GB: This is my first time to really get my hands on the Wii U and what you guys are doing. It seems almost that the focus of this new controller, the tablet controller, is that it’s more tablet than console after a point.
Is this a way for Nintendo to combat the rise of mobile gaming on smartphones on tablets? Are you trying to almost create your own tablet — but it’s still not a tablet because it relies on the console — so you’re kind of playing your own game here?
Moffitt: I don’t know if I’d describe it quite in the words that you chose there. The way I would think about it is, Nintendo introduced the world to touchscreen gaming with the DS several years ago. So before the advent of tablet computing Nintendo is allowing consumers touchscreen and second screen gameplay, that was one of the inspirations for this innovation in gaming.
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At our core we try to find new ways to enhance gameplay and to make newer more interesting, more enjoyable gameplay. That technology can come from anywhere — if we think we can incorporate it into our game and it will enhance gameplay, that’s interesting to us. That’s really the inspiration, that was the approach taken to developing the gamepad. So it was inspired maybe less by tablet computers and mobile gaming, than it was our own Nintendo DS … and the consumer experience with touchpad gaming, which is very intuitive to play.
What’s exciting about it for us is the thing it affords in the world of gaming, and the things it allows you to do in the world of gaming., As you saw with Call of Duty Black Ops 2, you’ve got this great cinematic quality game in front of you that’s been cluttered up with all of your map packs and accessories, now you can pull some of that content down onto the gamepad and enjoy all of the cinematic quality graphics that HD provides on your TV. That’s just one idea we saw from Activision today, when you play Nintendo land, you see many more ways to enhance gaming.
GB: It seems like the controller is both assisting group play, but the fact you can also pull a game out of the TV and just bring it straight in to the gamepad, it almost seems like a step towards making the TV itself irrelevant and making this controller your core gaming experience.
Moffitt: To be clear, the gamepad controller doesn’t really function as an independent gaming device; it needs the console. So you can’t take that and walk down the street to your friend’s house while you’re still playing the game. … The reason it has the capability to bring a game down to the gamepad screen … is it allows multiple members of the family to enjoy that same living room space, but maybe participate in their own activity. So if you’re playing a game on your living room couch, and somebody wants the TV to catch a program, you don’t have to interrupt your gameplay. … I think he possibilities for gaming on two screens are even more exciting.
GB: Is there any loss in quality when you bring the game down to the actual controller?
Moffitt: No, because it’s working still with the gaming console itself. There’s no loss in quality.
GB: It just seems like you’re transmitting a lot of data wirelessly … that could introduce lag and could introduce a lot of things.
Moffitt: Well, as you saw downstairs, there is no latency effect. That took a long time to solve — one of the technical innovations in the gamepad is that there is no latency effect, and that’s critical for gaming. So for any nongaming operation, you could maybe tolerate a little bit of lag, but you’ll see there isn’t any. But that took a long time to solve, and that’s critical for a second screen experience to work for gaming.
GB: Can you talk about how you’re actually transmitting that data, like the technical aspect behind it? Is it Wi-Fi? Is it some sort of proprietary technology that you’re using to wirelessly transmit data?
Moffitt: For us, the experience of how it works is far more important than talking about what’s under the hood.
GB: People are interested!
Moffitt: They are interested! [Laughs] But how it works is some of the secret sauce. The important thing is that the experience is magical. …
GB: What’s the official battery life for the tablet controller?
Moffitt: That’s a good question. I don’t know that. [He asks the PR rep overseeing our interview if she knows, and she says no.]
GB: That’s interesting, because I’ve asked at least a dozen people at this event, and nobody can give me the right one. Online, on the specs, which were posted on Nintendo Japan’s site in June, say it’s 3 to 5 hours. That seems really low. Is that something that you’ve heard of?
Moffitt: We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about that. That’s probably why if you’ve asked a lot of people. We don’t know. I think it’s going to vary depending on how you use it and what you use it for. That’s probably why there’s quite a range, if that’s on the tech spec sheet, that’s probably accurate.
It comes, obviously, with an AC adapter for both the console itself as well as the gamepad. The deluxe version also comes with a charging cradle; that’ll also be sold separately. So you can charge the gamepad controller when it’s not in use, or you can with it plugged in while in an AC power source.
GB: The conspiracy theorist in me is wondering if Nintendo is not talking about this for a reason.
[The PR rep chimes in wondering what tech spec sheet I’m talking about. I tell her to search for “Wii U gamepad battery life” but also added that the spec sheet came from Nintendo Japan.]
Moffitt: There’s no conspiracy about it, I can assure you.
[We’ve dropped a line into Nintendo’s U.S. PR firm to see if we can get an official statement about the gamepad’s battery life.]
GB: I’m also wondering what have you guys learned from the success of the Wii. Clearly, you’re building on the brand now. But the Wii also had its detractors among hardcore gamers. What have you guys learned from the mistakes of the Wii and from consoles before it?
Moffitt: First, we all know the Wii sold at historical proportions. It clearly was the number one selling console in this generation — we’ve sold 40 million Wii consoles in the U.S. So, tremendous success, there are a lot of great things to take from the Wii success story. There are also some learnings: We had supply shortages at the start.
We did learn we were able to introduce an innovation in the form of motion controlled gaming that consumers embraced and really loved. That motion control gaming behavior is still very much a part of the Wii U — the gamepad has an accelerometer, a gyrometer, so it’s motion control all over again. We’ve got a tremendous base of installed Wii games, as well as Wii accessories, all of that is compatible with the Wii U. So that’s a second learning, or observation — we want consumers to be able to leverage that investment, the tremendous investment they’ve made in Wii accessories and games with their Wii U.
We also learned that it’s important to have great content, and we want content that’s not only first party as well as third party. That’s why I think with this tremendous launch library of over 50 titles you see tremendous third party support. Our relationship with third-party developers has never been better.
GB: Can you talk about how you guys are avoiding a potential supply shortage?
Moffitt: I’m trying to get every unit I can to sell here in the Americas; that’s our goal. It’s really hard to anticipate consumer demand, but we are ramping up production as we speak to make as many as we can for the globe.
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