Q&A: Reggie preps for the launch

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime discusses bringing console gaming to the masses, what's missing from the launch, and how he'd make Guitar Hero for the Wii.

NEW YORK--Nintendo took a calculated risk when it designed the Wii, banking on an unproven user interface not only to drive sales of the system, but also to extend the company's push into new markets--and even the way developers think about game design.

If the risk pays off, the company is looking at a significant upside in the form of tapping a market far beyond the traditional 18- to 34-year-old male demographic. If it doesn't, Nintendo could be bringing up the rear in another battle for the living room, while at the same time it faces its stiffest competition in the portable sector yet.

Reggie's army gets ready for the launch, at rest in front of the Nintendo World Store in Manhattan.

With mere hours left until the official North American launch of the Wii, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime took time out to answer GameSpot's last-minute questions about the console, as well as address the company's postlaunch plans.

GameSpot: When you were a senior VP at VH1, you raised ratings by going after younger viewers. How has that experience, developing programming for a major cable channel, helped in the preparation and execution of Nintendo of America's Wii strategy?

Reggie Fils-Aime: OK, a quick minute of background on VH1: The problem with VH1 when I got there was that they had ridden one show, called Behind the Music, to drive ratings. And when that show got old--because they we starting to do Behind the Music on groups that no one cared about--the ratings started to fall apart. So, coming from outside the industry, I was able to say smart things like "We need to broaden our development slate. We need to get the brand focused back on 25 to 35 year olds because that's what it's all about." In the media business, you can't allow your channel to get old, because media companies will go somewhere else to buy a 40- to 50-year-old audience. They won't go to VH1.

So, snap to the Nintendo business, I come on board and say "Boy, it seems like we keep doing the same thing over and over again, to a certain extent." How do we broaden out our efforts, not only from marketing and sales standpoint but in challenging Mr. Iwata and asking "how do we push forward the envelope?" So that's really the analogy in terms of some of the things I brought from my experience here to Nintendo: the ability to ask some hopefully pretty smart questions, to challenge the organization to try and do new things and do things in a different way, and to get grounded in some core business fundamentals that play to your strength and drive them forward. I think that's what we've been able to do quite successfully for Nintendo DS and that's what we're prepared to do, hopefully, quite successfully on Wii.

GS: Is it possible that longtime gamers, such as people who have been playing games since the NES--people who love games even more as they grow more complicated--may be put off by the Wii and its mainstream games and approach?

RF: The answer to that is Zelda, right? For the passionate fan who wants something a bit more challenging, a deep story, 70 hours of gameplay, it's Zelda. It's all there, it's nine dungeons long, it is an immense area--that alone should stop all of the worries as to whether Nintendo will continue to make big, epic games. We absolutely will. We're also going to do other things to bring that NES or SNES fan who now has three kids, a job, doesn't have time to play games; we're going to bring him Link to the Past that he enjoyed back in those days and has a great opportunity to play again on the Virtual Console. We want it all, quite frankly. So when we talk about bringing gaming back to the masses, it is both for this core fan, which we will continue to have great content for, and this new expanded gamer who either hasn't played in 20 years or hasn't played at all.

GS: Speaking of both sets of fans, how many Wii games will be available for them in the launch window and in the months to come?

RF: We'll have about 30 titles in the launch window. In terms of purchase at retail, that launch window essentially goes through December. So call it a five-week time horizon, fairly tight. In terms of Virtual Console games, a similar number again, during that launch window. So, total, 60 games is what the consumer is looking at, whether it's downloadable via the Virtual Console or available at their local retailer.

GS: What genres do you feel you have covered well in these 60 games and what genres do you feel you need to have covered next year and moving forward?

RF: You know, the genre lineup is broad and diverse, and I have to say candidly, based on the launch window lineup, there isn't a gap. We've got sports, we've got racing, we've got action adventure. Probably the only missing piece is a pure role-playing game--we've obviously got action RPG's but not a traditional RPG...yet. Everything else is there.

GS: Are there titles that you've seen from third parties that would be great for the Wii you are actively pursuing?

RF: Guitar Hero would be wonderful on Wii right? I mean, I can see dueling double battle axes and going at it. You could actually even see taking Guitar Hero to the next level. We've shown two Wii remotes and the ability to do drumming. Maybe it's a full-on band-type ensemble--that could be pretty cool. So certainly there are a couple titles out there I'd love to see on our platform. But broadly the support has been stellar. Every big licensee, great support out of Japan, smaller developers getting onboard--it's tough to ask for more, even for as ornery and aggressive a person as I am.

GS: What do you say to people that want to get a Wii but couldn't get a preorder and maybe aren't ready to camp out? How much is going to drop and how are you going to follow up with supply?

RF: The honest answer is this: People who have not preordered should not give up hope, but they should be prepared to be fast on their feet. Because when you see it, you better buy it. The fact is we'll be bringing 4 million into the worldwide distribution system by December 31, fact. We will get the largest independent share of the three different Nintendo business units. That's a fact. The other fact is that Wii is the hottest system out there and so the demand is extraordinarily high.

That is what will drive shortages; that is what will drive stock out. It's not an inability to manufacture, which is what is plaguing our competition--our biggest issue is going to be an inability to satisfy the demand. We're working around the clock to address it. Planes, trains, and automobiles, you name it, are being employed to maximize the availability, but it's going to be tight. So, if I'm a consumer, I'm going to want to keep calling and going to all of the likely suspects--my EB and GameStop stores, my Best Buy, my Circuit City, my Target, my Wal-Mart, everywhere--because they're all going to have it at some point in time. But when they're in, they're going to be gone immediately.

The other challenge, frankly, for consumers, is that unlike our competition, you're probably not going to see a lot of units on eBay. All of the stories that I've seen of people who have been waiting and getting their preorders in, a lot of these folks get asked, 'You gonna go put this on eBay?' And for PS3, people are saying, 'Yeah, I'm hoping to strike it rich on PS3.' For Wii, they're saying, 'No. I want to buy this and play it.'

GS: How are you handling additional accessories and their availability?

RF: Additional Nunchuks and remotes will be available at retail. Wii points cards will be available at retail. I think that's the vast majority of accessories that consumers will be looking for. Similar to the hardware, those will be in challenging supply. Again, it's not that you won't be able to get them, but you'll need to use the phone a little bit and also contact our consumer service to get some of the things you need.

GS: How robust will online be day one?

RF: Virtual Console will be ready day one. We'll also communicate our ongoing strategy for the rollout of Virtual Console titles. It is going to be ongoing. WiiConnect24 content will be coming. That is going to be something that is game specific quite frankly in terms of the ability to push out content.

GS: Which of the titles support it?

RF: You'll start seeing online-enabled packaged games in early 2007.

GS: If putting together a software library is a lot like making a meal, how would you say your table is shaping up for 2007?

RF: So part of what you have to think about when you're making a meal are the courses. So dessert, coffee, and the after-dinner drink. So dessert is going to be Metroid Prime 3. Coffee is going to be Mario Galaxy and the after-dinner drink is going to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. All of those are being sequenced and all of those are going to be part of the ongoing flow of product to make sure we maintain momentum. That's a critical thing that I would argue in the GameCube and N64 launches we really didn't pay as much attention to.

GS: Since you mention those titles as being part of your momentum, can we expect these in 2007?

RF: Based on what I know today, the answer is yes.

GS: Looking forward at how the Virtual Console is expected to roll content out next year--10 games a month has been the figure made public--do you think you'll be able to be consistent with that?

RF: As we sit here today, yeah we're confident. What we've learned with Virtual Console is that it's like debugging a brand new game, so there's a fair amount of work involved. Our commitment is to bring a regular flow to consumers in that Virtual Console content. Based on what we said in September, that goal is 10 a month.

GS: What is the future of Virtual Console? Where will it be a few years down the road? Will we see more than legacy titles? Would it be possible to see content similar to Xbox Live Marketplace or the PlayStation 3's online store?

RF: To be clear, when we use Virtual Console, we are talking about legacy content. When we talk about WiiConnect24, that's the larger opportunity, that's the larger space around which other content can live. Whether its brand-new developed content, whether it is sequentially released content, whether it's content pushed out that's specific to a packaged game bought previously, and we're looking at all of that. Our proposition to publishers, big, small, everybody between, is that we have the best platform to develop for, we will have the most massive and mainstream audience available, and we want all your best ideas as long as they make innovative use of the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk. That's the proposition, and I would love to see broad-based content--new, old, experimental--all available on WiiConnect24. And I think both Mr. Iwata and Mr. Miyamoto want to see that as well.

GS: Thanks for your time.

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Discussion

100 comments
rikhan_z
rikhan_z

Reggie needs to get a life, the way he walked out of VH1... it seemed he didn't care. I personally think he's going to destory Nintendo.

Picnic1
Picnic1

Wise words legs, masterash and grimbee. It's quite sad to me that so many people even in their thirties look upon videogames as a childish pursuit rather than a new artform akin to what cinema was in the 20s/30s. (and videogaming has produced far more true classics in a shorter space of time in my opinion). I'm not sure that very many older people will ever get how well thought out quite a few games are-several games really are the work of genius.

sraczk
sraczk

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

damariofan
damariofan

Lucky for them Wii shipments didn't get...uh...LOST...in Hong Kong. That would've messed them up really badly.

legs1986
legs1986

MasterAsh42: I can see where you're coming from, been thinking about this myself. Look at it this way though; you get their big guns out in the first year [Zelda, Metroid, Mario, Smash]. Install base is through the roof, this attracts many 3rd parties, getting several third party games added into the library, many being exclusive considering the Wii's controller. You get into 2008 when many of these new exclusive titles, which again the GC did not have a ton of 3rd party exclusives, then you also can start hitting with your other decently big first party titles. late 07/2008 prospects (1st and 3rd party [mostly] exclusive): Donkey Kong, Star Fox, Pikmin, Mario Party, Mario Strikers, Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, Mario Kart, FF Crystal, Fire Emblem, Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, Battalion Wars, possible KH3 from Square, Resident Evil. Nintendo has their work cutout for them; but getting their huge blockbusters out first gets them the install base in order to pickup the 3rd party support that the N64 and moreover the GC was lacking.

DEEGREATONE1
DEEGREATONE1

reggie is the funniest looking guy ever he kinda looks like that retard guy from the goonies HEY YOU GUYYYSSSSS

bminns
bminns

reggie is a cool guy

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

Nice to see that things are running more smoothly.

King_Dodongo
King_Dodongo

Reggie will offer a small, white pill and a huge, black pill to decide to enter the new world of Wiitrix, or stay in the actual world and get bored playing with a sixaxixaxixaxis

Kempatsu_basic
Kempatsu_basic

hbk3000 - i dont think you know what you are talking about.

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

cant't wait to see Snake kicking mario's S

MasterAsh42
MasterAsh42

Nice, standard words from Reggie, but I couldn't help but feel a little pang concerning the "maintaining of momentum." He says the company never really paid attention to this factor with previous consoles, but I argue they indeed did: they naively hoped one or titles would carry an entire year a salvo. I would've liked to see an addressing of the issue from that angle from Reggie as opposed to a simple "we didn't pay attention before." Also, though, this gets me worried about 2008 and beyond. Nintendo's previous logic would've had Prime, Galaxy, and Brawl highlighting individual years, or at closest span them across two years. Slamming all of Ninty's greatest properties into the console's first year is indeed the best, and most necessary, move, but after those big names, what other first-party works can we expect? Star Fox? Pikmin? Donkey Kong? Barring some exceptional design, even the Nintendo faithful consider any franchises remaining after this super '07 second-stringers at best.

norabbitnofun
norabbitnofun

Hey Reggie, what about people who love strategy? There just left out right now... (I can't wait for Fire Emblem!!!!!)

deathnote9
deathnote9

@orbitj Wow, and you still have a Xbox 260 avatar. lol YAY! GO Wii!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To bad I can't get one.............

GrimoireMyst
GrimoireMyst

Not to mention Benshki Skies of Arcadia(Only on dreamcast before), Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil 4, etc..

Benshki
Benshki

I don't see the N64as a failure as it had some of the best games to be graced in the known gaming world. Goldeneye 64 Perfect Dark Mario 64 Banjo - Kazooie ? These games where fantastic. Don't forget fun!

financeranger
financeranger

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Simsyas
Simsyas

At least he sort of admits that the N64 and GC were failures.

hbk3000
hbk3000

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

GrimBee
GrimBee

'Yeah, I'm hoping to strike it rich on PS3.' For Wii, they're saying, 'No. I want to buy this and play it.' And THAT is the fundemental difference, between the good and the bad sides, of the force :P lol I like Nintendo interviews, its quite upfront, quite honest... they look back at their mistakes and have a positive nature about moving forward. The thing with Sony is that (im still not sold on their PR) they constantly say the same old things, old sales figures.. etc.. and we will always have a fact or a question to sort of prove them wrong. I think the Wii will be a monumental success for both Nintendo AND the gaming industry. I can only hope that they achieve their goals, and most importantly get the games out that we want! I mean, I remember the days when I got a new console and just hoped for this type of game, or that type of game... and you would only get little bits of what you really wanted in each title. When gta3 came out, it blew the whole FREE WORLD out of the water, and it was awesome for me. Ive always wanted to explore things in my own leisure in a game (much like shenmue). But frankly after that its become quite limited. Promises sony made like "lifelike graphics, endless possibilities.." etc etc.. but I had none of that. The xbox was the only console (and the gamecube) which sort of raised the bar on those possibilities for me. Then Resident Evil 4 came out and it was ANOTHER leap forward on what games CAN be like. Also games like Ninja Gaiden on the xbox raised the bar on how awesome fighting games can be like, from being based on an old school gameplay mechanic. With the wii, the possibilities are endless, but if the userbase is small.. there will be a vastly large limit on what possibilities are...possible! But Nintendo's direction is to get millions of people playing. This can only mean more games, better games and just an awesome time. Especially with the wii remote, those games you never thought possible COULD be possible. Even though the wii is graphically inferior, it doesnt matter. Its still one powerful console able to give out some breaktaking visuals. I mean, if its anything that of 4 times that of resident evil 4... Wow.. its going to be powerful enough IMO. You see, realistically right now you cannot create a large game world which is detailed like gears of war. You will be seriously bogged down on load times, and just look what happened to shenmue! Shenmue was a LONG time in development. When it came out, i think it was too much too soon. The only kinds of large expansive worlds which would be ideal as a GAME already exist perfectly well in games like WoW and Half Life 2 (if you exclude load times). And those were LAST generation titles. If the wii can bump up that quality, then developers have a chance to perfect that. The wii will deliver awesome looking games, I just hope that developers can be extremely creative with the system... instead of just quickly churning out a "red steel". For the wii to exist in the kids market, it just needs to be able to have hit liscences like sponge bob... (etc etc etc) and the ability to perform actions JUST like the kids' favourite characters can. For the wii to exist in the 18-35 demographic, it needs to have consistently good sports games, innovative racing and in-depth strategy and mature titles which bend the bar and also have a CULT status. For example, Resident Evil is now a cult favourite, Silent Hill is especially an important cult favourite. If it cant bring those kinds of games, those kinds of cults, then its going to fail here... but if Nintendo sell extremely well, and users just flood the gates, then who knows what could be out! We could be seeing a wii silent hill title where you look around with the torch (like with the wii remote), or resident evil where you aim the gun with the wii remote (and pump action shotgun with the nunchaku!) For the wii to get the "oldies" on the wagon, it NEEDS to offer alot of games which are easy to pick up, have a mature system there for them to want to go there and learn something. Older people like to check up on teletext, watch the sport... etc. Alot of them arent used to playing games as a means to pass by the days. Old people like to sit and watch a drama... something like a Sherlock Holmes game would be ideal, something slow paced which really gets your brain going. But with a presentation that they are used to, not some sort of manga cartoon. But the game has to be simple enough, like having a simple save mechanic, and lack of GAMEOVER screens which can turn them away. Old people are like todlers in a way, they know what they like, they are stubborn if you can entice them in with something that they like, they will be there. But they can only do what they have learned so far. If you throw in things like "press A then 2 to bring up the options to configure the controls".. this can throw them off the path and back into what they are used to do. Alot of old people will NEVER buy a games console, ever. But having things like the weather, etc on the wii is a nice feature for it to be had in the LIVINGROOM. A son or daughter would probably buy the wii for their mother or father, so when the kids come round they have something to do, but the ideal factor is that the wii will have games that EVERYONE can play, including old people. because at the moment the gaming audience is quite limited. But I mostly hope that Nintendo can deliver equally on ALL generations, not just kids, or old people. But getting in those CULT games aswell as fresh new ideas. Its looking good so far anyways ;)

TryMe01
TryMe01

admir1983, nintendo has been in business for over 100 years now and re-established the game market 20 years ago to this day, they are maintaining their profits, bringing inovation and new ideas rather than copying or inplementing another's idea just because someone thought of it. Just look at the NES, SNES, N64, GCN and Wii. Don't forget the Game and watch, GB, GBP, GBC, GBA, GBA SP, GBM, NDS, and also the fast selling NDS Lite Also, i'm guessing that you own a x360 of a ps2/3 since you sure have "braines". :P and ithebigc, i'm with you on that, lol :D

ithebigc
ithebigc

Hey, admir1983, I don't know you, and I assume you're in some kind of business too......=O guess that makes you an "AHOLE"! =O

admir1983
admir1983

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SpearX
SpearX

I hate Reggie more than Moore and Hirai.

LordAndrew
LordAndrew

He's said it will be available in North America, Mindphaser. Check the news. :)

never-named
never-named

Nintendo has secured its place at the consumer market well enough with the DS. I wonder if the Wii will do anything to push their impact?

Lasafrog
Lasafrog

What the heck does "FTW" mean? It's like the new forum speak. ???

DS_fan_atic
DS_fan_atic

Wii tomorrow, can't wait, thanks to Reggie for being so.....awesome?

Mindphaser
Mindphaser

FOOLS! You didn't ask him why Wii Play is not available in the US! Useless article.

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

If Reggie does half as well at Nintendo as he did at VH1, he'll be making Mr. Iwata very, very rich[er]. I am STOKED about picking up my Wii tomorrow. Oh, and after dinner drinks FTW.

orbitj
orbitj

I know i wanted to get a next gen system but wasnt sold on any of them until this ; "The answer to that is Zelda, right? For the passionate fan who wants something a bit more challenging, a deep story, 70 hours of gameplay, it's Zelda... We're also going to do other things to bring that NES or SNES fan who now has three kids, a job, doesn't have time to play" Thats all i needed to hear is that someone really, actually, thought of people in my shoes

grey_98
grey_98

So far, I'm not overly impressed by the launch games. The only ones that some what interest me are Red Steel and Twilight.

xangel0884
xangel0884

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

SpareJesus
SpareJesus

Reggie is totally awesome, if not pretty cocky about this.. It makes me wonder how much of what he said is pure Sony-Style bollocks.

bishop_909
bishop_909

Funny... "The answer to that is Zelda, right? For the passionate fan who wants something a bit more challenging, a deep story, 70 hours of gameplay, it's Zelda... We're also going to do other things to bring that NES or SNES fan who now has three kids, a job, doesn't have time to play" ..he had me at 'Zelda'

Amixtureofeco
Amixtureofeco

ugh i hope to god i get a wii... otherwise i shall stop being a boy and become a man... or become a pissed off boy.

NFunspoiler
NFunspoiler

A little cocky, but it's good to be cocky. As long as you dont say stupid things like "We're going to sell 10mil consols before our rivals are out" or stuff like that.

ardandil
ardandil

"Chill out, dickwad. No problemo." The Regginator

strategyking92
strategyking92

lol only a line of about 40 people at my wal-mart..... and 20 wiis! most are familys though, i hope i get one

tykettovz
tykettovz

The question about people who played NES being turned off by the simplicity of Wii is off base. A lot of us who used to play video games were turned off by the complexity of these newer games. Wii returns to the basics: having a good time! The Wii brings us back into the fold.

Guiltfeeder566
Guiltfeeder566

The old military saying goes "The one who can get most the fastest to the battlefield wins." I think i can saftely say Nintendo qualifys for this.