GDC keynote: “Must-have” Iwata announces 3DS Mario

Wednesday, 2 March 2011 09:20 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Satoru Iwata’s GDC keynote saw Nintendo announce 3DS wireless hotspots, a 3DS Netflix deal and a new Mario game, but focused on the concept of “must-have” developmment.

Satoru Iwata

Nintendo’s fourth president and CEO.

Succeeded Hiroshi Yamauchi in 2002.

Started career at HAL Laboratory.

Iwata has previously keynoted GDC three times – in 2005, 2006 and 2009.

The Nintendo president announced the simply-named Super Mario, a new 3DS Mario game. There was a raccoon tail on the logo, which Iwata said would be explained at E3 in June, but he suggested it had something to do with being able to jump in 3D.

The talk was light on the software side. Iwata did flag the 25th anniversary of Zelda as being this year, and showed a new video of Skyward Sword, but there was literally nothing else.

As for other announcements, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime confirmed that AT&T is to provide 10,000 US wireless hotspots for American 3DS owners, allowing them to access downloads and online play for free in bookstores and the like.

A Netflix partnership for 3DS was also announced, allowing streaming video for the device in the US.

All this were fields

The presentation began by focusing on the past, though. GDC director Meggan Scavio introduced Iwata, talking about his previous GDC talks, and the Japanese head said he was “happy” to be at GDC, and that delivering the event keynote is “special”.

The exec opened by saying developers are complaining of instability and vulnerability, and he takes such comments as a sign that the industry is changing.

Content is still king, though, he said.

Looking back at the past 25 years of his games development career, Iwata spoke of his beginnings at HAL, where he said he felt he had videogames “all figured out”. He said that Shigeru Miyamoto taught him that “content really is king,” and that he was ashamed that the fabled designer created games that massively outsold his own.

Back in the day, he said, they made “almost no money” and were “videogame cavemen”.

The new Zelda: Skyward Sword footage shown
in San Francisco today (via Joystiq).

Advances in graphics, memory and “the amount of money needed” to fund all of this have changed everything, he added.

“There’s a lot more to worry about now than just paying the rent,” he said, but added that the increased amount of people playing games has offset some risk.

In an effort to prove the general audience is growing, the exec showed charts from surveys Nintendo’s been conducting in recent years, saying 114 million active American users existed in November 2007, with the figure rising to 160 million in October 2010.

Iwata went on to talk about social games as being a growth driver, saying the concept goes back around 50 years, but that consoles brought multiplay to the living room.

NES, SNES, N64 and, finally, the Wiimote, have all added new aspects to the home social gaming experience. The company’s handheld systems, such as Game Boy, have also added to multiplay.

Iwata name-checked Call of Duty as being a social “phenomenon” in games.


The crux of Iwata’s speech was to focus on the “must-have” concept.

Creating products that constantly improve, facilitate social connections, challenge gaming conventions and expand audiences were flagged as “must-have” products.

3DS’s Netflix partnership will allow you to watch a video on your 3DS then return home and continue watching at your TV.

World of Warcraft and the Sims are games with plenty of “must-have” attributes, Iwata said

Pokemon, Mario and Donkey Kong and Tetris were franchises that aided Nintendo in this respect.

Tetris was one of the first games that “attracted a female audience in any meaningful way,” Iwata said.

The notion obviously led on to 3DS, which has just launched in Japan and will release in the US and Europe this month. Iwata said the “must-have” concept applies to the handheld, and he hopes it has universal appeal.

The console’s pre-loaded games have been selected to promote social interaction, he added, referring to Mii Maker, Face Raiders and AR Games.

NoA president Reggie Fils-Aime took to the stage to talk about 3DS plans for the US. Content and connectivity make 3DS distinctive, he said, but the console’s 3D aspects make it unique.

“Content” and “location” will define the machine, he added.

He claimed that content on 3DS will look unique in a manner of ways, even if viewed in 2D. He talked about 3DS’s Netflix partnership, saying you’ll be able to watch a video on your 3DS when you’re out and about then return home and continue watching at your TV.

The Short-Form Video Service was also discussed, which will include comedy, music videos and other elements, and was described as a “wireless Nintendo channel.”

Just in case you were in any doubt.

Reggie said to “stayed tuned” for an update on 3D video recording, but essentially confirmed it’s going to happen.

Wireless connectivity was stressed. In Japanese trials, as many as 50 percent of users connect for free content, Reggie said, leading on to the AT&T announcement: over 10,000 AT&T wifi hotspots are to be provided for 3DS in the US allowing free connections for downloading and online play.

It wasn’t confirmed when these connections would be live.

3DS’s eShop was detailed, allowing access to DSiWare, the 3DS Virtual Console and more.

“This is a new location for one-stop shopping for both unique and nostalgic game experiences,” Reggie said.

Many of these eShop features won’t launch until May, however.

The future – sort of

Iwata went on to talk about the future, which basically amounted to warning that smartphones could seriously damage the ability for developers to make money.

He said the industry has lost “craftmanship” over the last 25 years.

He also flagged “talent development” as a major concern, and that the division caused by the rise of “mobile games and social networks” could cause major problems in terms of creating revenue.

He said that hugely increased competition makes life “extremely difficult” to make a living, and that the amount of games being offered by app stores are threatening to drown users in choice.

Iwata said he wants consumers to realise the high value of high quality software, and that this concept is threatened by the rise of smartphones.

“There’s a lot more to worry about now than just paying the rent.”

“The value of videogame software does not matter to them,” he said, referring to phone manufacturers.

He then trotted out some notes on “getting noticed” in the current climate, saying that it’s vital to “capture attention immediately,” and that it must be easy for people to recommend the game to others.

The single solution to this challenge is “innovation,” Iwata said.

Trust you passion and believe in your dream, the boss concluded.

“Make the impossible possible.”

The event was streamed live here.