March 9, 2005 - Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales and marketing Reggie Fils-Aime was on-hand at this week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and IGNcube had the chance to ask him some questions about Revolution, and the future of the company. Following, our interview with a man who is known throughout the industry for taking names and kicking ass.
IGNcube: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Reggie. Our first question is actually one that quite a few readers want to know, which is, what do you like more: kicking ass or taking names?
Reggie Fils-Aime: I definitely enjoy kicking ass more than taking names. I think the team at Nintendo would agree. I've done a lot of kicking ass. Both internally and externally. If you look at externally, we're going to sell about 2.5 million DS units, so we've kicked a lot of ass all through the holiday season and on the GameCube perspective, Resident Evil 4 kicked a lot of ass. So we're happy.
IGNcube: Nintendo previously stated that Mario 128 could be a GameCube title, and then it suggested that it might instead be for Revolution. Is Mario 128 for GameCube or Revolution?
Reggie: We're going to answer that question at E3. You know, we at Nintendo are probably waffling back and forth on what's the best thing to do. Legend of Zelda is going to be on GameCube. We're going to launch that this holiday. And there's more to come on what happens with Mario 128.
IGNcube: So we can expect to see something on Mario 128 at E3?
Reggie: Yes. In terms of how we're going to show Mario 128, though, it's likely that we'll show it in video form more than playable. We have so many great games in playable form already.
IGNcube: How much control does Nintendo of America have over Nintendo's North American marketing and advertising campaigns?
Reggie: We do control all of the sales and marketing activity for all of the Americas. Canada, the US and Latin America. And driving that as an agenda is what's critical for us and how we add value for Nintendo overall. We currently represent about 55% of Nintendo's profits. Our objective is to account for more and more of that and being successful in the marketplace is what helps us have the flexibility to make that happen.
IGNcube: Some of the specs for Microsoft's Xbox successor were recently announced. Will Revolution be technically on par with Microsoft's system?
Reggie: Quite frankly, we'll share more of our technical specs at E3. That said, we believe a stronger CPU and a great graphics card is just the price of entry. For us, it's all about driving innovation. It's all about driving an intuitive system. It's all about creating a system that invites both the core gamer and the casual gamer to play. We think that's what's more important than what the specs are.
IGNcube: Nintendo's console market share has continued to drop over the last 10 years. Why?
Reggie: We started out with an effective 90% market share, so the only way we could go was down. My focus at NOA is to figure out how we start driving up market share up and doing that in an effective way. We think that great games like the Legend of Zelda on GameCube this holiday is going to help us do that. And we think great games from our partners, like Resident Evil 4, help us do that. So our focus is how do we drive market share in this market place and do it in an effective way, and we're confident that we're going to be able to do that.
IGNcube: Nintendo has recently partnered with companies like Sega and Namco to create software such as F-Zero GX and Star Fox Assault. Can we expect more partnerships like these in the future?
Reggie: We are all about working with the best content providers out there in the market place. Whether it's what we did with Namco. Whether it's what we just did with EA in terms of making our franchise characters available for NBA Street. We're going to be doing more and more of this. Frankly, we think this is a competitive advantage for us because we have great content. We also believe that it shows how passionate some of the licensees are to work with us. We think it's a great formula. In terms of what we're going to announce at E3, we're going to touch upon some of those partnerships. But quite frankly, we like to hold those close to the vest until those products are ready to launch, so you'll probably be seeing more of that toward the end of the year.
IGNcube: Nintendo seems intent on downplaying the role of technology in videogames. However, you cited both Resident Evil 4 and the new Legend of Zelda as great examples of outstanding GameCube software and both of these titles are technology driven. They push the system to its limits. Is this a Nintendo contradiction?
Reggie: We are passionate about having great technology. Look at Nintendo DS. Two screens. Touch screen. Voice activation. Your visitors to your site are just going to love Nintendogs, for example. Makes great use of voice activation. Has huge AI capabilities. So we are always a technically savvy company. What we are trying to communicate is that technology is not enough. It's all about innovation. It's all about providing the gamer with a great experience. We think our competitors go overboard on technology and don't provide enough innovation in the gameplay. We think that it needs to be the other way around.
IGNcube: What's your E3 message?
Reggie: It's going to be hard to top what we did last year. It was a fantastic E3 for us. The way we're going to do that is we're going to have great product. We're going to have some great new things to share - some surprises. And we're going to be talking about what's going to make Nintendo successful over the next 12 to 18 months. We're going to deliver that message in a fun and provocative way. So stay tuned! Make sure you guys are watching our E3 briefing.
IGNcube: Rumor has it that DS will be going online soon. Why does Nintendo believe in an online model for DS, but not for GameCube?
Reggie: As I said during the E3 briefing last year, for DS it's not about online, but "no line," it's about wireless interactive play. And we're committed to wireless interactive play for DS. Mr. Iwata will have some information about that in his keynote speech. In terms of GameCube, I think in fairness we at Nintendo haven't done a great job of providing the Internet capability tools to our developers to create games for GameCube. We need to address that for all of our future systems and we're doing that. In terms of Revolution and its wireless capability, stay tuned -- more to come. We are absolutely committed to the sense of community and the worldwide sense of playing games against each other. We're going to be delivering that on every future system to the best of our ability.
IGNcube: Will Nintendo be a more aggressive company going forward?
Reggie: I certainly do believe that we'll be a more aggressive company going forward. We're sitting here in the United States market place with about a 32% share. I've publicly said that we need to drive that to about a 40% share. That's hardware and software dollars combined. And the only way to do that is to be aggressive.
IGNcube: We noticed that at Nintendo's GDC booth Retro Studios is handing out job applications for a number of new positions. Is the company already working on Revolution?
Reggie: It's interesting because Michael Kelbaugh [President, Retro Studios] and I will have a drink later today. They've done great work for us. Metroid Prime was a great game. Metroid Prime 2 in my opinion was an even better game. Who is the most likely suspect to be working on Revolution? Probably a studio like Retro.
IGNcube: Microsoft and Sony have development kits out there for their next-gen systems. Are Revolution dev kits coming?
Reggie: Yes, they're on their way. We're hard at work providing pre-development tools to key licensees. And again, Mr. Iwata will be talking at length tomorrow at his keynote about our vision for Revolution. Are dev kits going to be on the way? Absolutely. Are dev kits going to be out on the marketplace with enough time to impact great development of software for Revolution? Absolutely. We are right on track for development of Revolution and that's a key message out there. We're not going to be late to the marketplace. We're going to be on time with our competition, which we've pegged as Sony. And certainly getting development kits out there in a reasonable fashion is a big part of making that happen.
IGNcube: Is the next Game Boy in development?
Reggie: There are a lot of rumors out there on the next Game Boy. And quite frankly, it's a lot of rumor and speculation at this point. We're always thinking about our next generation, whether it's DS, whether it's Revolution or whether it's Game Boy Advance. When will that next system come out? We've got some time to go.
IGNcube: Is Nintendo worried about PSP eating market share?
Reggie: I can tell you that I take every competitor seriously. Every single competitor. We sit here with an effective 90% market share in the marketplace. It can only go one direction and that's down. Even if PSP sales are largely incremental. So our market share is going to come down. Having said that, to date we've sold almost 2.5 million DS units. Game Boy Advance SP has maintained its sell through. So what that means is that DS is largely incremental from a total portfolio view. The handheld space was 25% of total hardware and software sales in the month of September, and that was essentially all Nintendo. We think there's room competition in this space, but we're passionate to make sure that all of our business continues to be incremental.
IGNcube: Will the DS online network serve as an infrastructure for future online Revolution games?
Reggie: About DS wireless Internet play. Yes, we're going to be making announcements about that tomorrow. And there's going to be a lot of activity that we'll be sharing now through E3 and to the end of this year. We'll be launching wireless enabled games on DS this year. Could that framework be compatible with Revolution? Certainly it could. We'll be talking more about that, again both tomorrow and at E3. But it's very important for your community out there to understand that we see the potential for Internet play for all of our platforms to be a huge opportunity and something that we're going to be driving very aggressively.
IGNcube: Finally, what is Pokemon XD?
Reggie: Pokemon XD is a brand new Pokemon game for GameCube. It's a true RPG Pokemon. It's isn't a sequel to Collosseum. It's a brand new build. A brand new game that really plays off the RPG aspects. So think of it this way. If you loved Ruby and Sapphire, you're going to love Pokemon xd.gif for GameCube.