Nintendo E3 2008 Media Briefing
If location was the deciding factor when assessing the success of a media briefing at E3, then Nintendo would probably have gone home with the gold, the firm unveiling their line-up to an enthusiastic crowd, gathered this morning at the Kodak Theatre in glamourous Hollywood.
Nintendo US executive Cammie Dunaway kicked-off the proceedings, with a few carefully chosen skiing jokes, before a screen was pulled skyward revealing none other than Shaun White, swerving atop a Balance Board playing his new snowboarding game; to be delivered to the Wii by Ubisoft (CEO Yves Guillemot was sat in front of me, and looked perturbed when part of my seat disintegrated, but I digress).
White extolled the virtues of the board-based control, adding that he was working hard to deliver a boarding game that accurately portrays the perspective and feeling he enjoys playing the sport. The new title will be out in time for Christmas.
Cue the arrival of big Japanese boss Satoru Iwata, who waxed lyrical on the "paradigm shift" introduced by the DS and Wii; the manner in which non-gamers are playing Nintendo's products, and admitting that even Nintendo's staff could never have predicted.
Iwata said that the paradigm shift could be demonstrated by three key factors: slow-burning sales success over months and years, not weeks; emphasis on game elements other than graphics; and the expansion of the gaming audience to include more girls, and older people.
The big cheese also teased that the Mario and Zelda teams are hard at work on new projects, but declined to elaborate.
Nintendo also used their briefing to talk about the success third-party publishers are starting to enjoy on the Wii - Guitar Hero III, for example, has now sold more copies on the platform than any other. The DS is also still selling like hot cakes, while the Wii appears to be growing in success exponentially, every year.
Iwata-san promised more surprises in the future, before taking a sly dig at the competition who are desperately chasing their non-hardcore crown, before introducing Katsuya Eguchi's Animal Crossing: City Folk.
Eguchi spoke of a free-form gaming experience, with an emphasis on explorative fun, and creativity, rather than set goals. A real virtual world is the order of the day; time-passing as the land around you evolves. Social features are looking impressive, players able to send letters and pictures to each other, or even to the Wii message board.
Perhaps one of the briefing's most interesting announcements was word that Animal Crossing will also use a new microphone peripheral, called Wii Speak. A community mic is what we're told to expect, allowing rooms full of people to communicate with other rooms elsewhere.
With Eguchi's segment out of the way - Reggie Fils-Aime takes to the stage, delivering various impressive numbers about the growth of the Wii platform. He let slip that June's NPD data from the US could crown the Wii as the nation's top seller for the month.
A few third-party trailers followed, Nintendo highlighting Raving Rabbids TV Party, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Call of Duty: World at War. The latter is looking rather visually impressive, for a Wii title, players using the Wii Blaster to plough through bad guys. Co-op play will be a key feature.
Cammie Dunaway returned to the fore next, telling us that nearly as many girls as guys now play the DS, before lifting the lid on a brand new Guitar Hero for the platform - Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades. You'll be able to share songs between the two versions of the game, and the guitar 'grip' controller will also be evolved.
Bombshell time, Nintendo revealing to a genuinely surprised auditorium that Grand Theft Auto is en route to the DS. The game will be built using a new engine, and will feature the same free-roaming gameplay as its next-gen big brothers. It'll be out this winter, we were told, and will be called 'Chinatown Wars'. This is clearly a major announcement for Nintendo - although quite whether the firm's family-focussed audience are ready for GTA is another matter.
With excitement subsiding, Dunaway then told the crowd that DS airport software is possible; allowing players to check flight information, review destination details, and more via the handheld. More 'digital companion' style features come in the shape of word that the Seattle Mariners are using the DS in their stadium. Users can check scores in other games, order drinks and food, even taking themed quizzes and the like. More of this is to come. And cooking games. Yum-yum.
The MotionPlus peripheral, previously announced, was also detailed somewhat further in the briefing. The Wiimote attachment makes subtle movements possible, opening up new gameplay possibilities for developers. Enter the super-cute new Wii Sports game, called Wii Sports Resort. Beach based activities are planned, Ninty showing off a frisby game (you throw it, your dog catches it), a jet-ski game, and a sword-duelling game. Looking like a well-thought out evolution of Wii Sports, the title will be released in Spring 2009.
Nintendo's already impressive briefing was wrapped up with some style however, a drummer hammering away in mid-air with the Wiimote and Nunchuck, while hitting invisible foot pedals on the Balance Board. None other than Shigeru Miyamoto then took to the stage, playing a saxophone with the Wiimote.
Yes, Nintendo have announced Wii Music, which will be out this festive season. Over 50 instruments will supported, with a piano and taiko drum also spied. We're told you won't need to be able to read music, you'll just have to play at a rhythm of your choosing.
Conducting and note matching diversions will also be included, and the Balance Board will be supported via a unique section of its own. Miyamoto also let us know that we'll be able to make our own music videos using Miis in the game, before playing us out as part of a four-person jam.
Overall, Nintendo's conference demonstrated the confidence of a firm on the up, who are getting scarily good at creating mass market temptations. They are also promising to look after hardcore gamers, and games like Animal Crossing should help with this. For Microsoft and Sony, this briefing probably made terrifying viewing - Ninty are stretching ahead, and getting to know their audience apace. More from E3 as we get it.