Our E3 2011 interview goes over Nintendo's Wii U plans.
During E3 2011, we had a chance to sit down with Marc Franklin, Director of Public Relations for Nintendo of America. We asked about Zelda's 25th Anniversary, the Nintendo 3DS release schedule, third party publishers, and of course, Wii U. The interview below gives a summary of what Nintendo had to display during the course of the show.
NWR: First, if you just want to talk about your experience with Nintendo over the years, and where you've come from, where you are now, exactly what your role is?
MF: I've been in the industry for about 13 years. I've been at a variety different publishers, but my dream has always been to work for Nintendo and so I joined in 2007. I'm the director of public relations, and I love it.
NWR: That's great, it's good to love your work!
MF: I get the opportunity to work with great content, some great individuals, and had the opportunity to see Mr. Miyamoto in action, and it's really special, it's brilliant.
NWR: As far as the content of the press conference, and as far as the 25th anniversary of Zelda, with all the games coming out, was that always in the cards, or did that change over time?
MK: When you look at Zelda's 25th anniversary overall, and break down everything that is happening, you've got Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time coming out in a few days, you've got Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword coming out for the Wii in the holidays, you've got Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, that's going to be available later this year.
NWR: Is that the GameCube version on DSiware, or is it a brand new experience?
MK: I believe it's the same experience, it's coming out through DSiWare, so that'll be great. (That's a free download? Yes.) Then Mr. Miyamoto announced the other piece of content that was coming out today (Note: He is referring to the release of Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on Virtual Console.)
NWR: Has that gone live yet?
MK: I've been checking, but I haven't seen it yet, he said it would be here before the end of the day. Then we've got the orchestra that came here to start the presentation, that was dramatic, we're going to be taking them on a tour.
The other thing I should have mentioned about Skyward Sword is the gold Wii Remote, that's special, and then there's the two CDs that are coming. There's a lot that we are doing for the anniversary and certainly it's a franchise that's deserved of it.
NWR: Will there be a gold Nunchuk?
MK: We haven't made any comments about that, right now I'm just excited to see that gold remote.
NWR: How extensive will the concert tour be?
MK: We just announced the first details today, so the dates and line-up of music will be announced later.
NWR: Will it be one show in the US or go out over the country?
MK: My understanding is that there it's touring throughout the country and there will also be appearances in Europe.
NWR: Looking forward to that, I hope it comes near me!
MK: Yes, I think everyone's looking forward to it. I was sitting in the middle of the audience, you never know what the reaction's going to be like, I think people have such a nostalgia for the Zelda series and it brings back so many memories for people. Then when you hear that iconic music, it kind of brings up a lot of emotions for people, so you really sense that in the audience.
NWR: Especially with Miyamoto making a comment about how the 8-bit music can translate into this great orchestra, in only 25 short years.
MK: Yes, exactly right!
NWR: So moving onto 3DS, not that its sales have been slow, the launch was great but my understanding is that it's been a little slow since then. How does the lineup from the second half of the year hope to improve that and how do you think all the games will fare out there?
MK: So, the Nintendo 3DS is a system that's constantly evolving, so this system is different today to when it launched.
NWR: Well or yesterday with the eShop!
MK: My point exactly. So overnight we had the eShop launch so right away the system is providing entirely new experiences to players through 3D Classics, through eventually some original software, through DSiWare, we have an Internet browser, so that's just on the eShop side.
Then we have this lineup of great triple-A content that's coming out over the next weeks and months, starting with Ocarina of Time in just a few days. This is a game that has had such anticipation from consumers and we are just really excited to bring it out. Then following with Star Fox 64 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Super Mario, Mario Kart, all these great titles, and that goes through the holiday, so I think we're in a position to really provide some great content for consumers in the next weeks and months.
NWR: I've noticed, I have't looked at the full press kit yet, it seems that there aren't really any Nintendo games coming out in July and August. Is that 100 percent true, if so is there any reason to why everything is compacted into September to December and the rest of the year is a little barren?
MK: We haven't talked about this yet, but we have new games coming out for the Nintendo DS family of systems. There's some new titles out there, Super Fossil Fighters, there's a new Dragon Quest game, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2, and then we have a new Kirby game, Kirby Mass Attack and I believe that Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is coming out in that time frame that we spoke about, and Kirby Mass Attack in that similar time frame. There's certainly content, there's going to be a steady drumbeat of great games coming out between now and the holidays, so you're going to have plenty to play.
NWR: Is Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 being published by Nintendo like past Dragon Quest games?
MK: That's right.
NWR: How did the partnership with Square Enix for Dragon Quest come about, and how does it look going forward?
MK: There's been a history of working with Square over the past years, so it's a longstanding relationship and it is working out very positively. We had good appeal with Dragon Quest 9, and then we came out with Dragon Quest 6. I don't know who many hours I logged with Dragon Quest 9, but it's probably one of the longest games I've ever played.
NWR: It's wonderful.
MK: It's really great, so I think there's an affinity between our two organisations that seems to be a good fit, so we are just happy to work with them and be able to work with great content. I mean, the characters in Dragon Quest are so cool!
NWR: I love that series very much. As far as another series I also love, the Professor Layton series, the fourth one is coming out this fall, which is the last one on DS. Once again to my understanding, Nintendo is publishing that like the last games. With Level-5's presence in North America getting bigger, is Nintendo going to continue publishing those games in the future, or will Level-5 eventually self publish in North America?
MK: That's probably a question for Level-5. Again, it's another series we've been very happy with, there's a great fanbase for Professor Layton, they love playing Professor Layton on Nintendo platforms. We've got a great relationship with Level-5 and we're looking to continue that.
NWR: Speaking of publishing, Nintendo of Europe is going to be publishing Xenoblade Chronicles, has any thought been put into that for the US?
MK: We don't have anything to announce on that. I know with the title coming out in Europe and obviously in Japan, the question is natural for the US but we haven't announced anything.
NWR: Is this the same case for The Last Story?
MK: Yes, the same case. Did you guys get a chance to play Skyward Sword? What did you think?
NWR: I definitely like the bird riding, the dungeon, I look forward to sinking my teeth into that game, so I"m looking forward to this fall.
MK: The dungeon they've got for the E3 demo is pretty big. It's different playing the past Zelda games to when you're playing with motion controls, I just find it more immersive, playing as Link.
NWR: Even in Ocarina of Time 3D, with gyro controls for the bow and slingshot, I thought it would be kind of a hindrance but is actually kind of cool.
MK: Do you like the touch screen controls to swap out your items?
NWR: Yes, it's much smoother. Once I get used to holding B and dragging to pick up an item, it'll be great.
MK: What else has caught your eye, I'm surprised you haven't talked about the Wii U yet.
NWR: That's where we're heading! We actually just came over from checking out the system and are overall pretty impressed by it. How long has it been under development, right now you have a lot of demos but nothing really beyond that yet, what sort of time frame are we looking at?
MK: The system is launching in 2012 between April 1st and the end of December. So not this fiscal year, the next and it will ship in 2012. We have a whole range of experiences here and ideas to get you thinking about all the possibilities, from a game development standpoint and from a player perspective. What can you do with the new system and the new controller? You've got experiences like Chase Mii, which is so much fun, when you've got someone on the new controller and four buddies trying to track you down. Or Battle Mii, where you've got two different experiences in the same game.
NWR: I think Metroid-influenced too?
MK: Again, these aren't final games, or games in development. They are just examples. And then of course it is great to see the HD experience. You get an idea, a feeling of what the system can do, from the graphical prowess to the different experience scenarios. Then in the today's presentation you heard about some of the third party support from EA and others.
NWR: With some of those games, such as Batman Arkham City, which as far as I know is set for this fall, I would assume a Wii U version will come far after the game is released. Do you see that as a problem or do you think the Wii U will add enough that people who might have played the game before will be interested in trying it again?
MK: It's a good question for you to ask them. There's certainly a lot of time between now and when Wii U launches, you never know what they will be able to dream up and hopefully they will be able to leverage the new controller.
NWR: With the partnership with EA, are they somehow helping with the online setup, or is it more that they will they be providing games in a closer manner than they have before?
MK: What Jon Riccitiello described at the presentation was EA's vision for working with the system. We look at the system as this flexible system, and it's going to be driven by the best approaches of our third party partners and from Nintendo. But it's not a one size fits all kind of system, people are going to have different approaches, so we look forward to seeing what people are going to come up with.
NWR: How do you see Nintendo's position against tablets and other devices like interactive TVs as well. (Like this one? - Marc Franklin is holding a tablet device.)
MK: It's funny, we usually have all our documents in big binders and now we've gone to these tablets which is great, it saves paper.
To be really clear, the new controller is not a tablet, it's a controller and it has to work with the system. You can't just put it in your backpack and take off to the end of the woods and play it. In fact, I've got this diagram here - this shows you there's the controller, there's the system, there's the TV, they all work together! (I'll leave this here.)
They all work with each other and the idea is to bring these great experiences out like Chase Mii, where you've got such great social interaction, and this universal dynamic with all the players, to things like Battle Mii or Shield Pose. You've got the controller and now you're immersed in this 360 degree environment. The game is all around you, it's not just on the TV set, if you look over here you have something you have to deal with or in the background.
NWR: Even in the golf demo.
MK: The golf demo is great, it showed how you take the experience out of the TV and it's in your environment.
NWR: That's actually one of those things that when playing these games, even with Wii Sports Resort the golf is great, but when you're looking down it's not true golf necessarily because you're not looking at the screen when you're playing golf, you're looking down at the club and the ball and this allows that. So golf fans should be very happy. It's really perfect for that, the funny thing was, last year we saw a third party trying to make a golf accessory, and they actually put another TV screen on the floor!
The 3DS has an infrared port, and so does the Wii U controller, but nothing has been said about that. Is there a plan for that?
MK: We're not talking about the tech specs at the show. What we can talk about though, there's this great message by Mr. Iwata that you've got a Smash Bros. game coming out and it's going to be cross-platform compatible between Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. So as a Smash fan that makes me really excited, and then the fact that it's going to be compatible between both devices. Mr. Sakurai is brilliant at coming up with control schemes and so just to imagine how he's going to make that work is something that I'm really looking forward to finding out. That's one example of how the Nintendo 3DS can work with Wii U.
NWR: Do the Wii U prototypes have the GameCube ports built in?
MK: It's not backwards compatible to GameCube. It goes back one generation to Wii. You'll be able to play Wii software and Wii devices, so not just the Wii Remote, but the Classic Controller.
NWR: I suppose that could be open to a Virtual Console for GameCube in the future?
MK: It's not information that we're announcing right now. This week we are looking at the experiences on the floor.
NWR: Thank you very much for your time, it was a pleasure to meet you.
MK: Thank you, it was good to meet you! (Did you guys check out Pokédex 3D? …)
Thanks to Nintendo of America for the interview.