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Talking with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, Part 1

Talking with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, Part 1   (photo)

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There’s a rolling discussion that happens every year during the Electronics Entertainment Expo. At some point between the end of all the press conferences and the last frantic day of game demos, the words get uttered over and over: “Who won E3?” It’s somewhat apropos that the biggest video game gathering elicits an antagonistic “Vs. Match” mentality but, to be honest, the “Who won E3?” chats that happen between journalists and enthusiasts are more about parsing excitement, momentum and effective messaging.

This year — despite Microsoft’s announcement that all the folks at its press conference would be getting the new Xbox 360 for free and Sony trotting out snarky fictional exec Kevin Butler — most folks agreed that Nintendo “won” E3. The Japanese giant announced tons of games and showed off hundreds of 3DS units, giving people a chance to try out its take on 3D. The company’s come a long way from 2006, when Reggie Fils-Aime took the E3 stage and declared that he was there to kick ass and take names.

A few years later, gamers may be calling him by his first name and creating memes based on random moments of his, but damned if the company hasn’t done what he said they would. Fils-Aime is now President and COO of Nintendo of America and was the man on stage for most of Nintendo’s presser this year.

I got a chance to speak to Reggie after the high-energy and occasionally goofy press conference, where the NYC native held forth on changing up the Legend of Zelda, the way games tend to sell on Nintendo platforms and, of course, the new 3DS handheld. The interview’s massive and will be delivered in three parts. Let’s get started, shall we?

Okay, so I can start off by saying, it’s pretty widely agreed that you guys had the best press conference of the show. I think the thing that surprised most people was the sheer amount of titles that you guys talked about during the show. It countered the perception of Nintendo as generally being more stingy in terms of talking about stuff that’s coming out. What’s the strategy behind just revealing so much?

Well, a couple of things. First, even with all that we revealed, we describe only the surface of product that’s coming out over the next, call it, nine months. So there is a lot of content coming on our systems, which is great. In terms of our strategy for this show, because we’re in such a fortunate position of having so much great content, and 99% of which is coming very quickly, we were in a very enviable position to be able to share it all, which is great.

07202010_skywardsword4.jpgYou know, you opened with Zelda, which set the tone. In previous years, it would have been the last thing you guys went to — and that was really impressive. “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” uses motion control, and the last time you and I spoke at GDC, we were talking about motion control and the approaches from the other companies. Clearly, at lot more has been revealed as of E3. I talked to (Nintendo global president Satoru) Iwata and he makes it clear that Nintendo is not a company that responds to competitors. But can you offer any opinions about how you feel, as far as Sony and Microsoft implementing their idea of motion control?

I really can’t, and that’s because while I have seen people play their products, I haven’t played it personally. One player hasn’t announced their pricing strategy, so that’s a big [component that’s] missing still. What I can say is that I believe the consumer knows which company has been the innovator in this space. I also believe that we have demonstrated with “Zelda: Skyward Sword” how a one-to-one controller can bring you deeper into a true active gaming experience, and no one else has done that. No one.

We will continue to innovate, we’ll continue to bring consumers closer and closer into the experience. And we believe that if we do that, the consumer will vote with their wallets and pocketbooks and continue to show that Nintendo is the company bringing these great experiences forward.

As far as the technological aspect, Sony has claimed they have one-to-one in their product. You move; it moves, and everything matches in the real world and the game world. I know you haven’t played it, but let’s say there is parity there and from a tech standpoint, both the Move and the Wii can do the same thing. What’s the differentiator for you?

The differentiator is the gaming experience, right? The differentiator will always be the gaming experience in the software. What they haven’t shown is exactly how their “one-to-one” can make for a better gaming experience than what you could get today on the Wii.

But, do you feel like in terms of the software and the experience, is that hinged on the characters and developers?

Well, it certainly hinges on the development teams that are creating the content.

07202010_e3_2010_Miyamoto_Skyward_Sword_demoIn that vein, lets focus on “Zelda” for a bit. This is kind of a radical departure in terms of control scheme. You can use the Wii remote and nunchuk as [series hero] Link’s sword and shield, which is the first time for that input method. And even some of the design and layout aspects of this new game seem much different. Do you worry that longtime Zelda fans may be put off by this? You’re asking those people to make a jump…

I’ll tell you: I’m a longtime “Zelda” fan. I played “Zelda” before I ever considered that I could be working for the company. I cut my teeth on “Link to the Past.” I’ve picked up that control scheme and it feels like a great “Zelda” game. I mean now, I have the sword and shield. I am the one deciding how to attack a particular enemy. It feels great to me. I found that it’s a fantastic new way to experience the “Zelda” franchise.

In terms of the look, [Nintendo’s chief Zelda guru Eiji] Aonuma-Mr. Miyamoto highlighted this-is very into our history, and they wanted to look that was more impressionistic, and that’s why you see the color palette the way it is. And I think it’s great. I love that we have done everything from, you know, the look and–

Like the cartoonishess of “Wind Waker”…

Right, all the way to the “realism” of “Twilight Princess” and everything between. I think it’s great, I think it’s what helps keep the franchise fresh.

Is there a bit of a teaser with regard to what we saw on the trailer, and in the name “Skyward Sword”? It seems to indicate that there might be some kind of vehicular element or something.

[At] the developer roundtable, Mr. Aonuma shared the skyward element of this game. The storyline goes that Link is living in a cloud world and finds a way to go down to the ground. And the gameplay will take you between this ground world and the sky world.

Right. Kind of the sailing in “Wind Waker.”

So that’s the traversal.

You know, I feel like the last few “Zelda” games have hinged on an axis mechanism that the game is organized around. Whether it’s “Twilight Princess” with the light and dark, or “Wind Waker” with the sailing. Do you feel like there is a core part of the series at this point?

I think it is.

The earlier games were more about straight RPG-style dungeon crawler gameplay.

Well, in “Link to the Past”, you had light and dark, too.

That’s true. And in “Ocarina of Time,” you had the different time periods and Link at different ages as the core mechanic in that game.

So, these two worlds are a key part of the Zelda franchise. And you know, being able to do certain things in world, different things in the other world — now, Mr. Newman, Mr. Miyamoto are the developers — but as a player, a lover of the franchise, to me, yes, those are core parts of the franchise.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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