Interview with Nintendo of Canada’s Matt Ryan: E3 2012
At the end of Nintendo of Canada’s post-E3 event held in Toronto last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a representative from Nintendo of Canada, Mr. Matt Ryan. After sampling many of the games on the event’s show floor, I brought up several different topics to him in the hopes of covering as much ground as possible in the short time we had.
Well, “short” being relative; I could probably go on all day, if given the chance. Nonetheless, I learned some interesting things during our discussion, which I am now pleased to share with all of you.
One question I’d been sitting on came from right after E3 2012, when several journalists (and one late night talk show host) covering the Wii U seemed to be confused about the fact that it is a brand-new system, rather than an add-on for the original Wii. This happened last year as well, and I asked Ryan if Nintendo was at all concerned about the seeming brand confusion surrounding the two platforms.
“Admittedly, yes, out of E3 2011 we had some people that didn’t feel they understood it was a new console,” he said. “Nintendo feels that after [E3] 2012, we have gotten that message across. There are a few comments that we get, asking if it’s a new console, but the majority get it.
“Our challenge now is explaining asymmetric gameplay, which is a term very technical in nature, but different rules and different perspectives offer a different way to play in the same game environment. We have to explain that, and it’s very hard to do in print, it’s hard to do even on TV… we have to get people to play it. That’s our mission right now; I think we’ve got the message out that it’s a new console.
“It’s what the console, what the controls and the experience have to offer, is where we’re going to focus our attention now.”
Recalling Nintendo’s early motto for the Wii, I suggested that “playing is believing” holds true as much for the Wii U as it did for the Wii, to which Ryan agreed.
“Yes, it’s true for Wii, though you could see someone playing Wii and understand what motion controls had to offer. It was definitely true for Nintendo 3DS; you had to see that to really understand. For Wii U, I would say it’s just as important as it was for Nintendo 3DS. That’s something that we’re focusing on right now.”
Next, I moved on to Nintendo Land, the game which closed Nintendo’s E3 press conference, but failed to wow those watching until they managed to try it for themselves on the show floor. With that in mind, I asked Ryan how they felt it might go over with the non-media gaming public and how they would like to get the word out for what they are positioning as their next big title.
“Nintendo Land is a huge title for us,” he explained, “and it is also the epitome of showing off what Wii U has to offer with the controls, what the Wii U GamePad… having a different role, having a different perspective compared to what the other players using the Wii Remote Pluses are having. So it is an extremely important title for us, and will be one of the anchor titles for the launch of Wii U, no doubt.
“Our presence at E3 was very much about Nintendo Land,” he continued. “Even our whole booth looked like Nintendo Land, because it’s super-fun and what it’s able to show. Sometimes we say what Wii Sports was to Wii, Nintendo Land is to Wii U, except the major difference is– and this is something that we really want to get across– is that it’s not just mini-games, but there’s actually different levels, different things available in each of the attractions… a lot more than what was available in Wii Sports. We want people to know that this is a full game.”
“More robust than Wii Play as well,” I offered, recalling some comparisons people had made online. “Correct,” Ryan responded.
I added that it almost looked like Nintendo was honoring my wishes from last year with Nintendo Land, as the “Battle Mii” and “Chase Mii” demos from E3 2011 look as though they would fit right in. “Do they?” Ryan responded with amusement in his voice. “Let’s just say I’m hoping those two are in the part of the package that hasn’t been shown yet,” I noted, with Ryan adding “Don’t we all?” with a smile.
“We also teased an F-Zero-type game,” he pointed out.
With Ryan having brought up Wii Sports, my next question concerned the fact that a number of Nintendo’s videos surrounding the Wii U, from both 2011 and 2012, had shown different Wii Sports-styled games being played in new ways with the GamePad controller (teeing off from the controller in golf and as a catcher’s mitt in baseball). Despite this, however, there has been no announcement of a new version of the game for Wii U, and so I asked him if this is one we should keep an eye out for, or is it only demonstrating the concept?
“We have not announced anything in that range at this point,” he told me; at least it leaves room for the future.
Turning my attention to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, I recalled my disappointment last year that Nintendo was planning to release it early this year. Fortunately, that didn’t come to pass– not that I don’t wish to play it, as my preview shows– but because it seems like it would be so much better as a Halloween release. Plus, the marketing writes itself.
But as the release date currently says “Holiday 2012,” I had to know just how far the “Holiday” portion of the calendar reaches, given that most releases bearing that mark seem to come out around mid- to late-November or later.
“Technically, yes,” he told me. “We look at ‘Holiday’ as an October, November, December time frame,” which seems to leave the possibility open. Fingers are crossed for a Halloween of Luigi’s Mansion!
I went on to express how much fun I had with the third of the demo I had been able to play. Ryan concurred, “it is a lot of fun. And it’s developed by Next Level Games, out of Vancouver, which we’re also very proud of.”
And while the new game’s controls work quite well, thinking back to the original brought a new question to mind: “The original game used dual-analog controls,” I pointed out. “Now, with the Circle Pad Pro, the same thing can now be done on the Nintendo 3DS, and the developers have had more time to implement it than Kid Icarus Uprising had. So is there any chance we could see Circle Pad Pro support for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon?”
“We haven’t made any announcements about that,” Ryan told me, though he did emphasize that for fans of the original, the new game will have multiple mansions, “something which will enhance this to really make it better. It’s an important aspect for the Luigi’s Mansion fan.”
My wife, who was also in attendance, had brought up an interesting question about Wii Fit U. Following a bit of controversy following the release of the original Wii Fit regarding its use of BMI to gauge one’s fitness, I asked whether this was a method they would continue using in their newest title.
“Well, what we have said is that Wii Fit U contains everything in it that Wii Fit Plus had, and Wii Fit Plus had everything that Wii Fit had. So all of those elements are in there. There will be some differences in the game, and that’s all we have to say.”
“BMI is a universal way of doing a measurement; it’s designed for adults, not kids, and it’s a universal measure that we’ve decided to use. And if people are unhappy with the BMI rating, then you don’t need to use it; it’s not integral to what’s going on, and it’s only a small part of what’s going on as far as tracking progress.”
Knowing that Wii Fit Plus came at a low price point for those who already owned Wii Fit and the Balance Board, I asked if Nintendo would be employing a similar pricing scheme for Wii Fit U.
“We have no announcements about any pricing for hardware or software at this point,” he told me. “But,” he quickly added, “if you’ve purchased the Wii Balance Board already, you don’t need to purchase it again. You’ll just need the software, because it is accessory-compatible.” And likewise, just as with Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus, your data from those games will carry over to Wii Fit U.
Finally, we came to New Super Mario Bros. 2, and I noted the concerns some had expressed about the game being more of the same, and the whole coin-collecting aspect being nothing more than a gimmick. Asked whether he’d like to address those thoughts, he said:
“It’s not the same with a gimmick. It’s not a ‘gimmick,’ it’s the jackpot. That’s what it is, no doubt; you are collecting coins like crazy in that game. It’s insane how many coins you’re going to collect; the amount of 1UPs you’re going to get are going to help you, yes, but it’s like hitting the jackpot because there’s coins everywhere. And Gold Mario is able to throw gold fireballs, which allow you to gold everything else.
“There’s basically every single opportunity to get coins that you could possibly think of, and you want to get them all.”
Regarding the “more of the same” allegations, Ryan went on to point say “remember how excited you were when you played Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time, and you could fly? And how many gamers now weren’t around when that happened? So they get to experience that for the first time.”
“Remember those arrows you’d get to fill up [your meter]– you know, you’re wearing the shirt right now” he said, pointing out my Super Mario Bros. 3 t-shirt I’d chosen to wear to the event. “That is a very rewarding experience,” he continued, “and a lot of gamers who are younger than you or me haven’t had that, so now they get that.”
“So remember that, and that it’s not just a gimmick with the coins; there actually is purpose to collecting all those coins, and I’m not going to tell you what it is, but there’s purpose, and you want to collect as many as you can. ‘Can you get to one million coins?’ is the question; one million is a lot of coins.
I also brought up the thoughts some have expressed that the goal of collecting one million coins will only earn players an extra star next to their file. Asking for a hint or a tease as to the goal, he said “I don’t think that we would tease if it didn’t actually mean something.”
“The other thing to keep in mind is that New Super Mario Bros. 2 offers two-player co-op through the entire game. That’s what the “2” is for; we held that until the middle of E3, and we didn’t even announce it at the press conference, we announced it at the 3DS software showcase.”
“So, two-player co-op is available all the way through. [Previously], two-player co-op and co-op has not been available all the way through. Coin Rush mode, which is a StreetPass functionality, is basically about competing with other peoples’ high scores, so it’s not just another Super Mario Bros. game. There’s a lot more to it, and a lot of it is pretty awesome and we’re getting pretty pumped about it.”
Thanks to Mr. Matt Ryan from Nintendo of Canada for taking the time to answer these questions!