We recently put together a visual history of Nintendo's 3DS system, but what does the future hold for Nintendo's popular handheld? Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime answered some of our questions in the email Q&A below. Read on for Reggie's thoughts about what's helped Nintendo retain its dominance in the handheld market as well as what to look forward to on 3DS during Nintendo's E3 presentation next week.
You've had a long history with Nintendo. How would you characterize the 3DS' success compared to previous handhelds Nintendo has released?
Reggie Fils-Aime: Actually, my history with Nintendo largely encompasses only two of our handheld systems. One of my first jobs was helping launch the Nintendo DS in 2004. That seems like a long time ago, but I think it speaks well to Nintendo's history of continually supporting our portable platforms with compelling games -- the fact that the company has had only two handheld lines over a dozen years.
I really resist cross-generation comparisons, because things change quite a bit over time. For example, our 3DS line includes a glasses-free 3D display and now Amiibo support -- things that simply weren't possible previously. Every platform has to prosper in its own time, and I think Nintendo 3DS is doing just that.
But as with every previous portable platform, Nintendo's development teams are creating incredible on-the-go experiences that can't be found elsewhere.
The 3DS had a slower start compared to previous Nintendo handhelds. What was the turning point for the system? Was it the price drop, or the games library finally catching up?
We don't believe that the central dynamic of the video game market is changing -- namely, "software sells hardware." Of course, there are early adopters who will buy the shiny new thing in any category. But game system installed bases are built on people deciding, "I've GOT to play those games!"
This was especially true for the Nintendo 3DS. Whether it's Super Mario 3D Land or the Zelda titles or Pokémon or Fire Emblem or Animal Crossing or Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros., eventually players are going to decide they just don't want to miss out.
And that continues this year with The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition, and more on the way.
Are you happy with where the entire 3DS family is right now? Where do you think you're strong? And what areas will you continue to focus on and improve in the coming months/years?
Based on consumer response, I think our current hardware lineup meets the needs of a lot of different types of players.
To date, nearly 60 Nintendo 3DS titles have an 80 or higher rating on Metacritic, proving that not only does our hardware lineup meet the needs of players, but that there is a diverse range of quality software waiting to be explored.
And we're continuing to provide exclusive, high-quality, entertaining experiences that can't be found anywhere else. That means upcoming games from great franchises like Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash, and Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon as well as introducing games to US consumers from new franchises like LBX: Little Battlers Experience.
Nintendo's had great success with bringing over classic games from its home consoles to the 3DS. Without giving your hand away on specific titles, is there anything you can say Nintendo's plans are for bringing more of these classics over? Does fan demand play a part in Nintendo's decision-making process at all?
Nintendo fans are very vocal, and like any company, we pay attention to what people are saying. But I think it's helpful to repeat what we've said before. The only way to truly surprise someone is to deliver something unexpected. That's really written into our corporate DNA.
So moving forward, I guess it's safe to say people can look forward to a combination of things they've always wanted...and things they never even thought of wanting.
Looking at the 3DS itself, we've seen some big partnerships recently with established Japanese developers (Monster Hunter, Bravely Default, Mario and Sonic, etc.), but what's your assessment of Nintendo's Western third-party support? Are you still courting developers such as Ubisoft and EA?
As you know, our independent developer program is robust and growing. And conversations with third-party publishers are constant.
Plus, many great indie titles have also arrived on Nintendo 3DS, from Moon Chronicles to Mighty Switch Force to SteamWorld Dig to Woah Dave!, all of which are available on our "Humble Nindie Bundle." (Editors' note: This sale runs through 11AM PT on June 9.)And our teams are constantly looking for ways to increase options for developers, like working with Unity to support the New Nintendo 3DS XL.
When Nintendo releases a game, it's played by millions, but a mobile game from Nintendo could end up being played by billions. It feels like recent free-to-start titles on 3DS are testing the waters for future initiatives in the mobile space, is that the case? Or is it, conversely, more about finding different models that mimic mobile and could potentially work on 3DS?
Mr. Iwata has addressed this topic previously, and I suspect he will again in the future.
I love my New 3DS XL, and it's a system I would've bought regardless, but I'm also jealous of the amazing, swappable covers for the regular New 3DS. What drove the decision to only release one version of the New 3DS in the US, and is there a chance we'll ever get a regular one?
We made the decision that we felt was best in keeping with the needs of our user base at the time.
Speaking of New 3DS, do you see an issue with games that only work on the New 3DS potentially confusing the audience?
Nintendo takes great care in communicating product features to our consumers. Product packaging and marketing materials are also very clear. We're confident that consumers are savvy enough to differentiate.
Our fan base has also proven very adept at discerning between the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo 3DS models, and the games available for each. I've got no reason to think that won't continue.
Final question, there are a lot of great games coming up for the 3DS; this summer are you going to be playing something that's already out or do you think your time will be taken up by one of the upcoming games? I guess that's a roundabout way of asking what your "summer vacation" game is going to be!
A big benefit of my job is the early hands-on access I get. Right now, I am loving Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash. This is another great example of Nintendo's ability to create a side-scrolling, re-traversal adventure. And there are other 3DS games that we will be announcing at E3 that I have been having fun with. Stay tuned!