Near the end of our interview earlier this month, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime jokingly asked me for harder questions. We'd mostly been talking about the ins and outs of the Wii U, but on this final day of the big E3 show, an event that included a big showing by Nintendo's new console, he wanted to joust.
What follows is our exchange, which turned into something unexpected: a consideration of the hardcore gamer, who, in Fils-Aime's mind, is a tough customer to please. Too tough?
Me: Why do you think your press conference got a negative response among a lot of our readers who felt there wasn't a lot that was new there, that was that different from what had been shown last year [on Wii U] in demo form?
Fils-Aime: One of the things that, on one hand, I love and, on the other hand, that troubles me tremendously about not only our fanbase but about the gaming community at large is that, whenever you share information, the perspective is, "Thank you, but I want more." "Thank you, but give me more." I mean, it is insatiable.
And so for years this community has been asking, "Where's Pikmin?" "Where's Pikmin?" "Where's Pikmin?" We give them Pikmin. And then they say, "What else?"
For years, this community have said, "Damnit Reggie, when you launch, you better launch with a Mario game." So we launch with a Mario game, and they say, "So what's more?"
I have heard people say, "You know, you've got these fantastic franchises, beyond what you're doing in Smash Bros., isn't there a way to leverage all these franchises?" So we create Nintendo Land and they say, "Ho-hum, give me more." So it's an interesting challenge.
Me: I think part of it is your fans expect genius from the company. And they got used to Nintendogs, Brain Age, Wii Sports — not all of them necessarily launch games — but you're a hit-driven company that can create phenomenons, and when you guys launch a console, people expect — I expect — to see software that doesn't feel like stuff I necessarily saw the year before, but an evolution and new shocking ideas.
Fils-Aime: Time out. Time out. Again two different issues. When we show a game like Brain Age or when we show a game like Nintendogs, what's the fan-based community reaction? "Ho-hum." Until it sells millions of copies. When we showed Wii Fit on stage... go back and read your blogs, what was the reaction?
Me: You've said this one before. I disagree specifically about Wii Fit. You're right on the other ones. Wii Fit people understood right away.
Fils-Aime: It's not a question of understanding. I think people understood what we showed. It's the question of, as a gamer, "Is this for me and something I can get excited about?" And Wii Fit did not get that reaction. And yet 43 million copies around the world, it's a phenomenon. And so I would argue that the gaming community actually is unable to differentiate between a phenomenon and something that is "ho-hum."
Me: Until they play it.
Reggie: Until they play it. Until they experience it. Until their friends and their non-gaming associates say, "Hey, have you seen X?"
This exchange occurred after Nintendo ran four press conferences for E3, one of them online and the other three in LA Four press conferences came and went with lots of Nintendo news, but, seemingly, things missing. Was it the dissatisfaction of gamers? Could Nintendo possibly have done more? Two weeks after E3 — just last night — Nintendo held another press conference. This one was full of news for the insatiable appetites of gaming fans.