Many football fans consider PES 2008 on Wii to be the best of last year's bunch. So, for EA, the pressure is on. We sat down with Kaz Makita, the line producer for the Wii and PSP versions of FIFA 09, to find out what's new and why he reckons Nintendo will be bringing out a new console in 2012.
VideoGamer.com: Is it harder making the Wii version of FIFA 09 than the console or PC versions given that the Wii requires a completely different way of thinking?
Kaz Makita: Ah yes it's an interesting question. The Wii is very new. New to us but new to consumers as well. It's very difficult to predict where it's going to go, how long it's going to continue. We believe it's going to continue. We believe it's going to grow the market and a more different audience too, Mum to a young audience as well. What we do is we try to react to what consumers want to see from a product. We do a lot of listening and learning sessions while we're building a game. We bring families, kids and ask them to play our game, ask them to share what they like and don't like. That's what we do to make this game. That's important for us, especially on the Wii.
Next-gen, current-gen, we don't know everything but we kind of know what we're going to get to, what we think the user is looking for because of our experience. But we really don't have it. And also I personally believe Wii is not a game I would be having fun with - maybe a different group of people that we need to build the game for. Which means I can't judge if the game is ready or not. We have to ask somebody else to play and tell us what they think of our game. That mentality is very different.
VideoGamer.com: You mentioned you believe the Wii is in it for the long run. Some people have said they believe the Wii is a novelty or a fad. But you would disagree?
KM: Yeah I think so. The Wii is a new concept. It's a very must have console now. If they look for a different experience from their hardware then we have to provide different FIFA to them. That's where the challenge is coming from.
VideoGamer.com: How long to you think the Wii will be around? How long do you think you'll be making FIFA games for the Wii?
KM: Well, it's hard to tell. I imagine we'll be making FIFA for at least the next three years, so FIFA 09 has already happened, so 10, 11, 12 I believe that's going to happen on the Wii. Maybe there's a different type of Wii version coming from Nintendo then maybe that's where it's going to be. We don't know that. But that's what I feel.
VideoGamer.com: Do you think Nintendo will release a new console soon?
KM: I don't know. I really don't know. In typical game industry usually four years is around the time which they introduce a new console. So if it's four years then FIFA 08, 9, 10, 11, so 12 by the time it comes then maybe we'll use that. I'm not hearing anything from Nintendo, it's just my gut feeling.
VideoGamer.com: Pro Evolution Soccer, the last game that came out on the Wii, some people said that was the best version. Does that make your job more difficult?
KM: Not necessarily. I've been doing the same challenge for next-gen last three years because I was doing gameplay. People love Pro Evo, that's fine, that's great. Some people love FIFA, some people hate Pro Evo, some people hate FIFA! That happens, right. For me what's important is we really understand who we want to make the game for, we really focus on that market. We believe we're taking a different type of approach than what Pro Evo wants to take on the Wii so far, from what we've seen. Who knows next year? So we're not really concerned about it. We just go with what we think is the right thing to do on the Wii sku.
VideoGamer.com: I found the control system on PES 2008 on Wii quite hard. Did you look at that and decide to make FIFA 09 on Wii more simple?
KM: Yeah definitely we learn from what Konami has done. Also we're listening from people like yourself about what you're feeling about the game. We definitely take account of that to make our product successful. We do play Pro Evo as well, and we enjoy playing it. We thought there were a lot of good things in there that they challenged on the different market which is great. What we want to do is we want to make sure our Wii product can be picked up and in a very short period of time learned. Because we believe that's what the Wii audience is. Next-gen is a different story. That was one of the things we need to think about. We have two different control schemes, All Play control and advanced play control. All Play is very simple control. CPU does a lot of stuff for the consumer. But eight-year-olds can pick up and play. I have a son who's eight and he can play All Play and he's having fun. I ask him do you want to control player movement and he says no, I just want to pass, I just want to shoot, and he's having a lot of fun just doing that. If some users say OK I want to control players, I want to control the pass direction, I want to control this and this, then we have to provide that. So we've been trying to open up to a much wider audience than other games.