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Interviews

Jim Merrick

Nintendo's head of European marketing talks Revolution, innovation, competition and more in part one of our interview

When Nintendo finally unveiled its long-awaited Revolution controller, much of the world scratched its head and made a sort of 'um' sound. Quite aside from the fact it looks exactly like a TV remote, it also has the dubious honour of genuinely promising to revolutionise the way we think about videogame interaction. Trouble is, Nintendo has an uphill struggle if it's going to successfully demonstrate the controller's worth and convince a largely close-minded hardcore gaming population - as well as a massively indifferent mass market - that this is the device they should be playing with come the next generation.

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Last week, we had the chance to sit down with Jim Merrick, Nintendo's head of European marketing, fresh back from the Tokyo Game Show, and speak about the challenges Nintendo faces in bringing its unique next-gen console to the market in the face of more traditional, less conceptual competition from both Sony and Microsoft. Of course, we had plenty more to talk about as Nintendo gears up for one of the most exciting periods the gaming world has seen ever seen.

In fact, we ended up covering so much that we've decided to split our chat with Jim Merrick up - largely to stop you going blind through sheer textual assault. Today we talk about Mario's success, the Nintendo difference and just what the hell Nintendo thinks it's playing at with the Revolution. Tune in next time for the success of the Nintendo DS, the relative failure of Metroid Prime 2, Nintendo's European approach and it's plans to woo the mature gamer as the next generation of gaming approaches. And that's not including everything we've learned about Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, online security and the Nintendo Wi-fi Connection.

You have no idea how gnarled our fingers have gotten typing this little lot up.

Nintendo's recently celebrated Mario's 20th birthday. That's an impressive lifespan for someone who's little more than a bunch of pixels. Why do you think he's such an enduring character?

Jim Merrick: Well, obviously I can only offer my personal opinion but I think that Mario is a character who, even in his early days, had a personality - you could relate to him. He wasn't the brash hero, he was somehow an average guy. Okay, he could do back flips and things that maybe all of us can't do but nevertheless he was the unsung hero. He was the underdog against Donkey Kong and you wanted him to succeed - and he's never really lost that. He's not carrying weapons, he's not macho, he's still just Mario. Even, when he gets bored he scratches his butt - he has all those personalities that make him endearing. That combined with the fact that's he's always, always lived in games with great gameplay. Frankly it could be blocked pixels in some of the games and it would still play really well, so he has the luxury of living in great games and being a personality that people can relate to.

It's interesting you use the word 'underdog' to describe Mario. Many people would suggest it's a good a description as any for Nintendo itself in the present videogames market. Do you think this is a fair statement?

Jim Merrick: Well, that's interesting, I hadn't made that connection myself. I don't really think of Nintendo as an 'underdog'. To make that assumption suggests that we're competing on the same playing field as our competitors and I don't think that's true. Nintendo is not going to be the broadband portal and have pieces of music, movies and television distribution, so we're not selling our hardware at a phenomenal loss. We're a profitable company, we're happy living in our core business, which is entertainment. That's what we do - that's all we want to do.

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