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MIGS06: Reggie Fils-Aime keynote liveblogged (kinda)


On the second day of the 2006 Montreal International Game Summit, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime gave the first keynote of the day. His subject, Nintendo's current business model, is already well-worn territory, but more relevant than ever considering that the launch of the Wii is only a mere ten days away. We'll know soon enough whether Nintendo's latest strategy has what it takes to compete in the market.

8:55 - Wow, they sure brought a lot of Wii promo posters to this keynote. The podium area is flanked by Wii banners, and the podium itself features a poster saying "Oh Wii!" It confuses me.

9:11 - Reggie is introduced. The man is a giant, especially when compared to the diminutive show organizer. "It's nice being in Montreal," he says, "where people can properly pronounce my name." The audience laughs appreciatively, so he milks it a little. "You should hear what they do to it when I go to Mexico."

Reggie begins by talking about Canadian development support for the Wii, for which he is very appreciative. He then shifts gears to Nintendo's master plan: "We are focused on doing everything possible to bring new gamers to the industry ... it's important to us, and it's certainly important for you [the industry]."

It's not unfamiliar territory for Mr. Fils-Aime, as he talks about innovation, doing things differently and "disrupting the marketplace." He says that Nintendo has changed the nature of portable gaming, "and in ten day's time, we plan to do that with the console business."

"Some people," Reggie says, "just can't wait." He cuts to a video clip from a recent South Park episode, with Cartman waiting anxiously for the Wii. It plays out as a major endorsement for the console, and the audience laughs at every line Cartman says. Reggie says that when the creators contacted Nintendo to ask permission, Reggie had simply told them to "be kind," and that Nintendo didn't want to see it before it aired. "That line 'it's like waiting for Christmas, times a thousand' is fantastic," Reggie remarks. Yeah, we liked it so much, we made it our headline.

9:15 - According to Reggie, the Nintendo DS was introduced under the "mantra of innovation." He begins referring to charts, showing year-on-year growth of the DS, as compared with the Xbox 360. Guess which one is winning. According to Reggie, DS sales are up 206% in Canada, having soared particularly after the release of the DS Lite.

Reggie then goes into more numbers, and more charts, this time comparing PSP sales to DS sales. He shows some of the Touch Generation games, and shows a video of a DS commercial that runs on Air Canada flights. More charts illustrate Touch Generation's appeal to an older demographic. "When you deliver something exciting for everyone," Reggie says, "magic happens." In February of this year, 12% of DS software buyers in Japan said they never played video games before. In September, that number rose to 20%.

9:25 - Reggie talks about other companies targeting a very specific demographic: "We believe the narrow path was alienating potential consumers ... We opted for disruption." In typical Reggie cheesiness: "We were committed to moving from a class to the mass in this next generation."

Reggie talks about the importance of the interface for video games, and how Nintendo is moving beyond "pure visual appeal, to what you could do with the interface." He pulls a Wii remote from his coat. It looks tiny in his colossal hands. He calls it "a simple remote, which looks like what you would've used on your TV back in eighties, which was intentional." He says that Nintendo wanted the Wii remote to be friendly and familiar.

He says he hopes that Nintendo will "move the industry from sight to touch ... just with DS, our success will be how we expand the audience." Reggie mention the controversy of the pack-in, and says that businessmen have questioned their decision, saying they would've benefited from higher sales had they not included a game. But Reggie says "the great first experience is more important."

He begins showing the launch titles, mentioning that people often ask him what his favorite launch title is. "It's like asking me to pick my favorite child," hey says. As he cycles through the titles, he mentions off-handedly "If I had to pick a favorite child, it would have to be Trauma Center."

There's a great deal of Wii support on launch coming from Ubisoft. Reggie specifically mentions Far Cry, which was developed at Ubi's Montreal studio. "Thank you," Reggie says to the game's developers, and the audience applauds.

9:33 - Reggie's now talking about the Virtual Console: "If you're casual gamer in your 40s, there was probably a game that you absolutely ruled at." The audience laughs in response, or possibly in agreement. Hard to tell.

He asks about the "non-gamers." "For them, the first attraction won't be a video game." This leads him into Wii Channels. He talks about the various channels, and shows off the menu (which I still think is ugly -ed). Reggie reminds us that Nintendo will ship 4 million units by the end of the year, but suggests that if we want the console, we should buy it soon, as "all indications are that demand will certainly exceed supply."

9:40 - Reggie then moves on to Wii's marketing campaign. He talks about the Wii Believe Tour in Canada, which brings playable demos to a variety of locations, one of which being the Arcadia Festival in Montreal this weekend. As we already know, major retails chain will have playable Wii kiosks as well.

Reggie brings up the "How Wii Play" MySpace page, which he says has had over 1 million discrete visits, and currently has over 10,000 friends. There is also a robust marketing campaign through other online channels, including YouTube and Xanga.

Reggie then shows us a rough cut of the Wii's launch advertising in both Canada and the U.S. Two asian men in suits are driving around in a Smart car. They stop at a house, remove a briefcase from the car, and go to the front door. When the person in the house opens the door, they both bow, saying "Wii would like to play." They then enter the house, and engage the household in a variety of Wii games, which everyone enjoys.

They do this with several households, the most memorable of which is a hillbilly-ish shack. When they bow to leave, one of the hicks hugs them vigorously, and the other enthusiastically offers them a live chicken.

At the end of the ad, the two men drive off to the horizon. The Wii logo appears, with the two 'i's bowing just like the men in suits. I would've gotten a photo of the ad, but I was too much in awe.

Reggie ends his talk by saying "there's no reason why every consumer can't enjoy a videogame like everyone can enjoy a great book." He ends his keynote there, and it is announced that there will be no question period. He did, however, mingle for a short while on the show floor.

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