Nintendo kick-started a new handheld generation when 3DS launched in Japan last month, and in the West last week.
We caught up with Nintendo UK marketing manager James Honeywell to find out what the company hopes to achieve sales-wise, what it thinks of the competition, and to discuss the 3DS launch line-up, upcoming games, and the future of Wii and the original DS...
Nintendo has said pre-orders for 3DS are running at double the rate experienced with Wii back in 2006. What are you sales expectations for the launch?
That's still kind of a difficult figure to come out with. We know we have over 140,000 pre-orders. What's still difficult to anticipate is how many of those people will actually go out on Friday and Saturday and actually buy it, but that also has to be balanced with the amount of people that might go into a store and pick one up without having pre-ordered it.
I think we're pretty safe in assuming that most people who pre-ordered will go out and get it in the first few days, and when you add on a few more who didn't pr-order, I think we can easily exceed that 140,000 and sell 150,000, 160,000, perhaps even as high as 200,000. Just based on the 140,000, that would already give us our biggest launch. Previously on Wii, we did just over 100,000 and on DSi we did around 90,000.
Are consumers who haven't pre-ordered 3DS likely to be disappointed if they head down to stores over the next few days? Are you anticipating a sell-out or shortages around launch?
No, we don't foresee that at this time. Obviously if people buy loads over the next few weeks, perhaps we might experience pockets where there aren't any, but we've brought in more units of the Nintendo 3DS than we have done with any other console. There's easily enough to do 140,000 and way more, so if there are any people out there worried I think they'll actually be pleasantly surprised and they'll actually be able to get one.
Have the natural disasters in Japan impacted Nintendo's business operations and 3DS plans? Have factory shutdowns hit component manufacturing, or fuel shortages and damaged ports impacted your supply chain?
It's something that obviously we've all been very aware of. We've got friends and colleagues over there and it is obviously a very difficult time for them, but on the more positive site Nintendo's headquarters is based in Kyoto, which is quite some distance from the epicentre of the quake, so none of our facilities in Japan were damaged or affected, but as you've rightly put there are other issues.
Our hardware is actually made in China. The developers and guys in research and development are in Japan, but units aren't made there. I'm sure we've got lots of people in Japan creating components for it but right now we're not seeing any issues in hardware production. We're really confident that it shouldn't have any adverse effects.
It's a busy few weeks for new devices with the launch of 3DS and iPad 2 on the same day, and then Xperia Play a week later. Are you confident consumers will vote in your favour with their wallets?
Yes. I think Nintendo has a track record of innovating, whether it's through the original Nintendo DS or the Wii, and really the Nintendo 3DS is just the next extension of that. What we're offering is very different from anything the others are doing so I really don't see any issues. As I said, we've got those pre-orders and we're on track to sell the most consoles we've ever sold, so there's clearly a huge appetite. I think anybody who actually sees it will see what a big change it is whereas some of those other products are small changes.