Nintendo on Tuesday is set to announce a deal with Wi-Fi provider Wayport to offer free online play for DS owners at McDonald's across the nation. We chatted with the company's senior director of public relations, Beth Llewelyn, about the news, the future of DS online play, and what it means for Revolution.
IGN: The Wayport deal with McDonald's is very intriguing. We already can't wait to try it out. But what made you go with McDonald's and not, say, Starbucks?
Beth Llewlyn: Well, we made the deal with Wayport, which we're very excited about, and we think it's the perfect way to kick off this program. We'll be in nearly 6,000 Wayport-enabled McDonald's locations around the country. They reach a broad demographic, especially those playing videogames, so we felt it was just a perfect partner to kick off the Wi-Fi Connection.
IGN: How would you play DS online at other establishments with hotspots, such as Starbucks?
Beth Llewlyn: Well, you can still use the DS anywhere there's a Wi-Fi connection. You just would have to set it up through a laptop and use the USB port adapter. So, if you're in Starbucks and have a laptop, you would still have to perhaps pay the service fee to get that access. But the beauty of working with Wayport and having the service available at McDonald's is that you literally walk into McDonald's, you turn on your game, there's Mario Kart, you click on Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and you go. It's very simple.
IGN: Are you planning any promotions with Wayport or McDonald's to get the word out there about this deal?
Beth Llewlyn: We'll certainly be promoting Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection very, very heavily, with the launch of Mario Kart DS coming up here on November 14. You're going to hearing about this everywhere, whether it's TV, print -- we'll be everywhere we can to promote the fact. If you're asking about in-store promotions or things like that with McDonald's, that's all to be determined. I think the main focus right now is just kicking off the program.
IGN: So for now you'll be talking about the service itself, but may not be promoting the McDonald's partnership?
Beth Llewlyn:Yeah, we'll have lots of details that will be available on our website, NintendoWiFi.com. There will be a wealth of information for Wi-Fi Connection questions, where to go. They'll be a locator where you can type in and find out the nearest location to you.
IGN: How heavy is Nintendo pushing the online element for DS games beyond the initial ones in the pipeline?
Beth Llewlyn: It's a big initiative, because not only is this Nintendo DS, but this will be the backbone for Nintendo Revolution next year. So certainly this is a big push on our end. We want people out there playing the games, which is why we're trying to make it as accessible and easy as possible. You will certainly be seeing and hearing more from Nintendo [on this] coming down the road. But right now we've got Mario Kart, we're excited about Tony Hawk from Activision, Anima Crossing, Metroid Prime Hunter, and you'll certainly be hearing more.
IGN: Why will the Wi-Fi USB adapter only be available through Nintendo.com and not retailers?
Beth Llewlyn:The feeling initially was that a lot of people were either going to have a wireless router at home or would have the ability to go to a McDonald's and have access in a number of ways, so we decided to make it initially available on Nintendo.com and just see how it goes.
IGN: The plan for DS is to make online gaming free. Is this also the plan for Revolution?
Beth Llewlyn:We haven't gone into any of those specifics, but certainly if this works well with DS you could probably assume. Our intent is that whatever Nintendo system you're playing, we want to make sure it's easily accessible for the broadest audience.
IGN: Nintendo has resisted the online model for years because, according to company executives, it's never proved profitable. Bearing that in mind, why enter the online arena with a no-charge program?
Beth Llewlyn: There's a lot to the games. For something like Mario Kart, the Wi-Fi component is just a nice addition. I think it kind of depends on what we're looking at for online. Is it creating a massively multiplayer game where you have to devote many resources to build and maintain the game? Or is it something like Mario Kart, where there's so much to the game and Wi-Fi just happens to be one component as a way to get people to play and enjoy it.
It's also not so much from a financial aspect. It was also accessibility and making it easy for consumers. Now that Wi-Fi and online access has become so much more prevalent, it just felt like the right time to get into it.
IGN: In your official press release, you say that Revolution will use the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Beth Llewlyn: Right.
IGN: How important is online gaming to Nintendo's view of Revolution?
Beth Llewlyn: It's important. Definitely important. Obviously there's so much that we haven't said about Revolution, but the idea being that we want to reach a broad audience, and now that the technology is such that it is, it's just very exciting. With DS we're getting our feet wet and we'll just be primed when Revolution launches.
IGN: When will we hear more about the online DS games?
Beth Llewlyn: Well, you will be getting your hands on Mario Kart soon. And Animal Crossing as well. We're working on some stuff here for that so that you can at least test it out. I would say we hope to have some Metroid Prime Hunters news soon. Just, you know, keep an ear out. Hopefully soon we'll have some updates.
IGN: When can we expect to hear more about Revolution's online features?
Beth Llewlyn: You'll just have to stay tuned.
IGN: For a long while or a short while?
Beth Llewlyn: That's kind of tough to say at the moment.
IGN: Is there a chance that we'll know more before E3 2006?
Beth Llewlyn: There's always a chance.