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E3 Interview: Nintendo's Scibetta On 3DS And Wii U Challenges

E3 Interview: Nintendo's Scibetta On 3DS And Wii U Challenges

June 9, 2011 | By Christian Nutt




With a lagging 3DS showing a strong core franchise lineup, and Wii U debuting a new experience, Nintendo of America's senior director of corporate communications, Charlie Scibetta, told Gamasutra he is upbeat about the company's E3 showing and confident of success for the 3DS in the long run.

Stock Price Woes

Of the debut of the Wii U, Scibetta says that -- despite the 5.7 percent dip in stock price the company suffered after its E3 presentation -- "We're really pleased with the way people reacting to it, and people are getting what we are trying to communicate." He describes the system as "a whole new experience."

He's not worried about the stock price. "The same thing happened with the Wii -- there was a dip in the stock," he said. The company's stock also dropped 10 percent on the announcement of the 3DS.

"We're all about creating evangelists here at the show, and people who can take our message... If they like what we have to offer they can take that outside... We're generating a positive buzz here at the LACC," Scibetta said.

"As people learn about the Wii U, things like stock price and public sentiment will take care of themselves, because we think the console is that strong."

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata talked the Wii U up as a system that can attract a broader audience but also offer deeper gameplay experiences thanks to the new controller, and Scibetta echoed that. "If you're a game developer you have the ability to make the interface as complicated or simple as you want."

The 3DS' Challenges

Scibetta was also forced to admit that the 3DS has faced challenges -- and, as president Iwata admitted earlier getting players excited about the system has been tough.

"It's hard to market a 3D product in a 2D world, and the way we've found is the most effective is getting [3DS units] into their hands," Scibetta said. While there's a definite challenge "in terms of websites, print magazines, and TV," he said, the solution is "a very aggressive trial program. Wherever people are congregating, we encourage people to try it... [and then] convert that positive sentiment into purchase intent."

But what of the price? Is $250 too much for the casual gamers who flocked to the original Nintendo DS? "I think if you give people enough reasons to buy, eventually they will. We're not too concerned about the long term viability of the platform."

It's not about dropping a price, then, to drive interest. "If we give them good enough content," he said, success will follow. "I'll keep coming back to the games, and we've got the experiences that will appeal."

Scibetta also pointed to the just-live eShop online store and soon-to-launch Netflix access as positives; he also said that it's early days, and while the 3DS lineup at E3 is focused towards the company's core fan franchises such as Mario, Zelda, and Kid Icarus, casual content that drove sales of the original DS will come in time. "We're so early in the product's life cycle," he said.

"Give us time. We wanted to bring out franchises that people were familiar with and innovate on those... And with third party support we have, that innovation can come from anywhere."

The Wii U - Broader and Deeper Controls?

The new Wii U controller has the same complement of sticks and buttons as Sony and Microsoft do, but also has a touch screen and built-in motion controls -- and taking this into account, Scibetta thinks the system will be a hit with all audiences.

Games where "two screens... can interact with each other and play with each other" will be a key differentiator, while the more familiar controls and HD capabilities will "attract not just developers but hardcore gamers."


Said Scibetta, the lack of HD display and a full suite of button controls held back the Wii. "We've solved that, and we've heard the veteran gamer and we've designed the system to appeal to them."

And there's "another point of flexibility," he said -- the ability to "integrate Wii Remotes and the Wii U controller."

The company showed in its presentation that the system will attract ports of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 core titles like Darksiders II and Ninja Gaiden 3 -- but Scibetta didn't seem to want to be pinned down on whether or not this will matter to the system's success. It didn't help the Gamecube, which had many PlayStation 2 and Xbox 1 games -- which didn't seem to help its fortunes much.

"I would hope that any multiplatform games would take advantage of the controls," he said. "If people just took one game to try and port it over without putting the unique abilities into play," they won't make a success -- something the company has seen with the original Wii.

The only company showing off Wii U games, and not tech demos, is Ubisoft. Nintendo's booth is filled with prototypes designed to demonstrate the system's capabilities.

"We call them 'experiences', as opposed to actual games, because we do want people to experience what the capabilities are of the controller," Scibetta said. "What we like to do is not overpower people with too much at first... [but] make sure they understand the concept. It's a completely new idea so we don't want to overwhelm people."

Third parties do have the dev units in hand. Gamasutra can confirm, aside from Ubisoft, that a major independent Japanese studio has Wii U dev kits. "We've heard really great things," from third party developers, said Scibetta, and "We're really making an effort to reach out to third party developers early... The feedback has been really positive."

The Competition

Of course, Sony announced its new handheld, the PS Vita, will ship in 2011 at $249 -- the same price as the 3DS. Scibetta is not worried, toeing the usual Nintendo line. "We tend to focus more on what we have to offer. We certainly wouldn't change our strategy or our approach based on what a competitor is doing." The company will "continue to innovate... and encourage our third party developers to take advantage of the system."

Of course, smartphones are widely believed to have eaten into the audience for the 3DS. "Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. But we are trying to innovate in terms of having lower-cost games," he said, on the eShop. "We try to make things scalable... Try to have something there at every price point for every gamer."


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