked on his existence.


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