Nintendo has been riding high ever since the Switch launched. The system has seen major success, and continues to reach new heights. In an interview with HollywoodReporter, Reggie Fils-Aime discusses numerous elements concerning the Switch, as well as Nintendo's approach to content, and much more.
On what's making the Switch successful
I think it’s a number of things. First, consumers look at Black Friday as an opportunity to get their holiday purchasing going. They look at values out of the marketplace and for us, it was really important to message the type of value that we will have with Nintendo Switch during the holiday season. For Black Friday, specifically, we had a hardware bundle that included Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — arguably one of our best-selling games — a game that consumers are already voting with their wallets that they want. That bundle sold out immediately. Then, we had a strong dedicated offer for Cyber Monday and this was offering $35 in e-shop credit when you bought through the dot-com retailers. What we saw that was gratifying is that both of those deals sold out quickly and then consumers started buying stock at regular price. That’s what we expect to continue. There’s going to be no more significant deals for Nintendo Switch. We’re only in our second holiday and the consumer is indicating that, for them, this product, with this great alignment of software really is a must-have product and something that they need to have now.
On wanting Red Dead Redemption 2 on Switch
Absolutely. We’d love for it to be there. But again — and this is where there needs to be an understanding of just the development process — Red Dead has been in development for years, time that predated any communication of Nintendo Switch. So, from the developer’s mentality, they need to move forward and finish the game they’ve been working on and then be in a position to look at other opportunities. Any game from a key third-party that’s coming out now, typically that development started well before any conversations about Nintendo Switch. What happens moving forward? We’ll see. But that’s how you wind up with a situation with Red Dead not being available on our platform.
On the breadth of content in Smash Bros. Ultimate
I’ve had the good fortune to meet me Mr. [Masahiro] Sakurai, the key developer, many times, and Mr. Sakurai is a student of video games — and what I mean by that is he not only loves and plays Nintendo content, he loves and plays content from all game developers, all platforms, all systems. So, Super Smash Bros. emanates from that love for video games and video game history. He and his team are so skilled to be able to create this experience and really to make it fun. Oftentimes, fighting games, maybe because the balance between characters isn’t quite right, can end up being not a lot of fun. But he’s a master of making this type of experience fun, compelling, introducing different modes and different elements. The spirit component [collectible cutout caricatures of video game characters that lend bonuses to the player’s fighter] that’s been added in is a wonderful feature. It’s almost a way as a player to hack the game, by adding spirits and adding different abilities, changing the nature of a particular character and how they play. It is due to [Sakurai] and his skill that Super Smash Bros. as a franchise and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, in particular, is as compelling an experience as it is.
On physical vs. digital sales
Nintendo’s philosophy is we want the consumer to buy the content in the way that they want, whether it’s physically or digitally. Additionally, we work with our retail partners to enable them to sell the product physically or digitally. Earlier, I touched on Amazon and their best-sellers. Their number one best-seller last time I checked was physical copies of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The number three seller was digital versions of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. So, we enable them to sell it either way, we enable the consumer to buy it either way, and from that standpoint we’re agnostic. Maybe what’s driving digital, broadly speaking, are things like indie games, which are largely digital-only; DLC and other added content which is digital-only; you’ve got each of the major players offering some sort of subscription program which is digital-only. These are unique elements that you can’t buy physically that help move the percentage a little bit further from a digital perspective.
On the potential for more Classic consoles
There’s no ability for add-on content with our classic consoles, so when you purchase the console it’s coming with that set roster of content. We worked very hard, both for the NES Classic and the SNES Classic, to really have the best games that defined that generation. We’ve said that the current systems are the extent of our classic program. We’ve also been clear that, at least from an Americas perspective, these products are going to be available through the holiday season and once they sell out, they’re gone. And that’s it. The way that consumers will be able to continue participating with our classic content is going to be through Nintendo Switch Online, and we just released three new games (Ninja Gaiden, Wario's Woods and Adventures of Lolo) from the NES generation onto that platform. We look at that as the main way that consumers will be able to experience that legacy content.
On Nintendo's push to innovate and be different
It is absolutely a conscious decision to innovate and to do things differently, to do things that are unexpected, to do things that consumers didn’t know they wanted but once we deliver that innovation it becomes, if you will, the new way of doing things, the new normal. Going back in our history, whether it’s the D-pad, which Nintendo introduced; our controller was the first with a joystick; we first introduced touchscreens to gaming with the Nintendo DS; we made AR broadly available to tens of millions of consumers, first with the 3DS and then it went to a whole new level with Pokemon Go. There are so many innovations that we have brought, not just to the video game industry, but to entertainment at large that it is core to our DNA to constantly innovate and constantly bring new things to bear. Taking those risks doesn’t come without a potential downside. One of the quotes that I love, and this is from [deceased former Nintendo CEO] Satoru Iwata, is that, as a company, we run toward risk. It’s a mentality of always pushing the envelope to be trying something new.