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Nintendo talking about a Revolution

At Game Developers Conference, company president Satoru Iwata shares details on next game machine, pushes new game ideas.

SAN FRANCISCO--Puppies and plankton are key parts of Nintendo's plan to remain a major force in the video game industry.

Satoru Iwata, president of the Japanese game pioneer, previewed quirky new titles based on those creatures and spilled a few details on Nintendo's next game console during a speech at the Game Developers Conference here on Thursday.

Satoru Iwata
Satoru Iwata
President, Nintendo

While Sony and Microsoft have kept up a steady dribble of information on plans for their next-generation game machines, Nintendo has been relatively quiet about its upcoming machine, code-named "Revolution."

Iwata said Revolution would break with Nintendo's past practices by being backward-compatible and playing games for the current GameCube. Nintendo's reliance on proprietary media formats previously has meant that each new machine rendered old games obsolete.

"The best of the Nintendo GameCube library will still be enjoyed...years from now," Iwata said.

Iwata also revealed a few internal details on Revolution, confirming that IBM is making the main processor, code-named "Broadway," and ATI Technologies is working on the graphics chip, dubbed "Hollywood." He also said the Revolution would have built-in support for wireless networking.

Like Sony and Microsoft, Iwata tried to get developers on his side by promising they wouldn't have to master a lot of complex new software tools to make games for the new console.

"It will not require a big new learning curve," he said. "It's a place where the best ideas, not the biggest budget, will win."

Iwata's most novel ideas centered around the DS, Nintendo's new handheld game system. He showed a preview of "Nintendogs," a virtual pet program in which players use the DS's microphone and touch-sensitive screen to train, entertain, bathe and pick up after a virtual puppy.

He also showed an advance version of "ElectroPlankton," in which players tap floating pieces of biomaterial to compose music.

Both titles stretch traditional concepts of interactive entertainment, Iwata said, and are emblematic of Nintendo's mission to create new software that can appeal to a general audience uninterested in current conventions. That's a critical move if the game industry is to keep growing.

"Are we creating games just for each other?" Iwata asked developers. "How often have you challenged yourself to create a game you might not want to play?"

Iwata said such novel thinking is at least as important as teraflop processors and high-end graphics in pushing the game industry forward. "Making games look photorealistic is not the only way of improving the game experience," he said. "We need to have more than one definition of quality."