"Content is king."
That is how Satoru Iwata started this year’s GDC keynote. Keeping in mind that the main premise of this keynote is the 25 year birthday of video games, Iwata recalls some of his earlier, more arrogant, days as a gaming pioneer. In his first years at Nintendo, he competed fiercely with Shigeru Miyamoto (the father of Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong) to make better games and he honestly believed his games to be much more superior to Miyamoto's. "Mr. Miyamoto taught me a painful lesson. Content really is king" says Iwata. He then touches on his and Miyamoto's responsibilities as trailblazing game developers back in the NES days mentioning how they were generalists wearing many hats rather than specialists. This does, indeed, sound like a story you would hear from a grandfather and Iwata even says, "We were video game cavemen."
The keynote then goes on to show off many, many graphs and charts in true to form Nintendo fashion detailing who plays what and where and how old and how long, yada, yada, yada. Iwata finally puts the graphs away and starts talking about something unusual to Nintendo, social networking games. Anyone who has even remotely been on Facebook has heard of games like FarmVille and Social City. Although these games reside on social networking sites, he hesitates to call them 'social'. He talked about how a social game should actually make you socialize. For example, systems like the Atari 2600 and the NES allowed for two players to play together hence socialize. The N64 allowed for four players. Even the Gameboy allowed for socialization with a connection cable. Granted, multiplayer is technically the purest form of socialization in video games.
Iwata then moves on to a different subject; the phrase "Must Have”. Of Nintendo’s most popular “Must Have” titles he first notes Mario. “Mario has only remained popular because he has changed. Mario always evolves.” Says Iwata. Pokemon is another of the most popular Nintendo franchises. Iwata mentions “The fundamental appeal of Pokemon is the idea of collecting and trading. Pokemon obtained from friends would grow faster. This was intentional to promote interaction.” He goes on to give even more mentions to 'Must Have' titles such as Tetris, Kirby, The Sims and even gives Call of Duty a nice little nod. Funny story; Iwata talks about how Kirby’s original name was changed for the sake of the English speaking market because when spoken, Kirby’s original name sounded like 'Tinkle Popo'.
Now we start getting into some stuff we want to know about, the Nintendo 3DS. Iwata talks about how the online systems for Wii and DSi really aren’t working as good as they should and promises a better experience on the 3DS. To elaborate on the 3DS, an unexpected surprise speaking jumps on the stage. Nintendo’s favorite son, Reggie Fils-Aime.
Reggie was all facts on stage. He told the crowd to consider two words, Content and Location. On the content side, Reggie dropped a bomb on us by promising that the 3DS will feature the streaming video service Netflix with a variety of features. One of which will allow movies to be viewed on the 3DS then continued on the Wii. Next Reggie promises another future 3DS treat in the form of 3D movie trailers starting with a 3D trailer for the upcoming Green Lantern movie. Lastly, we already know that the 3DS can take 3D pictures but we now know that it will also be able to record video in 3D! Next up was the idea of Location. Reggie promises that in late May AT&T will be implementing over 10,000 free Wi-Fi hot spots for the 3DS all over the US (or, at least we assume they will be all over the US. He didn’t actually specify.) These hot spots will automatically connect your 3DS to Nintendo’s SpotPass service and automatically download game content for your games regardless of which game is in your system at the time.
The last thing Reggie touched on was the new eShop feature on the 3DS. It will be very similar to the Wii Shop Channel, will include DSiWare as well and will feature all new features such as a 3D Virtual Console and 3D Classics where classic games will be remade in 3D for the new handheld.
Satoru Iwata comes back out to finish off the keynote. On the heals of Reggie’s 3DS-fest, Iwata drops another bomb in that Nintendo is working on a completely brand new Mario title in the same vein as Mario 64 exclusively for the 3DS. At this point they showed the logo of the new 3DS Mario title and the entire crowd nearly lost their minds and here’s why. On the right side of the logo was a silhouette of what looks like a raccoon tail! Could this indicate that the Super Leaf power-up would finally be making a return and that we would see Raccoon Mario once again in this new 3DS Mario title? I can honestly speak for the whole crowd when I say “We sure hope so.”
Iwata ends with what he thinks is wrong with the game industry today touching on the lack of craftsmanship and talent development in today’s game industry. His solution is summed up in one word… “innovation”. He says “Trust in your passion, believe in your dream and make the impossible possible" he ends with “We've been making impossible possible for 25 years, why stop now?