New revelations and pulled punches left fans wondering how to react.
Nintendo’s E3 Press Conference is always where the kid at heart gets to come out and play for a while, where that sense of wonder can be quickly rekindled, or extinguished for another year. Which kind of year would 2005 be?
There was a bit of delay before the conference started. In recent Nintendo fashion, a seizure warning was given over the sound system, due to the flashing strobes that would go off later in the presentation. There was also a lot of strife from the fire marshals, who weren’t exactly pleased at the crowds of excess people standing around the room.
Satoru Iwata opened the show talking about how he has made games, and played games, but now he’s going to ask some questions, starting with “Who’s your daddy?” as he bragged about how badly he can beat Reggie in Super Smash Bros. It’s interesting to see a clearly playful side of Iwata, which would sneak out several times over the course of the press conference.
Reggie Fils-Aime came out and proceeded to take some names, mostly that of arch-rival Sony. He talked about the numbers everyone has been hearing, 360, 128-bit, but that he had only one number for us to remember. Two … as in billion, which is the number of games Nintendo has sold since they entered the business in 1985.
He talked about how Nintendo as sold 28 million Game Boy Advance units in the US, roughly the same as the number of PS2 units sold. The Nintendo DS has sold over five million units worldwide, double that of the PSP. He was quick to point out that PSP has yet to launch in Europe, but he said that was because Sony couldn’t deliver, and that isn’t his problem. The tie ratio (software units sold per hardware unit sold) for the DS is 4:1, again doubling that of the PSP. The final slide was not at all a surprise, as Nintendo touted that with the GBA and the DS, Nintendo controls 94% of the handheld market. So much for there being “three pillars.”
Reggie talked about how Nintendo was turning the DS into a tool to allow people to create, and showcased the quirky “Electroplankton”. He introduced David Hollands, a New York DJ who came out and played an original composition with two DS units, both running Electroplankton (with an assist from a heavy bass track).
The conference continued, with talk about Nintendo’s WiFi plans and their partnership with IGN/GameSpy, confirming that online would be free with participating hotspots (and at home with your own wireless router), that Nintendo would not charge to play first party titles online (leaving the door open for third parties). He set high goals for the service, saying that they can “see no reason why the participation rate can’t reach as high as ninety percent” of DS owners. He also confirmed online versions of Mario Kart and Animal Crossing, as well as a Tony Hawk game.
The topic of conversation then turned to the game taking Japan by storm: Nintendogs. It’s sold over 400,000 units in the first month alone, and DS sales have tripled that of the PSP since Nintendogs was released. Tina Wood, from G4 came out to showcase her Pug named “Mia”, and she showed the tricks she’s taught Mia how to do. She then brought out a mini Mario Kart RC car which Mia seemed reluctant to play with. Finally, she demonstrated “bark mode” which is where the DS is put to sleep, but still listening for other Nintendogs to play with. When your DS barks, a puppy has come to visit, sometimes bearing gifts! A few seconds later, her DS barked, and Bill Trinen’s dog “Mario” came to play, wearing a little red Mario hat, but it turned out that it was Shigeru Miyamoto himself with a blue DS unit in tow. While Miyamoto and Tina talked, the press conference turned abruptly R-rated as Mario proceeded to “mount” Mia, much to Tina’s dismay. Shortly, the puppies proceeded to fall asleep, with Mario resting his head on Mia’s back … a cuddly little puppy pile. Miyamoto then escorted Tina backstage to “show her a few more tricks”.
That was not all of the fun in store, as Fils-Aime proceeded to whip out what can only be described as the smallest Game Boy Advance ever … the Game Boy Micro. 4 inches wide, and sporting a 2-inch diagonal screen. It’ll have custom faceplates (take that, Microsoft), but little else was discussed, save for a Fall release.
Finally, it was time to get some of the details on Revolution, which Iwata produced, easily holding the device in his hand. He set the console down in a gray stand which displayed the Revolution at an angle (the stand will be packed-in), and said that the prototype unit displayed (and in pictures) was larger than the final unit will be. Up in the air as well are final colors, with Nintendo showing five different colors, asking the press and their readers for feedback on what they’d like to see in the market.
Revolution will be backwards compatible with GameCube titles, using the same self-loading disc slot, and in a surprise announcement, Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo, and NES titles through a download service, making Revolution capable of playing Nintendo’s entire back-catalog of games. DVD movie playback will be possible through a special, internal accessory, and contain 512MB of flash memory, as well as an SD slot to expand that memory. In one picture, GameCube controller ports and a Memory Card slot could be seen, likely hidden under a plastic cover on the top (side) of the unit. All controllers will be wireless, and WiFi is built into the box. Then Iwata said that he’s pressing the team responsible for Smash Bros. to have a wireless Internet version ready for launch, so that he can always beat Reggie, wherever he is. He stressed that Nintendo is working on something brand new for Revolution, but wasn’t forgetting their proven franchises, and that Mario and Zelda would both see Revolution action, and rolled a quick sneak-peek (seconds worth) of Metroid Prime 3. Square Enix is working on a WiFi Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles game for Revolution as well. Nintendo is also aiming more directly at developers with the Revolution, saying that the hardware will be easier and less expensive to develop for, encouraging big ideas over big budgets.
George Harrison then came on stage to discuss the GameCube line-up for the year, which consists of sixty new titles, including a new Pokemon RPG, DDR Mario Mix, and two new Mario sports titles. After a montage of game clips, Nintendo pulled the veil even further back on the new Zelda title, now called Twilight Princess. The stunning video, which you can now access through our torrent showed rumored features such as Link transforming into a wolf. There are also a number of bizarre creatures that seem to drop through portals in the sky and a character who rides Link while he’s in his Wolf form, and has some strange and unique attacks of her own. The music for the video is breathtaking, and if it’s indicative of what will be in the final game, it will truly set a new standard for the series. The conference ended with Zelda’s director, Eiji Aonuma, taking the stage, offering a gift for the audience, and pulling out a Nintendo DS card with Zelda clearly printed on it to reveal --- that it was a video of the trailer that we could watch on our DS systems. It’s a nice touch, but also clearly a tease, hinting toward the next handheld Zelda title.
In all, despite Nintendo making strides to change their image, both in terms of design and presentation, their repeated reluctance to blow the lid off the new home console largely defused the crowd’s excitement.
Rick Powers co-wrote this article.