Reggie Fils Aime – President Nintendo of America
Nintendo’s American President does not come from a gaming background. He was hired to compete with the bullshit artists at the other companies. Iwata is too Japanese and not in our faces enough to handle an American audience that seems to enjoy being lied to. Enter Reggie. For each new entry, I seem to invent new categories of quotes. Reggie should be honored to know that in reading transcripts of his I couldn’t help but create the “Marketing vomit” category specifically for him. Although Allard was pretty vomitty, too.
(For an explanation of what this article is, please read this.)
Microsoft has made the comment that people can buy an Xbox 360 and Wii for about the same price as a PlayStation 3. Would you mind terribly if that happened?
I’d much rather have the consumer buy a Wii, some accessories, and a ton of games, vs. buying any of my competitor’s products.
Too much bravado
“My name is Reggie. I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names, and we’re about makin’ games.”
[Damn, Reggie is totally proactive and to the maxxx.]
Nintendo DS in Japan outsells all of our competitors by a factor of five to one. We are so far in advance of our handheld competitors that they’re not even on the map.
[By speaking of only one market he can be arrogant. How’s the Cube doing, Reggie?]
One of the first things I wanted to ask you about is the new Nintendo DS Lite which was announced in Japan a couple of weeks ago. Is this what the DS should have been when it was first introduced back in 2004?
When the DS was first announced our focus really was on communicating to consumers and to developers the innovation that’s in that unit: two screens, a touch screen, voice activation. And we’ve certainly done that to the tune of multi-millions of units sold across the world. We really a leadership position in every market we compete in versus our competition.
[What markets besides handhelds are you a leader in? Trading card games maybe.]
How have sales of the Game Boy Micro been?
Sales of Game Boy Micro have been exactly where we predicted them to be.
[Ok, maybe this isn’t arrogant, but it’s still funny. Similar to David Brent of the Office not wanting his single to get into the top 100.]
“You came to LA this week to peek into the future. But if all you want is next generation, you’re in the wrong place. Because what you’ll see from Nintendo is not just ‘next’. Instead, it’s what’s absolutely new. What we’re unveiling is the next leap in gaming; to a place where playing is no longer just about looks, it’s about the feel. Where it’s no longer confined to just the few – it’s about everyone. And most of all, the next leap is not about what you see, because what you see is not always what you get. The next leap is about playing, because playing is believing.”
In general, what would you look for in a marketing partner?
There needs to be a consistency in terms of whom we’re trying to reach, and in the messaging. I’m focused on growing Nintendo’s image and making the brand feel cool and vibrant. So other brands that are cool and vibrant are certainly more up our alley than brands that, if you will, try to hold onto our coattails. It really is an opportunity to work with other brands that are trying to reach this key consumer audience in new and provocative ways.
[He is such a marketing drone]
Does that mean we could probably expect a third iteration of the DS about 18 months from now?
I wouldn’t say that that’s an unreasonable assumption. Look at how many times we’ve improved on the Game Boy Advance in terms of the look, the feel, screen changes, and everything else. We believe that type of constant innovation is critical to driving this industry, and certainly if you look at the world wide sales of Game Boy Advance, I don’t think anyone would disagree.
[By continually retooling a product, Nintendo has been able to thoroughly milk their fanbase.]
Is there an over reliance on Nintendo’s long established franchises and characters, like Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and the others? It seems like we see a new blockbuster franchise like Nintendos with decreasing frequency.
[An odd answer from a man who just before this question stated that Nintendo’s goal is innovation.]
EGM: You have some good games out there, but a lot of those games are the games we saw last year. It’s surprising we didn’t see more surprises for GameCube and newer stuff that hadn’t been announced yet.
RFA: Mmm-hmm. Bryan, here’s what I would say, though. If you look at where we are in the life cycle, toward the end, the people that we’re going to bring in to this current gaming generation are very different than you, me…these are late adopters, these are typically younger consumers. These are consumers driven by value. So what’s going to speak to that audience is fundamentally different than what’s going to potentially speak to you. So from that standpoint, again, I look at our lineup, and our lineup for where we stand in this generation’s life cycle, I think, is dead on.
So Nintendo DS does not spell the end of Game Boy?
No, by no means. By the time Nintendo DS launches we’ll have sold somewhere in the range of 25 or 26 million Game Boy Advance systems. We will continue to provide innovation on Game Boy Advance. We view Nintendo DS as truly a third business leg of a three-part strategy and how we grow the Nintendo franchise. GameCube has the home console Game Boy Advance SP potentially for a younger demographic — call that 12 to 17 years old — and then DS for an older demographic.
[The GC has basically been abandoned and the GBA near abandoned.]
Now how do you respond to some of the criticisms of the service, like the lack of persistent friends?
Well, a couple of things. First the number of concerns or questions that have been raised by consumers who use the service are extremely modest. I mean we are talking hundredths of a percent of actual connections in terms of any consumers who are saying something negative about the service or the approach.
[The complaints have only come from those on the internet, who are the hardcore, but also the only people with the means to complain easily.]
We want to create a system with Revolution that appeals to all types of gamers versus going down a path that, frankly, is a bit exclusionary.
You mean in terms of the competition and what they’re doing?
Exactly. They have gone down a path that is very expensive for consumers, very expensive for developers to create content against, and they’re providing a level of horsepower technology that not many consumers want.
[I am fully on board with the “gameplay trumps graphics” concept, but no one prefers worse graphics. If the Wii cost the same, of course everyone would prefer it to look better than the PS3.]
These consumers know that Nintendo really was the forefather of the industry.
EGM: How do you feel, then, if a gamer wants the fluff of say, PS3, if that means you will be the second machine that they buy, possibly the third machine?
RFA: The interesting thing, and I like to believe that outside of my role as a Nintendo executive that I’m a pretty rational consumer, especially in the electronic space. I own an iPod, I believe that for a music library that is by far the best device.
[This is debatable, but many have argued persuasively that better MP3 players exist but the iPod succeeds because of the cool factor. If I were to buy a console based on cool factor I would certainly not purchase a system called Wii.]
I really don’t care what Xbox or Sony are up to. I really don’t.
[Keep reading for Reggie’s quote about how he cares about the competition.]
Sense of Humor
“We want to thank everyone who wrote good things about it the day you heard it–both of you.”
Admission of mistake
I don’t that think Nintendo ever lost its edge, I do think weren’t as clear at communicating what it was all about.
“Do you know anyone who’s never watched TV, never seen a movie, never read a book? Of course not. So let me ask you one more question. Do you know someone, maybe even in your own family, who’s never played a video game? I bet you do. How can this be? If we want to consider ourselves a true mass medium, if we want to grow as an industry, this has to change.”
Some observers thought that maybe you were also poking fun at your competitors. Was there any element of that as well?
Well, we certainly poked fun at elements of our competitors and how they go about doing business. Sony and Microsoft are two huge competitors and I take them very seriously. But having said that, both of them have a way of approaching this business and approaching the entertainment industry in total that arguably isn’t always in the best thing for the consumer.
[This isn’t very inspirational in the traditional sense, but I’m inspired by a talking head who acknowledges that his competitors matter.]
We are a gaming company.