Nintendo Announcements at GDC

gdc

Earlier today, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata took the stage at the Game Developer Conference to talk about what the company has in store for 2009.

Nintendo DSi

As I stated in an earlier post, the Nintendo DSi is set to hit American shelves on Sunday April 5th. Having already sold over 2 million units in Japan since the systems release in November of last year.

Today Iwata announced that anyone who buys a DSi within the first six months of its American launch will receive 1000 DSi points. This is a marketing strategy to get consumers to check out the new DSi Shop which will feature games for download. As of now they will be in increments of free (always the best price), 200 points, 500 points and 800+ points. Nintendo has made it no secret however that they are courting developers to create not only games for the shop, but applications in line with the iPhone apps store. After burning through the initial free points, you can either purchase more with your credit card or, starting April 5th, at certain retailers. Still no sign of Nintendo merging Wii points and DSi points into interchangeable currency. Boo.

Two DSi exclusive games were also shown to conference attendees. WarioWare: Snapped will utilize the system’s two cameras for a unique gaming experience and a game until the developmental title of  Moving Memo will allow gamers to create their own animated flip-books. There were also several DSi Shop mini games available on the floor for short demos.

Nintendo DS

Don’t despair if you decided not to upgrade to the new DSi model. Iwata also unveiled today the first peek at a new Zelda game for the DS. The new title will use the same touch controls found in the Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks utilizes a steam locomotive to travel around the world, switching between Phantom and Link to explore the dungeons, and solve puzzles using new and classic items.

Nintendo Wii

Both Excitebots: Trick Racing and the upcoming rehash of Punch-Out!! were available for conference attendees to play. The former is set to release on April 20th and the latter on May 18th.

Also announced was the increased capacity for storage on the Wii. Sort of. As of today, Wii owners can save all of their Virtual Console games, Channels and WiiWare onto high capacity SD cards in addition to regular SD cards. Woo hoo? I suppose it’s a good thing and really the best and cheapest option for Nintendo. After all, issuing a  hard drive would be counter productive to profit margins. According to the press release:  To play games that have been saved to SD cards, consumers will be able to select and launch them from an SD Menu icon on the Wii Menu. (Note that when launching games or channels from an SD card, an equivalent amount of internal Wii memory is required. To clear space from the internal memory, users can transfer games or channels from the Wii Menu to the SD card). This feature is included in the latest version of the Wii System Menu Update, which owners will receive immediately after performing a system update today. So my guess is as good as yours as to whether this update actually does anything.

But Nintendo was just using this as a jumping off point for their next bit of news. Starting today as well, the Virtual Console is being expanded to include third party arcade classics. These include STARFORCE by Tecmo Ltd., and Mappy, Gaplus and Tower of Druaga by Namco Bandai Games Inc.

Oh! And the Wii is expected to surpass 50 million units sold this month. No big, right guys? >.>

So other than the new Zelda game for DS, Nintendo failed to impress me at the GDC. No officially announcement on a new Mario game, a new Metroid game. No nothing. They couldn’t even throw a bone to some of the more neglected mascots since the Wii launch. No Kirby, no StarFox. Not even a Donkey Kong. As much as I keep digging for that glimmer of hope that Nintendo hasn’t forgotten its roots, it’s getting harder to keep believing.

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