Super Guide, Vitality Sensor, Netflix DS: A Conversation With Nintendo

While both Sony and Microsoft are focusing on their own forms of motion gaming this year, Nintendo plans to continue their efforts to change the way we play games.

Speaking with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime recently, the charismatic executive walked me through some of Nintendo's 2010 game plans including the publisher's push to prove to people this summer why they need a gaming add-on that detects their pulse while playing, what the future holds for the company's virtual helper The Super Guide and what Nintendo makes of Netflix's notion of streaming video to their portable DS.

Fils-Aime started our half-hour conversation by downplaying Sony's recent unveiling of the motion detecting Playstation Move.

"It's certainly me too or Wii too, as I like to say," Fils-Aime said. "There is nothing that they showed that is surprising. There is nothing that they showed that is innovative and in the end it will come down to how much fun the software is.

How entertaining the experience is and I've yet to see anything that highlights this as an entertaining experience."

Despite the new, direct competition coming from the Playstation Move and Microsoft's Project Natal, Fils-Aime promised that Nintendo's Wii has a "very long, very vibrant life in front of it".

A new Wii won't come, he added, until Nintendo feels the current console has realised its total potential.

One of the ways Nintendo plans to keep the Wii ahead of the competition is paying more attention to software and new peripherals, like the Wii Vitality Sensor.

Unveiled at last year's E3, the Wii Vitality Sensor measures the flow of blood through the user's body to determine a person's breathing and pulse, among other things.

But Nintendo has yet to explain why gamers would want to use the add-on, something that Fils-Aime promises is coming.

"The first thing we need to do is to show our vision of how the Vitality Sensor can be used for a new and unique experience and we recognise we haven't done that yet," he said. "We've talked about the concept. We've shown some people video.

"So our focus is to bring to life how you could utilise the Vitality Sensor and our goal is to do that sometime around E3."

Fils-Aime declined to say exactly what that would entail or whether the E3 showing of the sensor would be the big moment at their press event this year.

Instead he told me that Nintendo plans to talk more about the Wii Vitality Sensor and the new Zelda game "around the time of E3".

Perhaps that discussion of the next Legend of Zelda game will also include a bit more about Nintendo's Super Guide.

The Super Guide was introduced in last year's New Super Mario Bros, allowing a gamer stuck in a section of the game to switch to a form of auto pilot. The Super Guide also included some video tutorials.

It didn't, I pointed out to Fils-Aime, include all of the other things we've heard the guide may one day be able to do, like allow gamers to create their own times.

"The Super Guide experience will continue to evolve and we will continue to provide new and unique experiences," Fils-Aime said.

He added that despite the somewhat mixed reaction to the bit of technology, we can expect to see the Super Guide in future titles.

"Given our objective, which is to bring gaming to as broad an audience as possible and to encourage consumers to jump into games and genres that maybe they never anticipated they would enjoy, the Super Guide is very important to us," he said. "Because it provides a safe way for a consumer to try a new genre, a new game... it will continue be an offering. It may not be in every game but it will certainly be in key games, key genres where we are trying to move this massive 27 million person install base to try something we think is important for them to try."

Does that mean Super Guide in the next Zelda? He wouldn't say.

He was willing, though, to discuss another recent rumour.

I pointed out to Fils-Aime that earlier this month Netflix started polling the users of their video rental and streaming service to see if they would want the service on the Nintendo DS. Netflix is bound to the Wii this spring.

The poll was very much real, he said, but it also asked about iPod devices and mobile phones.

"Netflix is a wonderful partner and one thing they do is utilise data and consumer research and they are constantly asking their user base all kinds of questions," he said. "So for them, they're constantly looking for ways to bring their experience to as many people as possible."

And Fils-Aime said technically speaking, the DS could stream videos from Netflix.

"We've already shown an ability to transmit content from the Wiii to your DS," he said. "We do it with (Nintendo of Japan's video on demand ) Wii No Ma service. We can transfer game demos from the Wii to the DS too, so the technology is absolutely possible."

And, it sounds like Nintendo would welcome the idea with open arms.

"From my perspective anything that drives connectivity is good for our business," he said. "Anything that has the consumer interact with their Nintendo device daily, hourly is good for our business. So it's certainly something that's interesting.

"I'll also say we haven't had any detailed business conversations with Netflix regarding the DS."

All of these things, the Wii Vitality Sensor, the Super Guide and a possible extension of Netflix video on demand to the DS, seem to fit perfectly with what Fils-Aime described as Nintendo's overall gaming focus and the reason the gaming giant decided to get into motion gaming in the first place.

"It is about creating new unique experiences that are fun for a wide swath of the population," he said. "I do believe that as our competitors try to copy and mimic our approach it seems like they have luckily missed the point.

"For us we've have always wanted to create entertainment, we've always wanted to create fun, involving experiences. A key part in making it fun and mass is making it easy to pick up and play. I don't think based on what I've seen that either of our competitors really understand that."


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