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Interview with Nintendo

Game Spot Intervies Tom Harlin, Asst. Manager of Public Relations

This article is from Game Spot TV

    Nintendo displayed the first playable GameCube games at E3 this week, putting an end to hundreds of personal liability NDAs issued to the console's software developers and showing the world that the GameCube can compete graphically with Microsoft's Xbox. Amidst the chaos of thumping sound systems and flashing lights that is E3, Nintendo's assistant manager of public relations, Tom Harlin, sat down with us to discuss Nintendo's strategy for the GameCube and the future of the industry's oldest player.

GameSpot: So, the cat's out of the bag.

Tom Harlin: Yeah, we're really excited. Nintendo designed both systems to try and really take advantage of what a hardware system can do as a tool to make a great piece of software for gamers. And I think you can definitely see it when you walk around and play the games. GameCube started with Mr. Miyamoto going to engineers and saying, "I have this idea for a game. I'd like you to build me the box that makes it." And obviously, with Pikman and Luigi here on the floor, you can kind of see that's happened.

GS: Were those the games that he had in mind?

TH: He's always thinking a couple of games ahead. He's always got something else in mind. But if you want to talk to the folks at LucasArts...their ability to put a real X-Wing as it was made by Industrial Light & Magic straight into [Rogue Squadron II] at full size is amazing.

GS: Now that everyone is throwing their cards on the table, how do you feel about Nintendo's showing at E3?

TH: Nintendo never really shows a game until it's ready. And still, in the last few months of game development, there are a lot of things that can be done to polish a game and make it look better. This is why we're sometimes skeptical about putting out launch dates too early. We really want to give developers the time that they want to make the kind of quality game that they want. When we look out on the show floor we feel really proud about the games that are out there. From the responses we've seen from the people out here playing them, they're tremendously excited and surprised at what the GameCube can do. Hopefully gamers walk away feeling that Nintendo is the type of company that is out there making innovative and high-quality games that they can stay behind for years.

GS: I noticed at its press conference that Nintendo didn't mention anything about third-party software. Granted, there is some third-party support for the GameCube, but walking around the show floor it seems like it probably has the least amount of third-party support when compared with the Xbox and PlayStation 2.

TH: Well, we also have the best first- and second-party developers in the world that our competitors don't have. With the type of development power we have, our first- and second-party lineup is what we're here to talk about and promote. We have plenty of support from third parties, but we'll let them promote their own games in their own way, own time, and own style. I think it also shows Nintendo's strength. We have made systems that are easy to develop [games] for and that's important for third parties. The fact that we can fill an entire floor with impressive games that are only first- and second-party is a tribute to our strength and the type of development power Nintendo has in-house. As far as third-parties are concerned, Madden was the number one selling PlayStation 2 game for a number of weeks, and it's coming to the GameCube.

GS: Do you think Nintendo needs third-party support to succeed?

TH: (Long pause) I think while Nintendo has incredible talent in its first- and second-party teams, you want to give gamers the most choices possible. You want a wide variety of games to satisfy all types of gamers. And while I think Nintendo's games are ageless, there are other types of games and other skilled game developers out there [and] Nintendo is glad to have them aboard. There's a lot of respect between Nintendo and Sega as far as the ability to develop great games, and I think that we're just glad to have them developing GameCube games.

GS: Both Microsoft and Sony are pushing the broadband capabilities of their respective consoles. When will we be hearing more about Nintendo's network, and when do you think it will be up and ready to play games online?
TH: When Nintendo looks at network capabilities we really look at the ability of having a worldwide network. With different countries supplying different types of phone lines and network capabilities, it's a challenge to come up with a worldwide network. That said, Nintendo is always looking to innovate. Whatever creative ways we can come up with to do that we'll pursue. And if that direction goes online, you can believe we'll be there in full force. But at this point we're still looking at ways to do that.

GS: Has Nintendo begun producing the GameCube yet? Will Nintendo have enough GameCubes to satisfy demand later this year?

TH: That's a good question because you can never really predict what demand is going to be. We would love to put out as many GameCubes as we can sell. We're doing everything we can to get our production up to scale, and we are confident that we'll have sizeable numbers at launch. We have components produced, and we are on track with our production schedule for a November 5 launch. So we're ready to go.

GS: How does Nintendo feel about launching the GameCube directly against the Xbox?

TH: We are most concerned about releasing products that match Nintendo's quality, and at that point, we'll get out there and let consumers make a decision. One of the biggest deciding factors in this generation of hardware is going to be exclusive titles. For Nintendo, it's EAD, it's Rare, it's Left Field, and it's NST. Nobody is going to have these games. No one is going to have a game that looks and feels like Wave Race: Blue Storm. I think it's going to be a choice that consumers have to make, and I think they can see that Nintendo has a lot to offer in its first- and second-party products.

GS: Considering it's been its bread and butter over the past several years, does Nintendo want to change its perception as a kid-friendly platform? How does Nintendo plan on holding the younger market while appealing to adults at the same time?

TH: Again, it goes back to quality and innovative games. When you look on the show floor, there are definitely games for kids to get excited about, but Luigi's Mansion doesn't have to be for 6-year-olds. It can go the full age range. As far as Nintendo going after older demographics, we have Eternal Darkness on the floor today that is geared directly toward a mature market. We're never going to abandon the kids that love Mario and Pokemon, and we're going to continue to support those franchises.

GS: We've heard rumors that some of the GameCube games being developed by second parties have had bumpy development cycles. Metroid in particular. How does Nintendo feel about the products that have come out of its second-party developers?

TH: Well, we have Rare, a world-class developer.

I wasn't talking about Rare.


Well then, take Left Field as an example. Left Field was developing a dirt-bike racing game that NCL and Miyamoto liked enough to give it the Excitebike franchise. That's not something that can be given out easily. Same thing with NST. It had some great launches with Ridge Racer 64, Bionic Commando, and Crystalis. That won them the Wave Race franchise. So, I think our second-party developers are excellent, and they get to tap Nintendo's creative teams over in Japan, which is a great help to receive a little guidance. So I think we feel great about our second-party developers. When we show a game, we want people to walk away saying, "Wow. My god, that was unbelievable. I didn't know Nintendo could do it, and I didn't know GameCube could do it. I'm blown away. I've got to have the game."

GS: Are you claiming that Metroid isn't at that stage yet?

TH: There are a lot of games that aren't at that stage yet. We'll make the appropriate stage and the appropriate noise for them at the appropriate time. There's nothing we're really showing for 2002,so we'll let 2002 rest for a bit and bring those things out in due time. There are plenty of great games to show so why rush it?
GS: Microsoft has been throwing a lot of money around to third-party developers to get them to make exclusive games for the Xbox. One example would be The Matrix. Would Nintendo ever consider doing something like this?
TH: That's sort of what we have done. If you remember, Silicon Knights recently became a second-party developer. Eternal Darkness, which could have ended up on another system, is now a GameCube exclusive. Nintendo is prepared to do anything when it comes to taking the next step in gaming. I think that we're going to see more third-party developers developing cross platform. The economic structure requires a blockbuster or hit or to go cross platform to have enough money to start the next game. It's good for consumers because it creates a lot of competition in the market, and whenever there's a lot of competition, it's the consumers who ultimately win.

GS: It seems like it would be difficult to make sure everyone who buys a GameCube gets the color he or she wants. Is Nintendo still planning on launching the GameCube in multiple colors?

TH: It can be difficult to pull off two hardware launches in a year, but we're doing that. Game Boy Advance is coming out in three colors. We haven't made any formal announcements regarding colors, but stay tuned, and you should hear something soon.

GS: What was the idea behind releasing such conservative stats for the GameCube. Looking at these games, it looks like the specs released were very conservative.

TH: Using a singular spec, it's hard to get a full idea of what a system's capacity is. It's a full package. All the different parts of the system working together is what really makes a game great. If you can push 10 million polygons through a pipeline, but it's not actually a game, it's not really a spec. With Nintendo's specs, it's all about what you can see and do with the system. So the specs were released a little bit conservative to give [developers an idea of] what can be done with the system game-wise rather than what it can do in a nongame atmosphere.

GS: Do you think that releasing specs below what the console can actually do will hinder the buzz or the excitement generated by the console?

TH: You must give consumers some advice about the console and say, Go try it. Put the controller in your hands and feel it. Go to a retail store that has an interactive [kiosk] and play a game. Rent it, take it home, and see how it feels. The feeling it gives you while you're playing and the enjoyment you have is really what makes a video game great. And it's what Nintendo does so well. The advice to consumers is don't trust a single spec and don't trust a single screenshot. Play the game. A month and a half before [the] Game Boy Advance launches, people can go in and try it. I expect at least the same lead time for the GameCube.

GS: When can we expect to hear more on the connectivity between the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube?

TH: Space World (in August) is the first time you'll probably hear anything. We're going to wait until we have something that will make your eyes pop out of your head and makes you think, "Wow, I never thought about doing that with a Game Boy Advance attached to a GameCube." Until we have that wow factor, I don't think we'll be showing much, and I think the first opportunity for that will be Nintendo's Space World.

GS: What about the Panasonic DVD player that includes the GameCube hardware? Will it be coming to the US?

TH: I don't know of any plans for it at this point in time. We're out here to make great video games. If our partners want to take advantage of that technology and make it into consumer electronics products and market it, there's no barriers keeping them from doing that. I think anything's possible, and we'll see what happens.

GS: Where's Pokemon?

TH: Coming. Again, we'll wait for the wow factor. Pokemon is going to turn into a franchise similar to Mario with new games and new innovation. Pokemon is not going away, so look forward to more Pokemon in the future, and we'll have to wait and see on what date.

GS: What about Zelda?

TH: It's another one of those games that will be out when it's ready to be shown and ready to be played. We really haven't shown a lot for 2002 yet. We'll get through the two hardware launches, and we'll be ready to go when Christmas is over.

GS: Thank you very much.

TH: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

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