Snippets from the Q&A session at Nintendo’s 71st Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in Kyoto, Japan surfaced last week and found Nintendo president Satoru Iwata addressing some pointed concerns about the viability of the Wii U in light of a noticeable stock drop-off following the new system’s E3 reveal. A more robust and translated version of that back and forth was posted on Wednesday, offering additional insight into Nintendo’s plans for both the home console and handheld gaming front.
A recurring point of contention that met the Wii, despite its success, was one shouted by both core gamers and those purportedly representing them in the admittedly enthusiast-helmed gaming press: “real” gamers don’t like motion controls. An investor broached a similar topic, asking exactly how Nintendo would meet the demands of “conservative” gamers who may have not been that open to the motion-controlled Wii with Wii U.
Iwata admitted that “war-themed gun-shooting games” (or first-person shooters for the non-executives out there) currently enjoy immense popularity, specifically in the U.S. On the other end of the spectrum sits Nintendo’s recent efforts to bring in new gamers across various demographics – an effort realized more fully by the Wii. In order to address the disparate tastes, Iwata believes the Wii U should be “a console where various people can enjoy what they want to enjoy at their own discretion.” Nintendo has been working closely with western game developers to that end, he said. Indeed, many third-party developers have come forward with positive impressions of the upcoming system, several promising launch support.
Oppositely, the president fielded a question from another investor who stated that they wanted to see “software which adults can enjoy more” and Nintendo technology leveraged in schools.
“Nintendo is involved in a project called ‘DS Classroom,’ which uses the Nintendo DS system,” Iwata explained. “With this system, the teacher uses a PC while each student has a Nintendo DS. Tasks are sent from the teacher’s PC to each Nintendo DS, enabling each student to tackle tasks at his/her own pace and interact with the teacher.” He also pointed out that the company had already successfully disproved negative stereotypes about gaming with software such as “Brain Age” and “Wii Fit.” Both titles eschewed traditional video game trappings (main characters, levels, bosses, etc.) and instead focused on helping players sharpen math skills or practice Yoga at their own pace.
“We would like to increase the number of people in the field of education who can think of ways of utilizing our technologies or know-how by combining education and entertainment in a beneficial way,” Iwata said.
Another topic of discussion was the 3DS, which some believe has failed to take off as expected and will not replicate the original DS’ success. Iwata seemingly acquiesced to the former argument, admitting “if we had have launched the Nintendo 3DS after we had prepared more software by which the users felt ‘I want the Nintendo 3DS right away!,’ the transition of the sales of the Nintendo 3DS would have been better.”
Iwata isn’t the only Nintendo bigwig answering the hard questions. Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s President and COO, was interviewed by Forbes about the company’s Wii U plans.
Fils-Aime seemed unconcerned when asked about the potentially harmful overlap or consumer confusion facing the Wii U. The company will, after all, offer two distinct Wii-branded consoles next year. “So as long as the content is there, and as long as the way to differentiate the two is there, I think they can survive side by side for a period of time,” he said. “Certainly we’re going to get to a point where [The Wii U] is the one standalone system, especially given all the backward compatibility.”
Fils-Aime mentioned how Nintendo had previously encountered – and conquered – a similar situation with the DS. “When we launched the original DS there was an overlap with the Gameboy Advance,” he told Forbes. “Gameboy Advance was a tremendous, tremendous platform in its own right, and yet it sold side by side to the original DS, at least here in the US, for almost two full years.”
With the Wii U tentatively scheduled for a Spring 2012 release, gamers and investors alike have quite some time before their hopes and fears are completely answered.
The full transcript of the shareholder Q&A can be viewed here.