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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 13, 2013 at 6:30 PM

E3: Nintendo’s Moffitt on Wii U, console prices and more

LOS ANGELES — Nintendo isn’t daunted by the coming challenge from Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Nor is it planning to cut the price of its Wii U, which has had a slow start since its debut last November, when it launched the next generation of the game console business, according to Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president of sales and marketing.

The higher prices of the other consoles actually gave the Wii U a “perceived” price cut, Moffitt said during an interview at E3.

moffitt

Here are edited excerpts of our conversation.

How did Nintendo’s E3 approach work out, having a press conference on the show floor instead a big theater presentation?

There was some confusion at first for people who thought we were pulling back from E3. That’s really not the case. If anything, we have more events this year than we’ve had in the past. We tried to tailor the message more for the audience this year.

The big game companies are talking up developers this year. Is it because you’re trying to nourish them and keep them on your platforms, so they don’t put their energy more into tablets and phones?

Our focus this year is clearly on the games. We have a massive lineup of new and exciting experiences for gamers. Five of the top 10 gaming franchises are Nintendo exclusives. All five are making an appearance on our platforms this year. That will drive the installed base, and when the installed base gets large, it attracts the indie developers. I would say that’s more our approach and strategy and why we feel highlighting these five franchises is great for us.

Those five are?

Mario Kart, Wii Fit, Zelda, Mario 3D platforming games and Pokemon. Activision likes to talk about how much they’ve accumulated in sales on “Skylanders” and it’s impressive — $1 billion in sales after two launches after two years. On Pokemon, we sell $1.6 billion every year. Sometimes the numbers just get lost and people forget the comparisons. It’s worth reminding people from time to time.

Do you expect the new Wii Fit U coming in December to broaden the appeal of the Wii U, the way the originally Wii Fit did for the Wii?

That’s the intention – the expectation and the intention.

How about a price cut? I was expecting Nintendo to lower the price of the Wii U and perhaps bring the premium bundle down to $300.

It’s not an illogical question. We still feel — and even more so now that others are starting to announce their prices — that Wii U is a great value. It remains a great value. It’s an even better value now that we’ve seen what some of the other prices are out there.

There’s going to be a steady stream of great Wii U content through the holidays, and we think through that people are really going to embrace Wii U. I’d say we had a perceptual price cut. Really, we did.

You mean by Sony and Microsoft pricing their new consoles higher than Wii U? (The PS4 starts at $400, the Xbox One at $500 and the Wii U at $300.)

We had a perceived price cut — now Wii U looks like an even better value. That’s the way I’d look at it.

How do you explain the Wii U’s slow start?

We did not have a great cadence of great software right out of the gate. Initial launch window was great but … we didn’t have a sequence of software to sustain sales during the first part of this year. That’s all changing. We’ve got a steady lineup of great games coming.

Did you release the Wii U too soon? You had to release a pretty big firmware update.

I wouldn’t say we released it too soon. All the million fans that are already out there enjoying Wii U would have had to wait that much longer to get new experiences from Nintendo. Like with any electronics product, firmware updates as you go — that’s not unique to us. We’re glad we brought it out when we did.

At launch there was a lot of emphasis on hard-core, action games. This year, the emphasis is on more traditional, family-friendly Nintendo titles.

Recognize that among our loyalists are families but also older, hard-core gamers that just have a preference for our franchises. I don’t know if I’d ever call a Zelda fan a casual gamer. That’s a pretty serious gamer; they play 20 hours a week.

Are you going to let Sony and Microsoft run with the big, full-bore action games and you focus on more creative franchises?

I’d say absolutely not. We want to appeal — and Wii U does appeal — to gamers of all types. We will have core gamer content. I would characterize it as we try to pitch a big tent, and we invite all gamers, and we try to have content for everybody.

I wonder how you’ll do without “Battlefield 4” and “Call of Duty: Ghosts” on the Wii U this fall?
We’ve got some great partnerships with third-party developers. Will we have every single third-party title on the Wii U? Probably not, but we will have great content for gamers of all types, including hard-core game fans that want to play darker games that are a little bit more aggressive in nature and mature content.

What do you think about the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 pricing? Will it hurt Microsoft?

Personally, I would never underestimate our competition. They’re smart people, just like we are, and they make the best decision for their games and for their business. Our focus is on driving our installed base as high as we can get and bringing great, new innovative experiences.

Will the Wii U outsell the Xbox One and PS4 this holiday?

I’m not going to make predictions like that. I feel extremely confident in our software lineup on both Wii U, as well as 3DS.

Are we at the bottom of a business cycle or are people shifting their game dollars away, to online, apps and things like that?

I firmly believe we’re at the bottom of a cycle, just going through a transitional period. A year, two years from now, the game industry will be back to growth — back to strong growth. If we look back in history, every console generation has sold more than the generation prior. When we look just at 3DS, we are well ahead of the pace of DS at this point in its lifecycle.

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