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GDC 2007 Nintendo Keynote

By dcacho
Thursday, March 8th, 2007 at 2:18 pm in Gieson Cacho.

10 p.m. The line for Shigeru Miyamoto’s keynote speech curls near Fourth Street. According to the volunteers, they have most of the attendees line up around the building. The anticipation to hear Miyamoto speak is as scary as it is ridiculous. But I have to remind myself that these are the people who are now game designers and probably were inspired by his games. The creator of “Super Mario Bros.,” “The Legend of Zelda” and other Nintendo franchises is probably the rock star of rock stars when it comes to game designers.

10:04 The press is in another section of the building. The crowd is much smaller and we’re milling about the front doors. Adam Sessler of G4 just popped a piece of gum in his mouth.

10:05 to 10:06 They let us in and we sit in the same hall where Sony’s keynote was held on Wednesday. Nintendo’s stage is much different. There aren’t many props. There are five screens splashed across the stage and techno music blasting. Some guys behind me are debating whether this will start on time. One person believe that it will. “Have you seen Japanese trains?” he says. “You can set your watch to it.”

10:31 Still no Miyamoto but Reggie Fil-Aime, the president of Nintendo of America, is milling about the stage a few minutes ago. I guess the speech won’t start on time.

10:38 There’s announcement to turn off noise-producing devices aka cell phones. The guy sounds like the intercom person from Disneyland, telling passengers to keep their hands and feet in the cart.

10:45 Still waiting. I guess I’m going to miss my next session.

10:51 God, I feel like I’m a fan of “Duke Nukem Forever.”

10:53 The disembodied voice tells us the show is about to begin.

10:59 The show starts and Jamil Moledina, the executive director of GDC, introduces Miyamoto. He uses glowing words, and the way he’s introduced — using the Mii — is pretty funny. They finish making the “Miiyamoto” and pop him into a Mii Plaza inhabited by Moledina and Bill, the translator.

Then the speech begins. Most of his keynote address examines his philosophy as a game designer. He talks about how his views dovetails with Nintendo’s own. All of this — expanding audience, devotion to entertaiment and risk — coincides with a lot of what the Wii is about.

It’s a device meant to expand the audience of video games and he shows that process through his personal experience with his wife, turning her into a gamer over several years of marriage. Later, he talked about how the team-based approach to developing and it’s clear that same method is reflected in how people play their games.

The creation of the Mii was another point he touched on. The program actually started on a Japanese machine called the Famicom disk drive. He carried the idea over to successsive systems, but each time, other developers or exeuctives shot the idea down. That was until the Wii and the avatar-creating Mii program suddenly became a great idea.

In a way, the Mii channel emobdies everything that Sony executive, Phil Harrison, spoke about Wedesday. The Wii, in the vein of YouTube and MySpace, has become a social tool that empowers players to create, connect and share their works. The channel is so popular that Miyamoto mentioned that Nintendo is planning to create another channel, in which people compare Miis and assess their popularity.

He finished the speech by talking about “Mario 128” and how he cannibalized ideas from that never released game into other titles such as “Pikmin” and now “Super Mario Galaxy.” Miyamoto said it will come out this year, but like many people in the crowd, I wanted to play it now.

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