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Kimishima on Switch’s online service, Wii U re-releases, no initial browser, VR, 3DS successor, eSports, more

Posted on February 7, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in Mobile, News, Switch

TIME recently secured an interview with Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima. To say the least, Kimishima was asked about a ton of different topics during the discussion. He had plenty to say about Switch – including its online service, re-releasing games from Wii U, internet browser (there isn’t one, at least not right now), and virtual reality. Kimishima was also asked about a 3DS successor, eSports, and more.

We’ve picked out a number of highlights from TIME’s piece below. You should be sure to give the full thing a read here.

On his relationship with Shinya Takahashi…

Mr. Takahashi started out as a designer, and then as far as his career at Nintendo, he really worked with various development teams, where he worked as a coordinator for different environments. He was the guy they would bring in to pull all of these disparate things together. That was his main job while working with development teams.

One thing that’s a little bit different between [Donkey Kong and Mario creator] Mr. Miyamoto, say, and Mr. Takahashi, is that Mr. Miyamoto is of course known as the father of Mario, as well as for the characters and games he’s helped develop. Mr. Takahashi, by contrast, is someone who really covers everything. Not only does he know an individual game, he knows the direction in which the development took place as well as the environment that was behind it. He’s been someone who knows the overall workings of each individual game. Because he has this history and this vast knowledge, he has all of my confidence in his ability to continue to do that job.

As far as my relationship with Mr. Takahashi goes, when Mr. Iwata was our president, Mr. Takahashi was there as his right hand man, supporting him, giving him information on progress through development and different directional advice, and so my relationship was through the window of Mr. Iwata. I wasn’t directly connected. It was through Mr. Iwata that I knew Mr. Takahashi, and we interacted that way. However, with the passing of Mr. Iwata [in July 2015], I’m now receiving the same support from Mr. Takahashi that he previously provided Mr. Iwata. So I now have a direct relationship with him, much in the same way that I previously had with Mr. Iwata.

One thing that’s different from when Mr. Iwata was president, is that Mr. Iwata was a developer, so in some ways hardware development also ran through him. Now, as I don’t have that background as a developer, Mr. Takahashi also works with Mr. Shiota [Ko Shiota, head of Nintendo’s Platform Technology Development Division], who is in hardware development. Mr. Shiota works under Mr. Takeda [Genyo Takeda, Nintendo’s “Technology Fellow” and counterpart to “Creative Fellow” Shigeru Miyamoto]. So Nintendo’s hardware and software development and its overall entertainment development happens under Mr. Takahashi, with this constant communication between software and hardware development. That’s different.

On Fire Emblem Heroes’ early success…

Lastly, Fire Emblem Heroes is a free-to-play style game in which you can purchase items. Less than a half-day after its release, it had been downloaded over a million times, and we’re seeing revenue today at $5 million U.S. dollars. The point I’m making is that we’re experimenting with different types of monetization. There’s the type I mentioned we’re using with Super Mario Run, and the different style we’re using with Fire Emblem Heroes. As a result of these experiments with monetization styles, we’re gaining what you might call confidence in our mobile business efforts.

On whether Switch is like a stealth campaign to deliver something core gamers will buy up front, then literally carry to a broader audience…

We looked at the launch of Wii, we looked at the launch of Wii U, and over the course of launching those games and supporting those products, we gained a lot of insight and experience. The entire time we were doing this, we were looking forward and saying, “Okay, how are we going to present and introduce and launch Switch to the public?” I think the public sees that Nintendo is doing something different. They can look at it and they go, “Okay, that’s a different-looking console.” They look at the third-party support, they look at what the developers are bringing to the platform. That’s different, and then the folks who are getting hands-on time with Switch are then having those beliefs confirmed through their own experiences.

I do believe that career gamers are going to need extra time to understand that we’re doing something different [with Switch]. They really need to get the opportunity to play. We need to get this into people’s hands. And so we are really, as you said, running a guerrilla marketing program where we’re just dashing around and trying to have as many events as possible and get it in the hands of players so they can experience the difference.

Now they’re going to be saying to each other, “Hey, this is a different gaming experience. This is something we haven’t seen before. I just played it, I did it, and I’m going to tell my friends and they’re going to tell their friends, and then the next person’s going to play it.” And if you’re watching the Super Bowl, you’re saying, “Wow, look, Nintendo really is going all out.” We’ve been trying all kinds of different ways to get that message out, so that people understand it is different.

On Switch’s online service…

So far we have announced that from the fall, Nintendo’s online service will be a paid service, and we have announced that the price range will be between 2,000 and 3,000 yen [$18 to $27] per year for that service. We’ve also announced that friends will be able to play online, and they’ll be able to use a dedicated smartphone application that enables voice chat during those games.

More details are forthcoming, but I just want to make sure that everyone understands that we will be going above and beyond to make sure that our customers are getting a service that is worth paying for, so we’re paying special attention to make sure that this is, again, a valuable service that they will appreciate from us.

I think if you look at some of our competitors, you think that when I say 2,000 to 3,000 yen per year, that’s a bit underpriced or cheap. But we are really dedicated to bringing our online business to the consumer at that price point. Online play with Switch is going to be something that’s key to the business, and we had a ton of discussion internally within Nintendo to come up with what we thought was a reasonable price on how we can connect with our consumers.

We really think that regardless of what others are doing or what services are being offered, it comes down to a battle of content. We feel it’s a matter of getting our content to the consumer at a price point that will make them happy, and then we’re willing to look at what else we can do going forward. This is just the starting point for us, so again, it’s a battle of content. We think we have what we need to win the battle on that front, and we hope to provide more details about the service going forward.

On whether Switch can emulate Wii U games or if they’d have to be ports…

We can take games and bring them and make them playable on Switch. So they can be remade for Switch, yes.

That said, Switch is not backward compatible with games designed for other systems, and is not currently compatible with controllers designed for other systems. Support for certain controllers may be considered for a future update. In some cases, games from past systems may be re-released for the Nintendo Switch system as either enhanced or original versions.

On Miiverse, the eShop, and internet browser…

As for Miiverse, while Miiverse will continue to be supported on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS systems, our approach with the Switch is to make greater use of other established, broadly used social platforms. For example, capturing gameplay screenshots to share on popular social networks, and social features such as voice chat are possible with smart devices through our app.

Next, whether Nintendo eShop is fully supported and functioning for Switch at launch, we can confirm that it will be possible to purchase and play downloaded software at launch, but we are not sharing further details at this time. And in terms of the Internet browser, since all of our efforts have gone toward making Switch an amazing dedicated video game platform, it will not support it, at least at launch.

On whether Switch is powerful enough to support VR…

The very simple answer is yes. We’ve said this before, and I feel like we’re saying it a lot, but we are interested and doing research into this field. The question, of course, is “What is the best way to bring virtual reality to our customers as a form of entertainment?” Not just, “Hey, look! It’s realistic!” or whatever, but what is the best way to use this technology to bring something fun to our consumer base? We are definitely looking at that.

On a 3DS successor…

We are not creating a successor to the 3DS right now. We are, however, still thinking of portable systems. We are thinking of ways that we will be able to continue bringing portable gaming systems out, so yes, we are thinking of different ways to continue the portable gaming business.

On whether Switch will look more like Nintendo’s handheld or home consoles when it comes to newer versions of Switch…

We want Switch to sell for a long time, of course, and we hope it has really long legs. That said, technology, of course, advances quickly, and so I’m not going to say that we have a team working on the next thing. But we obviously have people looking at new technologies and thinking of new ideas even now as we speak.

On amiibo…

As far as having people who are trying to collect Amiibo, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to be making a ton of Amiibo. With Switch and the Joy-Con, we do have an NFC [Near Field Communication wireless] reader. And so our goal, rather than producing mass amount of Amiibo for collectors, is to forge a better connection between gameplay and Amiibo itself.

On eSports…

We think eSports is the business that many consumers expect us to engage in now and in the future. We think titles such as Splatoon 2 and ARMS for Nintendo Switch have suitable elements for eSports. On the other hand, we are considering what Nintendo-like eSports can be in terms of the business model, and the rewards for the outcome of the battle.

On Switch availability…

Looking at responses from consumers, we are seeing that launch day preorders have nearly reached the maximum available. We will deliver Nintendo Switch orders as early as possible after the launch. Our plan under the financial forecast is to ship two million units by the end of March, and we are increasing its production. We hope to see strong sales momentum like we saw in 2008 and 2009 [for the Wii]. Based on this experience, we have already started to think about how we should plan our production of Switch for 2017.

On former president Yamauchi saying that if Nintendo was ever unable to go its own way, it would have to end…

I heard this directly from Mr. Yamauchi. He said “This is up to you guys, but you have to create unique experiences, you have to do things that other companies cannot imitate, that is your mission.” And that is what we are planning to do.

The word he used was cleverness or craftsmanship, this ability to create something new that we haven’t seen before. We have this DNA running throughout the building, running through our company, not only with the hardware or the software, but in whatever we do. And part of what we bring to it is, of course, the IP that we have.

We have to be very diligent and very careful about how we use that IP, because it is a finite resource in my opinion. So we’re going to have to expand and change how we look at our IP, how we use it, how we come up with new IP. We have to think about the process by which we are cultivating that creative spirit, using our DNA to create unique things that others can’t imitate. And then we have to look at other people, not just the ones we’re raising up within the company, but those outside with great skill and ability and creativity.

On what it’s like being Nintendo’s president…

As we talked about before, my assignment here at Nintendo is multifold. One of the things that I have to do is, of course, to monitor our projects and make sure they’re going well and that we’re bringing them to fruition in the way we’d originally hoped. One of those, of course, is Switch, and we’re getting ready to bring it out, so that is one dream that I think we’ve accomplished at this point.

The other thing to talk about is nurturing the young talents we have within the company. These different developers that perhaps the public hasn’t seen but we have, and now we’ve been able to bring some of those guys out and introduce them to you. That is an ongoing portion of my role here as well, and of course, something else I’d like to add is just thinking about the future, what unique things, whether those are businesses or services or whatever that we can bring from Nintendo. It is, of course, a very tough business, and it’s a tough job, but if I can help create at least one more unique thing for Nintendo to bring to the world, I think I’ll be really happy.

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