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Reggie Says Mobile Gaming Goes Against What Nintendo Believes In

Also, he likes Skylanders. Who knew?

Reggie Fils-Aime has come a long way from his E3 2004 debut where he was all about “kickin’ ass and takin’ names”. The former VP of Sales and Marketing for Nintendo of America is now the President of Nintendo of America, and he has a lot to say about where the Big N is going, not only in terms of hardware and software, but on the digital front as well. In a recent interview, Reggie talked about the future of the 3DS, the upcoming release of the Wii U, and even took some time to discuss what he’s been playing.

The 3DS is not even a year old yet, but it’s already had its fair share of ups and downs. The system made a huge splash at E3 2010, and was all anyone could talk about for the first few months after its debut. But by the time the system launched this year, the media’s reception had cooled noticeably, and that carried over into the consumer market. The 3DS was easy to come by even on launch day, and the handheld had a slow start thanks to some lackluster launch titles and a trickle of new releases. That culminated in a shocking price drop a mere 5 months after launch. When asked what the 3DS needs to do to be successful, Reggie says it comes down to the games. “Content. It's all about the content, and we're gratified when we see reviews for Super Mario 3D Land, for example…it reaffirmed for us that lesson that software drives hardware, and that the launch and ongoing for the system to be effective, you need to have titles to drive the install base.”

Of course, Nintendo first-party games always push new hardware forward, often to the detriment of third-party developers. “For all of the success we've had with DS, 50 million units here in the U.S., content with a bit more of an edge from key third party publishers really never came to the platform,” says Reggie, noting that there were a few exceptions. “So, one of the first things that will differentiate the 3DS is that we are getting that type of content.”

Some of that content will be able to come digitally through the eShop on the 3DS, which is getting an update that will allow developers to create and sell add-on content for physical and digital games. Reggie says that it will be up to the developer to decide how they want to go about this, but also shows hesitance from the designers within Nintendo.” I've had this conversation with a number of our key developers, and their mentality is, ‘Reggie, when we sell a game, we want the consumer to feel that they've had a complete experience.’”

This is a definite difference in the way Nintendo has approached the marketplace compared to Sony and Microsoft. While those two companies have embraced digital games and paid DLC, Nintendo is just now really starting to get their feet wet. This extends to mobile and social gaming. When asked about investors wanting Nintendo to go into the mobile gaming arena, Reggie had some stern words. “First, we're an entertainment company. We don't make devices for the sake of making devices. We make our hardware in order to bring great entertainment experiences to life.” Though a Pokemon game called Pokemon Say Tap was announced for the iPhone in Japan, it is not being made by Nintendo. “The concept of having our core franchises on other systems really flies in the face of what we believe in,” says Reggie. “The full game experiences will be brought to life, at least from a first party perspective, on our hardware."

The Wii U has been somewhat of a confusing proposition, and Reggie didn’t shine too much light on the subject. Though most hardcore gamers and enthusiast press have latched on to the fact that Nintendo will finally step into the HD era of video games, Fils-Aime downplays that part of the new system. “If all we do is a beautiful game in HD, it's been done before.” He says that developers need to take advantage of the second screen and take advantage of the connectivity that the system will offer. Of course, the last time Nintendo was big on “connectivity” gamers were plugging four Game Boy Advance systems into their Gamecubes via link cables.

The market isn’t just Nintendo, though, and in a rare moment Reggie talked briefly about what he’s seen from the competitors that he likes. "From a non-Nintendo standpoint this holiday, I think what Activision has done with Skylanders is really innovative. And that's a game that plays extremely well.” Reggie says that, while he takes full advantage of being able to play games like Super Mario 3D Land early, he also plays a lot of the big games on other systems.” So, I've played Battlefield [3] on the home consoles, I've played it on PC. I've played some Gears of War to see how that played, I played a little Resistance [3].” Reggie says that he makes sure to spend time with the competition, and feels that it’s important for him to have knowledge on everything that comes out. “I got to see Skyrim at E3, and I'm looking forward to seeing that. But I try to get my hands on everything.”

Nintendo is riding high right now, with big games like Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS for the holiday season, as well as the highly-anticipated release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword this coming Sunday. It will be interesting to see what Nintendo is cooking up for next year, especially with the Wii U on the horizon.



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