Why Reggie failed his NX interview
Nintendo’s US head Reggie Fils-Aimé is promising change for the company’s next console. Or is he?
In just six months, in March 2017, Nintendo will be releasing a new console (which we now know as Nintendo Switch). Or a new handheld. Or a new console-handheld hybrid that may or may not use virtual reality, and may or may not use cartridges, and may or may not be an Android device. We don’t know. Nintendo is cutting it a little close, don’t you think? Perhaps Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aimé is trying to start the ball rolling on genuine NX discussion and put a full stop to the unending torrent of speculation and leaks from “credible sources” that is currently raging like a river right through the middle of the Internet. But it is hard to tell.
Reggie recently conducted an interview with [A]list and a couple of lines from it stood out, simply because they directly contradict each other. That's remarkable because it suggests that while Nintendo’s fans don’t know what the NX is, neither does Nintendo. For instance; Reggie begins by saying – “The games that we’ve launched on the Wii U are hugely compelling: Splatoon, Super Mario Maker, Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2, the Super Mario game, The Legend of Zelda. Arguably, if you line up all of the single platform games for Wii U and the other two platforms, we have by far the most unique games that are highly rated by consumers and highly rated by the media. So those things worked.”
However, moments later he says – “We have to do a better job from a software planning standpoint to have that continuous beat of great new games that are motivating more and more people to pick up the hardware and more and more people to pick up the software.” Either “things worked” and the games were hugely compelling, or they didn’t, and you only sold 13 million consoles and then had to release a new console just four years later. It’s dangerous to tell fans that you nailed your game line-up, when in their minds, you didn’t do enough to make the Wii U worthy of picking up.
The innovation of the second screen was a worthwhile concept
Elsewhere he states; “Every time we launch a new platform, every time we launch a critical new game, we always learn. We always do our breakdown of what worked, what didn’t, and certainly we’ve done that with Wii U, and we continue to believe that the innovation of the second screen was a worthwhile concept.” But this too seems to be a contradictory statement. If Nintendo had analysed the Wii U as Reggie claims, it should have noted that the second-screen gameplay did not resonate with consumers or with developers. Otherwise they would have bought it, and developed games for it. It would not have suffered a 90% drop in third-party support .
Admittedly there were other factors at play that hurt the Wii U’s sales, most notably it being woefully underpowered and underprepared for the continued importance of the online ecosystem (32GB of storage!). There is nothing necessarily wrong about the idea of a second screen, but if that is the only hint you are going to give us about what the NX it like, then we’re concerned.
The biggest contradiction, however, is riddled through the interview. Lines like: “We have to do a better job communicating the positioning for the product. We have to do a better job helping people to understand its uniqueness and what that means for the game playing experience.” And: “for us, it’s all about the right communication.” And: “You have to make sure people understand the concept, you have to make sure you’ve got a great library of games, and when you do that, you tend to do well.”
Reggie? Hello? Are you listening to yourself? We are six months out from the release of the Nintendo NX and no one has ever understood less, or been more confused, about a new machine this close to its launch before. And now we have the Neo and the Scorpio and the Slims in the mix; we know what they do. At the end of the day, we can just shrug off this interview as classic marketing talk from a “suit” who wants to reveal nothing. But it’s time to talk facts or shut up. Gamers are confused; fans are confused; retailers are confused; developers are confused.
Faith in Nintendo as a game developer has never been questioned, but as a console maker the market is full of suspicion and uncertainty because the Wii U was a failure and the rumours for the NX present a console that follows the same mistakes of its predecessor. Interviews like this one and the continued silence about the NX is not fuelling anticipation, it’s sowing the seeds of doubt. Show your cards Nintendo so we can begin having a genuine discussion about the Nintendo NX. In the interim, all you can do fans is keep an eye on our rumour wrap-up.