Holiday 2013 Interview with Nintendo of Canada’s Matt Ryan

What’s to come from the holiday season.

With the triple-threat of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Mario Party: Island Tour for Nintendo 3DS and Super Mario 3D World for Wii U now available to take on the newly released next generation platforms of the PlayStation 4 from Sony and the Xbox One from Microsoft, the battle to claim consumers’ dollars this holiday season is now fully underway.

I took the opportunity at a recent media event to chat for a bit with Nintendo of Canada representative Matt Ryan about the company’s plans for the holiday season, and how they intend to move forward against their marketplace adversaries.

Mario’s Hat: Normally, when approaching the holiday season, there usually seems to be more of a leaning towards either the console side or the handheld side, but this year feels pretty well-balanced in comparison to previous years.

Matt Ryan: You’re right; sometimes it is more heavily weighted towards one side or the other. I think we have a good balance, with more Wii U titles this holiday season, but it’s Wii U’s turn, you know what I mean? The Nintendo 3DS has had its stronger holidays, this year it’s the Wii U.

On November 22nd, you’ve got Mario Party: Island Tour, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Super Mario 3D World coming out. Are you at all worried that you might be overloading that particular day with three big titles?

We just like that day for some reason. *laughs* The reality is we have a lot of product launches, but very few times have I seen three really big titles launch on the same day, because digital titles will launch when they launch, and sometimes they’ll overlap with a packaged game launch, but we just like that day, and we’ll see how it goes. We also have a lot of other products we need to launch, and there are things we haven’t even announced yet…

For this holiday?

Yes, those are things our operations and logistics department have had to think about. November 22nd is going to be a big day if you’re a Nintendo fan, no doubt.

WiiU_DKCountry_scrn05_E3

Up until a recent Nintendo Direct, you guys had a certain date set in December. First it was for Super Mario 3D World, then it swapped with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and then that got delayed. Is there any reason to no longer go with the December date for anything?

The reality with Donkey Kong is that it’s not ready; Retro’s going to put some more time into it, and we’re happy about that, and all the fans should be too, because we’re not going to put something out until it’s ready. I think the majority of the launches happen before December anyway, just because of the time of year, but there’s no real particular reason.

So there wasn’t any worry about Nintendo being in further competition with itself by releasing on that date? Rayman Legends was originally supposed to release around the same time (that Donkey Kong has been delayed to) this year, and it would have had the spotlight all to itself, which seems to be where Donkey Kong sits now.

I’m going to say “no, that’s not the situation”, because look at previous years when we launched Mario Kart and Super Mario 3D Land, both within four weeks of each other. So it’s not a matter of competing against ourselves, no; it’s a matter of Donkey Kong not being ready, so we’re going to give it some more development time to get it ready. Other than that, we have a lot of things launching already, so there’s just lots of choices this holiday.

Nintendo is in a unique position this year, as you’ve had a new console out for about a year, while Sony and Microsoft are just getting ready to launch their new consoles now. How do you think your lineup will fare against their launch lineups?

Like most years, we’re just going to be focused on us this holiday. We released the Wii U a year ago, and developers have had their opportunities to make games already for a year, with the devkits even earlier than that. So we’re going to see a lot of great games come out, no matter what time of year, just because of the life cycle and how far we are into it already. Our holiday will fare based on on how the Wii U, the Nintendo 3DS, and the Nintendo 2DS do, along with our software. That’s what we’re focused on; the industry is obviously going to change a little bit this holiday with some other consoles coming into the marketplace, but we’re going to focus on us. That’s what we do best.

WiiU_SM3DW_100113_Scrn05

The growing concern about the Wii U is that if Nintendo doesn’t start bringing in big sales numbers after one year, the console is finished. Any thoughts on that?

This holiday, we’ve got games for everyone, and there’s a lot of them. And a lot of them are Wii U games, so it’s really going to be determined on how we see the sales of these games, but these are games you can only play on our system. You can only have Miis on our system, and Wii Party U will be exclusive to Wii U. Super Mario 3D World, some of the other games from third-parties like Sonic Lost World, you can only play that stuff on Nintendo. We think that’s going to help our situation with the Wii U for sure.

It’s also very early in the life cycle; I think there are some comments out there about Wii U’s performance, but when you’re comparing it against the Wii, you’ve got to realize that was a revolutionary change, and we’re just getting started with the Wii U. The GamePad is still that differentiating feature that we have on ours; it’s built to work with that system, and we’re pretty proud of that, so we’ve got a long way to go with Wii U.

There has also been some concern that several Wii U games aren’t really making unique use of the GamePad, outside of things like Off-TV play. Any thoughts there?

One of things people may or may not have noticed– on Super Mario 3D World, for example– is the person using the GamePad has a “reveal” option. So you can use your finger or stylus to actually rub on the screen in different areas, and it will make question mark blocks and other things appear that can help players play. It also becomes a strategic move, so there’s a little more than just the Off-TV play there. But not every game needs to make such use of it; sometimes just having Off-TV play is just as satisfying.

Going back to third-parties: Several have been vocal about the sales numbers of the Wii U, and not bringing their “A” game to the console as a result. Do you think this holiday season will bring in the numbers needed to attract them back to the system?

Our industry revolves around the fact that software sells hardware; great games are what people are looking for, and the bigger the install base, the more opportunities there are for any developer to get more games out. Are some of our titles this holiday hardware sellers? Definitely! Look at some of the options we’re giving people: We’ve got a new configuration for Wii U that comes with two games, New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U. That’s going to attract more consumers to Wii U. We’ve still got some of the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD bundles out there, so that’s moving hardware. We’ve just announced a Skylanders: Swap Force bundle with the Basic Set to get even more hardware out there.

We’re just going to keep doing that, so it’s up to third-party developers to develop for whatever system they want, but the install base is obviously going to continue to grow.

Alright, so let’s wrap up with this question: Any favorites among the games shown here today? (The titles featured at the event were Wii Fit U, Super Mario 3D World, Wii Party U, Sonic Lost World, Mario & Sonic at the Soichi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Shovel Knight, Mario Party: Island Tour, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Pokemon X and Pokemon Y, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies)

Just one?

Or two.

Okay, Super Mario 3D World, which I think has been so well-polished that it definitely stands out as my favorite this holiday because of little intricacies like being able to walk anywhere on the world map. That’s new, and that’s exciting; I don’t know why I like it so much, but it’s just cool to cut across, rather than follow the linear path.

Yeah, I’ve always wanted to do that.

Yeah, it’s cool. The cat transformation is awesome. There’s a really cool character enhancement, the Double Cherries, which we’ve just announced. It’s so incredible to throw a fireball with six Luigis at the same time and have them ricochet everywhere– I really enjoy that.

I’ve always really liked the Wii Fit series, so I love the trampoline activity in Wii Fit U, and I look forward to using the Wii Fit Meter and bringing that with me as well.

A special thanks to Matt Ryan and everyone at Nintendo of Canada for granting me this interview! For those interested, every title listed above (save for Shovel Knight) is available now in the Nintendo eShop and, with the temporary exception of Wii Fit U, at retail as well.

Tags

About the author

David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.