Thursday, October 23, 2008

Miyamoto talks Wii HD, ´Project H.A.M.M.E.R.´, 3D visors

Has ´Project H.A.M.M.E.R.´ really been cancelled? Will Nintendo be the first company to bring 3D gaming to market? Is there any truth to the rumours about an HD-capable Wii? We at 3sat neues put those questions to game designer Shigeru Miyamoto himself.

My dear colleague Valentina just returned from London and an exclusive interview with Nintendo's chief designer, mainly about ´Wii Music´. Since we had a generous interview slot of 45 minutes, I was able to sneak in a few extra questions which some of you good people may be interested in.

First of all, Valentina asked him about whether Nintendo will bring some kind of 3D gaming device to market anytime soon.

Before the Wii launched, there were plenty of rumours about the console making use of augmented reality, perhaps by means of a visor. Nintendo pioneered this way back with the Virtual Boy. Will Nintendo be the first company to successfully implement 3D gaming? How long before this technology will take hold?

Nintendo is always trying to construct the framework in which we can provide... we can be as creative as possible in order to create as new entertainment as possible. And that's what Nintendo has been striving at and that's what Nintendo will be challenging itself once again in order to make unique entertainment opportunity.

But if I can just add my personal opinion: if the new environment requires the player to wear some goggle-style, I really don't have a good impression of that.

As you may remember, there were plenty of clues hinting at the use of augmented reality or similar technologies in future Nintendo consoles. It would appear that Nintendo is bullish about continuing to be the innovator in this industry.

We also asked Miyamoto about the status of ´Project H.A.M.M.E.R.´, which is rumoured to have been cancelled.

Whatever happened to ´Project H.A.M.M.E.R.´? Has it really been cancelled?

[says he is not part of the development team and really cannot comment] (...) What I can confirm here is that only when Nintendo can become almost certain of the timing of the launch we are able to make the relevant launch announcement of the software.

Here is the background to this story. Nintendo announced in May 2007 that the game would launch in Japan in 2007. But in July, Nintendo's E3 press kit no longer mentioned it.

Nintendo of America even confirmed that development had been delayed indefinitely. But bear in mind that the same can be said about ´Disaster: Day of Crisis´, which was also meant to be published in 2007 in Japan, according to the May 2007 list and also seemed to disappear subsequently. So it now seems that there is hope for ´Project H.A.M.M.E.R.´ yet.

We asked Miyamoto further about the rumoured Wii HD ("We are working in terms of the changes of technology all the time."). Also, we asked whether Nintendo was still committed to core games ("We are working on them.").

You can download the entire interview in English on November 9th via our podcast page.

Alternatively, you can watch the show in German at the following times:

Sunday, 9th of November, 4:30pm CET (3sat)
Tuesday, 11th of November, 1:50 am CET (ZDF)
Thursday, 13th of November, 1:30 pm CET (ZDF-Infokanal)

In the meantime, I hope to be able to update this post with other interesting quotes from the 45-minute interview.

EDIT You can find the podcast right here. I will try to update the transcript in this entry soon.

Source: 3sat neues podcasts
Thanks to: Valentina's blog (German)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hudson to announce new horror title for Wii

Videogame publisher Hudson Entertainment appears to be about to announce a new horror title for Wii. The name will be ´The Calling´ or something similar, an open directory on a server suggests, which belongs to a U.S. PR company working for the publisher.

Said directory contains three trailers showing in-game footage but no slates or superimposed text. The title can only be guessed by the directory they are in. The platform is evident only by the on-screen control scheme (showing the Wii's ´A´ and ´B´ buttons). Thanks to HereticPB from Nintendo Centrum for exclusively digging this up and alerting me to it.

The game's style appears to be more in the vein of a ´Fatal Frame´ rather than an action-oriented survival horror like ´Resident Evil´. Either way, this would bring the count of horror games on Wii up to 14. Of course, whether it's a Wii exclusive remains to be seen.

EDIT The directory has been removed from the server. I will probably have another update on this soon.

EDIT I had to reupload the three videos. Also, the entire directory has been purged. Other directories relating to Hudson still bear content but there is a chance that the publisher has cancelled its involvement with the PR company. I have contacted them and will have more on this soon.

EDIT Allegations have arisen that the videos may be fake. GoNintendo claims so in an update to their post:

The video and links to the video posted earlier have been removed due some potentially stolen and/or misleading information, which is not the kind of thing we condone, and not the kind of coverage we want to bring our audience.

The supposed link to a Hudson FTP or asset hub was faked, meaning the information was not hosted by them, their PR firm, etc. but instead by some devious third-party, making any videos and the rumour itself very suspect indeed. While the rumour parts remain, the video and related materials will not be available on our site, and we apologise for inadvertently participating in someone else’s mischievous online activities.

Now, I am unconvinced. The PR company is indeed working for Hudson and their other directories are just as accessible. Perhaps GoNintendo wanted to find an excuse for taking the content down or were even asked to discredit the content. Perhaps, though, their claims are true. Again, I will update this very soon and should be able to clear it all up.

EDIT GoNintendo has since retracted their above speculation. And Nintendo-Centrum has posted a clarification. I myself have been asked to remove the content but have requested more background information before any such action. Please stay tuned.

EDIT In yet another update to this story, YouTube has deleted the clips and, surprisingly, it seems that no videos remain available on the net. I still have access to copies stored locally but will not upload them again. If Hudson does not want them shown, I respect their decision. There is no reason to delete any other content in this article, since everyone else and their dog is writing about it.

Source: Nintendo Centrum, Clever Communications
Thanks to: Jason Alexander

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Multiplatform horror title brings Unreal 3 engine to Wii

The still untitled multiplatform horror game by renowned developers Suda51 (´Killer7´, ´No More Heroes´) and Shinji Mikami (´Resident Evil´) is the one bringing Unreal 3 technology to Wii, Epic Games announced today. The game will be developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and will be published by Electronic Arts.

The new game is directed by innovative game designer Suda51 and produced by legendary Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami.

“Unreal Engine 3 is a powerful, easy-to-implement game engine that is helping the creative team at Grasshopper quickly bring our vision to life,” said Goichi Suda, CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture. “The innovative tools and technology in Unreal Engine 3 help developers create games faster, easier and with less risk.”

“It’s an honor to work with Mikami-san and Suda-san on their next project,” said Jay Wilbur, vice president, Epic Games. “Grasshopper Manufacture is one of the most daring and innovative studios in the world, and we can’t wait to see what they’re able to do with Unreal Engine 3.

In November 2007, Epic president Mark Rein spoke about a licensee of Unreal 3 technology who was porting it to Wii. It would appear that he was speaking about this joint project.

Little else is known about the game. Gamasutra interviewed Suda51 and Mikami in August but no details were revealed.

Source: Epic Games
Thanks to: Gamasutra, Joystiq

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Wii tops European charts, but will third parties care?

Sales of Nintendo's Wii consoles and games are soaring to new heights in Europe, after the console established a clear lead in Japan and North America. In the United Kingdom, Nintendo has managed to sell 2,5 million Wii consoles over the last twelve months, GfK Chart Track reports (via Games Industry). The total UK sales look like this (up until September 2008):

Wii: 3,6 million units
Xbox360: 2,3 million units
PlayStation3: 1,4 million units

The Brits only just voted the Wii "Best Gaming Technology". If this sales trend continues, the Wii will become the UK's market leader by a long shot.

High Street retailer The Game Group (...) estimates that by Christmas the installed base for the Wii will reach 4.9 million units, the Xbox 360 2.8 million and the PS3 1.9 million units.

DS units are expected to climb a further 1.2 million to 8.3 million and the PSP to 3.1 million.

That would mean that by Christmas, there would be more Wii consoles in the UK than the other consoles combined.

Wii also dominates the European software charts. Here is the UK data for the week ending September 27:

United Kingdom

1. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Wii, PS2, PSP, PS3, Xbox360, DS)
2. Wii Fit (Wii)
3. Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
4. Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway (PS3, Xbox360)
5. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 (Wii, Xbox360, PS3, PSP, PS2)
6. Pure (Xbox360, PS3, PC)
7. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (Wii, PS2, PS3, Xbox360, PC)
8. Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (PS3, Xbox360, PS2, PC)
9. Lego Indiana Jones: Original Adventures (Wii, PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox360, PC, DS)
10. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (PC)

Nintendo dominates the the German and Spanish software charts more clearly:


1. Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
2. Wii Fit (Wii)
3. Drakensang: The Dark Eye (PC)
4. Brain Training (DS)
5. Mario Kart (DS)
6. Mario & Sonic at the Olympics (DS)
7. Guitar Hero: On Tour (DS)
8. Super Smash Bros Brawl (Wii)
9. More Brain Training (DS)
10. Summer Athletics (DS)


1. Wii Fit (Wii)
2. Beijing 2008: The Olympic Games (PS3)
3. Wii Play (Wii)
4. Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
5. Buzz! Master Quiz (PSP)
6. Super Smash Bros Brawl (Wii)
7. Guitar Hero: On Tour (DS)
8. Cooking Guide: Can't Decide What to Eat? (DS)
9. Wall-E (DS)
10. Brain Training (DS)

On a sidenote, the Xbox360 has outsold the PS3 in Japan this week for four weeks running.

Third parties ignorant of Wii's success

Despite this overwhelming success, the perception of the console on the part of studios and publishers does not yet match up. Industry veterans like Doug Lombardi, spokesman for Valve (´Half Life´, ´Team Fortress´), still favour the Xbox360 among the three next-gen consoles. Lombardi spoke to CVG:

We got a 360 team together because it's really close to the PC and is shooter-friendly - the audience has been into shooters for years.

So it was natural for us to decide that the first console we develop for internally would be the 360. But now that we've got a strong 360 team we're starting to look at ways to expand out business.

It's much easier to take our games to the PS3, because of the horsepower of that hardware, than it is to the Wii because Wii is very different with its input devices and lower tech.

If we were going for the Wii we'd have to go for a whole new game that's designed for that platform. That's an expensive proposition and riskier than just getting some good PS3 developers on board.

It's something that we're still evaluating, but certainly the install base is the thing that rules all. If there's an opportunity there you've got to take it seriously.

The above comments do not even make real sense. Lombardi acknowledges that Wii is the clear market leader but prefers the Xbox360 and PS3 for their shooter friendly user base and their relative ease of porting over PC code. Wii games would have to be built from the ground up and this would be too large a financial risk, he notes, which is not true in the light of the phenomenal hardware sales. In the end, Lombardi even makes this very point, saying that "install base (...) rules all". Well, if it does, where's my ´Half Life 2´ on Wii? Where's my ´Portal´ on the console? I have been thinking about crowbar shells for the Wiimote ever since the controller was announced.

Lomardi's confused comments resonate with what Epic's Mark Rein said last October: "the big software dollars right now are being earned on Xbox360", adding that Wii would only be attractive insofar as a company could sell their engine directly to Nintendo.

First party success keeps third parties away

Of course, the main reason why publishers are hesitant is that Nintendo is not just the market leader in terms of hardware, it is also the world's top software publisher (considering annual turnover, number of releases, average review score, an anonymous reputation survey, and detailed feedback from business partners). Having to compete with Mario, Link and Pokèmon is a huge deterrent for third parties.

Mature titles to turn the tide

But what will it take to change the industry minds? My straight answer is that the Wii has huge economic potential for third parties when it comes to mature games. I have argued before that the public and industry perception of the Wii platform is bound to change soon with a wealth of horror and other mature titles coming out. And Nintendo is not capitalizing on this software segment at all, currently leaving it largely up to Capcom and SEGA to fill the void.

A grand economic success of titles like ´The Conduit´, ´House of the Dead: Overkill´ or ´MadWorld´ will surely become examples the entire industry will follow. On the other hand, if these titles sell poorly, the Wii will get less and less mature titles and will become a casual console. The former scenario is the most likely, though, I believe.

EDIT Nintendo has addressed this very problem at a special showcase event where the company showed off its upcoming software lineup, both first and third party. Among the titles presented to the press were High Voltage Software's ´The Conduit´, ´Call of Duty: World at War´, ´Dead Rising: Chop til you Drop´ and ´MadWorld´, as Agence France Press (AFP) reports (via Yahoo news).

High Voltage was part of a cadre of studios that joined Nintendo in San Francisco on Friday to demonstrate that the Wii's motion-sensing controllers can simulate guns and swords as well as golf clubs and orchestra batons. (...)

"No matter what you hear, we also believe in games that please the core," Nintendo marketing chief Cammie Dunaway said during a two-day event focused on Wii games heading for store shelves in coming months. (...)

Wii has been referred to as the "other system" gamers buy as a lightweight option to heavyweight Sony Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles.

"It's up to us as publishers to show what is wrong with those stigmas," Jason Allen of CapCom said, noting each of the competing videogame consoles gets unfairly pigeon-holed. (...)

"Nintendo loves hardcore gamers; we really do," Nintendo spokesman Charlie Scibetta told AFP.

"'Chop til you Drop' and 'MadWorld' might not be games for kids, but there are a lot of people out there that want a mature game experience. You can get that on the Wii."

Source: GfK Chart Track (via Games Industry), GameDaily, videogaming247, Games Industry, CVG, Gamasutra, AFP (via Yahoo news)
Thanks to: GameDaily

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Nintendo revises DS, may revise Wii

Nintendo has revised their current portable console, the Nintendo DS, for the second time. The newest model will be called Nintendo DSi and come with an on-board camera, as well as an integrated music player, company president Satoru Iwata revealed today.

More great pictures are here. While lifetime sales of the DS consoles are phenomenal, Iwata acknowledged that the current figures showed a decline, Associated Press reports (via Yahoo News). The DSi is meant to boost sales figures again.

The Nintendo DSi will go on sale in Japan on Nov. 1 for 18,900 yen ($180), and will be available overseas next year. Dates and other details for overseas plans will be announced later by the company's regional units later, President Satoru Iwata said.

Iwata said the revamped DS is meant to be the first toy camera for children and a tool for network-building and party fun for older people in the company's ongoing quest to make gaming popular with everyone — not just a niche crowd. (...)

The improved DSi is thinner than the current DS model, and will have a bigger screen, he said.

The machine also comes with an audio player, to play sound stored in a memory card. Users will be able to change the speed of the sound. In a demonstration, Iwata showed that players will be able to listen to a foreign language lesson at a slower speed, or distort music or voices to a shrill pitch for fun.

EDIT While Japan will already see the launch of the DSi on November 1st, Europe and North America will have to wait. The latter territory will have to wait until "well into calendar year 2009", according to Nintendo of America president Fils-Aime. Europe, though, looks set to receive it sooner than that. Nintendo of Europe's official news cites spring 2009 as the launch date.

Apparently, Nintendo has also started to contact its partners about a new Wii, What They Play reports. In case you are unfamiliar with that source, the San Francisco based site aims to be "the parents guide to video games". They cite "multiple sources in the game development and publishing community" and reveal some detail about the next Wii console.

Apparently set to hit the market “by 2011” the new device is said to be the true “next generation” Nintendo console, and far more than a simple refresh of the current hardware. Unlike previous console transitions from Nintendo, the new system will be presented as a true successor to the Wii, and is being dubbed by those that have seen the presentation as “Wii HD.” There is no indication if this will be its eventual name, but the nature of the transition has been characterized as similar to “the shift from Game Boy to Game Boy Advance,” where familiar, key elements were left intact while the core hardware was made more powerful. It is expected by all those that we have spoken to on the subject that the new device will retain the Wii name in part.

While our sources are reluctant to be too specific about “Wii HD,” they have been able to divulge some (albeit predictable) generalizations. High definition visuals are assured, as is a greater emphasis on digitally distributed and backwardly compatible content, indicating that the new system will feature some form of local storage medium such as a hard drive or large flash memory solution. It has also been indicated that Nintendo’s emphasis is again on what the consumer will hold in their hands and interact with, rather than the “console” itself.

The article continues with some insightful facts from Nintendo's financial reports. Apparently, the company is "currently spending more than ten times as much on research and development as it was five years ago, and since the Wii was launched in 2006, R&D spending has more than tripled." Obviously, this significant increase suggests some large scale project in the works. Not all of this oversized research and development budget can be attributed to the Nintendo DSi.

Source: Nintendo, Associated Press (via Yahoo News), What They Play
Thanks to: Slashdot Games, creamsugar