By Nathan Meunier
February 2008 - Each year the site of the Game Developer's Conference serves as ground zero for a massive exodus of developers, hailing from all reaches of the video game industry, who gather to share knowledge and discourse on topics of great interest to those who focus with intent on the games they create. Naturally, the event also brings with it numerous announcements of upcoming innovations. Nintendo took the opportunity to roll out details on its new downloadable game service and Wii Fit which are both set to launch in May as well as recapping on the much anticipated Super Smash Bros. Brawl set for release on the Wii next month. As GDC 2008 draws to a close and the buzz slowly recedes at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, we bring you a round-up of all the news coming straight out of Nintendo's court at this year's convention.
As a pack-in title available at launch, Wii Sports gave gamers plenty of reason to get up off the couch and exercise while enjoying some action-packed gaming. Wii Fit is poised to offer a whole new range of healthy experiences for a wide range of players. On Wednesday, Wii Balance Board producer Takao Sawano discussed creation of the unusual exercise peripheral which accurately measures players' weight, balance, and placement. The Wii Balance Board and Wii Fit software are already enjoying immense popularity in Japan where 1.4 million copies have been sold since the game shipped in December. Wii Fit will include different activities including aerobics, yoga, strength training, and balance games, among others. The game will also create the new Wii Fit channel in the Wii menu system which will let users track their fitness progress through collected BMI and weight data. Nintendo indicated third-party developers are also working on new titles that will use the Balance Board peripheral, so it will be interesting to see what other applications may be in store for the device.
Offering a huge array of oldies-but-goodies via the Wii's Virtual Console channel has been a great way to instill new life to the much beloved classics, but Nintendo has been slightly behind the curve when it comes to giving players access to fresh, original online games for the system. All of that is set to change with the launch of WiiWare on May 12. In a GDC panel on Friday, Takashi Aoyama, team leader for development of the Wii's programming, provided additional information about the new service during discussion which detailed his work on the Wii Menu system and the unique challenges his team faced in developing the different feature components.
The WiiWare service will allow users to purchase new downloadable titles at a dynamic price range. WiiWare will allow new indie developers to create content for the Wii alongside unique titles from established third-party developers. In order to save the limited space on the system, WiiWare games will be compressed until they are accessed for play by users. Also, it will be possible to read instruction manuals online prior to purchasing a game. This will save memory space and give players the opportunity to find out more about a specific title before they purchase and download it. Square Enix is currently working on Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King which will be one of several games to launch with the service. Frontier's LostWinds, an airy platform adventure, is in the works alongside a new episodic series being developed for WiiWare by Telltale Games.