GDC 2009: New DS Zelda announced, Wii ships 50 million

[UPDATE] Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's GDC keynote address reveals Link's new portable adventure, Wii sales stats, console's "complete storage solution" SD-card compatibility; full Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks trailer inside.

SAN FRANCISCO--Three years ago at the 2006 Game Developers Conference, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata urged developers to "think differently" and disrupt the status quo. In November of that year, his firm did just that with the launch of the Wii. Insanely popular from the get-go, the console was nearly impossible to find at retailers during its first year on the market.

Now that it's in ample supply, the Wii routinely trounces its competitors, having sold more than 750,000 units in the US in February alone, according to the NPD Group. The DS also continues to shatter records, topping worldwide shipments of 100 million units earlier this month. Once mocked, the dual-screen handheld now has seven software titles that have sold at least 10 million units.

However, the Wii's success has come at a price. Hardcore audiences have charged that the console panders to nongamers with lowest-common-denominator minigame collections and quasi-games, such as Wii Fit. More important to the audience at the 2009 Game Developers Conference is the fact that the company developing the most popular Wii and DS games is…Nintendo. The prevalence of first-party hits for both platforms has meant tough times for Western third-party publishers already battered by the worldwide economic downturn.

It is against this checkered backdrop that Iwata took the stage this morning to deliver his GDC 2009 keynote address. Titled "Discovering New Development Opportunities," the speech was billed by the event's organizers as outlining "Nintendo's role in creating better tools and bringing opportunities for developers to introduce their innovative ideas to a marketplace that is increasingly willing and eager to embrace new game-design possibilities."

What exactly might these opportunities be? Most rumors preceding the event pegged the emphasis as being on DSi Ware, a toolset that will let developers create iPhone-like applications for the new camera-equipped DS model. Indeed, the DSi appears to be Nintendo's main thrust at GDC, intended to stoke interest leading up to the handheld's April 5 launch in North America.

With the stage set, thousands of GDC attendees, press, and yellow-shirt-clad volunteers gathered in the Esplanade Room in the South Hall of the Moscone Center to hear Iwata speak.

[8:49] "Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats," says the booming PA system to a several-thousand-strong crowd.

[8:49] Unlike most events, the music pumping from the loudspeakers is not deafening. There are, however, the usual gaggle of several dozen reporters and VIPs packing to the front row of the reserved section.

[8:55] "Does this guy speak English?" asks one reporter to another. Yes, Iwata does--enough to give a presentation at least.

[8:57] Still the nerds come! The place is filling up fast.

[8:59] The onstage smoke grows thicker--half-expecting Siegfried to emerge with a couple of white tigers.

[9:00] Now that's a Vegas ticket--the Siegfried and Satoru Show!

[9:01] We have a Reggie sighting. Repeat--Mr. Fils-Aime is in the building.

[9:03] The music is picking up a bit now--pretty sure there are more than a few Kraftwerk fans in the house.

[9:08] OK, here we go. GDC executive director Megan Scavio takes the stage to warm up the crowd.

[9:09] Unlike CES, she is keeping her remarks brief, talking about Iwata's past appearances at the event.

[9:11] The man himself takes the stage and gets right to it. And by "it" I mean self-congratulation on the Wii's and DS's success.

[9:11] Iwata announces the Wii has now shipped more than 50 million units worldwide, making it the fastest-selling game console in history.

[9:12] Slides now on display, showing Nintendo sales hockey-sticking while other consoles' market shares stay flat.

[9:13] "Software sells hardware," says Iwata, thanking the developers in the crowd. He bows graciously for several seconds.

[9:14] Now he addresses developers' concerns that third-party games won't sell on the Wii and DS.

[9:15] "Many of you are concerned that you cannot compete with Nintendo, but later I will explain to you why this is not the case," he says.

[9:16] Now Iwata is reminiscing about when he and Miyamoto spoke before the launch of the SNES.

[9:16] They met just as Nintendo was in dire financial straights.

[9:17] Miyamoto looked at the console and said, "This might be OK after a few more months of work."

[9:17] Iwata said, "We have two days." Nintendo had entered the "Death Spiral," where financial pressure was rushing development of the SNES and software.

[9:18] "I thought then that our competitors were beating us because they had more money--and more money bought more time. Now I know that is not the case."

[9:19] Miyamoto changed his mind. "He sees opportunities, where others do not… I don't think I have to talk about his track record. He is leveraging opportunities better than anyone else in development today."

[9:19] Iwata is now going though Miyamoto's development process--where is El Shigeroa himself?

[9:20] Miyamoto begins with a concept when he sees something people are enjoying, and will go over and over exactly what action makes that fun. Oh yeah? Explain Wii Music, then.

[9:20] Here's the explanation--Miyamoto uses his own hobbies and interests for game ideas.

[9:21] Miyamoto's new puppy led to Nintendogs, and his concerns with weight led to Wii Fit.

[9:22] In the interest of intellectual-property concerns, Miyamoto is now forbidden from speaking about his hobbies outside of Nintendo HQ. Chuckles all around.

[9:22] Up comes a slide for "Miyamoto's Way."

[9:22] Point 1: Ideas are everywhere.

[9:23] Point 2: Personal communication is key--apparently Shiggy hates design docs, preferring to brainstorm with a small team.

[9:24] Shows a slide of a very crude version of Wii Sports' boxing game. Miyamoto wanted to get the mechanics down first, figuring they could be polished later.

[9:24] Points 3 + 4: Prototype Stage and Small Teams.

[9:24] The essential element in all Miyamoto's games? A core principle of fun.

[9:25] Miyamoto is also a big fan of developing multiple projects at the same time, which is point 5. Point 6? Trial and error. He encourages experimentation to discover what exactly is fun.

[9:25] Iwata's mic is noticeably crackling--some A/V guy is sweating big-time right now.

[9:27] Indeed, Miyamoto actually encourages lots of error, just in case a mistake yields a fun idea.

[9:27] Of all these projects, only a select few reach the mass-production stage.

[9:28] After praising Miyamoto, Iwata notes that it is ironic that his former boss now reports to him.

[9:28] He says that's actually a good thing, because Miyamoto will push back when Iwata asks him to cut corners that he shouldn't.

[9:30] "Mr. Miyamoto has a tendency to 'upend the table,'" says Iwata about the designer's tendency to shake up projects in mid-development.

[9:30] Cue a long metaphor about Miyamoto stacking dishes back on the figurative table. "Nothing is ever broken, though, so we never have to start from scratch."

[9:32] "Naturally, though, upending the table takes more time." Apparently Miyamoto's perfectionism and experimentation held back Nintendogs from the original DS launch and pushed back Super Mario Galaxy past the Wii launch.

[9:33] One last Miyamoto technique--"Random Employee Kidnapping." Massive laughter when a slide of the designer with a bandanna is put on the screen.

[9:34] Apparently during late stages of a game's development, Miyamoto will grab a random Nintendo employee with no gaming experience and hand them an unreleased game.

[9:35] He will offer no help to the kidnapped, but will merely observe them try to play the game, noting their reactions. Elements that frustrate the person will be tweaked; elements that please them amplified.

[9:38] Apparently J-pop master Tsunuku was employed to advise on a rhythm game from the creators of WarioWare Touched and WarioWare twisted. He encouraged developers to dance around.

[9:38] This became Rizumu Tengoku, released in Japan in 2006.

[9:39] This was later adapted into…wait for it…DSi launch game Rhythm Heaven.

[9:41] Cue clip of Rhythm Heaven. Apparently the game's core team was just three people, who spent more than a year turning the GBA game Rizumu Tengoku into Rhythm Heaven for the DS. The DS version has sold 1.7 million units in Japan.

[9:42] Iwata reminds people that the game will be available in 11 days…and everyone in the audience gets a free copy! Massive applause from Nintendans and prospective eBayers alike.

[9:42] He uses this Oprah-esque surprise to talk about surprise in game design. He holds up Spore and Guitar Hero as examples of games that surprised people.

[9:43] The subject wheels back to the Wii--some 20 percent of US Wii owners had never owned a console before, according to NPD.

[9:44] As for the DS, last year 47 percent of US buyers of the handheld were female.

[9:44] Iwata now gives the core gamers props. "Many of these people would have never bought a Nintendo product had a veteran not brought one into their home."

[9:46] He says that Nintendo is taking core gamers "very seriously," and points to the Zelda, Mario Kart, and Super Mario Bros. games released in the first 18 months as proof. He also says the Virtual Console is targeted at longtime players.

[9:47] He says that the top two platforms for third parties are Wii and DS, with 7 million-unit sellers.

[9:47] He then shows a bar that touts the Wii Balance board as the fourth console on the market. The peripheral has now sold nearly as many units as the PS3 in the US.

[9:49] Cue a demonstration of the WiiWare game Rock and Roll Climber, which uses the Balance Board and Nunchuk to simulate rock climbing.

[9:50] Iwata's back. He says that by creating such a massive installed base, introducing new peripherals such as the Balance Board, and by "not releasing too many games ourselves."

[9:51] He points out that 90% of WiiWare games are third-party…and teases the introduction of a new "memory solution" for the console.

The Wii Menu 4.0 revealed.

[9:51] NOA guy gets on stage to show the new "complete storage solution for the Wii."

[9:52] It's Wii Menu 4.0, which features an SD-card icon.

[9:53] Each SD card will have its own menu now with up to 20 screens.

[9:54] The Wii Menu 4.0 update will also lift the 2GB card memory cap, allowing for "high-capacity SD Cards." Games can now be downloaded to and launched from an SD card directly without going through the Wii System Memory.

[9:55] Wii Menu 4.0 is available for download today--now, actually. Big applause.

[9:56] My Life as a Darklord and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years both coming to WiiWare later this year.

[9:57] Final Fantasy I and IV also coming to US Wiis in 2009--the first five games in the series will hit Japan as well.

[10:00] Reenter the NOA rep to demonstrate some DSi tools. The first lets players draw images, turn them into animations, and share them with friends.

[10:00] You can speed up and slow down animations, and even add sounds with the DS's built-in microphone.

[10:02] They can be uploaded to a central server, where people can also download other animations. A clip reel of animations is shown, with some very detailed animations.

[10:05] Next up, a demo of a hilarious DSi WarioWare game that has players shake their faces and heads, WarioWare-style.

[10:05] Two million DSis sold in Japan so far. Amazon says that DSi preorders are the most of any game product in its history. GameStop preorders are twice those of the DS Lite.

[10:09] Virtual Console arcade will bring classic arcade games. Six games will be available today, including Space Invaders and Mappy.

[10:09] New Zelda DS game out of nowhere--The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.

[10:10] Clip shows Link running a locomotive with some kind of steam cannon on the front. It will be available later this year. Massive applause.

[10:10] Iwata wrapping up now.

[10:11] "I can't wait for you to show us your surprise." Lights come up. Crowd sprints to get their free rhythm games.

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Discussion

382 comments
Lucidmike78
Lucidmike78

So finally SDHC support. up to 32GB. Not bad at all since you can have as many as you like.

L_E_V
L_E_V

I am personally very upset with the wii. What I hoped to be a great console has not lived up to its name. Yes motion sensetivity is cool, but that doesnt appeal to me as much as it used to. Yeah its selling a lot of units, but Nintendo is just trying to sell as much as possible, and has forgot its hardcore gamers. Its price is only 50 less than an XBOX 360PRO, and as i heard will soon cost as much, since Xbox might recieve a price cut in may.

hochstreck
hochstreck

I agree mostly with flint247. As a person i have a problem with playing not in a cunning way formularised games which feature clichéd men-stories as well as bloody violence, ever easier getting gameplay, oversizes muscles and weapons, some naive words of honor, and take itselves, on top of that, even deadserious. In other words, i would have to feel somewhat robotic when i would have to play one of these games which are primarly targeted at yobbish little-people-audiences.

Flint247
Flint247

I think Hardcore Gamers think they are the best in the gaming world, which makes them annoying at times. I like games with a lot of action, such as shooters and fighting games, but I also like casual stuff to have fun with games and stuff. Games are not just about violence, blood, language, etc.

Flint247
Flint247

The SD card menu was genius! This will definitely come in handy for the future.

lonelogan87
lonelogan87

hmmm...wii menu 4 is kinda misleading, they didnt change anything except for the sd card menu. i was hoping for a different look but its fine as long as its free. as for everyone complaining about 480p...why did you even buy a wii? nintendo blatantly said from the beginning that they werent worried about the graphics they were focused on how you played. the 360 looks great with 1080p graphics but one thing they may have not even cared about is that playing most games on a regular tv is horrible you cant see anything. i was recently forced to buy an hd tv lol. anyways, about the dsi, i think its a huge improvement on the dslight. the fact that you can download games is huge, also, browsing the internet, messing with photos, listening to music and messing with it as well, and all the other new features are great i cant wait for mine!!! i wish the battery life was better but im satisfied.

lonelogan87
lonelogan87

hmmm...wii menu 4 is kinda misleading, they didnt change anything except for the sd card menu. i was hoping for a different look but its fine as long as its free. as for everyone complaining about 480p...why did you even buy a wii? nintendo blatantly said from the beginning that they werent worried about the graphics they were focused on how you played. the 360 looks great with 1080p graphics but one thing they may have not even cared about is that playing most games on a regular tv is horrible you cant see anything. i was recently forced to buy an hd tv lol. anyways, about the dsi, i think its a huge improvement on the dslight. the fact that you can download games is huge, also, browsing the internet, messing with photos, listening to music and messing with it as well, and all the other new features are great i cant wait for mine!!! i wish the battery life was better but im satisfied.

Lash540
Lash540

@master_30 - what graphics problem? It doesn't put out as good visuals as the other consoles but hey its got some really great games, better graphics would just be a plus.

gameking5000
gameking5000

@master_30 Probably by a new console. But there's no point in buying a new console with JUST better graphics. So what I think that there might be a new console with better graphics as well as some new features.

master_30
master_30

The new Wii menu 4.0 is really cool but when is nintendo gonna solve the graphics problem for the wii.

sonic__323
sonic__323

I hope the new Zelda will be good, also hope that they will at least upgrade the Wii to be more better.

Tylendal
Tylendal

Their final solution for the storage issue with the Wii is genius. No expensive external hard-drive, just boom, you're SD card is perfectly integrated with the menu. You can tell they really put some thought into this. They could have just put another product on the market and shored up the problem, but instead they managed to make it look like something that could have existed from the start.

Sharhan96
Sharhan96

gameking's right too much hardcore wouldnt make the best game around and too casual makes it boring

gameking5000
gameking5000

The best games are a balance between "hardcore" and "casual". And the Zelda games are one of the best of them

Wonkyman
Wonkyman

@Pokedude1013 and Link_Destined_1 People like you are the reason I still have hope for the gaming community. I couldn't agree with you more. Back in the NES era, the focus was on variety. People played games that looked interesting and didn't care about anything but how much fun they had with it. Nowadays, some people are so narrow-minded. If it's too cute, or if it's downloadable, or too unusual, or caters to a niche market, or isn't more than 10 hours long, then it's not a game to them. It's really discouraging. When it comes to business though, every dollar you spend is a vote for that product. It's like telling the company "I want more of this." So I'm glad there are people out there like you two who are voting for what matters.

standarddamage
standarddamage

The problem here isn't the lack of "hardcore" games; the problem is the lack of good, in-depth games in general. Core gamers have been given one game that improved over the previous generation, and that was Mario Galaxy. Everything else we've seen so far has not been as fun, or as deep, as what we given before, and this keynote didn't give us much hope about what's coming down the line. I am very happy for DS gamers, though. Another Zelda? Rhythm Heaven? Very Cool.

Link_Destined_1
Link_Destined_1

Pokedude1013 hit the nail on the head. Hardcore gamers need to get off their high horses and quit whining that anything they don't like sucks. The clubhouse that is gamerhood is now open to all who can afford a system and some games. Get used to it.

dali_ones
dali_ones

it seen like the new LOZ looks like kind of diferent well it is ok its like LOZwind waker instead a ship you're riding a train mmm i have to play it i hope it is like phantom of hourglas ..

Desulated
Desulated

I hope Zelda Wii will be just as fantastic as Ocarina of Time. As for this new DS Zelda, let's hope it will be great.

Pokedude1013
Pokedude1013

After reading about 100 comments, I must say, those people who claim to be "hardcore gamers" are acting like they are the superior race or something, and if the company doesn't cater to them then they're a bad company. Maybe it never occured to them, but video games aren't all about shooting things in pretty enviroments. It's about having fun, and if people have fun playing mini-games and Mario Tennis, (which is really fun for me anyway) then let them. If being 'hardcore' means you like graphics and shooting/blowing up things, then good for you, "quality" is simply how much fun you have with something. I'm sure I have just as much fun playing Mario Tennis with my friends as you have fun playing Killzone online.

DMLSLAT
DMLSLAT

A train + Zelda = ? I'm definitely getting it, I won't ever miss a Zelda game, but that's a strange direction. Still, sounds like fun. But where's the Wii Zelda we all want?

xElite_GameRx
xElite_GameRx

thats the fastest selling electronics gadget on the market, 50 million in just 2 years is amazing! Sure I still find a dull console with lack of hardcore games, but thats quite an accomplishment. Also, I wouldn't call zelda "hardcore" because it basically looks like a ripped off Peter Pan

ultimte3ricecrm
ultimte3ricecrm

That video with the guy playing the new Warioware game was great. I might actually consider getting a DSi (my Lite has a broken hinge but it still works fine.) Also, I feel a little bit skeptic about the new Zelda game. I wasn't too satisfied with PH, but I think I might like this one. Link driving a train? Interesting!

skullboy950
skullboy950

Well, I could care less about sales news, but hey! at least this isn't the joke that E3 2008 was. And yay for the new Zelda! But what's with Link's new getup?

scouserfuller9
scouserfuller9

I think the Zelda is just a sign to us hardcore gamers there's more to come at E3 although when it comes to Zelda on the Wii something tells me we may have a bit of a wait on our hands. Miyamoto's assitant producer (can't remember his name) said recently he doesn't wanna stop making the game until he's made one better than OOT. Now if we look how long it took to make that game from ALTTP it was about 6 years. I'm not saying we're gonna be waiting that long again as they work a lot more harder now but I reckon we'll be waiting slighly longer than usual for a Zelda title that Nintendo are surely hoping competes with OOT. If what I'm saying ends up being true it may be a pain waiting but at the end of the day it's well worth the wait!!!

kiriyama2
kiriyama2

As far as their comment about memory, i hope they just allow things to go onto a SD card and simply use flash memory, since most people have a SD card already and they are cheap to buy if needed. Now all Nintendo needs to do since they sold so many systems is to start pushing quality games out, we all know the big ones out there being no more heros, smash bros, zelda and the like, but i think new and good quality games should be happening more often, and if they can do that, a lot more games will be sold, and then Nintendo can take over the world.

CleitonSL
CleitonSL

If theres a Zelda Wii, they wont annouce it any soon since the DS one just got revealed, and it will take forever to be realeased like TP was made for the GC, maybe the new zelda wii comes out for the next system..ughh maybe 2010 2011 no doubt..

thps48
thps48

Blah blah blah we have lots of money blah blah blah Zelda 1.26 blah blah blah Reggie has huge eyebrows. It's been said before, but being a hardcore Nintendo follower requires massive amounts of patience and tolerance. Unfortunately, 1000 tons have been added to that amount which started off at 5000 tons during the time between Twilight Princess and SSBB, at least for me. Nintendo can continue to cater enormously to casuals, but it really needs to be balanced by plenty of third-party hardcore titles at the most and a number of first-party hardcore titles that could be counted on one hand at the least...

Sunlight3
Sunlight3

They are currently making a new Zelda game for the Wii Nintendo announced it!! This game is just to satisfy us till the Wii game is finished...

aaaawwww
aaaawwww

Honestly. NO ONE is going to take you seriously when you have the grammar of a tourette's sufferer. "Casual gaming"? Better than "Casual Spelling"!!!

LindBergh2007
LindBergh2007

I love how the fanboys hold on to the delusion that Wii is going to get some decent software when most of it turns out to be shovelware, and the fanboys can't argue why it's software titles don't sell. But considering that Wii-fit and Wii-sports are the only things people are buying for it and nothing else just makes the "casual gaming" argument totally ridicuious. It's non-gamers because they aren't interesting in buying anything else.

CapedCod
CapedCod

I love how much Gamespot hates Nintendo.

xdeiri
xdeiri

see nintendo you can own us any time just by releasing those good games, god bless those aaa titles

mattcarlo
mattcarlo

Gregdawg08: I hope you're right, I will be devastated if they don't make a new Zelda game for the Wii.

Rect_Pola
Rect_Pola

Ooo... I've said before I'd wait on DSi because nothing directly interested me, but something about that flipbook app draws me.

Rect_Pola
Rect_Pola

Nintendo has pulled off some big stuff we've been whining about for sometime now. Lifting the 2GB card memory cap is a heck of a lot better than creating 6 SKU's looking for a magic number of memory to offer, and it does count as a solution to lack memory (and potentially lack of a HDD) with the ability to play directly from an SD card. New DS Zelda; we were all expecting Wii, but DS is good too. They found a working formula for a decent DS Zelda game, it makes sense they wouldn't use it only once. That's why they made Majora's Mask with the Ocarina engine. All they need now is a way to preserve your purchases should you need a new console and especially in the next generation.

condelirios
condelirios

No third party games support? HUH? Rock Band and Guitar Hero are both huge sellers on the Wii. and... Guitar Hero is only on the DS handheld... not on PSP. Also.. GTA:Chinatown Wars is an excellent 3rd party game for DS. I would think these examples alone would stop the whole.. no hard core games arguments. Love the new Wii SD card support! AWESOME.

StillFreeTagger
StillFreeTagger

Link with a train? Cool I guess. Can't wait to see how that develops. I'd like to see a sequal to Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. The Link of that era is still the best!

Rottenwood
Rottenwood

Oh, and to anyone complaining about Nintendo catering to the casual audience: Non-catering: 3rd place, poor quarterlies. Catering: MONEY CASH WHAT?!?

destinys_martyr
destinys_martyr

As rgame1 stated below, the DS is probably the best platform ever for the game world, I can see why they're focusing so much on the DS instead of the Wii. Eventually everything will be mobile and hand held, might as well go that route with gaming consoles.

Rottenwood
Rottenwood

Glad there's another Zelda coming out for the DS; they tend to be much more faithful to the glorious 2D days of the series. Phantom Hourglass was very good; let's hope this one outdoes even that and enters Minish Cap turf. In any event, please stop complaining about the new features. We gotta listen to this with every Zelda game. "Cel shading is stoopid!" "Turning into a wolf is stoopid!" "Sailing is stoopid!" "Shrinking is stoopid!" "Link looks like a baby!" Sheesh, relax.

otanikun
otanikun

Rather than a new DS Zelda title, even though it had some great success on the lauded hand held system, I'd rather much see a new Zelda game on a home console. Twilight Princess came out a few years ago now and I'm starving for a true sequel to either that game it's self or an adventure with the original Link in OOT and actually find that little blue fairy Navi, which is what Majora's Mask was doing and took another direction. A true sequel for either the Wii, this time with lefty or righty modes since Link is left handed and not right, or perhaps one for the still alive Gamecube. Sure TP was released on the Wii, but I liked the gamecube version better; but anyway, I'd like to see that next console Zelda game soon.

hajjjustin
hajjjustin

still no real forces on core gamers here, naming one or two games is nothing and most are for there handheld systems, Nintendo has forgotten about us.

Bazza28
Bazza28

I just sold my Wii because of the lack of new good games. The announcement of a new zelda ds makes me think about getting a dsi though. Zelda is still one of my favourite game series!

ctburesch
ctburesch

Wii Play?? That is what people that enjoy the Wii call a good game?? The ONLY reason it sells is because it has the controller bundled and sales people steer them toward it when they need an extra controller. As a game it is one of the worst. Nice sales, but it will never catch the PS2. I personally the Wii is last generation. I like GOOD games and new era graphics. If I want to play Wii graphic games, I will plug in my N64. Better games too...