Video Q&A: Perrin Kaplan's exit interview

As she heads for the exit, Nintendo's longtime VP of marketing reminisces about her 15-year shift at the Mario Factory--and talks about its future.

So far, 2007 has been a bit of a paradox for Nintendo of America. On one hand, the US arm of the Kyoto, Japan-based game giant has had a banner year. Its Wii console has become a phenomenon, selling over 4.5 million units in the US as of the end of September, according to the NPD group--500,000 last month alone. The DS wasn't far behind with 496,000 units sold during the month.

On the other hand, 2007 has seen unprecedented turnover at NOA. While former VP of marketing Reggie Fils-Aime has been repeatedly honored for helping guide the company out of the GameCube doldrums, his colleagues weren't so lucky. Early in the summer, Nintendo Co.'s president Satoru Iwata quietly decided to split up his company's US division. While NOA's headquarters remains Microsoft's neighbor in Redmond, Washington, its marketing department was relocated to New York and its PR arm put down stakes in Redwood City, California--home of Electronic Arts.

As a result of the trifurcation of NOA's operations, many members of its internal PR and marketing teams were given a choice: Relocate or quit. Two of the company's most public faces--director of public relations Beth Llewellyn and senior vice president of marketing George Harrison chose the latter option. So did vice president of marketing & corporate affairs Perrin Kaplan, who announced this month she will be leaving NOA at the end of the year.

Kaplan's departure came after months of rumors that she was on her way out. It also ends a 15-year shift at the Mario Factory that extends all the way back to the tail end of the Super NES era. Recently in San Francisco, Kaplan spoke to GameSpot about the lessons she's learned over her long career--and her predictions for Nintendo's future.

GameSpot: So, your departure from Nintendo of America is now finally official.

PK: I love my job! But...yes.

GS: When did you come to this decision, and why wait so long/little to announce it?

PK: I wanted to think about it for a while because it's a really big decision for me and for my family, to really walk away from something that you still really love doing. And I don't think I felt any rush to be telling everybody because I will be here until the end of the year, anyway. And I wanted to pick the right time to do that, and do that on a schedule that worked for me.

GS: It's obviously a bittersweet decision. Was the relocation a primary factor?

PK: Well, the relocation made me stop in my tracks and assess, had I really accomplished everything I needed to do at Nintendo, what did I build, how did I feel about that work, what kind of foundation have I laid down for the two systems that are out there. And I could continue to relish my work and move forward and stay at Nintendo, but I think I've completed what I came to Nintendo to do.

GS: Now, many people find it extremely odd that after so many years working dutifully as the GameCube languished in third place, you and the other NOA execs are leaving now that the Wii is such a massive hit. What is your response to this inherent contradiction?

PK: I don't think it's a contradiction, I think it's a compliment to the absolute massive effort that the team put in. I really feel that some of the innovative and different programs we built this year, things we've never done before, have really helped set those products off on long sales. The products are very healthy and I think we're really proud of our work. So, I don't think it's a contradiction, I think it's a fabulous product and behind it has been fabulous marketing.

GS: I know you've had to sound the upbeat corporate PR drum for years, but now given your imminent departure, might you be able to answer this honestly? Were you surprised by the Wii's success?

PK: No, I really wasn't actually. I remember the very first time I played it with Mr. Iwata when I was in Japan, and I wanted to not be sure about it. And I played it, and I'm not as much of a gamer as all of your readers, and he came back and said, "It's time to start our meeting." And I really didn't want to stop. And I just knew, sort of in my heart, that I--it had instilled some joyful emotion in me. And I thought, "You know what? This is going to be a hit."

GS: What prompted the relocation?

PK: Well, it is just the sales and marketing division. I want people to really understand, the whole company is not moving and our headquarters will remain in Redmond. But it's going to be really part of the entertainment core in New York, so the team has settled there and [is] doing very well. Here we'll be part of the whole Silicon Valley belt of high technology, creative thinking, and really be part of the heartbeat of that.

GS: Now, when will the Wii shortages end?

PK: It will end when the demand ends. I mean, it's really less a shortage issue and more of a demand issue. The system, this holiday season, and right now, it's still being introduced to people who have not played in many, many years, who've never played video games before, and to those people who are hardcore gamers that have been waiting in line to get it. And I don't think we see any sign of it slowing down. It's a fabulous product, it's bringing people immense joy, and we've got all these additional software items that are coming to it that are brand new and wonderful. I mean, Wii Fit is going to be a unique and different product like Wii Sports.

GS: What do you think was the key of the marketing success of the Wii?

PK: I think, really, at the end of the day, getting it in people's hands, whether they're experienced gamers or people who've never played a game.

GS: Now, at what point do you think the blue ocean of nongamers will reach Wii market saturation?

PK: I think what we've done by being innovative and taking the industry [in] a whole new direction, I think we're seeing the very beginning of it. I think it's going to continue to grow with the DS and the Wii, but I think it is going to permanently change our industry forever. So, I don't necessarily see an end to it, I see this all as a beginning.

GS: Now, after languishing in third place during the GameCube era, you guys are in the lead again. Do you think Nintendo is ready to be the leader again, given its straightlaced, by-the-book corporate culture?

PK: I don't think Nintendo is by the book. I think Nintendo has taken pride in writing several books. And when you ask whether we're prepared to lead the industry, I actually think we already are doing that. We've been doing it for some time, and tried a few things that really didn't work. We have tried things that really are working and leading a lot of companies in a completely new direction. So, I think we're already doing that.

GS: Nintendo just announced some major delays. Are you worried about alienating your fan base?

PK: No, because you're still sitting here. You could be ready to play Smash Bros. next year, and you're going to love it. We are perfecting it, tinkering a little bit more, and you're really going to enjoy the end product.

GS: So, non-Nintendo games for the Wii continue to sell poorly and be far more poorly reviewed than first-party games. Are you guys taking any kind of active hand in helping bring non-Nintendo products up to your standards?

PK: I think that there are some publishers and developers, third parties, who've done amazing work. You know, EA, Ubisoft, there's a whole host of products that are phenomenal, both on the DS and the Wii. So, I really think that it depends on the effort that they put in and then the effort they put behind marketing it. And all of those companies are very important partners for us, and I do think that we continue to try to find ways to support their products, whether it's publicly or in our marketing materials, or otherwise. There are some great games out there.

GS: So, what's the status on WiiWare?

PK: The WiiWare program has had a dedicated team in Japan and the US since the inception of the product. There's a plethora of amazing, incredibly unique ideas that they have been looking at. The program is very robust, and I'm just amazed at some of the creativity, some of the ideas I've seen are things that I never would have thought of. It's exciting to see people just be kind of unleashed to do something.

When you can create a program that's for people to dabble in, and it's not something you're going to put on a disc, I think people are really willing to be more creative.

GS: So what about Internet support? More integrated Internet support in Nintendo games? Obviously, Smash Bros. is the first big stake in the ground. We've seen little bits and whatnot. How much more into the Internet do you think Nintendo's going to be, post-Smash?

PK: Well, there are two aspects to it. One is the Wi-Fi program, which is going to be a big part of our system. The other is the use of the channels and how that reaches the Internet and the different things that we're doing with the channels, and there's more to come on that as well.

GS: Speaking of channels, what's happening with MyWiiStories?

PK: We're getting amazing stories from people! You're going to start hearing more and more. Have you been on to check it out? And? What do you think?

GS: It's interesting. It's like a DIY Nintendo commercial channel.

PK: It is. People just have this great passion for the products, and for the sort of, joy it brings and the different experiences they have. So, we thought that was a really good venue, a way for people to talk about their experiences. And we're going to keep doing it for a while.

GS: Do you see the Wii as something that can evolve? Its form factor seems kind of set in stone.

PK: Yeah, when you say set in stone, that's interesting that you describe it that way, because it is built with the channels program for it to be completely flexible. I mean, at any given time those channels can be swapped out and we can continue to do different things with them. That's something that we technically could not have done with our past systems, the hardware was the hardware, and was solely on really, the disc of the software. So I think that this is the most flexible system we've ever had.

GS: Well, I think the issue is memory, because I know a lot of people are already running out of room...

PK: That's what everybody says.

GS: Because all the Virtual Console titles...

PK: Yeah, because you have great passion for those. But you own every one of those you buy. You can always go get it again if you want to play it.

GS: Yeah, but its kind of a pain to have to keep redownloading games if your 512MB of built-in Wii memory is full. Is that--do you foresee a time that there would be like, I mean, there's been a [rearward] hard drive. Do you foresee a time to give people sort of, alternate storage methods?

PK: There's nothing planned right at the minute. I know some people who really like to collect a lot are running into the storage issue. You pack rat, you! So, it's something that I think we're paying attention to, but it does force you to keep things cleaned up.

GS: So where, because again, you're talking about leading the industry and you guys definitely have innovation in gameplay and game design and the stuff that appeals to the core gamer, but you're also, again, kind of over here left of center, you've got stuff like Wii Fit. How many more types of applications like that do you guys envision?

PK: Many. I envision the continuation of amazing games like showing the Wii Zapper with Zelda, today. What a great product. Smash. Mario Galaxy. All the kind of games, [like] Metroid, that a core gamer loves. And new gamers really like that kind of product as well, and then things like Wii Fit that a core gamer may like but is really built for that expanded audience. So I think, I see us at a parallel and both those arenas continuing forward quite heavily.

GS: What do you think the life span of the Wii will be? Typically a console life is about four years...

PK: It used to be six! You know, it's really hard to say. I mean, again, the Wii system is built to be flexible so how long the life of it is, is going to be anyone's guess at this point. I think that we will continue to have a lot of robust things as part of that system, whether it's channel additions, channel content, the software. It's got a long life ahead of it. How many years? I guess I wouldn't want to speculate at this juncture.

GS: Though the Wii is different, it seems you have the same dearth of mature content. I mean, you've got Manhunt back now, but...

PK: When you say we have gaps in mature content, I'm not sure what that means. We do have a certain percentage of our games that are M rated. But to have a game that someone of a mature age wants to play does not mean it has to be M rated, either. So, for example, someone's going to play Smash who's 35 years old. He or she does not necessarily require an M rated game.

GS: OK, one thing that Nintendo has usually been really famous for is new colors. We're a year in with the Wii now and we're still at white. Do you foresee a time when there will be different colors?.

PK: The white has worked very, very well. We do spend time on colors and there's nothing immediately planned, but stay tuned.

GS: And as far as the DS goes, where to go with that? You know, we've seen some new colors launched in Japan, we've seen a few different features there like a TV tuner, that little camera. In a sense, it just seems like a lot of Nintendo's attention has been focused on the Wii and the DS has been allowed to stay the course.

PK: The DS has a really long life ahead of it. It is still a very youthful product. It's--the DS Lite is a new design. The colors are selling really well. There is a lot of manipulability of what's going to come with that system, ways that it can interact and interface. There's a lot of legs still left in it. So, people should just pay attention. But the glory of that system is the current experience people have, whether it's Brain Age, or Zelda DS. Very in depth games, and a huge, huge, huge library.

GS: Last two questions. First one is, what have you learned in your time at Nintendo?

PK: I'm still reflecting upon my great time at Nintendo. The people have been amazing. Lifelong friends, business compatriots who I've learned so much from. I've learned to love technology in entertainment in a way that wasn't part of really who I was when I came there. Patience. Laughter. Perseverance. Staying very focused and always having great passion for your work.

GS: And the last question is, what's next for you?

PK: I haven't yet announced what is next for me, and I'm exploring those options right now and until the end of the year, I'm very committed to continue to throw as much passion into my work as I always have.

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103 comments
hooperfax006
hooperfax006

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hooperfax006
hooperfax006

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hooperfax006

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hooperfax006

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hooperfax006

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hooperfax006
hooperfax006

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Zman00
Zman00

I am glad she is gone. All of her answers sound scripted and like she is a college student taking and exam. (we) Nintendo needs a real gamer in that position. Obviously, with the 'Cube being 3rd she was not doing her job very well. Then do I have to mention how she plugs game titles??? only Nintendo "made" games... Please, I would like to hear what she thinks (really)... Not a script, and forget about plugging games that are going to sell well anyway. I have so much more... but, like she bored me... I am bored :( btw, I am one of those 35yr old gamers... I am the Core Gamer!!! most anyone else don't know squat about games... I played pong when it first came out!!! So, any of these teeny pukes playing whatever game system thinking you know games... ROTFLMAO grow up!!! btw, I am bias, Nintendo only... Yes it is a choice... Deal with it... and agian, btw, Your (whoever you are) opinion is just that and does not mean squat... get an education first then we will disscuss things evenly :p Yup, I'm ranting. Deal with it!!! Nintendo is the Band-aid, Kleenex of Games!!!

capitalthoughts
capitalthoughts

Nintendo is doing well not only because the Wii introduced great play mechanics, but also because Sony dropped the ball big time. This, friends, is what we call a market shift. They happen when one company thinks they own their consumers and another company capitalizes off of it's arrogance. I was a gcube owner and a PROUD playstation 2 owner. Fully waiting for the PS3 to come down the shoot. At 600 dollars though, who do they think they are? Now all I can do is think about the people who purchased their 60 gig models on Ebay for 1,500 dollars during the first two months of sale and then watching as Sony unveils the price cut and the 500 dollar 80 gig model this year. And you can find them anywhere. Hmm, 1,500 dollars for a 60 gig model, or 500 dollars for an 80 gig model? Like a goomba, they fell under the fat plumbers big old shoe. Now, what will mario do with his mega mushroom now? Run to the flag pole this generation or fall down a pit. The future is unpredictable.

retrofraction12
retrofraction12

right now i have to say nintendo has taken a big risk and won,but third party still doesn't follw them wich will lead to the over all decline of video game, but it does lead to new third partys that will take the risk and win. ubisoft got burned by red steel but you know if the game comes out before the system there is bound to be gliches

SmashMaster715
SmashMaster715

GS: Now, after languishing in third place during the GameCube era, you guys are in the lead again. Do you think Nintendo is ready to be the leader again, given its straightlaced, by-the-book corporate culture? Wow that is freaking hilarious. These guys who did this interview are actually play video games, right? Sony and Microsoft are still getting ideas from Nintendo after all of these years (rumble controllers, analog sticks, 4 controller ports, wireless controllers, etc.). Nintendo is always taking risks and coming out with DIFFERENT ideas and products. They do what they want to do despite what the competition does. I would say they are the complete opposite of by-the-book and straight-laced. Stupid question Gamespot.

miltown
miltown

That'd be some messed up stuff is she heads over to Microsoft or Sony and gets a job there...I love video game soap operas! *daydreams*

akafiddy
akafiddy

"GS: So, non-Nintendo games for the Wii continue to sell poorly and be far more poorly reviewed than first-party games. Are you guys taking any kind of active hand in helping bring non-Nintendo products up to your standards?" Gamespot has balls for asking those kinds of questions... She should have said, "ya because your rating them bad you a**hole." She pretty much said that, but in a different way by saying that hes wrong, and there are good games out there. Way to go girl!

Tjeremiah1988
Tjeremiah1988

shes the coolest one there. I know "Matty" will mis her.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

Why is it when people ask Nintendo about 'mature' gamers they ask it completely wrong? Nintendo has 'M' titles, it makes in depth games. Why doesn't anyone ask what people really want to ask: "Why does nintendo avoid FPS, Realistic Looking RPGs, and voice chat Online?"

funky_muzic
funky_muzic

I'm excited to see what Nintendo will do in the future. Even though they're back to the top (at least for now) this generation for the first time since the SNES/NES days, they still had some good innovations with the N64 and the Gamecube. The N64 was the first console with the analog stick (standard) and 4 controller ports. It was the N64, with games like Goldeneye and Quake 64, that paved the way for the huge online multi-player FPS-market that there is today. Gamecube was a small, inexpensive, gaming-only system that had some great Nintendo titles on it. Does this sound like the Wii to anyone? Nintendo had really started their "gaming-first" philosophy with the Gamecube. While some of the other console makers were adding DVD-play back and other non-gaming features, the GC focused purely on gaming. They stuck with that philosophy, and now they're seeing the benefits.

vacancy009
vacancy009

This console came out as the only truly gaming console and it is upholding that image very well I still don't own one but i give Nintendo props for what they have done.

DonutTrooper
DonutTrooper

In a way I sort of like how the Wii is less powerful than the other consoles. By having an older GPU, it promotes more styalized graphics rather than raw power, and therefore games are more creative. Even better, the developers who succeded on the Wii will be there when the next cosole comes out and we'll have amazingy creative games.

KingKoop
KingKoop

Nice interview, shame to see her go but onwards and upwards I'm sure. Good to hear that Nintendo are tinkering SSBB to give a better end product! Way to go Nintendo!

Ansem_Rev
Ansem_Rev

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

Devvy01
Devvy01

this is not a case of rats leaving a sinking ship, rather a ship that's just heading into unknown territory... splits, people leaving, a big campaign to make things mobile... where will it end..

urine72
urine72

tekmojo : anyone 35 that plays Smash lol!!! --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- why is that funny? I know a lot of people in there mid 30's that still play alot of video games. including smash bros.

tekmojo
tekmojo

anyone 35 that plays Smash lol!!!

ImperialPanda
ImperialPanda

The answer to the Mature content question is just pure denial. From the looks of it Nintendo still doesn't plan on getting proactive about creating Mature content on their consoles. But hey, atm Wii is selling great and it doesn't look like they'll need those M games anytime soon. IMO it isn't the best time to quit, I hope she still has a bunch of stock options with her. It'll be unfortunate if she doesn't get all she deserves for her work at NOA. Maybe one or two more years, then you'll want to start selling shares.

jazilla
jazilla

YAY! One more time for GameSpot to call Nintendo, "Mario-Factory." Like I have said before a thousand times, staff writers for GS should give themselves a badge every time they refer to Nintendo as Mario Factory. They overuse the term so much, it's like they are forum trolls trying to get the pushover badge for giving crappy games 10.0's.

Soupflakez
Soupflakez

Personally I don't really see any bias towards the Xbox 360 on gamespot. They report well, and being a long time member of gamespot, their just doesn't seem to be any particular bias. @ zenszulu, I really don't understand what you're getting at. In the report it states that the Wii has sold 4.5 million in the U.S., and sold 500,000 as of September 2007. Do you consider that to be putting Nintendo down? Gamespot could have left that information out entirely. Now the reporter in this particular interview does seem to be attempting to draw some sort of negative from the VP of marketing. This report actually seems pretty bogus and the questions asked were sorta stupid, but overall I don't really believe gamespot has any particular bias.

ewmgreendawg
ewmgreendawg

wow he was interrogating her on stuff that has almost nothing to do with her retiring.

OldWiseBob
OldWiseBob

Lol she was probably ready to knock him out after some incredibly asinine questions. But hey, who writes down what they're going to ask before an interview? We'll miss you PK. Thanks for all your help at Nintendo.

MatthewNintendo
MatthewNintendo

Good luck to her. And well done for overcoming such a negativly aimed interview.

mashom
mashom

She Sound like She is fedup from nintendo thingy.

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

This is the biggest softball interview ever.

BigDaddy973
BigDaddy973

Lets see I am a marketing guy, and there is this large position open at Nintendo... I think Nintendo needs to talk to me!!!!!!!!! I really want this position... And by the way good interview! She sounds alright, but it is time for a person with a strong hardcore passion for games to step in!!!! Hire me!

xADx
xADx

This interview was more like she was promoting Nintendo, when she doesn't even work there anymore. example.. "PK: No, because you're still sitting here. You could be ready to play Smash Bros. next year, and you're going to love it. We are perfecting it,"

NintendoWarrior
NintendoWarrior

wow.... most negative questions ever.. meh, what else would you expect from gamespot

zenszulu
zenszulu

To me personally it seem Gamespot keep trying to put Nintendo down for what they are doing with the Wii and keep trying to pick faults in it, clearly not as many people care about the fact that the Wii doesn't have a great deal of storage space, although for all the people who have filled up the memory with games saves and VC games I can't imagine they play all them, but they could always buy a 2GB SD card or delete the VC games for a while but some people just like to have the things on there even if they don't play them. Loved the Mature games answer though. Funny though they are asking some one from marketing these questions since they only really know what they are told, they don't always know what's planned and whats coming out, I think who ever asked the questions made a fool of themselves. I'm sure if this was Microsoft doing this well they would be praising them and telling them they are doing everything right.

redfox66
redfox66

That picture of her on front page in the red jacket doesn't do her any favors..*waves finger* UH HUH HONEY!

SingularityCore
SingularityCore

@Grynch just play corruption dude, that game's awesome. SMG's comin out soon too, I'm really considering buying a wii just for those two. And of course, next year, smash is comin out, and that's the reason why I absolutely REQUIRE a wii :D

Millahtime
Millahtime

DrCLos, thumbs up just for that Id/Fei avatar!!!!

MangoLlamas
MangoLlamas

to rock solid: would you rather have sonic? :?

xeyz81
xeyz81

guys, where is perrin kaplan headed for, what video game company ? i bet she is going to microsoft, that is the only company that would pay her a lot more than nintendo did.

DrCLos
DrCLos

I like how she pointed out that mature gamers (older gamers) do not necessarily need M rated games to enjoy the Wii. Smash Bros. is a game anybody can enjoy. Not a "kiddie game" which would be one of those Hannah Montana atrocities or Nick programming based games. "When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." - C.S. Lewis

WorldMusc_basic
WorldMusc_basic

What a joke, he asks about future titles and she can only come up with the flagships everyone already knows about. Smash bros, Wii"fake workout" Fit, and Zelda. I mean WTF, I guess nintendo can't figure out how to develop games for that motion sensor controller so they continually talk about games we already know about.

Darth_Tyrranus
Darth_Tyrranus

KingChainz31684 Your post was kind of a pain to read through, but I did enjoy this sentence: "i mena some rehashed crap does well which was proved last month."

Conanfan1
Conanfan1

I don't really like Marketing Execs. They all just always seem so phony.

rock_solid
rock_solid

i'm sick of mario. he's just stupid and annoying now. they should retire him.

rock_solid
rock_solid

"it's really less a shortage issue and more of a demand issue" ehhh no it's a shortage issue.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

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

boobush
boobush

They should make a section for interviews.