LOS ANGELES — Will Nintendo’s new Wii U compete with the iPad as much as other game consoles, and will its Miiverse social network challenge Facebook?
And can the console win over hard-core gamers without “Call of Duty” — or could the blockbuster action game be coming to the Wii U after all?
Those are some of the question I pitched at E3 to Scott Moffitt, the guy in charge of selling and marketing Nintendo hardware and games.
Moffitt joined Nintendo of America as executive vice president of sales and marketing last year. Earlier he was at PepsiCo and Henkel Consumer Goods, handling brands like Mountain Dew, Right Guard and Dial.
Nintendo of America is based in Redmond, but Moffitt works from its marketing office in Redwood City, Calif.
Here are edited excerpts of our chat:
Q: Why is there no Wii U pricing information yet? Is it because you want another round of coverage when the price is announced, or have you not decided the price yet?
A: It’s not that we haven’t settled it. As is typical with past Nintendo console and hardware launches, we tend to try to announce the pricing and exact SKU information closer to launch. What we’ve said is the Wii U will be launching this holiday period and we’ll make that kind of information available as we get closer to launch.
Q: How does Nintendo define the holiday season?
A: Holiday season really begins October, November, December, but of course the bulk of the sales begin Black Friday weekend, right after Thanksgiving.
Q: Do you see consumers this Christmas choosing between a $399 iPad and a Wii U, or will the Wii U be more head-to-head with other consoles?
A: I believe the competitive consideration set would include our friends from Microsoft and Sony more so than iPad devices. There’s just limited gaming you can do on those devices if you really are a gamer that cares for deep, immersive gaming experiences with true button control.
So I do believe our true competition is the other consoles. But I’d say what we’re offering is quite different and quite revolutionary so I think we’ll compete with ourselves a bit.
Q: Are your primary buyers going to be Wii owners upgrading?
A: I think your early buyers are people who love early technology. And that probably is very broadly defined as active gamers that really want the newest, latest, greatest technology in gaming and are very intrigued by the second screen controller, which we call the Wii U, and all the interesting things it enables in home entertainment.
Q: So do you expect a slower build-up with mainstream consumers?
A: No, I think there will be a lot of current Nintendo fans also in that early rush to wait in lines and buy the Wii U. So I think current Nintendo fans that love our franchises and love playing Mario games they know they can only play on our systems will be lining up to buy it. Certainly Wii owners will be intrigued by what this has to offer as well.
Q: Your peers at Sony have told me they saw the PlayStation 3 as the upgrade for Wii owners. What will Wii U buyers be upgrading from?
A: The Wii U is intended for a broad audience. Nintendo’s always been about expanding the gaming audience. The potential buyers are very broad. As we showed with Wii, when you bring interesting, new types of gaming the appeal can be quite broad. Once again, we’re going to be able to transform the gaming experience, but it goes far beyond gaming. With Wii U there are three pillars to what Wii U offers.
Certainly the integrated, second-screen controller transforms the way people play games. It will transform the way they connect with each other, with Miiverse. It will also transform the way they experience entertainment in the home. It’s connected automatically to the internet, to your game console and you have the controller. That seamless connection creates lots of interesting entertainment possibilities as well as game possibilities.
Q: You have some new games for hard-core gamers but I didn’t see “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield” for the Wii U. Can you get the core gamer if you don’t have those titles on there?
A: E3 for us is all about games. We’re focusing on that first pillar of the three pillars of what E3 can offer. Over 20 games were unveiled. That’s a pretty broad lineup. But I can assure you even more games will be coming during the launch period so if there’s a favorite game that gamers like, I think there’s a good chance it will be coming to the platform. …. I would expect that gamers will see an immense array of first- and third-party content at launch.
Q: That’s interesting. You’re coming after the core strongly during what’s going to be a big core season, with big titles coming out and the other consoles positioned for core gamers. Will most of your sales be to the family audience?
A: I wouldn’t say that. I think Wii U is intended to reach a very broad audience. There’s a lot that a core gamer will really appreciate in the system when they get into it and they see a game like “Batman Arkham City.
Yes, it’s a game that was released last year but when you see how you can play it differently and what new kinds of experiences are available when you play it on the Wii U game pad. It really opens up and we think, could make it the preferred way to play some of those core games.
Q: How are you going handle parental and family safety issues around the Miiverse social network? Will there be age restrictions on its use?
A: There will be traditional parental family controls, as you’d expect with that. The Miiverse, we really haven’t talked much about that yet, but it’s a really interesting idea that will transform social connections both within game play and beyond game play with broader entertainment.
When you power up your system, you’ll see this Mii plaza with not only your Mii but also the Miis of your friends and your neighbors and other people you’re gaming with, but other people from your region or across the world. You’ll see where they’re congregating, which indicates their preferences for gaming or other entertainment…. We think it will enable fun interaction with households across the country and with gamers of all abilities.
Q: Will it be open to players under 13 years old?
A: It’s open to gamers of all ages but you can set your parental controls, your parental restrictions, as you like.
Q: Will there be any bridges between Miiverse and say Facebook or Twitter?
A: We haven’t announced anything in that area yet.
Q: Will you do more things wth the network and online services, for instance online storage and photo sharing?
A: We haven’t announced any of those capabilities yet, but I think you’re imagining several possibilities that have already been thought about.
We’ve also thought about how would you connect this new Nintendo network with your 3DS, your handheld gaming system, so you could certainly imagine lots of ways to connected all your gaming devices and enable some of the functions you’re talking about. But that’s not ready, that’s not going to be announced at launch.
Q: Will the Miiverse become the primary way people connect online with friends and family, or is it intended to supplement other networks and message systems?
A: It’s not meant to replace things people are doing on Facebook or other things. It’s really not a competitor for those. It’s a game-centered network. So it’s meant to be a place to share gaming and entertainment content so it really inverts what Facebook does.
Facebook is a broad social network, it has a gaming aspect to it. This starts with gaming and enables some of the communication and interaction that consumers have become accustomed to with these other social networks.
Q: How will you benefit from having pole position in the next generation of game consoles?
A: I think Nintendo tends to launch new consoles when the technology and when the imagination is there to create something new that enables a richer and more interesting game experience. We don’t have a set clock when we want a new console or a new piece of hardware to come out.
When we feel we have something that can elevate game play and transform the experience, that’s when we’ll bring it out. But certainly I would imagine being first will influence consoles that come from other manufacturers.