“We are transparent with the conditions, but also stable”
In the first few months after joining Nintendo, Dr. Bernd Fakesch is surprised at how “straight” the company is. In an interview with absatzwirtschaft editor Thorsten Garber, the General Manager Germany talks about products, conditions and the goal of getting coach potatoes off the sofa.
Dr. Fakesch, have you ever gotten in trouble with your wife because you and your two children played on the Wii game console for too long?
FAKESCH: More because I work too long (laughs). No, my children are still too young. The little one is only one and a half, the big one is four years old and is already developing into a real Mario fan. I often have to drive a round of “Mario Kart” with him. First on the DS, now on the Wii. It looks cute when he leans into the curve with his hand on the steering wheel.
You came to Nintendo from Bertelsmann four years ago. Both companies belong to the entertainment industry. Is the business comparable?
FAKESCH: Nintendo ticks very differently than the music industry at BMG. But certainly one reason I work for Nintendo is because I come from an entertainment background. In the first few months after my move, I was surprised at how “straight” the Nintendo company is. We have a uniform price and condition system throughout Europe. Overall, we are very transparent with the conditions, but also very stable. The music sector, on the other hand, works a lot with net prices, with price campaigns, with high return rights. There is nothing like that at Nintendo. Then, of course, there’s the massive difference that Nintendo makes and markets hardware in addition to the software.
What is the focus?
FAKESCH: As a local national company, we have to ensure that a large amount of hardware is installed as a basis in the market so that a lot of software can be sold afterwards. Whereby the motto then is: “Software sells hardware.” We also have to ensure that the top titles that drive hardware market themselves well.
According to a recent survey, almost every second German citizen owns a game console, and electronic puzzles are the most popular. Do these results match your findings?
FAKESCH: Interesting. I found exactly these numbers in an article of our recent media research. I think the 47 percent share of console owners is a good number, but I don’t really believe it. We have an installed base of five million Sony Playstation 2, four million Nintendo DS, if I add the other platforms, I would be very surprised at the high figure. That would mean that almost 40 million consoles are installed in Germany; but there isn’t. If the 47 percent refers to households or access to a console, I believe the value more. You can take it for granted that mind games are the most popular: they have gained enormous traction. Two years ago we have “Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training” launched. It was by far the strongest title in 2006 and 2007. And the two brain-training titles are also the strongest in 2008 so far. The highlight of the games industry on the action side was released this year: “Grand Theft Auto 4” (GTA) – actually the mega-seller.
Head of Europe Dr. Intat from Electronic Arts said in an interview with absatzwirtschaft that the players were in their mid-forties – just like you. In the shops, however, you can always see boys clearly under the age of 18 on the devices. Do the many older players secretly buy their hardware and software?
FAKESCH: A nice question. However, I believe that, thank God, our industry no longer needs to operate in secret. (smiles) Today we are socially acceptable. However, I think the average age mentioned is too high. The buyers are certainly older, but they often buy a console for their children. I also see the users on average at around 20 years. With the DS, however, we have already grown into the over 30 age group. With brain jogging we have found the “entry point” in adults. A third of the users of our Wii game console are over 30 years old. In this respect, the Nintendo brand has grown up. Of course, the kids especially like to play, but the parents are also increasingly concerned with it. The market is still ticking in such a way that the children are the door openers. They bring us into the family. Thorsten Garber conducted the interview
dr Bernd Fakesch about …
… the product policy and product development at Nintendo (2): “We broke out of the shark tank”
… Competitors and market shares (3): “We are not as entertainment-savvy as the British, for example”
… the brand and the marketing (4): “Our industry is simply not yet anchored in the minds of the Germans”