My wide-ranging interview with the president of Nintendo of America covered everything Wii from “Grand Theft Auto” and “Disaster Day of Crisis” to a recent patent and the danger of dropping Wii sales in Japan.
The following interview was conducted last week in San Francisco during the Game Developers Conference. I’ve interviewed Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, several times. So the mood remained light even as he occasionally danced around my questions. As ever, he was the picture of confidence, suggesting the grand potential of the Wii to sell a million units a month. (After reading this, be sure to check out my conversation with Fils-Aime about the Nintendo DS.)
MTV Multiplayer: If we’ve gotten to the point where we can have a “Grand Theft Auto” on the DS, how much progress does that bring you guys, Take-Two and gamers to getting a “Grand Theft Auto” on a Nintendo console?
Fils-Aime: I’ve said this — and it may have been in one of your interviews –from the get-go. I as a gamer — and Nintendo as a company — would love to see a new “Grand Theft Auto” on our home console. We think the volume opportunity is there.
MTV Multiplayer: Right. You said it to me a few years ago. It took five years to get a “Grand Theft Auto” on the DS. How long is it going to take for all the stars to aligned for there to be that kind of game? You’ve been talking to the publisher, right?
Fils-Aime: Our job is to create the installed base for that type of opportunity to be leveraged. It’s Take-Two and Rockstar’s opportunity to make the game.
MTV Multiplayer: You could give them marketing money. Isn’t that how Microsoft got those exclusive episodes on the 360?
Fils-Aime: We support publishers with marketing investment. We don’t buy exclusivity.
MTV Multiplayer: There was a patent unearthed several months ago for something called the “Kind Code” [Note from Stephen: I referred to the patent by the title Kotaku had used for a DVD-menu-like technology that would make it easier to play through of tricky adventure games]. This was going to be a way to pop in a Wii game and get extra menus. This was a real patent filed by Nintendo’s legal team. What can you say about it?
Fils-Aime: We don’t talk about patents and work in development.
MTV Multiplayer: You’ve got to add that: “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation and patents.” [laughs]
Fils-Aime: Obviously, it signifies that we have some technology that is unique and warrants protection. In terms of when that will show up in a game… nothing to share today.
MTV Multiplayer: A couple of titles fans wonder about the status of coming to the U.S. “Disaster Day of Crisis.” It’s been out for a long time and didn’t do so well where it came out. On the table for a U.S. release or off the table?
Fils-Aime: It is not on our announcement plan.
MTV Multiplayer: “Fatal Frame 4,” published by Nintendo in Japan. There’s been confusion and mixed signals about whether that’s coming to America.
Fils-Aime: We are not the publisher of that title in the Americas. So I can’t comment on it… I don’t know if it has a publisher.
MTV Multiplayer: What do you make of the fact that you guys are no longer the least expensive console? Has that applied any new pressure to what you’re doing? The 360 is cheaper than you guys.
Fils-Aime: On the Wii side? No. Our objective is to sell as many consoles as possible. Up until recently our biggest problem has been having enough product going into the marketplace. We’re getting closer and closer to where supply and demand are intersecting. That creates us wonderful opportunity to provide even more marketing to Wii. For us, what prevents us from selling 800,000, 900,000 or a million units a month is our own ability to supply the marketplace and drive our marketing. It is not our competition.
MTV Multiplayer: Some analysts are looking at the sales in Japan, which are flattening — it’s actually being outperformed by the PS3, which has had some strong software releases recently — the commentary is that Wii has reached its peak. The point is the Wii is not the dominant console in the weekly sales that we’re seeing there. What steps do you need to take in the United States to ensure the Wii doesn’t start getting outperformed weekly by the other consoles?
Fils-Aime: In this business, software sells hardware. In the U.S., we have the benefit of “Wii Fit” and “Wii Play” and “Kart” and “Smash” and Activision’s “Guitar Hero.” Looking to the future — “MadWorld,” “Conduit,” — we have a range of software that in our view will continue to drive momentum for Wii.
MTV Multiplayer: Do you think you’ll have a better fall of new games than you did this past fall? If there was one thing people were disappointed about for the Wii last year, it was that “Wii Music” or “Animal Crossing” didn’t excite the way other games had.
Fils-Aime: Stephen, I think that’s a great question to ask me in early June at E3.
MTV Multiplayer: You don’t want to tell me right now that the fall is going to be better? That’s an easy one!
Fils-Aime: You know, one of the things that we know is that our loyal fans have huge expectations for us. When we give them the smallest little inkling, it gets exploded into expectations that are almost impossible to meet.
MTV Multiplayer: What are your expectations for the New Play Control line [of GameCube games being re-introduced for Wii]? What is the strategy for that line in terms of how much of the GameCube line-up we might see coming out?
Fils-Aime: The New Play Control line is strategically about introducing some key games to consumers from the GameCube library. For example, “Pikmin.” At E3 last year, Mr. Miyamoto made the commitment that a new “Pikmin” was coming. Given that, it’s important that our installed base of Wii owners understands what the “Pikmin” franchise is all about. So that’s why that product is out in the marketplace. “Mario Tennis” was, in our view, a great way to take all the consumers who are playing “Wii Sports” tennis and give them a slightly different experience. And get them enjoying the fun, wacky aspects of the Mario world. What that means is, if you look at what our launches will be, they will strategically be titles we believe either we weren’t able to fully maximize during the GameCube life cycle or can help drive future products when we look to where Wii is going.
MTV Multiplayer: Finally, a reader asked me to ask that, now that you can download games for the Wii to an SD card and boot from the SD card, does that change any plans at all for there to be downloads of demos for games, be they WiiWare, Virtual Console or whatever else?
Fils-Aime: It doesn’t change our core philosophy. And our philosophy around demos has always been: how much demo do you provide to have the consumer excited but not so much that all they do is play the demo? That’s been an ongoing Nintendo philosophy.
I’ll have one more item from my interview with Fils-Aime later today.