Formerly the President of Nintendo Australia, Satoru Shibata succeeded Shigeru Ota in August 2000 when he became Nintendo of Europe’s President. Not much was known about Shibata at the time and, in all honesty, not much is known now. Those who watch European Nintendo Directs, however, do know that Shibata is hilarious, outgoing, and raises his game in the battle for Internet fame between himself and other Nintendo higher-ups (Reggie Fils-Aime, Satoru Iwata, Bill Trinen, to name a few).
Before Shibata’s reign, Nintendo of Europe (NOE) was just another territory. It had no face and no personality. While America (NOA) had Reggie and Japan (NCL) had Iwata, Europe had carved itself a reputation for late games and name changes. However, that all changed in the Nintendo Direct held on April 21, 2012, where our shy presenter first showed his face and was really nothing more than a press release with an accent. It was, however, the start of something brilliant.
We caught up with our friend next in June of that year, where he presented a Nintendo Direct from a warehouse in Germany while wearing a fluorescent jacket. It was already apparent that Shibata was more confident. Shibata then hosted a “Shibata Asks” with Satoru Iwata during the September 13, 2012 Wii U Preview, displaying growth and confidence in himself while appearing next to the man who normally helms Nintendo Directs by himself.
You might be thinking, “Well, what’s your point? Why should I care about this guy? I have Reggie.” You’re entitled to think that way, but personally, Satoru Shibata is the most genuine spokesperson that Nintendo has had in a long time. While Iwata has brought us his “Iwata Asks” and E3 presentations, the playing field is also riddled with “please understand,” “we look forward to …,” and empty promises. Reggie dodges more questions than Sonic eats chili dogs and has now embraced his meme status to the extent that it’s no longer funny.
Shibata feels nice, genuine, and comforting; it could be the fact that he hasn’t been in the public eye for as long as the others or maybe, just maybe, he’s doing something right. His 2012 Christmas message posted on Nintendo UK’s website speaks to the reader like they’re a person rather than a consumer or someone who needs products sold to them. He explains why he hadn’t been in the public eye — “(because I was too shy!)” — and was “worried that you might not understand my English because of my awful accent.”
So, while Iwata holds assorted fruits and Reggie says, “My body is ready” until his face turns blue, Shibata has been doing his best to liven up Nintendo Directs. I’d argue that he does it better than anyone else. On his growing list of antics, he managed to even impress Carly Rae Jepsen with his rendition of her hit, “Call Me Maybe.”
He then went on to model men’s clothes for the release of New Style Boutique.
Shibata has even embraced cosplay by showing off his Phoenix Wright impression — spiky hair and all! Remember, it was only a couple years ago that this man admitted that he didn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a camera and was very shy. Now, he would fit right in with the rest of us as a gamer and I think that’s very important here. Iwata has a video game developer background, so we know that he understands games. He’s a gamer and not a stuck-up, business-oriented CEO, a feeling that Shibata hits on the spot, too.
Proof, you ask? He owns nine — possibly more now! — 3DS systems. Nine! Two original models, six 3DS XL systems, including the special Zelda and Animal Crossing ones, and a 2DS. Maybe if they weren’t region-locked, he could have saved some money! He also mentions in his 2013 Christmas message that he owns a Wii U and was thinking about buying another to put in the bedroom for his wife to use instead of a tablet.
It’s easy enough to spout PR nonsense and read from a sheet, but Shibata feels like he can genuinely relate to the gamer. He shares the same feelings we do and he’s not a grumpy old businessman in charge of an important part of Nintendo. He even took the time to send various Letter Box/Swapnote, always with a message of content.
While you might watch a Nintendo Direct for Iwata’s crazy pronunciations or Reggie’s reference to his body for the millionth time, spare a thought to check out the European stream for what crazy antics Shibata might be up to. It means a lot. And should you read this, Mr. Shibata — thank you for being a special part of the Nintendo culture. You’re doing a fantastic job.