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Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

bleahy
18 Comments

Posted March 25, 2009 - By bleahy

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata is here at GDC 2009 to talk about the Wii, DS, and presumably DSi. Iwata-san will be discussing the unique way that Nintendo's current offering of platforms help developers do things that are impossible on the other consoles and portables.

8:52
Brian Leahy:  

Welcome (virtually) to the cavernous Esplanade Ballroom at the Mascone Center in San Francisco, CA.

8:54
Hopefully, we'll be getting some news about the DSi launch. Maybe this will be the announcement of DSiWare, downloadable software/apps/games for the DSi.
 
8:55
Billy is snapping some pictures for you guys :)

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

8:59
Press and attendees are stilling piling into the ballroom. It's packed. The only larger keynote I've been to was Bill Gates' final CES keynote two years ago.
 
9:00
We might get a release date for Wii MotionPlus, but no promises.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:06
Still waiting for Iwata to take the stage. People are still coming into the room.
Raymond Padilla: 
I am alive!!! I see Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime -- not shooting eye beams...yet.
 
9:07
BL:
Poll time! What do you think Nintendo's big surprise will be?

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:08
RP:
The GDC lady is speaking. Apparently she's thrilled.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:09
BL:
Do I spy a DS kit for direct-feed footage?
RP: Iwata takes the stage and the crowd goes wild!!! He's sporting an awesome leather sports coat.

9:10
BL:
Iwata was last here at GDC 3 years ago. He is telling us that no one thought the DS and Wii would reach the level of success that they have achieved.
Wii - 50 million units shipped worldwide - fast selling hardware in history.
 
9:11  
BL:
DS - 100 million units shipped worldwide.
 
9:12
BL:
Nintendo is outpacing the industry in the US and Europe (UK, German, & French markets). They are growing while everyone else remains flat.
RP: Both the DS and the Wii had major doubters. Nobody thought they'd sell this well. I know a lot of you guys are doubting the DSi, but can you really question Nintendo a third time? Let's see if Iwata can make some believers today.
 
9:13
RP:
"Software sells hardware," said Iwata. TheFeed are sure to pounce on that one.
BL:
Iwata - "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We appreciate all you have done." -- a message to the developers (and press!) in attendance.
RP: "Thank you from the bottom of my heart," said Iwata. But will he sing the rest of Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You"?
 
9:14
BL:
Iwata recognizes that some people believe that only Nintendo software prospers on the DS and Wii. He doesn't think this is the case, but understands why people feel this way.
 
9:15
RP:
He's talking about his history prior to Nintendo, when he was at HAL Labs.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:17
RP:
Iwata pitched Miyamoto-san and was given a super-tight deadline. He shows a graphic of the "Death Spiral". What is it Brian?
BL: The Death Spiral of game development begins with: Financial Pressure -> Less Time -> Poor Quality -> Poorer Sales -> Less Money for next project.
 
9:18
RP:
"More than anyone I know, he sees game development opportunity where other people don't," said Iwata, in regards to Miyamoto.
 
9:19
BL:
Miyamoto is leveraging new development opportunities better than any other developers in the world.
Where do Miyamoto's concepts become from? From observing other human beings.
 
9:20
BL:
Miyamoto can find the find where people do not even realize why they are having fun. This is why his games appeal to the core gamer as well as everyone else.
Nintendogs came to be because Miyamoto had gotten a new puppy. I knew it!
 
9:22
BL:
Miyamoto's Way - The "Upward Spiral"
1. Ideas are everywhere - even while working on one game, Miyamoto-san keeps observing people and coming up with new ideas.
 
9:23
BL:
2. Personal Communication - Miyamoto never creates a design document. Instead, he gathers a small team and talks it through with them.
 
9:24
BL:
3. Prototype - Miyamoto prefers to create a prototype with a very small team (sometimes just 1 programmer) to produce a playable prototype with a "core element of fun". Miyamoto has multiple projects in this stage at one time.
 
9:25
BL:
4. Multiple Projects - Miyamoto always has multiple projects in development at any given time. He decides which parts of each project should be perfected, while moving between projects fluidly.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:26
BL:
6. Trial and Error - Sometimes, the prototype phase lasts 2 years. Other times, Nintendo abandons prototypes after all the work has gone in. Cancelations like this are not a waste of time, however. It helps the process and is worth the time & energy.
7. Mass Production - Some prototypes do succeed. They then graduate to the mass production stage. Only then is timing discussed between Iwata and Miyamoto.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:27
BL:
Iwata notes that Miyamoto started as his mentor. Now Miyamoto-san reports to him. Zing!
 
9:28
BL:
Iwata doesn't believe in pressuring Miyamoto and his team by asking questions like, 'How is the project doing?' - He doesn't want the team to cut corners under pressure.
This makes it hard, however, for Iwata-san to figure out when a project will be ready. This stresses him out, but is the reason behind Nintendo's 'when it's done' strategy.
 
9:29
BL:
By working with prototypes, Nintendo never faces a situation where they are starting from scratch.
 
9:30
BL:
However, sometimes they notice something not working during the mass-production phase and it has to be removed. This never bothers Miyamoto. He's super-nice and never gets angry. He's also powered by the sun's rays, which gives him the power to make amazing games.
 
9:31
BL:
Nintendogs was supposed to be a DS launch title!
Super Mario Galaxy was supposed to be a Wii launch title!
"You have been very patient hearing my Miyamoto stories."
RP: I'm not convinced Miyamoto's approach is as simple as Iwata is saying.
The dynamics of a dev team are complex and there are so many intangibles involved.
 
9:32
BL:
At the certain stage of development... Miyamoto kidnaps a random Nintendo employee that has never been involved in development.
Miyamoto then hands the kidnappee a controller and tells them to start having fun with his new game.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:34
BL:
The employee might ask questions, but Miyamoto will not answer any of them. Nintendo cannot send a developer to every home. Instead, Miyamoto observers the player "over-the-shoulder" and he finds out where the player gets frustrated or stuck. He also sees where they have fun and succeed.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:34
RP:
You know, Iwata's cute English makes him as charming as Steve Jobs.
BL: One rule that Iwata and Miyamoto set for Nintendo: "Surprise."
 
9:36
BL:
J-Pop star Tsunku contacted Nintendo and said that he wanted to make a game. Mr. Yoshio Sakamoto (Wario Ware) and Mr. Kazuyoshi Osawa (Wario Ware) got involved in the process. A small team was put together to create a prototype of a rhythm game.
Unfortunately, the developers had no rhythm. They were forced to dance!
 
9:37
RP:
Raise your hand if you want to be kidnapped by Miyamoto.
 
9:38
BL:
Five developers eventually created Rhythm Heaven for the GBA.
Unfortunately, when the game was released the DS was already available in Japan for a year. "We missed an opportunity."
 
9:39
BL:
They started talking about the Nintendo DS version. The game is so awesome.
Showing footage now from the DS version of Rhythm Heaven.
The DS version was completed by 3 people. Amazing.
 
9:40
BL:
They spent a year on the trial & error phase before deciding to use touch & flick controls as the game's core mechanic.
RP: More developers should dance. It's unintentional comedy gold. Cliffy B dancing is hilarious.
BL: Rhythm Heaven wasn't well known, but managed to sell extremely well in Japan.
 
9:41
BL:
What about America? It's in stores in 11 days. Go buy it!  
WOOOT! Free copies of Rhythm Heaven DS for everyone in attendance!
Kojima better have an awesome freebie for us tomorrow!
 
9:42
BL:
Guitar Hero, Spore, and World of Goo are new ways of thinking about games.
 
9:43
BL:
20% of Wii owners never had a video game console before the Wii. This group (about 3 million in the US) are part of the expanded audience.
On the DS side, 47% of new DS owners in 2008 were female.
"It is existing gamers that have been supporting our industry."

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

RP: It's a fun presentation, but are Western developers getting useful information?
Well, at least they're getting free games.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:44
BL:
Now, Iwata is addressing concerns that third-party games do not sell well on Nintendo consoles.
 
9:45
BL:
Nintendo released games in the Zelda, Mario, and Smash Bros. franchises in the first 18 months. Virtual Console also helped grow the Wii's install base.
 
9:46
BL:
Ouch. A graph on the screen now showing that the Wii Balance Board almost has as many sales as the PS3 by the end of 2008.
 
9:47
RP:
the ratio of third-party games sold relative to installed base is way off.
BL: Demo time: Rock & Roll Climber - A new WiiWare game that uses the Wii Balance Board.
 
9:48
BL:
It's a rock climbing game. You have control of all four limbs by using a Wiimote, Nunchuk, and two feet on the balance board.  
Much like their trailers, Nintendo seems to be putting the person playing on the bigscreen more than the game footage. Tough to follow.  
When you climb to the top of the cliff, there's a guitar at the top. The character then plays a solo.
 
9:49
Billy Berghammer:
"WTF"
BL: The Wii is a "platform where your idea can succeed" without a large budget.
 
9:50
BL:
Iwata has an answer to the storage problems WiiWare developers are facing.  
Nintendo is showing off a "menu."
 
9:51
BL:
WiiWare games will no longer compete for space in the system's memory.
 
9:52
BL:
The new Wii system menu will include an icon for direct SD card access. A single SD card can now hold up to 240 titles.
Wii System Menu 4 will now support high-capacity SD cards.
 
9:53
BL:
The shop will also let you save games directly to the SD card.
Finally, you can launch WiiWare, Virtual Console, and Wii Channel content directly off of the SD card.
Instead of showing us a new Zelda game, we get a demonstration of launching Zelda II directly off an SD card.
 
9:54
Billy Berghammer:
Boo. :(
BL: When will the features be available?

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

9:55
BL:
Wii System Menu 4.0 - Available for download TODAY. Right now! GO!
An important name is coming to the WiiWare library.
RP:
The Wii Ware pitch has been the first developer friendly message.
SDHC FTW!
BL: My Life as a Dark Lord - Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
 
9:56
BL:
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years - A sequel to the original Final Fantasy IV available in 2009.
On the Virtual Console, Final Fantasy I and IV will eventually be available.
 
9:57
BL:
Now it's time to talk about the DSi digital distribution plans.
DSiWare!
 
9:58
BL:
Time to show off two titles: Moving Memo
A car is drawn on the DSi touchscreen.
 
9:59
BL:
The drawing can be copied to different frames. It's an animation program... my Palm Pilot called... it wants its application back.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

10:00
BL:
He can use the built-in microphone to add background sound. That's actually kind of cool.  
Flip book animations can be uploaded to a central server where people can download your creation.
 
10:01
BL:
Now, a video of talented animations.
RP: How many animated naughty parts will be uploaded with Moving Memo?

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

10:02
BL:
The second game is Wario Ware Snapped, which will use the DSi's built in camera.
 
10:03
BL:
The game will take a reference picture of your face and hand and then work a lot like the PlayStation Eye with little minigames.
The camera is pretty powerful for picking up motion. Finally, when the minigames are done, it shows you what you looked like without the game.

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

10:04
BL:
In Japan, the reception of the DSi is enthusiastic. 2 million sales since its release in November.
Iwata is back!
 
10:05
BL:
Amazon reports that DSi pre-orders are higher than any game system in history.
RP: Wario DSi is completely charming.
 
10:06
BL:
'I do not want you to leave thinking that Nintendo has forgotten about the hardcore gamers.'
Virtual Console Arcade - Classic arcade games will be available through the Virtual Consoles.
These classic arcade games (4 in America) are available to download today.
 
10:07
BL:
One more video - "satisfy longtime Nintendo loyalists."
DS title.
NEW ZELDA!
 
10:08
BL:
Cel-Shaded a la Wind Waker.
Link just controlled a suit of armor/golem with the touchscreen to fight a boss.
Link will use a train to travel. Showing combat while on the train.
 
10:09
BL:
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Tentative Title...  
Available later this year.
 
10:10
BL:
Iwata is encouraging developers to look at WiiWare and DSi for affordable platforms to develop for during the poor economy.
And Iwata has left the stage, but we're getting some Zelda images up!
 
10:11
BL:
Stay tuned!
RP: Indie games were pushed, but no call for more big budget third party games?

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

Live Blog: GDC 2009 Keynote - Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

10:13
BL:
Thanks for following along, everyone! Remember to check back tomorrow at 10:30AM PST for Hideo Kojima's keynote address from GDC 2009. To continue the discussion about Iwata-san's keynote, please use the normal comments section.
This concludes our live-blog coverage for the day.
 

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