Editorials and Features
Article by: MrCHUPON
Article: E3 News: Nintendo Press Conference [Written 2004-05-11]
The press conference opens up with an intro trailer, containing clips of Monolith's Baten Kaitos, Retro Studios' Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Capcom's Resident Evil 4 and Killer 7, F-Zero Advance 2 for GBA, Paper Mario 2, and what looks like Fox out of his arwing and firing rockets. Not what Arwing pilots had hoped for, I'm assuming... but that's only a glimpse of what Star Fox will have to offer.
The video ends with a single, emphatic quote across the screen: "We make games that make games worth playing."
A man named Reggie -- whose last name I don't know, but is apparently a high level marketer for Nintendo -- steps out onto the stage.
"My name is Reggie, and we make games that kick a$$," he announced bluntly. (Sounds like he's learned a bit of arrogance from Kaz Hirai.)
After the words "A Planet Torn into Light and Darkness" fade into the screen, and I see a heavily armored figure walking towards a purple sphere of fog, teleporting into another dimension, it's pretty clear that I'm witnessing the Metroid Prime 2: Echoes trailer. Immediately, two alien assailents jump at her, with arm blades drawn. We see a figure protected within a black space suit -- is that Samus? Couldn't be, because it's staring right back at Samus -- still wearing her orange armor. The words, "Hunter, or hunted?" fade into the screen. We see split screen -- 2 player multiplayer -- and words that indicate a release in November, I'm assuming of this year.
The video fades out, and Reggie continues. "We like games with big stars and big explosions."
"A planet at peace..." fades on to the screen, followed by a whole jumble of words that I didn't take down because my fingers were trying to type so fast that I had just written a mess of alphabet letters. We see Fox walking past what looks like a beautiful beach, orange in the light of the setting sun. We see four arwings, taking off for combat. And immediately, Fox is on foot firing rockets at everything in sight. It then cuts to Fox riding in a land based vehicle, firing shots ... again, at everything in site. We see pictures of his comrades: Slippy, Falco, and Peppy. And someone else... if I remember correctly, a female fox?
There is more arwing action, four-player split-screen style. And yet more arwing action, single player. More shots of the rocket launcher, more shots of the land vehicle, and more arwing clips. "More combat than ever before," says the text on the screen. Inexplicably, Fox does a barrel roll in his land based vehicle.
The video ends with, "The countdown begins this November."
Reggie says, "...and we like games so scary, they keep you up at night."
We all know what this is, right? "In an isolated village, fear awaits..."
We see leon kennedy wandering through several dark environs, suddenly getting attacked, run after by villagers, busting heads open with his handgun and shotgun; shooting people down off roofs, getting shredded by a chainsaw, and a big ugly monster. Something I hadn't seen before, though, was Leon with a tagalong: a blonde woman with a floppy ponytail. Then we're treated to a sniper rifle shot.
Resident Evil 4. Massive cheering ensues.
Reggie begins his monologue. I've tried to transcribe everyone's speeches as best as possible, however bear in mind that without a tape recorder, on a blotchy internet connection and with a typing speed that is very fast (if I do say so myself) but not fast enough, I couldn't possibly capture everything word-for-word. I tried my best though.
"It is game time," begins Reggie."It's a new day, a new day for me, and a new day for Nintendo. so let's get a couple of things straight. [Missing speech] Part of my job is to find a way for you, the game experts, to have fun. At the same time, if you're the terminally hip, [you know that] Nintendo isn't the only choice for gaming. But hopefully what you've seen shows that we understand that [missing speech -- important, so that the following is not misconstrued.] we're not going to run our company just for hardcore gamers. There are gamers out there who aren't as knowledgable as you... it's my job, it's Nintendo's job, to make sure we statistfy all the gamers, and to do it better than our competition."
He begins with a light jab to "industry leader" Sony. "This is your third stop of the press tour over the last 24 hours we know what you've seen and heard. So let me draw comparison. One of our competitors is a manufacturer in Japan who wants to catch every one of your entertainment dollars, transporting all your content over all of their devices... on their memory sticks. We're not that company." He then moves on to Uncle Bill's "micro" corporation. "There's another company who doesn't care what you do, as long as you do it on their Operating System." This draws laughter and applause from the crowd. "We're not that company either."
"Over the years I know you've heard a lot of Nintendo people say, we're all about the games. Well guess what. We are. Whether you're talking about Donkey Kong or Tetris, Madden or Dario, Metal Gear or Resident Evil, he with the best games wins. Always been that way, always will. As this company moves forward you're going to see more Nintendo games and different Nintendo games and, most importantly, new ways to relate you to your games. But let me tell you one other thing. This is not a promise for what we're goign to do in the future, it's what we're doing right now. And if you don't realize that, listen closely. While others are talking, Nintendo is acting."
Here comes some boring positive spin on Nintendo's corporate numbers. No press conference would be a press conference without some of this drivel, so for those of you who really want to hear it, I've provided it. It's much more paraphrased though.
"What company right now is driving category sales? If you said someone other than Nintendo, you're wrong. Now i'd like you to welcome a guy who's been essential in building our momentum -- George Harrison."
Enter Georgey... and enter the corporate numbers. He shows graph of non-Nintendo sales -- for the fourth quarter ending 2003, growth was -9%. For the first quarter ending 2004, growth was -5%. Hmm. Then he shows a chart INCLUDING Nintendo sales. Growth stands at 21% for the fourth quarter ending 2003 and at 7% for the first quarter ending 2004 "Without Nintendo," Harrison claims, "there would be no growth." There has got to be some cooking of the numbers right there. Maybe not, but who knows.
"We're intent on fully playing out our hand. It's how we've always played the game, because it's how it works. We're focused on the here and now. Here's the up-to-date score on the console business."
Following was a graph -- Sony's growth was -28% over the last 12 months; I missed the exact number of units sold. 3.2 million Xbox nits were sold, which left Microsoft at a steady growth rate (0%) over the last 12; 3.3 million Cube units represented a jump of 41% -- good for 2nd place. However, what does that say for Cube growth for the *previous* year? Exactly. It's all spin. Then game a software graph. 12 units per Xbox, 12.8 units per Cube, 14.7 per PS2 -- 2004 year-to-date. Of course, this is really too close to cite Nintendo as being in a great position -- it's merely being steady. The 3 systems combined sold 38 million in the states to date -- Harrison claimed that the potential is there for more than 55 million units by the end of the generation.
"What will sell them?" asks Harrison. "Well this is the 4th system that Nintendo has introduced and managed to the back half of a console cycle. [some missing speech] Success relies on the same 3 things."
- hardcore, early adopters; and late adopters -- pure, easy to get into entertainment, quick burst of time
- value, bargains, major play, for minor pay
Harrison proceeded to cite how the September price drop -- that third point he emphasized -- helped Cube sales. After 30 days, sales were up 50% for the same period in the previous year. 60 days, 58%; through the holidays, 73% more than prior year. "It sets the bar for sale performance for our console competitors. The value advantage, in a value conscious market, clearly remains with Nintendo." Unfortunately, the number of units sold doesn't.
He emphasized: "We're fully deploying the familiar franchises so popular with the mass market." Showing the Metroid, Resident Evil 4, and starfox logos, it made me wonder: is this all I am ever going to see on my Cube and next Nintendo systems? The big beef with Nintendo that many people have is its limited library.
Harrison goes on to yap about how nine portables have tried and failed to take the throne from the Gameboy line. Initial preorder sales of GBA Video paks tops 2 million units, he says. You can tell here that he's trying to slam the PSP. Demographics wise, gamers over age of 18 make up more than 25% of the GBA market. The pie-chart number looked like it was between 30% and 33%. Of note on the screen behind him were box shots of Xevious and Excitebike retro GBA carts.
And here it comes, the PSP battling. "There is no doubt in our minds that the psp will have some initial appeal for exactly the demographic in this audience today," said Harrison. However... "...by the time the PSP gets on the ballot next spring, more than 25 million Americans will have already voted for GBA. Now if you're asking whether PSP can catch the GBA, maybe we should first ask, can the PS2 catch GBA?" Ouch. He brings up another graph. PS2 has thus far sold 20.5 million units Stateside, while the GBA has sold 21.0 million. Followed by applause from the crowd. Since GBA SP launched, sales were 6.5 million for PS2, 7.1 for GBA (overall, I'm assuming). Numbers, yawn. I was waiting for the good stuff... which encompassed a new Zelda logo for the GBA. Hmm, what could that be?
A video played, showing clips of upcoming games: Paper Mario 2, with Mario folding into paper airplane. Pikmin 2. 4 Swords Adventure, with zooming and smoke effects on the Cube. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which I have NO ideas about what it is. It went by too fast. All I know is that it apparently might use the Konga drums. Advance Wars: Under Fire. Donky Konga -- which obviously does use kongas. Geist -- a game I had been waiting for info on -- and all I got were vague, dark shots. Donkey Kong Country 2 for GBA -- big whoop. Nothing new. Mario Pinball, which showed Super Mario RPG-style rendered visuals. Mario Golf Advance -- nothing new. Donkey Kong (another one!?), King of Swing -- a puzzley looking game. Mario vs Donkey Kong Advance -- again, nothing new. And, the aforementioned Zelda, called Zelda: The Minish Cap (wtf?). Using, of course, 4 swords graphics. Following was a clip of Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green. Rainbow Six 3 -- which was all cinematics, and totally worthless since it's missing about half of the game (multiplayer). A Tales of Symphonia FMV. killer 7 -- cinematics, running down hallways. Baten Kaitos -- more cineatics. WWE Day of Reckoning -- slams, but no panty pulling. Terminator 3: Redemption -- vehicle combat. Harry Snotter and the Prizoner of Azahcakdfsgilyutkhckaban or whatever it's called. Lovely screens of Viewtiful Joe 2 -- lovely because anything Viewtiful is lovely. And then the generic EA Sports trash -- NASCAR 2005, NCAA Football 2005, Madden 2005, Tiger Woods. Big freaking whoop.
The video ends, and Reggie's back. This time for something extremely, extremely important.
"What we've talked about today are can't miss products for Nintendo Gamecube and Gameboy Advance. Games you'll be playing very soon. But there's something else in our future." Cue the corny video full of Nintendo DS spin from "people on the street" supposedly -- "I can't wait to see it, all my friends are talking about it, blah blah." But then finally, the bomb is dropped and I get tingly everywhere. "Well the wait is over. This," says Reggie, as he pulls out a silver, sleek device, "is the Nintendo DS." It looks exactly like the concept shot posted everywhere including here.
There is some more spin, as a video clip of several developers is shown, each one of them commenting on the power and industry-changing influence of the DS. Included are William Kassoy -- Activision, Namco's Yoichi Haraguchi, Michael Pole from (I couldn't see the company logo >_<), Yoichi Wada of Square-Enix, Kevin Ray from another company I missed, and Yves Blehaut from Atari.
Reggie's back. "As a whole, the development community already understands what's going on here. I'd like to think of it like buying a car. Your left brain looks at a vehicle in terms of the numbers [...the horsepower, the mileage, et cetera]. your right brain is different. there's only one question out there -- sitting behind the wheel, where will this baby take me? do you want to go a little faster down the same street? or do you want to go down completely different street?" Yeah, as long as the different street is better...
"Let me explain the new journey -- up to now, most of what the world knows about DS are those two screens. It is my privilege to tell you the rest of the story. But let's start with the 2 screens. Each screen can be programmed for 2D or 3D, the choice is up to designer. This provides a wealth of options for devs. The 3D quality is beautiful -- most of you remember how you felt the first time you saw --" and then the video blacked out. I'm assuming he said "Mario 64" because when the feed came back on, there it was -- a DS model of Mario. More precisely, Mario and Wario flying around Peach's castle. While not as good as Mario Sunshine, it was definitely better-looking than Mario 64. With a top-down 2D map of Mario and Wario flying around on the bottom screen.
"Isn't it exciting?" giggled Reggie, which almost scared me. There was massive applause. "2 different perspectives of the same battle... monitoring constantly available maps and menus." And then, this is where I went bananas.
"The ability to do things," began Reggie, "such as THIS." There it was -- a new metroid on DS -- that looked almost as good as Samus does in her Prime adventures. Rolling around in ball form. Blasting the $hit out of baddies. In full, first-person 3D. And... again... a 2D vector map on top. This gave rise to the most massive hooting, hollering and cheering I had heard in that press conference. Said Reggie, paraphrased, you could use the touch screen to directly point where you wanted Samus to fire. "The same way," grinned Reggie, "as you'll be able to play tomorrow." For everyone currently AT E3 right now, let me tell you how much I hate you. ;)
"Let's move on to next pair. 2 media bays. One accomodates DS software, easily holding games up to 1 Gigabit and well beyond. " Before you get excited, one gigaBIT is 128 MEGABYTES -- larger than any Neo Geo carts, for sure, but still less than 25% the capacity of a standard CD. "The other [slot] plays all of your favorite GBA games." Hey -- so what the hell happened to the "third pillar" concept, the "marketing it ALONGSIDE" the Gameboy Advance? Hogwash -- they're basically introducing a "Super Duper Gameboy Advance." Of course this makes me angry, as I've only owned my SP for a little over a year. But I can't... stop... thinking about that Metroid demo. Regardless, there is cheering from the crowd.
Reggie goes on. "Consider the most exciting 2 for the game player -- 2 forms of play control. Touch screen -- responding to stylus or fingertip. It's transformative. Whether inputting data onto a software keyboard or actually changing direction or viewpoint (and I imagine that includes handwriting), it is truly unique. The combo of 2 screens and the touch screen stands to reinvent gameplay. You can only find -- feel -- this on Nintendo. Besides touch, there is talk -- the built in microphone gives way to voice recognition programs. Touch and voice opens vast new realms of game interaction. Finally, my favorite 2: dual wireless capability. [The DS will use a] proprietary application that allows up to 16 people to play and communicate together. The range? Up to 100 feet. Local wireless takes on a whole new meaning. (He gives examples of messaging with stylus to other screens -- text and drawings). It will wake from sleep mode when someone transmits data. But what if your friend is a few time zones away? No problem. The Nintendo DS is Wi-Fi compatible. (HUGE cheers). Wi-Fi means you can connect via the net -- it's beyond on line, it's NO line. This machine truly is transformative. It changes how you connect to your games and to each other." Ok. I think my skepticism took a vacation.
Reggie finishes this segment by revealing a target release of sometime this year, 2004, for both Japan and America. Europe and Australia will get it in the 1st quarter of 2005. With that, he hands it over to Satoru Iwata san -- a man whose policies I've personally had mixed feelings about.
He begins by stating how proud the company is for all the innovations it has created -- the control pad, two player gaming on the NES (what about pong?), four player default gaming on the N64, the N64's analog stick, and portable gaming with the Gameboy line. In a comical moment, he continues, "But i think we are most proud of this (pulls out the DS)." There is delayed cheering because, of course, the people have already *just* seen the damned thing.
Putting it away, Iwata says, "All of those innovations have changed games, and so with Nintendo DS, it is not simply new, it's not just more functional, it is different. Of course, nintendo ds is not the only change in our future. That same word -- different -- also defines our approach for our next home system. It won't simply be new, it won't just include new technology. Better technology is good, but technology is not enough." THERE'S the word I was looking for. He once was misconstrued as saying that technology isn't important -- good thing he caught himself today. "Today's consoles already offer fairly photorealistic expressions. Simply beefing up those graphics will not let most of us see differences. So what must a new machine do for both game creators and game creators, a new machine needs to do much more. An unprecedented game experience, that no other machine has given before. I want you to know that Nintendo is working on our next system, and that system will create a gaming revolution. When the impact of the new home machine comes, our revolution will be there. I suppose i could give a list of new tech specs, you would all like that." Yes, actually, for curiosity's sake I would. "But i won't," aw dammit, "for one simple reason -- they really don't matter." Large applause. This is true, but man I'm curious. "From this time on we must create some more unprecedented experiences, the same way as we have with DS. our revolution is well underway. You will be excited because you will experience the change. This week, I invite you to enjoy the great new experiences we are creating for GCN and GBA, and of course, the wonderful new Nintendo DS." Exit IWata-san.
Reggie is back to seemingly close the conference. "I hope you've all enjoyed our program this morning. But before you leave, i'd like you to step into one more world for the Nintendo Gamecube."
Er? A video starts. I can't really tell what it is, but I see a wonderful landscape, rain, and then sunset over a dry desert.
It's a horseback rider, coming over the hills. Who is it? Looks like he or she has long hair... or could that be a cap? It's Link -- a realistic, grown-up Link. Just like we saw in the tech demo so many years ago, before the Gamecube reared its handle-bearing head. It's that Link -- and he's battling on horseback. Slashing, dodging, and riding -- Link and his horse look impressive in the red sun.
Reads the screen: "Blades will bleed. Shields will shatter. But as the light fades, will the hero rise again? Or will darkness reign?"
A flame monster approaches Link, and as he prepares to strike, the camera swoops around him. He turns into a silhouette, the stage goes dark, and the words "Zelda: coming soon..." meet applause. Then, in the exact same pose as the silhouette Link -- a dark figure swings a sword... unbelievably, it's Shigeru Miyamoto, looking as dorky as ever, wearing a green 1-Up mushroom tee shirt under a white sport coat, swinging a toy sword and holding a shield in his right hand (he's a lefty??), and he's all smiles. He has no reason not to be: he's the genius of videogaming, and everyone knows it.
There is MASSIVE applause.
"Sorry, I'm not Link," well duh, "but I do know him." Double duh. "Even after 18 years, the Legend of Zelda never stops changing. And this game is no different. We are now taking you to a world where Link has grown up. A world where he will act different. And, look different. In order to grow, Link must not stand still. and neither can I. So, thank you." Shiggy swings the sword crazily again and I mentally beg him to stop. I could detect a faint sadness in his voice when he said the words, "Link has grown up." I really think it was his vision to keep Link as expressive as possible with the youthful style, and it seems that the market has gotten to him -- the market composed of people who hated on the Cel-da style, regardless of the fact that the game was a work of art.
Reggie comes back for one more segment -- a concluding segment. "Ladies & gentlemen, I've spent my entire career marketing products to teens and 20-somethings. I've learned a long time ago, there's no BS-ing that audience." Damn right. "They want cutting edge and legendary. They want the best of the past, and demand absolutely what's right now. Nintendo is delivering all of that. As you've seen, Nintendo DS is not standing still. As a tenth serious competitor decides to make a run at the Gameboy, the DS raises the bar on portable gaming before they even get started. The Nintendo DS is a third way to play. It defines its own category. It reinvents portable entertainment and so will Nintendo's revolution. I hope if we've done anything, it's to show you that this is a new day for Nintendo. we remain all about the game, all about the gamer, or in other words, all about you."
Before closing, I'd like to say that, if what he closed with were true, then we'd have an online community right now -- Mario Kart players playing each other across the globe. There are three more days of E3. Maybe it'll happen. But I bet you it won't.
I'll see if I can get feed on the Microsoft conference, as I missed the Sony conference this same morning. I hope you found this transcript useful. Chup-out.
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