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GDC08: Some WiiWare details from the Wii Menu talk


Nintendo's Takashi Aoyama took the stage this morning in front of an enormous crowd to talk about the development of the Wii Menu interface, and the concurrent development of the system's features. The major news at this presentation is branding and confirmation of some pay content online (including, possibly, fee-based online play), video of a WiiWare game, and confirmation that the Everybody's Nintendo Channel (which offers videos, screenshots, and also DS demo downloads) is still planned for release in the U.S. and Europe for an unspecified time. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed, so here's a screen of the highlighted WiiWare game from developer Frontier's homepage.

The WiiWare game is called LostWinds and is a side-scroller controlled by the Nunchuk. The Wiimote pointer controls gusts of wind that can affect the character, enemies, and onscreen items. The visual style is very green and sort of Crystal-Chronicles-like. No information about release date or cost was given, but a video was shown.

The Everybody's Nintendo Channel "assists in finding software suited to the user's unique taste and/or play style" by allowing people who have played games for at least an hour to vote, and also providing information, screens, and videos about new games. This information will also be available with WiiWare. Aoyama said that the service is indeed planned for the U.S. and Europe, but didn't say when. He demonstrated the channel with a video showing a Wii Fit trailer.

The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection "Pay&Play" content will include games that are not free to play online. The icon is the same, but orange and surrounded with a rectangle with a "Pay&Play" label. This content would use Wii Points and would include both WiiWare and disc games. No specifics (of course!) but Guitar Hero III DLC seems like a possibility.

The majority of the presentation was (obviously) about the development of the menu and the system's features. Aoyama revealed that Nintendo had been working to do something online since about 2000, and have been researching low-cost consoles with the whole "fun for the whole family" thing the whole time. He provided motivation for the News and Forecast Channels: they are basically encouragement to get the console on every day. He quoted one team member who said that parents would want their kids to turn the Wii on every day. The Wii Message Board is there to make sure that it's possible for the system to have "something new every day" online or off -- notes between family members or Wii Friends. Surprisingly, the neat play history found in the Message Board is a parental control method, designed to allow people to monitor their kids' playtime.

Nintendo didn't want to compete with the TV for content. "Instead, we thought that the Wii could make watching television even more enjoyable!" Aoyama then described the Japanese TV Channel guide menu. He said that it will only be available in Japan with its full feature set, but may be available elsewhere later.

Aoyama described the evolving Wii Menu post-launch -- the scrolling text on the channels, for example, patterned after the Check Mii Out Channel. Wii Menu 3 includes Channels based on disc games (like Wii Fit), the ability to send messages at specific times, and the ability to follow links in messages into the Internet Channel. In my favorite part of the talk, Aoyama demonstrated how the Wii slot light alert was changed to match the rhythm of the Japanese bush warbler's call, which is considered exceedingly beautiful. So that's why your LED slot light glows in that weird rhythm.

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