This Nintendo press release just came in, summarizing Iwata´s keynote speech at GDC.
NINTENDO PRESIDENT CHALLENGES DEVELOPERS TO CREATE BOLD NEW GAMES
Nintendo Also Announces Plans to Offer Classic Sega and TurboGrafx Games
SAN JOSE, Calif., March 23, 2006 – Nintendo President Satoru Iwata today challenged a crowd of game developers to think differently and take a fresh approach to the creation of video games. During his keynote address at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Iwata said Nintendo will provide developers with the tools they need to disrupt the traditional methods of game creation, much as the company already has.
These tools include the controller for Nintendo’s next home console (code-named Revolution), which lets users control the action on their television screens through the motion of the controller itself. The controller lets game developers create new kinds of gaming experiences, ones that enhance the experience for hard-core gamers while making video games more accessible and less intimidating to novices. The new forms of innovative software that can be created by any size developer will be made available for download via Revolution’s Virtual Console service.
“This new approach is like stepping onto an unexplored continent for the first time, with all the potential for discovery that suggests,” Iwata said. “No one else can match the environment we’re creating for expanding the game experience to everyone. Our path is not linear, but dynamic.”
Iwata also announced partnerships with Sega and Hudson to offer downloadable access to their classic games via Revolution’s Virtual Console. Revolution owners will be able to relive their past gaming glories from the Sega Genesis console by playing a “best of” selection from more than 1,000 Genesis titles, as well as games sold for the TurboGrafx console (a system jointly developed by NEC and Hudson). These games join Revolution’s access to 20 years of fan-favorite Nintendo games from the NES®, Super NES® and Nintendo® 64 eras.
Iwata also revealed for the first time that a new game called The Legend of Zelda®: Phantom Hourglass would be released for Nintendo DS later this year.
Iwata, a game developer himself, revealed behind-the-scenes stories about the development of three key initiatives.
For the industry leading Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, internal engineers and developers overcame a series of hurdles to make the system seamless and flexible enough to allow players to choose to play wirelessly either with friends or against unknown opponents. The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection reached 1 million unique users in just 18 weeks – nearly five times the adoption rate of the leading online game console network.
He described a pivotal meeting in coming to agreement on development of the incredibly popular “brain games” in Japan. A leading Japanese scientist attached a sci-fi-looking wired helmet to a Nintendo staffer and then visually demonstrated stimulation of brain activity as the staffer played prototype software.
Finally, he described the hundreds of sketches, dozens of prototypes and company-wide collaboration that led to the final form of the unique Revolution controller system, which resembles a traditional TV remote control. He called the related research and manufacturing costs of the new control system, “… our method to disrupt the market … realizing a new way to connect a player to his game.”
Quite a bit more background details, which you may be hungry for (since there was so little news in general).
EDIT On their press server, NOA has published Iwata´s speech in full. For your benefit, I have pasted the relevant paragraphs below (leaving out the introduction, a lengthy talk about the ´Brain Training´ series and the announcement regarding ´Zelda: Phantom Hourglass´ for the DS). Find the entire speech here.
In 2004, we began considering Wi-Fi gaming. From the start, we had several challenges. First, we knew that both Animal Crossing and Mario Kart would be arriving on the DS the next year, and we wanted them to feature Wi-Fi play. That made the development timetable very short. Secondly, I insisted that our Wi-Fi interface be seamless. I wanted connecting to someone around the world to be as easy as connecting to someone playing next to you in the same room. As you know, this creates its own problems, because normally making things easier for players, makes things harder for developers. But the most difficult aspect was deciding who players would be able to connect with. Online gaming normally belongs to the most aggressive players, and they can be a very vocal group.
For the casual player, this kind of interaction can be very intimidating. I believed if we catered to only this very vocal group of hard-core players, we could never truly expand the audience. Originally, we thought Wi-Fi should be set up as a kind of social network, almost a game-play version of MySpace. In Japan, we initially referred to the Wi-Fi system as „project house party.“ We had in mind the comfort of inviting friends over to play in your own home. Well, at Nintendo of America this name was not very popular. They told us that this sounded like what you call a „tupperware party.“ No matter what we called it, I believed the experience must be easy and fun. What did I mean by „easy?“ It´s simple to connect a game on DS locally when you´re sitting in a room with your friends. It should be just as easy to find those friends and play with them even if they´re thousands of miles away.
But what is „fun?“ That depends on the player. You may want to play Mario Kart only with people you know. Or you may find it more fun to try to defeat total strangers. Sometimes, the choice will be determined by the nature of the game. No one playing Animal Crossing wants someone to come in cut down all their trees and trash their town. What was important to me was that players have the choice, and the freedom to choose which way to play. For developers, „easy“ and „fun“ doesn´t mean the work will be „easy“ or „fun.“ There were many barriers to overcome. And my colleague, Mr. Takao Ohara, will share those stories with you later here at the GDC. In the end, it is the freedom of choice, I believe, that has made the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection so successful.
To date, we have surpassed 1 million unique players, totaling more than 29 million play sessions - and, this in only 18 weeks of availability. We reached 1 million players almost five times as fast as the Xbox Live service, which also offered free connections when it began. It took them 20 months to reach 1 million different users. Of course, this has made our Wi-Fi development team very happy as you can see. What you can´t see is that sign they´re holding up, a message to all of you. So let me show you what it said: We love the GDC. They all wanted to come, but I told them, „Sorry, no.“ But I did promise I would bring their picture. As you know, this week we added a new wrinkle to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Voice over internet protocol arrived with Metroid Prime Hunters. It introduces a new level of fun. (...) [Demonstration follows]
The third story I have to share is the answer to a question people ask me all the time: how did we get the idea for the Revolution free-hand controller? Well, we started out with a very simple question: why is it that anyone feels comfortable picking up a remote control for a TV, but many people are afraid to even touch the controller for a video game system? This was our starting point. Our first controller meetings began early in 2004, and from that initial thought we added two other requirements. First, the controller must be wireless. We need to give players freedom to move.
And second, the look of the controller had to be simple and non-threatening. But of course, at the same time, it had to be sophisticated enough to serve the needs of complex games. And yes, we also wanted it to be „revolutionary.“ Finding an answer to all of this was not easy. For more than six months, two people at NCL did nothing but produce sketch after sketch with new ideas. Each sketch caused more discussion, and the discussions led us to create dozens of prototype designs. In all, about 15 people were involved trying to figure out an answer. At the same time, I was considering technologies which would incorporate a direct pointing device, something that would show direct visual contact between the controller and the screen. In fact, many good ideas were floating around, but nothing yet felt revolutionary.
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? Mr. Miyamoto quickly imagined a small, simple, wireless device. That intrigued us, but we realized an immediate problem. Considering our plans, how would we allow backward compatibility to all the previous Nintendo games that required two-hand control? Again, Mr. Miyamoto had an answer: make the small wireless controller detachable from a larger, traditional controller - both using the same wireless interface.
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. They added another idea: Why not keep the simple one-hand controller, but also add a secondary device for the other hand if the game required it? - Something like a nun-chuk device. We think this is something that will entirely change firstperson shooter games. By separately using the joystick device to control position and the direct pointing device to target enemies the experience truly feels more intuitive.
Now, we really went to work. There were dozens of models and prototypes fabricated until we came up with the final result. And what did it look like? Well, it looked exactly like the same TV remote control that we first imagined more than a year earlier. Sometimes ideas are like good wine in that they just need time. After all the designs and mockups, we were happy with the final result. It met our goals. It was wireless. It was inviting to new players. It offered something brand new for core players. And, it was also a new interface we could offer to every player. But, it also represented something else.
As you can imagine, this was a very expensive process. Not only in terms of the research and development costs, but also the manufacturing expense of producing such an elaborate control system, and including it as part of every hardware purchase. Some people put their money on the screen, but we decided to spend ours on the game experience. It is an investment in actual market disruption. Not simply to improve the market - but disrupt it. We believe a truly new kind of game entertainment will not be realized unless there is a new way to connect a player to his game.
„New“ is good, but there also is an appetite for „old.“ For young players, classic games are brand new. For others, they are a way to feel young again. 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. Between them, these systems built a library of more than a thousand different games. Of course, not all of them will be available, but the best of them will. Thank you for listening to my stories this morning.
However, the most important story of all is still to be told. I hope all of you, the creative force of our industry, will help us write it. It is the story of how disruption will help every one of us overcome the growing barriers to game development. We know what the main barrier is cost. There is one dominant business model for our industry. Publishers work backwards from a console game at retail that sells for $50 or now, even $60. To compete at that level, games must be longer, larger and more complex, which requires bigger development teams. Success is more likely if a strong license is acquired, but even then, huge amounts of money are needed to market that game to a mass audience.
It´s understandable that many publishers, in order to reduce risk, feel most comfortable relying on sequels to already successful, high budget games. As a result, our business is beginning to resemble a bookstore where you can only buy expensive, full sets of encyclopedias. No romance novels. No paperbacks. No magazines. 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.
Nintendo understands the dominant business model. We work with it every day. And future Zeldas and Marios and Metroids are going to be bigger masterpieces than ever before. But, this does not have to be the only business model. We want to help you create a new one. One where your simple Tetris will be made. With Nintendo Revolution, we offer a combination of opportunities that simply can´t be matched. Our controller allows for every existing form of game to take on a new character. It allows for game creation that is not dependent on just the size of the development budget. I consider our virtual console concept the video game version of Apple´s iTunes music store.
Since I first announced the virtual console concept last year at E3, other people have become very interested in digital downloads. Others will offer such a service, 12 but it will not be the same. Because for us, this is not just a new business opportunity, for us, this is true innovation - true disruption. It is part of our DNA. The digital download process will bring new games to the widest possible audience of new players. Young people, older people, even those who never played video games before. When I think of what faces all of us right now, I imagine what it must have been like for the explorers who first set foot on a new continent. For them, it was impossible to imagine all the adventure that lay ahead.
Our adventure is still ahead of us. Nintendo is committed to creating an environment where all of your work can prosper. I began today saying that disruption is not just a strategy for Nintendo. Yes, we have already disrupted handheld - and it worked. Yes, we have already disrupted Wi-Fi - and it worked. We disrupted the very definition of a game - and that is working, too. In a few weeks, you will better understand how to disrupt console gaming. You will play, and you will see.
At Nintendo, we do not run from risk. We run to it. We are taking the risk to move beyond current boundaries. It should be our goal, each of us, to reach the new players as well as the current players. Our goal is to show them surprise. Our reward is to convince them that above all video games are meant to be just one thing - fun ... Fun for everyone. Thank you again so much for inviting me.
There you go. Lots of interesting quotes to mull over.
Source: Nintendo of Europe press server
Image source: Nintendo of America press server