For a while, Nintendo was struggling with its Wii U console, with third-party developers dropping support for the system and worries that it would break the company’s successful streak of popular video game hardware. However, as of late, it’s gone through a turn-around, fueled by the forthcoming Amiibo toy line and such powerhouse game releases as Super Smash Bros. (due November 21st) and Mario Kart 8.
In an interview with Re/code, Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime got around to addressing these concerns, but seemed confident that the company would see a strong holiday season, leading into an even bigger and better 2015 line-up.
First up, Fils-Aime discussed the company’s recent turn-around in profits, with the previous quarter showing an increase after so many losses. “We are fortunate that on both our handheld business and our home-console business, we speak to a very wide group of consumers: From children having their first gaming experience to that more active gaming demographic to their parents, it’s a very wide swath. Our demographic footprint is very wide, very diverse, and that’s a key advantage for us. You can’t say that for some of our more direct competitors,” said Fils-Aime.
He also expressed confidence in the company’s holiday line-up. “A great holiday for Nintendo of America is [the multiplayer fighting game] Super Smash Bros. — not only a strong launch of Smash Bros. for Wii U, but continued strength for Smash Bros. 3DS. A strong holiday for us is Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, having a strong launch of those games and continued strong sell-through of [last year’s] Pokemon X and Pokémon Y. Lastly, an effective launch of the Amiibo (interactive toys) platform. We do those three things well, we’ll have a very strong holiday season.”
As for third-party support, Fils-Aime remained bullish on the Wii U’s performance. “In the end, what third-party companies want is a large install base to sell their games into [and] a wide demographic footprint that they can target their games to,” he said. “They also want a robust connected environment so that they themselves can explore downloadable content or digital sales. [For] the Wii U business, year-to-date versus last year, our install base is almost doubled. We’re building that footprint for developers, with a range of games from Bayonetta 2 to Mario Kart.”
He also didn’t show much concern over the console’s lack of a new Call of Duty game for the first time since its release. Said Fils-Aime, “I would answer the question in a couple ways. Third parties are bringing multi-platform content to our platform – Watch Dogs from Ubisoft, as an example. I would love to have Call of Duty on our platform. I would love to have any of the big blockbuster, multi-platform titles. But I have to say, more specifically, I want games that provide a differentiated consumer experience. If you look at the other two competitive platforms, fundamentally, what’s the difference ”
Finally, Fils-Aime addressed the growing market of digital sales, compared to physical copies of games. “Retail still is the majority of the business for us. But what’s interesting is, game by game and at different points in time, you see a different consumer reaction,” he said. “Smash Bros. for 3DS, consumers wanted that game immediately. They didn’t even want to spend the time to get in their car and drive to retail to get it, so our digital percent for that game is quite high — about 20 percent of the games sold here in the U.S. were digital, which is a pretty significant piece. Compare that to Bayonetta 2. That’s a huge game, and could take up a large part of the memory in the 32-gig Wii U. That’s a game with a digital percent on the lower side, today about 10 percent or so. Our mentality is, we want the consumer to have the choice based on what makes sense for you, what makes sense for the type of game it is.”