"Nintendo Nate" On Luigi Stepping Out of Mario's Shadow and the Secrecy of Nintendo Directs

"Nintendo Nate" On Luigi Stepping Out of Mario's Shadow and the Secrecy of Nintendo Directs

Backstage at the DICE Awards 2020, we catch up with Nintendo VP of Product Development Design Nate Bihldorff.

At the DICE Awards 2020, Luigi's Mansion 3 took home the big prize of Outstanding Achievement in Animation. Luigi's expressive cowering, ghosts' haunting, and Gooigi's sliming impressed the league of industry voters. Nate Bihldorff, vice president of Product Development Design at Nintendo, accepted the award on Next Level Games' behalf. Backstage, the fandom-known "Nintendo Nate" fondly looked back on Luigi's big year.

"Luigi in general, he's always the brother in the shadow, the older one. So to have him get on the same footing as Mario is pretty impressive, especially because the genre is not really a very common one," says Bihldorff. As of the end of last year, Luigi's Mansion 3 has sold over five million copies worldwide, outselling its predecessors' debuts by a long shot. "You can say Mario games are typically platformers, but what are Luigi's Mansion games? You know, they're isometric puzzle games. They're exploration games; they're adventure games. They're all those things all at once."

It's a harder sell for potential fans, as a result, but still, Luigi's Mansion 3 broke through in a big way.

In addition to Luigi's Mansion 3's big splash in 2019, Nintendo has continued its experimentation with "Passes," it's own form of a season pass that has been slapped onto the likes of Breath of the Wild, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and even Fire Emblem: Three House's post-launch content. When I ask Bihldorff if Passes will remain the norm for Nintendo's DLC strategy, he's hesitant to cement it forevermore.

"I think one thing that you can predict is that [Nintendo's] always unpredictable," he says, citing his own 20 years with the company. "So I wouldn't say that any of our current setups are necessarily indicative of one particular path we're gonna be chasing for the future. I think that you can count on us sort of trying everything out. Different things work for different games, and we'll probably continue to pursue that in the future."

As for what's next for Nintendo, Bihldorff plays coy. It's been the longest drought between Nintendo Directs, according to evidence, and Nintendo fans are mighty thirsty. And for the next Nintendo Direct, Bihldorff assures me it's top secret.

"You know, I saw that this morning," Bihldorff says with a laugh, in reference to the fan theories forever circling around Nintendo for the potential of a Direct announcement. "I'm sworn to secrecy. I'm afraid I can't divulge that." Hopefully, that announcement everyone's salivating for will come sooner rather than later.

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Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's Senior Editor.

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