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GDC 2011 Keynote: Video Games Turn 25

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Satoru Iwata started his keynote by highlighting the worries of developers in the development community concerned with job security.

"You are the center of the video game universe," he said to the attendees of the GDC 25 keynote, attempting to ease those concerns.

Iwata then moved on to teaching himself programming on his own time, joking that "I concluded that I pretty much had video games figured out." Iwata then talked about meeting and working with Shiguro Miyamoto, saying "I was convinced [my work] was technically superior." Miyamoto's games then outsold Iwata's by a ridiculous margin; Miyamoto 'taught' him: "Content is really king." Iwata confessed that this is when he learned that technology and engineering weren't everything.

In talking about the early days of Nintendo, Iwata said, compared to games today, they were "video game cave men." He talked about wearing different hats, making enough money to pay the rent, and other problems typical of any start-up that we generally don't think about in regards to a company like Nintendo anymore.

Iwata started talking about a large-scale survey they run twice a year that they started in Japan in 2005 and have since expanded that practice to other regions. Iwata then showed a graph showing the "Composition of the U.S. Gaming Population" and how the prominent gender of gamers between ages 4 and 75 switches from being predominately male to being predominately female. Iwata then moved on to show the active gaming population in the United States and Europe, both of which exceed 100M users (with the US exceeding 160M) as of October 2010.

The next topic Iwata tackled was that of "social networks" and "social games." He wanted to clarify the use of the "social" in either of these terms and the widely-believed implication of the term of "social game." He aims to redefine "social" as simply being a large group of people and the activities they choose to engage amongst one another with. Iwata then took the opportunity to promote the role that various Nintendo products have had on smaller-scale social groups (families and the like). "In those early days, being social only meant 'competing.'" Iwata says as he cited that people would connect two Game Boys together with a link cable in order to duel in Tetris.

"I don't want it to seem that Nintendo is taking too much credit for its role in creating the social game," Iwata says. He then cites Call of Duty's role in multiplayer and Microsoft's "considerable investment" in Xbox Live.

The term "must-have" describes something that Iwata feels is so important that every gamer "must have it." "These tend to come from one of three sources," Iwata says, starting by citing hardware itself as a source (using the first Game Boy as an example and the role in incubating portable gaming it played). "Second, there were times when a game itself is must-have [...] names as diverse as Sonic the Hedghog, Just Dance, Grand Theft Auto, Guitar Hero, Angry Birds, The Legend of Zelda, and Tetris." "But, there is a third source of must-have that extends from neither hardware or software [...] it comes from the player itself. It's that social appeal of gaming." Iwata cites how Pokemon mechanically encouraged people to trade their Pokemon with their friends as a reason for why the franchise has been so hugely popular over the year. Iwata also cites "universal appeal" as a reason why so many of Nintendo's games have been so popular over the year.

The keynote then turned into a Nintendo press conference as Iwata took all these principles to talk about Kirby (which was a great story) and the Nintendo 3DS (which was a press conference spiel). Reggie Fils-Aimes also appeared to talk further about the Nintendo 3DS. "It's a system to play games," Fils-Aimes said on numerous occasions as he talked about Netflix and movie trailers.

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