Siliconera recently had an opportunity to chat briefly with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime regarding the company, its games, and what sort of effect fans have on Nintendo of America’s decisions. Joining us for the chat was the assistant editor at ZeldaUniverse.net, Melena, who contributed questions to the interview.
What would you say is the most significant innovation in gaming in the past decade?
It’s gotta be the WiiMote. The WiiMote introduced a completely new style of play that arguably set an industry standard for motion controls, and let the consumer experience games in an entirely new way. The thing, I think, that’s really set Nintendo apart from the competition is its focus on new styles of play. We’re always looking for ways to innovate, ways to bring new and fun experiences to the consumer. In the end, it’s all about the software, and all about how you experience that software—and controllers have a huge effect on that.
When you released the DS, you had an entirely different idea of play style in mind. How does that concept manifest itself in the 3DS?
So here’s what’s interesting. The question that you asked me is “what was the single biggest innovation in the video game industry in the past decade?” if you would have asked the question differently, during my tenure, what was the gaming system that arguably has redefined the industry, I would’ve said the [Nintendo] DS. Because if you think about it, it was the first system that had a touch screen, a built in microphone—and the types of games that that enabled? You know, in many ways, it’s the forefront of what’s happening now with mobile and touch and things of that nature. The system that sold over 150 million globally?
We just recently passed the one year anniversary of the Wii U. Is there anything you would have liked to do differently, if you could go back and re-do it?
You know, what drives a system are those key must-have games. When we launched the Wii U, we were pointing to Pikmin, we were pointing to Wii Fit U, and we were pointing to Zelda and Mario—so all of these great games that are coming out now? We wanted them to come out by the end of March last year. That’s been the biggest challenge we’ve had. We knew we had a great line-up. We wanted it to launch much earlier to drive the system. So, what does that mean going forward?
That means that we have to make sure that the pipeline for new games has that steady pace. We’ve had it arguably since July, in terms of that regular pace of games—and guess what? The Wii U has responded, and we just have to make sure that that pace is consistent. We’ve got Wii Fit U in January, and Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze in February. [Mario] Kart is still Spring 2014—no solid release date, it’s still just Spring. All we’ve said for Smash Bros. is 2014.
On February 14th of last year, you held a Nintendo Direct that announced the Year of Luigi. I wanted to know if I have to give it up on December 31st or if it’s more of a “fiscal year” of Luigi, and I can celebrate into February?
There are some Year of Luigi activities that will continue into 2014—including some of the special products that we’ve launched (the Luigi remote and the Mario and Luigi 3DS XL)—so there will be some Luigi products to carry the Luigi banner into the next calendar year.
Now that Mr. Iwata is the CEO of Nintendo of America, are you going to see a greater emphasis on regional games developed here in the Americas?
The fact of the matter is, we have two internal studios that are based in the U.S.: we’ve got Retro, and we’ve got NST. In addition, there are a number of key relationships we have with companies based here in the Americas. The team that did Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, for example, is up in Vancouver. We’re looking to build more and more relationships with great developers here—developers who can take some of our best franchises and help create fantastic content.
I’m seeing that Monolith Soft is popping up in a lot of games. To what extent are they involved with the main company now that they’ve been assimilated into Nintendo?
[Note: Monolith Soft have contributed to recent Nintendo games like Zelda: Skyward Sword, Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.]
They may be there [in the end credits of those games] but I would be careful looking too much into that. It’s funny with those end credits, I see my name pop up and it’s like, I have nothing to do with this game! I mean, I appreciate the credit—but I’m not always directly involved with them. We’ve shown some footage of a new Monolith Soft game, though, so they are certainly working on something! [Reggie smiled wide when he mentioned this.]
How long does Nintendo intend on releasing games for the Wii?
Well, in terms of Nintendo-published titles, we’re not publishing any more Wii games—neither are we publishing any more DS games. Third parties are publishing for them – but we’re focused on driving the install base of the Wii U. From a licensing perspective, it’s tough to ignore a 100 million unit install base on Wii, and a 150 million unit install base on the DS, but from a Nintendo first-party perspective? We have to focus on driving the install base of the new platforms, because if we don’t do it, no one else will.
Where do you think you see Nintendo or the industry in ten years?
[PR person jokingly mentions this being like an editorial board meeting now.]
Let me put it this way: when I joined the company, if someone would’ve whispered to me, Hey Reggie imagine—we’re going to have a remote that, when you move it, things happen on the TV—and then, we’re going to have a remote that has a screen displaying different things than what’s being displayed on the big screen! I would’ve asked, “All right, are we going to do this in ten years? In twenty years? When are we going to do this?”
I mean, the wonderful thing about Nintendo is that we’re always thinking about what’s going to make people happy? What’s going to be a great experience? And then we create the content and hardware to bring it to life. So, what are we going to be doing ten years from now? I don’t know what the hardware is going to look like, but I can guarantee you that the software is going to make you smile.
Going off of that, how much do what fans want or say influence your decisions? [Operation Moonfall and Operation Rainfall are cited as examples here.]
I have to tell you—it doesn’t affect what we do. We certainly look at it, and we’re certainly aware of it, but it doesn’t necessarily affect what we do. I’ll give you an example. I mentioned earlier that our head of product development had a bet on X versus Y—we also had a bet around localizing Xenoblade.
I wanted to bring Xenoblade here. The deal was, how much of a localization effort is it? How many units are we going to sell, are we going to make money? We were literally having this debate while Operation Rainfall was happening, and we were aware that there was interest for the game, but we had to make sure that it was a strong financial proposition.
I’m paid to make sure that we’re driving the business forward—so we’re aware of what’s happening, but in the end we’ve got to do what’s best for the company. The thing we know [about petitions] is that 100,000 signatures doesn’t mean 100,000 sales.