E3: Can Nintendo make a "difference"?

[05.16.01] » Nintendo opens E3 by openly dissecting the gaming industry, ranging from its three biggest problems to Nintendo's own past mistakes.

   A sign hanging behind Nintendo's Peter Main at their E3 press conference summed up the company's mantra perfectly - "the Nintendo difference." Long used as an internal term, this is now the slogan behind which the GameCube will be marketed and launched this November 5.

    "Both the GameCube and Game Boy Advance will be huge - and I underscore huge, no matter what any other manufacturer plans to do," said Main. After a brief update on the success of the GBA in Japan, Nintendo took the chance to not only hype its own line-up, but also identify problems the company sees in the industry.

   Main admitted the company had not given the proper weight to older gamers and planned to do so today. The lack of any third party information was also apparent, but Main said that third parties would be showing their own GameCube software on the show floor. Beth Llewelyn, Nintendo's Director of Public Relations, reassured the GIA that Nintendo has "learned its lesson" and would reach out further to companies such and Enix and Square.

   Satoru Iwata, head of planning for all of Nintendo, spoke next. He criticized game companies for focusing too much on graphics, saying consoles were becoming so powerful that the difference between them would be minimal. He also cited an abundance of quick sequels and ports across consoles as cheapening the value of franchises, including a comical use of the fictional "Mega Game."

   Iwata then gave four reasons Nintendo would "fight these trends" and show a 'difference': innovation, quality, franchises, and heritage.

    "We consider ourselves, above all, a game-based entertainment company," said Iwata "We believe other people who make video game systems see themselves as technology companies. This is an important difference."

    "I believe we know more about great games than anyone else. That is why Nintendo succeeds."

   Legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage next, debuting the first footage from GameCube games. Super Smash Bros. Melee was the crowd-pleasing first choice, including added characters such as Sheik from Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Bowser. Miyamoto then used the next entry in the Mario series, Luigi's Mansion, to demonstrate the GameCube controller.

   With the crowd pacified, Iwata returned to discuss technical aspects of the GameCube. The GameCube was promised to use a design that avoids programming bottlenecks instead of simply making the overall system more powerful. He then showed a surprise picture of the Panasonic GameCube/DVD hybrid system that is set for Japanese release.

   A video showcasing second party titles rolled next, including Metroid Prime, Starfox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet, and Eternal Darkness. The videos included clips from the games' designers, Jeff Spangenberg of Retro Studios, Chris Stamper of Rare, and Denis Dyack of Silicon Knights respectively.

   Miyamoto returned for the biggest surprise of the show, Pikmin. His new project was a unique creature-controlling RPG more akin to Black and White than Mario, and impressed attendees with smooth animations for the dozens of Pikmin on screen at once.

   The biggest disappointment of the show came next, as Nintendo kept the price of the GameCube a secret until an announcement next week in Japan, likely to counter Microsoft's announcement just hours before. Nintendo did manage to set a November 5 launch date that was a mere three days before the Xbox and drew an audible "oooooh" from the crowd.

   After the announcements, Main closed the show with one last video look at GameCube software. It included Retro Studios's RPG Raven Blade, Donkey Kong Racing, Metroid Prime, Eternal Dark, Wave Race: Blue Storm, NBA Courtside 2002, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II, a surprise NGC version of Animal Forest, and the Zelda footage shown at SpaceWorld.

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