Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Amie discussed Nintendo’s business strategy for the 2014 holiday season with Re/code on Wednesday. Nintendo just had its first profitable fiscal quarter in years, and Fils-Amie says he expects this Holiday season to continue that success. Why is Nintendo doing so well? Fils-Amie says it’s because Nintendo offers experiences unlike anything its competition can.
Fils-Amie says Nintendo is banking on three product lines to carry the company’s success this season: Super Smash Bros., Pokemon, and the new Amiibo toys. Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS has had a strong start after being released in October, and both Pokemon and Super Smash Bros. Wii U release on November 21st. Amiibos will unlock content in a variety of Nintendo games. Currently Amiibos will only unlock content in Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, but that portfolio will grow, starting with the upcoming Captain Toad and Mario Party games.
Fils-Amie says he is not concerned with the Xbox One and Playstation 4 having cross-platform content the Wii U doesn\’t have. He says Nintendo is more concerned with provided unique experiences.
\”Let those other guys battle it out over, you know, which visual representation of Call of Duty is most compelling. I like our chances of having a differentiated console and a differentiated series of experiences,\” says Fils-Amie.
This desire to be different from the competition is a major theme throughout the interview. Fils-Amie says Nintendo gives developers control over their own franchises. The Pokemon Company, for example, has \”autonomy\” over it’s franchise, despite Nintendo owning one third of the company as well as GameFreak, which also owns a third.
Other Nintendo franchises are split into two groups within Nintendo. There’s one group that operates under Shigeru Miyamoto. Fils-Amie says Mario, Zelda, and Animal Crossing games all fall under this group. The second group is composed of games like Metroid, which are owned by Nintendo but are operated by second-party developers.
Fils-Amie says these franchises are essentially controlled by the developers, with Nintendo giving the okay as long as the developers can provide a compelling case for their decisions.
For the franchise that they’re responsible for, how do they push the envelope in terms of what makes it fun? This is a core difference in how we approach game development versus what tends to happen in the industry. There’s a new Madden every year. There’s a new Call of Duty every year. There’s only one Mario Kart for a particular platform. There’s going to be only one for the Nintendo 3DS. There’s going to be only one for the Wii U. Our challenge is, how do we take that franchise and make it broad, make it appealing to the point where we can sell five, 10, 15 million copies?
According to Fils-Amie, making games that fit the hardware is a big part of being unique. The Wii U’s GamePad screen is an example of something Nintendo has yet to show the full potential of. Fils-Amie says Nintendo thinks of the GamePad as an integral part of the Wii U in the same way the second screen on the 3DS is. He says games will be built around that to make games unlike those on competing consoles.