Two weeks ago, Nintendo's top brass held a media briefing in Japan behind closed doors. This week, the company made a translated version of the meeting available to the public. The video and accompanying PowerPoint presentation can be viewed via Nintendo's investor-relations webcast partner, irwebcasting.com.
Unsurprisingly, the presentation focuses on the success of the Nintendo DS, which Nintendo now claims has greater market share than the PlayStation 2 in Japan. In one chart, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata displayed how the DS has sold 8.43 million units in just 18 months in Japan--outpacing the adoption rates of the both the PS2 and Nintendo's best-selling platform, the Game Boy Advance.
Iwata also talked up Touch Generations, the subbrand which targets nontraditional gamers such as seniors and women. The division has enjoyed phenomenal success in Japan, as Iwata illustrated with another graph showing off how Touch Generations' top title, Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, has defied the usual downward postrelease sales trend.
On its own site, Nintendo also released the transcript of a Q&A session held after the event with Iwata and legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. When asked about the exact price and launch date of the Wii, Iwata said he "believe[d] we will need to announce the precise price and launch date of Wii in or before September this year." He also reiterated his belief that, unlike the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360, the Wii will not be sold at much below its manufacturing cost. "We do not intend to lose a great deal of money from the hardware sales," he said.
Iwata dodged questions about whether Nintendo intends to lower its software prices to promote adoption of the Wii. "Many in this industry once appeared to believe that marking down hardware prices or attaching free software was the only way to expand the installed base," he said. "What is notable today is, people are actively purchasing a 15,000 yen [$130.69] DS or a 16,800 yen [$146.37] Lite just because they want to play 2,800 yen [$24.39] software."
Iwata was then asked about how he expects Wii sales to stack up compared to the GameCube, whose third-place finish in the current-gen platform race has been considered a disappointment, given Nintendo's former console supremacy. The executive was blunt in his appraisal: "Wii will be a failure if it cannot sell far more than GameCube did," he said. "In fact, we shouldn't continue this business if our only target is to outsell GameCube. Naturally, we are making efforts so that Wii will show a far greater result than GameCube." Later on in the Q&A session, he would predict that Nintendo expects to ship 6 million Wii hardware units and 17 million Wii software units during its current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2007.
Iwata also tacitly admitted that the GameCube had not lived up to expectations. "When we launched GameCube, the initial sales were good, and all the hardware we manufactured at that time were sold through," he said. "However, after this period, we could not provide the market with strong software titles in a timely fashion. As a result, we could not leverage the initial launch time momentum and sales of GameCube slowed down."
Then it was Miyamoto's turn. A questioner asked the Legend of Zelda creator how he thought consumers would react to the Wii's dramatically different, motion-sensing control scheme. "We believe that we have already reached to the stage where we need to show the new vision for the whole entertainment," he said. "This is why we have decided to alter the game-control interface significantly, not just slightly." Displaying his trademark playfulness, Miyamoto added, "I have just been trying to make something fun."
Naturally, the subject of the Wii's name came up, and Iwata was quick to shoot down conspiracy theories that the moniker was some sort of elaborate hoax. "I am one of the people who have decided this final product name," he said. "Of course, I am not the only person to make this decision, but I have never thought that it was a mistake to name it 'Wii.' I understand that a great many people have already accepted this product name. When someone has some hesitation today, we'd like to make efforts so that they will come to like this name in the end."
Genyo Takeda, general manager of Nintendo's Integrated Research & Development division, also chimed in on the process of making the Wii. "Talking about the process on how we come up with new console ideas, Wii development was the hardest in my own experience," he said. "Nintendo has developed NES, Super NES, N64, and GameCube, and when we looked back, I felt that we were just rushing forward following Moore's Law, or just making new products in the linear extension line following the evolution of semiconductors. Now that we have broken away from the boundary, we are committing ourselves to see and exploit the technologies in order to extend the entertainment into any direction. I think we have reached the level that will allow us to do so."