NoE limits

Ben Parfitt
NoE limits
What’s the motivation behind the Wii Software platform?

As Mr Iwata has said for a long time, in order to make a video game it is now very difficult without getting into a huge financial investment. Cost and budget and time leads are absolutely tremendous.

Our thinking with the DS and Wii was to let all developers have access to a platform that gives them, firstly, a brand new way to make a video game, and secondly – because you are able to open so many doors to big or small studios, new or old – the chance to make the games they have dreamed of for years and years.

Many developers were hit by budget and technical constraints and cost, but now we are knocking a lot of those barriers down. What was missing was their idea being able to remain true and reach the consumer, which is the purpose of Wii Software.

And key is that, again, you don’t need to have a high level of graphics to make software that is extremely popular – you just need a great idea and know how it works with the Wiimote. It’s really just so that developers can make their dream project that until now wouldn’t have gone through.

How do you think it will compare to Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Store?

My simple answer to that is that developers will be able to use the Wiimote. [laughs]

And you think that’s enough?

Yes, I’d say so. The key point is that it’s Wii Software. When you see how the Wii games look and how people enjoy them when playing with the Wiimote, it’s clearly an attractive proposition.

Many publishers have very vocally ramped up Wii game development lately. Has that surprised you?

No. For us what’s obvious is that everyone now clearly understands where we want to go. When we launched DS our goal and strategy puzzled some people who thought that, with the PSP as well, they’d have even less time to make games.

But we’ve shown that the DS is the best platform to help develop the video game industry. The DS has made it a little clearer that we are on track to achieve this objective. On top of that, developers have been able to master the DS as a console and now know what consumers expect from the software.

All of this experience combined has been translated onto the Wii. Since E3 last year a lot of people at studios
have been talking about ideas they had stored in their desk or cupboards but could never use – suddenly they can happen all thanks to Wii. That’s the key point.

Some say at the moment there isn’t much software in general coming through for the Wii – is that a problem you acknowledge?

Everybody tends to forget that Wii has only been on the shelf since December, and we already have a lot of software out with it. We are just at the beginning of the cycle and have a lot of games available already from first and third party. The key thing is that to make software takes time.

In just recent days we’ve launched our first online enabled game, Mario Strikers, and we have Mario Party 8 and Big Brain Academy on the way as well. We have a lot of announced titles from EA and Ubisoft.

As I say, we’re still at the beginning – the more we go into the lifecycle the more we will see more content appear.

And as we have said, we now have a huge amount of support from the development community so there are hundreds of games in the works at the moment that will be coming through. I think the way things are shaping up, the software line-up will deliver a good surprise every month.

I ask that, as it seems the Wii Software is ideal to offset the times when there aren’t as many boxed product coming through...

Yes, that is absolutely true, but it’s already the case with Virtual Console.

And remember many people use the Wii for other things as well, such as the internet or to look at their photos. The channels give them many different purposes. What we see on a daily basis is that, for instance with Wii Sports, people play that game over and over. People play it when they get the machine, then with friends, and then again and again if they choose to play with other people – as if it was brand new. That’s a unique thing about the Wii.

What about the hardware shortages – will the machine still be tightly supplied until next year as previously stated?

What we have done from the machine’s launch until now is do our best to supply – but of course the thing we can’t control is the demand.

What’s interesting is that our figures say demand for Wii hardware is still growing. We’re doing our best to keep up – it’s the only thing we can do.

Do you think the new casual games activity from the likes of EA, Eidos and Ubisoft vindicates what Nintendo has been doing?

I guess. The truth is that we can’t stay in this market – the games industry is great as it is, but if we keep making the same games the industry will shrink. All of us have to face this issue. We just want to enlarge the market.

I’m not so keen to say ‘casual’ games because what happens is that once people take a step into the industry through games like Nintendogs, Brain Training, or My Sims what is interesting is that they then enter what we call a ‘regular’ gaming profile – they buy software and not just ‘casual’ software. We see a lot of people who bought Brain Training as their first game, but then for their second bought New Super Mario Bros.

So these publishers need to be careful they don’t start segmenting the industry even further?

What is important is that they aim to provide a unique and interesting gameplay experience. Good software is good software. Providing pleasure and entertainment – that’s key. We need to make people aware that games are fun and entertaining, and then they will consider games as part of their overall media entertainment.

To go back to the point of changing the industry: how do you think you’ve done that – how are things different now thanks to Nintendo?

I still don’t think we’ve fully achieved our goal yet – it’s a long-term job that was started with the DS, and now the Wii is entering the same process. The best example is that we’ve been able to sell millions of copies of Brain Training software that is obviously unprecedented.

No one would have thought a few years ago that you would have 50 year-olds enjoying playing on a DS and enjoying playing it in public – which is even more interesting as I saw an old man playing on a DS in a park a few days ago. That amazed me as it wasn’t something I ever expected to see some time ago.

And in the future that could be more commonplace?

Definitely. We’ve just launched More Brain Training and I think, when we said we were going to launch Brain Training, no one thought it would be the best seller across Europe for the year. That’s completely unexpected and a good summary of what we’ve done. It’s a long-term thing, but the potential is huge.

Previously everyone read a book and went to the cinema – but not everyone played a video game. That’s the ultimate long-term objective: to make playing a game a common thing, and to enable people that own a console to play different kinds of software, from a Brain Training software to Mario software and My Sims software and so on and so forth.

There has been a lot written about Nintendo’s success over the past few months. How do you plan to keep that momentum?

As I say, it’s to keep following up. We have a long-term strategy, and have not established it entirely – and it’s not just our job, it’s the job of the entire industry, everyone to do this. We will deliver on our promise and prove that, in the long term, we can capture that ‘five to 95’ year old audience.

It’s a long-term job. We started when we launched the DS, and it has been there for two years. Wii has only just been with us for months, it’s just the beginning for that cycle. It’s so recent, and still fragile, that we will just keep pushing it.

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