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5/3/2007 1:09:27 PM
Iwata Promises Hardcore Gamers Will Be Satisfied By End of 2007
by James Brightman

Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. and Metroid Prime 3 all this year? Yes, says Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. He also talked about mergers and acquisitions, shared his thoughts on Second Life and defended the Wii technology, insisting it's "state of the art."

Facing a barrage of questions from investors following Nintendo's announcement of a record year, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata discussed the need to satiate hardcore gamers, Nintendo's recent acquisition of Xenosaga developer Monolith, Nintendo's stance on mergers and acquisitions, misconceptions about the Wii hardware and more.

According to the official English transcript on Nintendo's investor relations page, Iwata said that he feels it's Nintendo's responsibility to set the tone on its new platforms, and then third parties should follow. "With the unprecedented challenges our new platforms have, creating launch momentum was critical for both Wii and DS, and I believe it was Nintendo's internal developers' jobs to make that happen. Once our own developers start the momentum, the third-party software makers will expand the applicable software lineup. In my mind, this is the basic structure of how it should be," he said. "Frankly speaking, Wii unfortunately did not receive as much positive anticipation as we had hoped it would before the launch. Accordingly, Nintendo had to rely upon its first-party titles to create the momentum."

Iwata clarified earlier statements about Nintendo's upcoming lineup. While it's true that they have 45 Wii games in development and 79 DS titles, not all of the games are first-party; some are second-party. Furthermore, he said that there's no guarantee that all these games will make it to market, "but these titles were actually given development budgets, specific development teams have been assigned and they are developing the games."

So when can we expect some of Nintendo's "AAA" first-party games? According to Iwata, Nintendo will be able to satisfy the hardcore gamers this year. "[Concerning] when we will fulfill the hard-core gamers' titles lineup: It will be from around the end of this summer to the end of this year. We will then launch a new title of Super Mario (Super Mario Galaxy), Smash Brothers (Super Smash Bros. Brawl) and Metroid Prime (Metroid Prime 3: Corruption) although the last one is primarily for the overseas markets," he said. "These will be the key titles for the period ranging from the summer until the holiday sales season of this year... Ideally, we should have had one such title already in the spring in order to create a better flow. At the same time, we are strongly holding the belief that we must raise the quality level if we need to introduce something new to our customers. We wanted to avoid a situation where these flagship titles were introduced when they were not perfectly tuned up. Please allow us that it is taking time."

It's interesting that Iwata considers the next Metroid Prime to be mainly for overseas markets, but it's true that the Metroid franchise historically has been far more appealing to Western audiences.

The acquisition of Monolith also prompted questions about Nintendo's M&A policy. Iwata addressed this and why he feels Monolith is valuable.

"When we say we do not do M&A, there are always exceptions, so let me explain about it. We have never said that we will never do M&A in any situation. Actually, we are not against M&A if Nintendo can absorb the real value of the company. However, in most cases, the value of software developing companies is attached to its people, not the company, which is merely a vessel for its people," he said. "So, when we purchase a company, we can purchase the vessel, but we cannot necessarily purchase the contents. Even if we should compete with others to purchase a software company, although we might be able to increase the sheer number of our developers and to gain a short-term result, we do not think it will do good for us in the long run. We have been repeatedly saying that we will not do that kind of M&A.

"In the case of Monolith Software, Mr. Sugiura, the president, and Nintendo have a long-term relationship. How Mr. Sugiura thinks is close to how Nintendo thinks. The software Mr. Sugiura would like to create is in line with what Nintendo would like to have for its platform. So, we thought that Nintendo should support this idea, and we decided to take action.

"If certain conditions are met, we may do the same thing in the future (M&A). However, we will be very careful and selective, so that we will only partner with people with whom Nintendo can create a long-term working relationship."

Iwata also had some interesting remarks regarding the virtual world of Second Life. "I personally have virtually no interest in Second Life. I don't think it will be considered as an important existence in the future. That is all I can say today. If I need to supplement my remarks, modern human beings have less and less time and energy to spend on any activity," he said, perhaps indicating that Nintendo will never really fully embrace the MMO genre.

Nintendo's certainly not been a pioneer in online gaming, although they have done some interesting things with WiiConnect24 and their Wii Channels recently. Another criticism Nintendo has faced is that Wii is barely more powerful than GameCube. Iwata, however, took the opportunity to defend Nintendo's technology. "It looks like some people are misunderstanding that Nintendo is not incorporating state-of-the-art technologies into its products. It is not true," he stated. "Just as an example, we are using the state-of-the-art technologies to realize the compact-sized Wii console with low power consumption."

There's far more in the full transcript, so go check it out.
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