Nintendo reveals Revolution strategy

PR chief addresses Nintendo's DS sales forecasts, Revolution at E3, and the popularity of its classic Famicom series.

TOKYO--In a recent interview with ITmedia, Ken Toyota, Nintendo chief of public relations, shared insights about sales of the DS, the popularity of the company's Famicom Mini series for the Game Boy Advance, and PR tactics for discussing its next-gen console, the Revolution, at this year's E3.

When the subject of the Revolution arose, Toyota said, "E3 will be the starting point for the Revolution. [We haven't decided] whether we will show the real machine, videos, or unveil the concept. ... We want to receive some level of evaluation, but releasing too much information is also another issue. We don't have the slightest intention of making a machine that follows the same path as conventional game hardware. Right now, we are thinking of how we can accurately convey to people at E3 the different path that the Revolution will take and how it will change the way that games will be enjoyed."

Turning to the DS, Toyota revealed some new demographic figures. According to a recent Club Nintendo survey, 22 percent of DS owners are female, which represents a 7 percent increase since the last survey was taken. Use of the DS among the over-19 "mature" set has also risen from 49 to 59 percent. Toyota added that Nintendo's massive marketing campaign for the handheld, featuring pop vocalist Hikaru Utada, was a success.

Although Nintendo raised its forecast for DS sales, predicting it would sell 6 million units this year, the company cut its game-sales estimates from 15 million units to 10 million. Toyota said Nintendo initially anticipated selling 3.5 million DS units and 15 million games. Those numbers were based on the 1-to-2.6 hardware-to-software sales ratio for the GBA, tweaked slightly for the buzz that began to surround the DS when it was unveiled at last year's E3.

The decision to include games with the DS when it was launched in Japan and the US hurt game sales, Toyota said. In Japan, the units came with PictoChat, and in America, a demo of Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt was included. As a result, buyers didn't have to immediately purchase games to use the handheld. Another factor that hurt sales was the delay of Puppy Times, which Nintendo expects to be a hit when it's released in April. Given the DS's strong sales numbers, Toyota said he expects game sales will increase over time and that Nintendo isn't worried.

In addition to his comments on the DS, Toyota singled out one major software hit for Nintendo last year: the Famicom Mini series, known in the US as the Classic NES series, which put many of the company's classic titles into the hands of GBA owners. Toyota said the collection, which includes Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, and Castlevania, has sold approximately 7.21 million copies to date.

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