What went on behind the closed doors at the Nintendo press briefing? Find out right now!
This year, Nintendo’s press briefing was held in Hollywood, in the ballroom situated above the Kodak Theater (home to this year’s Oscars). Hundreds of people lined up as the doors swung open and the large room quickly filled. The conference started up rather quickly as everyone took their seats.
George Harrison took to the stage and discussed Nintendo’s position in the industry, stating that the company has taken away some overall market share from Sony and Microsoft, with the help of the launches of the GBA SP and the Wind Waker. Game Boy Advance and GameCube combined, Nintendo has almost 60% of all current hardware sales, and gaining more month by month. The exclamation point to these figures is that Nintendo’s GameCube is beating out the Xbox by 1.3 million units sold worldwide, making it “the clear number two” in the industry.
The Nintendo VP then began talking about its philosophy, and how Nintendo’s franchise characters would lead the company into the future. George Harrison’s one-liner basically sums up what Nintendo’s stance is on what direction the industry appears to be heading in. “Mario will never start shooting hookers,” he said, to the cheer of the crowd.
Nintendo then showed off its first game footage burst, containing never-before-seen footage of a new Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire, Pokémon Colosseum, Super Mario Bros. 3 GBA, Donkey Kong Country GBA, Pikmin 2, Mario Kart: Double Dash, and Billy Hatcher, F-Zero GX, and Starfox. We’ll have more information on each of these games (and the rest below) in our on-going show coverage.
Afterwards, NCL’s big cheese, Satoru Iwata was introduced, and began talking about what’s been happing with Nintendo lately in the homeland. More developers have been added to Nintendo’s Kyoto studios, and for the first time ever, a new studio will open outside of Kyoto, in Tokyo. Games like Mario and Metroid did not meet expectations, and the GC-GBA connectivity features weren’t as good as they could have been in the past year. “We understand the challenges,” said Iwata, as he specifically pointed out the problems that the company has been facing. He even went as far to say “we will not give our competitors a head-start into the market,” leading us to believe that a 2005 release date for the next Nintendo system is now set in stone.
The next video clips that were shown showed off some more new games. N-Space’s Geist was shown off with a lot of multiplayer footage, as well as a lot of great Rebel Strike footage. Shinji Mikami made an appearance in video form, debunking rumors that he had “recently been fired” from his position at Production Studio 4. With his warning, “Don’t pee your pants,” (in Engrish) he debuted Resident Evil 4 in motion, which looked stunning. Clips from P.N. 03 and Viewtiful Joe followed.
After the video finished up, Shigeru Miyamoto was called to the stage to more cheers. Shiggy’s big task this was to show off this year’s GC and GBA connectivity. More than twenty new games will use the feature, including many third party games. A big surprise was the appearance of Sims creator, Will Wright, who came up to the stage and talked about a new version of the hit PC game designed specifically for the GameCube, as well as a brand-new GBA game that will unlock many features between the two versions.
The next big surprise from Nintendo came in the form of Zelda: Four Swords for GameCube. Each player can hook up a GBA to the GameCube (no GBA game needed), and play a new version of Four Swords, powered by GameCube. The main game takes place on the GameCube screen, and as a player enters a room or cave, their focus switches to the GBA, where each player can see what they are doing individually. In addition, the GC hardware allows for much more action to happen on screen, where as many as twenty or more enemies were on screen at the same time.
Rounding out Nintendo’s big connectivity push was a nice treat. Tooru Iwatami, the creator of the original Pac-Man came out to greet Miyamoto. Shigeru jokingly said that he was working on a new Pac-Man game “without Namco’s approval,” then promptly showed a new GameCube version of Pac-Man. The connectivity feature between these two is something that is really nice: Three players using GameCube controllers control the ghosts, while the player using the GBA controls Pac-Man. The catch here is that the ghosts can only see a limited area of the maze, while the handheld player can see the entire playfield, much like other GBA versions of Pac-Man. The ghost that catches Pac for that round wins, and gets to be Pac-Man for the next round. It looks very fast-paced, and very fun.
Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes was the subject of the press conference’s next segment, and a trailer video was shown. The game will have the same Snake that you’ve seen on the PS2, that’s for sure, but other than some guards dying in interesting ways (not by the hands of Snake), the whole thing was rather cryptic and shrouded in mystery. After the video finished up, Denis Dyack came out and talked about what it was like collaborating with Nintendo and Konami while working on the game.
Before the end of the briefing, one final game compilation was shown, with only one game of notable interest, Metroid Prime 2. The only thing that could be seen in the 15 or so seconds of footage was Samus being attacked by a sort of a cloaked red trooper of some kind, which drew oohs and aahs from the crowd.
All that was left was the Q&A session, which was dumbed down to six pre-gathered questions. The big question was about Nintendo’s response to Sony’s PlayStation Portable, just announced an hour before. Iwata and Harrison both agreed that with its Q4 2004 release date, unknown price point, and specifications, it doesn’t expect much of a threat from it. Other nuggets revealed that 40 % of GC owners are over 18, online gaming in general has yet to see a killer-app, and Nintendo sees no reason why it would need to price drop.
That was all for Nintendo’s press conference for 2003. Remember, we’ll have in-depth coverage for all the games covered during the press conference, as well as all of Nintendo’s new games throughout the rest of the week.