Satoru Iwata (Nintendo): 9am – 10am
(official GDC brief)

(it occured to me that from OSU’s perspective: my notes and personal perspective might seem useless. So I thought I should try to explain how this relates to the Ecampus perspective – which turned into a huge rant unto itself)

1)It is interesting to consider Nintendo’s transition from old-hardware business models into modern-online territory (sort of like education’s transition from on-campus to online?). it’s fairly widely known that Nintendo built their legacy product by product, by re-purposing existing hardware components and then creating innovative games to make the hardware look good. Their games expertly engage the player, but the key to their success is that their hardware was cheaper to manufacture (existing calculator parts, cartidges from factories they owned, etc.). Competitors tend to gamble the farm on expensive (often unstable) innovations, and hope someone else can make nice software.

The key point for online learning is really: Engage your audience with expert experience design, if you want to sell them on whatever platform.

Education would do well to draw students in with innovative re-purposing of existing tech (to keep costs low). It’s not enough just to have the latest tech -we really need to have the great developers (teachers, and those who develop materials for them == content, and presentation).

blurry chart2) Interesting to note Nintendo’s reliance on gathering their own survey data each year (while they surely pay for NPD data and compare against it, it’s interesting that they that they didn’t feel sales data painted the whole picture). This ties into my bigger takeaway from the entire conference (that all your efforts are worthless, if you aren’t properly gathering feedback on their effectiveness).

3) Important to remember that going online is lonely (only offers an illusion of community). Would be wise to think about helping online students engage with their local communities, and others in their household (StreetPass doesn’t seem to be a wise example to follow. but interesting ideas there. good to acknowledge the problem).

I’m still not clear if Nintendo “just doesn’t get” the current importance of online interactions, or is trying to put a loveable mask over their inability to compete in that arena. Networked software isn’t their strong point … Sony is much larger than Nintendo, and continues to fail to compete with Microsoft’s networking efforts. I expect Nintendo tells themself they’re choosing to avoid multi-player gaming (and avoiding all ties into social networks), because they can’t create the back-end support. But I sense they’re making a mistake to plunge ahead as if these competitors don’t exist. It’s like talkies were just invented, but Nintendo doesn’t see the value in using that technology in their movies.

If Ecampus gets into a similar limited-resources situation, I hope we won’t pretend we’re choosing to ignore how the world really works. on purpose. ugh. I think Nintendo’s naive position on this is slipping from “cute” into “embarassing incompetence.”
it’s starting to seem less like caution, and more like a greedy need to control how their audience lives in the world.

4) Clearly bringing in new audiences worked well for Nintendo with Wii and DS (the so-called blue ocean strategy: go where the competitors AREN’T). But I don’t see that happening with their upcoming 3DS device. Feels more like competing with their existing audiences, while ignoring the meaningful ways in which Apple is eating into their mobile market.

Feels sort of like promoting a new online class that does one weird thing well (has a neat learning game, perhaps), but fails by not offering all the other things you expect from an online class (syllabus, weekly lessons, videos, etc.). Maybe there’s a difference between “finding a new audience” and “bring a new audience into the fold.” The latter is more valuable, and will last much longer.

I predict iPhone and iPad2 will continue to eat into Nintendo’s mobile gaming pie (because iOS’s easy/fast UX and iTunes pricing/delivery satisfy a almost every user’s needs). I expect the 3DS quickly will fade as a gimmick for kids (with no clear point, no hot application, and limited ability to offer what the customer wants from portable device). The lesson here is : know who you’re really competing with.

5) It is interesting to think about selling online classes from the gaming perspective of “you MUST HAVE a hot app to sell the platform”. What is OSU Ecampus’s hot app? is it a class (or student service? or accredited degree?)? If we have a great example class, how are we promoting it? (does anyone know? does it do many things well, or does it just offer one extreme deviation from the norm?)

blah blah.

all things to keep in mind when reading the …
Starting with a history lesson.
In 2005 – previewed the wii. 2006 – engaging audience. 2009 – some Zelda game
Says the value in GDC is how developers can learn from each other, Nintendo included.
He notes rising cost problem (developer budgets skyrocketing)
makes it clear he’ll be hammering the idea that “content is king” (will this be a sideways jab at iTunes?).
Also hammers 25 years of GDC, with a big graphic behind him (point being we are not new guys, like apple or facebook)

Notes that his initial developments were technically superior to miyamoto. But he learned it didn’t mean bigger sales. (seems a bitchslap to everyone who ain’t nintendo, chasing latest graphics … and tablet computing? guess he’s not talking about hardware… he’s saying software needs to be innovative and fun)

Notes that when they started one guy did all the developer jobs. (designer was also artist and sound engineer). Downside was : a developer made almost no money.
Graphics and memory have grown since then, but their growth is dwarfed by cost. Nowadays cost is past 50 million or more.

Nintendo’s strategy is to broaden the audience. But hard to gauge gross from npd data (“What about sharing with friends?” he points out)
So Nintendo started surveys. 2007 number of active players was 115 million. Today more like 160 million. Europe growth corresponds (but with 100 million in 2007)

“Social network games are different from social games.”
Points out space war had head to head play 60 years ago, and 70s games also had networking. … (makes me sad that he is trying to say networking is nothing new.)
… switches over to reviewing the hardware history of nintendo (pointing out how they have supported local mutliplayer all along). … Is his point that competitors don’t build in controller slots? “I don’t want to say we’re taking too much credit for development of social games.”
Recognizes the Call of Duty online phenom. And acknowledges Microsoft’s achievement with Xbox Live.

Says a “must-have” passionate gamer wants it, or they feel they will be left behind. Three angles to this:

  1. New experience by hardware. (ex: gameboy – first to offer games on the go)
  2. game itself (ex: Zelda, sonic, guitar hero)
  3. gamers themselves (ex: remotely connecting. Remarkable that after 12 years, so many still play World of Warcraft).

Listed key “Must Have” game attributes with examples:

  1. constant improvements: Mario – was initially something new (when hitting arcades). And he has always evolved since then.
  2. social connections: Pokemon – Appeal is collecting training competing and training. Pokemon from a friend’s version grow faster than yours, so you want them. Appeal is from social nature.
  3. expanded audiences: Tetris – brought in huge female audience (note: pac-man creator later explained that the game was designed to attract women to boy-centric arcades).
  4. challenges to existing notions: The Sims – Many claimed this was not a game when released, since it had no way to win or lose.
  5. universal appeal: Kirby – an action game that anyone could complete (bucking trend of rising difficulties)

Talking about 3DS having bundled titles, carefully selected to promote social interaction. Instead of going to network, the network will find them.
… Then he admits their network sucks… uh… hmm.
(and this was where the keynote started to make me worry about Nintendo’s understanding/refusal of the modern connected world).

the press pitReggie comes out to sell the 3DS. It is primarily a device used to play games (notes unique display). Hammers “content and location” as key focii.

Reggie notes they have partnered with Netflix – which will go live this summer. asks you to imagine the scenario where you can dump your kid off to the 3DS and take over the tv (poor kid). 3D movie trailers will be coming from Hollywood. (Ugh, he’s hammering Green Lantern – a movie that looks like a goofy mishandled insult to comic book movie making… I expect 3D movies are designed for large tvs, not crappy little mobile screens. hmmf). … And a Nintendo Channel, which will delvier short form video. … “It’s about discovery. But not endless searches. Well push the most interesting content for you…” (uhhh. current Nintendo Channel on the Wii is painful. lots of stuff, but I wish they’d push different content. ugh. I assume this is just being pushed over to 3DS town. sigh).

Notes it’s not just taking 3D photos, will also handle 3D video recording. “Stay tuned for updates. We’re enthused too.” (Heh. No mention of resolution, frame rate, storage. will you only be able to watch on a 3DS? I imagine so. They seem to want to make toy versions of other things you would use, and not deliver the final leap. In a way the DS design trades on the appeal of owning a laptop. But all you can do with it is baby shit. Maybe I’m excluded from enjoying it, because I’m able to own a laptop? hmmf. I own several video cameras, several computers, an ipad as well as a laptop – but I’m not sure why I’d want a 3DS. seems like a huge inconvenience, when it’s so isolated from all my other systems)

… StreetPass… Notes capcom street fighter’s innovative bull crap (i.e. matches you hear about later, instead of playing them. weird. who wants that?)
Mentions “spotPass” wha? …Test drives drive business. Mentions over 10k wifi hotspots from AT&T in may. Free gaming and sharing. Claims this will “maximize your distribution opportunity” (… I don’t buy it. boring. this is their online strategy? to make you go somewhere outside your home to access it?)

eShop includes: Dsiware, 3DS virtual console, 3D classics remastered (…ugh, i have to buy ice climber again?), and game promotion (links to websites, even. yawn.).
You will be able to transfer current purchases (yay).

… I’m calling it, the title of this new Super Mario will be “Long Tail,” announced at E3. they show a Zelda trailer. Wii.

Three concerns for industry:

  1. craftmanship. Not enough iterative polish. (due to time and budget. Not a dis on talent)
  2. talent development (won’t be like it was)
  3. will we be able to have a salary? Lots of games. Hard to get noticed. 500 for ps3. Over 1000 for wii and ds

92% of downloaded games were free. Or close to free. … Is high quality a top priority or not?
( Who is this message for? Investors?) Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all agree on this (so he’s wagging his finger at Apple. and maybe Facebook).
“The smart phone goal is for others to make their content. Don’t care about quality. We create the value, and must protect it.”
(again, I have a hard time believing this is an argument aimed at developers. Who is striving to make low quality games?)

Ends with some advice on getting noticed.

  1. Central appeal must be apparent almost immediately. Capture attention immediately.
  2. must be simple to communicate the game’s appeal to others.

Huh. He’s giving social networking tips, despite pissing all over the value of social networking. These final tips feel like tips for social game developers.


I was excited to see how Nintendo might attack Apple … (who announced a sudden press conference which would began while Nintendo’s was ending).

In the end, Nintendo kind of turned this keynote into a product press conference, and made some weak vague attacks at Apple/Facebook/whomever. But mostly it was kind of baffling to see that they still don’t have an online strategy, a wider-use strategy, and have weird ideas about creating “sort-of small scale social networks” in your neighborhood (instead of trying to tie into the large scale social network that the world is already embracing.)

Part of me wonders if they’re trying to pull back and just go for kids. They can’t expect mom’s to want to carry a 3DS around in their purse. They can’t expect grown men to want a small pixelated 3D screen instead of an HDtv.

Part of me thinks the 3DS doesn’t actually offer a new game input, just a new form of game output. And that is why it will fail to rope in new users.

btw, “surveys, player testing, and test drives” seems to sum up what I think is the most interesting takeaway from the show. Maybe it’s better summarized as “what can developers derive from the players.” hmm.

Nintendo’s Konno on 3DS’ Social Innovation, Complex Prototyping – Christian Nutt (Gamasutra)
3DS development pushed back some Wii titles – Kyle Orland (gamasutra)
Satoru and Steve – Tadhg Kelly (What Games Are)

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