Saturday, September 30, 2006

X06 Broadcast Media Session

Here is a clip from the exclusive broadcast media session that took place immediately after the main X06 event. I ask Microsoft executive Peter Moore and director Peter Jackson each a question, about a possible price drop for the Xbox360 and about the upcoming Halo games, respectively. This footage was shot by a Microsoft camera team for German television station RTL II, the station I work for.

Source: RTL II via YouTube

Nintendo to own Japan this Christmas?

Japanese retailers overwhelmingly expect Wii and the DS to be the topsellers in the next few months, according to a survey by Famitsu publisher Enterbrain. The story originates from a German website. Here are what they claim are the results of the survey:
1. Which next-generation console do you think will sell better leading up to Christmas?

88 % - Wii
11 % - PS3

2. Taking all hardware into account, which console do you expect to deliver most?

60,7 % - Nintendo DS
32,8 % - Wii
3,3 % - PS2
1,6 % - PS3
1,6 % - Xbox 360

If true, SCEI boss Ken Kutaragi couldn´t care less. At least, this is what he told British trade magazine MCV.
When asked by MCV whether the rival consoles will outstrip Sony’s next-gen machine, he replied simply: “We do not care.”

But he conceded that Sony is still struggling with the production of PS3’s Blu-Ray drive: “Right now, it is an issue, because we can’t manufacture enough blue laser diodes for our PlayStation 3s. But we will resolve that.”

Firstly, the retailers´ opinion is pretty much based on common sense. Sheer numbers speak for Nintendo: Sony will launch with a measly 100.000 units, whereas Nintendo will surely be able to supply a multitude of that number. Secondly, the price point: you can buy two Wii consoles for the price of a 20GB PS3. And thirdly: Nintendo boasts a solid launch line-up with highly original and stunning titles such as Zelda: Twilight Princess, whereas Sony has not even been able to confirm any launch titles apart from Genji and Resistance: Fall of Man, who simply will not match up to a Zelda, I am afraid to say.

So is this good news for Nintendo, then? Well, only partly. Wii will obviously be flying off the shelves quicker than its rival, see above for reasons. What really matters, though - and what a lot of publishers may be waiting for - is the point where the supply of each console can actually meet the demand. This is when a level playing field will emerge and the market, rather than the production lines, decides what product people buy.

For a more in-depth look, please read the commentary to 1 million Wii consoles for North American launch.

As far as Ken Kutaragi is concerned, I am honestly considering whether he is starting to lose it. He certainly seems to have developed a bad case of hubris. His comments over the past year have often been surprisingly tactless ("PS3 is for consumers to think to themselves, 'I will work more hours to buy one'") or simply crazy ("Beating us for a short moment is like accidentally winning a point from a Shihan [Karate master], and Microsoft is still not a black belt").

He has done the PS3 much harm with his poor leadership of late. Most evidently, the last public outings (at E3 and TGS) were nothing short of disastrous, which may be blamed on him. This is surprising, though, because the same Kutaragi managed the PR spin behind the previous PlayStation launches, which should be used as textbook examples in Economics and Management classes.

But apart from PR spin, there are many other aspects to the PlayStation brand that Sony totally delivered on with the first two consoles, which they are badly failing at now: securing exclusive titles, industrial design, solid pricing strategy. This is what Sony has brought into the industry and this is what I have come to value them for. And it´s all in shambles, as far as the PS3 is concerned.

EDIT Amazon Japan have published a chart that seems to plot Wii pre-orders against those for each of the two PS3 versions. Both of those combined rank higher than the Wii total. Although the rate of increase appears to be the same for every system.

You may remember a similar graph being published in July. This one related only to mail alerts, apparently. So I guess we will have to wait until someone deciphers the Japanese.

Sources: GameFront (German), MCV, Kotaku
Thanks to: DS Fanboy, Joystiq, Joystiq, PSPtwo

Thursday, September 28, 2006

X06 Update #3

My last update from Barcelona, already at the airport. This morning, Peter Jackson didn't talk to anyone directly, I am afraid. But I have seen a number of presentations and can give you some idea of what they are like.

Viva Pinata can be compared to Animal Crossing, but only to some extent. I take it you are familiar with AC, so let's focus on a few differences. You yourself are not a character and take the view of an invisible god, much like in Black & White. You tend to the garden and, depending on your actions and subsequent changes to it, that will attract different creatures. It looks highly original and a lot of creatures are incredibly cute. There is also a television series coming out on 4kids Enterntainment. I really cannot vouch for long-term playability, though. For a start, you shouldn't get too attached to those creatures, because a worm can get eaten by a bird, for example. And to enable a bird to mate you will have to smash a worm and reveal the candy inside (only that will get a bird 'in the mood'). There are a ton of hidden features, though. So I do believe the concept will work.

Peter Molyneux did not present any Fable 2 footage, since he felt it wasn't ready. He did share a great deal of his vision for the game, though. One juicy example: you will be able to have sex in the game, both protected and unprotected. The latter will often result in children being born, who will grow up and can become as good and evil as yourself. Having dropped the 'acorn growing into an oak tree' interaction from the original game, this will be included in the sequel. Further still, there will be a fully interactive environment. Molyneux gave the example of a small gypsy camp in a place called Brightwood Forest. When you first encounter it, you have the option of killing all inhabitants. If you do, the camp will have vanished a year on If you don't, it will grow into a village and eventually a smaller town over time. Fable 2 really looks like a very promising title.

Assassin's Creed, the only non-exclusive title in this list, looked stunning in yesterday's demo. You are free to find one of many ways to approach the target and eventually get close to your victim. Though the actual act of killing seems rather short-lived, the game emphasises both the setup and the get-away. You can climb any building (though this will draw attention to yourself) and there are various methods of transort like horse-riding, which looked beautiful. This is going to be one of the hottest action titles of 2007.

Alan Wake from Remedy of Max Payne fame was everyone's favourite, I guess. Though it seems far from release, the presentation revealed awesome visuals and a compelling, frightening atmosphere. I got goosegumps within seconds of the presentation starting. Alan Wake is going to be the next Half Life 2, if these guys don't mess anything up.

Shadowrun looks okay, but it's nothing special, graphically speaking. It has some interesting gameplay features, but I have my doubts whether this can become the Xbox360's Counterstrike.

Crackdown looks very poor, in my opinion. The graphic style seems to be kind of cel-shaded, but not too obviously. If you took a screenshot from it, it would look like that GT racing game for Wii from Ubi Soft. You just don't know where the developers want to go for style-wise. And so it just ends up looking barely Xbox (or Gamecube) quality.

So a good number of titles do raise the bar significantly, most look good and a few are quite poor and gimmicky. Altogether, X06 was a very successful event for Microsoft, though, even without a major announcement. Sony, competing directly with them, will have a hard time trying to equalise in terms of their games portfolio.

X06 Update #2

Good morning, people. This is the second day of X06 and I am sitting in an early session with Peter Jackson, Peter Molyneux and the head of Irrational Games. They are exploring how storyline will feature in future games, obviously with some reference to Peter Jackson's upcoming Halo projects, Fable 2 and Bioshock. They are also talking episodic content. But it's all very general at the moment. I hope to be able to snag a brief one-to-one with Peter Jackson later. More on this and some of the games shown at X06 soon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

X06 Update #1

Right, hello everyone. This update comes in a little later than the ones from Nintendo's recent Wii event. So I am sure you have heard the news already: no price drop, two exclusive GTA IV episodes within weeks of the launch, next Splinter Cell game to be exclusive to Xbox360 and that funny deal with Peter Jackson that noone quite understood. No mention of Resident Evil 5, by the way.

Altogether, the media crowd (including myself) was wowed with Gears of Wars I played a quick deathmatch at the party - and it is nothing short of awesome. Some very minor graphics bloopers did not spoil the overall impression that it's a stunning game. And gameplay appears just as good. Taking your enemy out at close range with the chainsaw gives you quite an adrenaline rush (though I only managed one ordinary frag myself).

Seeing Blue Dragon and that other Japanese game (sorry, will update this once I get hold of the press material) really made me wonder if the console is ever going to sell properly in Japan. Mass Effect and especially Assassin's Creed looked very polished, though. Microsoft has raised the bar for Sony, no doubt.

In a private session after the main event, broadcast media were able to ask that European Microsoft fellow, Peter Moore, Peter Jackson and Shane Kim questions. I asked Peter Moore if he was confident enough to meet Nintendo and Sony head to head without a price drop, especially since they had to retract from their initial target of selling ten million consoles within the first year. He just laughed, basically, as if the suggestion of a price drop would have been the last thing he'd consider. And if you think about it, why should they?

Wrapping up, the Xbox360 staying with their original price point is mainly good news for Nintendo (since it validates their pricing strategy) and not too bad news for Sony, since the Xbox360 plus optional HD-DVD drive will not be cheaper than a PS3.

As far as games are concerned, Sony will most likely not be able to up some of the titles shown tonight, if they can deliver the same standard at all. I spoke to a good friend of mine who just returned from TGS and he said that PS3 games there had good resolution but lousy framerates (some seemed as low as 20), so Sony has got a lot of work to do, it seems.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Microsoft to cut price by $100, snatch Resident Evil 5 exclusivity?

Microsoft is rumoured to cut the price of its premium Xbox360 down to $299 - including a HD-DVD disc drive, as DigiTimes reports:

Microsoft, to prepare for the price cut, has negotiated reduced production costs for the Xbox 360 with Taiwan-based manufacturing partners, stated the sources. The manufacturers estimate that the total production cost can be reduced by 15-20% due to diminishing costs for most components along with increasing production scales and decreasing defect rates, the sources pointed out.

This rumour comes alongisde speculation that Microsoft has secured an exlusivity deal with Capcom regarding Resident Evil 5, as Games Industry reports:
Industry chatter at the Tokyo event claimed Resident Evil's no-show is owing to Microsoft tying up a shock exclusivity deal for 360, with an announcement due at the US firm's X06 event in Barcelona next week.

Speaking exclusively to at TGS 2006, Xbox boss Sensui refused to pour cold water on the rumour when questioned, stating that it had already been announced for Xbox 360 and adding, somewhat enigmatically: "All I can say is we are very good friends with Mr Inafune [the game's producer]".

If true, this would significantly up Microsoft´s chances in Europe and the US. I am more sceptical about Japan, since the console has been sitting on store shelves even at the ridiculously low price of $250, I believe. In the US and Europe, though, a $299 price tag for the premium version including an HD-DVD drive would spell huge trouble for both Sony and Nintendo. If anything is announced at X06 starting tomorrow, you will read about it here. I am attending the event.

Sources: DigiTimes, Games Industry

PS3 games to cost between $75 and $84 in Japan, more focus on core console?

PlayStation 3 games will be priced between ¥8,800 ($75) and ¥9,800 ($84) in Japan, according to Japanese news site Impress Watch. Apparently, the increase is due to rising development costs, as Gamasutra reports.

The Random Tracking editorial, from respected Japanese journalists Munechika Nishida and as translated by website IGN and others, quotes “multiple information sources” for the figures, which have not yet been announced by Sony Japan.

If true, the price increase would mark a significant increase from the average PlayStation 2 game price in Japan of ¥6,800 ($58), although the lower figure is on par with high profile PlayStation 2 releases, such as from the Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy series.

Japanese game prices can vary considerably across even a single format, depending on the title. Higher profile games, such as the recent Nintendo DS title Final Fantasy III, are often sold at an increased price. Similarly, Xbox 360 titles Dead Rising and Lost Planet will be priced at ¥8,379 ($72) when they are released - ¥1,000 to ¥2,000 ($9 to $17) more than usual. Tecmo’s Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 will be sold at an even more excessive ¥9,240 ($79).

Apparently, Sony also had plans to lower their royalties for smaller developers. These plans have, apparently, been shelved, though.

Interestingly, the article mentions Sony seemingly considering a move away from their two-bundle strategy. This would tie in with their recent announcement to include an HDMI port with the core version, after all.

Sony is attempting to move the focus away from the twin SKU (stock keeping unit) model originally announced for the PlayStation 3. In his feature Nishida suggests that, in Japan at least, Sony will deemphasize the more expensive 60GB hard drive model in a change to its original business model for the format.

Other territories might still see two versions, mirroring Microsoft´s strategy with their Xbox360 (which was only available as part of the premium bundle).

Higher price tags for next-gen games have pretty much been expected. SCEA boss Kaz Hirai told media in June that software prices would be higher, but less than $99.99 (see Games Industry). Given this statement, a price between $75 and $84 is not all that bad, in my opinion. Of course, we will have to wait and see how prices turn out in other territories.

Much more interesting is Sony´s rumoured focus away from the two-tier strategy of a core and premium bundle. Though, again, this may only affect Japan, it would be a wise move on Sony´s part to make sure the core bundle does not become known as a ´retard pack´, as is the case with Xbox360. At $100 less, its core version lacks a harddrive. But a memory card already costs $35, reducing the saving by a third. And you are still without a harddrive (sold separately for $100) and wireless controllers. As a result, I have always mentioned in my reports that the Xbox360 costs $400, i.e. €400.

As far as making sure that the PS3´s core version is more than a dud, only enabling the pricing to be communicated as ´from $499´, the inclusion of a HDMI port was a vital step and may be seen as proof of Sony´s intentions to up the core version.

Source: Gamasutra
Thanks to: SidePocket

Monday, September 25, 2006

1 million Wii consoles for North American launch

Nintendo has allocated one million Wii units for the North American launch, Ron Bertram, Nintendo of Canada's vice-president and general manager, told Mackenzie Investments:

"We're looking at a million for North America at launch. (...) If we get what we're supposed to get, this will be our most plentiful launch in the 15 years I've been at Nintendo. All signs are actually extremely positive."

Wii will outsell PS3 in the launch window

The one million Wii consoles compare with 400.000 PS3 units Sony promised to make available at launch in that region (in the article, Bertram erroneously mentions only 300.000). So if you play the numbers game (and knowing that launch shipments always sell out within days), this pretty much guarantees that Wii will sell more units than PS3 in the launch window.

The same will be true of the other territories. In Japan, Sony will only launch with 100.000 units, while Nintendo is almost certain to have a multitude of that number available. And in Europe, PS3 won´t be available until March next year.

So, as long as the initial demand that exists for any console at launch is sustained, Wii will outsell PS3. It really is as simple as that. Nintendo simply has far bigger shipments for their launch in every one of the three territories.

Level playing field no earlier than March

The question is, of course, what the picture will look like once both consoles become readily available and consumers have got a real choice of picking up either the one or the other. Only then will a level playing field emerge. PS3 may start to outsell Wii and could easily catch up a lead of, say, one or two million consoles (which seems realistic, looking at these figures).

Yet there are further questions here: When will that point be reached? And what may have happened until then? First, Sony most likely won´t reach that point until after March, since most consoles manufactured between Christmas and then will be allocated to support the European launch. And here is the biggest question of them all: will Nintendo´s headstart - until there is a level playing field - be enough to convince publishers that Wii will continue to sell?

Xbox360 may become Wii´s real competitor

In my mind, beating the notoriuosly difficult to manufacture PS3 is no great acclaim in the launch window. This will happen. Publishers know this. The answer to the big question has more to do with the Xbox360 than the PS3. Microsoft have had their console available for a year now, so they have already created a level playing field for themselves. If Wii can catch up with the Xbox360, then publishers will be greatly impressed, I am sure, and may start to switch their allegiances as they stand now.

However, this is, again, a simple numbers game. Microsoft has sold around five million Xbox360 consoles. And it will take Nintendo at least until March at the very earliest to catch up with that number. If Microsoft actually do reduce their prices, this will become so much harder to achieve.

I am sure that we will not start to see a winner emerge until well after March. Until then, the preliminary winner is Microsoft.

EDIT I have rounded up other sites´ commentary on this topic for you.

While a plentiful supply is good news for people that want to wait til the last minute without paying top dollar on eBay, leftover units on November 20th may give the Wii negative light after the scarce 360s of Holiday 2005 and the near certain PS3 sellout (due to very limited supply).
Wiiloaded blog

It would actually be nice to be able to stroll into a store and pick one of these things up without a pre-order, and a million units at launch would be a big step in that direction. No one wants to repeat the Xbox 360 launch shortages that plagued gamers last year.

As many know, it’s one thing to have a million consoles, but another thing to actually sell a million consoles. While the 400,000 PS3s will most likely sell out to the loyal Sony fans on the first day of launch, Nintendo might have difficulties convincing the general gamers to get a Wii at launch.

The confident statement from Bertram echoes UK general manager David Yarnton's belief in a strong launch for the Wii in Europe, who stated last week that he expected to see "more stock than we've ever had."
EuroGamer & Games Industry

Comparatively, Sony holds the record of the largest North American console launch with 500,000 PlayStation 2 units sold on October 26, 2000. The PlayStation 2 also suffered shortages due to hardware difficulties, graphics synthesizer hardware to be precise, in a backorder that lasted until 2001.
The Wiire

One million. This figure might be the magic number, the allocation so that gamers can obtain one within reasonable difficulty, and yet still be in enough short supply to ensure the image of "must-have" hot holiday item. Our fangs hearts tingle in anticipation.
Nintendo Wii Fanboy

Source: Mackenzie Investments
Thanks to: DigitalBattle, Joystiq

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sony drops PS3 price in Japan - and in Japan only

The 20GB version of the PS3 will now launch in Japan for only ¥49,980 ($429 / €334) instead of the previously announced ¥59,800 ($513 / €400). Sony Computer Entertainment made the surprise announcement at the Tokyo Game Show.

They further announced that a HDMI port was going to be included with that version, after all. Here is the official press release:

Recommended Retail Price of 49,980 Yen (Tax Included) in Japan

Tokyo, September 22, 2006 – Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) today announced that PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3) with 20GB hard disk drive (HDD) will come equipped with HDMI(*) (Ver 1.3/supporting Deep Color) output as standard with the system. PS3 with 20GB HDD will become available in Japan at a new recommended retail price of 49,980 yen (tax included).

Since SCEI first announced product specifications of PS3 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in May 2005, demand for enjoying full HD quality image and realistic digital sound through HDMI has grown tremendously. Given the sharp increase in availability of flat displays supporting HDMI in the market, SCEI has decided to equip HDMI as standard on all PS3 systems.

SCEI, with strong support from software developers and publishers, will offer a broad lineup of exciting and innovative titles and vigorously promote the PS3 platform.

To prevent any speculation about price drops in other regions, 1UP has spoken to Sony reps on the ground who specifically ruled this out.

So is Sony getting scared? Or are they merely passing cheaper component prices on to the consumer? We don´t know. However, a price drop prior to the product launch is always an embarrassment. It shows that the company has failed to take all the relevant factors into account when drawing up the original price.

Let´s remember the spectacular price drops of the recent past. Within roughly two months of its launch, the original Xbox dropped from €479 ($613) to €299 ($383). Media interpreted this as an attempt to kick start sales. Subsequent to the announcement, Nintendo followed suit, dropping the European price from €250 to €199 prior to launching the console, before slashing the price in the US a month later.

This hurt both the Xbox and Gamecube significantly, causing potential buyers to turn towards PlayStation2, a console that always seemed to have a solid price and whose price drops over time always seemed to have been planned ahead. Microsoft and Nintendo, instead, appeared to be headless chicken, hastily adjusting their prices just after and just before their product launches, respectively.

Now, it´s Sony´s turn to be the chicken - in more than one way, perhaps. Of course, there is no denying that a lower price makes a product more attractive and may cause a surge in sales. But it damages faith in the company and, ultimately, the product itself. And while the PS3´s new price point may ensure better sales in Japan, it´s not good news for Sony overall. Especially if words on this gets out to North American and European customers, they may be inclined to ask why they are bearing the brunt of Sony´s hasty change in pricing policy.

To my knowledge, Sony has never had to make rushed price adjustments like this one, which undoubtedly helped the PlayStation as a product. My guess is that this announcement will indeed tarnish the PlayStation´s image significantly. In the short run, this will not even boost PS3 sales, because Sony was already sure of selling out the first batch, anyway.

EDIT Analysts are sharing my opinion. Here´s what some told Bloomberg:

"It's ridiculous to decide to cut the price before they start selling the PlayStation 3. They may cut the price again if sales don't go well."
Yoku Ihara, Retela Crea Securities Co., Tokyo.

"(The price reduction) is negative for the short term because the company may not be able to sell enough consoles to cover an instant loss caused by the price cut."
Naoki Fujiwara, Shinkin Asset Management Co., Tokyo.

Sources: Sony Computer Entertainment International, Bloomberg
Thanks to: Joe_News, 1UP, Next-Gen, Joystiq

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New patents

A number of new Nintendo patents have surfaced, the first interesting ones since July (see The ´Shade Tree´ and what lies underneath).

1. The Mii patent

The most intriguing one is entitled Line drawing image generating device, storage medium, and line drawing image generating method. It relates to a console being able to generate a black and white outline of a character within a scene, in order to produce an image that the user can then paint in again, for example:

In the present embodiment, the player selects a moving image when the game is started, and a reproducing process is performed for the selected moving image. The player is allowed to extract a currently displayed image as a still image by operating the controller 22 at any given time during reproduction of the moving images. The still image is extracted, and a line drawing is generated from the extracted still image. Then, the player enjoys freely painting the generated line drawing on the TV monitor 34.

It should be noted that the purpose of these images is not just painting them back in. Although that seems to be the only use mentioned in the text, it also mentions that the patent is not limited to this use.

The patent details the process of producing such an outline at great length. To illustrate this process and how it supersedes current methods, here is an example of an original image:

And this is what a standard process of calculating an outline on the basis of the above image would look like. The character is what the patent describes as "unnecessarily thickened".

The new method described in the patent is illustrated by two examples. Only the latter is the one specifically referred to above as well-suited for painting in. The former seems to have a different use.

It is natural to assume that this technology will somehow be used for the Mii avatars. But what kind of source material can be used remains a mystery. Will we be able to insert our favourite DVD movie (or at least a clip from it via SD card) and turn Samuel L. Jackson into a Mii avatar without having to undergo that lengthy selection process? Is there maybe a camera accessory coming out, after all? Or is this really about upgrading (or playing around with) the retro games provided via the Virtual Console? Well, your guess is as good as mine, so let´s hear them!

2. The pixel format patent

This one is entitled Graphics system with embedded frame buffer having reconfigurable pixel formats and has no graphics to help us understand just what it is about. As ever, the description helps:

The invention provides a combination of pixel formats for an embedded frame buffer that is particularly advantageous when used in systems designed for playing interactive 3D video games. The invention enables the embedded frame buffer to be reconfigured to and efficiently used in a variety of modes, including an anti-aliasing mode, a deflicker mode and a YUV (i.e. luma/chroma) mode, thereby increasing the flexibility of the system to support a variety of applications. The desired pixel format for each mode can be selected using, for example, a command to the graphics hardware on which the embedded frame buffer is provided.

In accordance with the invention, the copy pipeline is advantageously used to further process the data from the embedded frame buffer prior to storing the data in the external frame buffer. For example, the copy pipeline can be used to convert the data between a variety of useful formats to, for example, reduce the amount of memory needed to store the data, and/or provide the data in desired format for use in further processing by the graphics system. The copy pipeline can also be used to further process the frame data in a manner that improves the display quality and/or modifies the display characteristics.

Suerly, this patent deals with the flexibility of the hardware architecture. It notes that one kind of pipeline is not exclusively reserved for a specific purpose but can easily be reconfigured if hardware power is needed elsewhere. After all, Nintendo are masters of efficiency. Just look at the Gamecube producing graphics that are pretty much on par with Xbox at around half the clock speed and memory. But, again, help is needed in deciphering this patent, please.

Sources: US Patent & Trademark Office, US Patent & Trademark Office

You will say ´wow´

Have a look at a recent clip from Super Mario Galaxy, courtesy of GameTrailers (if you have a slow connection, choose a smaller size version or a different clip here). I am sure that you will say ´wow´.

Source: GameTrailers
Thanks to: Product_Number_18

Friday, September 15, 2006

Nintendo of Europe Event Update #3

Laurent Fischer, NOE's head of marketing, announced:

Launch: December 8th 2006
Price: €249 / £179
Wii Sports included

Nintendo of Europe Event Update #2

Satoru Shibata, president of Nintendo of Europe, took the stage and talked about the success of the DS so far. Iwata came on as a surprise guest and talked about Wii Channels in detail. He announced that there will be 15 VC titles available at launch in Europe. Next, Tennis legends Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman took the stage and showed off Wii Sports: Tennis.

Nintendo of Europe Event Update #1

Hi everyone. This is just a preliminary post to try out the Wi-Fi network and give you an impression of the event. It is taking place in London's stylish ExCel location in the Docklands and the event is about to start any minute now. Attendance is about 500 people or slightly less. Stay tuned for up-to-the-minute updates.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All Wii Channels revealed

There are major updates on NOA´s Wii page. On this page Nintendo has revealed even the (previousy) secret channels:

Mii Channel

Fun 3-D caricatured portraits of users, or Miis, created in this channel can be used on characters across a variety of Wii software. In addition to storing Miis on the Wii, several Miis can be stored in a user’s Wii Remote and taken to a friend’s house to play on another Wii console. Each member of the family can have his or her Wii Remote personalized with their own Mii.

Photo Channel

This channel allows users to retrieve digital pictures from an SD memory card inserted into the Wii console and display them on their television screen. Users also can manipulate the photos in a variety of fun and creative ways, such as zooming into details or creating mosaics, puzzles or slide shows. Users can even add an MP3 tune from their SD memory card to their slide shows. It provides a fun and easy outlet for people to edit and show off their digital pictures.

Forecast Channel

Users can access free local weather forecasts after turning on the Wii console. When connected to the Internet, the WiiConnect24 service automatically updates local weather information.

News Channel

Users can access the most up-to-date breaking news from around the world, organized into a variety of topical categories. When connected to the Internet, the WiiConnect24 service automatically updates this free channel.

Wii Shop Channel

This is where users go to download video game content, including classic video games originally played on the NES, SNES, N64, Sega Genesis and NEC TurboGrafx platforms. Here the users may buy Wii Points with a credit card or redeem a Wii Points Card purchased at retail to add points to their account, then redeem points to download these Virtual Console games. Users also can use points to download the Opera browser used in the Internet Channel.

Virtual Console Channel

After users download Virtual Console games from the Wii Shop Channel, each game will appear in the Wii Channel Menu as its own Virtual Console Channel. To play the game, users simply select the game's channel.

Internet Channel

This channel dramatically changes the relationship between a user's home, the television and the Internet. Users download the Opera browser with Wii Points. Then they can surf the Internet right from the comfort of their couch. They can do quick research while watching a television program ("What was that actor's name again?"), or book travel plans and shop during commercials. The service is compatible with Macromedia Flash and also runs AJAX software.

Wii Message Board

Forget hand-scrawled notes tacked to the refrigerator door. Users can leave messages for other family members on a calendar-based message board. They also can use WiiConnect24 to send messages to people outside the home as well. Even better, people can trade photos and text messages with cell phone users. The service also allows for incoming messages targeted at software, such as a new map or weapon for a game. Games can constantly be updated, thereby extending their playability.

Disc Channel

This channel allows users to play either Wii game discs or any of the entire library of Nintendo GameCube discs.

Thanks to: DAFREAKZO

Official NOA press release out


30 New Games, 30 Retro Titles, User-Friendly ‘Channels’ Make it the Affordable System for Gamers, Newcomers and Families

NEW YORK, Sept. 14, 2006 – Nintendo will reshape the home entertainment and video game landscape with the launch of its heralded Wii™ home video game console. The Americas will lead the worldwide launch on Nov. 19. Wii will be sold as an affordable, mass-consumer product at an MSRP of just $249.99. The price includes one wireless Wii Remote controller, one Nunchuk™ controller and the groundbreaking collection of five different Wii Sports games on one disc, which anyone can play using simple movements, experienced or not.

Every Wii console includes another distinctive feature: a series of on-screen “channels” that make up the Wii Channel Menu, which makes the console approachable and customizable for everyone, from the most avid gamer to people who have never played before. The Wii Channel Menu is the starting point for all of the console’s functions. The “channels” offer a gateway to a rich variety of entertainment options. When connected to a TV, the Wii Channel Menu offers a simple interface, letting users pick games to play, get news or weather, view and send photos or even create playable caricatures of themselves to use in actual games. Additional functions allow users to redeem Wii Points and download classic games to Wii’s Virtual Console™. The variety of options available through the Wii Channel Menu motivates both gamers and non-gamers to turn on Wii’s power every day.

Wii is creating worldwide excitement with its unique control system, an inventive, first-of-its-kind controller whose position can be detected in a 3-D space. The new controller allows users to pinpoint targets in games or move through the Wii Channel Menu with precision and ease. This intuitive control system will be understood immediately by everyone, regardless of their previous experience with video games. With this one small controller, Wii makes games both easier and more intense than anything previously experienced. For example, in the Wii Sports tennis game, players swing the Wii Remote like a racket to hit the ball, as in real life. They can add topspin or slice the ball just by angling their hands and wrist like they would in a real match.

“Wii reinvents games for the devoted player,” says Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. “But more importantly, Wii breaks the wall separating players from non-players by delivering the best game experiences for the most affordable price. We believe the next leap is games for the masses – young and old, gamer or non, alone, with a friend or with the whole family.”

Fils-Aime made his remarks in New York, shortly after Nintendo executives in Japan announced Wii will launch there on Dec. 2.

Between launch day and Dec. 31, Wii owners will enjoy a robust lineup of 30 software titles, with selections for everyone from video game veterans to newcomers. Some top Nintendo launch titles include Wii Sports, a compilation of tennis, baseball, golf, bowling and boxing; The Legend of Zelda®: Twilight Princess; and EXCITE TRUCK™. While publishers are free to set their own prices for games, first-party Nintendo titles will have an MSRP of $49.99. Wii’s self-loading media bay also can play the entire library of more than 530 Nintendo GameCube™ titles from day one.

Third-party developers around the world have lined up to provide unprecedented support for Wii.

“The Wii is changing audience interaction, opening up whole new experiences that have never been possible in video games,” says Robert Kotick, Chairman and CEO, Activision, Inc. “With the instinctual control of the Wii Remote, Nintendo is advancing the gaming experience to the broadest audience of gamers. Activision is excited about the launch of the Wii and the opportunity it offers. So much so, we plan to have five titles available at launch – our strongest lineup ever for a new console. We have more development resources devoted to the Wii than to any previous Nintendo platform. The Wii is likely to have a profound impact on the size, growth and overall opportunities for the video game market.”

“I believe the Wii will attract new and casual gamers to the world of interactive entertainment,” says Larry Probst, Chairman and CEO, Electronic Arts. “It’s a fun, easy and economical system that will become a bridge to gaming for mainstream audiences. At EA, we are putting more support behind the Wii than any Nintendo hardware launch since the Super NES.”

“The Wii control scheme opens up unexplored areas for our talented teams to innovate when creating games,” says Laurent DeToc, President of Ubisoft North America. “It’s invigorating for us. We believe that it will help create a new level of interest in video games and engage more players around the world.”

Additional information about the list of Virtual Console games and the pricing structure will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The worldwide innovator in the creation of interactive entertainment, Nintendo Co., Ltd., of Kyoto, Japan, manufactures and markets hardware and software for its Nintendo DS™, Game Boy® Advance and Nintendo GameCube™ systems, and upcoming Wii™ console. Since 1983, Nintendo has sold nearly 2.2 billion video games and more than 375 million hardware units globally, and has created industry icons like Mario™, Donkey Kong®, Metroid®, Zelda™ and Pokémon®. A wholly owned subsidiary, Nintendo of America Inc., based in Redmond, Wash., serves as headquarters for Nintendo’s operations in the Western Hemisphere. For more information about Nintendo, visit the company’s Web site at

Source: Nintendo press server (registration required)

Comprehensive Wii info guide

Allow me to quote DeAngeloGuillory from the Live chat: "Nintendo didn't just deliver, they sponge bathed us and tucked us in bed." He is, of course, quite right. There are tons of new information and I will guide you through that jungle.

Essentially, there are two distinct sources: the Wii site on the NCL homepage and the console´s own site I will now give you an overview of what you can find on each page.



The must-see is the Software lineup overview, which is a lengthy video clip showing a few new titles and much more polished gameplay for almost all titles we already know about.

For those of you who understand Japanese, there is an interview montage with speakers like Square Enix president Yoichi Wada.

There is also a list of upcoming games in Japanese. However, only few titles have a small sub-page. And these only show one screenshot. So this is just for a quick browsing over, if you can read it.

You might also want to browse the Virtual Console overview, where company logos like Konami´s and Square Enix´ and Capcom´s might make your mouth water.


Less interesting to non-Japanese speakers is the presentation´s 14-page slideshow.

EDIT As NSider RiemannMeetleBesgue quite correctly pointed out, there are actually a number of interesting clips embedded in that page. Here is the rundown:

Page 7 has a number of clips showing photo albums and image effects. There are also short clips.

Page 8 has some clips showing the weather channel in action, as well as the Opera browser.

Page 9 has more browsing (cooking recipes and navigation), as well as an outline of what appears to be basic Outlook functions (contacts and calendar).

Page 10 has more of that, especially mail or messaging functions, seemingly combining real and virtual messages (i.e. from your buddies or from game characters like Tom Nook). Also, more of the Mii service´s avatar customization.

Page 11 has more avatar customization and examples of a whole number of games which implement those characters.

Page 12 has the new ingame footage of both Zelda: TP and Pokémon (from the montage trailer) stand-alone.

There are also technical specifications given on a controller overview page, a
Wiimote overview and console overview page, respectively.

More interesting should be the
WiiConnect24 details and an explanation of the Wii channels (see below).


Here, there are four clips showing you the menu, as well as some info channels. The most intriguing one is called ´Mii´ and shows the expected avatar customization feature and seems to hint at this becoming the backbone of the online community Wii will create:

Wii menu

Mii channel

News channel

Weather forecast

There is little more of interest, though someone capable of reading Japanese should have a look at the four links at the bottom of this page. They lead to pages like this one which seem to ask yor some kind of verification I cannot quite make out.

EDIT Here is an update concerning the last point of those unknown links. Thanks to Kyton, we have some translation now. he writes:

The last link you provided ( is for some sort of "DS Mail". The actual japanese in the upper-left corner of the page reads "Wii - DS Meeru" ('meeru' pronounced meh-roo, phonetic of 'mail').

Also, the furthest right selection in this video ( ) when hovered over, displays a tootip-type text that reads "Wii Shiyopingu Chiyaneru" or, "Wii Shopping Channel". Maybe that's where you purchase Virtual Console games?

User Boreas added:

it seems to be a e-mail notification about newer stuff on Wii and DS. the tittle translates Mail Distribustion Registration

NSider forum member LordDonk writes:

(The links at the bottom head to buttons for a mailing list. I am trying to subscribe but I think they only let Japanese e-mails?? It won't let me. Anyway,heres what the buttons do (yes, for some reason they go to the same things)

BUTTON 1 (Left)
Brings you to a mailing list sign-up thing.
Box 1- E-mail address
Box 2- Birthdate (YY/MM/DD)
Box 3- Which system do you want updates on Wii or DS?

Brings you to an unsubscribe page.

Button 3 and the rest seem to bring you to the same as button one, only you only enter your e-mail?? I'm trying to get it.

EDIT The American section of has gone live. The selection window has been installed on the global splash.

Japan: December 2nd for $215, US: November 19th for $250 rumoured

The cat is out of the bag and a little kitten came along unexpectedly: Japan will get Wii on December 2nd for ¥25,000 (around $215), as Joystiq reports, quoting Famitsu.

They list the contents of the bundle as 1 Wii console, 1 Wiimote (w/ strap), 1 Nunchuck attachment, Wii AC adaptor, Wii A/V cable, Wii console stand, sensor bar, sensor bar stand and two AA batteries.

Joystiq further reports that a New York Times article by Seth Schiesel was posted on the net prematurely, detailing a November 19 launch and a price tag of $250. Apparently, Wii Sports will be bundled with every console and there will be up to 30 games released until the end of the year.

I am relieved we finally have almost all of the info we sought after for so long. The newspaper leak is almost certainly real. And we can even deduce a late November / early December launch for Europe with a price tag of more than €200 and up to €250 from the above figures.

I am just slightly anxious about Nintendo rather confidently aiming above that psychologically important 200 mark. I was hoping for €199 for Europe and that looks unlikely as it is now. $199 for the US may have been illusory from the start, given the weak dollar.

At the same time, why should Nintendo not be confident about Wii? They have successfully established a major change in the market and a unique brand name already, given the massive third party support pledged to the console. And they have become a real people's favourite at each trade show. Why shouldn't we assume that consumers will accept a price tag starting with a two just as easily?

There simply is no reason to sell this console under value with the competition way above, somewhere in the clouds. I guess noone can complain about $250 or its Euro equivalent (whatever it will end up as exactly), but I guess I am still lacking a few details about WiiConnect24 or other features to fully justify that price tag myself. So I am going to sit tight for some more info as it breaks.

EDIT Hello again. Here is the blog that doesn´t sleep (not more than four hours, anyway). And I have literally woken up to more news than anyone can handle.

There is actually a ton of info available, I found. There´s no decent summary of it yet, because it´s far too much. I am currently working on a summary and will be updating you as soon as I can. In the meantime, please steer your browser to and start exploring. You may also have a look at this lengthy preview page on

Sources: Joystiq, Joystiq

Monday, September 11, 2006

Last rumour: Vibe magazine prices Wii at $150

Avid readers of this blog will remember that I broke the story about Wii being significantly underpowered and possibly being priced as low as $99 because of it (see Revolution to be least powerful, October 2005).

Now, there is a fresh rumour that Wii might cost $149. The good people at Kotaku have gotten hold of a scan of VStyle, a new supplement to Vibe magazine, the first issue of which has the following article:

Nintendo's Wii (pronounced Wee) has a crazy name and an even crazier premise--motion-sensitive wireless controllers that require you to flail about to control gameplay. But once you start whacking a virtual tennis ball using an actual swinging motion with your arm, you're hooked. Small, sexy-looking, and affordable, Nintendo's newest gaming system, which promises such motion-activated titles as Excite Truck and Wario Ware to Metroid and Madden 2007, is a winner. $150;

I didn´t post this straight away because I was in contact with Vibe magazine about this story. I called them a number of times, but they were unable to trace the author of this short piece. However, another author assured me that they go to great lengths to check their information and I should simply take their word for it.

As I mentioned above, I have been convinced of a surprisingly low price point all along (ever since I heard those rumours from developers, anyway). So I do believe that Vibe magazine did get it right, possibly publishing some off-the-record info they were given.

Either way, I am confident that this is the last rumour about Wii´s price tag we will ever have to deal with. Less than fifteen hours from the time of posting and we will learn both the Japanese launch date and price. Still, interesting stuff.

Source: Kotaku

Saturday, September 09, 2006

´GT Pro series´ revealed

IGN has had a first look at Ubisoft´s ´GT Pro series´. While the first screenshot doesn´t look very exciting (the game is cel-shaded, which doesn´t seem to come across very well in that image), the steering wheel peripheral does.

Here´s what the game´s associate producer Tats Myoio told IGN about the looks of the game and its steering wheel attachment:

With so many racing games in the market, we wanted a title that would stand out from the crowd and give a different experience. There have been some cel-shaded racing games in the past, but not as well-done or full-featured as GT PS. (...)

To enhance the user's driving experience, GT Pro Series will include a steering wheel attachment made by Thrustmaster specifically designed for this game. The Wii Remote will fit into wheel horizontally with all buttons accessible, so tilting the wheel will tilt the remote. The player will be able to steer the wheel just like an actual car!

Source: IGN
Thanks to: Maxconsole

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wii to launch late November in the UK for $280?

Apparently, the Wii will launch in the UK shortly before November 24th for a price of £149 (which equals €220 or $280). British trade magazine MCV claims to have the inside scoop.
MCV believes that Nintendo has chosen to launch its next generation console at £149, a figure that falls slap bang in the middle of the varying estimates that have been discussed for months. This makes Wii £50 cheaper than the Core Xbox 360 Pack and an estimated £275 cheaper than PS3. (...)

Senior industry sources have confirmed to MCV that Wii stock availability will not be an issue in the UK, with plentiful supplies anticipated for both the November launch and the Christmas run-in. This should eradicate any pre-order woes and will be enough to satisfy demand across retail.

This rumour may be the most likely one, coming from one of the most reputable industry magazines. They correctly predicted a global launch for Wii back in October last year, though then they believed in a September 2006 launch. They also broke the story about E3 being cancelled two days before anyone else picked up on it.

However, they predicted key details about Wii at GDC, which didn´t quite turn out. At least, Iwata´s GDC keynote was confirmed only four days after MCV´s predictions. So they did get his speech right, after all.

Again, it´s important to remember that a UK price tag of £149 would not directly translate into Euro and US Dollar prices (€220 and $280, respectively), since consoles are usually more expensive in the UK. On the basis of the rumoured UK price, I would still expect a €199 price tag for Europe and perhaps $249 in the US.

Either way, this will, hopefully, be the last launch date and price rumour we have to put up with. We will find out everything we want to know next Thursday and Friday.

EDIT Wow, quick rebuttal of those figures by UK Nintendo boss David Yarnton, courtesy of Games Industry:
The claims, which appeared in an article by trade publication MCV, are "only speculation, and definitely not fact," according to Yarnton.

"They're not far off, but they're definitely not right," he told
Sources: MCV, Games Industry
Thanks to: SomeGermanGuy, Raphael