Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Smash Bros. Revolution Director Revealed
Masahiro Sakurai to serve as director and game designer on Revolution title.

Ign.com

November 16, 2005 - Masahiro Sakurai may have left Nintendo for the independent game designer track, but Nintendo's not leaving him out of the series for which he's most known. In the latest Famitsu, Sakurai, head of his own company, Sora, reveals that he is serving as a director and game designer on Super Smash Bros. for the Revolution.

Sakurai is known in most circles as the game designer responsible for the Super Smash Bros. series in the first place. He's also known for his work on the Kirby series and, most recently, as the creative force behind Q Entertainment's Meteos for the DS.

This announcement comes as somewhat of a surprise, seeing as how Sakurai left Nintendo's HAL Labs in Fall of 2003. Sakurai reveals, though, that when leaving Nintendo, his former boss, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, suggested that he might be consulted in the case of a Super Smash Bros. sequel. The real surprise for Sakurai came at this past E3, when Nintendo announced that Super Smash Bros. was in development for the Revolution and would be Wi-Fi compatible. Sakura had apparently heard nothing of the title at that point, although he was in attendance at the Nintendo press conference.

But he was to become involved in a big way following the announcement. One day at E3, Sakurai reveals, he was called to Iwata's room on the top floor of a Los Angeles hotel, and told by Iwata, "We'd like you to be involved in the production of the new Smash Bros., if possible near the level of director."

Sakurai's comments suggest that Super Smash Bros. may not be as far along in development as some had initially thought. At E3, Nintendo raised Smash Bros. for Revolution as an example of the Wi-Fi connection program that would kick off with the DS later in the year. Actual production hadn't begun at the time.

Given the success of Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube, many have been expecting a new entry to launch with the Revolution. Nintendo actually suggested as much in its announcement at E3. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Confirmation of Sakurai's involvement in the project has us even more excited about Super Smash Bros. Revolution, especially given his apparent enthusiasm for the Revolution controller. Let's hope this news bit signals the start of frequent revelations on games for Nintendo's new system.
Revolution to Feature Play Control System
Password settings will allow parents to regulate age specific content.

Ign.com


With all the recent controversy surrounding the impact of adult-themed videogames on children, it should come as no surprise that hardware developers are taking steps to mitigate any negative public fallout over videogame content. To that end, Nintendo announced today that its upcoming home videogame console, codenamed Revolution, will include a flexible play control system.

The system, which operates via password control, allows parents and other adults to determine the degree of "flexibility" that would be allowed for younger players in regard to more "mature" games. The system will also allow adult gamers to play without any restrictions.

Game software will be encoded with data that indicates the game's rating and will then be transmitted to the console's control system to determine whether the game will be playable or not based on the pre-set password preferences. Nintendo indicated that all Revolutions sold worldwide would be equipped with this feature.

According to Jim Merrick, Senior Marketing Director, Nintendo of Europe, the added feature will "encourage parents to take responsibility for the games their children play."

This step by Nintendo surely represents a step forward in the gaming industry's efforts to illustrate that it is well aware not only of its artistic rights but also its responsibilities to both its consumers and the general public.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Reggie Talks Revolution

A very long read and would like to apologize for the serious lack of updates been very busy.

Post Taken From: Ign

At Nintendo's press summit this afternoon, Nintendo's executive vice president of sales and marketing addressed the eager crowd regarding the company's current and future strategies.

The following is the full transcription of his hour-long presentation.



I wanted to do three things with you this morning. The first is to step back for a moment and talk a little bit about the Nintendo strategy. To put it in context so it's understandable. And this is going to touch on from both a DS perspective as well as a Revolution perspective. Second is to talk about our key initiatives for the balance of this year going into the holidays as well as first quarter of next year. And then thirdly, as Beth said, take some questions.

So let's start. As we talk about the Nintendo strategy, I think a lot of you know about my background -- classical marketing training, I still know my way around the business section of a Barnes and Noble. To help frame for you what we're doing from a strategic standpoint, let me spend a little talking about two current business thoughts out there in the market place. And how it corresponds to what we're doing from a Nintendo perspective.

The first is a first the concept of "Blue Ocean Strategies." I don't know how many of you might have taken a look at this book. I've read it and I'm a big fan of the thinking. Really what it talks about is how, from a company perspective, you ought to focus on expanding your market boundaries versus singularly being focused on your competition. The thought being, if all you do is focus on your competition, imagine it's like sharks in the water, dealing with blood in the water, constantly going at each other. Take a wider view, look at broader opportunities out there in your marketplace.

What's important about that is if you do it successfully, you're able to create new demand -- demand that never existed in that way before. Part of this is thinking about what can be versus what is. Thinking about broader horizons, broader opportunities.

The second book is "The Innovator's Dilemma." I actually had the opportunity to meet the author of this. The thinking is similar, slightly different bend. What this focuses on is the concept of disruptive technologies. There's a lot of examples in history that touch on this. The thought being that if you are a market leader, you focus on doing what you are doing a little bit better.

And then out of nowhere, some one comes with a disruptive technology and impacts your marketplace. A great example is one of our competitors. You look at how Sony was so focused on creating a better Discman, a better disc-playing portable device, MP3 players came out of nowhere and impacted their marketplace. And then, out of nowhere, came Apple with IPod and ITunes and further disrupted their marketplace.

What this talks about is creating new definitions of performance, new definition and what the consumers wants and delivering on that in new and provocative ways. These disruptive technologies typically appeal to new customers, people entering the category for the first time, but done successfully really blow open a marketplace and bring all types of consumers -- new, existing -- into the marketplace.

Typically, simple, simpler, more straightforward applications versus again, a market leader focusing on "I'm simply going to do more of the same that has lead me to a successful marketplace."

Let's stop here for a moment, step back for a moment.

What I'm not trying to frame is that we as a company go manage our business based on what the current, popular business thinking is. But I wanted to bring these two up because there are a lot of examples in the marketplace of successful companies that have applied these approaches to winning in the marketplace.

Southwest is a really interesting example. They didn't see themselves in competition with other airlines. They said, "I wanna be a better system and beat out buses and cars." So they drove all their costs down, low price, what did they do? They truly disrupted the airline industry.

Mr. Iwata has been focusing on these key thoughts truly for about the last three years. These are excerpts from a variety of these speeches whether its at Tokyo game show, GDC, even our own E3 events. They are all focused on creating disruptive technologies, approaching the market in a different way offering new news and innovation to the consumer. We can't simply expand the market. If that's all we try to do, slowly this industry will die. It is our responsibility to make games for all skill levels. Technology can't advance the business. The idea that Revolution doesn't follow the conventional path of game systems. That's what we're about; disruptive technologies, new ways to think about the market place, and driving the industry forward. There are a lot of examples that I can speak to that show how we are bringing this into practice today. But certainly we ought to step back and look at why we are doing this. I think many of you have seen this data. This is the Japanese marketplace in the gaming industry. Certainly not a pretty picture. This is a downward trend, and they have had this for years. Interesting tidbit. This year software sales are actually going to be up in Japan. Why? Nintendogs, Brain Training, key games and key innovations that we have brought to the marketplace behind DS. You're all saying "That's Japan, that's over there… that's not here."

Here are a couple things to think about: This is fresh data; current marketplace. Last 2003-2004 decline years. This year it will probably be up on a year over year basis. It has taken two systems in the handheld place: DS and PSP. Plus we have Xbox 360 to drive growth in a year over year basis. Three systems to drive that. "But c'mon Reggie, still that is it really a good example?" You tell me. Was September a fluke? Down 24% software sales year over year. The entire third quarter down year over year. Was it still a fluke? You tell me.

Let's look at the install base for the last four generations. First thing to note: As recently as about a year ago, projections were made that the current generation would reach 60 Million household penetration: Ain't gonna happen. Ain't gonna happen. Another couple tidbits: So this chart is pure number of units sold. It doesn't take into account duplicate ownership, and doesn't take into account population growth. You overlay those two facts to get a percent population with a console in the household, and that's what it looks like. 8 Bit years, 31% of households had a gaming system. This year, where is going to end up? Somewhere between 31-32%. The growth we have seen has been driven by population growth, and by duplicate ownership.

I'm about to lay down some more bad news. Let's talk about people who are playing games. This is a study from Piper Jalfray. They have been doing this for the last three half-yearly installments. This looks at young teens, and who is increasing their game play, and who is decreasing their game play; just a rough measure. The red is the % of teens that are saying they are decreasing the amount of time they are playing games. It's gone up; gone up fairly consistently every time they have run this study. And the amount of teens that say they have increased their game play have been stagnant, and down fairly substantially from fall of 04. Couple other tidbits. This is our core audience in terms of that pipeline of young boys that are coming into the US population. As you can see 2004 there are less male 10-14 year olds in that area. A little more bad news: The group that feeds into this are down another 8-10%. So fewer teens; our key gaming audience here in the US. That's why we are stepping back and saying "more of the same is not going to motivate this industry." That's why we are stepping back and saying "we have to disrupt this marketplace that we helped create 20 years ago in order to be successful in order to move forward." How are we doing that?

Certainly Nintendogs is a great example in our view of a disruptive view in the marketplace. First, it is a game that isn't really a traditional game. It isn't win or lose. It is a type of thing that you pick up and play constantly, and the more you play it the more enjoyment you get; the more you play it and find other people playing it, the more enjoyment you get. It's only possible on the DS obviously, because of the touch screen and voice recognition. And on a worldwide basis it sold 2 Million units, against an installed base of about 8 Million. 24% penetration; that is huge. Absolutely huge.

Here's a couple other tidbits from a Nintendogs perspective; certainly from a U.S. perspective and all of the western hemisphere, we went after the female gamer: And it's working. There area a number of other initiatives in our line of thinking that is coming here to the U.S. marketplace. Electroplankton. It is interesting the stories that we are taking electroplankton online so that we don't have to sell it into retail and not give into retail margins. It is a bunch of hooie. The reason that we are selling this online is that we believe online is the best way to go after the target consumer that is going to play this game. It is the most efficient way to go. Brain Training/Brain Flex; we are in the process of localizing these for the U.S. marketplace and we think there is a huge opportunity. If you haven't played Brain Flex you will have a chance to play that later today. Big big ways of disrupting the marketplace, and we are confident we will be successful here in the U.S. and all through the Americas.

We have gone to great pains here today to paint for you a gloomy scenario for the potential of the U.S. marketplace. I also want to let you know though is that from a Nintendo perspective we are not an Either/Or company; we have said this many times. We're not placing all our bets in this fundamentally different/unique types of games. We're doing things for the core gamer as well. We are not an either/or, we believe you have to have both. But bringing both to the marketplace means you have to do them both differently, both a bit specialized. So as you look at what we are bringing into the marketplace Q1, again we have a bit of a balance.

So that is a summarization of what we will be releasing from Q4 to Q1. Again that is not an either/or. You have to do both in truly provocative ways. In terms of what we are doing with the balance of this calendar year; we believe in driving the marketplace in both traditional means, as well as new and unique means. In terms of traditional means: Very strong value emphasis on GameCube. We are at the tail end of this product's life cycle, and it is all about driving value, and leveraging key franchises to drive sales. We are certainly going to be doing that with Mario Party 7, and obviously Pokemon XD is already out in the marketplace. Two very strong value offerings for this product line.

We have great value coming from the DS library as well. The teal and pearl pink Nintendogs bundles are going to hit the marketplace and let me tell you, if you have friends or family that want this bundle you better buy it now. I have just gotten off the phone with some of our key retail outlets and we are selling out. We are selling out and there are no more of that particular SKU coming into the marketplace.

Mario Kart DS, and yes I have my handy dandy tricked out Mario Kart red DS that we are building with Mario Kart, and we think that is going to be huge. But again it is a subset of what we are doing for the overall marketplace to drive the sales of the Nintendo DS.

New news! We will be bringing a 20th anniversary version of the micro to the U.S. That is the packaging, and this is the unit. We will be bringing the unit here to the marketplace in early December, and we think it is a great opportunity that continues to drive the marketing of Game Boy Micro. The idea that it is fun, unique, and fashionable, and we are very excited about bringing this. The target for this is to have it ship into retail on the 28th of November.

As you know we have launched a brighter screen for GBA, which is selling extremely well in the marketplace right now. So again, it is not about either/or; it is about both. Driving the existing consumer and the existing fan base as well as bringing in new ideas and approaches to bring new consumers into gaming.

Let's talk about some other key initiatives that we will be bringing in this quarter. Obviously Nintendo WiFi Connection. This we believe is another example of being disruptive in the marketplace. This is not the first online system, but it is certainly an online approach that is fundamentally different than what has been done. Free to the consumer, hot spot driven, wireless that is driving portability. Also games that are focused on delivering a great experience in a wireless online mode. You guys have played Kart; I think it is going to be huge. Our target is to get every consumer that buys Kart to try online at least once. We believe that if they try it just once, they will have a great experience and keep playing. We want the consumer to play against both friends and people we don't know: Kart has that capability.

Let me stop here. We are going to give you another little tidbit of news. As we drive the business, we are focused on not only communicating software messaging as in Kart and Animal Crossing, but it is very important that the consumer understand what we are doing with WiFi Connection. We need to communicate the core benefits: The match making, the free connection, and the ease. So we have created a specific piece of advertising to drive that messaging; this is advertising that will go on air later this week that you will get to see first.

That's still a rough, and we are making some final tweaks. This is scheduled to go on the air later this week. In terms of the micro it will be announced as the "20th anniversary addition" to celebrate the anniversary of the NES launch that was 20 years ago October.

So that's how we will be supporting Nintendo WiFi Connection out in the marketplace; really supporting the connection from an overall perspective of the offering of what we are doing. Certainly in terms of key titles: You have had a chance to play Kart, and on the same day we'll be launching Tony Hawk. We are thrilled that the folks at Vicarious Visions and Activision have made this game online enabled; we think it's fantastic.

Animal Crossing is December 5th, and Metroid Prime: Hunters launching March 20 next year; all supporting WiFi. So as we talk about being disruptive in the marketplace I hope you can see this from a DS perspective; creating news behind the WiFi elements and making sure that we have games that support both the core consumer as well as bringing in new consumers into the marketplace. Fundamentally it is quite similar in the Revolution aspect. We have already talked about "Virtual Console" and making that available. We have shared some information in terms of the controller. I had an opportunity to demo the controller and it really is fantastic. As far as what you can do, the range of motion, and the feedback that you get… What I am trilled about and truly enjoy in the follow-up conversations with NCL are all the possibilities that are out there. All of the things we can bring to market. We touched on some of these possibilities in the video that we created for the Tokyo Game Show, and though many of you have had the chance to see it on small screens we have it here for you today on the big screen to share: Take a look.

When you talk about possibilities: To imagine playing a type of survival horror game where you can rotate flashlight to weapon and then back and forth, it is pretty provocative. So imagine what a Zelda game might look like with sword and shield that you can use all at the same time. To imagine a racing game that is truly responsive; it's pretty provocative.

The thing that I am really excited about is as we have shared the technology and the capability with the developers… how they responded. And it is not simply a Japanese developer who is living in their market contraction, but EA, Activision, and Ubisoft who are all stepping back and saying "wow, this is provocative and I can see ways of creating games and new ways of bringing existing franchises to life." It truly is exciting: That is what we mean when we talk about being "disruptive in the marketplace" and doing things that will drive consumers into gaming as well as keep the core fans excited about new types of gaming experiences.

So we have touched on Revolution in the past, and the whole litany of benefits. Certainly backward compatibility with the GameCube, the idea of the "Virtual Console," the WiFi integration out of the box. We are seeing very strong third party support, and already talks about exclusive titles that will truly make use of the revolution controller and everything we are bringing in the machine. Affordability: Certainly from the standpoint of being a single-minded gaming device, it will absolutely be much more affordable than any of the other competing systems, and certainly on track to launch in 2006.

So that's where we are, a little summary of our strategy both for this holiday season as well as Q1 of next year. The messaging from my standpoint is amazingly consistant. We are all about driving the user interface and driving new players into this category as well as satisfying existing core gamers. Truly being the innovator, the disruptor, and the leader in bringing new ways of thinking in this business. And certainly doing it in a way that rewards our shareholders from a profitability standpoint. And of course when we put profitability up on the slide, I'm sure it isn't lost on many of you that in the last 48 hours a number of companies have announced earnings, and there is a lot of bad news out there. Again this reinforces why doing simply more of the same old thing is not going to be successful in the long run.

With that I will open it to some questions.

Q: With the Micro: With the GBA you designed it to look like the NES when you brought it over. When you do the NES Micro will it come with an NES faceplate or will it come just the Famicom Micro.

A: What I passed around will be exactly we will be launching on the 28th of November. Do I envision other micro designs in the next few months? Yes. Might we do a true NES version? Maybe; we'll look at it. We feel though that there are other ways to bring life to this particular device and we have said all along that the micro is a unique shortish term opportunity that we will leverage by making it cool and hip and fun by use of the different faceplates.

Q: When you say "Shortish…" Does Nintendo plan to make Micro a short run, or will you keep producing them if the market continues to buy them up?

A: We've always said from the time that I pulled it out of my pocket at E3 that it would be a limited opportunity for us. The question is "is it for the next three months, six months, or next year?" We're not sure. But it certainly is a limited opportunity that's why the current execution of faceplates, we then move on to Famicom. Once that is complete we will move onto the next phase.

Q: Can you talk a little more about the ad campaign for the WiFi connection? Are you looking for partners outside of McDonalds?

A: We are putting substantial weight on the WiFI messaging. It will be on all of the usual suspects as far as MTV, Spike, Comedy that go after the core demographic of the gaming community. We will be doing things from a print standpoint as well to get a broader audience involved. As far as partners away from McDonalds: Our partner in this is Wayport. Wayport happens to be in McDonalds. As the site goes live you will see other partners (J-Wire for Example) where the system will work. We would love to have as many partners on board as possible.

Q: You mention Wayport and McDonalds. Will this only work at McDonalds and those hotspots or will it work at any Wayport hotspot?

A: It will work at any of the 6,000 + McDonalds hotspots and a limited number of T-Mobile hotspots. That is why we are driving consumers to Nintendo WiFi Connection. That is where you can put in your address and up pops all of the hotspots where it will work seamlessly.

Q: What about home configurations and WPA (Secured Networks)?

A: Nintendo WiFi Connection has all of the information in terms of which existing routers are compatible and which ones have the best compatibility. It's all there. In terms of the different authentications, all the info is there and it will be very easy for the consumer. That was our goal from the start; we wanted a consumer whether they have a LAN line and the USB connector, or whether you have an existing router… it is all there on Nintendo WiFi Connection.

Q: At E3 you had a demo of voice chat and online chat support. Is that something that is going to be pursued?

A: There is a lot of testing going on, and we thought it was something intriguing enough to show at E3 as a tech demo, and is maybe something that is incorporated into a game in the future. We'll look into it. It is certainly something that intrigues us.

Q: There are now multiple platforms and multiple price points. Now that there is the SP at 79.99, the Micro at 99.99, and the DS. It becomes a little less clear when trying to differentiate those. Has there been any consumer confusion?

A: We have seen no consumer confusion. I believe the average consumer can wrap their head around GBA, especially with the new brighter screen, Micro; something different. And we have been clear that Micro is something that is not for everyone. It is for a consumer that wants something they can slip in the pocket, different faceplates to capture a personality and an image, and those consumers are willing to pay an extra $20 for that opportunity and benefit. DS is our workhorse. From 129.99 we are looking to drive significant volume. And the consumer has certainly responded to that.

Q: One of my issues with DS is this: When it was announced the possibilities seemed endless and now we have seen developers wanting to go out and create new kinds of games. However, success outside of Japan has to deal with developers outside of Japan and I'm not seeing a lot of western developers and publishers wanting to take that step and do something different. Everything seems to be touch screen features and ports. Do you see that as a problem, especially with Revolution following this. How do you want to change the developer's minds from that standpoint?

A: From my standpoint maybe I look at this too simplistically. The best answer for a third party developer is to show performance in the system, strength in the market place, and innovation working. Quite frankly, we have now answered those questions with Nintendogs (2 Million Units sold), and DS outselling PSP on a weekly basis here in the marketplace. Outselling on a 3 to 1 in Japan. They needed to see that, and they are seeing that now. I am trilled with folks like Vicarious and Activision that have jumped on board early to support the platform. I think it is great, and we will see more of it. Supporting the DS is a good business decision, and that is what licensors look for. From a Revolution standpoint, we have been spending time to share the tool and information to get that support early.

Q: I'm curious what your thoughts are on having DS as a web browser. Is that soothing you are going to steer clear of since it is a kids platform or is that something you could look into?

A: Actually having a web browser on the DS? I think it is a provocative idea. I think it is very provocative. And again, looking at it with our "Disruptor Lens" by saying "how can we bring new people on board to buy DS and play DS" I think having a web browser would be highly disruptive; I would love to do it.

Q: Do you see Microsoft and Sony as competitors the way you are building the Revolution's strategy?

A: I see Sony and Microsoft pursuing the same strategies. Center of the home, multipurpose, very expensive… Ya know I got a kick out of the latest comments on the PS3 and its frame rate. It is like 3X the rate that your eye can see a difference! I mean talk about overshooting consumer needs and creating an opportunity for a disruptor to come in and say "look at this different solution." So going back to my examples, do I think Southwest thought of the other airlines as competitors? Well sure I did. Do I see Sony and Microsoft as a competitor? Sure I do. But they are on a different path. I'm not saying one path is right and one is wrong. I am just saying that one has the potential to lead to a very very different marketplace. I see that it is working based on Nintendogs and Mario Kart. It isn't either/or. It is doing both.

Q: Apple is taking the music industry a new direction with IPod and ITunes. When is the videogame industry going to take that direct download approach onto a handheld?

A: I don't know about a handheld device, but talk to me in May when we talk about details on the Revolution and the Virtual Console.

Q: Can we talk now?

A: We can talk, I don't think you will get all the answers you want! (laughter). From what we talked about in Revolution to download and have the game playable right there, we're doing it.

Q: Is it just 1st party or will it be third party as well?

A: Yes we will.

Q: The new Zelda. Still to Cube even though the Revolution is so close?

A: Mr. Miyamoto and Iwata have said repeatedly that they want it out on GameCube, and since I take my orders directly from them I would have to say it is going to be on GameCube.

Q: How does your marketing strategy affect where advertisements will be made? Will things like Brain Flex be seen in women's magazines or what? (laughter) How do you reach them?

A: You are absolutely right. To show these games to that specific market with games like Brain Flex, you better believe I won't be buying MTV. You have to follow the strategy.

Q: Do we have a price point for the wireless adapter?

A: 34.99

Q: How do you handle the possible shortage of USB adapters, and having people rely on the hotspots?

A: It's interesting I would actually turn that around. Our primary strategy here in the U.S. is to first show the promise of Nintendo WiFi Connection though Wireless routers and hotspots. The other two areas such as Canada and Latin America, we will be focusing on the USB adapter due to the lack of wireless hotspots. In order to win overall you need to have the ability to use LAN, Hotspots, and Routers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Powers Revolution

Post taken From: Ign Cube

The Big N says the upcoming DS service will be a testing ground for its next-generation console.

October 17, 2005 - Tomorrow morning Nintendo of America will officially announce a deal with Wayport to enable DS owners the ability to connect and play games online for free at participating McDonald's across the nation. The deal coincides with the launch of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, the Big N's subscription-free online games solution, which kicks off with Mario Kart DS on November 14. For months, Nintendo executives have loosely acknowledged that the company's upcoming console, codenamed Revolution, might use a similar structure to bring about online experiences. But today we got a little more.

"Nintendo DS is just the first Nintendo system to connect via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection," the company stated in an official press release. "The same service will be incorporated into Nintendo's next-generation home video game console, code-named Revolution, which is set for release in 2006."

The news, while predictable, is nevertheless important because it demonstrates not only the synergy that Nintendo is hoping to establish between Revolution and DS, but also reiterates the publisher's plan to keep the experience simple.

In an interview with IGN, Nintendo of America's senior director of public relations, Beth Llewelyn, elaborated on what the service may mean to Revolution owners.

"It's a big initiative, because not only is this Nintendo DS, but this will be the backbone for Nintendo Revolution next year," she said. "... Our intent is that whatever Nintendo system you're playing, we want to make sure it's easily accessible for the broadest audience."

Asked just how important online gaming is to Nintendo's view of Revolution, Llewelyn replied: "It's important. Definitely important. Obviously there's so much that we haven't said about Revolution, but the idea being that we want to reach a broad audience, and now that the technology is such that it is, it's just very exciting. With DS we're getting our feet wet and we'll just be primed when Revolution launches."

Readers can check out the full interview by clicking here.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Nintendo's US Wi-Fi Revealed
Connect your DS to the internet this November.

Post taken from: IGN

October 5, 2005 - To coincide with the details coming from Japan, Nintendo of America has revealed the US plans for the service that will link Nintendo DS games wirelessly all over the world. Already revealed as the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, this internet service will go online starting November 14th in the US, with the first Nintendo-published games, Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing: Wild World, and Metroid Prime Hunters supporting the network. The first third-party game will be Activision's Tony Hawk's American Sk8land.


The service will be free to Nintendo DS owners, requiring no additional charge to play supported games over the internet. Households with Wi-Fi networks can access the service with only a minimal of setup procedures. For households with standard broadband internet access and no wireless router, Nintendo will sell separately the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector that will enable the Nintendo DS systems to connect to the internet.

Nintendo of America will also set up thousands of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection hotspots all over the US, and the company will soon reveal the details on where and how players can link up via these hotspots. Nintendo will also use the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service for its next generation Revolution console when it ships sometime in 2006.

Mario Kart DS and Tony Hawk's American Sk8land will ship on November 14th to kick off the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection in the US. Mario Kart DS will support four player over the internet; racers can pick opponents from their roster of friends, match up randomly against strangers of comparable skill levels or simply choose to race against anyone in the world. American Sk8land will feature head-to-head play, enabling players to create custom art for boards and tags as well as track high scores and stats.

Animal Crossing: Wild World will launch on December 5th. Players can travel to other players' towns or invite up to three other players to visit their own towns, simply by opening the town gate. The four players then can interact and play together simultaneously in one town. Players must know one another and register to their respective friend rosters before they can connect.

Metroid Prime Hunters, the long-in-development first person shooter for the DS, will ship in the first quarter of 2006. The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service will enable players to link up with like-skilled opponents all over the world.

Nintendo has taken the online video gaming model and rewritten the definition of community," said Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales & marketing. "With easy setup and no added service fees, players far and wide will log in and play with one another as easily as if they were sitting in the same room."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Jim Merrick Gives Up A Little Revolution News

Post taken From: CVG (Computers And Video Games)


We've
seen some massively unconventional DS titles like Electroplankton and
the Brain Training games make a big splash over in Japan. What are the
chances of these kind of non-game games finding a market over in Europe?



Jim Merrick: Yes, we're definitely going
to bring Electroplankton over - I hesitate to call it a game, I'm not
sure what it is - but it is fascinating. It's a time sponge - you
turned the system on and I've spend an hour fooling around with little
plankton. We'll definitely bring that over because it shows the
capabilities of the system and it has the ability to captivate people
who would not normally look at a game. Do I think it has potential as a
huge commercial success, no. Something like the brain training games
also, we'll absolutely bring over. They're doing so well in Japan and
they do show a very strong appeal to an older demographic and also to a
more female demographic which is part of our objective in expanding the
marketplace.


Something like Electroplankton is obviously
requires some clever marketing to reach its potential audience over
here and Nintendo seems to have had huge success with its
uncharacteristically extensive marketing campaigns for Nintendogs
across the globe. Can we expect similar large scale awareness campaigns
from Nintendo in the future?


Jim Merrick: Well, obviously, we tend to
create bespoke marketing campaigns for each title, but around
Nintendogs, marketing's been ongoing now for months with lots of
sampling tours, promotions and activities going on for quite some time.
In the case of Nintendogs, it's pretty well known at this point. Its
popularity and success in the US is a big story right now and our above
the line campaign really does focus on, you know, cute puppies. That's
almost all you need. With the games media, you've got to get hands-on.
You've got to play it to understand that while it is a game that can
appeal to non-gamers, that does not mean that it excludes you.
Obviously as well, Japan is a different market, the US is a different
market and we have Nintendo Europe and Nintendo UK too so we can do the
right things these markets.


It sometimes seems from the outside that while Microsoft and Sony
gleefully throw huge sums of money into marketing, Nintendo isn't
pushing as hard as it could to raise public awareness of its products.
What would you say to someone who suggests Nintendo marketing strategy
simply isn't aggressive enough?


Jim Merrick: You know, there's always
more marketing money you can spend - we can get a larger share of
course. That doesn't mean our marketing is better for it - there is
very high awareness on Sony title or Microsoft titles that don't
necessarily translate into sales and so we try to very practical about
measuring our marketing effectiveness and making sure we are really
targeting the people who're going to buy our products and that they're
taking away our key messages from our advertising. We'd love to do more
and more marketing, but on the other side, we are a for-profit
enterprise - we're actually in this business to make money, as opposed
to some of our competitors so we have to practical.


Metroid Prime

2 and Resident Evil 4 are perhaps some big name Nintendo titles that
appeared to get lost amongst competitor's products when they hit
shelves - in terms of sales did they satisfy Nintendo?


Jim Merrick: Resident Evil 4 has done
great for us. We did a hardware bundle with it and it drove a
significant volume of GameCube hardware in addition to very strong solo
stock, so we're very happy with that. Metroid, a little bit less so. It
sold just under half an million in Europe and I would have liked to
have seen better - I'm not sure we communicated the strength of that
title as well as we could have.


What do you think the problem was there, with regards to putting out that message?


Jim Merrick: There's a little bit of a
battle with a title like that. It's a bit more mature and people don't
necessarily associate it with Nintendo. We probably did need to be a
bit more aggressive with out marketing and promotions to overcome
preconceptions about the Nintendo mother brand. (Friendly PR man pips
in to remind us that in the UK at least, Metroid was released at a very
crowded time alongside GTA: San Andreas and Halo 2 was definitely a factor).


It's interesting to hear you say that you
struggled to push a game like Metroid Prime 2 because it targeted a
non-traditional Nintendo market. How important is this mature audience
going to be in Nintendo's strategy, moving forward into the next
generation of consoles?


Jim Merrick: Nintendo is a company who's
in a unique position to produce games for everybody. While we're
sometimes criticized for having a kiddie-focus on some of our titles, I
think there's more than a little jealousy hidden in some of those
criticisms from some of those people who wish they could sell to that
age group but, that said, it tends to pigeon-hole us a little too.
Mario is a game that can sell to everybody, Zelda is a game that can
sell to everybody. Pokemon is definitely a youth-orientated game and a
phenomenal success story, so we're not going to walk away from it by
any means. But we'd like to broaden our portfolio to offer more games
for our existing consumers as they mature and their tastes change.



Compared to something like the GameCube, the
Revolution's design is pretty sophisticated. Do you think something as
straightforward as the console's aesthetic appeal is going to help
broaden the Nintendo brand?


Jim Merrick: Yeah, I think so. I mean
there's four colours that we're showing right now - and none of them
are purple. There are things in design that help us to associate and
this is not a lunchbox - you have an elegant, simple design that should
be a bit more timeless and ageless. Anyone of any age should be proud
to say "This is my Revolution".


When are we going to hear more about the Revolution and what's more is there to say?


Jim Merrick: There's actually a lot more
left to tell but I don't have any fixed dates yet. It's important to
keep things back, because of the competitive nature of our business. In
general though, Nintendo doesn't like to get involved in the pre-launch
specifications arguments - you know, we can talk about polygons and
mega-flops like anybody else. But at the end of the day, it's
meaningless - we'd rather have the game speak to us. The consumer is
buying an entertainment experience, not a polygon machine. That said,
we need to keep informing people about the Revolution and to stay in
people's minds and not be end up like "Oh, whatever happened to that
next-generation system from Nintendo?" There are many months left
between now and whenever we decide to launch.


Don't you think there's a degree of hypocrisy
there, talking about Nintendo's philosophy of letting games speak for
themselves, given that Iwata's presentation at the Tokyo Game Show
focused solely on the Revolution controller hardware without a single
game in sight?


Jim Merrick: Really the purpose of the
keynote speech in Tokyo was to follow up Mr. Iwata's speech two years
ago where he was saying we were recognizing a change in the market and
that we were going to take action to address a broader audience -
obviously this was pre DS and pre Revolution. Now, we've come back two
years later and presented a lot of data on what has happened in the
Japanese market, how the success of the DS has changed, the buying
habits and life cycle of software and so forth. The Revolution's
controller is obviously an extension of that - it's the next step in
this process of expanding. So, it wasn't so much about this is the time
to unmask the Revolution - it was an integral part of what he was
saying. We realise that there's a certain critical mass of information
flow that we have to have and it's a bit of a balance. If we could, I
think we love to keep everything to ourselves and just launch when
we're ready - but that's just not realistic.


So, now that the world's had a chance to see
what Nintendo has up its sleeve in terms of the controller, what's the
next big message you want to get across before the Revolution launches?



Jim Merrick: Well, you know, we've gone a
little bit contrary to our thinking by demonstrating a technological
feature without showing its manifestations in gameplay and when we
announced the DS in January 2004, we said it had two screens but we
didn't say it had a touchscreen. We held that back until E3, until you
could put your hands on it and understand the value of that feature. We
knew that people were going to be scratching their heads wondering
"What are they thinking?" So we're kind of breaking that - but it's
important, that's the next step. You've got to play it and realise
these guys are not crazy - this controller is amazing. That'll be our
next stop - whether it's with our own software of third party software,
its got to be put into context or games you want to buy.


Obviously, as exciting as the Revolution is,
it's some way off just yet. What will Nintendo be concentrating on this
Christmas as its main focus?


Jim Merrick: Well, actually, we've got a
pretty good Christmas line-up. We've talked about Nintendogs and that's
just on the horizon now - October 7. That's going to be big - we know
its selling really well in the US, it's done phenomenally well in Japan
and there's every reason to think its going to do great here. Retail
support is very strong, consumer interest is high so we think that's
going to be a big hit. In fact, I was very pleased with the comments
made by Robbie Bach made about it in Japan. The next thing then on the
DS is Mario Kart - of course, it's a huge title and it has a history of
outselling the US here in Europe. For whatever reason, Europeans love
Mario Kart and I think with the wi-fi capability, we're really adding
something to the game. I mean, actually, I prepare the local area play
because we can sit in the same room as each other and I can taunt you
and I can see your anguish - but nevertheless, you'll be able to jump
online and play with people in Japan: it's a pretty cool feature.


Why does Nintendo think that now is the right
time to launch something like the wi-fi service given its passed
reticence to enter the online gaming market?


Jim Merrick: You know, we sort of stayed
out of the online argument for a number of years and it's kind of funny
because people say Nintendo's never been online because we've actually
done a lot in the online space. From offering modems for horse racing
and stock trading with the original Famicom in Japan through to online
banking with 16-bit systems, our in-flight and hotel systems that are
all over the world which are basically online systems, but we've never
done the big commercial online service because - and I spent years
working on this project myself - the value proposition for the consumer
just isn't there, the consumer doesn't perceive the benefit. I think
the industry went about online in a bit of a backward order, trying to
monetize it first and deliver the value second and I think we've got to
go the other way. I think mass market consumers need to understand the
value on the online brand first and then maybe we can monetize it.


Obviously, Microsoft has already had some
success in the online area. How does Nintendo's approach to online
gaming differ from the Microsoft model?



Jim Merrick: You know, we see online and
we think it really should be an extension of the game - you don't even
necessarily perceive that you're online. I came to play Mario Kart, I
didn't come to play Xbox Live and spend twenty minutes trying to match
make somebody - I want to get into Mario Kart and find somebody to play
against as quickly and as painlessly as I can. Whether it's my friend
or somebody I don't know, I want a quick and easy way to do it and I
want it all in the context of that game. What Nintendo wi-fi connection
looks like in Mario Kart is going to be completely different to what it
looks like in Metroid, in Animal Crossing or even Tony Hawk. In and of
itself, it's very transparent in the way that you use it and I think
that's where we start to communicate the benefit of wi-fi and against
remove the barriers to the online experience. Videogames, particularly
console videogames, have been successful over the years, in part due to
their simplicity. Console games just work - plug in a cartridge, stick
in a disc, turn it on and it just works. No patches, no installation,
no set-up, no nothing. Now, you try to marry that console simplicity
with the internet and its like diametrically opposed with DNS, WAP keys
and all those reasons why not to play online games and so we wanted to
insulate people from that as much as possible, even to the point where
you have no username or password, you can just jump on.


With this obvious move to appeal toward the
less techno savvy gamer, what are the key strategies Nintendo's
adopting to create a more user-friendly service?


Jim Merrick: If you have a buddy list,
you can play against your buddies wherever they are. If you go out to
play against anonymous players, it depends on the game, for example,
with Animal Crossing, you probably don't want to open up your village
to anonymous people on the internet who'll come in and dig up your
trees and, you know, so we probably won't allow that at all in Animal
Crossing - I don't know, it isn't done yet. In the case of Mario Kart,
in a competitive game, one of the things that people have said - and
not just to us in our own research, but in discussion online - you get
into some games and there are people who've devoted a significant
percentage of their young life to that particular game and you die the
moment you die, because you have no chance of winning. So, we want to
match it up to people of similar skill level for a start. We're also
very conscious of the fact that because our games appeal to all ages,
we have a responsibility to protect from inappropriate behaviour
online. Most of which comes through chat I think, so in some games when
you're playing against an anonymous player, we may not allow you to
chat if that game is one that's targeted to youth. If it's a teen or 18
+ game then probably we won't impose that restriction.


Are we likely to see the DS' microphone used for in-game voice chat down the line?


Jim Merrick: We demonstrated it at E3
this year with voice over IP and it's certainly possible. How it'll get
used, what games will use it, I don't know. People ask if we're going
to make the Nintendo DS a real IP phone - I don't think so. I think
that's even worse than holding the N-gage up to your head.


Once you're linked up to Nintendo's wi-fi
service then, everything should be pretty straightforward. What steps
are people going to have to take to actually get their DS online? How
is Nintendo ensuring it's not a complete nightmare for casual users?


Jim Merrick: If you're buying broadband,
you'll have the option to get wi-fi from the start - that's what every
service provider offers. If you're an existing broadband user and you
don't have wi-fi, there are two routes you can go. Either run down to
the store and buy a wi-fi router and set it up, or Nintendo will be
offering a USB wi-fi adaptor and this just plugs into your PC and
operates as a wi-fi access point. Whichever option you choose, there's
certainly going to be some installation and set-up. I expect that
you'll find Nintendo's version to be very simple. Out of the home,
there are another two routes. First, Nintendo is placing a number of
wi-fi hotspots in major retailers or retail locations - malls or other
places. These are hotspots that are completely free, there's no set-up
or anything associated with that. Your DS will recognize them when you
walk up to them and you can play. I think a lot of the retailers are
excited about driving traffic into retail. The other flipside is that
we're in negotiations with a number of wi-fi providers - who we're not
prepared to announce yet - across Europe to provide free internet
connectivity within existing hotspots. So if there's someone who's got
hotspots in airport lounges, coffee shops and so forth, you'll be able
to take your Nintendo DS to them and plug in their for free as well. In
all of those cases, there's no authentication, no log-in, no username,
almost no set-up. I say almost no set-up - the one thing you might have
to do is if you're running WAP encryption at home, which I recommend as
it's the right thing to do, you will have to tell the DS that key.
We've done a lot of work with various access point providers to get a
good database on our website on how you get your WAP key. I know this
is true for many people - when they bought their wireless routers, they
entered some key and forgot about it. The next time you bring home a
wi-fi device, you don't have a clue what your WAP key is - so, we've
got a database we're putting together to help people find their WAP
key. The worse case scenario is that you just reset it on all of your
devices - but that's not a problem with the DS, that applies to all
wi-fi devices.



When can we expect to hear more information
about the Nintendo wi-fi service, given that it's supposed to roll out
in tandem with Mario Kart in Europe in little over six week?


Jim Merrick: Uh, R.S.N. - Real Soon Now.
It's imminent. The Mario Kart is on November 11 and it seems like it
would be a good idea to have the service running by then. You can
imagine, it's quite a task working with different broadband providers
across Europe to get this up and running. One of the objectives that
Mr. Iwata has stated is that he wants, really wants, one hundred
percent of the consumers who by wi-fi enabled games to at least try it
because so many consumers who have online enabled games just never try
it. While Xbox Live has done a good job driving a subset of costumers
who're inclined already to try online it's really not reaching that
mass market point just yet.


So, we've known that both Mario Kart and
Animal Crossing have been designed from the ground up as online title
for some time now. What was the thinking behind delaying Metroid Prime
Hunters to implement wi-fi features at such a late stage, potentially
risking more disappointment for Nintendo fans after the Zelda
announcement?


Jim Merrick: It's just a taunt, just
something we do to show that we're in control. Uh, no, it seemed that
as development progressed, it would really add to the game and I know
that it seems weird because we used Metroid extensively at launch by
bundling the demo in with the DS to show how the touch-screen can
really be used for targeting, much like the Revolution controller, it
seems hard but if it really changes the gameplay and can really help us
get that objective of getting many more people to try online than are
inclined to try it today, then it's a good decision. Because we've got
Mario Kart and Nintendogs this fall, we've got a strong lineup on DS
anyway.


Obviously we know that Nintendo has a whole
bunch of games in the pipeline for the DS, including the new Mario -
can we expect many of these titles to develop wi-fi functionality as
they travel through their development cycle?


Jim Merrick: Without making any
commitments, yes, I think it's highly likely. Our development teams are
very excited about online capabilities and in fairness, some of our
developments teams have been very keen to do online games for years. So
now, its out of the box, they can do it.


Finally, how important is Nintendo's online strategy going to be to the company from now on?



Jim Merrick: It's a fundamental part of
the design of the DS and if we were pacifistic about it, we wouldn't
haven't invested in it. It will extend the work we're doing in
infrastructure - the wi-fi connection applies to Revolution as well and
it's a major part of our strategy.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Revolution Black and White to be most popular

Post taken from: IGN

Earlier this week, IGN put up a poll to determine which colors for the Nintendo Revolution (of the five revealed) were the most popular with readers. Well, the results are in, and it turns out that glossy white and midnight black ran away with the competition, scoring 38.5 and 39.7% of the vote, respectively. Dark gray received 8.1%, red 7.3%, and lime green only 6.3% of the total.

IGN speculates that gamers prefer the shade of glossy white (second only to midnight black) because it fits the Apple iWhatever sensibility of Nintendo gamers today. In addition, the black and white systems (and controllers) were given far more prominence in Nintendo’s previous presentations, which may have catapaulted them higher in the minds of online readers and G4 viewers everywhere.

Of course, we know why black and white won out over the rest. It’s simply because red is garish, green looks gross, and gray is, well… gray. Maybe the Big N shouldn’t have taken all its color cues from Apple after all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Microsoft's Peter Moore praises Nintendo's Revolution controller

Post Taken From: GameIndustry.biz

Xbox boss reiterates Bach's "touch a billion consumers" E3 message

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz at the Tokyo Games Show, Xbox VP Peter Moore has praised Nintendo's "innovation with the new [Revolution] controller", and reiterated the need for the industry to grow into new markets.

"I want to give kudos for Nintendo for its attempt at innovation with the new controller," Moore commented, saying that the new device would -"bring people in that, as Iwata-san said, are either lapsed gamers or gamers that are intimidated by the complexity of the controller."

In the second half of our interview with Microsoft's head of worldwide marketing and publishing for Xbox, which you can read on the site today, Moore went on to argue that the digital lifestyle functionality of Xbox 360 will offer non-gaming consumers a similar incentive to get involved in the market - and reiterated the company's controversial message from E3.

"We said at E3, we want a billion consumers touched in this next generation by our industry," Moore said. "That was an industry message. Certainly, we can see Nintendo rallying to that cry and reiterating what Robbie said on May 16th; I heard the same words come from Iwata-san of Nintendo yesterday."

He then revealed that Microsoft is also looking into ways ot make games on its platforms more simple and approachable, while still retaining a level of complexity that makes them difficult to master.

"We need to grow as an industry," he concluded. "Having a simplified controller is one tactic in what is a larger strategic battle we need to face to grow this business."

In this second half of the interview (click here to read the first half, which was published yesterday), Moore also discusses the company's relationships with Japanese publishers, and goes into depth about the firm's strategy for Xbox Live and downloadable content on the Xbox 360.