Nintendo's Doug Bowser Talks Esports and Super Nintendo World in Exclusive Interview

No, not that Bowser.

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Shacknews caught up with Doug Bowser, Head of Sales and Marketing at Nintendo, at E3 2018. The topics discussed included Nintendo's upcoming theme parks as well as the company's efforts in the world of esports. Please take a look.

Shacknews: We'll start with obviously E3, we're here at E3, what's your view point on how this show's been going for Nintendo, what has impressed you? Do you view it as a successful show for Nintendo throughout these last three day?

Doug Bowser: I'll answer the last one first.

Shacknews: Sure.

Doug Bowser: Yes, I think it has, from my point of view, it has been a very successful show. The way I gauge it is I walk out on the balcony by Treehouse and I look out on the floor and I've been walking the floor quite a bit and just looking at the level of engagement, but you know, from our direct, at the beginning of the show to just the constant traffic coming through the booth, and then the reaction we're hearing regarding titles like Smash Bros Ultimate, that obviously is a fan favorite.

Pokemon titles with Let's Go Pikachu, Let's Go Eevee, folks are really engaged. Even fun games like Mario Tennis Aces, folks are realizing it's not just a tennis game, it's actually got strategy and a bit of battle in it. They're enjoying it.

So overall, we're really pleased with the show.

Shacknews: And so, from an esports perspective, I think that Nintendo is not, at least traditionally people have not thought of Nintendo as esports company. But you guys are starting to get more involved, whether it's Smash, or Splatoon and you have competitions that were going on here.

Doug Bowser: Yeah, the last couple.

Shacknews: I guess my question would be kind of how important do you see that aspect, is there more investment going into the world of esports for Nintendo moving forward?

Doug Bowser: Esports can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. I see it as a pretty big spectrum. One end of the spectrum is the underwritten play for money competitions that you've seen. That people do classify as esport. And the other end of the spectrum really is kind of social competitive fun. We tend to play in the area of we want our games to be accessible to everyone and we really like the idea of social competitive fun.

So you'll see and even hear this week on three tiers. You go downstairs, there's what we call the non-competitive line, to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. People can come up, a four person competitive matches. And then on this side, we have the competitive bracket, and so you can play through and the winner gets a medal and some swag and off they go, and then you've got the higher end of that which is in the Belasco, and obviously with the invitational for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and then the world championships on Splatoon 2, so what we found is that our content can kind of flow along that spectrum pretty nicely.

So our real focus is just trying to bring these types of events forward to let people have fun playing our games, but at the same time, we don't want to lose focus on just making our games incredibly accessible for the family that may be sitting on the couch playing local co-op.

Shacknews: Right, I realize, you're not designing games with esports in mind, but if they become competitive they can become esports. I was talking to folks at ESL about that, how it's not just about the hardcore PC gamer that it would be Nintendo level type games, too.

Doug Bowser: Exactly, and you've seen our games, you've seen Smash be involved in Evo tournaments, as an example. When we did the Nintendo World Championships last year in New York City, we had not only what I would consider the invitational adult bracket, but we also had kids that could play at a Best Buy. And we had a younger bracket where kids could engage and have fun.

Shacknews: Right, right. So the other thing I was curious about is, from a branding perspective, obviously we know that Mario and a lot of the Nintendo characters, Mario obviously being the stand out, you know, kind of resonates with people in a similar way, kind of like Mickey Mouse and some Disney characters have. There's been a lot of talk about partnership at Universal, and having theme parks, and I'm just kind of wondering, I haven't heard much about that recently. Is that something that is moving forward, or what's the latest on the whole theme park idea for Nintendo?

Doug Bowser: It's moving forward. Mr. Miyamoto is deeply involved. I'll step back, the reason for projects like that are we want to continue to expose people to our IP. Not only through our dedicated platforms, but through other means. Some of those means have been through a cell phone, through our mobile games, and those are doing well. Through our licensed goods. Some of the agreement, or some of the partnerships we've had with companies like Vans or Uniqlo gives a chance for people to be exposed to our properties, and finally the Universal agreement. Both Universal Studios and then we also have an agreement with Illumination production, the makers of-

Shacknews: The Minions.

Doug Bowser: The minions, exactly. And then, Universal would be a distribution partner for them when the time comes, or for a movie when the time comes.

Shacknews: Right.

Doug Bowser: So the idea is the content, if you think about Super Mario and all those characters, lends itself beautifully to a theme park environment.

Shacknews: It does, yeah. I mean obviously very colorful, very family friendly, Nintendo's image.

Doug Bowser: Exactly.

Shacknews: What's the timeline on those parks opening? Is it plural parks, or is it park?

Doug Bowser: Two parks have been announced. The one that has a timeline attached to it is the park that will be outside of Osaka, Japan. And the timing is concurrent with the Tokyo Olympics, so 2020.

Shacknews: So the US presence hasn't quite been figured out?

Doug Bowser: The second park will be ...

PR: They're unannounced, so-

Doug Bowser: But it will be a US based park.

Shacknews: Right, because I read something about Florida, now we're not sure. Different things out there, but you can't confirm anything just yet?

Doug Bowser: We'll look, but at this moment, we can't confirm.

Shacknews: Right, okay.

PR: I can get back to you on that.

Shacknews: Okay, so let's talk about the E3 Direct. I've seen a number of mixed reactions to the presentation. You know, the thing is that obviously, people love Smash. And it's great that there was this deep dive into it, right? But the other journalists that I talked to and other people were like, 'well, how come we didn't hear about this, and this, and this?' I already saw some answers about how it's a six to nine month window, so I kind of caught up on that, I guess, but I don't know, what's your take on that? Because I felt like, to be honest, it was like it was maybe a bit of a missed opportunity, where you could have talked about some of the other products or especially the Nintendo online service that's coming. People are hungry for more details on how that's going to work out, but how do you view it?

Doug Bowser: Yeah, in terms of, well first of all, just the question around the Direct itself. Our goal at E3 is to show our fans, and press, obviously and others that come to E3, is to show the games that will be ready. And the games that will be launched this year. That's the number one goal. And so with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, with Pokemon titles, Let's go Eevee, Let's Go Pikachu, Tennis we talked about, and even some of the third-party content you see on the floor, we want to show folks what's going to be available between now and the holidays.

We do give peeks into what may be coming. We talked about a couple of titles that will be coming further out into next calendar year, just like we did last year. We talked about Metroid obviously, and the Yoshi game, but our goal is really to focus on the content that's coming in the near term. And there are other times during the year that we can tease out other games that may be coming or plans, but obviously, we do Directs on a fairly steady cadence throughout the entire year. So this is just one drumbeat of many, in terms of announcing what's coming.

The goal for us is to delight people and surprise them once in a while with news. As far as the Nintendo switch online, we will be talking about Nintendo switch online as we get closer to the actual launch timing. But we thought the better use of this forum was to talk about our great games.

Shacknews: Right, speaking of great games, Smash, obviously is now highly anticipated, and tying it back into online, it feels like it would be kind of the perfect launch title for an online service. Like if I were to make a parallel, the reason Xbox Live succeeded and took off going way back to the very first Xbox, you know they had Halo, right? Halo kind of propelled that service, because everyone wanted to play online on Halo. And so Smash feels like the kind of game that would be that service selling kind of proposition, and I'm just wondering what you see as that title pushing Nintendo Online?

Doug Bowser: Well right now, we don't have Nintendo Switch online timing synced up with a game launch, specifically. Smash has been announced for December 7th and we've announced Nintendo Switch online will be in the September time frame. And what we're focusing on is the broader package of what we're offering with Nintendo Switch online, so it's not only the ability to have online play with titles that typically will promote a Mario or Splatoon, obviously a Smash Bros. In the future, Arms is another one, but also some of the other services. So the cloud save backup is one example that will have the Nintendo entertainment system, Nintendo Switch online, which has access to 20 classic NES games that have been rebuilt to allow for online multiple person play, which is going to be a great service. And obviously, the access to the Nintendo Switch online application, which allows for scheduling appointments, finding friends and challenge as you're playing these games.

So we feel that as a package, in and of itself, we'd like to kind of launch independently right now.

Shacknews: So there's no thinking in the back of Nintendo's mind, saying, 'well we should push it to kind of coincide with Smash at the time?

Doug Bowser: It's not in our current plan, no.


Thanks to James Brightman from GameDaily.Biz for conducting this interview on behalf of Shacknews at E3 2018.

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Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

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