Interview: Nintendo PR Director - Beth Llewelyn

We chat with the Big N about beating the Xbox and moving ahead

Beth Llewelyn, PR Director, Nintendo of America chats with Matt Cox, Video Games Editor, Lawrence.com

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Lawrence.com: A 70% increase in sales is pretty amazing! Outside of price point at $99, what do you attribute the surge?

Beth Llewelyn: Certainly the price cut had a lot to do with it. But software is the bread and butter. Mario Kart exceeded our expectations, definitely with over a million selling in the first several weeks. With a nice price and strong software, it's hard to beat.

Lawrence.com: Do you think there are residual sales? Like some guy who was on the fence finally gets a 'Cube, and then realizes there are tons of awesome titles now for $19.99 so he tells his friends...

Beth Llewelyn: If they're on the fence, those factors make it simple and very attainable. I can see that.

Lawrence.com: Was there any sort of scare that having both the Game Boy Advance SP and the Gamecube at $99 would affect either's sales?

Beth Llewelyn: Not really. They are completely different products. We take different approaches to each, obviously. The prices are the same, but, again, it goes back to the software.

Lawrence.com: Speaking of the price cut, is Nintendo still making money on Gamecube hardware to get these numbers? The other consoles are money holes, but Nintendo has never had to take a hit on hardware.

Beth Llewelyn: Well I can't give you numbers, but we're not in the business of losing money. If it's losing any at all, it's nominal. And certainly nowhere near the hit Xbox and PS2 take.

Lawrence.com: Cool. So Nintendo seems to have taken second place in the console race...is your strategy more "get people to like what we do" or "change so more people will like us?"

Beth Llewelyn: Well our main thing is to continue to sell hardware for the install base [to grow].

Lawrence.com: Third party relations seem to have been a roller-coaster. Is this better install base going to help?

Beth Llewelyn:Oh sure. They want the more systems to potentially sell their games on. But time will tell about third party. We've obviously made strides with the deal with EA last year and having Nintendo's own character (Link) included in Soul Calibur.

Lawrence.com: What are the gaming highlights in 2004 to keep this great momentum?

Beth Llewelyn: Well, this time of year things naturally slow down, but we'll have a strong push on software this year Coming up soon we have Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and then Pokemon: Coliseum.

Lawrence.com: Can we expect surprises?

Beth Llewelyn: There may be a few surprises. We'll be announcing our release list for the year in the next couple weeks. Certainly you won't hear all of our holiday titles yet.

Lawrence.com: Nokia is not fooling anyone with its "sales data," for the ill-fated N-Gage, but Sony's PSP looks promising. Are we going to see a new Game Boy to compete?

Beth Llewelyn: We are giving software the focus. It's (Game Boy Advance) doing phenomenally well. And, of course, Nintendo is always working on the next hardware. We don't have any specifics.

Lawrence.com: Is connectivity (Game Boy Advance connecting with Gamecube games for extra features) going to be pushed harder or about the same as last year?

Beth Llewelyn: Certainly it's going to be a part of our strategy...but about the same as last year. We have games like Zelda: Four Swords, Pac Man Vs. and Crystal Chronicles that will use it.

Lawrence.com: I know you've never given this answer but what is this mystery hardware that we've heard so much (little) about? We know it's not a successor to the GBA or GCN.

Beth Llewelyn: (laughing) Well just for you I'll make an exception!

Lawrence.com: Really? Wow, thanks! So what is it?

Beth Llewelyn: You'll have to wait.

Lawrence.com: But you do know what it is.

Beth Llewelyn: ...I may have an idea...

Lawrence.com: Okay, okay...So Nintendo has made great strides to shed the "kiddie" image. How successful do you perceive those strides?

Beth Llewelyn: It definitely is a factor. Our competitors were quick to pigeon hole us. You know, kids are important. That's why we have games like Kirby and Pokemon. And we obviously have a lot more titles for the older demographic...Eternal Darkness, Resident Evil(s), Metroid Prime and all of our sports games. Unfortunately it just takes time.

The industry has changed. Video games used to be just for kids. We know it has changed and we are moving forward.

Lawrence.com thanks Beth for taking time for the interview.

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