Interview – Nintendo’s Laurent Fischer

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


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.