GDC 2009: Satoru Iwata Keynote “Liveblog”

Okay, so it’s technically not a liveblog since it’s not, you know, live. We couldn’t get internet access in the giant hall that Nintendo was holding Iwata’s keynote in, so hopefully this will do. The following is an extensive breakdown on Nintendo president Satoru Iwata’s GDC keynote speech, which was filled with some givens and some nice little surprises. Here we go!

9:09 – After a brief introduction, Satoru Iwata takes the stage. Hey, his english is pretty good.

9:10 – Global shipments of the Wii are now more than 50 million, making it the fastest selling console in the industry.

9:11 – Iwata professionally pimp-slaps the rest of the industry with a few statistics and bar graphs, showing off just how much Nintendo is kicking butt compared to everyone else.

9:13 – He thanks everyone from the bottom of his heart for making this succss possible. No problem, Iwata <3

9:14 – Iwata admits that some developers feel like they can't compete with Nintendo. Cites his past with HAL and the SNES. Brings up the concept of a developer falling into a "death spiral", primarily pushed by financial pressure, which leads to less time, which leads to poorer quality, which leads to poorer sales.

9:19 – Iwata decides to explain to us how Miyamoto works in his game designing, and why it works so well. Explains that Miyamoto pays attention to and analyzes how and why people have fun.

9:20 – Talks about how Miyamoto takes stuff from his everyday life and turns it into ideas. Garden = Pikmin, new dog = Nintendogs, working out = Wii Fit.

9:21 – Describes Miyamoto's way: the "upward spiral": ideas are everywhere, personal communication, prototype stage, small teams, multiple projects, trial and error, and the mass production stage.

9:22 – Shows off a basic prototype of Wii Sports boxing. Veeeeeery basic.

9:27 – Iwata makes it a point to not ask Miyamoto on the progress of a project, as it may cause the team to cut corners in order to speed up the process.

9:30 – Talks about how he had hoped for Nintendogs to be ready for the launch of the DS launch and Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii launch, but it did not work out as planned.

9:31 – Iwata talks about… kidnapping? He explains how Miyamoto likes to kidnap Nintendo employees who aren't even involved in game development from hallways and hand them controllers to try out his ideas. He makes it a point that Miyamoto never helps them out in passing a level, as he believes that the player should learn how to figure it out for himself or herself.

9:34 – Explains that where a player is happy while playing they have succeeded, but where a player is frustrated they have failed. Iwata believes that gaming as entertainment is meant to do just that – entertain.

9:35 – Talks about how Wario Ware developers Yoshio Sakamoto and Kazuyoshi Osawa teamed up with Tsunku, a developer with an idea, to put that idea to life. It involved developers dancing pretty hilariously. The end result? Rhythm Heaven. Hell yes.

9:38 – Iwata felt like it was too late to release Rhythm Heaven in the US since it had been so long since the DS had been out and it was a GBA game. This is why they made the switch to the DS. Insert trailer here.

9:40 – When they had finished the DS version, they felt like it still didn't have the potential to be a big seller because it was a new and unfamiliar franchise, but sales have been steady in Japan and the US version will be out in just 11 days.

9:42 – Mentions Guitar Hero, Spore, and World of Goo as new ways to think about games.

9:45 – Starts talking about third-party developer and games. Apparently, the Wii sold the most third-party games in 2008 than any other console.

9:46 – The Wii Fit balance board alone has built up an impressive install base of its own, almost reaching the point of the PS3's. Wow.

9:47 – A representative takes the stage and shows off a demo with the wiimote+nunchuck+balance board combo, doing some in-game rock climbing.

9:48 – Wtf. He reaches the top and… there's a guitar. And he rocks out. Rock and Roll Climber. So much for that Ice Climber theory.

9:49 – 90% of WiiWare content comes from third-party developers. Iwata says that this is a good model.

9:50 – Another representative takes the stage and shows off… the Wii menu. Starts talking about the Wii's latest storage solution. Looks like there's a nifty little SD card icon right next to the Wii button in the bottom left corner of the Wii menu. It takes you to a new screen with a similar channel layout, which has 20 pages of channel space. Oh baby.

9:52 – Ooooooh snap. With this new update, the Wii will be SDHC compatible. That's more like it.

9:53 – Aaaaaaaaand here's the kicker: You can launch content from directly off the SD card. Thank god.

9:54 – The representative launches Zelda II for the VC off the SD card, which only takes a couple seconds to load. Impressive. As for when this becomes available… he leaves it to Iwata. Drat.

9:55 – This new firmware update is being launched… right now?! Oh damn. It's already up, apparently. They're sly.

9:56 – Time for some announcements! Final Fantasy 1 coming to virtual console, a sequel to Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King called My Life as a Darklord in the works, and a sequel to Final Fantasy IV called The After Years also in the works. Snap.

9:57 – Now time for a DSi demonstration! The Nintendo representative shows off Moving Memo. Draws a car, copies a few frames of it, edits some of the frames so that the position of the car is different, etc. Unselected frames give off a nice semi-transparent look. Pretty nifty. Shows off the final product, which is the car moving from left to right. Makes vroom vroom noises into the DSi's microphone, which get recorded and played back with the video.

10:01 – A little trailer shows off some hardcore artwork done using Moving Memo. Sweeeet.

10:02 – Debut of Wario Ware: Snapped. You start the game by posing for the camera. It makes you line up your head and hands via the camera before each mini-game, and then it goes to the usual Wario Ware antics. Then after the minigames are done, you get to see the recorded video of yourself playing the game. Hah.

10:04 – Iwata's back on stage again. Talks about how DSi has reached 2 million sales in Japan since its launch, and Amazon has recorded astronomical preorders for it in the US.

10:05 – He teases us by saying that they can't leave us without appealing to the core gamers. Introduces Virtual Console Arcade, which will have some awesome old-school arcade games. Galaga? Yes please.

10:07 – One last video for the loyal Nintendo enthusiasts… it's for the DS… what could it be? A ZELDA GAME?! wat. It looks like Phantom Hourglass but with a train on a large plain instead of a boat on a large ocean. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Iwata says it'll be available later this year. I'll take it.

10:10 – Iwata ends on a heartwarming note, saying that the fate of the industry is in our hands (probably referring to the developers, not the press :P) and thanks everyone for coming. That's all, folks!