Nintendo believes Wii U messaging issues corrected

Director of product marketing Bill Trinen admits mistakes were made highlighting Wii U as a brand new console, believes GamePad experiences may lure Xbox 360, PS3 gamers to new platform.

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Nintendo made mistakes conveying the fact that the Wii U is a brand new console, director of product marketing Bill Trinen told GameSpot in an interview this week during the company's New York City media event. The executive explained that upon displaying the console from the first time last year, the company was inundated with questions of, "Is this an accessory for the Wii, or a new system?"

The problem didn’t get better quickly for Nintendo. CNN's (since-corrected) preview of the device at E3 2012 mistook the system for a simple Wii peripheral. And just a week prior, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to hype the technology, but the unquestioned gamer Fallon was obviously confused.

Bill Trinen.
Bill Trinen.

Fast forward three months to today, and Trinen now believes these marketing flubs are all but a memory. He said new marketing material for the Wii U will prominently feature the system and the GamePad, helping eradicate whatever issues consumers may have understanding what makes up the new system.

Elsewhere in the interview, Trinen confirmed there will be no multi-GamePad supported titles until 2013, explained why he believes the Wii U launch lineup will be the best Nintendo has ever had, and defended the Wii U’s generous four-month "launch window" period.

When I played Wii Sports in 2006, I immediately "got it." What game or application are you looking to with the Wii U to replicate this experience?

I think, particularly when you talk about Wii, what was beautiful about Wii Sports was anybody could look at it and say 'Oh, tennis' or golf or boxing and understand that. And you have that kind of instant 'Wow, this is different.' The thing that we're finding with Wii U that is similar but unique is that people are picking up the GamePad and people are having similar kinds of moments, where it’s like 'Wow. This is different, I didn't think I could do this with a game.' What's different from Wii Sports is that we're finding different people are finding that moment in different games. Obviosuly, in terms of showing off some of the breadth and possibilities with the Wii U GamePad, NintendoLand is really geared to do that. To show different ways you can use the GamePad.

"The thing that we're finding with Wii U…is that people are picking up the GamePad and having moments, where it’s like 'Wow. This is different, I didn't think I could do this with a game.'"

[Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime] said this morning that the launch lineup for the Wii U is going to be the best that Nintendo has ever had. Why do you think that this is?

Pretty simply, it's that 50 games in that launch window. What really strikes me, and what I’m excited about is the fact that we’re launching with a Mario game for the first time since the Nintendo 64. So that is big. And we've got NintendoLand, which really shows the diversity of gameplay with the GamePad. But at the same time, in that launch lineup, we’re seeing the content that from a gamers’ perspective, maybe you hadn’t seen on a Nintendo console in the past. We're seeing Call of Duty with online play right there in the launch window. ZombiU, and everything that it’s doing with the GamePad also is certainly more core content. You’ve got support from EA with the sports games; you've got the Bond game from Activision, so I think a lot of our third-party partners are really coming to the table with strong content right in that window. And on top of that, we've got exclusives as well, with one of my favorite games from one of my favorite developers, which is The Wonderful 101 from Platinum Games.

New Super Mario Bros. U is a Wii U launch title.
New Super Mario Bros. U is a Wii U launch title.

Launch window was a term we heard a lot today. It seems a little bit misleading because it's a four-month period [November 18, 2012 through March 2013].

I think that what's important is certainly with some past consoles, I would say GameCube might have been an example, you had launch day, and then you might not have had a whole lot in the way of additional content after launch day. And for us that’s why we talk about that launch window being so important. It's not just what’s there day one. It’s what’s there day one and then you’ve got this steady stream of content coming for months afterwards. And what that says is that if you’re going to go out and buy a Wii U, not only are you getting a great value for the system…but you're getting content coming at a continual pace. And the breadth of that content is so big that regardless of what your taste is you’re going to find something in those first few months that's going to keep you playing even after whatever games you bought in November.

What I was really going for there was that I think some may feel a little deceived because when you say "launch" you think close, but that's four months, or a third of the year.

Well, I guess one other clarification I would make on that is what we said today so far is that on day one, NintendoLand is going to be bundled in with the Deluxe set and New Super Mario Bros. U will be there day one as well.

THQ also confirmed today that Darksiders II would be a launch title.

Oh, and that's great. That’s the thing; today what we confirmed is two of our own titles. That’s not all that's going to be there on day one. If THQ has announced that, that’s exactly what we were hoping. Once we announce our games, the third-parties are going to start announcing their games in terms of what's day one and what’s coming after. I think that nobody wants to see a system launch with a few games on day one and then nothing for a few months. And that to us is why launch window becomes such an important piece.

Is there a target number you're shooting for with regards to first-party launch titles?

There is. But we'll update you.

Interoperability of devices seems to be growing in the household today. What is the role of the 3DS in the Wii U's future?

Nintendo has plans for Wii U / 3DS interoperability…but they aren't saying much just yet.
Nintendo has plans for Wii U / 3DS interoperability…but they aren't saying much just yet.

You got a little hint of that today when we confirmed Monster Hunter 3 for Wii U as well as for 3DS. And so that's going to be a good example of the interoperability between 3DS and Wii U. Also, we confirmed publicly already at E3 in 2011 that Smash Bros. is also going to do that. We know it's coming and that different developers are going to have different ideas about how to use that. And certainly our internal teams are thinking of that as well. Primarily, on launch day and during that launch window, what we’re really going to be focusing on is what are the unique experiences we can create with the GamePad.

Can you talk about how we’re going to be able to transfer our Wii Virtual Console data to the Wii U? That's kind of been a sticky point.

Oh, it's not a sticky point at all. You can transfer it.

Can you explain how that will work?

It's not sticky! (laughs) It transfers. With Wii U, obviously it has backward compatibility. The way that that transfer works is it's going to be similar to how you would transfer something from the 3DS to the 3DS XL. You'll basically by having the two systems connected, transfer the data over, and then what you can do is access that content by the Wii U GamePad main menu when you turn the system on, there's Wii mode, and that's where you go to play Wii games. And in there you can also find your virtual console or digital content there.

We were just a little confused about how that was all going to work.

It's going to work great (laughs).

Is Nintendo deliberately refraining from making many multi-GamePad-supported games, presumably due to the high cost of the controller? Because we haven't seen a lot of that.

No, actually, the initial launch window games, none of those are going to feature multiple GamePad support. For that reason specifically, the GamePad won't be sold as a standalone accessory on launch date. Once the content comes, and the teams are working on content that supports two GamePads…

At Nintendo?

Yeah, our teams are thinking about it. I'm sure to a certain degree the third-parties are also looking at that. But our anticipation is we'll start to see that sometime next year.

Do you think Nintendo has done a good enough job convincing current Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners to pick up the Wii U version of a third-party game?

"The question is do you want to just play those games the way that you’ve done in the past, on [Xbox 360 or PS3], or do you really want to see how can the GamePad create new experiences in the games that I like to play?"

I think what we're really looking at is, number one, what are the unique experiences that we can provide. And we're obviously doing that with our own games. And then from a third-party perspective, the thing is that we've got an exclusive in ZombiU that's really unique, with great use of the GamePad. We've got third-party games like Call of Duty. They've done a really good job of integrating the GamePad, particularly having that two player experience on two different screens. You're no longer playing split-screen; you can play together full-screen. And to me that in and of itself is a reason to go out and say I'm gonna get Call of Duty on Wii U because that's the way I want to play. Every single one of the launch window games is going to take advantage of the GamePad in some way that's unique, and so to me the question is do you want to just play those games the way that you’ve done in the past, on those consoles, or do you really want to see how can the GamePad create new experiences in the games that I like to play.

Lego City Undercover surprised a lot of people at E3. How early on did Nintendo know it wanted to have a partnership with Lego for a game of this caliber?

We've been working with [Lego] for quite a while. We knew that we wanted to have a Lego game for the Wii U launch. Legos themselves, whether it's bricks or games, I personally love them. For us, Lego City Undercover seemed like a natural fit, and the game is going to be a lot of fun.

The Wii U has often been mistaken as a simple Wii peripheral. CNN ran a story about it being a peripheral; it was mistaken on Jimmy Fallon, and a Wall Street story from today even had it wrong. Is this a problem? How are you going about addressing that messaging issue?

Nintendo made sure to highlight the Wii U GamePad and console on packaging material to avoid confusion.
Nintendo made sure to highlight the Wii U GamePad and console on packaging material to avoid confusion.

I think early on maybe we didn't do a good enough job explaining it. Certainly at E3 2011, probably one of the big learnings was, from the images we put out of the system, they all focused on the GamePad itself and some of them didn't even have the console in there, and that's probably where the original confusion stemmed from. And so ever since then you’ll notice, particularly when you look at the package front that we showed at the presentation today, you see the GamePad prominently, and you see the console prominently. Those two are intricately tied together and that's why we’ve been talking so much today about that seamlessly connected screen, because that’s really what it is. It is a brand new console and the console itself is doing a lot in terms of what’s inside that box. I think the other thing that’s really going to be key for people, particularly when we show things like Nintendo TVii… is that it's connecting through the Wii U console. And so we're still working on that. Clearly we're paying close attention to that and I don't think it's going to be an issue going forward.

So there was a definite shift, when Nintendo admitted that it was not doing this correctly. You knew that the messaging was off?

I think we saw that there was confusion.

Can you give a timeline?

Probably the first or second day of E3 last year. We saw right away that people are asking 'Is this an accessory for Wii, or is it a new system?' And if you go back and look at our social media channels, that was one of the first things we clarified. This is a new system, with a new controller, and the two are seamlessly connected together. We always want to make sure that A) what we're saying is accurate and clear, and B) that people are understanding what we're saying.

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