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Yes, Jimmy Fallon is really like that
Even when the cameras are off, Reggie Fils-Aimé says, the Tonight Show host is a ball of geeky energy.
Here’s the third segment from Friday’s episode with Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former president and COO of Nintendo of America. Reggie’s new memoir is Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo.
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ERIC: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Reggie, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone who makes you laugh, and you said Jimmy Fallon, who is on Instagram and Twitter at @jimmyfallon.
Jimmy is, of course, the host of the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Before that, he hosted Late Night and was on SNL for many, many years. Was there a specific thing that he was involved in or something he has done that turned you into a fan?
REGGIE: Yeah, I watched Jimmy during those days on Saturday Night Live. The movies that he did, I thought were just fantastic. But the relationship with Jimmy started when he was hosting Late Night. Jimmy himself is a huge gamer. He loves video games, loves a number of Nintendo franchises.
And I was fortunate to be on Late Night with Jimmy — I think in the end, it was either eight or nine times. It was very often. Some years I would be on his show twice. I'd be on his show in the summertime right when the E3 convention would be happening, the big video game conference. And then I would be back on his show in the winter time, just as we were preparing to launch either a new system or brand-new games.
And just through those experiences, I got to spend time with Jimmy and I consider him a friend. He invited Nintendo and myself onto the Tonight Show where we unveiled the Nintendo Switch, and he was the first non-Nintendo employee to pick up a controller and play on the Nintendo Switch and to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild game.
[clip from The Tonight Show]
REGGIE: We have one more surprise.
JIMMY FALLON: Come on, no no no. This is so…
REGGIE: Can we get a drumroll?
JIMMY: If this is … if this is…
REGGIE: The one last surprise. This is it. Jimmy, are you ready?
JIMMY: No, no, no. Yeah, no. I'm freaking out. This is not the Switch.
REGGIE: This is the Nintendo Switch!
JIMMY: That's what I'm talking about! No way! Oh, I'm geeking out! I'M GEEKING OUT RIGHT NOW!
REGGIE: So, this is the Nintendo Switch.
REGGIE: I love his skits. I love the work that he does. During the time of COVID, where he was broadcasting from his home, I thought he was doing some of his funniest work with his wife and with his girls on the show. Jimmy always brings a smile to my face.
ERIC: So you've known him for so long now. Do you have private communication with him? Are you chatting with him off-air when you're not guesting on his show?
REGGIE: We've direct-messaged each other; we've sent emails to each other. Jimmy did a really thoughtful video for me as I retired. It's been shared only with Nintendo employees during the last days as my role as president of the company. It's probably a two-minute video that he did, which made me smile and it highlighted our friendship and relationship, which was so incredibly thoughtful.
He didn't have to do it. It wasn't for mass consumption. It was just as, let's call it a personal gift, as I was retiring from Nintendo. We send the occasional direct message to each other and we'll see. COVID has been tough with limited travel and everything else, but I do hope to reconnect with him in person sometime soon.
ERIC: I've seen that clip that you were talking about, unveiling the Switch for the first time, letting Jimmy play Breath of the Wild. I think one of the things that his fans really like about him is how he wears his enthusiasm on his sleeve. He is so excitable about whatever he cares about. You can really see it on him.
REGGIE: Absolutely, and he's like a kid! He's like a kid, and to see his face light up when we unveiled the Switch. Look, he knew we were going to unveil the Switch and yet, his enthusiasm just comes through. It's fantastic.
ERIC: I figured he wouldn't give up five minutes of his show just for some mysterious announcement. I think he would probably want to know what he was going to be doing.
But in your knowing him for all these years, is he that excitable when the cameras are off, or is it something that he sort of turns on and off just to make for good TV?
REGGIE: No he is that excitable with the cameras off. Oftentimes as we're prepping to be on his show, we would spend time together in advance, whether it was in his office, whether it was during rehearsals. And what you see on TV is Jimmy. That is his personality. That is the way he acts. That fun, excitable persona is him.
We would have fun talking about video games and just talking in general about whatever might be going on. I really have enjoyed my time with him and look forward to spending more time with him.
ERIC: Well, Jimmy has recently been a big proponent of NFTs and cryptocurrency. And you recently were in the headlines, you said at South by Southwest that you're interested in blockchain and gaming applications for that— the underlying technology underneath NFTs and crypto.
I'm on the record, I'm skeptical of this stuff. So convince me a little bit, what do you find interesting about this space?
REGGIE: Well, look, I believe that, broadly, people are going to be skeptical until there's a great execution. And what I see as the potential is the ability via blockchain to have a clarity of process, whether that's through a blockchain contract, a clarity of ownership.
I think the technology can potentially enable new forms of game play and new ways for players to interact with the content. Now, that said, there needs to be that breakthrough example that brings it all to life. And I'll give an example from a different piece of technology and that's augmented reality.
Augmented reality was talked about in very conceptual terms until Pokémon Go made it a real, fun experience that hundreds of millions of consumers now have engaged in and continue to engage in. So it's all theory until it becomes real with a particular execution.
So for me, what I'm encouraging the development community is to be open-minded and to think about this technology and to look to apply it at its most basic and fundamental level, versus it being an add-on or a bolt-on to a particular experience. And I think if that's done, then we are likely to see some very interesting approaches, some unique and novel applications of the technology. Once that happens, there will be many more believers.
ERIC: I guess where I'd push back on that is that when people were playing Pokémon Go, almost none of them were saying, "Oh wow, I'm really excited to play this augmented reality application." They wanted to play a really fun Pokémon game that also got them walking around, all of that stuff.
So I think what would need to happen with blockchain gaming is, to your point, what's the right execution where it's not requiring them to necessarily know what blockchain is? It's not requiring them to make any tremendous sacrifices with their time, their money, or whatever. And I think right now the technology is not the most accessible to the average lay-person gamer.
REGGIE: I think that's absolutely true. I'll use an example from my own background. Gyroscopic technology had been around for years, but it wasn't until Nintendo incorporated that technology in a one-handed remote that we called the Wii Remote and had fun experiences like Wii Sports, where you were swinging your hand like you're swinging a racket to play a tennis game, and people were having fun.
And to your point, it was all about the experience. It's all about, I'm playing Wii Sports tennis, and that's my little avatar and isn't this fun? Let's play together. It wasn't talking about gyroscopic technology. It was talking about the fun of the experience.
I agree with you that when there is a killer experience that's fun and compelling and that happens to utilize blockchain technology, that's what's going to help push it forward.
ERIC: Well, that was a little tangent about blockchain, but that was also Jimmy Fallon, who is on Instagram and Twitter at @jimmyfallon.