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May 26, 2005, 4:00 am
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to forget about the house that Mario built. Although Nintendo didn't
share as much of its next-gen plans as most would have liked, the
company isn't worried about its competition at all. During E3 we had a
chance to meet up with Nintendo's Beth Llewelyn, senior director of PR,
to discuss the Revolution, online gaming, the handheld market, relying
on nostalgia and much more.
GameDAILY BIZ: Having just come off the three main press conferences, I
was a bit surprised that Nintendo didn't share even more information
about its next-generation plans. Does Nintendo not see itself in direct
competition with Microsoft and Sony or what was the reason for not
revealing more about the Revolution?
Senior Director, Public Relations
Nintendo of America Inc.
History: Llewelyn joined Nintendo as Public Relations Manager in 1996,
and was promoted to Senior Director in 2004. She began her career in
1986, managing the public relations activities for a nonprofit
children's museum in Washington, D.C.
Highlights: Before Nintendo, she supported the company as part of her
duties at GolinHarris, a leading full-service global public relations
firm that still represents Nintendo. Llewelyn had previously worked at
several entertainment public relations agencies.
Currently: Drawing on nearly 20 years of public relations experience,
Beth Llewelyn manages NoA's public relations activities in the US,
including media relations, global communications, investor relations
and the introduction of new of new hardware & software.
Beth Llewelyn: I think it's a combination of things. First and
foremost, for this show the major push of ours is for the products
coming out this year. And we've got three platforms basically to
support-from Game Boy Advance to Nintendo DS and then GameCube, and
plus we've now introduced or unveiled Game Boy Micro as part of the
Game Boy family. That's a lot of product there and certainly all the
games that are coming for those systems, so that's our big area of
concentration for the year and it's certainly important at E3 to get
news out about those products.
And for Revolution, yes it's important to get something out there. We
were excited that we were able to share some information, particularly
show the hardware, and we believe it's a very sleek-looking system.
We're excited about the look and it's certainly very different from our
past consoles. So the ability to get a little bit out there, talk a
little bit about what you'll be able to do with Revolution [was a good
first step], but we didn't see a need to go into all those details and
sort of get into this tech battle or war of words with our
competitors-you know, who's got better graphics, who's got this,
who's got that. From our point of view, when it comes down to it we're
all going to have great looking games. You're going to utilize more
advanced technology, you're going to be able to make those game look
pretty but from our standpoint it's really, "What else can the games
do? What's going to compel somebody to buy games for our system?" So
that's a focus of ours and something we'll be talking more about as we
get closer to the launch timeframe.
BIZ: A lot of mainstream media outlets and industry analysts seem to be
ignoring Nintendo when it comes to next-gen , almost as if Nintendo
wasn't even there. How do you think this attitude developed?
BL: Certainly you have two very big companies who are ready to battle
it out and on one hand we're ready to let them go ahead and battle it
out. But we want people to know that we do have great content, some
great games for great hardware, and by getting out there with a little
bit of Revolution news, it's certainly our hope that people will kind
of sit up and pay attention. But there may come a point where Microsoft
and Sony are so focused on the tech battle that they're going to wake
up one day and forget about focusing on why people actually buy
games-they've got to be fun. So that's something Nintendo will
definitely focus on.
[ "It is very important for us to have new content... new franchises,
new characters... we're also working with third parties and other
external developers to make sure that we do have a very broad library
when we launch [Revolution], and that we do have something that will
appeal to the 30-something gamer as well as the younger gamer that
wants to be able to play Mario." ]
BIZ: For the last few years, Nintendo has essentially ignored the
online market. However, now with the Wi-Fi Connection for DS and
Revolution Nintendo seems to be embracing online gaming. Why the change
BL: Well, it's something that we've always recognized, that online
gaming was a direction that we would go in. It just didn't make sense
for GameCube, and I think a lot of people would agree with that. You
know there wasn't a lot of money to be made, if any. The majority was
still playing offline vs. online. It just sounded cool and everybody
liked the idea of [online games], but I think now in this next
generation we're certainly at a point where it is making more sense,
especially with the idea of Wi-Fi and particularly on the handheld
side. It's the perfect next step on the handheld side, so for Nintendo
DS introducing our first Wi-Fi enabled games later this year is very
exciting... and then what we do on DS, how we structure it, from that
standpoint will kind of carry over into what we do with Revolution.
BIZ: You mentioned making money, or the lack of money to be made, on
online gaming, but if the Nintendo Connection is to be completely free
for users, what's the attraction of doing it now?
BL: Because we want to make sure that all gamers-I guess you can look
at it as a participation rate-so that all gamers can have access to
and participate and play the game. And maybe it's not so much making
money, but more the sense of you're not losing money or that it is a
business model that makes sense. And that's what we're going to do; we
don't want our consumers to have so many barriers that they never
actually participate in the online experience. So we're trying to make
it as easy to get into as possible.
BIZ: I'm sure I know the answer to this, but can you give us any hints
as to what the "revolutionary" concept is for the Revolution? It has
something to do with the controller, right?
BL: Really, it's going to come down to the content, the games, and the
controller will play a big part in that. You're just going to have to
wait a little bit [to find out].
BIZ: Iwata stressed how "very unique" the controller is...
BL: Yeah, Nintendo puts a lot of thought into its controllers and over
the years we've introduced a lot. In fact, every innovation in a
controller has probably come from Nintendo when you look back through
the years. And it should be no exception this year. For us, there's
just no reason to show those details yet.
BIZ: Can you talk about why Nintendo decided to go with the DVD format
for the Revolution and not a proprietary Nintendo format like you did
BL: Actually, it's a 12-cm optical disc so there will be some
proprietary element to that... piracy is a big issue in our industry...
so it's similar to what we did on GameCube. But also recognize that the
bigger format is important and we also built the system to be backwards
compatible so it will accept both the 8-cm GameCube discs and the
larger discs for Revolution.
BIZ: I thought the idea of giving Revolution owners downloadable access
to Nintendo's catalogue of titles over the last 20 years was a
brilliant idea, but one thing that wasn't addressed was pricing for
these older titles. These aren't going to be free, right? There will be
a fee per download?
BL: Probably, but we haven't gone into what these details will be and
as we get closer to launch we'll describe what the program is, what the
costs will be, what games will be available, etc. But we just wanted to
get the news out there that this is something that we will be doing and
it's something very unique to Nintendo.
BIZ: The thing that I had sort of pictured in my mind was pricing by
BIZ: You could have different prices for the NES, SNES and N64 titles.
BL: Well you can make that suggestion. [laughs]
BIZ: Okay, moving on. There's a lot of nostalgia for Nintendo's older
games and it's stable of characters, and the company is smart to
leverage that for its business, but some would argue that Nintendo is a
little too reliant on its existing cast of characters. What are your
thoughts on this?
BL: It is very important for us to have new content and we will
certainly do that and Mr. Iwata referenced that. That is underway-new
franchises, new characters-and we're also working with third parties
and other external developers to make sure that we do have a very broad
library when we launch, and that we do have something that will appeal
to the 30-something gamer as well as the younger gamer that wants to be
able to play Mario... but yes we recognize that we need that broad
library at launch.
BIZ: Now that Nintendo has announced the Game Boy Micro, some would say
that it's kind of overkill to bring to market yet another piece of
hardware that plays the same GBA titles. How do you respond to that?
BL: I think you kind of have to look at it as what we've done, whether
it's different color casings, different designs for casings; it's
almost like a fashion or image thing. It will probably attract a
different gamer or person who just thinks it's very cool and likes the
gadgety aspect to it.
BIZ: But for people who already own the GBA SP or the Nintendo DS, why
should they buy the Game Boy Micro?
BL: But there are a lot of people who don't own those systems, who may
choose to go ahead and get it.
BIZ: You guys have sold a ton of GBA units though...
BL: Okay, we've only sold 28 million. [laughs] I'm sure there are a
couple more million out there who haven't bought one yet.
BIZ: Can you comment on the Micro's pricing or launch date?
BL: No not yet. Probably in the next month or two we'll make
announcements regarding launch details.
BIZ: So internally, work is ongoing on the real successor to the GBA?
BL: Yeah, we're always looking toward the future, to what's next.
BIZ: But does Nintendo feel at all pressured by Sony's PSP and their
approach to the portable market?
BL: No, we are feeling very good about where we are in the handheld
space. As Reggie mentioned, we have a 2.5 to 1 advantage. SP continues
to sell very well, DS is doing great and we have a lot of phenomenal
software coming this year. And now with Micro in the mix, we have a lot
to offer on the handheld side. And obviously we have a great track
record on the handheld side, where we know what kind of games work. I
think people enjoy playing games that are really more suited for a
handheld rather than just household games that are brought to a
BIZ: Well, it's been great talking with you Beth. Thanks for your time.
BL: Sure. Good to meet you.
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