Nintendo Press Conference
Nintendo offer up a smorgasbord of delights, although the platter is decidedly tipped towards the casual market. Despite this though they do enough to hit home their MotionPlus enabled era of high fidelity controls.
After Microsoft's highly impressive press briefing, Nintendo had their work to cut out today. Not least because of the bullish rhetoric of their Project Natal control-less play scheme. Perhaps reflecting their different national roots, Nintendo came out of the gate with a more understated and better organised event. Instead of the big brash showmanship of Microsoft, theirs was a steady unfolding of various stories. Instead of celebrities they leant on their longer gaming history. Instead of sports cars and guns they preferred to (mostly) show us families.
After an introduction from Cammie Dunaway, Reggie Fils-Aime stepped up to lay out how Nintendo are making games mainstream. As opposed to Microsoft's use of celebrity and showmanship, Reggie built his point around interface. Starting by announcing their new balance board fitness game Wii-Fit Plus and moving onto a closer look at MotionPlus, the message was the same. Getting the interface right is what attracts people to play games.
MotionPlus was then centre stage. First with video then with a live demonstration, Nintendo made it clear that this is the next step in their controller evolution. With MotionPlus connected and a fully fleshed out Wii-Sports Resort experience both the quality and fidelity of play was really impressive. From the Pilotwings-esque sky diving tutorial to the super fine precision of the archery this was a quality experience with obvious heavy investment from Nintendo - and with good reason.
Fils-Aime was joined by Bill Trenton for some on stage archery and basketball, both in Wii-Sports Resort. As Trenton talked about their "Precision in motion" metaphor and we watched them play the experience certainly gave pause for thought. Although of course the audience would find it hard to get Microsoft's project Natal out of their heads.
The first of the game announcements fell to New Super Mario Brothers on Wii. The game takes its basic precept from New Super Mario Brothers DS but then extends the experience to four player simultaneous gameplay. Not only that, but jump-in-jump-out local co-op made it perhaps the most social Mario game yet. Just a shame they stopped short of including some DS connectivity a la Zelda Four Swords.
Reggie tells us their aim with Wii-Sports Resort is to create a new physical reality. But also they want to create new imagined realities through Role Play games. And with that we are shown footage of a new Final Fantasy game for Wii and Kingdom Hearts for DS. We also get news of the awaited arrival of Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story on DS. Perhaps saving the best till last, they round off the section by announcing Golden Sun DS.
Moving on again, Cammie is back to reiterate Nintendo's strong point - the huge install base and the audience that represents. She goes on to talk about how this opportunity is being taken up by mainstream creatives, writers such as James Patterson who has created the interactive novel Women's Murder Club on DS.
Sticking to this "something for everyone and a place for everyone" theme we move into some social DSi footage that features a broad demographic of players - although largely absented by anyone of hardcore persuasion. The focus here is not so much about the consumption of experiences by players, but more that of creating and sharing them. To that end FlipNote Studio, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again and Warioware DIY all enable players to create and share their own content. The icing on the cake here echoes Microsoft's social network tie-ins - the DSi will soon let you share its photo's online and on Facebook.
Satoru Iawata then came on to talk some more about Nintendo's expansion of the gaming world. Talking about "active", "never" and "maybe" gamers, he suggested it is the "maybe" group Nintendo are focused on. Listening to him talk makes you appreciate how intentional and hard working Nintendo are at expanding the gaming demographic. As opposed to Microsoft's brining gaming into the mainstream, Nintendo are more appreciative about the effort required to attract genuinely new people to play games. Iawata rounds off his talk by introducing the Wii Vitality Sensor, a device that fits onto your finger and let's you see your bodies "inner balance" in a similar way that the balance board let you see your bodies "external balance".
Moving on to some game announcements Reggie comes back to the stage. And we have our first big game announcement - Super Mario Galaxy 2. This looks much the same as the original although with new levels and abilities - most obvious is the inclusion of a ride-able Yoshi.
Continuing the nod to the hardcore, Reggie then brings some third part titles to the Stage. The Conduit, Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles and Deadspace Extraction all look the business, if a little low resolution at times.
Just as we thought that was it Reggie had one more bombshell up his sleeve as we were treated to a video reveal of a new Metroid game - Metroid: Project M. Here the crowd were audibly excited about the prospect of taking a MotionPlus enabled Samas out for another spin on the Wii.
As the event drew to a close no one could complain about Nintendo's announcements. There really was something for everyone here, even the hardcore. But when you think about where the innovation is being focused you realise all the headlines are about the casual market. Reggie closed up by underlining their "Something for everyone a place for everyone" motto. While they are working hard to follow through on this for their wide demographic, it's obvious that the family market is increasingly who are paying the bills.