Satoru Iwata On The Importance Of Creating Social Phenomena

By Ishaan . February 7, 2010 . 10:58am


During the Nintendo investor Q&A for the April-December 2009 period, an investor highlighted the decline of software sales in Europe — primarily that of Nintendo DS software.


Addressing these concerns, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata cited "visibility in society" as a factor that played a role in the decline of European DS software. According to Iwata, while Brain Age and Nintendogs both sold over 1 million units in the continent during the course of 2009, that number was significantly lower than 2008’s 3 million units. The proposed solution was to introduce more "social phenomenon" games to the European market, with a higher visibility in society.


Three attempts to achieve this that didn’t quite go as planned, according to Iwata, were Professor Layton, Rhythm Heaven and Style Savvy (Girls Mode in Japan).



Style Savvy, a fashion store simulation game, in particular, got off to a rough start in Europe. First-week sales of the game amounted to a mere 5,000 units, and its slow performance caused retailers to decline from placing orders for a restock. Another reason cited for its slow lift-off in Europe was an oversaturation of girl-oriented games on DS, which led to additional skepticism at retail.


According to Enterbrain data, Style Savvy sold 330,079 units in its second year in Japan — approximately the same amount it sold in the U.S. and Europe in its first year — where there was no interference from similar games that saturated the market. However, as the holiday season effect provided a dramatic sales boost in the West, and consumer feedback was positive, Iwata believes that a firm base for further growth has been established.


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The Professor Layton games, on the other hand, have done immensely well in Europe. Although, not well enough for Nintendo to classify them as a "social phenomenon" on the same level as Brain Age. The first game, The Curious Village, has reached 2 million units in 61 weeks in the European market, while its sequel, The Diabolical Box, has already reached 1.3 million units in just 16 weeks.


However, according to Iwata on Layton, "Its influence on driving hardware sales by driving consumers to purchase hardware to play the software or revitalizing a number of Nintendo DS sleep users has not yet made it a social phenomena about which newspapers write up."


He went on to tell investors: "What is most important is to make what can really become socially recognized phenomena. Of course, it is a fact that piracy activities in the European market including devices like Magic-Coms (R4) are large concerns for us. As I have mentioned before, we will continue to confront it with legal and technological measures."


Food for thought:

1. It’s interesting how much the box art for Girls Mode varies from region to region. The Japanese art looks like the cover of a shoujo magazine, while the U.S. version looks like a clothes brand aimed at younger girls. The European box strays farther from the two and comes off more as a high-class brand for adult women, both in art and name. This is a good example of the importance of localizing a product specifically for different regions. 2. The same can be said for Professor Layton games, whose Western boxes place a greater emphasis on the puzzles than the Japanese cover. At a previous investor Q&A, Iwata revealed that this decision stemmed from the European cover of the first Professor Layton game, which they found did a better job of conveying it as the natural "next choice" for fans of Brain Age.

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  • malek86

    You know, Iwata, not all games can be as successful as BT and Nintendogs…

    And besides, Style Savvy can really only appeal to girls. So it’s obviously going to sell less than a game like BT, which can appeal to both girls and boys, and even adult/old men and women. Also, I’m pretty sure Style Savvy didn’t receive nearly the same amount of advertising…

    • kylehyde

      Well we have to wait if Beyonce helps to increase the sales.

    • I’m sorry but what do you mean when you sau “BT”? thanks in advance.

      • malek86

        Brain Training.

        Oh yeah. I forgot, it’s called Brain Age in the USA.

  • Yeah, strolling through the local GAME stores here in the UK, I can see why it’d be hard to separate Style Boutique from the rest of the Bratz and Imagine games that plague a good chunk of the DS aisles here, had they gone the super girly pink case route, and not the more sophisticated looking cover they did go with. Unfortunately, that sophisticated cover did little to entice actual girls, young or not.

    They could’ve really used better commercials too. The whole schtick on using celebrities here is all right, but it always seems to focus more on the fact the celebrity is in the commercial than the game they’re actually playing.

    The Bayonetta commercial was the only one that really stuck out to me here. Gameplay footage and popular music (In For The Kill by La Roux) definitely made an impression more than Ant and Dec playing random DS games.

    • endaround

      Now I got a picture of Bayonetta schilling for Style Boutique in my head…

  • Joanna

    And I thought the US box art for Girls Mode was ugly. :/
    No matter what Iwata says, I don’t want that ugly European cover of Professor Layton. If you must, please make the original reversible, PLEASE!

    • Ugly, really? I think both the Japanese and American covers look very appealing. The European one however looks like some cheap bargain bin game.

      • Joanna

        well compared to the Japanese cover. I just personally do not like the art style or the colors of the US box.

  • Soma

    I think that Malek hit the nail on the head when he says that Brain Age/Brain Training appeals to everyone. Games like Style Savvy and Professor Layton will probably appeal more to the younger generation.
    Brain Age appeals to everyone. For example: my former boss, who is technologically impaired, got a DS Lite and Brain Age just because of the appeal. She didn’t get any other games or really have any other interest in the DS.

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