E3 - Nintendo divulges Wii details

We're here at the lush Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, where Nintendo has started its 2006 E3 Media Briefing.

Nintendo got off to a flashy start, one fitting the production values of this glamorous Hollywood stage, home to Academy Awards. The stage show is a well-coordinated display of lights and video--and enthusiastic Nintendo reps evangelizing about the future--all delivered to a crowd of 3000.

They've offered few specifics on the Wii--the company's upcoming console--so far. Nintendo is still mum on the ship date and price, but has confirmed that Wii is coming in the forth quarter of 2006. They've also confirmed that 27 games will be on display at the show (though how many of these might be available at launch was not discussed).

In spite of sidestepping the price issue, Reggie Fils-Aime, chief marketing officer at Nintendo enthuses, "You'll get more fun for less money." Presumably, this statement infers that the Wii will sell for less than its competitors from Microsoft and Sony.

The slogan today is playing = believing. Much of this believing revolves around the immersive experience that the Wii's new motion-sensitive controller will provide. The rectangular controller is starkly simple in its design--an approach that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata believes will be vital to achieving Nintendo's mission with the Wii.

"Our goal is to expand the total number of people playing games," says Iwata. "To do this, we needed to target gamers who played and had lost interest, as well as those who have never played."

The one-handed design of the new controller, adds Iwata, "breaks down the barrier for non-gamers. The most difficult job is to approach people who have never played before."

At launch, Nintendo plans to have baseball, golf, and tennis games available, all of which take advantage of the new controller's ability to translate physical motions into game actions.

The controller is wired (unlike Sony's newly-announced Bluetooth motion-sensitive controller). Unique to Nintendo's controller is the ability to provide the movement, or depth, to sounds you'll encounter in gameplay. This is thanks to its integrated speaker: You'll hear sound travel from the remote to the TV as you shoot an arrow or gun, for example.

The event included several game demos--including The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, which will ship at the same time as the Wii launches.

Most interesting to me was the lack of discussion about what kind of storage medium Wii will use, and the talk by Fils-Aimes that Nintendo's position is "what's hot is the feel of the game, not what it looks like.

Indeed, from the clips shown, that is Nintendo's tactic. The games for Wii that audiences had a glimpse at still looked very cartoony, and very much like a video game; they lacked the photorealism exhibited by Sony PlayStation 3 at yesterday's preview event.

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