Reggie "The Regginator" Fils-Aimé, former Nintendo of America President, has been discussing - among many other things - how Nintendo believed that before the Wii the games industry was in trouble, with stagnation setting in and increasing complexity in games blocking growth.
Speaking with GameDaily.biz, Reggie discussed how following the relative failure of the GameCube Nintendo flagged up complexity and 'sequelitis' as indicators of industry stagnation before ushering in the Wii era:
“... with the Wii, it's tough for people to remember, but back in the early 2000s, only about one out of every three people played video games. Also back then, the industry was stagnant and in key markets like Europe and Japan, software sales were actually in decline.”
“And you know, clearly the company thought deeply about this. And to be clear, the thinking happened before I joined the company. The company saw the stagnation of the industry as a result of too much complexity, too many sequels. [They saw] the same general game, but now it's version five or six, the lack of innovation and the lack of fun."
“That was their diagnosis. Competing companies saw the answer in more horsepower and more accurate visual representation. And you can clearly see the divergence in the Nintendo DS, for example, versus the PlayStation Portable. You can see divergence and strategy in the Wii, versus what Sony and Microsoft executed in their machines. And so absolutely, intellectual curiosity, asking tough questions to get at the heart of a business problem and proposing solutions that are based on what the issues are versus what your belief set is, is clearly something that the company has done well.”
It's hard to argue that the Wii didn't stir things up and bring gaming to a whole new audience with its approachable image and accessibility, although it should probably be noted that PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 also performed well that generation, too. In terms of Nintendo, though, the Wii turned around the company's fortunes after two under-performing consoles by removing barriers to entry and tapping an entirely different market to the one Sony and Microsoft were (and arguably still are) fighting over.
Elsewhere in the interview Reggie highlighted how the language barrier between Nintendo of Japan and Nintendo of America meant that non-verbal communication became centrally important:
“The typical process when working with our parent company was sequential translation. So a person speaks in Japanese with animation and smiles and hand gestures that then gets translated to English with none of that. I respond in English with hand gestures and emotion, and then that gets translated with none of it back into Japanese. And so you really have to be a master in picking up nonverbal cues and how that supports the key communication that needs to be done.”
Although retired, Reggie is currently outlining his seven business principles in a drive to educate and foster young business talent. The interview covers a lot of ground, including how he asked to speak directly with then-President Satoru Iwata before taking the NOA job - be sure to check out the full article over at GameDaily.biz.
It's hard to argue with Nintendo's pre-Wii diagnosis of the industry, although have we really moved away from "too much complexity, too many sequels"? Nintendo is more resistant than most companies when it comes to numbered sequels, but we still see plenty of them. Let us know your thoughts below.