E3 2013: Reggie Fils-Aime Weighs In On E3, The Wii U, And The Digital Landscape

E3 has always been home to some of Nintendo’s biggest announcements, and last week was no different… well, okay, it was a little different. Forgoing the traditional big press conference, Nintendo opted to deliver their E3 announcements online, via a Nintendo Direct live stream. Technical issues aside, the Direct broadcast showcased a handful of games, starring some of Nintendo’s biggest names to the consumer for the first time. From the first gameplay for the all new “Super Mario 3D World,” to the first trailer for “Super Smash Bros.” for the 3DS and Wii U, Nintendo may not have gone as big as they usually do, but they still delivered in the way of content.

Late last week, we had a chance to sit down with Nintendo of America’s President and COO, Reggie Fils-Aime to recap their news, and discuss some of the company’s biggest announcements. Read on to find out about Nintendo’s plans for the Wii U, and for some insight into their unique take on this year’s E3. Come back tomorrow for more from Reggie, on the 3DS, indie games, and his perspective on some of Nintendo’s upcoming games.

Multiplayer: I’d like to pick up pretty much where we left off at the launch of the Wii U. A couple days ago Nintendo outlined their plans for the rest of 2013, what makes this year different than years past?

Reggie Fils-Aime: What makes this year different is that we’ve got a steady pace of games coming for the Wii U, and it starts essentially now, with “Game & Wario.” It’s just about every single month that we’ll have new content out there for the consumer. The reason that that’s important is we know that our job, from a first-party publisher standpoint, is to drive our installed based. We know that by having “Game & Wario,” “The Wonderful 101,” “Pikmin,” “Super Mario 3D World,” “Zelda” – all of these wonderful games, one after the other, after the other, that that’s going to help drive installed base, that that’s going to reinvigorate the platform, and that that’s going to help us achieve our overall objectives for this holiday – in the face of whatever our competitors might choose to do.

Multiplayer: So, by the end of this year, almost all of the major Nintendo franchises will have some kind of representation on the Wii U. Almost. Can we hope that in the coming months after that we’ll see all of them?

Fils-Aime: You know, I think we have to be really clear on the time period that we are talking about, and we need to be really clear on the specific franchises that we are talking about. I do think though, that it’s helpful to look at what we’ve done with Wii, and what we’ve done to date with Nintendo 3DS. With Wii, there was just about every Nintendo franchise brought to bear on that platform, including “Metroid,” in a number of different incarnations. When you look at Nintendo 3DS, we’ve been able to bring back beloved Nintendo franchises like “Kid Icarus” and “Luigi’s Mansion.”

Nintendo is a very fortunate place, we have over 30 different franchises, and we look constantly for opportunities to bring those franchises to bear on our most current systems. I’m not making any promises, and I’m not making any commitments, but certainly we are thinking about, for Wii U and for 3DS, what are those franchises? Maybe those franchises that have been dormant for a few years, that we can loving bring to those platforms to drive our business forward.

Multiplayer: What does being the first to market in this new console generation mean to you and the company?

Fils-Aime: First to market is simply a demarcation on a calendar. It really doesn’t mean anything. What’s important is how are we bringing true game innovation to bear for industry. How are we bringing our best content to our consumers. And how do we provide new and unique experiences. That’s what drives the business forward. I think Nintendo is fortunate, having been in this business for over 30 years, to really understand the dynamics and recognize that it’s software that drives hardware, and it’s new unique, compelling experiences within software that make it stand out.

Multiplayer: It’s amazing how many times in the Sony and Microsoft press conferences that they showcased something on a tablet, and I think the Wii U is an indication of that. Sure they’ve created apps for everything, but the Wii U’s tablet experience is part of the games, and it’s built in, in a more natural and fluid manner. Do you think that is this generation’s version of the motion control that the Wii introduced, and subsequently helped the industry and push forward?

Fils-Aime: Certainly. Competitors are quick to mimic successful innovation that we bring to the marketplace, and it’s been true since the days of rumble, and the first joystick/thumbpad implementation. For Nintendo we do believe the GamePad is a critical innovation, and we believe that integrated experience with a second screen is something that brings new propositions to the consumer. Our focus is bringing that to life. We think we’ve done it well with “Game & Wario.” We think we’ve done it exceptionally well with “NintendoLand.” We continue to see on-going opportunities to utilize that second screen in new and unique ways, including for non-gaming applications like MiiVerse and NintendoTVii.

Multiplayer: “Animal Crossing.” I’ve written about it, I know other people have written about it, I know internally at Nintendo they’ve mentioned it – the experience seems to be enhanced by the downloadable, digital version of the game instead of having the cart. You don’t have to swap, and it’s easier to check in on your village every day. That seems to be an extension of the StreetPass Plaza, checking in to see what’s new. Can we hope to see more games that are enhanced by daily check-ins in the future?

Fils-Aime: Certainly. You’re absolutely correct, that “Animal Crossing” is the type of game that you want to play certainly every day, and there are benefits to having the digital version right there on your hardware. I have to say, personally, I don’t find it a huge inconvenience to be swapping out my game cards. There are other games, “Tomodachi Collection” in Japan, which is something that we are looking hard at for our market, that’s another one that benefits from those short bursts of play, on a day-in, day-out basis.

We want to give the consumer the choice, and let them decide what’s best. I have to say, I did smile quite a bit in looking at the debate by the fans of “I’m going to get it in digital, I’m going to get it in package.” Great! Whatever makes you happy. We believe in working with our retail partners, in helping them understand that, for us, this is really all about helping the consumer make smart choices for them, whether they want it physically, or whether they want it digitally. Our retails are able to participate – some of them sell codes, all of them sell prepaid cards.

Multiplayer: So, there’s really no end in site for retail?

Fils-Aime: Not that we see. Retail plays a very important role for us. What we’re doing right now with Best Buy, you can’t do that, you can’t bring E3 to the people, without having a great partner like Best Buy in how we are executing this. The activity that happens in a Gamestop or Toys ’R Us, where people are doing Streetpasses and sharing content, we need physical locations to do that, in addition to driving awareness and drive sales of our product. So I am one of those that believe that, for our category, retail is going to continue to be a very important, and vibrant part of the overall landscape.

Multiplayer: But digital has its place as well?

Fils-Aime: Digital has its role. Again, it’s up to the consumer to decide what they want.

Multiplayer: You didn’t get to stand on stage as a press conference this year.

Fils-Aime: I got to stand on two stages this year.

Multiplayer: That’s true, but it wasn’t the grand, live event. You went with the Nintendo Direct instead. What was the thinking behind going to that route, instead of going with the more traditional press conference?

Fils-Aime: At Nintendo we think deeply about everything. We certainly thought very deeply about this year’s E3. We recognized that we had a fantastic line up for Wii U, but what we also know about this business is that it’s one thing to show visuals on a screen, and it’s another thing to play the game. That’s what drove us to this insight to say that we want the media to hear about these games, get insight on these games, and to play the games as quickly as possible. On top of that, we’re very fortunate that we have truly some of the world’s most talented developers, and wouldn’t it be great to have the developers there talking about the games, helping the media understand their games in an intimate format. That’s what drove our decisions. We believe that certainly it’s played out exceptionally well for us. It’s given everyone a deeper understanding of the games. The feedback we’re getting on the games has been phenomenal. The developers really felt good about the opportunities they had to be there in an intimate setting, talking about their content.

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