10:12AM "Thank you so much for your attention today" – and with that, Iwata kicks over the podium, smashes his microphone, and leaves the stage. IWATA OUT!
Actually, he politely exited amidst the room's applause – this group is about ready to rush the exit, eager to snag that free copy of Rhythm Heaven. Oh, look at the time. We ... we have to uh ... use the bathroom. JOYSTIQ OUT!
10:10AM Remember when they said there wouldn't be a new Zelda game announced today? THEY LIED!
We've got Celda link steering a train, instead of his usual aquatic ride. The train has a cannon, like Phantom Hourglass's ship, and it appears to control similarly, with action concentrated on the bottom of the screen. It's a DS title, "tentatively" titled The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks" and it will be available later this year.
10:07AM Iwata announces the expansion of the Virtual Console with "Virtual Console Arcade" with six titles coming to the service, and will be available for download today: Space Harrier, Mappy, The Return of Ishtar, Emeraldia, Solvalou, The Tower of Druaga, Gapius, and Star Force.
10:06AM DSi sales have reached 2 million since it launched in November. Amazon has reported that there are more preorders for DSi than any other game system in its history, while GameStop reports similarly. Color us surprised ...
10:04AM Bill from Treehouse is back on stage, showing off a flip-book style animation system called "Moving Memo" on DSi. You can share your animations with others – while Bill's rather blunt imagining of a car driving leaves well ... a lot to be desired, the video showing off other animations done by people with actual talent is actually really impressive.
Onto another DSiWare title, WarioWare Snaps. After each kinetic performance, it shows back a video of you playing the game ... and, as you can imagine, you'll look ridiculous. Every time. Not what we'd call a "subway-friendly" game.
9:57AM This new Wii System Menu 4.0 is "not a future plan" and is "available for download today, right now." But of course, you all already knew that ... you sly devils.
Two "important games" are coming to the WiiWare service – My Life as a Darklord, a sequel to My Life as a King, and the previously cellphone-only sequel to Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. Final Fantasy is also coming to Virtual Console, in both Japan and North America. He says Final Fantasy I along with "five others" (read: the entire NES/SNES Final Fantasy series) will be coming to Japan, while the previously released-in-English "I and IV" will be available here. It's not clear about those missing Final Fantasy games. We'll be hearing more plans from Square this week, Iwata says.
9:54AM The majority of WiiWare titles are produced by third-parties, and has been a success ... but, people have been frustrated by an inability to save games to external storage. Cue the aforementioned "SD Card Channel."
Bill from Treehouse says, "Your games will no longer be competing for memory."
"With Wii System Menu 4.0 we've made a number of improvements ... a single SD card can hold up to 240 titles."
"You're no longer limited to 2GB SD cards" and can use high capacity cards capable of holding up to 32GB right now. That's a lot of NES games (read: all of them). You can also download content straight to the Wii's SD card and run them straight off the card "with just a short loading time."
He teases that while we won't see a new Zelda game today, as he heard rumored, he will show us Zelda II running straight off the SD card with just a "short loading time." How about a far larger N64 game to really show off that loading time, eh?
As for when this content will be available, he's going to leave that to Mr. Iwata.
9:49AM "Last year in the United States, according to NPD, more third-party games were sold for Wii than any other platform," Iwata says. "There is no single formula for success on Wii."
Iwata shows the console install bases compared, and adds the Wii Balance Board to the list – wow, it's right behind the PS3 in a pretty shocking show of strength for a peripheral. They're showing off their newest Balance Board game, the WiiWare title Rock and Roll Climber.
He's using the Wiimote and Nunchuck to move his arms up the rock wall, while the Balance Board moves his legs up the wall. "Exhilarating" we overhear. We could use some more rock and roll.
"At the end of every stage you're given a rock and roll payout." The character reaches the top, picks up a guitar, and plays a single riff. Wait ... what?!
9:44AM "Here in America, over 20% of Wii owners had no other video game system in their house when they made their purchase. These players have to be considered expanded audience." In 2008, NPD found that 47% of DS players were female – 27% life to date.
Though Iwata hasn't announced it yet, we just learned that Nintendo launched the Wii SD Card Channel. Read about it here.
9:42AM Despite not having a notable brand name, Rhythm Tengoku has sold over 1.7m units in Japan to date, on a steady upward curve. But can they duplicate that success in North America?
"It will be in stores in just eleven days." But if that's too long, "Please accept our gift of the Nintendo DS Rhythm Heaven. It will be outside for you to pick up today." Oh wow – there's some real applause.
9:38AM The developers behind WarioWare Touched and WarioWare Twisted teamed up to work on a rhythm game – but what to do if they don't have rhythm? Iwata shares an incredibly embarrassing video of the developers dancing and, yes, we can attest: they have NO rhythm. They make Team Joystiq look like the Fly Girls. Of course, it worked! Rhythm Tengoku launched on Game Boy Advance ... even though the DS was already out in Japan. And now: A trailer for Rhythm Heaven on Nintendo DS.
9:34AM Many at Nintendo, including Iwata, hoped Nintendogs and Super Mario Galaxy would be ready for launch (which of course, they weren't). However, Wii Sports was ready, so Iwata thanks Miyamoto for that. We bet you're thankful!
RANDOM EMPLOYEE KIDNAPPING slide shows a shot of Miyamoto dressed as a bandit. Every once in awhile, Miyamoto will "kidnap" a fellow employee to test a game design. As much as the developers want to tell the kidnapped victim how to proceed, Miyamoto insists they can't, since Nintendo can't send developers to the home of everyone who purchases Nintendo games. (YET!)
Miyamoto will watch over their shoulder as they play ... which we're sure is totally not intimidating at all. I mean, that's not weird, right? It's just one of the world's greatest game designers watching me play a game right there he's right behind me oh my God I can't mess up I neeeeed a drinkkkkkkk.
9:30AM "Of course, with so many project going on at one time" some make it beyond that prototype stage. So, the last stage: The Mass Production Stage. Mr. Miyamato, who began as Iwata's mentor, now reports to him. Not always a pleasant scenario.
Once one of Iwata's latest hobbies reaches the prototype stage, he makes it a point to not ask about how it's going. It makes it difficult for Iwata to predict when a product can begin to generate revenue – "which is not very good for my mental health."
If they throw out an idea, that work is not wasted. "I have seen some of these ideas show up years later," Iwata says.
9:26AM MIYAMOTO'S WAY - "Upward Spiral"
1. Ideas are everywhere
2. Personal Communication
3. Prototype Stage
He shows off a very rough "prototype" of Wii Boxing, encouraging developers to spend more time on the game's mechanics. "The amount of time being spent on the game's graphics was zero. Perhaps you can tell that."
4. Small Teams
5. Multiple Projects
6. Trial and Error
"Sometimes no matter how hard they work, they small teams struggle to meet their objective. That prototype phase can last two years." If they set a project aside, that's the nature of trial and error. "For Mr. Miyamoto, prototype making allows for the most trial and error where the smallest number of developers" can work on the game. "This is one of the most important characteristics of Mr. Miyamoto's approach that I have observed."
9:21AM Iwata praises Miyamoto's abilities: "I don't think I need to talk about his record as a video game designer." He's going to offer some insight into how Miyamoto works, to provide some "hints" or "ideas" for the designers in the room. Our guess: "MAKE ITALIAN PLUMBER MUSHROOM EATING SIMULATORS."
Miyamoto's gardening hobby turned into Pikmin; he got a new dog, and that turned into Nintendogs; exercise turned into WiiFit. Kevin just leaned over and said, "I'm glad he never got into proctology."
Iwata jokes that he asked Miyamoto to never talk about his hobbies outside of work – he's on a 24/7 non-disclosure agreement.
9:18AM "The first thing I want to do today is say, 'Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We appreciate all you have done. Thank you.'" And, cue the applause.
"Some people believe only Nintendo software has profited on Nintendo systems. Later on I will show how this is not the case." But he understands the perception. Developers can compete with Nintendo on Nintendo platforms.
Iwata recounts his history with HAL Laboratory working with Nintendo - when presenting a game to Nintendo, he was told "This is not bad. With a few months, this could become a quality game." Iwata says he was "speechless."
"We did not have a few more months. We had very little time. In fact, we had two more days." Without the revenue, they would report a loss for the year, lose their funding, and enter a "death spiral." Death spiral = Financial pressure + less time + poorer quality, culminating in lower sales.
Iwata restructured the company to make better games - he believed Nintendo was able to make better games because they had more money. Now, he understands this better. The way HAL and Nintendo did things were not at all the same.
9:12AM Iwata is sharing some graphs pointing out how Nintendo is driving global growth – the graphs illustrate the stagnation facing their competitors. The audience chortles ... you monsters.
"The market has expanded as video games have been accepted by more consumers than ever before." However, "one rules always remains the same: software sells hardware."
9:11AM Megan Scavvio, the new GDC director, is on stage introducing Satoru Iwata. Iwata takes the stage, the audience claps, and we're off! "The last time I talked with you was three years ago, before the launch of Wii. The global video game market has changed a lot since then." That's an understatement, we'd say.
"It's even beyond what we possibly hoped for," Iwata says. "Global shipment of Wii is more than 50m. That makes Wii the fastest selling video game hardware in history." Some real applause for that. Really, is anyone surprised?
9:08AM It's starting and, wait, what was that? W Metal Gear Solid 4 logo? Sounds like someone got their Kojima keynote tech mixed up. The Nintendo logo quickly replaces it.
8:58AM Kevin just got a little too close to the teleprompter and a security guard hurriedly waved him away, but not before he caught the words "WE'RE HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE THE WII 2!"
... c'mon guys, we're just kidding. Not about the teleprompter bit, just the Wii 2 bit. OR ARE WE?
8:57AM So ... how are you guys? Excited about this morning's keynote? Hoping Iwata will "drop the bomb"? Yeah, we're just sitting here waiting. Seen any good movies? Yeah, same here ...
8:47AM Our iPhones report that the song playing is "Let Go" by Frou Frou. Not sure how to pronounce that. Regardless, Reggie is up front mingling, the press is filling in quickly, and the announcer has told us the program will begin "in a few minutes."
8:43AM And we're in – after skipping the entire line (it makes us feel bad every time), we took our seats at the front of the Moscone South Convention Center. There's some rather cheesy slow techno-pop music blaring from the speakers, not really our cup of tea. (We'll take Penny Arcade's "Everyday I'm Hustling" but that's just us.)
Original post: We're just a few jittery hours and several cups of coffee 15 minutes away from Nintendo head honcho Satoru Iwata's GDC keynote, titled "Discovering New Development Opportunities." And what could those be, you ask? Well, Japanese Nintendo site Inside Games has done some discovering of its own (via Anoop's blog), fitting together certain clues that could form the so-called "new opportunities."
Today is the one-year anniversary of WiiWare's launch in Japan, after all. And in celebration of this momentous occasion the Wii Shop Channel is ... "undergoing maintenance." While the US branch doesn't specify a relaunch time, Japan's service is scheduled to come back online at 2am (Tokyo Time) -- and what do you know --- that's the exact, scheduled end time of the Iwata keynote.
So bookmark this page and head back in time to grab yourself a seat -- and then get up, dash over to your Wii, and download ... something! (Yep, you heard it here first!)