E3: Iwata shows off Wii

But when and how much?

"If all you want is next-generation, you're in the wrong place."

So spoke Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime in his opening presentation at today's pre-E3 press conference. "It's not just next, it's what's absolutely new," he continued. "Playing is no longer just about looks, it's about the feel."

And, as far as Nintendo's concerned, it's about the feel of the Wii's unique new remote controller. As shown in a series of video clips and on-stage demos, the controller can be used as a drum stick, a fishing rod, a golf club and a conductor's baton. Or, to give just a few more examples, to play tennis, fire guns, or control Mario.

Yes, Nintendo's mascot will most definitely be making an appearance on Wii, along with fellow classic character Zelda. According to Fils-Aime, two versions of the long awaited Twilight Princess will be released - one for GameCube and one for Wii.

It was at this point that yet another unique feature of the Wii controller was revealed - it has a speaker. This means that when the player is using it to fire an arrow in Twilight Princess, for example, he or she will hear the bow string go taut, and the sound will travel from the controller to the screen before impact occurs.

Other big name games glimpsed during the conference included Final Fantasy Chrystal Chronicles, next-gen Sonic the Hedgehog and Rayman, plus Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam. A pair of Ubisoft representatives were on hand to show off Red Steel, a first person shooter that makes use of the Wii's 'nunchuk' controller as well as the remote.

In total, Fils-Aime said, there will be 27 Nintendo Wii games playable on the show floor when E3 begins tomorrow. But he declined to reveal how many games will be available at console launch - or details of when precisely it will go on sale and how much it will cost. He did confirm that the Wii will launch during the fourth quarter of this year, but as far as further details go, he simply stated: "We believe it's in our interest to keep the details private."

Fils-Aime went on to defend the name Nintendo has chosen for its next-gen console, beginning: "First, we want to thank everyone who wrote good things about it the day you heard it. Both of you."

"At first every distinctive name sounds strange," Fils-Aime continued, illustrating his point with examples such as Lexus, Ikea and Google. Wii, he said, means "just what it sounds like... It's the sound of the future."

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was also on hand to discuss the Wii, although instead of responding to criticisms of the name he took the opportunity to reaffirm the company's commitment to inclusive gaming.

"When I became president, we decided on a new goal for our company: expanding the total number of people who play games... The solution is to reinvent the relationship between player and game, the game controller interface," Iwata said, in a speech which heavily echoed the one he made at the Tokyo Games Show last September. But despite the emphasis on bringing new players to gaming, Iwata was also careful to observe that "core gamers always represent our most important audience."

And if core gamers are frustrated by problems such as long load times, Iwata went on to argue, "How can we expect mass market to put up with it?" So, the Wii's Opera browser and Virtual Console games saved to ROM will take just a few seconds to load.

Iwata then showed off another hardware feature, which means the console is constantly connected even when it's switched off. So, for example, a player might wake up to find a new in-game Animal Crossing item has been delivered during the night. The Wii, Iwata, said, is "the system that never sleeps... What we are aiming for is a system that is new every day."

Following a lengthy presentation on the past and future of the Nintendo DS - of which more news to follow - Fils-Aime returned to conclude the event, and express his thoughts on how Nintendo's latest offerings will fare at this year's show.

"The bottom line of every E3 is simple - what's hot and what's not. It's hot if it's disruptive, it's not if it's predictable," he said.

"Wii and the DS represent the same thing: risk. Risk allows progress. We don't run from risk, we run to it. Change is good."

To finish, Fils-Aime encouraged all attendees to play the games on the show floor, stating: "Seeing is just an impression. Playing is believing."

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