July 24, 2007 - Thanks to the cloudy sky and muggy New York-in-July heat, the Military Island block of Times Square probably didn't feel as much like a tropical resort as Nintendo had hoped Thursday morning. Nonetheless, to celebrate the launch of Wii Sports Resort, the company spared no expense: the block was covered with sand, tents, palm trees, steel drums, staff passing out fluffy neck wreaths, and even a wading pool. By the time the event started - a little after 9 am - the area was buzzing with workers, media, and curious passersby.
The main stage featured friendly matches with famous guests. Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford took on Nintendo corporate affairs vice president Denise Kaigler at swordfighting (the TV heartthrob lost). Expert athletes Alston Wang (table tennis), Martin Vezzuto (archery), and Bradford Keller (Frisbee) were scheduled to teach and battle consumers later in the day.
What interested us most, though, was behind the main stage: several tents with Wii Sports Resort set up for playing. The game is in part a sequel to the launch title Wii Sports, and in part a showcase for what the new MotionPlus accessory can do (WSR comes bundled with MotionPlus). Reportedly, with MotionPlus attached, a Wii-mote can track your movements with 1:1 accuracy, and if anyone can take this technology and integrate it into fun and intuitive mini-games, it's Nintendo.
Before heading over for some (very fun) rounds of canoeing and swordfighting, we spent a few minutes talking to Bill Trinen, Nintendo's Senior Manager of Product Marketing.
CCC: I noticed that in addition to the ten new games, bowling and golf are back from the original Wii Sports. Are those the same games, or are they enhanced to work with MotionPlus?
BT: They're absolutely MotionPlus enhanced. With bowling, you have much greater control over the degree of spin. In fact, just by chance I went back and was playing the original Wii Sports bowling, and I was surprised at how primitive it felt compared to the Wii Sports Resort version that uses Wii MotionPlus. Golf now feels very realistic. What it does is, using Wii MotionPlus, it really takes the angle of the club head-the angle you're holding the club at as you're swinging-into account. It does that both to affect your swing, in terms of a slice or a fade, and to allow you to put backspin on the ball. When you're doing your approach shots, you can get a real good bite on the ball, drop it on the green, and get it to stop. You have much better control of the ball.
CCC: Will that make it harder for people who aren't very good at real golf?
BT: I think that's the beauty of it; it's real intuitive. If you're playing with a real golf club and you have no idea what you're doing, you're not going to be able to golf very well. With Wii Sports Resort, you have a variety of onscreen indicators so you can tell when you're holding it the wrong way - whereas without that, you wouldn't know. It's very easy to see your gauge bend as you turn the remote in space. It's really pretty intuitive. We've found that not only people who don't play golf, but people who don't even play games, are able to pick it up pretty quickly and understand how to play very easily. Of course, once you understand how to do it, you still have to be able to do the motion and time things right, so that adds a great deal of depth and challenge to it.
CCC: I read online that you have to unlock some of the varieties of the twelve games. What's the idea behind that?
BT: Like the eleven-point match in table tennis, yeah. I think one of the things the development team and Nintendo really took into account was that while the original Wii Sports was a really great game to show people motion controls, and was really great for getting groups of people together, the one complaint that I think a lot of experienced gamers had was that the experience didn't feel deep enough. With Wii Sports Resort, number one you have the added depth of control with Wii MotionPlus, but then riddled throughout the game you have the medal system, where essentially you earn medals for playing the game in different ways. It also has a number of Easter eggs, hidden modes and other hidden elements that can be unlocked through a variety of cheat codes and things that we'll be talking about in the next few weeks.