E3 '09: Day One – Nintendo Keynote

June 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

I was stifling yawns while watching the Nintendo keynote. The Ubisoft conference was bad, but it was like watching car-crash television – you just couldn’t look away for risk of not seeing what was going to happen next. To me, someone who’s into more traditional games, there was very little to hold my attention at the Nintendo conference. And I imagine that sentiment probably applies to a lot of the folks sat in the audience, as well.

I’m sure several Nintendo fans are very happy to see Super Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid: Other M, and a new Kingdom Hearts game coming out for the Wii; there were also some other good looking games out there in the shape of Dead Space: Extraction, The Conduit and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, all for the Wii platform. But what was, sadly, most evident at his conference, was that Nintendo are gradually, but surely, moving away from the “core” loyalist fanbase and towards the untapped “maybe” market – those who might play games but don’t at the moment, as Iwata later revealed.

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Satoru Iwata, president and CEO of Nintendo, came on to talk about how the casual/hardcore divide is a myth and that there is a way to accommodate both loyalists and newcomers to gaming; I think most people know that’s more than slightly optimistic thinking on his part. It didn’t help his cause when he revealed the new – for the first time ever – Vitality Sensor, which looks like a heart-rate monitor, sounds like a heart-rate monitor, is… well, a heart-rate monitor, but re-branded for the Wii. I’m sure no-one expected this, but maybe that’s because the peripheral has no effective application and is, in general, a really dumb idea?

The main emphasis of this conference was clearly on expanding the Wii and Nintendo DS’s user base to get more non-gamers on-board. There was a chunk of talk-time devoted to the virtues of Wii Motion Plus for use in the new Wii Sports Resort game; again, there was the common theme, exposed in every conference so far, of courting the fitness and ‘tween markets – specifically, with Wii Fit Plus, as well as with a slurry of titles for the DS and DSi, including Style Savvy, Cop: The Recruit and Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion. Emblematic of this turnaround is the now announced New Super Mario Bros. for Wii, which looks very similar to the DS game of the same name but with four-player co-op. Four player co-op? In a 2D platform game? With one screen between the four? It just sounds to me like a principally flawed concept.

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There were a couple of additional things of note regarding the DSi. Good news for RPG gamers: they’re releasing a new Golden Sun and Mario and Luigi game. Along with Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, that’s not too bad. There was also mention of the DSi’s download service and with specific mention to Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again, seemingly an update of Mario vs. Donkey Kong but with the ability to create and upload your own levels for others to download and play through. Cammy Dunaway, Nintendo’s executive vice president, also went on to talk about how they’re marketing the DSi as a gadget which can be personalised to your express style and tastes. As further evidence of this claim, they’re going to include Facebook integration for the DSi later this summer.

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It was all pretty routine, pretty straight forward, smart stuff. Vitality Sensor aside (Nintendo, what were you thinking?) it was a rather dull conference; very self-congratulatory and uninspiring.

But why should they care what I think? After all, I’m not their audience anymore, am I?

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