In the words of Reggie Fils-Aime, “If you’ve come here only interested in ‘Next Generation’, you’re in the wrong place.” Unlike Microsoft and Sony, the focus of Nintendo’s media briefing wasn’t about how great games look, but how great they play.
Things began with Shigeru Miyamoto taking the stage clad in a tux holding the Wii controller (or Wii-mote as a few staffers have begun to call it). As the lights dimmed, a spotlight shone on him as he began to conduct a virtual orchestra playing the familiar Zelda theme song. He then faced the screen and began to conduct new, more upbeat music as a player, holding the Wii-mote horizontal, steered a truck through a course. The music shifted again and another player began playing Ubi Soft’s Red Steel, a FPS which would become a major highlight later in the show.
After a rousing introduction, Reggie took the stage and presented Nintendo’s core message for E3 – Inclusion. Games are no longer about looks, but about playing in a way that can include everyone and attract those who have never played a game before. According to Reggie, this point is key in getting video games to be accepted as true mass-market entertainment like television or movies.
The name Wii was then discussed with Reggie thanking the two people who actually had something good to say about the name. He then went on to draw comparisons with names like Lexus and Google – both of which sounded goofy when first introduced but have “stuck” with us. Wii is the sound of inclusion and a name that Nintendo hopes every gamer, new and old, will be able to embrace.
The Wii was formally introduced, again by the lower-case “i’s” that were seen in last week's announcement video. The video then showed a group of friends, each holding a Wii-mote, as one began to play the drums and another played the guitar. Four players were then shown playing tennis. This tied in with baseball and golf games that were also shown. All three will be included in the same game, later revealed to be Wii Sports.
The conducting game Miyamoto opened the show with was shown again, as was the racing game, Excitetruck. Then came the first look at the next Mario game, Super Mario Galaxy. New Pilotwings and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption were then shown, as was a Ping-Pong game. A new Warioware is also in the works, and showcased a number of uses for the new control method, including running, jumping and lifting weights.
Another video was played, this time formally introducing games that were shown in the previous video, as well as introducing some new ones. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was shown, as was a new Dragon Quest game, Super Mario Galaxy, Fire Emblem, Tony Hawk, SD Gundam Breaker, Super Swing Golf, One Piece Unlimited, Rayman, Madden and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles.
The reel ended with a shot of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – which soon took center stage. Not only will a GameCube version of the game be released, but also a special Wii version will be sold right alongside when the system launches, making it the first Zelda game to accompany a Nintendo system at launch. The Wii version will make full use of the controller, and was also an opportunity for Nintendo to fully disclose previously unknown features of the controller.
Nintendo of America employees Nate and Bill then took the stage to show off how the game will be played on Wii. The nunchuck attachment moves Link around and the Z button is for targeting. As you swing the remote around, a Navi-like fairy shows where you are pointing. The B button on the remote swings Link’s sword (other, motion-based movements like a shield-block and downward thrust are also available). The Wii-mote is also used when shooting the bow. As you aim a circle appears, so you just point and shoot. It was also revealed that the controller will have a small speaker built inside that will give off special noises to help you play, such as when pulling the bowstring taut.
The boomerang is also controlled by the Wii-mote and has you pointing the pointer to show where you want to aim. Crates can also be picked up and thrown using the motion sensor in the nunchuck.
Metroid Prime 3 was again shown and looks stunning. Super Mario Galaxy was again shown, and some of Mario’s new moves were revealed, like the ability to knock things out of the way. A number of new titles will also join the company’s already popular lineup of games. Excitetruck was shown again, as was Project H.A.M.M.E.R. and Disaster: Day of Crisis.
Third party support is also coming, with the Wii-exclusive Sonic: Wild Fire and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Tony Hawk and Madden were also shown. Reggie reiterated that the Wii would take existing experiences and reinvent them.
Developers from UbiSoft then showed off a demo of Red Steel, another Wii – exclusive game. While it looks like any other FPS, the goal here is the make you feel like you’re really in the game. The developers introduced the various firearms in the game and showed how it would make special use of motion sensors. For example, whenever you want to open a door, you simply twist the nunchuck like a handle or push it open quickly. Sword fighting was also shown, with the nunchuck being used to block and the Wii-mote being swung like a sword.
George Harrison then stepped up to talk about the Nintendo DS. Since launch, the DS has sold over 16 million units. In addition, 6 million copies of Nintendogs have been sold worldwide, and over 1.3 million users have accessed Nintendo’s WiFi service. Nintendo is also hoping to build on this success with Brain Age (which has already sold 120,000 copies in its first 3 weeks in the US) and new Touch Generations titles Sudoku Gridmaster and Club Games.
The DS Lite will also be launched in the near future, as well as a brand new Mario Bros. game, New Super Mario Bros., and Poke’mon Mystery Dungeon (in both Blue and Red versions). Final Fantasy III is also coming, as is Diddy Kong Racing and Star Fox DS. Over 100 new games will be out for the DS by the end of the year, including Mario vs DK: Match of the Minis, Elite Beat Agents, Yoshi’s Island 2, Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Big Brain Academy.
Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, stepped up to reiterate Nintendo’s message of making gaming something that everyone could enjoy. Rather than give players better-looking games, Nintendo wants to reinvent how players interact with the game. They began this process with the introduction of the DS. At first it confused people, but it has managed to reach an audience most in the industry thought were impossible to get. This is the strategy Nintendo is using with Wii.
Other than control, Iwata also mentioned that waiting for games to load is enough to drive most hardcore gamers insane, so it was sure to interfere with new gamer’s enjoyment. The Wii will be quicker to power up and will also go into a “sleep mode” using Wii Connect 24. This allows the system to always be on so developers can “push” new content into games or friends can visit you in Animal Crossing while you’re away and leave messages and gifts. The Networking software is already included in the console, so developers can choose to use it whenever they want.
Reggie once again took the stage and invited one person to come up and play the Wii for the very first time. This participant was randomly selected through an AOL promotion and was chosen by Miyamoto. The contestant was then chosen to come up and play a game of tennis with Miyamoto, Reggie and Itawa. All three were also in the game as characters.
Reggie then closed the show by once again restating Nintendo’s goal of inclusion and saying that change was good. Rather than play the bigger and better game the rest of the industry is competing in, Nintendo is playing the role of disrupter and changing the future of games. Rather than just seeing, Nintendo wants you to play and believe.