NOA President Reggie Fils-Aime sat down with USA Today, today. Here’s the interview:
Nintendo hopes Wii spells Wiinner.
By Byron Acohido
Q: What made Nintendo try to do something dramatically different with the Wii?
A: Our focus is interactive game play, a whole new way to play, that puts fun back into this business. It allows everybody to pick up and play and isn’t focused on the core gamer.
Q: The Wii seems to emphasize the controller, not heavy attention on graphics. Is that by design?
A: That is exactly by design. Our visuals for Wii will look fantastic, but in the end, prettier pictures will not bring new gamers and casual gamers into this industry. It has to be about the ability to pick up a controller, not be intimidated, and have fun immediately. The trick is being able to do that, not only with the new casual gamer, but do it in a way that the core gamer gets excited as well.
Q: Microsoft has made the comment that people can buy an Xbox 360 and Wii for about the same price as a PlayStation 3. Would you mind terribly if that happened?
A: I’d much rather have the consumer buy a Wii, some accessories, and a ton of games, vs. buying any of my competitor’s products.
Q: A few years ago, Nintendo made a conscious decision to lie low when Microsoft introduced Xbox Live and began promoting its subscription online gaming service. In retrospect, does that look like a good decision?
A: I wasn’t here. What I can tell you is the way we’ve approached online play now is really with a view to the masses. With Nintendo DS (a dual-screen handheld player), for example, we offer free Internet play in a wide-ranging series of games. Our focus is getting as many consumers to enjoy that online experience as possible. And we’ve done that.
Q: You’re not pursuing a subscription model?
A: We view online gaming as essentially an enhanced way to enjoy the gaming experience and drive more sales of hardware and software.
Q: How do you extend your online strategy to Wii?
A: It’s the same premise. We will offer online-enabled games that the consumers will not have to pay a subscription fee for. They’ll be able to enjoy that right out of the box. The Wii console is going to be Wi-Fi enabled, so essentially, you’ll be able to plug it in and go. It won’t have hidden fees or costs.
Q: What is your plan for getting folks who aren’t normally interested in video games to try the Wii?
A: We need to get the consumer to admire what we’ve done. We need them to say to themselves, “Wow, this new Wii console by Nintendo is really interesting!” And they need to try it. They need to get bought into the proposition.
Q: Your background is in marketing. Without divulging competitive secrets, can you characterize your marketing plan?
A: It’s going to be massive amounts of hands-on activity, as well as showcasing exactly how Wii games are different. We’re going to create advocacy. We’re going to make it so that everyone who tries the Wii experience talks to their friends and neighbors. It’s going to be a really provocative sight to be seeing teens and 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds and 50-year-olds talking about how different this experience is.
Q: What can you tell us about timing and price?
A: We’re well on our way to sharing all of that information with our retailers and our licensees. We’ll be sharing that information publicly later on.
Q: Can the Wii take Nintendo back to the top of the mountain?
A: Our goal is to have as many teens and young adults as we have 40-plus-year-olds excited about the platform. We’re trying to expand this business here in the U.S in a way that it really hasn’t been expanded … for the health of this industry.
Q: Sounds like you’re more focused on new customers and not necessarily taking share from the other guys.
A: The interesting thing is if you do expand the market, you do both. You grow the category, but you’ll also dramatically increase your market share. As an example, Nintendo DS in Japan outsells all of our competitors by a factor of five to one. We are so far in advance of our handheld competitors that they’re not even on the map. That’s all based on a market expansion strategy. And that’s what we’re looking to do with home consoles.
Q: How do you handicap your competitors; what worries you most about them?
A: Our competitors are both going down the same path. Both believe that more and more performance with a higher and higher price tag are their keys to success. So what do I see? I think our two competitors will trade share between them, while we go off and grab share in a completely different way.