The boss of Nintendo has admitted that The Wii consoles success is down to family and soft gamers. Now the Company is looking to crank up the console and the games that run on it to attract hard core gamers in a move that could hit Sony and Microsoft.
With over 10 million units sold last year, the Wii has exceeded everyone’s expectations, including Nintendo’s. While some have pointed to the console’s unique motion-sensing controls, its casual games appeal and its low price as major factors driving sales (and continued shortages), Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has keyed in on another reason for the Wii’s widespread adoption around the world.
Speaking to GameSpot he commented, “In retrospect, the U.S. culture of the house party played a major role in spreading the value of Wii to a bigger circle faster than we ever predicted. All of my American friends keep telling me ‘Man, the Wii is the ultimate party machine!’ [Laughs] But none of that was intentional on our part. All we did was ask ourselves how to pack the most smiles and surprises into the product as we developed it. Fortunately, we hit a sweet spot. As a result, interest in the Wii has spread across the world surprisingly quickly.”
Iwata once again also answered criticisms that Nintendo is not paying enough attention to the hardcore gaming crowd. “…Nintendo has teams working on meeting the needs of more hardcore gamers. The big complaint from them now may be that we’re not pouring all of our resources into that sector exclusively, but I feel that it’s Nintendo’s mission to make both kinds of games. Every experienced gamer today was a beginner at some point, who encountered an experience that made them fall in love with games,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely critical to keep that entryway open for new people. I think it’s really important to strike that balance between the two extremes.”
That said, later in the interview he acknowledged, “Although it can’t be helped since it has only been a year since its release, I think there isn’t enough depth overall within the [Wii] lineup. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is just around the corner, waiting to show everyone that claims of Nintendo not caring about hardcore gamers are indeed misunderstandings, but I feel like we need to go even further.”
He added, “So I’d like to increase the overall depth. Not just in one specific genre, but all across the board. If there’s anyone out there thinking, ‘Nintendo probably wouldn’t be open to a title like this,’ I assure you, you’re mistaken. We love fun games of all kinds. [Laughs]”
Iwata also noted that games like Zelda obviously require far more time to create than games like Brain Age, and that’s something that Nintendo ultimately needs to address. “I feel that the current imbalance between the time a person spends enjoying a game and the time it takes to create it is a real problem, and something that we as developers need to work on resolving,” Iwata said, explaining his fears about gamers growing bored too quickly with games that take a long time to create.
Iwata added that Nintendo is “constantly working on a variety of ideas for new, different games” and that’s where projects like Wii Fit come from. Another project Nintendo is looking at, he revealed, is turning the DS into more of a utility item beyond its gaming applications. “…one of the lifestyle proposals we’d like to put into effect in the first half of this year is an experiment aimed at getting people to use their DS’s in public spaces as part of a larger effort to make the DS a more helpful tool for people in their everyday lives. It’s a portable, single-architecture platform that can receive anything given a Wi-Fi hotspot with over 20 million units in use in Japan and about the same amount in the U.S. and Europe. I really think the idea of making it a gaming machine that’s also useful in your daily life is a good one, and possible. We’ll be keeping an eye on the experiment’s results while hopefully increasing the number of places you can use your DS in progressive steps,” he explained.
In another part of the interview, Iwata once again rebuffed the appeal of virtual worlds such as Sony’s upcoming PlayStation Home service: “…the virtual world services out there now still aren’t at a place where we’d like to join in–and certainly not to the point that we’d want to jump into competition with everybody else. We’d rather focus on doing things that nobody else would do.”
He also talked about retail vs. digital distribution and how WiiWare fits in. With Virtual Console selling over 10 million downloads last year, Iwata sees “great possibilities with the download model.” Nevertheless, he doesn’t see the download model replacing retail within the next three-to-five-year cycle.
Iwata weighed both the pros and cons: “Packaged games have a number of advantages, from the guarantee of a certain amount of sales volume to the firmly established buying habits and infrastructure that I think should be preserved in the future. But packaged games aren’t a complete solution anymore. The cost of materials and distribution margins mean that there isn’t much price flexibility, and there’s always a risk with inventory. Plus the majority of a product’s lifespan ends within a very short period after its release in the current market, such that titles can no longer compete for shelf space a month after their release.”