You just mentioned online activity. Nintendo has struggled with online features in the past. Now it looks like online is central to the Wii U experience. What was your driving philosophy behind online for Wii U?
We recognized that the Wii U had to have a strong account system.
Here’s a little bit of background. Up until the Wii U, the device held all of the account information. Whether you played or your kids played or your partner played, it was all one set of data to the Wii. The same was true for DS and 3DS.
With Wii U, we’re going to have an account system. This means you’re going to create a Mii, as will all the other members of your family, and the behaviour for each Mii is going to be captured in an account. For example, if you’ve achieved a certain level in a game, that information will be unique to your Mii. Parental settings will be specific to each Mii.
This is critically important, because it means things like messaging and achievements and other key online functionality is tailored to you.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata mentioned in a pre-E3 video that the system’s social features have been designed to persist and evolve with each new generation of Nintendo hardware.
I think what he’s trying to communicate is that in addition to having this robust online experience, it’s almost like having a third platform. By third I mean you have your home console, your handheld, and now this key network platform.
This network will be applied on every future platform. Why is that important? Once I build a relationship with you through an account system, all of those behaviours and experiences are going to be there for you to go back to. If you buy a piece of digital content, it will be there for you, even in future systems.
You could sum up the original Wii with just a couple of words – motion control – or an even an image of people standing and playing in their living rooms, and everyone just got it. Wii U seems a bit more complex, not quite as easy to quickly encapsulate. Do you think this might prove a problem in terms of marketing it to casual gamers?
You’re right. Accessible, active play became a very simple way to communicate what Wii was all about. But when we were sitting at E3 in 2006, we weren’t talking about active play as the summary of the proposition. We got there over a few months as we really thought hard about the system and reflected on the software that really resonated with consumers.
Similarly, our job over the coming months is to come up with a concise collection of words that communicate what the Wii U is all about. That’s work still to be done.
I do think that the concept of asymmetric play [enabled by the Wii U’s Gamepad controller, which provides players a second screen] will be a key part of the proposition. It’s this idea that you and I are playing the same game, but we’re playing it differently, and because of that it’s a lot more fun.
Nintendo’s press conference lacked a lot of information that people expected, including launch date, pricing, specific launch software, and what would be included in the package. What was your rationale for withholding that key information at this stage?
The rationale is this: We want to see what resonates. We want to understand which games and experiences really resonate with consumers, and then use that information to make decisions moving forward. This is something we’ve done every launch year. We did it with DS, we did it with Wii, we did it with 3DS.
We’ll take all of the information coming from E3 and use it to make final decisions on launch date, launch price, configuration, launch day software, launch window software, and follow up-software. Because now we have the benefit of information.