Nintendo’s VP of Marketing spills the beans on the past, present, and future of Wii.
In a wide-ranging interview with MTV’s Stephen Totilo, Perrin Kaplan, Nintendo’s outgoing Vice President of Marketing for the U.S., spoke about the performance of Wii during its first year in the marketplace, and hinted at what lies in the future for Wii fans. Kaplan began by speaking about Nintendo’s belief it is expanding the consumer base for video games, "I think there continues to be a misconception that the audience has to be one very specific group. And I think historically that’s what video gaming companies have survived on." Kaplan avoided demographic breakdowns of Wii owners but was confident that, "the Wii is really owned by everybody."
When asked if people in the "expanded audience" were buying games other than the pack-in Wii Sports, Kaplan was again confident, insisting that Wii Sports was an entry point to getting people interested in games of all kinds. Kaplan said that even more traditional game franchises like Zelda and Metroid had experienced some success in reaching out to casual gamer. "We have run into some alpha-moms that play ‘Metroid’, yes," said Kaplan. "We’ve run into some slightly younger women who are really into 'Metroid' and kind of proud of their work there."
When asked about the comparative lack of marketing hype for Metroid Prime 3, when compared to word of mouth for Bioshock and Halo 3, Kaplan claimed this was part of a new strategy to more closely align promotional campaigns with a game’s release window. "We are trying a couple of different approaches and that is talking about products shortly before they are launched to really try to grab the attention of people at that moment," Kaplan admitted. "If you talk about something too early they can’t really go buy it." She was also insistent that Prime 3’s sales so far had exceeded Nintendo’s own expectations.
When asked about the delay of Super Smash Bros. Brawl into February 2008, Kaplan avoided offering a specific reason, promising only that the extra development time would go towards ensuring the game’s high quality. "I think people will be thrilled with the end result," she promised. Kaplan also spoke about how the release of such a high profile title during the traditionally slow winter period might reflect a greater willingness to release games on a year-round cycle, rather than saving everything up for the holiday season. "I think we’re actually starting to look at the annual calendar differently," Kaplan offered. "I think a really good product can be a slam dunk anytime of the year."
Kaplan was also greatly optimistic for the recently detailed WiiWare program. While she was unwilling to provide specific details of what games will be available for the North American service, she promised that the service would be robust when it launches. "A lot of products that (sic) are being looked at. The team is busy, busy, busy." When Totilo questioned Kaplan on storage options for Wii owners who might not have much remaining space in their consoles, Kaplan was guarded. "Hmmm, you just asked me a really good question," she said. Sadly, no new information was forthcoming, and Kaplan didn’t offer any new insights into Nintendo’s philosophy on managing downloaded content, instead giving the familiar reference to SD cards. "You’ll just have to use a lot of extra cards."
For more of this great interview and a soon-to-be published second part of the conversation, make sure to check out MTV’s Multiplayer Blog.