Nintendo Reflects on History for Dolphin

Howard Lincoln comments on how the upcoming Dolphin won't the same mistakes made with the N64.

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Nintendo has made no secret that its current console, the Nintendo 64, has had its fair share of hitches in both the US and Japan. Problems such as hardware-launch delays and developers favoring CD-ROM formats over the N64's cartridge format have recently plagued Nintendo. However, the company maintains that it has learned from these mistakes, and while the Nintendo 64 is not currently the dominating platform, it is still a success in its own right.

Recently, GameSpot News sat down with Nintendo of America's (and now the Seattle Mariners') chairman Howard Lincoln to discuss how learning from its past mistakes has prepared the company for tackling its upcoming Dolphin platform, set to launch during the holiday season of 2000. Here are a few excerpts from our conversation.

GameSpot News: Given that Sony's PlayStation2 will likely launch before Nintendo's Dolphin system, how are you going to compensate for Sony's lead time? Surely that's a factor you're thinking about because Nintendo will once again be the last to launch (the Nintendo 64 system originally launched after the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation consoles). And while that didn't necessarily harm you in America, this time around, there will be a lot of people who only have so much money to spend - parents are going to let their kids have only one system.

Howard Lincoln: Well, I think we have to focus on stuff like that. However, I think the key in this is that if you look at the N64 experience, I don't think we were hurt at all by being late or after Sony. Very likely we were hurt by the number of games - but the number of games had more to do with problems with development tools, and we won't make the same mistake again on the Dolphin. I think if you look at the Nintendo 64 in the United States, you'll find that we were actually enjoying a 60 - 65 percent market share over the PlayStation. Keep in mind we released a year after Sony. And that continued through the point in time when we failed to get Banjo Kazooie out, and the pricing wars started with Sony. A lot of it had to do with the economic model too. Sony had the main concentration from a lot of third parties - not because they didn't like Nintendo or anything like that - but the PlayStation was a more viable economic model. We're not so concerned about being late, as much as we're concerned about focusing on taking care of any disadvantages we may have had. Or in other words, maximizing our competitive advantages - franchises, characters, and things of that sort. In terms of technology, I'm absolutely convinced the Dolphin will be as good as the PlayStation2. I'm sure they're both going to look just super.

GameSpot News: How would you describe the approach to the programming environment for the Dolphin, because reportedly the Nintendo 64 is not the easiest system to program for?

Lincoln: I would say that we are deliberately making the Dolphin easy to program for - very strong development tools - because we learned our lesson with the Nintendo 64.

GameSpot News: One glaring flaw in both the US and Japanese Nintendo 64 library is the lack of RPGs and good fighting games. We always get questions from readers asking when a Capcom fighting game is going to come out on a Nintendo system. Those are two very recognized genres - especially RPGs, in Japan. What comments do you have about that?

Lincoln: We agree. We absolutely agree. So I think you can assume that just like we didn't think our development tools weren't up to snuff (we've made the Dolphin easy to program for) those areas have been taken care of. We have addressed all of the weaknesses. When the Dolphin launches, I think you'll see what I mean.

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