Nintendo released Arms, the company’s first major new property since 2015’s Splatoon, right at the close of the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow in Los Angeles last week. And at E3, the company revealed it will have at least one major release for its hybrid Switch handheld/home console each month culminating in the launch of Super Mario Odyssey in October.
To better understand the publisher’s strategy for the first year of its successful new console and what Nintendo wants to communicate to its fans, I sat down with Nintendo of America corporate communications director Charlie Scibetta. The company purposefully shaped its content pipeline to have a marquee franchise hitting retail and its digital shop on a monthly basis.
“We have a nice drumbeat of first and third party games,” Scibetta told GamesBeat. “You’ll never have to wait long. Just as you get through a game and you’re starting to put the periscope up to see what else is out there, hopefully we’ll have something right there for you.”
The company has already done that with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in March, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in April, and Minecraft in May. And while blockbuster new releases like Zelda and Mario Odyssey stand above rereleases like Mario Kart or third-party ports like Minecraft, Scibetta thinks those two pillars help to hold up the rest of the lineup.
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In my full interview, Scibetta and I go in depth about that and other topics like how Nintendo approaches E3, how it feels about fans attending the show for the first time ever, and a ton more.
Here is an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: How do you feel about Nintendo’s E3 this year?
Charlie Scibetta: Feeling good about the reaction to Super Mario Odyssey. We definitely leaned in on that game as our lead horse for this holiday. We got a good drumbeat of games throughout the year. We started out with Breath of the Wild. Kart had a great showing, good sales and reaction. We have Arms coming out this Friday. Splatoon 2 coming out later this summer, and then Super Mario Odyssey. The game we’re focused on here is Super Mario Odyssey. Some of the others people have played already and they’re getting close to shipping.
People like what they see with the gameplay dynamic there, the interaction you have with Cappy, the interaction with the tools you use to unlock things and navigate your world. It’s been a good show.
GamesBeat: It’s the second year in a row you’ve had a game that you could really hold up as the tentpole release. Does Nintendo prefer that over spreading attention evenly across multiple games?
Charlie Scibetta: Last year we were definitely all in on Breath of the Wild. It was the only game we had at the booth. This year we’ve spread it out a bit, but it’s still dominated by the one game in Super Mario Odyssey. We also have the tournament area where you can play Arms, Splatoon 2, Pokken Tournament Deluxe. That’s brought a good energy to the booth, watching people play the fun competitive games that Switch helps enable.
We also have a lot of third-party games like FIFA. We’re excited about Skyrim and NBA2K. We’re excited about the Rabbids collaboration with Ubisoft. Two casts of characters people didn’t think would come together. That seems to be working with people.
GamesBeat: How about having the public in your booth?
Charlie Scibetta: It’s been interesting having consumers here. It’s added a lot of energy. All this stuff we do here is for the fans, so it made sense to us to bring consumers in.
Everybody was a little bit shocked at the volume of people on the first day. But then we started to figure it out as far as how we wanted to do line management and crowd control. We try to be pretty respectful. We have signs in the lines saying, you’re one hour out from here. People know what they’re getting into if they want to line up. So far people have been happy with the time commitment, because once they get on the game they’re having a great time.
GamesBeat: Is the way you have the booth set up — with a focus on Mario — similar to your pitch for this holiday? Like, come for Mario Odyssey, but then why not also check out Skyrim, Arms, and everything else?
Charlie Scibetta: It is, because it’s all about the games. The Nintendo Switch has shown that people like taking their console gaming experience on the go, playing anytime, anywhere, with anyone. What you need to power that experience is great games. The concept by itself rings hollow unless you have something great to power it. That’s what the show is about for us, showing that we have the games, both first and third party, to let people have a great gaming experience no matter where they are.
GamesBeat: Is this how you want to do it next year? I don’t know what your slate is going to be like, but do you always want to have this big tentpole game at E3? Is there a chance you would have maybe five games that are equal partners?
Charlie Scibetta: It definitely changes from year to year. Last year and this year have been consistent. Last year the only game was Zelda, this year we have one dominant game. Other years we spread it out more, spread our bets on different titles. It all has to do with what we announce that year. It’s the same thing with how we do our Nintendo Spotlight. We had a 25-minute video. Other years we’ve done a full presentation on stage. Other years we’ve had a bunch of editors and people in the booth before the show, a thing called the Digital Spotlight, a digital event that ran a little longer.
It really has to do with — call it six months out, roughly, we’ll start looking at the content we have to announce for E3 and start thinking about the best way to communicate that.
GamesBeat: How do you make that decision?
Charlie Scibetta: It starts with the content. It always does. We wouldn’t try to say, this is how we want to communicate our news, and then shoehorn content into that. We always base it on what we have to announce and what’s the way to bring it to life. Treehouse Live has been a great example for us. It used to be we would frontload everything into that initial announcement and that was it. It was just gameplay from that point forward. Now we’re doing Treehouse Live. We can break something like Metroid: Samus Returns on the Nintendo 3DS after the Spotlight ran. People know that if they stay tuned into Treehouse Live, they might get some surprises over the course of the week.
GamesBeat: That was a purposeful decision to train the audience to look out for surprises during the Treehouse livestream?
Charlie Scibetta: We have a saying at Nintendo, “surprise and delight.” That’s one way we like to do it. We surprise people with something they didn’t think they would hear at a time when they didn’t think they would hear it. Hopefully it makes them happy.
GamesBeat: While we are talking the Treehouse stream is still ongoing, so I’ll assume you’re going to announce Smash Bros for Switch any second as part of your effort to surprise, right?
Charlie Scibetta: That’d be news to me. I don’t think we’ll be doing that at this show.
Continue reading our interview with Nintendo’s Charlie Scibetta on the next page.