Nintendo wants the Wii U launch on Nov. 18 to be the video game event of the holiday season. Scott Moffitt, the company’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, is the man in charge of making that happen.
The Japanese giant has a lot at stake when it comes to the Wii U, which some have criticized as a not-quite-next-generation console that is about as powerful as Sony’s six-year-old PlayStation 3. Nintendo began advertising the system in earnest last week to convince gamers otherwise. We spoke with Moffitt about Nintendo’s approach, the ad campaign, and its timing.
Here’s a transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Tell us about what’s in motion right now. What’s happening as you lead up to the launch?
Scott Moffitt: We’re in the final countdown stage. We’re watching the imports every day, when the boats come in, to make sure we’re getting the product we’re anticipating. We started our marketing in earnest a few days ago. We’ve been building interactive kiosks in stores. We’ve got about 5,000 of those, so people can experience the system for themselves. That’s important for a complex product like this. We went live with advertising last week in social media and really in earnest over the weekend with some cinema. There’s a lot going on.
GamesBeat: The ad campaign seemed like it came late. What’s the thinking behind the timing of the ads?
Moffitt: The timing is almost to the day the same as we used for Wii. We weren’t trying to copy that plan exactly, but it just happened that way. We put a media plan together. We wanted to build awareness quickly, so it’s multi-touchpoint. There will be messages coming at people from every direction. We thought that Wreck-It Ralph was a good place to have some cinema. That’s where our advertising premiered over the weekend.
It’s not like a hardcore game where you need to release your advertising five weeks ahead of a game launch. For us, it’s fine to be closer to the launch. I think that makes more sense. The other factor, candidly, is that with an election campaign this year. There was less media available prior to when we bought, and it was much more expensive.
GamesBeat: Being virtually sold out added complexity to everything, right? If you convince more people to buy something this week, they’re not going to get it. They can’t even order it, right?
Moffitt: Right. Frustration can build up. That wasn’t really part of the plan either, though. We buy through an up-front process like a lot of big advertisers, so we committed to these media buys long before we knew that we were going to have a sold-out situation to pre-sales. We hoped we would be sold out, that pre-sales would be brisk. But we didn’t have the luxury of waiting to see that to know what our major plans would be.
GamesBeat: Have you guys made any projections on sales? I remember some analysts saying 4.5 million sales would be likely for the holidays.
Moffitt: What we’ve said is we’re capable of shipping 5.5 million units between Nov. 18 and March 31, the end of our fiscal year. That’s a global number. We’ve not broken it out by time period, so how much of that is week one, how much is holiday, we can’t say. Similarly, we’ve not disclosed how much of that will be in each region. The U.S. will clearly have the longest selling period, because we’re the first market to launch.
GamesBeat: If I tried to place an order, supposing some retailer had pre-sales still open, how long would it take at this point before I might get one? Is it well into the new year?
Moffitt: No, not at all. We’ve been through these processes before. We want product to be available on day one in stores throughout the country. If you line up or get there early, you should be able to get product on day one. GameStop has not sold all of their day one allocation. They’ve sold what they were making available for pre-sales. Those are two different numbers. Now, a lot of what we gave them, they’ve sold to pre-sales, but, like every retailer will, they’ve held some back so they have product on day one for consumers that come in the door.
We have said that we’ll have more Wii U units on store shelves in week one than we did for Wii in 2006. We’ll also have replenishment much more frequently during the holiday than we did for Wii. Having said that, though, we’re guessing there could be shortages. It won’t be there every day. Shipments coming in each week could sell very quickly.