Nintendo chief jazzed for Wii launch


NEW YORK -- Nintendo Co. is launching its Wii game console on Sunday, accompanied by a swell of buzz about its unusual motion-sensing controller.

While many Americans got their first taste of console gaming on Nintendo's products in the early 90s, it's now the underdog, trying to catch up to Sony Corp.'s PlayStation franchise.

Sony on Friday launched the PlayStation 3, a technical tour-de-force that costs between $500 and $600.

Nintendo's strategy is radically different. Its console costs $250 and doesn't boast the computing muscle of the PlayStation, but comes with a controller that the company says will revolutionize game play.

The Associated Press sat down with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime for some questions on the eve of the launch.

AP: How will the Wii compete with the PlayStation 3?
Fils-Aime: I don't think the question is so much how are we going to compete with them, as how are they going to compete with our strategy: our strategy of going to the mass audience; our strategy of having a fantastic price point right from the start; our strategy of including a great pack-in game called "Wii Sports;" our strategy of having a wide range of support from all of our licensees. That really spells a successful approach for us.

AP: What makes the Wii special?
Fils-Aime: What makes the Wii so special is obviously the Wii Remote: the ability to play tennis with a flick of the wrist, to play baseball like you do it on the ball field. That allows the consumer to get more in the game by having a totally different type of interface, plus it allows game developers to create all new different types of games.

AP: Could you give some examples of these new games?
Fils-Aime: We have everything from a game like "Trauma Center," from Atlas, where you're the doctor, and you're using the precision of the Wii Remote to stitch up a patient and take shards of glass out of their arm -- things of that nature. The new way to play "Madden Football," a brand new "Madden," where you act like the quarterback, where you hike the ball, pass. All of that allows for totally unique game play. ... That type of experience is why we think the consumer is so excited.

AP: Why does Nintendo have a lot more units available at launch than Sony?
Fils-Aime: I guess the question is why 'Why do they have so few?' We have properly executed our manufacturing and distribution system. We are going to have 4 million units worldwide by December 31, we're going to have 6 million units by March 31. We're starting, on launch day here in the Americas, with anywhere between five to ten times the volume that Sony had their first day, and we feel very good about that. Even with all that supply, though, we will run out of stock.

AP: Why is the price much lower than the PlayStation?
Fils-Aime: We specifically worked to create a value right from the start and so we made some very tough choices. Tough choices about not including a DVD player at the start, tough choices about not including high-definition capability at the start. That's because we wanted a mass-market price, and we believe the market will validate those decisions, come launch day on this Sunday.

AP: Why are you launching the Wii first here in the U.S., and only later in Japan, the opposite of what Sony is doing?
Fils-Aime: Well, the holiday time period really starts much earlier here in the Americas with our Thanksgiving coming next week, so it was imperative that we be in marketplace to support that holiday. It's not as important in Japan, where the holiday selling season doesn't kick off until early December, and then obviously we made the strategic decision to launch in Europe this year, and that's very important to us.

AP: You've announced a DVD-playing Wii for Japan. Is that something that's going to come to the United States?
Fils-Aime: The interesting thing is we've announced the capability to have a DVD-playing Wii. We haven't made specific announcements regarding timing or location. In terms of here in the Americas, the fact is that more than half of consumers here in the United States have more than two DVD players in the household, so we don't think the DVD-playing capability is something that's important, but it may be important in Japan or parts of Europe.

AP: I've noticed when trying out the Wii that the remote seemed to be fooled by lights in the background, and other reviewers have noted problems with sunlight. Is that something to take seriously?
Fils-Aime: In terms of the remote, we've done a tremendous amount of testing for the sensor bar as well as the remote itself, and any light sensitivity is very modest. We in our instruction manuals give the consumer information on how to really optimize for wherever they place it in the house. And we're confident that with that information the consumer will be just fine. It includes information on how to calibrate the Wii Remote so that any light interference is minimal.

How long will it be till the next console?
Fils-Aime: For Nintendo? I mean, quite frankly, let us enjoy the launch of this one.