Although many game execs have stepped up to add their cautious sentiments on the economy to the prevailing opinion, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime took a different tack during his talk at the BMO Capital Markets annual Interactive Entertainment Conference.
One might joke that this is because perhaps Nintendo, with its wide industry lead, has little to worry about even in a true recession. However, Fils-Aime -- who found he had to raise the microphone to accommodate his height after "all the short people" who presented before him -- acknowledged the economic concerns, but chose to focus instead on... the internet in 1996?
Back then, Fils-Aime explained, the top five most popular websites were search engines of some stripe -- and yet today, in the era of Facebook and YouTube, the top five feature "content composed entirely by users for the benefit of other users."
"If you're in the entertainment business, any form of entertainment, this is the game-changer," said Fils-Aime. "Because no longer is entertainment a one-way street, content created for audiences that just sit back and absorb it. The era of passive entertainment is waning, and active entertainment is literally where the action is."
"In fact, we believe the future of any form of entertainment must be considered in correlation to both of these larger forces; yes, of course the changing and turbulent economic climate, but secondly -- and in the end, even more consequentially -- this exploding world of consumer-generated, active media."
User-generated content entails not only the consumer's desire to create, explained Fils-Aime, but requires the opportunity for sharing within a community.
And Fils-Aime maintains that the video game industry has been ahead of the curve in this arena for some time: "15 years ago, game players were already creating, in a primitive form," he said, noting that even palette-swapping racecars or choosing one's own route through the game is a form of early creation.
"Even 20 years before that, players understood the competitive buzz of battling a live opponent across the Pong table. Games have always been at the front lines of active entertainment and its revolution."
Fils-Aime touted the ability of the new DSi hardware to support user-creative content. "It has two built-in cameras and the imaging software to manipulate a picture of the guy in the next cubicle any way you want, and then send it via the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection to every other DSi in the office," he said.
He also explained how in Japan, users are creating and sharing music using Band Bros. Deluxe on the DSi, while Girls Mode lets girls design clothing fashions and run a store. Moving Notepad allows for users to create hand-drawn flip books, as another example, and Wario Ware Myself allows users to design their own games and play them against friends.
"As entertainment changes, we will keep pace," Fils-Aime promised.