LOS ANGELES--This morning at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nintendo showed off its newest wares during a massive press event at Club Nokia, across the street from the Los Angeles Convention Center. The hour-and-a-half event trod familiar ground for the most part, talking up casual gaming and showing off the previously revealed Wii Sports Resort's Wii MotionPlus-enhanced playability. The biggest news came via the unveiling of four games: the online-enabled Wii Fit Plus, the Team Ninja-developed Metroid: Other M, New Super Mario Bros Wii, and Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Though Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and Nintendo of America executives Reggie Fils-Aime and Cammie Dunaway were on hand, one person was noticeably absent. Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Wii and Nintendo's most iconic franchises, was nowhere to be seen at the event, after being onstage for the past several years. The oft-honored designer had been in the US as recently as last fall, when he held a series of press roundtables to promote the slow-starting Wii Music.
As it turns out, Miyamoto is at E3 2009. More specifically, he hosted a similar press roundtable behind closed doors in a LACC theater, where a small group of reporters came to hear him discuss his thoughts on the state of gaming and Nintendo's future.
[6:13] After a brief introduction, Miyamoto saunters out to take a seat next to his translator on an unassuming stage.
[6:13] He says he's very relaxed, since he didn't have to go onstage today. "It's been the first time in a long time that I was able to watch from the audience."
[6:14] He said he's been very busy, and has been spending all his free time here communicating with developers.
[6:14] He jokes that Nintendo's staff is much smaller than usual due to the swine flu.
[6:15] He said that one project in particular has been taking up much of his time recently. It's a DS project.
[6:15] A DS dev kit rests a few feet away on a dais.
[6:16] He's been thinking of ways to use the DS as a city guide of sorts, where you could download information about locales and even products in stores.
[6:17] They've been doing a lot of testing with the service in Japan, and he will return to it when he goes back to Japan.
[6:17] Now the subject turns to today's two Mario games: New Super Mario Bros Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2. The former game is the first up.
[6:18] Members of the Treehouse crew take the stage to play New Super Mario Bros Wii as Miyamoto talks.
[6:19] "I've been working on Mario titles the past 20 years," he said. "And there's been something I've been wanting to do the whole time...re-create the single-player gameplay with multiplayer."
[6:19] "Usually with every Mario game, we start with multiplayer, only to set it aside and go back to single-player."
[6:21] It won't just be co-op though--in some sections players will cooperate, in others they will compete against one another.
[6:21] "While the gameplay will seem familiar, there will be a lot of new tricks to incorporate into the title."
[6:22] The camera will zoom in to get a tighter view, then they go into smaller areas to get a closer view.
[6:22] The processing power of the Wii makes this possible.
[6:22] Up to four people can play simultaneously.
[6:23] Onscreen, Yoshi disarms one of the Hammer Brothers and spits the hammer back out, knocking him back.
[6:23] When a player dies, he or she will respawn at the beginning of the next level if he or she has run out of lives.
[6:24] Stages can be revisited, and players can compete to see who gets the highest scores.
[6:24] The game will have 80 courses and is playable on the show floor.
[6:25] The scene cuts to an arctic level, where Mario dons a penguin suit to keep warm.
[6:25] Mario dies almost immediately, and Miyamoto jokes that's the reason there's no photography allowed--because he's been playing badly.
[6:26] Mario then slides through an icy section on his belly, collecting many gold coins.
[6:26] Miyamoto is giving an untranslated running commentary, which has the Japanese correspondents in stitches.
[6:27] Now Mario is being menaced by an angry penguin, and Miyamoto admits he's been cheating a little bit to pass the level.
[6:28] Mario clears it and comes out of a green pipe to an all-downhill section, where he slides on his belly and hops over chasms collecting coins.
[6:28] One of the big features of New Super Mario Bros Wii is to have a game that lets beginners and veteran gamers play together.
[6:29] That's the same goal as Wii Sports Resort, which will be shown in a bit. First, though, he runs the Super Mario Galaxy 2 trailer again.
[6:29] Or it would be, but Miyamoto has a few thoughts first.
[6:31] When designing the first Super Mario Galaxy, they made a ton of levels which did not make it into the final game.
[6:31] He felt that was kind of wasteful, so he said they said, "What the hell, we'll just make Super Mario Galaxy 1.5."
[6:31] However, once the project started, the team really got back into the game, and ended up making a slew of new content.
[6:31] As a result, about 90 percent of the game is all-new content.
[6:32] The game is just as expansive as Super Mario Galaxy, content-wise.
[6:33] The game won't be out until next year, since they're focusing on New Super Mario Bros Wii coming out this year.
[6:33] Now it's Wii Sports Resort time, and a Miyamoto Mii appears on the screen at the front of the stage, controlled by a minion.
[6:34] "I know many people look at this and Wii Fit Plus and say, 'Oh hey, more sequels!'" says Miyamoto.
[6:34] However, he feels that both have enough content to differentiate themselves from their predecessors.
[6:35] He's now on a tangent about Wii Fit Plus, saying the game will let you weigh your dog as well, and input calorie counts.
[6:35] He hopes people who've stuck the Wii Fit in the closet will dust off their balance boards and play it.
[6:36] He says that once Wii Sports was done, they were wondering what kind of sports to take on next. At one point, they even considered a Wii Motor Sports.
[6:36] While they were trying to figure out what kind of sports to focus on, Wii MotionPlus came along.
[6:37] That allowed them to do the kinds of sports they could not with the regular Wii Remote, like basketball.
[6:38] As his underling navigates the menus, Miyamoto calls out how responsive the pointer is.
[6:40] Cut to "Gauntlet," part of the Nerf-Kendo swordplay mode. In this submode, all of the Miis stored on the Wii will come after the player in never-ending waves. Players will fight them off for 10 stages with only three lives, which Miyamoto says is "very challenging."
[6:41] Other sports include wakeboarding, Frisbee, archery, table tennis, bowling, and power cruising.
[6:42] Oh, and more golf!
[6:42] Miyamoto is now wielding the Wii MotionPlus-enabled Remote himself. He is wearing a T-shirt with a Mii face of himself on the front.
[6:42] He prefaces the demo by warning the audience that he is not a professional golfer.
[6:43] He said that the problem with golf games in the past is that they could not tell how strong you swung the club.
[6:44] He said that it also would reflect if you held the club straight--Wii Sports Resorts' power meter will bend according to how the Wii Remote is facing, telling the player if he or she is going to hook or slice.
[6:44] He says that he will hook or slice for sure, but then nails it right onto the fairway in a perfectly straight line. Ringer alert!
[6:45] He nails it again, landing on the green only a few feet from the hole.
[6:45] He putts too strong, though, missing the hole by an inch.
[6:45] The game will offer 18 hole courses, apparently, which go by pretty quickly.
[6:47] He said that though most games require tutorials or cutscenes, Wii Sports Resort just lets players focus on playing it and enjoying it.
[6:47] He beckons the Treehouse crew back on stage to play table tennis for him. His lordship must be entertained!
[6:47] Apparently table tennis is the top game at the Nintendo of America offices, sparking fierce competition.
[6:49] The gameplay looks a lot faster-paced and more accurate than Wii Sports tennis. It can also let players put a spin on balls.
[6:49] It will also have a mode called "return challenge," in which players have balls pelted at them nonstop.
[6:49] Canoeing is another activity in the game.
[6:49] So is cycling and air sports.
[6:50] There is an in-game achievement system in which "stamps" are handed out for feats such as returning 100 serves in table tennis. There are 100 stamps in all--is this the beginning of Nintendo's achievement system?
[6:50] The game is set on Woo-Hoo Island, and previously appeared in Wii Fit.
[6:51] He said he wanted to treat the location like a character.
[6:52] He wants Woo-Hoo Island to be the geographical equivalent of Mario, a licensed IP that can pop up in--or even be the subject of--other games.
[6:52] He jokes they could have a murder-mystery game set on the island.
[6:53] He is enamored of the idea that the locale can be central to a series of events.
[6:53] "And who knows, if all goes well we may buy our own island in the South Pacific...but I don't know if Nintendo stockholders would approve of the idea."
[6:55] For instance, the archery ranges are all over the island, and when a player engages in skydiving and other air sports, he or she can be spotted from above.
[6:55] Now it's time for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, which is demoed on the DS dev kit on the dais.
[6:55] In it, Link wanders around in a Gauntlet-style dungeon with piles of gold and hazards such as flames.
[6:56] It will have tons of traditional Zelda puzzles, but will have new elements as well. In the demo, Link uses a phantom to do his bidding, sending it to disarm a trap.
[6:57] When the game goes above ground, it shifts to the titular railroad action, given that young men like trains so much.
[6:57] Miyamoto makes "choo-choo" noises to chuckles.
[6:57] Now we're back underground, where Link finds a magical object with green gems in a chest.
[6:58] He sends his phantom buddy ahead to clear the way--so far, so good.
[6:59] Now Link gets his own hands dirty, slashing a few opponents who die bloodlessly.
[6:59] Now the phantom is clearing the way again.
[6:59] The game will also have four-person multiplayer, but the version on the show floor does not have that capability.
[6:59] In terms of the Zelda franchise, in general, they've been having discussions back in Kyoto about where to go next.
[7:00] "Obviously, graphics have improved, but as a team, we've been sitting down to look at the gameplay and what we can do with it to move Zelda forward."
[7:01] His idea of what a new Zelda game would be is to have players travel to different areas, which would link visits in the game.
[7:01] "And to create memories of the characters you meet--your individual memories of what you experienced in the game."
[7:01] "How you interpret that dungeon, how you interpret that dungeon, et cetera."
[7:03] "We're doing repeated experiments with different kinds of games and different kinds of gameplay."
[7:04] "To be honest, I really wanted to show off a new Zelda at this E3. However, rather than bring you something, we wanted to focus on development."
[7:04] Up comes concept art for the new Zelda game, which shows Link in his Twilight Princess incarnation.
[7:04] The team is "targeting" next year, and is building in so much Wii MotionPlus capability that the game might require it to play.
[7:06] Miyamoto said that they are trying to juggle all the game's elements. He prefers action games, so he's into swordplay, but other team members want to focus on role-playing game elements.
[7:06] The first questioner asks for Miyamoto's reactions to Microsoft's and Sony's motion controllers.
[7:08] "Well, for us, our development strategy is to get the hardware finished and then makes the games, and then make announcements."
[7:09] "Well, the things we've seen here are things we've seen before."
[7:09] "But I don't know what the most perfect approach is to this kind of gameplay, but anything that gets players into full-motion gameplay just expands the market for us."
[7:12] "And I think we've created something very natural with Wii MotionPlus at a good price point."
[7:12] Next question asks about what kind of game would use the Wii Vitality Sensor, which measures a player's pulse.
[7:12] "I think it's an idea I've been very interested in for quite some time. Controllers have always been about interfaces, and have gone from controllers with buttons to something you can stand on and move with your body."
[7:12] "But can you control your pulse?"
[7:12] "There are activities like yoga that help you do that."
[7:12] He asks the questioner, "When you are asleep, do you know if you are really relaxed?"
[7:14] He then makes a crack about a love-tester device that can check couples' compatibility.
[7:14] He then mentions a tech demo that he took part in where you can control a robot with your thoughts--he jokes that they thought about doing something similar with Pokemon.
[7:14] Where even two guys could get together and create a new Pokemon egg--light laughter.
[7:15] "We have quite a few young people at Nintendo who are interested in the same sort of things."
[7:15] Next question from a Nintendo-centric site, asking if the ultradifficult version of Super Mario Bros 2 will ever be released stateside.
[7:15] Miyamoto chuckles.
[7:16] "We really want these games to be enjoyed by a lot of people, and we are always looking at new ways to keep everyone happy."
[7:17] "That said, for those people who do require those impossible challenges, we're working on some ideas, but there will be some areas that are difficult for everyone."
[7:18] Next question is whether Wii Sports Resort will indeed be the start of an achievement system.
[7:18] He responds carefully, "Not in the overall sense, but it was something that really fit with this particular game, Wii Sports Resort."
[7:18] "I'm not a big fan of using carrots to motivate people to play. I want people to play because they enjoy playing and they want to play more."
[7:20] "Ideally, you'd buy a game that would allow someone to buy a game and play all its content from the start, but you have to follow some difficulty systems."
[7:20] "Within this game, the stamps are more an impetus to play in different ways."
[7:20] Next question is about Wii Speak and its lack of support.
[7:20] Will any new games coming out support it?
[7:22] "I'd like to use Wii Speak more," says Miyamoto. "And every game we wonder if we could use it. But we have so many ideas, that usually gets left on the cutting board."
[7:23] "With New Super Mario Bros Wii, there's so much going on on the screen that we use up all our processing power, so we simply have nothing left."
[7:24] Next question is about the limits of Wii hardware--specifically, how often do its limitations hinder game development?
[7:24] "You could say that about every single project we do. But, as a developer, you work with the tools you're given and try and do your work well."
[7:25] Next question is a two-parter. How does Miyamoto feel about last year's press conference, and was this year's conference a response to the backlash from that conference?
[7:25] Miyamoto's face grows impassive.
[7:26] "Last year, I didn't uphold my instrument playing onstage, so that's why I didn't show up this year," he jokes. "When I play music, I get lost."
[7:27] "I think in many cases with software, we get a lot of questions, but once they play it, they understand it."
[7:28] "Unfortunately, there's a lot of Nintendo product which doesn't fit with an onstage presentation or a show floor, where they have to wait for hours to play it for a only a few minutes."
[7:29] Last question. Apparently Valve's Gabe Newell said that Mario 64 was the most inspirational game he had every played. What game most inspired Miyamoto that he did not make himself?
[7:30] "Will Wright's Sim City had a really big impact on me. But outside of video games, it's comic books and naguko, a kind of comedic storytelling in Japan."
[7:30] Now the translator is being talked to by a Treehouse guy.
[7:30] They are clarifying the hardware-limitation statement.
[7:30] Apparently Miyamoto's comments were not entirely translated.
[7:31] What he really said was that hardware has limited all developers since the 8-bit days, and it's a constant struggle for everyone.
[7:31] With that footnote, Miyamoto urges attendees to play Wii Sports Resort.
[7:32] One last plug: Apparently they had Japanese pro athletes who said that the game was more realistic than real sports.
[7:32] And that's it!