At last week’s E3 we had a chance to chat with the head of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime about a wide range of topics relating to the company. With the business out of the way in yesterday’s post, today we’re dig in to some of the lighter points: Nintendo’s support of indie developers, the success of the 3DS, the surprising origins of “New Super Luigi U,” and which character Reggie chooses in “Super Mario 3D World” (hint: it’s not Mario).
Multiplayer: Over the last few months, one of the things that I’ve seen in the press, and in talking to people, is that indie developers are singing your praises. What makes now the right time for Nintendo to be going into that market in such a big way?
Fils-Aime: You know, dating back to the Wii and the DSi days, we’ve always thought that experienced, but independent developers are a key opportunity. These are talents to be nurtured. These are professionals that are looking for an outlet for their wonderful products, and we’ve worked hard to cultivate those relationships, but most importantly to provide them tools and capabilities to bring their products to bear on our platforms, and I think especially now we are doing a really good job. We’ve given them a lot of tools, we’ve given them a lot of support, and we’ve created a marketplace that provides discoverability. A marketplace that provides marketing capabilities. That’s what these independent developers are looking for, and I think that’s why they are so enthusiastically singing our praises.
Multiplayer: In terms of the teams that you are working with, how does the selection process working?
Fils-Aime: The process that we go through is we make the tools available, and we make the tools available to everyone, then we have a “process” which I wouldn’t even call it a process. Essentially the developers create the content, they submit it for lock check, and that’s it. They identify the pricing. What we do beyond that is when we see that there’s content that is especially meaningful, an independent team that we think highly of, then we’ll put some of our marketing muscle behind that title to help it break through. We’ve been really fortunate to build some great relationships, and to see some fantastic content. That overall environment is what the independent developers love so much.
Multiplayer: The 3DS has taken a little bit of a backseat at this year’s E3… would you agree?
Fils-Aime: WHAT! “Pokemon X/Y”! Come on!
Multiplayer: A little bit of a backseat. Do you think the 3DS has finally hit its stride, where great games like “The Legend of Zelda,” “Yoshi’s New Island,” “Mario & Luigi” which are all showcased in the Nintendo Direct about a month ago, and were all good news, but the Wii U seems to be taking a front seat on the show floor. Has the 3DS hit its stride?
Fils-Aime: The 3DS really has hit its stride, and it really showcases the power of software. Our 3DS business has been good. The 3DS business in Japan has been exceptional, and when you look at the difference, it really comes down to an ongoing pace of great software. In Japan they benefitted, not only from great first party content, but also they’ve benefitted from some very strong third party content that really speaks to the Japanese consumer. In addition, they had key games like “Animal Crossing” there six months before we’ve had it here in our market. So they’ve had that steady pace of new launches which has propelled their business. For us that steady stream really kicked off with “Fire Emblem.” That pacing of “Fire Emblem,” then “Luigi’s Mansion,” the “Lego City Undercover” for the 3DS, then “Donkey Kong Country Returns,” now with “Animal Crossing.” With “Mario & Luigi” to come, “Zelda” to come, “Pokemon X” and “Pokemon Y” to come. We really feel good about our 3DS business and the way that we are going to be able to drive it forward through this holiday season.
Multiplayer: Is it a coincidence that “Donkey Kong Country Returns” landed on the 3DS, and then had a new title announced at E3?
Fils-Aime: It obviously isn’t a coincidence, we know the overall development schedule, but it really just highlights how we think about our franchises, and how we think about our products. “Donkey Kong Country Returns” is a fabulous game, but because of that depth within the game, we realized it would make a fantastic 3DS game. In the process the team added some enhancements that really made it suitable for the handheld market, and while a separate group was doing that, we were able to have retro focus in on “Tropical Freeze.” We think the 1-2 punch for Donkey Kong is going to be very positive.
Multiplayer: “New Super Luigi U” is Nintendo’s first foray into essentially releasing an expansion pack. Where did that come from? I know the retail release is following a few months later, but where did the business decision to create that as downloadable content originate?
Fils-Aime: Our team at The Treehouse has been having ongoing conversations with the developers in Japan, educating them on the marketplace outside of Japan, and sharing with them opportunities in downloadable content, opportunities in additional content to the main packaged game. The teams in Kyoto and Tokyo have been very appreciative, and they’ve really been thoughtful in thinking about how to take what has been done by other publishers and to provide that unique Nintendo twist in a way that fits our culture and products.
So it was all of that background that lead to Mr. Tezuka and the team working on “New Super Mario Bros. U” to think, “hey, what can we do to create something unique that would be a different experience, but somehow feel familiar.” That, coupled with the celebration of the Year of Luigi, really created the magical opportunity to create “New Super Luigi U,” to have it be initially a piece of downloadable content, and to be able to provide it to consumers at a great value.
Once that decision was done, then the teams were very excited about the content themselves, and they said, “are we doing our fans a disservice by not making this available to everyone?” So, that second decision is what lead to having it be a standalone retail product. And, because that requires some additional development, that’s why there was that gap in time of almost two months.
Multiplayer: Have you had a chance to spend much time with “Luigi U”?
Fils-Aime: I have.
Multiplayer: It’s hard.
Fils-Aime: It is very hard. To me, what makes it hard, the level design obviously makes it hard, but the Luigi physics takes some getting used to. I love being able to jump higher, but the sliding makes it tough in a platformer.
Multiplayer: Especially after having gone through 80 or so levels as Mario.
Fils-Aime: Exactly. Now, I’m assuming that you’ve figured out that in “New Super Mario Bros. 2″ for the 3DS how to play as Luigi?
Fils-Aime: There were no real differences in the physics.
Multiplayer: Right, but there was also no difference in the levels. Also, having the 100-second time limit makes it challenging.
Multiplayer: With the announcement of “Super Mario 3D World,” there’s now four playable characters, who are you playing as?
Fils-Aime: I’m playing as Peach. I love that floating ability, it actually is helpful in timing the jumps, and hitting the enemies. I’ve been playing as Peach, and I really enjoy it. I’m man enough to say, I’m playing as Peach.