D.I.C.E. 2006: Reggie throws down the gauntlet

"Innovate or die" is the credo at the ever-provocative Nintendo EVP's keynote in Las Vegas; DS VoIP, US download booths unveiled.

LAS VEGAS--"Innovate or die." This provocative credo has been the watchword that has flowed many-a-time off the experienced lips of Reggie Fils-Aime. Long before the executive vice president of Nintendo of America taunted his boss, Satoru Iwata, by asking, "Who's your daddy?" at E3 2004--a mock insult Iwata shot back at E3 2005--he was known for his outspokenness.

However, Fils-Aime's oft-intimidating bearing wasn't in manifest evidence at the preparty before this year's D.I.C.E. convention. Unlike many high-profile game-industry figures (who took to the open bar at the GameTap-sponsored reception like starving hogs to a trough), Fils-Aime meekly sipped a San Pellegrino while making noncommittal statements about the game titan he represented.

The executive's notorious fieriness, however, was in full effect the following morning. He hammered the half-hungover throng of D.I.C.E. attendees--many of whom had been playing poker until less than a half-hour earlier--with a presentation that aggressively evangelized his company's plan for "expanding the market for interactive entertainment."

Before delivering the new announcements that most of the assembled developers and press were waiting to hear, Fils-Aime reiterated how Nintendo was going after a different market than its competitors. "I stand before you as a consumerist," he said. "And I am going to talk about what we see as the future in these turbulent times as we go through the console transition."

Fils-Aime went on to explain that three of the top four platforms of 2005 were handheld, not console, according to NPD figures. He underlined the fact that handheld gaming was the fastest growing sector by pointing out that portables went from 20 percent of the overall game market in 2004 to 35 percent in 2005. "Console revenues were down 14 percent [in 2005], while handheld revenues were up 88 percent," said Fils-Aime. "This shows, conclusively, that the money has moved to handheld."

Though he gave a nod to the PlayStation Portable by acknowledging that "surely the [Nintendo] DS wasn't the only reason for that growth," Fils-Aime was not short on corporate braggadocio. "We have a blue-ocean lead over our competitors in terms of market share," he proclaimed. Fils-Aime went on to highlight how Nintendogs has sold over 1.5 million units in the US and how it had attracted more women than any other platform to date, thanks to a female-centric marketing campaign.

Fils-Aime further played up how Nintendogs attracted players outside the traditional 18- to 24-year-old male target demographic--which, he was quick to point out, is currently shrinking. He then segued into how the forthcoming DS game Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day will help aging baby boomers keep their minds sharp as they move onto middle age. "Imagine your parents playing a video game," he told the crowd. "Imagine people 50, 60 years old playing games...imagine people of all ages playing enjoyable games versus a playground of violence...imagine games that are a culture of celebration versus the publicity problems our industry is facing right now."

Fils-Aime then unveiled some hard statistics to back up his boasts of Nintendo's success. He said that, to date, there have been over 860,000 unique visitors to the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, which has also received over 21 million connections since it went online last November.

But after touting the DS's success, Fils-Aime raised the specter of doom for the entire game industry. "We truly see this industry at a crossroads," he said after citing a New York Times article titled "Wave of Video Game Fatigue Afflicts Sales, Not Thumbs." (Registration required.) He said that only 21 percent of the potential gaming market is "hardcore" and that Nintendo has its sights set on the other 79 percent of potentially paying clients.

"It's all about creating new demand and new opportunities," he told the crowd. "We are aiming to go beyond the blood-red waters of competition to the blue waters of opportunity." Fils-Aime went on to say that the key to accessing this proverbial aquatic body was to provide "simpler, easier, more approachable types of experiences."

To that end, Fils-Aime used the pulpit that his D.I.C.E. keynote afforded him to unveil a new feature of the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. Namely, he said that the forthcoming game Metroid Prime: Hunters would have voice over IP connection functionality. However, Fils-Aime emphasizesd that this functionality would not be for "trash-talking" during the game; rather, it would be for "chatting" before and after a game in the Hunters lobby area.

Another new DS initiative unveiled at D.I.C.E. was a new system of booths which will allow DS owners to download content. Debuting soon at "thousands of retail locations," according to Fils-Aime, the system will allow DS owners to download "demos, trailers, minigames, and sequelized content" onto their DSes. The catch? The content will only be playable on the DS as long as the handheld remains powered and on.

Fils-Aime went on to say that the DS download booths would have a 15-foot radius of connectivity and would initially be available at GameStop, EB Games, and Game Crazy outlets. He said that Nintendo was also in "advanced discussions" with Target and Wal-Mart about getting booths installed at their myriad of locations across the country.

As much as he talked up the retail-based download system, Fils-Aime also said that Nintendo was thinking of a broader Web-based strategy. "Can I see the DS download stations evolving beyond retail? Absolutely," he said. "It will work on the DS local network service, which means it will work anywhere there are wireless networks." As an example of what is to come, Fils-Aime mentioned Wi-Fi enabled train stations in Japan, where riders can download DS content.

The Nintendo executive also briefly said a few words about his company's next-generation console, the Revolution. Specifically, he made much of the console's "freehand controller," saying its resemblance to a television remote control was deliberate. "There really was a lot of thought in what this looks like," said Fils-Aime. "It's really meant to look like a TV remote...it's supposed to be approachable to the non-gamer."

Fils-Aime also hyped the motion-sensing functionality of the Revolution controller. "Swing it, chop it, move it any way, and it happens on the screen," he boasted. Fils-Aime also assured listeners, however, that the Revolution controller "can be used more traditionally" with the help of a "cradle" designed to look like a traditional controller.

As far as third-party Revolution support goes, Fils-Aime mentioned a sextet of companies working on games for the console: Sega, Square-Enix, Namco, Ubisoft, and Electronic Arts. When queried by an audience member about how the difference between the Revolution and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 could present development problems, the executive brushed it off. "We believe driving different content will appeal to a broader audience," he responded.

In a concession to the many game designers in the crowd, Fils-Aime also took a moment to remind the audience that development for the Revolution will be much cheaper compared to its next-gen rivals. "Games [for the Revolution] will be smaller, easier, better than before," he said.

In conclusion, Fils-Aime laid down the gauntlet to his competitors, which he never mentioned by name during the entirety of his speech. "We truly believe that those with the best ideas will prevail," he said. "[We'll] let the consumer vote on what's relevant and what's not."

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158 comments
pac-master
pac-master

bill gates may have "his" x-box 360 but nintendo has this. the revolution and the playstation 3 will make billy G wish he never even thought about paying those executives to invent the x-box. YOU HEARD ME GATES! GO BACK TO COMPUTERS WHERE YOU BELONG BIOTCH!

Man-utd-lege
Man-utd-lege

yeeeeeeahh cmon nintendo i see some catch up in the next gen console wars occuring

Da_Mainman_3
Da_Mainman_3

Ever since the disaster of getting my mum to play Mario Kart 64 (She took over 8 minutes to do three laps on Luigi Circuit), I've been a little wary of letting someone middle-aged near my games. Now that we're seeing some non-games like Brain Training, I can feel safe again, provided my parents can remember which end is which on the stylus. Having these non-gamers entering the market is a good thing for even Sony and Microsoft, as there's bound to be some people who go and buy a Playstation or Xbox console after Nintendo entices them into the market (True for me, at least) The 'hardcore' gamers won't be left out though, as I expect their initial distraction on Revolution's launch will be playing some of the graphically-updated NES, SNES and N64 remakes from the download service, especially since Europe never saw Crono Trigger or half of the Final Fantasy games. Think Sony's still in control? Think again.

AzielXIII
AzielXIII

Once again Reggie throws the smack down to sony and microsoft

andyg-unit
andyg-unit

Woohoo now my parents can actually play video games......

Khimarhi
Khimarhi

good motto i agree. . with the graphics becoming so beautiful after a while graphics will not be as effective as it is not. . . you will have to offer some new types of gameplay and that is exactly what nintendo is doing. . it may not be as powerful as the 360 or ps3 but the rev will have some crazy gameplay that the other 2 could not replicate. . much like the ds and it's touchpad. . even though it is less powerful as the psp they are selling as well if not better (don't know if it's the price tag or innovation though :D)

Andy639_basic
Andy639_basic

Am I the only one who thinks innovation and tradition can co-exist? There is nothing wrong with a market that allows the success of both Nintendogs and GTA. In fact, a market like that is much healthier than one with a uniform product See Comics in the nineties, and how EXTREEM! (along with speculation) almost killed the industry.

Socomnewbie
Socomnewbie

All i want to say is Dont Worry Nintendo knows what they are doing. SO far with the exception of one project Nintendo has been completely on the ball. All of there systems and Games made them what they are today. Do you think Sony , And Microsoft would be in the Gaming Market if Nintendo was not succesful? 20 years or more if I am correct. Sony And Microsoft are still at there infant stage.

RUSKULL
RUSKULL

On another note, nobody said you kids have to have your brain trianed. Many of us older players actually preffer exercising our minds. This may help to put aside the misconception that Nintendo means "kids".

RUSKULL
RUSKULL

in regards to DrCFLY's "Nintendo is ruining gaming. i want real games not crap like brain training and nintendogs." His whole point is that obviously people DO want games like these, otherwise they wouldn't sell. How many future soldier FPS do you want before you start wanting something fresh? Choose not to innovate, and you end up with the same five games every year. Once the industry starts to depend on those five games, it will die once one of them slips up.

Dunestar
Dunestar

In my honest opinion, I the Revolution will make a well-deserved mark on the Next Gen industry. Sure it might not outsell Sony or MS, but it will offer something along the lines of unique interactive experience, rather than just manipulating a stick and pushing buttons. Currently I can't wait for when the Rev demo units hit the stores so I can try out the system's new controls, and get to witness the upcoming games for the system itself.

ironman288
ironman288

Thats awesome!!! New people can give it a try and the hardcore can still get what they want, truly innovative game play. Thats why when everyone gets tired of shooting things X-box will die and Nintendo will simply move on to the next type of game.

LanceK17
LanceK17

GO REGGIE! GO REGGIE! GO!

devel05
devel05

ac2565 mind ur business panzy

overcode
overcode

ROFL, dude that was awesome. "point to above statement*

jaefrmbk2k
jaefrmbk2k

how creepy is that picture of Reggie

ac2565
ac2565

MrPuzzlez the only reason MS is last in japan they dont like western developers/publishers

ac2565
ac2565

devel05 learn to make sense

ac2565
ac2565

sorry fanboys but i dont like the revoultion controller.i want regular gaming controllers or a change in gaming controllers but not the rev controller

ferrarimanf355
ferrarimanf355

To all the Nintendorks nerdgasaming over this: Mario Party 7. Nintendo's just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to sequelitis. Give it up already. The Revolution? More like the Munich Beer Hall Pustch, if you know what I mean...

thechosenone827
thechosenone827

It is great that Nintendo is focusing more on innovation and reaching out to new demographics. Revolution may not be the most powerful console, but it definitely has the potential in sales to compete right up there with Sony and Microsoft.

gdogg4210
gdogg4210

dont you guys have a less scarier picture of reggie, him wearing a mask, face paint or something ?

Link165
Link165

So much for "Nintendo is dying" Microsoft and Sony fanboys are owned.

dgroundwater
dgroundwater

It is obvious they are still catering to the hardcore. Zelda Metroid Final FantasyCC etc.

WeeWeeJumbo
WeeWeeJumbo

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

WeeWeeJumbo
WeeWeeJumbo

DesFS- You make some good points. I didn't mean to say that Nintendo isn't solvent; I'm sure they're nowhere near the point of shutting their doors. I just mean they don't have what it takes to compete in their traditional arena, the home console market. And when I say, "traditional," I refer to the position they maintained through their greatest period, the mid-80s through the early 90s. However I don't agree with the way Nintendo is trying to characterize third-class hardware specs as a plus. Number-crunching is what console hardware does. It's the reason why there are new systems every few years. Let's not pretend that specs don't matter, if for no other reason than because improved specs allow new types of game experiences. Whether the software developers take advantage of this is one thing, but you can't deny that better specs are better to have. As for the possibilities afforded by that weird new inertial controller, I suppose there are a lot of them. But I suspect they won't be enough to make up for the wide gap in performance and power between the Revolution and its competitors. In my opinion the only reason why the machine may sell will be that its price is certain to be much lower than the 360's and the PS3's. You get to download 20-year old NES games? Oh goody. Fun in a weepy nostalgic way for about an hour.

DesFS-
DesFS-

Well I do complement Nintendo on doing something that isn't what others are trying to do. Example: Revolution - they aren't jumping onto the ULTRA POWERFUL SPECS bandwagon with a price tag to match. If they got something innovative, then hey that's great. And they are partially right about the innovation part. Better graphics, better sound, more realism, more gore, more special effects, etc is only going to carry so far. There is only so far that you can go. Not to mention, most consumers do not have bottomless pockets, and quite frankly, I'm getting sick and bored of playing games where you pick up a hi-res gun in a jaw-dropping environment and start blowing brains out. I'd rather take one game that is well built and constructed that will last a long time compared to many "ground-breaking" graphics and effects games. Oh yes, where's my copy of starcraft... Closing note: I did read in this list of posts that Nintendo is falling. I would partially agree to that statement. True Nintendo is no longer the best console in terms of consumers. However, things change quite rapidly, and Nintendo isn't dead as in 'financially gone'. Their base is quite strong in Asia as is Sony so just b/c it's not growing quite as well here, may not apply elsewhere. What was once was (Nintendo's console domination), may be again. There's still plenty of time.

lageasy311
lageasy311

SO much fun watching the fanboys saying things like "take that micro and sony" haha. Calm down guys, it's just what one man said. DId you hear the talks of the GameCube 4-5 years ago? They said the same thing, and they're dead last. I hope this does not fail but calm down you guys. You all sound like Germans and this "innovatie or die" gestappo guy is Hitler hehe.

Gamer4eva999
Gamer4eva999

hey bob returns, those aren't nintendo games, they're games from different companies appearing on a nintendo console. nintendo games are games like mario & legend of zelda.

Gamer4eva999
Gamer4eva999

reggie is right & wrong. yes, we do need to innovate. every other game is trying to copy each other, & it's becoming a frenetic mess. but also, he seems to be going too far onto the path of non gamers. nintendo needs to innovate while providing games that EVERYONE wants if they wanna stay in the race. not everyone wants to play brain games...

bobreturns
bobreturns

nintendo isn't dying it is just changing to a different market it wants to invite more people into the nideogame market with the DS mario isn't the only game there and all nintendo games aren't kiddie games look at resident evil 4, gun, true crime, spartan total warrior. These were not kidddie games nintedno is just changing

noxian
noxian

i mostly find his point about the rise of portables interesting. while for me its the PSP (importing japanese titles) versus the DS; it is true that in recent months i've probably spent more time on either of those than i have on my GC/PS2/XBox (i didn't stand in line to get a 360, i can wait). i mean, recently with the US release of WA4 and ToL my ps2 has seen more gametime, and probably will see more when a couple more ps2 rpg titles get released, but beyond that, generally speaking, portables have really gotten more of my attention. i find myself more interested in the future titles of the DS and PSP than i am about the 360 or the ps3 (with the exception of the continuation of rpg series i like, but that has more to do with the game series than the console) (also seeing as we really have no idea of what the Rev will play, i have no comment on its future titles).

og8440
og8440

Nintendo's going to have to pull something major with the Revolution to get me on board. If Nintendo does eventually fail WeeJumbo, I have other things to fall on. Unlike probably some of the Nintendo fanboys on here who would die if Nintendo left the console market, I have other things to play like my old SEGA games and the one game that will never die because innovation is left in your hands. I'm talking about Dungeons and Dragons and all the other PnP games. The only types of games that will live on for eternity.

WeeWeeJumbo
WeeWeeJumbo

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

WeeWeeJumbo
WeeWeeJumbo

See, the problem with some gamers is, they make an emotional attachment to the company that delivers their game console. So you get fanboy-ism of one stripe or another. Listen carefully--I've been gaming on console after console from the very beginning (Pong). I've watched all the giants rise and fall. Nintendo is falling. That's all there is to it. To see Nintendo rise in the 80s and 90s, level off during mid-90's with its underwhelming N64, and then begin its precipitous plummet in the 21st century has been interesting, sad, and informative. I was a die-hard SEGA fan, until I bought my NES. Then I was a die-hard Nintendo fan through the N64, where they totally lost me, since it was a piece of junk. At around this point it finally dawned on me that corporations are not people and that it's not necessary to fall in love with them. Corporations make big gambles and sometimes these gambles pay off, sometimes they don't. Sometimes the weight of a corporation's own culture is too great for it to react quickly and effectively to market trends. Sometimes there are too many old people on the Board of Directors. Sometimes they are just clueless about what people will buy, and what people want. It's all well and good to get on a soapbox and preach about how video games these days are "too violent" (although according to ESRB, only about 12% of the games they review are rated M and over; go figure) and about how gamers are "brainwashed" into thinking that violence defines a game. In reality what's happening is that lots of modern players find dangerous settings and visceral thrills very exciting. It's hard to get excited about jumping on a mushroom that's frowning slightly while it shuffles slowly in my general direction. Yes, non-games like The Sims sure do sell lots of copies. Yes, Nintendogs is unmistakably, unequivocally cute, and even though I loved GoW and DMC3, Manhunt and all the GTA games, it's still satisfying in a quiet, pleasant way, to scratch a pooch's chin and watch his eyes fill with love. That said, there's no way you can look at Nintendo's history and fail to realize that they're at their worst, most desperate straits yet. They know they have no hope of recapturing the home console market, and they are trying to create a new niche for themselves, after being kicked to the curb by Sony. Hahahaha, all because they couldn't get their act together in time to do that CD add-on for the SuperNES! I hope they feel just as stupid as Atari. This is what happens when you get too confident and let a potential partner become a competitor. You get crushed and humiliated. SEGA eventually left the hardware market, and now they do a bad job trying to rehash their ancient properties for a generation that barely remembers and certainly doesn't care about them anymore. Nintendo will follow. Watch.

bobreturns
bobreturns

i can't wait for the revolution but the way nintendo are talking it sounds like they want to change gaming i know it will be cool with the unigue gameplay style but i liked playing games with two hands and i think the controller won't be so good at playing a normal game such as splinter cell or tiger woods

sword_of_swords
sword_of_swords

Wow... If that's not a direct declaration of war to Sony and Microsoft, I don't know what is...

devel05
devel05

nintendo i love you revolution is coming b**ches screw ms and sony with a magic fountain losers

Pwnocchio
Pwnocchio

I love Reggie. I can't wait for the Revolution. Probably the most anticipated console (for me) since the N64. And I was PUMPED about the PS2, so that's saying a lot.

ghsacidman
ghsacidman

The Revolution is going to be fantastic.

s0l0123
s0l0123

w00t. Go Nintendo!!!

Gmex
Gmex

the revouloution's gonna kick!

decebal
decebal

Harcore games = PC. Everything else = Nintendo. Sorry but I just don't see Sony and Ms fitting in this.