How Reggie Fils-Aimé convinced Nintendo to include “Wii Sports” with the Wii
Nintendo’s worldwide president, Satoru Iwata, and I quickly aligned on launching the Wii in America first. This strategy had worked well for the Nintendo DS, and the Black Friday buying occasion was an important business driver in the Americas that did not exist in Japan or Europe. We also agreed that NOA would receive the largest initial hardware allocation.
But just like the E3 presentation, we had a tough conversation about how best to use the “Wii Sports” game. We knew we had something magical in “Wii Sports”. It perfectly highlighted how the Wii Remote could change the game and expand our customer base. The NCL development team was adding elements that would give the game enough depth to satisfy the most avid gamer. They also included different competitive elements that encouraged groups of people to play together.
I advocated packaging “Sports Wii” with the Wii so that every consumer has access to this great content. After I made this suggestion, Mr. Iwata stopped long enough for me to notice the faint hum of incandescent lighting in his office and feel uneasy. “Reggie,” Mr. Iwata said, “Nintendo doesn’t give away valuable content for free. We work hard to create special experiences. It’s unique software that motivates consumers to buy our hardware. And we plan to sell those games over long periods of time. No, we shouldn’t pack ‘Wii Sports.’ ”
Review: ‘Nintendo Switch Sports’ is a purse of great games and duds
“Mr. Iwata, I understand the value of our software. I know that unique software has always differentiated Nintendo. But we know that the Wii is a very different concept in the history of video games. The Wii focuses on a game Wii’s goal is to expand the game from its current niche into mainstream media. has the power to do so. ‘Wii Sports’ can be a unifying element for all players in the system and be a key motivation for people to buy the system and have fun immediately.
“Also, Mr. Iwata, I know that Nintendo is used to using embedded software to drive a system.”
I knew this from personal experience as I purchased my Super Nintendo Entertainment System in a bundle that included “Super Mario World”.
This was just the opening discussion on a topic that would go on for months. Even after convincing Mr. Iwata that this was the right approach, I would also need to have Shigeru Miyamoto in charge of all game development. and the famous creator of Mario, Donkey Kong and so many other Nintendo franchises, agree. I knew I was making progress when I was shown a new game on a trip to Kyoto in July 2006.
“Reggie, we understand your view of having a strong software title included with Wii when it launches,” Mr. Miyamoto said through a translator during a meeting with Mr. Iwata and Mike Fukuda. , head of product development and licensing at NOA. “Please take a look at this game that we propose to use for your idea instead of ‘Wii Sports.’ ”
The development team started showing me an early version of “Wii Play”. It was a collection of different mini-games that also showed off the capabilities of the Wii Remote. A number of games were shown earlier at E3 and received further development.
The games were fun. One was a shooting experience; another was table tennis; and there was a nice game of billiards. But they lacked the thematic cohesion of “Wii Sports.” And the collection didn’t have a deep experience that could lead to hours of play. They were the equivalent of cotton candy – fun for a while, but not very filling.
“Mr. Miyamoto, these individual mini-games are fun. I can see how the development teams have added more polish to the experiences we had earlier at E3. And they make excellent use of the Wii Remote” , I said. “However, it does not seem to be the same complete experience as ‘Sports Wii‘ is. I don’t think including this would have the same impact as including “Wii Sports”. ”
“Actually, I have another idea. Maybe instead of including this with Wii hardware, we should take this collection of minigames and include it with a Wii Remote to encourage additional sales of this accessory.
The room was silent for at least fifteen seconds.
Review: ‘MLB The Show 22’ is proof the pandemic has made time meaningless
Mike Fukuda chimed in, speaking in Japanese. I looked at the faces of Mr. Iwata and Mr. Miyamoto, then I heard the English translation. “Reggie is right. ‘Wii Sports’ does a much better job of achieving our goal of getting consumers to understand Wii immediately. And this collection of mini games is not a fully formed game that will cost full price in our market. We should think about how best to use this software to achieve our goals. Including this with the Wii Remote accessory is unconventional, but it would put more Wii Remotes in the hands of our consumers.
So now Mike and I were trying to get a deal on two different packs, and the best game designer in the world wasn’t happy. The ever-present smile and mischievous squint in Mr. Miyamoto’s eyes were gone. “None of you understand the challenges of creating software that people enjoy playing. It’s something we constantly push ourselves to do. We don’t give our software away,” Miyamoto said.
Mr. Iwata, however, was already sparking our ideas. “Miyamoto-san, I’m sure Fukuda-san and Reggie-san appreciate the effort of the developers. They are trying to solve a situation different from ours in Japan. He went on to explain the market conditions we were facing in the context of different game genres that did well in the West compared to Japan. He also explained how Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had just been launched in 2005 and was doing well in Western markets. Clearly, our desire to educate NCL executives about our business needs was taking root.
We did not reach an agreement during this meeting. Or the many others that followed. But we ended up convincing Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Iwata to agree to have “Wii Sports” packaged for all western markets. They decided to sell “Wii Sports” as standalone software in Japan.
It ended up being a perfect test of the different approaches. The Wii broke records globally, but it was the best in the Americas and Europe. It was in these markets that we had the phenomenon of “Wii Sports” competitions in bars, nursing homes and on cruise ships. Including the software in the overall Wii proposal had been a brave decision, and the right one.
Create a bundle with “Wii Play” and a remote control was also the right decision. It was sold worldwide – yes, even in Japan – and became the fifth best-selling game in Wii history.
From the book “Disrupting the game: from the Bronx to the top of Nintendo” by Reggie Fils-Aimé. Copyright © 2022 by Reggie Fils-Aimé. Reprinted with permission from Direction HarperCollins.
Reggie Fils-Aimé is the former President and COO of Nintendo of the America Inc. which helped bring the Nintendo DS, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch to the global marketplace.