The Nintendo WiiWare Media Summit
On the 16th of September 2009, Nintendo held their WiiWare and DSiWare media summit on the 31st floor of the Centre Point building in London. Having arrived fashionably late, I gingerly shuffled my way to a good vantage point amongst the heaving hordes of eagerly waiting press, just before Laurent Fischer (Nintendo Europe's Managing Director of Marketing and PR) kicked off proceedings. Firstly was the obligatory release date schedule for a plethora of upcoming titles as well as news on Nintendo's Connection Ambassador Promotion (more on this later) that rewards propagators of the online service with Nintendo Points and games.
Fischer's emphasis was on creativity and the ability to use WiiWare and DSiWare platforms to publish unproven and unusual games that would otherwise not see the light of day. He said: "It's easy for developers to have a lot of creativity and to finalise the games the way they want and then to reach our consumer with the DSi and WiiWare systems. For us, we're very happy because we can gather a lot of new talent and a lot of new developers, which reach exciting and creative ideas. For us, this download world has nothing to do with the retail world. The retail world, the games that we sell on cartridge or disc, is the heart and the core business of Nintendo.
"We think that DSiWare and WiiWare are able to have additional content, something that has no direct competition in the existing retail market. The fact that you don't have to bear the same number of risks as a developer is the entry point to help all these people to go and develop unusual ideas, quirky games and things that would never have a chance in retail stores."
We were then expecting to see a trailer for the next instalment of Monkey Island but instead were treated to the new fan produced flash video from MajusArts:, and the first of the guest speakers David Grossman took the stage. Grossman is the Design Director of the Tales of Monkey Island series and co-writer and programmer of the original Monkey Island games. Grossman explained that the opportunity to produce episodic games has had a large effect on creating an involved fan community, as proven by the video and the reasons behind bringing an episodic version to the Wii: "With Monkey Island, there were four games that came out over a period of 18 years, meaning the average wait time between games was four and a half years. What we're doing now is a series of games that come out monthly, and that gives you a more engaging experience. You play the game, it takes a few hours, and by the time you're done talking about it with your friends there's already another one out. Nintendo has always had the best sense of casual, fun gameplay that fits the Monkey Island series."
Fischer rejoined the stage to mention 'One of the highlights of the WiiWare launch.' LostWinds from developers Frontier, before showing a trailer of the sequel, Winter of the Melodias. David Braben (of Elite fame, for those of you who can remember) joined Fischer to describe the effort that has been put into the sequel: "The key thing that we've been trying to do is to move forward, where we've got all the abilities from the previous game still there, and we've added to them." Braben went on to describe how publishers wouldn't take a chance on the original game due to its unusual control scheme, and how he was grateful to have a service such as WiiWare that allows original ideas to reach the market.
The last guest to appear was gaming legend Kenji Eno who had just flown in from Japan to promote his new game You, Me and the Cubes. Eno has been developing games since the days of the Famicom and has worked on Altered Beast and the survival-horror D series. Eno expressed his love for the Wii remote and after having first seen it knew that he had to develop a game for the Wii system.
Finally, Nintendo unveiled the Nintendo Ambassador promotion. Nintendo are obviously pushing to get more of its Wii owners online and there are now some awesome perks for doing so. This reward scheme gives you bonuses for introducing other Wii owners to the console's online services. Each person you introduce will net you 500 Wii Points. Introducing 10 people provides Gold Status and free access to Nintendo's first party Virtual Console NES catalogue. Recruiting 20 people grants you Platinum Status gaining you free access to all first and third-party Virtual Console games on NES, SNES and N64, now that is some incentive to get canvassing.