Here we are then at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood for the Nintendo conference. We were accosted by Jack Sparrow on our way down the road and the guy who makes Castlevania, Igarashi, is sat directly in front of us. Curtain's set to go up in 20 minutes or so and we're being treated to lifestyle music and aspirational floating photos in the meantime.
Nintendo has just finished giving its E3 2008 press conference, where it showed Animal Crossing Wii, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown on DS, Wii Sports sequel Wii Sports Resort, Wii Music and its fancy pants MotionPlus Wiimote accessory.
Our live coverage of the keynote follows, with the oldest entry first.
Speculation is not rife as to what Nintendo will unveil because it's too early in the morning. Presumably we'll get some sort of game where you knit cats out of clouds or a game where you train your kidneys by swallowing nunchuks and filling out tax returns dressed as a Care Bear.
[It looks like Tom has been hit by Mario-lightning for that last quip. We should be back with him soon - Ed.]
We're still sitting here looking at swirly blue lifestyle pictures of people having lots of fun. There is techno music!
Or is it dance? We're out of touch.
There are pictures of people in Wii hats laughing and girls in hoods doing the same. Yawn.
Here comes the demo reel! Lots of people laughing and smiling and playing together on Wii and DS.
There are old people, young people, children, families. The expanded audience, probably.
Cammie Dunaway takes the stage first off standing in front of her Mii. "My name is not Reggie," she jokes. She says that getting up every day to work with videogames keeps her smiling. She tells a story about how she smashed up her wrist snowboarding.
Her rambling intro turns out to be for Shaun White Snowboarding. Shaun White himself (presumably) is revealed in a pod next to the stage playing the game on a Wii balance board. "Woo," says everyone.
White's got his own Mii as well. Cammie says that Ubisoft developed the game from the ground up to use the balance board. White says it improves the gameplay. Cammie's going to try this out too now. "Let's get my board going here." "Let's do the half-pipe," says White. On-screen Cammie's character does a few flips off the half-pipe and then tumbles.
She just did a move called Swiss Cheese. She's waving her arms and wiggling on the balance board like a pro. The crowd gives her an appreciative round of applause and Cammie boots White off-stage.
We'll be able to have all that fun and more "when this game arrives exclusively for Wii by year end". Satoru Iwata now takes the stage and says good morning. "A true paradigm shift has taken place in the mobile game market," he begins.
He's going back to 2003 and his first E3 address. "I knew almost everyone attending held a pessimistic view of Nintendo's future. That view was not enjoyable, but I knew people were just using what seems to be a common sense view of the videogame market. I must admit that even Nintendo employees could not have imagined 5 years later that the market could respond so quickly that we could be selling millions of...bathroom scales." Laughter.
"Common sense doesn't make as much sense any more," he points out. He's going to spend a few minutes discussing "what has really changed in this new paradigm". "First, we are now selling games that can sell steady for a long period of time."
Two years' or three years' worth of sales was a pipe-dream until Brain Age, Nintendogs, Mario Kart DS and New Super Mario Bros. proved it could happen, Iwata says. "These products seem to be evergreens. This I think is a really big change."
"Second..." nobody is just after better graphics and more content these days. He admits a lot of us do want that and Nintendo still intends to do stuff like that. The Mario and Zelda teams are "both hard at work" on "new titles", he says, although doesn't clarify if he means new Mario and Zelda games specifically. But anyway, Wii Sports and Wii Fit have lots of users for a number of reasons, he says, getting back to the point.
"Third, suddenly the userbase has expanded." He flashes up a picture of some grans and then a woman with a pink DS having her hair cut. Parents, execs, etc. Lifestyle people. "It has [also] changed the seasonal nature of videogame hardware sales," says Iwata, but "today game hardware systems are more likely purchased by people for themselves at any time of the year". More than 200,000 DS units sold in Europe a week "as if every week were a holiday".
Over 700,000 Wii systems sold over the last three months in the US, he points out, and anyway, he wants to destroy the psychological barrier between gamers and non-gamers. Mario Kart Wii and Wii Fit "created more of these conversations", he says, although he says Guitar Hero III was a big driver too. "The Wii version is outselling all others."
He says progress is being made in the psycho barrier annihilation goal. He says "even if it is revolutionary..." people get bored of things. Even if people nick our ideas, he subtly jokes. "Personally I believe we must find more ways for players to feel engaged. Different ways for them to be enriched even with interactions we'd not call games. And most of all, the overall experience of our product must be increased enthusiasm."
"So let me conclude by saying that we at Nintendo always challenge ourselves to be pioneers in forming new paradigms. We seek fresh surprises and I hope you will enjoy the ones we have for you today." Go on then.
Here we go with a "key core game", I think he said. Katsuya Eguchi is on-screen in front of what looks like Animal Crossing. Yep.
He wanted to create a game "where players could feel like they are playing together even if they are playing at different times". Screen says Animal Crossing: City Folk will be out on Wii in 2008.
Visually it looks very similar to old Animal Crossing. They're showing the town - no required goals, so you can do what you want. Showing how you can wear/edit designs, etc. The animals in the world will, as ever, get up and do their business whether you're playing or not. Bunny Day, Halloween, New Years. It's all in there.
"The City is a brand new place to explore in the Wii version of Animal Crossing," he says as we see it. An auction room is on there, plus Happy Room Academy.
Visit famous fashion designer at her store, go to Harriet's Beauty Salon and change hairstyle or put on a mask and look like your Mii. "Of course the key to Animal Crossing is communication and there are some exciting advances." You can write letters and attach pictures, and send to Wii Message Board, mobile phones and PCs as well as other towns.
New bit is Wii Speak microphone - "a community microphone that lets every person in the room talk with another roomful of people anywhere in the world".
They're showing a fishing competition played by a bunch of people speaking to each other via Wii Speak. They sound lifestyle. Now a bunch of friends are wandering around the town, or sitting in someone's house and observing the unique way the town has been set up. "It tells you what kind of person they are and I think that's really fun."
Graphically it looks a lot like the Cube one but with slightly more visual detail. It's still stylised properly. We're seeing on-screen keyboard, lots of different seasonal graphics, and the demo's over. And now Reggie Fils-Aime is taking the stage in front of his hard-looking Mii. "Good morning."
He reminds us that last year he was "not closed to being satisfied". This year "we're pleased" with Animal Crossing being out with Wii Speak by the end of the year. And in a larger sense he's also pleased with the marketplace performance. Lifetime sales for Wii in US hit 10 million according to NPD data recently, and DS 20 million, and the sales of these two "alone now combine to represent more than 5 billion dollars [of revenue] at retail in the US". And he's still not satisfied.
Because everyone wants more games. He wants to satisfy core gamers and casual types too. Excellent, a graph. Lifetime sales of hardware for each major platform. "The biggest bar belongs to Nintendo DS." Expecting "total DS worldwide sales will grow to almost 100 million systems" by the end of Nintendo's current fiscal year - i.e. end of March 09.
Reggie says that 2007 was expected to be the peak year by some, and yet DS sales in the US in 2008 are "12 per cent ahead of last year's record". "Hardware sales are always driven by key software franchises, and this spring that key franchise was Pokemon." The Mystery Dungeon series did more than 600k in six weeks across the two games - Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness.
Lifetime Pokemon game sales now at 180 million. Yes, million. Software sales 29 per cent ahead of last year in the US. Mental. June NPD data will show that the DS has overtaken Wii sales in the US in the back and forth battle between the two, he says. He refers to celeb-backed female-targeting ads they ran in the US recently, which seems to have driven sales of the big evergreen titles like Brain Age. "For Wii the sales trajectory is climbing even steeper."
They're demonstrating that the sales between year one and month 19 suggest an acceleration in hardware sales. He hopes NPD will show Wii becoming the best-selling system in this generation in the US as it already has done worldwide. Wouldn't be too surprising given MS has 10.3m in US and Nintendo has 10.2 million.
Wii software sales graph looks good too. The 12-19 month gap shows a lot of growth relative to the first year. He says they used Metroid and Mario to "satisfy and reassure" veteran gamers early in the Wii's life cycle.
Meanwhile "even confirmed non-gamers" had to "stand up and take notice" thanks to Wii Fit and Wii Sports. And now he's saying third parties are finding success. Dozens and dozens of new titles in the coming months. "We've chosen to limit our preview to just three new games" rather than show them all, he says. Wii Clone Wars on-screen. Now Raving Rabbids. And now Call of Duty World at War, with co-op etc.
Cammie's back and says Wii creativity is "mushrooming". Steady. Portable games time. What's driving the growth is new players. Who are they, she asks rhetorically. And it turns out they were female - either because of gifts or they bought one, logically. "Last year it almost reached exact parity with males. The DS appeal is universal."
Guitar Hero: On Tour sold 300k in its first week in the US, she points out, which we knew. Still awkward as hell. She's going to show us that and Spore Creatures on DS.
On Tour is on-screen. They're going to release "Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades" I think the guy on-screen said - this autumn. Song-sharing included.
Spore Creatures now. Lucy Bradshaw on-screen. "With the Nintendo version of the game it is a unique and different design." They wanted to take the core elements - player creativity and sharing - to DS. "So you kind of get your own little posse going with your friends' creatures."
And that's that. Cammie's back. "Now in addition to these great exclusives I can add one more piece of launch news - the next invasion of Pokemon." Pokemon Ranger Shadows of Alma on November 10th in the US.
"And make no mistake - the appeal of DS extends to the core as well," she adds. They're announcing a custom Grand Theft Auto game called Chinatown Wars is out on DS this winter.
"Set in a modern day Liberty City, the game features a custom game engine, new characters and the same free-ranging gameplay that GTA fans have come to expect."
The DS has been used to "redefine the meaning of videogame", she says, and that "also extends to the DS itself", she notes. Hrm. "What if DS and air travel came together in a different way?" "Why can't my DS provide information on where I can claim my luggage?" she says, and lists a bunch of new rhetorical questions.
In Seattle at baseball games they can already use the DS to check scores at other games, watch highlights and do other things. They can also order food using it. Loonies. "Speaking of food, could it be that the DS could even earn a spot in your kitchen?" I assume the answer is yes or this is going to backfire. Looks like the cooking game that came out in the UK the other day.
Nice lifestyle photo of a blonde woman now. And Cammie's off, replaced by Reggie. "Let me build on that idea...literally," he says, referring the redefinition of the videogame. Bleh. He's now showing the Wii remote's new precision clip-on. The Wii MotionPlus thing. It "renders every slight shift of your wrist or arm into the gameplay".
Wii Sports Resort - "literally a day at the beach".
This will use the Wii MotionPlus and they're going to show three of the games. They're going to package a jacket and Wii MotionPlus with every copy of Wii Sports Resort. Cammie's back and she's got "probably the cutest game you'll ever see". Disc Dog. Er. Another guy is going to explain Wii MotionPlus first.
Cammie's rotating her wrist and the precise action is being reflected on-screen in real-time at the exact angles too. It's bloody impressive. "That's what Wii MotionPlus does." She's going to toss a disc so that her dog can grab it. You're supposed to aim for a target on the ground.
This time she manages it and gets a sympathy ripple from the crowd. Reggie wants "something that's a little bit more my speed". Aha, jetskis. Reggie's holding the Wiimote and nunchuk as handlebars and throttling the jetski through gates on a lovely Wave Race-style water surface. He looks like he's missed one gate though. What a dork.
"Oh you guys!" says Cammie. Kill me. "Guys are all the same," she says as the men dispute manliness. Sigh. Anyway, a bit of "old-fashioned sword duelling". I am forever doing that at the beach. Man, it looks like one-to-one sword control and he's slicing up a piece of wood, blocking and slashing.
Now there's a two-player sword-fight. Cammie versus Reggie. We're going for Reggie. Sadly you can't carve up the other person's Mii though, as you've got sticks rather than swords now. Reggie knocks Cammie into the water. Round 2. "Bring it on baby," says Cammie. Reggie blocks her attacks as she goes mad on stage and takes him out, Anakin over-the-head style.
"We may have just seen the birth of the Caminator," jokes Reggie. "What we've shown you today is just a small taste of Wii Sports Resort," he says. Other stuff will be in there too.
"Wii MotionPlus represents a much broader opportunity." Other devs are now contemplating how to use it elsewhere, he says. "One-to-one motion control" will "certainly take you deeper than ever before".
Wii Sports Resort will "launch globally next spring". They're going to show "one more experience available this holiday" that will use the original Wii remote.
Smoke machine kicks in. Aha, a drumming game. A big drum-set with four drums, a kick-pedal and three cymbals. The guy demoing is drumming using the Wiimote and nunchuk and is doing a pretty demented drum solo. It's a bit of a racket, in all honesty.
Oh, and he's using the balance board for the kick pedals. He goes absolutely nuts for the climax. And Shigeru Miyamoto takes the stage playing the Wiimote like a saxophone, blowing into the microphone by the look of it.
In the background the drummer gently plays, there's a pianist, a cellist and some sort of xylophone. It's a bit jazzy.
Miyamoto's jamming and his Mii is, er, spasming around a bit, but it all looks very Disney's Jools Holland. Miyamoto finishes and steps forward. "This year I'd like to introduce you to Wii Music."
Miyamoto's trusty translator helps him out. They started designing Wii Music right back at the beginning alongside Wii Sports and the like, and wanted to cross the age/gender divide in the family living room.
Wii Music is a different play experience to other music games, says Miyamoto. He says most games want symbol-matching and precise timing on-screen, but Wii Music allows "everyone including people who can't read music and can't play real instruments" to enjoy the feeling of playing music.
You don't have to follow rhythm guides or notes to play along. All you have to do is move your hands and body like you would while playing the real thing and the game picks up on that and plays a note that fits the song. Miyamoto says he can play the guitar but not the sax, so when he did that just then he was just holding and pretending and pressing the buttons "with a timing of my preference".
This way he doesn't have to worry about messing up. It was a song from an F-Zero game, he says. "In Wii Music, you'll be able to play over 50 different instruments." He's playing the piano on-screen now, hammering away happily. The violin involves holding the nunchuk as though you're supporting the neck of the instrument and using the Wiimote like a bow.
Guitar is played much as you'd expect by holding nunchuk up and then strumming with the Wiimote. There's a lot of percussion instruments too, and Miyamoto's banging away on a big bassy drum now.
The drummer was a pro drummer called, er, Robbie Drums apparently. Brilliant. Miyamoto points out that the guy was playing a separate mode using the balance board for the pedals. That mode also includes lessons so you can "learn to play the drums in just a few weeks". "In fact Robbie only started practicing yesterday and already he's gotten quite good."
He reminds us that he conducted an orchestra two years ago and jokes that people on the Internet said he was "pretty bad". He says the orchestra game and other modes like note-matching games and a choir (I think?) will be in there too. Wii Music will also record videos of your performances - well, your Miis', presumably - and create unique music videos by recording your own parts.
Anyway, they're going to play a song for us. The game supports four players simultaneously. Robbie's doing drums, Denise Kaiegler is helping out and some other guys and of course Miyamoto. So he said four were supported but, er, they're playing with six. Must have missed something there. They're doing the Super Mario Bros. music.
Very cool. The Miis are all jumping about and the guys on-stage are hamming it up magnificently. Actually there are five of them at it, not six. Accuracy FTW. This is the cheesiest thing so far. One of the on-screen Miis has a bird on his head and they're all wearing cute outfits.
They're finished and Reggie and Cammie are back. Reggie is saying gamers will be more enriched, more enthused and blah blah. Cammie's summing up: Shaun White Snowboarding with balance board, Animal Crossing with Wii Speak, Wii Sports Resort using Wii MotionPlus, and of course Wii Music. "Games can and will engage us in new and more compelling games."
Don't forget Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades either. Lots to look forward to there. "Nintendo simply brings more smiles to more faces," says Cammie. Reggie takes over. "From the minute DS launched...we've all heard the same word - 'fad'. It was never a fad, even if it was a real hope for some people." "It's inevitable when the paradigm shifts, imitation is just around the corner.
Now he's pointing out that they have to keep coming up with new ideas to keep disrupting their thinking, including, er, their own thinking. Miyamoto and Iwata have "built a company in perpetual pursuit of that one thing - the next advantage". "Thanks for your attention." That's it, we're out. See you in just under 90 minutes for Sony!