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Game Cube Interview

Nintendo held a teleconference for journalists and Peter Main and Jim Merrick were the two NOA execs answering questions. What type of interface between the GBA and Gamecube? It is a wired interface connecting from the controller port on the front of the Gamecube system to the game link connector on Game Boy. Why no DVD-video support? How will this impact your relationship with Matsushita? As Peter stated, our focus really to create the ultimate gaming machine here. It is not our goal to be a home multimedia appliance, and in that context, a DVD player. This 3-inch media we've selected is really optimal for gameplay for a number of reasons, not the least of which is anti-piracy, which has been rampant in this industry. Matsushita has been a very close partner in the development of both the disk and the manufacturing technology for the disk. We have announced previously that we expect a hybrid device to be produced by Matsushita at some point downstream that is capable of functioning as both a DVD player and as a Gamecube video game console. But again, that is at some point downstream. We are really focusing on the core product today, the Gamecube. The encryption technology used on the discs? Well certainly the physical size, being a 3-inch disc, will prevent a lot of it, but the specifics of our encryption technology, I think it would not wise to discuss it in great detail. Was it developed by Matsushita, or internally? It was developed primarily by Matsushita, in connection with Nintendo, cogniciant of what our needs are in the video game industry. Will the modem, etc be available alongside launch? We expect to have most of the peripherals -- the broadband adapter is intended for future release. The modem, the digicard adapter, there's a digicard which provides for support for the standard flash memory card, as well as Nintendo's own Digicard and the Waveford wireless controller will all be available at launch. The modem will be available at launch? That's correct. Any server-based, online-specific games? Really not prepared to talk about our network strategy at this point. Development kits for the Cube -- How many have gone out? How many by end of calendar year? There are a number of developers worldwide that have access to development tools for Gamecube today, and we're increasing that number on a daily basis, certainly there was a lot of interest was shown today from the trade and industry that was attending the...preshow today. I think that in the nearterm, we're going to have a tough time satisfying the demand that we're seeing, the enthusiastic support that we're seeing for Gamecube, but we'll continue to produce them at as high a rate as we can. Are dev kits finalized? The development kits are in a constant state of flux. We recently reved the tools for the N64, only about a month ago, so they're always changing. The tools that are available to developers today are fully functional, and they are able to complete game development. John, just to put perspective on it, there's over two dozen developers in possession of tools at this point. How many GBA units at launch? Japan today announced that for the domestic market they would launch with 1 million units the 1st thirty days. They also announced that our production capacity, which has been running at about 1.5 million a month over the past 18 months or 2 years, would increase to 2.5 million a month, and I would expect that when we launch in the USA that number would build to at least that number being seen in the domestic market here. Lead time for propietary disc vs. normal CD-ROM's? We can't be specific about that, but it's in the same range. Why no game demos? We made a concious decision to, as I said in my remarks, keep our cards close to our chest. There's a lot of product that is well advanced and we plan to show those cards a lot closer to launch date. As you know, it's a competitive environment; We learned some lessons with early demos of the N64, and we'll be surprising the world as we come to market. The demos that were shown today were much more in the game context, they were not strict insolated technology demos. The component issues -- Shortages? Well, the most conspicious component issue that we've had has been our inability to satisfy the demand for Game Boy worldwide. As Peter alluded to, we're currently producing 1.5 million a month and increasing that to 2.5 million a month. We think we have these issues addressed. Our partnership on Gamecube and Game Boy Advance have been careful partnerships with long-term companies that we've worked with for years, in NEC, Matsushita, Sharp, and I think we're confident we're gonna be able to deliver. Any strategies to compete w/Xbox? I think the key to our strategy is our absolute belief that we are gonna bring the very best software to market, which will drive the ultimate success, so whatever date our competitor chooses to arrive, we feel with what is already well under development and projects that are being initiated, we are gonna be well positioned to take on whoever is in the marketplace at that point. Buyer profile? Plus: Have Xbox specs influenced Cube? Your first question about demographics: the Game Boy Advance will obviously build on the very successful profile that we've built and established for Game Boy and Game Boy Color, and that probably is the broadly demos in the industry, with roughly a third, a third, a third, 12 and under, 13 to 18, and 19+. And it also balances about 60/40 male to female as contrasted with an industry that is more like 80/20. On Gamecube, well, the world assumed that the N64 had trended somewhat younger. We're in fact about 38% over the age of 18, somewhat in contrast to Sony which is just over 50% over the age of 18, with the balance spread equally between the middle two groups. We believe clearly that building on our successful franchises which are built on the nature and quality of software that we've brought to market is a very very strong starting point, but I'd quickly add to that that you'll be seeing more product positioned against the teen and adult groups at time of launch with the Gamecube than certainly was the case with the N64, enhance a broader demo distribution on that product. Your question about altering the specs, this project has been under development for approximentally 5 years. The specs did not alter; We've had a clearcut commitment from day one that that this was gonna be a purely a gaming device. Other people may look to it as a licensing opportunity for broader application, but we were gonna engineer it against purely a gaming device, and building upon the tremendous learning we've done over the 8-bit, 16-bit, and 64-bit experiences, we think we've delivered that in spades, and now let it be up to the rest of the world, who are deciding to only partially focus on gaming, while creating devices designed to do many other things, to in fact compete with us in the pure gaming arena. Gaming profile follow-up: Has it changed since N64? The intent is that the demos will be, albeit it not 60/40 male female, could more closely approximate a 40% 18+ and a balance split between the other 2 groups. And that's a function of early adopters coming in, and then of course growing it with our traditional franchisers. Wireless controller technology? It's an RF technology, it's not infrared, the specific frequency I'm not sure. Demos follow-up: How can Gamecube stack up to PS2? First of all, I think that the assumption that PS2 has been a runaway success since its launch is a misconception. While it has sold approximentally 3 million pieces of hardware, only 50% of the hardware sold has yet to see one game sold against it as it is being marketed as a DVD player in this marketplace. Our focus again is on a pure gaming machine - Those kind of results in this market over the 5 months since launch are not impressive in the game market, so we believe again that software will determine the ultimate winner, be it Sony, Microsoft, Sega, or Nintendo, and we are absolutely convinced that the developer-friendly, and importantly gamer-friendly, nature of our architecture, is going to stand up to any of those with our tremendous history of understanding what it takes to create and execute a solid gaming product. Will you lose some traction calling it Gamecube, after the Dolphin attachment? No, we don't, we've historically used a codenamed throughout the development process and now the critical marketing job is to build a personality around Gamecube, which very appropriately describes what it is, what it looks like, and what it's intended to do, and that personality will emminate from the phenomenal lineups of software that will be supportive of it. So, Dolphin clearly was a codename, Gamecube will be the real name and will build its personality very quickly. Modem packed-in/included with system? I don't believe that's the intent at this moment. Will GB/GBC be supported in the future? Yes, very important aspect, and building on that 100 million plus units that we've sold for Game Boy and Game Boy Color there is full backward compatiability, and as for the future of the older platforms, time will tell: We certainly will be supporting Game Boy Color for the forseeable future and all those libraries will be transferable to Game Boy Advance. Are there new genres to come out of GBA/Cube linkups? (1st parties) I think that the conventional genre -- action/adventure, sports, racing -- will continue to attract very very strong followings, the presentation on Gamecube and Game Boy Advance, by virtue of the architecture, we believe will be more compelling. Our activities over the past couple of years in developing modifications of genres, best exemplified by the Pokemon family, I think you can expect to see more of. But the whole aspect of connecting them together or using Game Boy Advance as a controller on Nintendo Gamecube, this is really building very agressively on the multiplayer aspect that has been a very very key part of our business over the past few years, and why four ports are built into the unit, and I think you can get your mind around the multiplayer aspect of it more so than brand-new genres, John. 1st party market share on software to be different? That's difficult to answer at the moment. First and second party certainly will probably be out of the chute a little faster than the full complement of third party developers that we expect, but we are really excited with the tremendous level expression of interest by developers around the world on both these platforms, and in followup to launch we'll see probably more third-party support than we've seen the past few years. Do you expect a slow start for Japanese developers on Cube? I think that third-party developers generally, both in Japan and elsewhere in the world, will be into these platforms faster than was the case with N64. To expand on that a little bit John, it really supports one of our key design effectives on Gamecube was to create a developer-friendly environment, something that is fast and efficient to develop software for, and we think we've accomplished that on GBA and Gamecube, and the developers who have access to tools have supported that notion. The API? Like the rest of the machine, it is purpose-built for video gaming, it is not a standard per se, but it is not particularly unique either, it is relatively easy to move your code over from other API's. Can you use TV to display GBA when handheld is plugged into Cube? It's technically possible, it's something that you see even on Pokemon Stadium on N64, when you plug in your Pokemon Red or Blue into transfer pak or on Pokemon Stadium, it's technically possible but I'm not sure if that's a design objective for it at this point. I wouldn't presume to predict what some of our game designers might do with this technology downstream. So you didn't design it for possible multiplayer games for GBA around a TV? I'm not quite sure I follow your question; You can play a multiplayer game using Game Boy Advance as the controller for Gamecube but it would be a Gamecube game you are playing. The Game Boy Advance, we are marketing it with a cable that allows you to connect up to 4 Game Boy Advance's together so that you can play up to 4 players head-to-head on Game Boy Advance. Can we assume that royalties will be comparible to Sony and Microsoft's? On the licensing side, we are not really prepared to disclose the business model on that. We have said that we'll be competitive, I guess we'll have to see that as we move downstread. Will there be any wireless capabilities to let GBA's communicate w/eachother? To answer your wireless question, we have announced an infrared adapter for Game Boy Advance to provide infrared connectivity, and we are looking into all sorts of alternatives. Shown here today at the preview show was the mobile Game Boy adapter that allows you to connect Game Boy Color to wireless phones here in Japan, and I think that's really the tip of the iceberg of the sort of things we might be able to do with Game Boy Advance. How much N64 support after Cube's release? I think we look back to SNES following the launch of N64, we sold in the month following the launch of N64 about another million pieces of hardware and 5 or 6 million pieces of software, brand-new software, another I think you'll see an overlap probably in the 12 to 18 month range, that would be repeated again. Can we expect mainly third-party support at launch? Well I think it remains to be seen, we're a ways out from the launch, I think there is every possbility that third-parties would have titles available at launch. There is nothing to preclude them from doing so. Is Square back on board? -pause- We're interested in all third-parties, and I'd like to leave it at that. Will the mobile system be released in the USA? The mobile Game Boy adapter being shown here today actually is working with Game Boy Color and will also work with Game Boy Advance downstream. That technology is based on some of the unique cellular phone technology available here in Japan. PHF, personal handyphone, and J-phone technology. We are looking into ways to bring that capability to North American and European markets. It's a little bit more of a difficult problem, we have more widely dispersed population centers and many more variety telecommunications, it's a little bit tougher outside the Japanese market but we are looking into it. Is there a propietary adapter port built into GBA? It is an enhanced version of the game link that's been available on Game Boy. Why no backward compatibility with Gamecube/N64? We've obviously changed media with Gamecube, and this defacto prevents that from occring. Historically, if we move from 8 to 16 and 16 to 64, while we also did stay with the same media, the challenge was delivering anything new to the consumer by way of game enhancement, which is very difficult to do if not impossible. So in this case, the change in media absolutely prevents this from being a possibility. Gamecube specs: Audio format? Do you support HDTV, Digital TV? The digital audio support, Dolby surround as is available on the audio output, the digital output for video, you are correct, this cable is for the Japanese market, D standard. What is the video output of the Gamecube? Most of the games will probably run at a 640x480 resolution, which is a good compromise between PAL and NTSC. Is the Cube only available in purple? It was shown today in 5 different colors; The launch colors are still to be determined. What prompted Nintendo to feature wireless controller technology? Well, I think it's a maturation of the technology, it's something that I think a lot of people have always desired to have a wireless controller but there have been issues with the wireless tech that had been available previously. So we just reached a point in which that technology had matured enough where Nintendo was willing to put our brand on it. Is it correct that in many of the demos shown at the press conference, the Nintendo staff used the wireless controller? Yes, that's correct. Price point for the Cube? Minimum # of launch titles? We have not announced the Gamecube price, either in Japan or other markets. We announced that those would be made available closer to launch date. Again, a competitive issue. And number of titles, I think there was an announcement that it was a minimum of five, and it was an expectation that it would be higher than that. Any plans for an expansion pak upgrade for Cube, a la N64? Well, we've left our options open for that. First, we have first the Digicard slot that provides more for the game saving data, but more than that, using the SD card adapter which allows us to interface with other devices that use this SD flash memory card -- cellular phones, digital cameras, digital music devices, etc. There are also two high speed serial ports and a high speed parallel port so we really have left our options open on this. Marketing support vs Xbox? The commentary from Microsoft is approximentally $500 million over the 18 months following launch. Nintendo currently spends something in excess of $400 million a year around the world in marketing existing systems, so that is not an outrageous number, it's reflective of the kind of business this is. You expect that you'd be very competitive with others? I believe we will be, yes. On the GBA, any plans for a calendar or other PDA functions? Well, it's an intriguing possibility. We've looked into a lot of ideas like that in products in the future, I think this is a very powerful...16mhz, 32bit processor and it would allow us to explore a number of other functionalities but currently were are focusing on our core expertise which is gaming. Is there static memory in the GBA? (Can I store things permenantly?) Not within the device itself, that would be in the cartridge because the requirement for that is dependent on the particular game. Hacking expectations? ...I really can't comment on that at this moment. The systems are intended for development by authorized developers, provisions have been built into them for those considerations, the counterfeiting aspect was obviously a very very key consideration in our selection of the media for Gamecube and, without getting into technical detail which I'm incapable of doing, will assure you that these are obviously propietary considerations that are absolutely part of both systems. Will there be room for hobbyists? That is not the intent of the system. It's a closed architecture. It has not been created to support that activity. How will the modem connect? It plugs into the bottom of the Cube. So it's a propietary connection for the modem? I believe it is, yes. Controller design: Force feedback, analog, etc? It does have the rumble pak built into it, in terms of number of buttons relative to N64...(Audio quality goes way downhill.) Will the camera stick be specifically for the camera? Yes, it's the intent, but again it will be the assumption of how the developers take advantage of that. Thank you everybody, we appreciate your interest. The Nintendo site will be updated this evening and again tomorrow. We appreciate your questions and look forward to providing you with more information in the days ahead.


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