Nintendo shows off new Wii add-on

Nintendo America boss Reggie Fils-Aime showed off his Wii skills at the launch

Nintendo unveiled a highly-sensitive motion controller add-on for its Wii system as it seeks to capitalise on its position as the global console leader.

At the E3 games conference in Los Angeles, the firm showed off its Wii MotionPlus, which it promised would add more realism and depth to games.

The company has sold more than 10 million Wii consoles and 70 million DS handheld machines worldwide.

Rival Sony has announced a larger capacity version of its PlayStation 3.

At a later press conference, Sony unveiled a film download service and an 80-gigabyte hard drive version of PS3 for gamers in North America.

Factfile: The Wii

Surprise success

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said innovation was key for the company.
“Even if it is revolutionary sooner or later, people become tired of a new form of entertainment,” he said.

Addressing the rapid turnaround in Nintendo’s fortunes over the last two years, Mr Iwata admitted that the success of the company had taken even staff at Nintendo by surprise.

Referring to the success of the Wii, and peripherals like the balance board, he said: “Everyone had a pessimistic view of Nintendo in 2003.

“Even Nintendo employees could not have imagined that five years later the market respond so quickly that we could sell millions of bathroom scales around the world.”

Mr Iwata, who was speaking to media at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, said the firm’s success had resulted in a paradigm shift in the industry, with hardware sales growing in periods outside the traditional high spots, and software titles like Brain Training and Nintendogs having two-year life spans on retail shelves.

Nintendo said recently European sales of the Wii numbered more than 200,000 each week.

But Mr Iwata did not touch upon supply issues that have continued to affect Wii sales almost two years after its launch.

Screen Digest analyst Piers Harding-Rolls said Nintendo were proving to be very determined and targeted in their approach.

“They are very good at designing hardware and the production line of content; they have got a knack of producing great content and if they keep doing that, they keep innovating.”

New titles to come

Launching the Wii MotionPlus, which plugs into the existing Wiimote controller, Nintendo America boss Reggie Fils-Aime said: “It renders every light shift of the wrist or arm into the gameplay.”

The firm also unveiled WiiSports Resort, the first title to takes advantage of the new add-on.
Nintendo fans hoping to learn new details on established franchises like Mario and Zelda were left disappointed. Mr Iwata said only that the teams behind the games were “hard at work” and new titles were under development.

The company did unveil a Grand Theft Auto game in development for the DS console and a new Wii title, called Music, which sees gamers play more than 50 musical instruments by using the Wiimote motion-sensitive controller.

Mr Iwata said the success of the Wii and the DS was proof of a new form of social interaction developing.

He said: “I believe we must find more ways for players to feel engaged, different ways for them to be enriched. The overall experience from our products must be increased enthusiasm.”

Online revolution

Across Los Angeles, at the Shrine Auditorium, Sony America boss Jack Tretton delivered his vision for the firm in the coming months.

He told the audience that Sony had succeeded in the business by taking a long-term view of a console’s lifespan, pointing out that some of the biggest games for the previous generation PlayStation 2 were not delivered until a number of years into its cycle.

“We’re well on the way to selling more than 10 million PlayStation 3s,” he said.

The emphasis of the briefing was on the firm’s online service, PlayStation network, which offers games, films and TV content.

Unveiling the new film download system, he said: “Just as our (online) game store serves all game publishers, the PlayStation Network video delivery service is open for business for all studios and networks.”

Users will be able to download titles to their PlayStation 3 or PC, and transfer them to a PlayStation portable console.

“It’s a huge step towards advancing the PSP and PlayStation 3 value. The PSP is part of our overall strategy to bring movies and games to the living room.”

A number of new games were unveiled at the press conference, including MAG, a massively multiplayer online first person shooter. Up to 256 gamers will be able to do battle in teams of eight across the PlayStation Network.

Mr Tretton said it would “revolutionise online gaming”.

God of War 3, a sequel to the popular Sony franchise, was announced for the PS3 and the audience was shown new footage of titles like first-person shooter Resistance 2 and action-platform game LittleBigPlanet, which has an October release date.

Mr Harding-Rolls said Sony’s briefing delivered the most excitement in terms of announcements for gamers.

“The video store has been coming for a long time. But the download-to-own aspect of content is a coup in comparison to the rental model on Xbox Live.

“They are also more varied in their strategies for digital distribution of premium gaming content than their rivals.”

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