Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former Nintendo of America head (replaced by the aptly named Doug Bowser), says the Wii could have been a record-breaker.
In his memoir book Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo (available here), Fils-Aimé discusses how the Nintendo Wii, a console that expanded the industry towards casual gamers, could have beaten Sony’s still-record-holding PlayStation 2 in lifetime total sales. He was not alone in this view, as the now sadly deceased head of the big N, Satoru Iwata, shared similar sentiments…
Iwata told Reuters back in 2007, without considering pricing, “Sony’s PlayStation 2 sales of 100 million units [now approximately 158 million] is an extraordinary number that our home game console business has not achieved, but if we can make our bid to expand the gaming population a continued success, we could exceed that.” (We should point out that Iwata said it shortly after the launch of the Wii: even the PlayStation 3 was struggling at the time because it was too expensive; the Xbox 360 took off after its launch in 2005…)
Consoles were cheaper back then, considering inflation. Fils-Aimé thinks it’s why Nintendo missed its chance to catch up with the PS2. Everything started to get more expensive from the PlayStation 3 onwards, and the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One got a half-generation upgrade, which was full-price hardware. And with the Nintendo Switch, there’s not much need for a price cut (it’s no coincidence that there are three models on the market at once…).
Fils-Aimé also appeared on a G4TV show, but he was talking about a different topic here. He secretly “hated” Donkey Kong, released for Nintendo GameCube in 2004 and developed by Namco’s team responsible for Taiko no Tatsujin. The game required a unique controller and featured music from the Mario and Zelda IPs and licensed songs. “I have to tell you, as an executive, I hated Donkey Konga. I fought with our parent company… I thought it was going to hurt the Donkey Kong brand. I didn’t find it a lot of fun to play. I pushed back hard. But you know what? We launched it. The first game sold reasonably well. But boy, I was not a fan,” he said.
He also mentioned the Game Boy Micro, which was essentially released by Nintendo’s US branch out of necessity in 2005 because the Japanese and US branches haven’t ironed out the differences. According to Fils-Aimé, that year, they would have slowly phased out the Game Boy Advance family with a Black Friday promotion to clear out their stock and thus drive the public towards the Nintendo DS. “From my perspective, the concept of Game Boy Micro was a nonstarter. The hardware was exceptionally small. The control buttons were difficult for any reasonably sized adult to manipulate, but the screen was also tiny. It ran counter to current consumer electronics trends of making screens larger,” he added.
Finally, Fils-Aimé talked about the Nintendo Switch. It was his favourite console launch for the company: “The marketing was great, the positioning was great, the games line-up was fantastic – not just at launch, but it continued, so the Switch was the cumulation, from my perspective, of all the lessons learned.” (And he’s not wrong: the Switch is over 100 million in sales, but as we discussed before, they predict fewer sales due to a lack of parts.)