Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime recently sat down for an interview with The Seattle Times to discuss a variety of topics. In the interview, Reggie addresses the Wii U’s recent struggles, Nintendo’s competition, and more. Seattle Times interviewer Brier Dudley begun the interview by talking to Reggie about the Wii U’s recent struggles, and what Nintendo is doing to remedy its current situation.
It’s been a difficult few years. Could you talk about how you’re emerging from the Valley of Death?
I wouldn’t put it that way. The fact is the last three years we’ve been operating profit negative. For us, in order to drive our business forward, we need to drive the installed base of our hardware platforms. We need to launch strong software that captures the imagination of the consumer, and we need to create business opportunities for independent developers and publishers to bring their content onto our platform.
So as I look at where we are today, last year Nintendo 3DS was the No. 1 platform here in the U.S. We’ve just launched “Mario Kart 8,” increasing our hardware sales by a factor of four. In terms of software sales, the content we are sharing here really seems to be resonating with consumers. We’re getting a robust pipeline of content. So I would say, yes, we’re well on the way to a recovery for the company and that’s what we’re focused on.
Did you come out with the Wii U too early — not in terms of market, but because the content pipeline wasn’t ready yet?
The interesting point there is that when we announced the Wii U and when we announced all of the launch details, we fully expected games like “Wii Fit U,” “Pikmin,” the “The Wonderful 101” to be in the launch window. The Nintendo quality bar is really what kept us from launching those games potentially in February or March and so that’s what created the lack of software during that initial launch phase.
How much will the upcoming Amiibo game figurines cost in stores?
You can expect them to be comparable to the Disney and Skylander products that are on the market. [They cost $10 to $15.]
Can these be as big as “Skylanders” — a franchise with more than $2 billion in two years?
We certainly hope so. There’s three things that we see that make this different, hopefully stronger than the current propositions.
First, that it’s Nintendo IP. Secondly, the ability for these to work across multiple games. We think that’s going to be a huge driver – having these figures work with “Mario Kart 8,” work with “Mario Party,” work with “Yoshi’s Wooly World.” We think that’s a huge step forward for this space.
The third aspect is that we do believe our Amiibo figures are going to have a wider demographic footprint. We think we’re going to have much stronger girl appeal. We think we’re going to have strong young adult play because of the collectability. For those three reasons we’ve got the potential to be bigger than what’s been out in the space so far.
When asked about cutting the price of the Wii U, Reggie affirmed that there would not be a price cut in the immediate future.
Do you need to bring down the price of the Wii U?
We don’t see a need to cut price. Our value equation is quite strong for the Wii U. I say that because we just launched the “Mario Kart 8” Wii U bundle, premium price, $329. The product is selling with no issues.
The biggest challenge is retailers getting it out on shelf. The challenges we’ve had with Wii U aren’t value based; the challenges are having the range of software that motivates the consumer to jump into the platform.”
How are you doing relative to Microsoft and Sony?
We think we’re doing well. When you talk about Nintendo you need to separate us in our component parts.
Our 3DS business is on fire. We were the No. 1 selling system last year. Software sales continue to be up year on year, the 2DS business has been additive … so our handheld business is doing quite well.
Here at this conference we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on our Wii U business. Initiatives like different takes on our key franchises, initiatives like Amiibo, new IP like “Splatoon.” We think these are the hallmarks for growth over the next number of months.”
You can read the full interview with Reggie at The Seattle Times.