Now that GDC 2009 has closed its doors, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the show's big events. Let's start with Nintendo's performance. Satoru Iwata's keynote speech was well received by enthusiast gamers. News that the Nintendo Wii now supports SDHC cards up to 32GB, a new Zelda game is on the way, and the DSi will have unique titles was fantastic for gamers. Unfortunately, GDC stands for Game Developers Conference. While some parts of Iwata's keynote was very appealing to a certain section of the game community, I found other parts of it sorely lacking.
First, let's talk about what Iwata did right. The push for Wii Ware games was great for the GDC crowd. Small, downloadable games are getting more and more popular. Titles like Braid and Castle Crashers are great examples of games that can be made for (relatively) little money while still raking in sales and critical acclaim. Wii Ware offers developers, both small and large, an opportunity to reach a massive audience with a small financial risk. Considering the economy's current state, I expect numerous developers to give Wii Ware a shot. It's a low-risk/high-reward scenario.
In terms of reaching out to the development community, the rest of the keynote was a disappointment.
One thing that I wanted to see was Iwata courting third-party developers to make more big-budget games for the Wii. He really didn't do this at all. One of the most frequent complaints I see from readers of TheFeed is that Nintendo has forgotten about enthusiast gamers. While some argue that Nintendo doesn't have to worry much about that market considering all the mainstream and casual gamers it has sold systems to, I think it's vital for Nintendo to make sure it has a robust catalog of quality third-party games that appeal to the core audience. Not only is this important for the Wii platform, but it's important for Nintendo's next-gen system. The company still has plenty of time to populate its catalog with "gamer's games", but it needs to aggressively lean on its third-party partners to make these titles. If it doesn't then some gamers that loved theNES, SNES, Nintendo 64, and GameCube might expect Nintendo's next system to be a mainstream device that isn't for them.
Iwata's explanation of Shigeru's Miyamoto's development success was cute and charming. However, I don't think it imparted any practical information that developers don't already know.Miyamoto has had a legendary career and his success absolutely can't be summed up in six bullet points. The dynamics of a dev team are extremely complicated and Miyamoto is afforded luxuries that most developers can only dream about. While I don't doubt the sincerity of what Iwata was presenting, but most Western developers aren't in a position to "think like Miyamoto". This section of Iwata's keynote was fun, but was it really helpful for developers? I don't think so.
As a gamer and attendee, I loved this keynote speech. There were several great game announcements, The Legend of Zelda Chu Chu was unveiled, and I got a free copy of Rhythm Heaven. Looking at it in the context of GDC 2009, I was disappointed. Nintendo has two gigantic installed bases with the Wii and DS, giving it enormous stroke in the development community. The quality of third-party software for enthusiast gamers -- particularly for Wii -- leaves a lot to be desired and I was hoping Nintendo would useGDC 2009 to address this issue. I'm disappointed that didn't happen.