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I LIKE MIYAMOTO

10 May 2006

First, there's again some news on our campaign. The internet podcast show 'Digital Strips', which reviews webcomics (in itself a laudable goal), offered to broadcast an audio commercial for free. So I took the opportunity to mash up some sort of demented radio play with dialogue taken from the Captain August movie (which you can download on this very site) and sent it in. Lo and behold, it took naught but a few days for them to air it. They said they thought it was pretty cool and even invited me to make another one some day. Which maybe I will. In the meantime you can find a link on our beautiful forums; just click here. It comes with the August Seal of Approval.

The hot news is of course E3. It has started again and everyone's pretty excited. My own enthusiasm for the show has been somewhat tempered by the firsthand reports of Idle Thumbs that E3 is, in fact, a very unpleasant and cold thing to visit, as opposed to the Game Developers Conference (held about a month ago) which is allegedly 'warm' and has a healthier, more creative vibe.

Still, the news value of E3 will not be denied and as the hour drew near I found myself getting all giddy in anticipation of the big presentations. As I'm writing this, the big pre-E3 conferences are over. Sony's made clear they have unashamedly ripped off Nintendo's control-mechanism by adding motion detecting to their traditional dual-shock controller (amusingly without any rumble features this time, so its name is pretty inappropriate). Except that it's a cheap knock-off with about 5 percent functionality. The PS3's controller can register movement in a whopping 6 directions. Compare that to Nintendo's controller and you have a basic idea of how desperate Sony is. The real kicker is of course the way it was presented: as a complete and surprising innovation, without a trace of irony or self-awareness. At the same time, it was jokingly predicted a week ago on the very Idle Thumbs forums that Sony would rip off Nintendo and announce it on E3. Life has a weird and amusing way sometimes of giving you those wonderful little pleasures. Not that I think the Wii will gain much of a foothold over Sony (even though the price-tag is going to make all the difference, I predict), for such hypocrisy and theft is easily forgotten.

The fact remains, of course, that the PS3 is simply and only a better-graphics-machine, and no amount of cheap, 11th-hour, knock-off features will change that. Once again it is made blatantly clear that Sony is no leader in innovation, but plays a deliberate second fiddle. It goes beyond reactionary: they just lack any imagination, or guts to deviate from the easy paths. I hope that people will remember the shame Sony have brought upon themselves with this farce.

In contrast to that stands the shining conference Nintendo gave away hours after that. I saw it live and good lord, it was awesome. All the people on the stage, from Miyamoto to Iwata to Reggie to French Ubisoft people, they had fun. You saw that they genuinely enjoyed what they were doing, were proud of it and were enthusiastic about the Wii and their games. Does that seem like an obvious thing to you? Well, not according to Sony, whose conference was filled with terrifically boring marketing execs drilling up fact sheets with long faces. But really, let's not talk about those grumpy people anymore and instead reminisce to how Miyamoto blasted onto the stage at the beginning of the Nintendo show, wearing a classic suit and wielding the Wii controller. He began conducting a digital orchestra behind him on the screen playing the Zelda theme. As the music rose, Miyamoto whirled and danced on the stage, visibly exhilarated and with showmanship, style, but also a whimsical goofiness that was hard not to find immensely charming.

The rest of the conference was awesome as well, with Reggie being his regular cool self and many enthusiastic guests running on and off. In the end the remaining secrets of the Wii were nice (a speaker in the controller and the fact that the console never shuts off but is always functioning to access the internet and download updates without bothering you with it) but nothing spectacular. It was really the great and charismatic show that Nintendo put on that did it. At first I thought I'd get a Wii a few months post-launch, after the inevitable first price-cut. But after a show like this, I can't resist buying it on the day it launches. It's too compelling. This will really change the way games are played, and I'll be damned if I won't be a part of it from the very start.

At the every end of the conference, I had really expected Miyamoto to pop up again to give one last unexpected show or make one last thrilling revelation. That sadly didn't happen, but it was a great and exciting show nonetheless. In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm listening to it again! It was that awesome!

Roderick.