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E3: Nintendo Shows  WiiFit , Online Wii  Mario Kart , FPS 'Zapper'

E3: Nintendo Shows WiiFit, Online Wii Mario Kart, FPS 'Zapper'

July 11, 2007 | By Brandon Boyer

July 11, 2007 | By Brandon Boyer
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More: Console/PC, E3

An unveiling of health-focused WiiFit with 'balance board' peripheral, a new pack-in zapper attachment, and a new 'Wii Wheel' to be included with an online-enabled Mario Kart Wii - Nintendo's conference saw a company focused on further breaking down mainstream boundaries.

Nintendo related mainstream news and viral video montages peppered the conference, demonstrating the company's penetration of audience mindshare for both its Wii and DS, leading to Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime telling the audience that the company saw this E3 event as "a celebration."

"Not just a celebration for Nintendo," said Fils-Aime, "but for all of us. We think this E3 marks a conclusive turning point for the video game market, welcoming more players and opportunity to our form of entertainment."

"E3 in 2007 may well be seen as a 'coming out party' for an entire industry," he said. "The year it finally became clear that games would take their place alongside TV, movies and music as a staple of leisure entertainment."

Nintendo's Own Numbers Game

Fils-Aime highlighted the growth of the industry, noting that game sales were up 46 percent in North America over 2006, up 42 percent in the UK, and up 114 percent in Japan.

Nintendo, he said, was responsible for 69 percent of all game industry growth, shifting market balance toward to the point where half of hardware sales were taken up by handhelds.

The company also highlighted the expansion of older gamers, saying "this is where potential lives." Over the past year and a half, players over 25 have jumped to about a quarter of all hardware purchasers.

Female players, too, have traditionally maintained a "law of the the industry" 20 percent balance overall, but Nintendo said it has seen that ratio shift to 33 percent versus the 67 percent of male players. The DS, said Fils-Aime, "might be the beacon lighting the way to the entire game industry." In Japan, said Fils-Aime, the jump in older and female gamers might be even higher.

Nintendo's stats have shown that while males between 6 and 24 still dominate 95 percent of the market, new statistics show that 66 percent of men between 25 and 49 now report playing Wii regularly, and 33 percent of women in the same age group say they are regular users, 75 percent having said they have at least tried the Wii.

For men over 50, Nintendo said, well over half have tried the Wii, and 1 in 8 say they play regularly, while 10 percent of women in the same age group say they now play regularly.

Nintendo noted that 40 million DSs have been sold worldwide, and the Wii has remained essentially sold out worldwide since its launch 33 weeks ago, and is soon "poised to become number 1 worldwide in this generation, very soon."

The development community is "responding accordingly," said Fils-Aime, with 60 Wii games and 300 DS games currently on the market, and another 100 games coming to the Wii and 140 coming to the DS before the holidays.

Nintendo again stressed its third party success, with 14 of the 20 best sellers for the Wii coming from third parties, and third party sales representing half of all unit volume.

Nintendo Zaps

Fils-Aime then revealed the first of Nintendo's new announcements, the "first offspring of the Wii remote and Nunchuck" -- the Wii Zapper.

A new housing for both controllers turning both into a unified gun design, Nintendo said the real news is "what it represents for gameplay," having the "same potential to change the dynamics of the FPS, as the Wii Remote did with Wii Sports.

Fils-Aime then revealed that Capcom's upcoming Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Sega's Ghost Squad, and EA's Wii Medal of Honor were all built around the Wii Zapper.

Finally, Fils-Aime revealed that Nintendo's own unrevealed Zapper project would come packed in with the Zapper peripheral at a total package cost of $19.99 to "maximize penetration."

After an interlude of third and first party lineup demonstrations -- Soul Calibur Legends, WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, Dragon Quest Swords, and Mario and Sonic At The Olympic Games, Fils-Aime moved on to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which he said would launch this year in the U.S. on December 3rd.

Nintendo Driving Online

Fils-Aime then took on critics who maintain that Nintendo still isn't serious about online play to note that the DSs Mario Kart, Pictochat and the Internet and News Channels were already gaining mass appeal.

5.5 million DS owners have already logged on to its Nintendo WiFi service for over 230 million game play sessions, he said, and the Virtual Console channel has already delivered 5.6 million downloads.

That service would continue both with its new Wii Ware third-party downloadable game service, and with a new Wii channel called 'Check Mii Out,' where players will be able to show off their Mii creations and have them voted on, and take part in contests such as creating Miis based on celebrities.

The Wii's online capabilities would also be furthered, said Fils-Aime, with Nintendo's first party soccer game Mario Strikers Charged, and with EA's Madden NFL 08 and FIFA 08 making use of full online play, as well as Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker featuring online monster battles and Guitar Hero III including online play.

But, more notably, Fils-Aime revealed that in the first quarter of 2008, Nintendo will be launching Mario Kart Wii, an online-enabled version of the racer that, in a franchise first, will come packed in with a custom Wii Wheel steering wheel controller, with the "potential to level the track for beginners."

New Games Forever

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata then took the stage for an inspirational speech about again further expanding the game industry market, with "new proposals and tangible products" -- noting that he himself has seen a personal paradigm shift as he has started cooking for his family with the use of Japan's DS cookbooks on his days off, providing the event's strangest applause line.

But, said Iwata, Nintendo's new challenge isn't just to expand the population, but to "destroy the psychological barrier that separates veterans from novice players."

Nintendo intends to create games that can't be narrowly classified as for beginners or for pro players, but hold challenges for both -- citing the Wii Zapper as erasing "a complexity that has always created a high barrier for casual players to overcome" -- with FPS games now accessible to all.

"Join us in one wish for entire industry," said Iwata, "not just new games for everyone, but new gamers forever."

Wii Gets Fit

Finally, after another slate of forthcoming releases, Brain Age 2, Mario Galaxy (coming November 12th), MySims for the Wii and DS, Disney's High School Musical, Rayman Raving Rabbids 2, My Word Coach, My Life Coach, and Nintendo's own visual trainer Flash Focus for DS, the event got to its final big reveal and product announcement.

Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage to reveal WiiFit, a new thin, wireless 'balance-board' enhanced exercise title that combines four different genres of activities - aerobics, muscle conditioning, yoga, and balance - and will, as Fils-Aime said, "lap the field" in audience expansion.

Miyamoto said that in thinking up the concept for the Wii, Nintendo knew it wanted a device in the living room relevant to everyone in the household, and one subject the company knew it had to have was health.

To that end, Nintendo's WiiFit was shown off with a range of activities: maintaining balance while stretching to build muscles and stability, a vaguely Dance Dance Revolution inspired step aerobics activity, and further exercises enhanced by the balance board.

The title will maintain statistics of your progress over months, as with the company's Brain Age age titles, for every user in the family, and instead of showing rote weight, which could be embarrassing for some, WiiFit will chart a user's body mass index, demonstrated by Fils-Aime's own slightly over ideal BMI.

Leadership Positioning

Fils-Aime concluded the event, after soundly trouncing Miyamoto at a WiiFit minigame of soccer-ball heading, by saying that Nintendo while Nintendo is happy, it's "not close to being satisfied."

While the industry has a "huge reservoir of talent" in the creative and business sectors, the company sees itself as stepping up to the plate in leadership.

"There's 24 hours in every day," noted Fils-Aime, "and only a small amount of time available for leisure, but minute by minute we indend to steal more of that time for video games."

"Podcasts, Flickr, Facebook, video blogs, MySpace, YouTube -- people are no longer satisfied with consuming, and insist on getting inside [their entertainment]", he said.

With video games standing as the "ultimate interactive experience," he concluded, "the future should belong to all of us."

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