GDC 2011 - Iwata Keynote Address Roundup

GDC: share ideas, voice opinions, and discuss the latest happenings on the gaming front.

By azn_pride, Posted 02 Mar 2011

As you all would know, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) is a place where video game developers from around the world get together to share ideas, voice their opinions, and discuss the latest happenings on the gaming front. Not only do they talk about developments on their latest products and the technological advancements we constantly face, but also focus on improving many gaming aspects to better appeal to such a diverse demographic we have today. Now with such an established history in the everyday medium, one might wonder what the future holds for the industry just beyond the horizon.

Such was the focus of this year’s keynote address, hosted by Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata. Through his perspective, Iwata elaborated on appeal, fostering social diversity, as well as his concerns on game development, and how to keep the industry moving forward.

Game Developers Conference, GDC, Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, Hal Laboratories, Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Tetris, 3DS, The Legend of Zelda

Content (Really) Is King

During his early years in gaming development at Hal Laboratories, he described the occupation as a mere “hobby…we were [video game] cavemen.” Iwata had to learn programming on the fly, though he stated game development for him was “pretty much figured out.” Though that was the case, his encounter with Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto taught him a valuable lesson back then: “Content is king.” Iwata learned that knowing how to actually develop games isn’t enough—not even close; you need imagination.

“You are the center of the video game universe, and the primary need is the content,” Iwata said.

Game Developers Conference, GDC, Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, Hal Laboratories, Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Tetris, 3DS, The Legend of Zelda

Universal Appeal

One of the key phrases Iwata kept uttering throughout the keynote was: “Must-have.” It basically means to understand the core ideas that excite and motivate gamers today. Iwata explained that franchises such as Super Mario and Donkey Kong are so popular amongst many gamers because of the need to provide gamers new gameplay elements to keep them motivated. He exemplified Mario as the epitome of that kind of universal appeal, stating that “Mario [series] always evolves,” all for the sake of that franchise’s survival in this ever-changing medium. 

Game Developers Conference, GDC, Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, Hal Laboratories, Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Tetris, 3DS, The Legend of Zelda

Kirby was also mentioned as part of the universal appeal topic. Originally called “Tinkle Popo,” Kirby initially sold only 70,000+ copies. But with Shigeru Miyamoto’s direction and influence, the game sold 5 million copies. Iwata argues that turning the difficulty down is key to appealing to a wider audience outside of the ‘hardcore’ fanbase.

Iwata also mentioned Tetris as a significant draw-in for female gamers, further diversifying the gaming demographic. The Nintendo CEO also cited Blizzard’s MMO giant World of Warcraft and Will Wright’s The Sims as also great examples of universal appeal.

According to Iwata, there are three important “must-haves” everyone should consider: the hardware, the game itself (examples such as Just Dance 2, Grand Theft Auto, and Guitar Hero) and the last “must-have” is gamers’ connectivity. The Game Boy was a must-have because it was the first time gamers could actually carry a piece of hardware anywhere they went.

Game Developers Conference, GDC, Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, Hal Laboratories, Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Tetris, 3DS, The Legend of Zelda

Promoting Social Networking

Which brings us to this topic. Like the Game Boy before it, Iwata hopes Nintendo’s latest handheld, the 3DS, becomes the new gaming “must-have.” At this point of the keynote, Iwata introduced President of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime to the stage. Fils-Aime then proceeded to talk about Netflix connectivity to the 3DS. The Nintendo E-Shop was also discussed, in which it will contain DSiWare titles, a Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console that will include Game Boy Color titles as well as GameGear and Turbografx, and a game promotion segment to view game trailers and provide links to various websites. All of these will be available via system update that will reportedly launch in late May.

These features factor in the social networking aspect of the 3DS. Reggie Fils-Aime also talked about expanding gamers’ Wi-Fi connectivity beyond their homes. He then announced that there will be 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across North America in which gamers will be able connect with others via their 3DS in restaurants, airports, and more.

Game Developers Conference, GDC, Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, Hal Laboratories, Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Tetris, 3DS, The Legend of Zelda

Earlier in the keynote, Iwata talked about the evolution of social networking. Claiming that social networking in video games goes as back as 50 years; a title called Space Wars was referenced as a touchstone to that topic, a game in which it required another participant to play. Other types of old-school social systems included text-based computer games, then fast-forward to the NES days with the four-controller support, link trading with the Pokemon franchise, and eventually introducing actual online connectivity we see today.

The State of Video Game Development

Reggie then welcomed back Iwata to chat about the state of video game development, but not before announcing a new Super Mario title for the 3DS (which will be unveiled at E3 this June) as well as mentioning the 25-year anniversary of The Legend of Zelda franchise. A trailer for the latest Zelda installment, Skyward Sword, was also shown.

Game Developers Conference, GDC, Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, Hal Laboratories, Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Tetris, 3DS, The Legend of Zelda

Iwata claims even though game developers have gained many things over the years, they’ve lost their sense of craftsmanship. Polishing a game product over and over again is slowly disappearing, and that “small details can get lost.” Though he praises the fact that there are better programmers and artists than before, he can’t help but think that their talents aren’t recognized as much or used appropriately for fostering more imaginative, original ideas in game development.

“If people can’t tell what other team members are doing, it makes me wonder where the next master game creators will come from,” Iwata notes.

The quality of video games is also being marred by the evident declining of prices—to the point that some of them are free—most notably downloadable games. Iwata also claims that developers care about quantity over quality as their ultimate answer for more profit, and less high-quality games are being supported.

“Is maintaining high quality in games a priority or not?” Iwata asks. “What we [Nintendo] produce is value, and we should protect that value,” he adds.

Game Developers Conference, GDC, Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, Hal Laboratories, Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Tetris, 3DS, The Legend of Zelda

“Make the Impossible…Possible.”

According to Iwata, Nintendo’s philosophy has always been “game creators first, manufacturers second.” Innovation is always an important value to hold on to; when something seems impossible to make, developers do everything they can to make it a reality. It’s this kind of philosophy that keeps Nintendo’s developers motivated every single time.

Also, it is important for your game to generate attention. The first one is the game’s idea should be appealing. Otherwise, gamers won’t care. Second, the game’s concepts should be easily understood by the players so they in turn can recommend it to more people. This is how Iwata defines the word innovation.

Though the Nintendo president hints at a foreboding future in the gaming industry, Iwata ended his address on a positive, encouraging note: "Trust your passion, believe in your dreams…For 25 years, game developers have made the impossible, possible. Why should we stop now?"

GDC 2011 Keynote Gallery (28)

David Gabriel, NoobFeed.

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  • Oh man, im going to download that speech during the weekend. This guy truly is a hero. Quality over Quantity is something that should never have been lost and it is the culprit behind so many bad titles in the past 10 years. If they move back to quality over quantity games would sell more because they will be better...sure maybe increase their difficulty a little. however, a simple "change difficulty" addition to games really fixes this. But lovely keynote none the less


    Posted Mar 03, 2011

  • i was watching this but i need to download it if i want to see everything but it was so informative and cool xD and he made alot of sence on most topics to.


    Posted Mar 03, 2011

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