Just read the unedited version of Nintendo President Saturu Iwata's GDC keynote speech. He starts out with a clever switcheroo, where you think he's talking about the Nintendo-Sony rivalry but he's actually making a point about Pepsi vs. Coke.
Then he tells the story of the upcoming Brain Age DS game, which is based on a mental exercise fad currently gripping Japan. He has this to say about the initial meeting he held with the professor who kicked off the brain improvement fad:
I�m sure some people at Nintendo wondered how I could spend so much time on the kind of meeting on the very day of the DS launch, but I think it turned out to be a good idea.
On the day of the DS launch. Can you imagine Peter Moore or J. Allard or any other Xbox tool saying that? Blowing off a launch day just to do some fact-finding research on a quirky-ass non-game game?
Brain Age turned into another DS mega-hit in Japan. We get it shortly. You do tons of little quizzes and math puzzles and such, and the game scores you with a "brain age," which is supposed to indicate how old your brain is, based on how smart you are. Presumably there's a curve to it, and you want to hit a age somewhere in the twenties... rather than having the brain of an 8 year old or of an 80 year old. What makes it so accessible is that you hold the DS like a book and write your answers with the stylus.
It sounds to me like a totally nerdy WarioWare.
Then Iwata kinda tap dances around Nintendo's Wi-Fi strategy for a bit. Yes, Iwata-san, it's easy. But it's really not giving me the "choices" you seem to think it is. That's not going to happen until you find a way to cover the very issue that has kept you out of online gaming for the past five years: the presence of assholes. Because giving us choices means that some of us are going to make bad ones. Your Friend Code system neatly rules out much of the online assholery, but it also makes it stupidly difficult to find good people to play.
Nintendo's system is pretty much based on you getting all of your real-world friends to also buy Nintendo gear. Because if you can arrange that, playing Animal Crossing online with pals is smooth sailing. If your friends lack DSes, well, good luck making new ones.
I'm glad to see the success of games like Animal Crossing: Wild World, Nintendogs, Tetris DS and Brain Age... because that's the kind of junk that Nintendo is banking on. Non-traditional games developed for non-traditional players... players, not gamers. If nobody wanted Nintendogs, if Nintendo wasn't hearing stories about grandmothers getting hooked on Brain Age, they wouldn't be in such a strong position now, and the Revolution would be looking D.O.A. To use the Pepsi-Coke analogy, just as Pepsi branched out into sports drinks to pull ahead of Coke in total sales, Nintendo is reaching out to non-gamers to pull ahead of Sony.
Well, not that Sony doesn't have broad-target games in their arsenal - these are the guys who gave us PaRappa and Katamari - just that Nintendo wants to bring in new demographics and expand the definition of what a "video game system" can do.
Against all predictions, the DS is taking daily craps on Sony's PSP. Even Wal-Mart has done the brown on the PSP, having just dropped carrying all those stupid UMD movies. Nintendo's strategy is working.
But he was quick to point out that Nintendo still will make games for gamers, current and longterm gamers that is. Like Metroid Prime Hunters, New Super Mario Bros, and a new Legend of Zelda game for the DS.
Then he goes into the development of the Revolution's crazy remote control nun-chuk thing:
Early last year a young team leader of the controller development group came up with a disruptive idea: what if you could play with just one hand?
Of course someone young would come up with that.
This sounded good, but when we shared the idea with our Metroid Prime producers, they objected. They said their games would not work with what we invented.
Hey, Metroid Prime guys, WTF? Jeez, make one great game twice and you get more clout than you deserve. Aren't these guys American anyway? Iwata gives them credit for adding the floating plug-in analog stick, so you can play two-handed games.
His next announcement surprised me, but it shouldn't have:
After we announced the virtual console concept for revolution last year, many people asked me if only games for Nintendo systems would be available. Today, I have a better answer. I can announce that games specifically developed for both the Sega Genesis and the NEC Turbo Grafx system will also be available for Nintendo Revolution via the Virtual Console.
Sega has whored out their library to anyone who comes knocking with a big bag of money. Like GameTap, which is about to die sinking into the mud, and rightfully so for being 2005's Stupidest Idea Ever. I guess I was surprised solely on the premise of Genesis games being playable on a Nintendo. I'm old enough to remember when that sentence made as much sense as taking the company whale out for a drive to Jupiter.
I enjoyed his assessment of Tetris: The Modern Pitch...
In our business, too often people with a fresh idea don�t have a chance. I believe if Tetris were presented today, here is what the producer would be told:
"Go back." "Give me more levels." "Give me better graphics." "Give me cinematics." and "You�re probably going to need a movie license to sell that idea to the public."
The producer would go away dejected. Today, Tetris might never be made.
Of course, what he's overlooking is that Mr. Alternate Universe Tetris would then head straight to PopCap. But that raises a question, in a World Without Tetris, would PopCap even exist? Would it be nothing but Battleship and Checkers clones?
I consider our virtual console concept the video game version of Apple�s iTunes music store.
Oooh, I like that one. Just make sure I'm actually buying the damn games, not renting them for the life of the online service. If I download DeCapAttack, I want it living on my Revolution HD and playable for as long as I own the Revolution, whether I'm online or not, and whether the Virtual Console still exists or not. We don't want GameTap. We don't want Napster. We want iTunes.