Reggie Fils-Aime on the competition and what it means to be a 'garage' developer

A few minutes before Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime handed over the first 3DS sold in the US (as seen above), he spoke with me on how the new portable stands out from the competition, what Nintendo considers a "garage" developer versus an "indie," and what he's playing at launch (spoilers: it's not Nintendogs + Cats)

"At its heart, what Nintendo's trying to do is to bring more and more consumers into gaming. And to do it in a way that's fundamentally different than anyone else," Fils-Aime told me, explaining his company's continued adherence to the "Blue Ocean" business strategy. "With the Nintendo 3DS -- yes, it's a handheld, but 3D in the palm of your hand without glasses. A full range not only of games but of other elements -- photography, video. It's not what people expected. Which is, at its heart, what the Blue Ocean strategy and Innovator's Dilemma (which was the other book we used to demonstrate our strategy) are all about."

Because of this strategy, among other things, Fils-Aime remains unconcerned with the competition -- whether that competition be from Sony's upcoming NGP platform or from the smartphone crowd. "First off, it's a product that isn't out yet," he said of the NGP. "It's a product that hasn't had an announced price point, it hasn't had an announced availability. So, how that product impacts us is to be told in the future." %Gallery-119783%

Fils-Aime continued, "What enables the technology actually isn't all that important. What is important is 3D without glasses, what is important are the communication features, what is important is the ability to take photos, the ability to play back video -- those are the things that are important and what we believe the consumer wants in a new handheld device."

And what of the iOS and Android competition? "I would argue versus other handheld devices -- i.e. smartphones, as an example -- what differentiates us first is content. Our stable of first-party franchises that you'll never see on a smartphone certainly differentiates us," he said, before adding humbly, "In addition to that, we've acknowledged that digital content is an area that we have to do a better job with."

"We've been clear that we want to work with independent developers who understand this business, who have experience in this business."- Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America

Moving back into talking points, Reggie also noted that the forthcoming eShop, with its Virtual Console, will help address a dearth of digitally distributed content. "That will be wide-ranging -- everything from our own version of the Virtual Console, with GameBoy and GameBoy Color content, to all of the DSiWare content, to brand new digital content that'll be in 2D as well as 3D."

As Nintendo did with WiiWare standouts 2D Boy and Gaijin Games, Reggie also hopes to court "independent developers who understand this business" for the 3DS. After his quotes on the matter last week, though, I asked Fils-Aime to explain where his company draws the line -- what separates an "indie" studio from a "garage" one? "We've been clear that we want to work with independent developers who understand this business, who have experience in this business," Fils-Aime said, citing the two aforementioned indies. "These are people who spent time working with larger publishers and larger developers, but had that idea in the back of their head that they needed to bring to life ... and so that's the type of entity that we want to work with."

He further distinguished between the two groups, saying, "These are talented developers. That's different from the person who envisions themselves as a developer, but actually hasn't necessarily created anything, who doesn't necessarily understand what it takes in this business to create compelling content. That's where we draw the line." According to Nintendo, that experience is just as vital as a good concept and a burning desire to make a game.

"I'll tell you, if someone calls us tomorrow who has no experience in the gaming industry, but has a passion and has a great idea, our perspective would be, 'Great, but get some experience. Understand your craft, and then come back to us,'" Fils-Aime said.

Rather than playing any indie games at launch (there aren't any, so far), Fils-Aime will be exploring the depths of the ocean with Steel Diver on his blue 3DS. "That's what I'm playing [now], but believe me, I'll be playing all of the 18 launch titles," he said. "I try to have as much experience with our games and third-party games as possible, but right now, I'm playing Steel Diver."