My mammoth interview with the man in charge of all things Wii (at least in America) continues. In this section, Reggie explains how marketing games for the Wii needs to be approached differently than on other consoles and which externally produced games sell like the titles Nintendo makes itself.
Going back to larger strategy, it seems that, out the gate, you may not be having to support the 3DS when it comes out solely on the strength of first-party content. Comparing the 3DS to the Wii with regard to third-party partnerships, there appears to be a lot more partners on board pre-launch than with the Wii. But it also seems like that third parties may be necessarily supporting you guys on the Wii the way they did after launch. And this is something, again, that Mr. Iwata has said that maybe other publishers still don’t understand the Wii the way we do, how to create content for the consul. What would you have to say to that?
A couple of different things. First, you can clearly see a progression between DS, Wii and 3DS in terms of third party support. When we launched DS, there were number of developers there at the start, but they did not have content that really showcased the capabilities of the system in a big way.
There is a lot of different reasons for that, including maybe a little lack of belief, especially. Remember PSP was launching at the same time as the DS, and popular opinion was that it’s all about graphical horsepower. That was then. Now, jump to the Wii and there was a much broader line-up of support for the Wii right out of the gate. Pretty good support. (And at this point, the DS is still enjoying very strong sales momentum.) Now, with the 3DS, it’s become much more extensive, because I do believe developers know that our hardware approach and the input devices really will lead to compelling experiences. That’s one aspect [of how things have changed].
There is another aspect though that developers now, and publishers now, I think are just becoming to understand. We have got almost a 30 million unit install base on the Wii, and these consumers are different. They react differently when you launch content, compared to the more smaller install bases of our two competitors, which are predominantly very, very, very active gamers, right? And so you have a product like–I mean, pick one, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”, massive sale peak and then pretty rapid…
Decline. That is not the sales curve that you see on the Wii. A title like “New Super Mario Brothers Wii” that sold five plus million units, it had a strong peak and then it stayed fairly high. The same thing “Wii Fit”, same thing with “Wii Fit Plus”, same with Super Mario Galaxy”. Hopefully, the same thing with “Super Mario Galaxy 2”. Publishers like Ubisoft saw that kind of curve with “Just Dance”.
The reason that the sales curve is important is it drives your marketing investment decisions. When you have got this massive spike and a massive fall down, everything is front-loaded. With something that’s more even, you have to spread your marketing investment, right? Spreading marketing investment [like that ] was not done on, you know, pick a third party publish title for Wii. Not one of them, with one exception, “Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games”, both summer and winter. And by the way, when you look at that sales curve, it looks more like a Nintendo first-party sales curve.
So you are saying publishers need to be prepared to have marketing support, not just at launch. But how long is that timeframe? I mean, when do you decide to call time-of-death? It could be like on a medical drama where they keep doing chest compressions on a dead body, you know?
You know, it’s intuitive, it’s based on game quality. I will give you an example, “Style Savvy,” that we launched last year on the DS. If I were a traditional publisher after the first couple of weeks, I might have pulled all my marketing support. Because the sales, you know, they didn’t go the way we thought it would go, didn’t come out of the gate like gangbusters. But, boy, that third week, we saw a nice big spike, fourth week spiked again. It’s a different type of sales curve.
Can you attribute that to anything in particular?
You know, it’s the awareness build and how it’s happening title by title. It’s the word of mouth, which ties back to the quality of the content. You know, when I have these type of conversations with publishers, the main message I deliver to them is, “Look, if you have a game and the quality is high, invest behind it. And invest behind it over time, it will pay you back.” And when publishers have done that, that’s exactly what’s happened. Again, “Just Dance” is a great example. Fun game, high quality, fantastic buzz value that kept the sales curve go, and yet it continues today.
You know, there have been publishers who have said, in the last 12 months or so, that they made a really big bet on the Wii and didn’t necessarily get a commensurate return on their investment. How do you respond to them? Without naming names, because I know that puts you in a weird position…
[Laughs] You know, it’s — we have very candid conversations with all of our publishing partners, to share the benefits of our knowledge. And all I can tell you is the ones who really hear the feedback and apply the feedback have seen very strong results. You know, another great case in point is “EA Sports Active.” Steady level of investment over time, strong sales over time.
So do you feel like that was a case of EA maybe course-correcting what their expectations were?
I don’t think it was about expectations, I think what EA took to heart in that particular launch was an understanding that with a high quality game (which it was) targeted to a demographic that is not thinking, you know, “Let me run right out on launch day,” they had to have ongoing support in order to maximize the sales over time.
Mr. Iwata has said that Nintendo’s core mission in creating content is to expand the gaming audience. What I’m hearing from you now is that if you are going to do that, it’s not just about like what’s on the platform or the technology in the platform, but also how you talk about it.
It’s everything, it really is a philosophy that yes, absolutely starts with the game, but then extends to system, it extends to the marketing approach, the communications approach, everything needs to be aligned. If you believe that, then apply that thinking to what our competitors are trying to do.
Okay, fair enough. So are you saying that they haven’t figured out their messaging yet?
I’m not–you said that. All I’m saying is that you cannot try and address a nontraditional demographic with traditional mechanisms.