'Every week is a holiday week' says Nintendo's ebullient president Mr. Iwata at the opening of Nintendo's E3 2008 press conference, which just concluded in Los Angeles.
Nintendo had a few surprises up its sleeve, including a new Grand Theft Auto game for DS and the sequel to the family friendly hit Wii Sports, more on which below, although the bulk of the conference was business as usual for the Japanese gaming giant – with the by-now expected buzzwords including 'innovation', 'paradigm shift' and 'disrupting the market'.
Nintendo's 2008 conference is opened by a smiling Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo's new EVP of sales & marketing who, after regaling the audience with stories of accidents on a family snowboarding trip, introduces Shaun White demo'ing his own game – Ubisoft's Shaun White Snowboarding (due later in 2008) – on the Wii Balance Board.
Next up, there is a warm welcome from the crowd for Nintendo's Global President, Satoru Iwata, keen to talk about the "true paradigm shift" that he feels has taken place since his first E3 as President of Nintendo back in 2003, when there was a generally pessimistic view about Nintendo's future.
Core gamers have needs
Mr Iwata stresses that 'evergreen' titles such as Nintendogs, Brain Training, Super Mario Bros and Mario Kart DS are key to Nintendo's recent successes.
He is also keen to stress that Nintendo is not turning its back on the core gamer market, stressing that Nintendo's "internal teams which makes Mario and Zelda games are both hard at work -- they will bring new titles to Wii."
"Small teams with small budgets can capture wide audiences if they have a great idea. This is the challenge and oportunity of WiiWare," adds Iwata.
Animal Crossing City Folk
"We at Nintendo…seek fresh surprises, and I hope you will enjoy the ones we have for you today," he says, introducing Animal Crossing City Folk producer Katsuya Eguchi who gives a thorough demo of this much-anticipated title for the Wii.
Animal Crossing on Wii features its own academy, fashion designers, stores, beauty salons and - most interestingly - a new feature called Wii Speak in which you can speak to other players via a community microphone. All intriguing stuff and we are sure to hear much more about this from Nintendo about this major Wii game over the coming days.
"Looking ahead, I want players to continue to be able to create their own worlds, to continue to communicate with others in a variety of ways," says Eguchi-san, "and to have a place where players can connect with each other."
Third party partners
Nintendo's bullish COO, Reggie Fils Amie is next up on the stage to roll out the NPD sales figures (in which US Wii sales hit 10 million systems, DS hit 20 million systems by May 2008).
"But we're not satisfied," says Fils Amie, "because there are tens of millions of people still not on, and millions of gamers who are hungry for what's next. We want to fulfil both those needs."
Discussing the success Nintendo's third party publishers have found with Wii, Fils Aime poses (and answers!) a rhetorical question: "Is this the platform that will be dominated by casual games, or where people can fresh up legendary IP, or a place for new franchises? Well, the correct answer is all of the above."
Three major forthcoming Wii titles from third party publishers are demoed - Star Wars The Clone Wars (with the motion-control lightsaber duelling), Ubisoft's party game favourite Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party (which also makes use of the Wii Balance Board) and Activision's Call of Duty World At War (featuring a rather cool co-op mode).
Girl gamers, GTA DS
Cammie Dunaway comes back on stage to discuss the rapid growth of female gamers on DS, which she claims has now "reached parity with males" and explains the continued growth of the platform in recent years.
After a short demo of the DS version of Will Wright's Spore (due later this year) Cammie reveals what is probably the biggest news from the conference:
"The appeal of DS also extends to the core: GTA: Chinatown Wars arrives on DS this winter… featuring a new game engine, characters, and the same free-range gameplay people have come to expect."
Little more is said about the new Grand Theft Auto DS title, but we expect to hear more from Nintendo and Rockstar on this cool-sounding DS game in the coming days.
Fils Aime is back up on the stage next to discuss Nintendo's new WiiMotionPlus add-on for the Wii Remote, announcing the sequel to the popular Wii Sports to show off the new, more accurate controller.
Wii Sports Resort (out spring 2009) is literally "a day at the beach" and features some fun-looking frisbee-tossing games and a slightly more 'high octane' jet skiing game, in which the player users the Wii Remote and Nunchuck to emulate the handlebars of a jet ski.
Wii MotionPlus does seem to be notably more accurate at measuring your hand in 3D space than the previous infra-red technology employed by Nintendo. Stay tuned for more details on the tech behind the new controller as we get it.
Wii make music
Finally, Nintendo's celebrated games designer Shigeru Miyamoto takes to the stage to demo WiiMusic
"This game is one that we began designing along with Wii Play when we were first finalizing plans for Wii," says Miyamoto. "If you want something that everyone in the family can enjoy regardless of age or gender, music is a must.
"But Wii Music is a slightly different play experience than you've seen with other music games. Now most music games require you to press buttons with precise timing to symbols on screen. But we've designed Wii Music to allow everyone, including those who can't read music, to enjoy the experience of playing music."
Miyamoto is joined on stage by a number of other Nintendo execs and a pro drummer, and together they all bang out the well-known Mario theme.
And that is pretty much it for Nintendo's E3 2008 press conference, as Cammie and Reggie return to the stage to remind the assembled journos and industry execs of the major announcements just made:
"Snowboarding where you don't hurt yourself… WiiSpeak to talk to your friends in Animal Crossing… using the new Wii MotionPlus as a sword to help your boss feel better about himself," quips Cammie.
Reggie concludes the show, switching to a more serious voice to note: "From the moment Wii went on sale, we all heard the same word - 'fad.'
"I'm here to tell you today that 'fad' is no longer operable. The paradigm shift is right around the corner. The only way to keep the advantage is to create new advantages. Consumers are saying "yeah, i like that!"
"The fact is that Mr. Iwata and Mr. Miyamoto have created a company that looks for the next thing. Not just the evolution in look, but the revolution in feel."