My annual interviews with Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime are upbeat affairs. He’s always feeling good about the line-up and remains unruffled as I pepper him with as many questions about as many topics as I can squeeze in.
If you’ve seen Reggie interviews before—or if you’ve done them—you know what you’re going to get. His domain is Nintendo of America, which is, Treehouse localization team aside, primarily a marketing division of Nintendo. Most game-creation decisions for Nintendo get made in Japan, while Fils-Aime and his team are instrumental in figuring out how Nintendo’s games, systems and Amiibo figures get sold in the Americas.
Fils-Aime isn’t going to be the person who decides it’s high time to make a new Wave Race, but he’s presumably got a lot of say in telling Nintendo HQ in Kyoto about what American gamers want and has a good feel for what his company is going to produce.
With all that in mind, I mostly avoid asking him about games Nintendo might create and stick to sales decisions and the like. So, on with it:
Fils-Aime: “I’m feeling good. The booth is full of smiling people. They’re excited.”
What he made of the Nintendo World Championships and whether Nintendo will ever make them a truly global competition....
Fils-Aime: “This year’s World Championships was a phenomenal success. We are certainly going to go back to [Nintendo of America HQ in] Redmond, look at what we achieved and challenge ourselves what else can we do. Not only in terms of how broader do we potentially make it geographically, but what’s the right frequency? Probably not waiting another 25 years would make some sense. But we’re going to talk about it and see. No commitments, but certainly we know the fans were excited and from a business perspective it was an unqualified success.”
...and why he lost so badly at the Championships to the great Jigglypuff Smash Bros. player Hungrybox after talking trash last year:
Fils-Aime: “You’ve seen my Nintendo 3DS. You know I play our content.”
Totilo: “No doubt, no doubt. And I also heard you’re amazing at Wii Tennis. I heard that a while ago.”
Fils-Aime: “You saw my progress in New Super Mario Bros. 2. I can show you my Animal Crossing house. I can show you the progress I’ve made on every single Zelda title. I play our content. The fact of the matter is I’ve never been a good Smash player. Never. Never.”
Fils-Aime: “And so in a momentary loss of control last year, I made a bombastic statement that came back to haunt me. Hungrybox is actually right here in our booth right now. Great guy. But yeah he kicked my butt.”
Totilo: “Had you done any training beforehand?”
Fils-Aime: “No. No. I picked up the controller once leading up, because I played a new character. And so... no. I had not done any training. Maybe that was my problem.”
On negative reaction to Nintendo’s unveiling of a new Metroid Prime spin-off game:
Fils-Aime: “Here’s what I would state: we know what our fans want. We will also push the envelope in developing something that we know is high-quality and that we know will deliver in the marketplace. The best example I can give you of this, and I think you will appreciate it, is Legend of Zelda Wind Waker. Remember when that art style was first shown. The uproar from the Zelda community was intensely negative. If there had been social media then, there probably would have been a petition to make that game go away.”
Totilo: “I guess you’ve seen the Metroid petition.”
Fils-Aime: “So, the game is developed, becomes one of the most beloved games of all time, one of the most highly-rated games of all time, so I use that example to say: ‘We know what we’re doing, trust us, play the game and then we can have a conversation.’”
Totilo: “And I’m not... Next Level Games is making it, and I believe in them, because Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon is fantastic. Mr. Tanabe has overseen many a great game. I think the question for me, which is a little different than what I’ve seen from some of our readers, I’m not so convinced that this game is going to be bad just because it doesn’t look like what I want. But my curiosity is: Do they [Nintendo] know that people still want a Samus Aran adventure?
Totilo: “I was surprised there was no messaging that said, ‘Don’t worry, we know you’re interested in this as well....’”
Fils-Aime: “Look, we know that the fans want a straight Samus Aran game. We also know that the best way to launch a game like that is to surprise and delight them, to give them a launch date, in an environment like this let them play it vs. what other companies do which is to announce a project that you may not see for five, six years. It’s just not the way we do things. We know the community wants to see a straight-up Metroid game. We know it.”
Creeping up to the topic of Mother 3, the Japan-only Game Boy Advance game I’ve asked Fils-Aime about so many times over the years:
Totilo: “I don’t want to ever bring this topic up with you, but you keep giving me reasons to. You just put out a Mother game [on Virtual Console].”
Fils-Aime: “Mother 1, yes. Earthbound Beginnings!”
Totilo: “Yes, so how am I not supposed to ask you about ....”
Fils-Aime: “My laser eyes will blow you away. [Note from Stephen: He’s referencing a joke about responding to Mother 3 questions from last year’s Nintendo E3 video.] Look, again, I think this is an example that demonstrates we’re constantly listening. We’re hearing what the fans say. And we thought it was great to bring back the very first Mother, Earthbound Beginnings here in the market. It’s been out for sale and doing quite well in the eShop. Again, we’ll never say never, but there’s nothing to announce right now.”
Totilo: “Of course not. But Earthbound, when that came out about a year ago [Note from Stephen: whoops, make that two years ago!] on Virtual Console, did you guys have an expectation about how that would do? Did that exceed expectations and perhaps influence the decision to release this one?”
Fils-Aime: “The Mother/Earthbound series is quite niche. And so for us it’s constantly thinking about the investment and then return for a game like that. There is quite a bit of localization to be done and we just need to make sure that volumetrically there’s enough volume to offset that investment.”
Totilo: “Is it safe to assume that you guys are pretty happy with how Earthbound was received last year and that helped motivate and get Mother 1 out?”
Fils-Aime: “That’s exactly right. “
Fils-Aime: “We just launched wave 4, and over roughly the past 30 days we’ve sold over a million Amiibo in just the United States. What does that suggest? It suggests we’ve made dramatic improvements in the supply chain, that we’re putting significant amounts of Amiibo into the marketplace. We’ve done replenishments on Marth. We’ve done replenishments on the Wii Fit Trainer, some of the more rare Amiibo. So, our strategy is to satisfy as much of that demand as we can and that’s what we’re working hard to do.”
Totilo: “People sometimes say that Nintendo keeps supply low at times because it is ultimately positive for Nintendo for people to be talking about how, ‘Oh I wanted this and it was sold out and I wanted to get one, it’s the hot item to get,’ that you guys intentionally constrain supply in order to create more excitement. What do you make of that?”
Fils-Aime: “That’s why I shared the million-unit number. You don’t sell through a million units by constraining supply. And, honestly, there is no business in disappointing your consumer. The mentality that suggests we are somehow constricting supply is rubbish. We want every consumer to be satisfied. We want every Amiibo player out there to be a completionist and have every single one. We’re working hard to get the supply into stores.”
Totilo: “Do you have any strategies to give people more opportunities? I see Amazon will do a limited-edition Amiibo. I may be getting the retailer wrong. And it’s sold out before anybody can even get it. It feels to me like trying to get concert tickets now. You’re competing with the scalpers or whoever. Do you guys have ideas or plans or anything you can share about that?”
Fils-Aime: “I think you have to put the auction person off to the side.”
Totilo: “The eBay flipper.”
Fils-Aime: “Right. The flipper, you have to put them off to the side. This is a consumer who thinks these are like gold. We’re focused on the everyday consumer, and we want that consumer to be completely satisifed. In the end, though, the retailer manages how they execute a pre-sale or how they make the product available. We certainly give suggestions and guidance. The retailer is making that call. And, again, to separate, when there’s a supply issue, that’s Nintendo’s fault. But in terms of managing a pre-sale process, that’s something that each individual retailer controls.”
Totilo: “Right. The 3DS Majora’s Mask was a ridiculously hot item for you guys.”
Fils-Aime: “And we brought that back a second time as well. That’s another case where we saw that the pre-sales were going extremely strong, the production cycles on that is quite long, so we made an immediate decision to make more to get that into retail about a month after the first grouping had sold through.”
Please read yesterday’s story: Nintendo of America Boss Teases Release of Smaller New 3DS
Fils-Aime: “I hope your readers are excited about the 3DS line-up, which is quite strong... I hope that your readers are excited about games like Xenoblade Chronicles X, big massive game. We’ve created quite a series of hits in the RPG area on our 3DS business. We think we can replicate that on the Wii U business. That’s something we’re looking aggressively at.”