Nintendo courts gamers of all kinds at E3

by Erin Bell, special to CBCNews.ca

"My name is Reggie, and I am happy." With those words, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime kicked of the company's E3 press conference – one that emphasized Nintendo's strategy of blurring the line between casual and hardcore gaming.

"E3 here in 2007 may well be seen as a coming out party for an entire industry," he continued. "The moment when it became finally clear that videogames would take their place alongside TV, movies, and music as a staple of leisure entertainment. Why? Because everyone's a gamer."

Nintendo outlined three key strategies during the conference. First, it plans to increase the market share of its Nintendo DS portable gaming system in recognition of the increasing popularity of handheld gaming, and of the DS in particular.

Nintendo's second strategy is to court older players, because, according to Fils-Aime, "that's where potential lives."

The third strategy is to continue to cater to the female players that make up 33 per cent of Nintendo's market share.

Smash Bros. Brawl (which will launch Dec. 3), The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – a completely stylus-driven Zelda game for the Nintendo DS, and Metroid Prime III: Corruption for Wii will keep its traditional core demographic happy, but Nintendo was clearly focused on expanding that core demographic.

Screenshot from Metroid Prime III: Corruption, for the Wii.

The company announced new "brain games" to follow up on the popularity of DS games like Brain Age and Big Brain Academy. Brain Age 2 will launch an Aug. 20, and Nintendo also introduced a vision-training game called Flash Focus, a spelling and vocabulary-building game called My World Coach, and My Life Coach.

Nintendo unveiled three new peripherals for the Wii: the Wii Zapper light gun, which will be compatible with Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Capcom), Ghost Squard (Sega), and Medal of Honor (EA); the Wii Wheel, which will be packaged with the Wii version of Mario Kart; and a peripheral dubbed the Wii Balance Board which works with the Shigeru Miyamoto-developed fitness game WiiFit to assist in yoga and pilates moves, step classes, and balance improvement exercises.

Nintendo's Wii Zapper light gun.

Fils-Aime called Super Mario Galaxy, which will be available Nov. 12, the first worthy successor to Mario 64, saying that it "sets a new standard for player interface, not just for platformers, but for any game."

Nintendo didn't have much to say about its online strategy, but did note that several upcoming titles will offer online multiplayer, including Mario Strikers Charged, Madden 08, Fifa 08, Guitar Hero III and Mario Kart Wii.

Screenshot from Super Mario Galaxy.

The company was also vague about Wii Ware, the initiative to create unique standalone content that can be downloaded to the Wii via the Shop Channel.

Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo Co. Ltd., said that Nintendo's next challenge is to destroy the psychological barrier that separates veteran gamers from novice players.

Emphasized Fils-Aime: "We are now facing a wonderful new reality. Everyone's a gamer."

Erin Bell is a Toronto-based freelance video game and technology journalist, and is reporting on her fourth E3.