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Interview – Nintendo’s Laurent Fischer

Tuesday, 22nd June 2010 09:58 GMT By Patrick Garratt

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Laurent Fischer, Nintendo Europe’s MD of marketing, had a good E3. 3DS was the talk of the show and Nintendo’s press conference couldn’t have gone better. He was in a chipper mood, then, when we caught up with him in LA last week to ask him when we can expect a price point for 3DS, how Nintendo feels about Sony and Microsoft’s “rush to motion” and whether or not we’re going to see any price-cutting from Nintendo this year.

Hit it, innit.

VG247: First of all, your press conference was amazingly good. I think it surprised a lot of people. How important was it for you to impress everyone this year?

Laurent Fischer: I think it comes down to, “What’s your proposal?” The common comments I get from everyone is that once we announced we were about to show new hardware, everyone has a certain level of expectation. And “everyone” includes us, the Nintendo team. What’s important for us is that this product actually delivers more than anyone expected.

Impressing people isn’t specifically the aim. It’s important for us to be able to explain our purpose. We knew from the Nintendo DS and Wii hardware that we have a concept that is either innovative or difficult to explain, so having the experience from these two previous launches that we believe we have a proposal that’s strong and innovative for the consumer.

But it’s difficult for us to explain it to the consumer. Seeing is believing. It’s important for us to deliver that message, and it’s not very easy to do that in the media briefing format. We’re happy in the end that everyone can enjoy themselves and make up their own mind about the new experience Nintendo 3DS is supposed to deliver.

When I saw the screen in action, I was absolutely blown away. I can’t believe how well it works. Are you seeing generally the same reaction from others?

Laurent Fischer: Yeah. I think everyone is pretty much aware of the latest improvements and evolutions from a technological point of view with regards to 3D. I think what 3DS achieves is something that’ very easy to handle. It’s a handheld, and so kyou can really easily adjust how you handle the screen itself.

We also have something that I believe is very important; we have this opportunity as a player to adjust the strength of the 3D effect. It means everyone can find out how to combine handling the screen and the 3D effect. Once you find the combination, then you have true enjoyment of the graphics ability of the console, and you can feel the 3D and get a sense of a new feature developers will be able to get behind.

I guess the developers themselves already see the potential, and they’re very supportive to us, which I believe is the greatest news among all the positive things, that all the major publishers are getting behind the Nintendo 3DS with their teams and their best franchises.

We have very rich experiences for any kind of gamer. Whatever kind of game you love, we’re confident that the publisher will be behind us, and they’re very supportive of the platform itself. That’s very important to us.

It wasn’t just 3DS, obviously. There was an awful lot of service to Wii in there, and an awful lot of fan service. Some big franchises coming back, such as GoldenEye and Kirby, and you got an amazing reaction from the crowd. How important is it for you now to ensure Wii has a continued lifespan? How important is it for you to not release a new machine at this point?

Laurent Fischer: Wii’s been on the market since 2006. We’ve made a lot of steps within the Wii lifecycle. From the motion point of view, we’ve enhanced the consumer experience. Since the setting of a base with the Wii Sports experience, we moved in a new direction with the Balance Board and the Wii Fit experience. The next steps were with Wii MotionPlus and the Wii Sports Resorts experience. Wii is a living platform. It’s always going further and better, to a certain extent.

What we have as a platform holder, as a key challenge on the Wii side, is that we have to surprise the consumer. I think the key point is that we have opportunities to have a lot of different kinds of entertainment. At the end of the day, this is the Nintendo philosophy. As long as you can surprise people and give them new experiences and, ultimately, fun, they will come to your platform and purchase your software.

In recent years we’ve convinced more and more people to come on board. The key drivers for that were the Wii Sports experience on one side and the Wii Fit experience on the other side, but it’s also important to bear in mind that we also had a lot of people come in through the Mario Kart experience, or last year, the big seller, New Super Mario Brox. Wii.

These are “bridge games,” which are very important. We put together the people that play a lot, for a long time, and the people that have just started to play. As long as we’re able to follow that path, we’ll still make the people that we know are looking forward to our software – the Nintendo fans, and the avid gamers – look for the new experiences we provide them.

What I think it quite interesting is that Metroid: Other M is an instance where we have a new insight on a well established franchise, and I think the challenge from the development team has been really achieved in an amazing way. On the other side, we can also follow up on the same path as we have done with Super Mario Bros. Wii. – we have Donkey Kong coming back. It’s the pure essence of the platform, and the way we handle it, from my point of view, will be able to put together all these different types of people, regardless of skill, or whether or not they’re veteran players. Everyone together, one proposal: to have fun.

Obviously, this is the “motion year” for Sony and Microsoft. Reggie was very vocal when Sony announced Move at GDC, saying Nintendo would be embarrassed to be following in this way. How do you feel about Sony and Microsoft releasing motion controllers this year?

Laurent Fischer: I think at the end of the day, we know that motion control has been an innovative proposal, and we kicked off the process in 2006. It’s an ongoing process for us. Our priority is always to say, ‘OK, we have started. We have moved it forward with new proposals such as Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort and Wii MotionPlus.’

And we are still doing that exercise, and we’re still moving forward and finding other ways to use the technology that we’ve developed and embedded into the console itself. For example, today’s proposal, in terms of how we can further use the motion control and the Wii MotionPlus experience, is definitely something we’re doing with the Zelda franchise. To me, from the Zelda player point of view, it’s really a dream coming true. Last year, Mr Miyamoto suggested that we were going to have a real sword and being able to use the sword in the same control process that we have on Wii Sports Resort, and now that’s been turned into reality it’s amazing how it’s changed the gameplay experience.

Again, the people that have this Zelda love will discover a new way to play, and it will be a fresh new experience. Also, I believe that people who have no clue as to what Zelda is from a franchise point of view will come to it and say, “OK, I love to fight, I love to think, I love to laugh,” and they will fully enjoy the experience. That’s the refocus we have.

Are we going to see any price-cutting from Nintendo this year? You’re probably going to be under pressure, particularly towards the end of the year, when inevitably Sony and Microsoft do push down a bit further. Are you feeling pressure to get a bit cheaper now or are you comfortable where you are?

Laurent Fischer: Actually, we now have a very good proposal for the consumer. The consumer gets the Wii hardware alongside Wii Sports Resort and the Wii MotionPlus experience embedded, so that’s a fairly strong proposal from our point of view.

As a matter of fact, it’s an ongoing trend on price activity from the very beginning from our competitors, and we have not moved so much on their moves. Again, if we’re able to provide the right experience at the right price for the consumer, the value for money that we have is the one that will convince the consumer. I think everything is a matter of being able to provide this software proposal, this fun proposal. That’s the core proposal we have to do.

As a matter of fact, whether we’re talking about the handheld side or the console side, we’ve been, from the very beginning, always trying to have the best market price. So, they had to change their price, of course, as they started at a very high point, but that’s not our case. The starting point is something that differs very much, and put us in a different situation.

When do you think we’ll see the 3DS price announced, and can you give us an indication of how much it will cost?

Laurent Fischer: It’s too early to say anything about it. The only thing we can confirm is that we plan to have the console ready to launch in this fiscal year. That’s where we are.

Breaking news

23 Comments

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  1. Robo_1

    Nice interview.

    As somebody who presumably saw both Sony’s and Nintendo’s 3D presentations, how would you say the two experiences stack up?

    Does the 3DS pretty much recreate what Sony need glasses for, or is there a noticeable advantage to using the glasses… or saying that, does the quality of the 3DS effect actually exceed that of Sony’s offering?

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Patrick Garratt

    @1 – The 3DS 3D effect is the same as if you were wearing glasses. Honestly, it’s amazing. I couldn’t believe how well it worked. It’s like looking “into” the screen. You know those Magic Eye pictures? It’s a bit like that.

    It’s hard to compare PS3 and 3DS 3D, because PS3 3D happens on an HD TV. I saw Killzone 3 demoed in 3D in Holland, and the effect’s fantastic. It really adds to the game.

    Seeing Ocarina on 3DS was just incredible, but it’s a different “experience,” I guess.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Robo_1

    Cheers for that. :)

    Sounds as though the big N really have cracked getting the effect to look right then, as from what you’re saying there’s certainly no gulf in quality between the glasses and glasses free effect.

    All being well, we’ll see this type of tech migrate to 3D TV’s within the next few years.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Erthazus

    It’s not Nintendo who cracked the technology, it’s Sharp who did it and Nintendo use Sharps screens to do that magic trick with your eyes.

    the magic is behind a small screen. Thats it. Thats not a big revolution here and still if you are not looking in to it or looking from left or right direction, the 3D image is bad or just gimmick, so thats another problem.

    HDTV screens are big and thats why you need glasses, because without them your eyes are not capable of rendering 3D image. There are already technologies that use 3D image without glasses, but it’s a power consumption and require a lot of resources.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. StolenGlory

    My life will remain incomplete until I own one of these.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Gheritt White

    @ 4: What difference does it make who made the screen? Nintendo will be the first videogames hardware manufacturer to bring glasses-free 3D tech to the market – on a portable device with a stellar launch line-up, no less. In that way, the Big N most certainly have one up on MS and Sony.

    Also, *you* say the “the 3D image is bad or just gimmick”, whereas Pat – who has actually played with the device first-hand – says it’s “amazing”.

    Professional journalist’s hands-on experience versus random internet guy’s baseless opinion? I know which source I’m more likely to believe.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. DrDamn

    @1
    There are plus points and drawbacks to all 3D tech currently. The 3DS screen tech is well suited to a handheld but doesn’t scale well to a larger screen. You need to keep your self and the screen well placed to see the effect, but when in that sweet spot it’s good. It has a very narrow field of view it works in and a set distance. It would be interesting to see how well it works on a train or bus for example – or if it can be used well in conjunction with the accelerometer in the machine.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Erthazus

    “What difference does it make who makes the screen?”

    Difference is between support, price and upgrading your device with the latest 3D screens is going to be a problem for Nintendo. I’m still interested with the price they will have for this handheld and Investors don’t want to lose on hardware.
    3D screens from Sharp are very expensive, but Nintendo’s hardware is very cheap. So it’s going to be interesting.

    “Also, *you* say the “the 3D image is bad or just gimmick”, whereas Pat – who has actually played with the device first-hand – says it’s “amazing”.”

    I have at home 3D Nvidia 3D vision for about a year and i know about 3D stuff a lot and i know from proffessional journalists (not gaming) but who work on tech magazines or sites and they tested Sharps screens and they say that image is in 3D but when you watch from left or right direction it’s not a good 3D image.
    “I which source I’m more likely to believe.”

    you don’t have to, i’m not a journalist. It’s an opinion.
    But you are just an ordinary guy that can be bought by simple marketing campaign and i’m 100% sure that 3D is not going to surpass what i saw from Batman:Arkham Asylum in 3D or especially METRO 2033.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Robo_1

    @7

    Yeah that’s quite right. The tech needs to be robust enough to be useful outside of the confines of a demo pod.

    I certainly still think the whole 3D tech is still in it’s infancy, and a more robust and standard solution can’t be many years off.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Patrick Garratt

    Seriously, I’m not lying. The 3DS effect is properly knock-out. I nearly dropped the console when I watched Ocarina on it. The guy holding it laughed at me, ’cause I was properly, “What the fuck?” I didn’t think it’d be possible.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Erthazus

    @10 I believe you, but i’m really, REALLY skeptical about 3D on the 3DS. I’m buying it because of line-up they already have… Lineup is fantastic.

    but 3D? I remember they said that there is a Depth Slider to regulate 3D on handheld. Thats like saying that there is 3D, bu-u-u-t it’ not that awesome. With Nvidia 3D vision you can regulate manually, but it’s so gimmick after that. Basically if you can regulate 3D image, then developer can render only 1 or few objects in 3D. After 1-2 years it’s not going to be awesome.

    well, i hope 3DS will be at Gamescom… I need to try it.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. mington

    the first thing i’ll do with a 3ds is take a 3d picture of my erect penis

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Erthazus

    @12 LOL!!!

    #13 4 years ago
  14. mington

    and show it to my gran

    #14 4 years ago
  15. DrDamn

    The inclusion of the 3D camera – even if it only vaguely works – is genius. Kids will have a load of fun messing about with that alone.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. JonFE

    @Erthazus:

    “I remember they said that there is a Depth Slider to regulate 3D on handheld. Thats like saying that there is 3D, bu-u-u-t it’ not that awesome.”

    No. Actually, it’s like saying “there is 3d and you can adjust it to the level that *you* feel comfortable with.”.

    Different strokes for different folks and all that…

    #16 4 years ago
  17. Gadzooks!

    @Pat

    Does the 3DS 3D effect go ‘into’ the screen, kinda like a perspective-tracked 3D or does it pop out like cinema 3D?

    From what you saw of Ocarina, was it using a bunch of parralax planes or was there smooth transition from foreground to background, say if you were stood next to a wall that went into the distance?

    Either way I’m rapidly becoming sold on the 3DS. Just need a sensible price to be announced!

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Erthazus

    @16 “you can adjust it to the level that *you* feel comfortable with.”. ”

    Thats the question. I don’t understand what that slider do. If it makes 3D bigger or smaller then it’s a FAIL, but if it is making image less 3D or more 3D then i need to see it.

    Gamescom… Gamescom.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. Cee

    @ 12
    “it’s” big enough to fill the bottom 3.02 inch screen then, ming?

    #19 4 years ago
  20. mington

    you better believe it partner

    i love how i’ve derailed this comment thread in to a conversation about my genitalia

    but to be fair, my penis does get more playtime then my DS

    #20 4 years ago
  21. JonFE

    @18:

    I haven’t seen it myself, but I’d assume that it makes the image more 3D to less 3D (or most 3D to none 3D, if you prefer).

    I really don’t understand what you mean by “if it makes 3D bigger or smaller”, though… Are you talking about the size of the screen?

    #21 4 years ago
  22. DrDamn

    @17
    I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that it does in and out – ooerrr. Probably the EG hands on. No reason why it can’t do both though.

    #22 4 years ago
  23. DrDamn

    @17
    From EG – “The 3D image has perhaps a little less background depth than the current cutting edge of stereoscopic 3D, but the beauty of 3DS is that the effect is greatly enhanced by the simple fact that you’re holding it. Objects in the foreground, suspended between your hands, assume a reality they wouldn’t projected on the far side of the room. You feel as though you can touch them.”

    Whether stuff ends up looking planar is another matter. If TVs are anything to go by it depends a lot on the scene. To give a scene real depth it needs a good composition (similar to a 2D picture). A good transition and variety from foreground, middle and background. That’s why games like FPS and racers tend to look better as there is naturally a good mix of depth in the scene.

    #23 4 years ago