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Sun, Jul 10, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Nintendo eyes casual gamers with `Revolution'

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Nintendo has always been driven by a strong gaming franchise, stoically asserting that great games sell hardware, not the other way round. With long-running titles such as Mario, Zelda and Metroid under its belt, and 2 billion units sold in 20 years, the company has certainly put its money where its mouth is.

"We remain all about the game; actions speak louder than words," said Nintendo's president, Saturo Iwata, at this year's E3, where Nintendo unveiled the first details of its next generation console, the Revolution.

While Microsoft and Sony have been all teraflops and anti-aliasing in the promotion of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation3, Nintendo has taken a more laid-back approach. Even weeks after E3, little has been revealed about the Revolution's capabilities. All the world knows is that it will have 512MB of internal Flash memory, two USB ports, built-in Wi-Fi access and will also allow users to download the company's back-catalogue of N64, SNES and NES games.

However, much of the speculation surrounding the system has been about what form the controller will take. Although Iwata has been careful not to reveal too much about the Revolution -- Nintendo is planning to release more details at the end of the year -- he has expressed reservations about the controllers gamers currently use.

"There are too many buttons and sticks on controllers for novice players, which is likely to discourage them from ever playing games at all," he says. "We want the Revolution's controller to be relevant to everybody and we really want people to feel like they want to touch and play with it."

Capturing the casual gaming market -- something Microsoft also wants to achieve -- should be an easy ride for Nintendo, which remains family-friendly in terms of content. Nowhere is this more evident than in Japan, where gaming is intrinsically rooted in the entertainment culture.

"Nintendo is very good at creating games that can appeal to the whole family," says Iwata. "There have been a lot of games created around excessive violence in the past few years and it seems to be escalating. From the business point of view, it doesn't make sense for us to follow suit.

"We cherish our hardcore gamers, but we always try to attract as many people as possible and expand the existing gaming population."

Nintendo recently unveiled its free-to-use worldwide DS Wi-Fi gaming service. The company has been sceptical about the potential of online console gaming, and Iwata still does not feel that Xbox Live is indicative of success because the number of Xbox owners playing on Xbox Live is still low.

As far as Nintendo is concerned, the future of multiplayer gaming is in Wi-Fi, not the Internet.

"If Nintendo sells 5 million DSs with Wi-Fi capabilities, then we want 5 million people to play with Wi-Fi," he said.

Nintendo is very proud of its portable wing and, as Reggie Fils-Aime, chief marketing officer of Nintendo, says: "For 16 years, Nintendo has owned the portable game space. We created it, and we're not moving out."

This has lead to speculation that the Revolution is designed to be portable, as its size and storage cradle suggest.

Nintendo's secrecy has also sparked theories that the controller is somehow contained within the Revolution -- that the machine itself is the controller.

Whatever transpires, Nintendo could use its heritage and innovation to provide gamers with an interesting alternative when the next-generation war finally arrives.

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