E3 2008: Nintendo Media Briefing
July 15, 2008
E3 2008: Nintendo Media
By Louis Bedigian
Wii Music, Wii Sports Sequel and Animal Crossing City Folk unveiled at this year's event.
Before rolling out the new games and huge DS/Wii sales figures, Nintendo kicked off this year's E3 media briefing with a continuing trend: smiling faces. That smile, of course, comes from the experience had when playing a Nintendo game, hence the photos and videos of everyday gamers gripping their DS units and Wii remotes. This intro was short but seemed to take forever: the guy sitting next to me was visibly anxious, as his leg didn't stop moving the whole time. In any other scenario it might not have mattered. But we are gamers. And we came to see the latest in Nintendo's lineup.
Animal Crossing City Folk
The long-awaited Wii sequel has finally been confirmed. Animal Crossing City Folk is headed your way, and with it comes new gameplay dimensions that are geared at increasing your playability with others. Along with the first glimpse of gameplay, Nintendo showed a video of Katsuya Eguchi, the creator of the Animal Crossing series, where he explained the importance of not having a goal. He wants the game to feel like a real world without having to restrict the player. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. After leaving the game for a bit, you may notice that the animals have continued to get up in the morning and go to bed at night, all on their own. It's that kind of realism that he believes will immerse the player and make him or her feel like they are in a real world.
Players will be able to buy items at an auction site and sell those they don't want. They can visit a famous fashion designer, Gracie, and buy not only new clothes but new appearances, including a mask that matches your own Mii character.
Eguchi also pointed out that it's interesting to visit other towns because it shows what kind of person that player is. Is the area messy or clean?
But what's most interesting is that the new game will utilize WiiSpeak, Nintendo Wii's first microphone. This peripheral focuses on Nintendo's mission to get everyone in your house involved, as WiiSpeak sits on the top of your TV (it looks like a half circle) and may be used by anyone in the room. Together, your family and friends can talk to other gamers that are in their own room together. No other WiiSpeak-compatible titles have been announced.
Wii MotionPlus and Wii Sports Resort
By now you've likely heard rumblings of a so-called Wii remote upgrade. That upgrade -- a small square attachment that plugs into the Nunchuk expansion slot -- will give one-to-one player sensitivity. This means that every single movement, no matter how slight, will be registered instantaneously on-screen.
Nintendo demonstrated this effect with the game that the MotionPlus adaptor will come packaged with: Wii Sports Resort. Due for release globally next spring, Wii Sports Resort was described by Reggie Fils-Aime as a day at the beach. But it's much more than that, as demonstrated by two of the three new mini-games: sword fighting and a jet ski-style racer that looks like Wave Race 64.
With sword fighting, you can precisely chop wood and sharpen pencils. It doesn't sound too exciting, but this was merely an intro (and sort of a practice mode) to the actual game. Once the battle begins, players get a split-screen Wii Boxing-style view where they can hack and slash -- intuitively and fairly realistically -- their opponents. This was particularly impressive because it appears that you can make your own moves. You aren't forced to merely shake your hand like those other... Hmmm, what were those Wii sword fighting games again? I honestly can't remember. That's because they weren't memorable. But this sword fighting mini-game will be.
The Wave Race knock-off is something I've been waiting to see for a long time. Using the Wii remote and Nunchuk (Wii MotionPlus has an expansion slot on the bottom for the Nunchuk), players hold the two controllers like jet ski handle bars. With every tilt and turn, the player has complete control over their jet ski. The graphics were simple and the concept is far from new, and you could argue that this is what the Wii remote should have been like in the first place. But it looked amazingly fun and will be hard to resist when Wii Sports Resort is released next year.
The last of the three mini-games was actually shown first: Disc Dog. This is as simplistic as simplistic can get. You throw a Frisbee, a cartoon dog grabs it and brings it back. Repeat. This may be a nice addition fro grandma but won't have as much appeal as the other two.
At the end of this presentation, Reggie Fils-Aime, President and Chief Operating Officer at Nintendo of America, noted that while the Wii MotionPlus upgrade is in developer hands, they have not had much time to work with it. Once they have, he says, we can expect many other great and innovative gaming experiences.
The long-awaited orchestra game is finally here: except it's no longer a sole orchestra game, it is now a full-blown music simulator. Designed to be the anti-Guitar Hero, Wii Music allows you to play the drums, saxophone, guitar, violin, and over 50 other instrument simply by moving your body, shaking the remote and pressing buttons. You don't play in-synch with on-screen commands -- this was viewed as a bad feature that held some players back, thus Nintendo's decision not to include any apparent difficulties. To play the violin, you hold the Nunchuck and wave your Wii remote hand back and forth. To play the guitar, you hold the Nunchuk and strum the Wii remote. All very simple looking. All guaranteed to appeal to the air guitar crowd.
However, there will be a drum lesson mode where you can actually play the drum kit you see on screen (which appeared to be comparable to Guitar Hero and Rock Band's physical drum kits). Two foot pedals are added when the Wii Balance Board is hooked up (you jam your feet on the board), as well as a freestyle mode that lets you drum as you please. This mode looked very exciting and will surely give Guitar Hero/Rock Band loyalists a reason to look at Nintendo's own take on music gameplay.
Finally, Nintendo revealed that six players can play Wii Music together to form a band. They followed this announcement with a brief demonstration where five players jammed together. The song, of course, was a quirky version of the Super Mario Bros. theme. No goals were given, no points were awarded, and no champion was crowned.
Shigeru Miyamoto jams with a real drummer and three Nintendo execs using Wii Music.
GTA Chinatown Wars (DS exclusive)
This surprising announcement detailed very few specifics. The game is due this winter and will offer a custom GTA engine, familiar free-roaming gameplay, and be set in Liberty City.
Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades
Guitar Hero: On Tour fans can expect a sequel later this year. No songs were announced, but fans will be happy to know that songs can be shared across all DS versions of this game. In other words, On Tour Decades songs will be playable on the regular version of On Tour, as well as future iterations for the DS.
Shaun White Snowboarding
In most circumstances, the most exciting Nintendo games are those made in-house by Nintendo developers. But this Wii exclusive -- built specifically for the Wii Balance Board -- is very impressive. Shaun White himself was there to demo the game, which is due for release this fall. Graphically the game looks like a GameCube or Nintendo 64 snowboarding game (think 1080 or SSX), but physically it appeared to be much more realistic and intuitive. With every move Shaun White made (shifting his weight across the Balance Board), the on-screen boarder accurately responded. He held the Wii remote while playing, indicating that it will have some gameplay involvement (most likely to help with turns or the trick system).\
"We promise to keep the world smiling."
Those were the words that followed Nintendo's smiley face-filled intro. Most of us expected to see Reggie Fils-Aime come out on stage, but we were instead treated to Cammie Dunaway, Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing.
"As you can see my name is not Reggie," she started, earning more than a few laughs. "But I do have a lot in common with my boss. We're both having a lot of fun. How can you not be happy when your job is to get up everyday and think about video games?"
She began by relating her own experience with real snowboarding (in which she was trying to be a cool mom by doing it and fell and hurt herself in the process) to how Wii allows you to do these cool things without the risk for injury (via Shaun White Snowboarding). The story was told semi-jokingly -- she wasn't trying to put down the sport, but merely convey the alternative Wii provides. Being nice guy that he is, Shaun White gave Cammie Dunaway lessons on how to play his game.
In typical press conference fashion, many executives either came on stage or were shown on screen to reiterate the fact that Wii and DS are a success. Just how successful? Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo Japan, spoke about how the DS had recently sold an average of 200,000 units a week in Europe. In the States, Wii recently averaged 700,000 units per month. He further cemented Wii's bragging rights by noting that Guitar Hero III has sold more on Wii than on any other console.
Iwata continued by pointing out what we already know: that this is due to the "paradigm" shift (as he describes it) in gaming. The Wii and DS attracted old and new gamers alike with its innovative content. He also noted that new titles from the makers of Mario and Zelda are in the works (but of course did not say which).
Looking To New Venues
Cammie Dunaway says that Nintendo is looking into the possibility of using the DS as more than a gaming machine. Her examples surrounded airport travel, where consumers could potentially use their DS systems to check the status of a flight or score local restaurant info. This is not yet a service, game card or any other concrete feature. It is merely something Nintendo is looking into.
- Reggie noted that combined sales of Wii and DS have totaled $5 billion in the United States alone.
- A new Pokemon Ranger title is due for Nintendo DS on November 10th.
- All Pokemon games combined have sold 180 million copies worldwide.
- Nintendo DS sales rose after the launch of the company's female-targeted campaign (in which celebrities like Carrie Underwood were shown playing their favorite DS game).
- 19 different third-party games have exceeded sales of 400,000 in North America.
Reggie concluded by reminding us that calling Wii or DS a "fad" is no longer operable. "Consequently," he says, "the only way to preserve your advantage is to create new advantages."
Let's hope those advantages include a new Star Fox, Pilot Wings or Pikmin game in 2009.