INTERVIEW: James Honeywell

What’s the mood like in the Nintendo camp now that the big day’s nearly here?

Yeah, everyone’s feeling good. There’s been some fantastic activity in the last couple of months, from us and from retail, and I think that’s got everyone in a really positive frame of mind for the launch.

People have seen what a fantastic product it is, consumers and trade, and I think that in a market that’s maybe been a little depressed, a big day and a big launch like this is extremely welcome.

What have been the key elements of the launch campaign and what have you learned through it?

I’ve learned a lot, actually. I think we all have. As a machine it constantly surprises me – and when we get it out amongst the public surprise and delight are always the main reactions. We’re really proud of it and we’ve loved seeing people’s reactions.

Sampling has been absolutely key. Our aim was for 400,000 people to see it but I got an update the other day and already more than half a million people have experienced 3DS.

I’ve been to a few dates on the ‘Seeing is Believing’ tour and it’s been brilliant. I was at Westfield the other day. I like to get there early because there’s usually hardly anyone around first thing and it means I can check everything’s set up just how I like it. But this time the place was already rammed. I think there were more people in and around us than there were in the rest of the whole shopping centre. There were 60 year-old businessmen, full-on gamers, tourists, all sorts.

How does the campaign change as of tomorrow?

Up until now it’s been all about intrigue. We wanted to get people curious enough to come along and see for themselves. From tomorrow we’ll actually be showing them, because even in 2D we think the games still look great.

We’re also going to start bringing out the other functionality that maybe people aren’t even aware of yet, like Augmented Reality, Face Raiders, Mii Maker, things like that.

The profile will also start to spike as of tomorrow. The plan was always to crescendo the marketing this weekend and next week.

Then we’ve got the added benefit of Easter. There’ll be a slightly quieter couple of weeks in early April, but then we’re ramping it back up when the holidays kick in and carrying right through the rest of April and into May.

What can you tell us about sales projections for the UK?

Obviously the original headline statement was that we wanted to sell four million globally by the end of March. What does that mean for the UK? Well, it’s early days, but we do know that we have record pre-orders of over 140,000, which suggests it’s going to be our biggest ever launch by some distance – with Wii we did 106,000 in the opening weekend and with DSi it was 90,000.

How many people who haven’t pre-ordered will go out this weekend and buy one this weekend? It’s hard to say. We’ll know soon. What we know already is that in one weekend we’ll sell more 3DS units than all the 3D TVs sold in the entire past year – so we really are bringing 3D to the masses.

What can you tell us about long term sales projections?

Again, it’s a bit early to say, but of course it has the potential to be or biggest ever console. We’ve sold over 13 million DS units in the UK and over 132 million worldwide, so that gives you some idea of the scale of ambition.

That said, however, we still have big plans and projections for the DSi and the XL. The 3DS is by no means a replacement for them.

How is the stock situation?

It’s great. Listen, everyone can get burned and everyone’s suffered in the past, but right now things look great. We’ve got stocks far in excess of pre-orders and we’re got more units rolling in quickly, with no gaps in the schedule.

Retailers seem happy and confident and that’s good news for everyone.

Do you think the initial wave of consumers will be pretty hardcore gamers, people who already own a DS?

I think the launch software line-up is really strong and pretty broad, but as a whole it’s probably got more of a ‘gamer’ feel than our normal line-ups, so maybe that would appeal more to existing gamers.

But that will change over time and so will our marketing and our messages. It’s probably true to say that it’s the gamers who have been rushing out to pre-order, and we’re not really pushing it directly to the mass market until Easter.

Have you been surprised by the level of competition amongst retailers when it comes to 3DS offers?

I have a bit, personally. We put an initial price estimate out in January at 219-229 and we’ve been a bit surprised at the rate at which that’s come down. But it’s up to each individual retailer what price they sell at and we would never influence that.

From a consumers point of view I guess the message is to go out and get one now, because I’m not sure all these deals are going to be around forever, whether that’s price of software offers etc.

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