Thanks to the grace of Nintendo, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to participate in the very first Nintendo Enthusiast Summit, a three-day event exclusively dedicated to existing fansites and newer print publications. About a dozen or so editors were chosen to attend the gaming extravaganza here in the chilly North West region, where I’ve taken a moment last night to document my experiences during Day One.
Nintendo invited one of their official Nintendo Sages (who we learned is currently a freshman in college) to tag along. The Sage program is designed to help Nintendo keep in touch with its primary demographic, noting relative changes in consumer tastes and essentially keeping in close contact the gaming audience. I want to be a Nintendo Sage when I grow up.
Our tour began with a trek to Nintendo headquarters. We were all very excited and anxious to see what Nintendo had in store for us. To kick things off, the crew was treated to an awesome tour of the facilities where I snapped a batch of awesome pictures, and jotted down a few remarkable highlights:
- Our tour guide has worked for Nintendo for fourteen years. He has a tattoo of Samus on his arm, and also is the recorded voice on all of the call-in numbers.
- Every so often, there is a raffle among the employees. The winner of the raffle gets to book time on the Nintendo-owned resort on Hawaii in the upcoming year. The resort is, of course, amazing, having swimming pools, golf courses, beaches, and palm trees.
- The distribution center, in North Bend, is high tech. Systems of robots patrol the warehouses, filling up the trucks with Nintendo product. I couldn’t help but imagine a warehouse full of Nintendo boxes being carted around by a legion of R.O.B.B.
- All of the conference rooms in the Nintendo Headquarters are named after games. We passed the Earthbound conference room on the way to the call center. The aisles in the call center are all uniquely named. We walked along Octoroc Circle, Diddy Kong Drive and Mother Brain Lane.
- The Nintendo Call Center is completely operated at the headquarters, no outsourcing. Nintendo recognizes the expense, but is happy to provide callers with a unique and specialized response. The call center employees have a TV and console set up at each of their stations, and get to play between calls. There’s a stack of Nintendo Powers, from the first, all the way up to the most recent. Those made me feel old.
- All of the publishing design for the Nintendo Power magazine, as well as the website and print designs are done in house as well. Display cases of envelope artwork are kept in the hallways, showcasing old and new envelop artwork sent into Nintendo power.
- A secure product testing area, deemed "Area 51," was off limits to us, but we got to look at the door. Teams of hundreds of testers work there, testing out the up and coming releases, working out bugs. There’s even another sub-secure area within that, which requires even more security. It was pointed out that Nintendo has always kept very good secrets, and this is why.
Later, we visited the main "Show off" room, where we took a "history walk," which chronicled Nintendo’s roots which started out as a company which manufactured Hanafuda playing cards. Moving along, we saw all of each of Nintendo’s hardware showcased in their own, and in chronological sequence, starting with: Famicom, NES, SNES, Virtual Boy (haha), Play It Loud colors for Gameboy, N64, GBC (complete with game boy camera and printer), Gamecube, GBA, and the GBA SP.
The same room also featured the "World of Nintendo" area, in which they have many displays set up in which they can show retailers how to set up merchandise. This area is also used for PR functions and photo shoots.
The Headquarters also had an employee store, called Fun and Games, which we had the pleasure of checking out. Inside, you’ll find a plethora of incredibly discounted merchandise, refurbished items and other "not-sold-anywhere-else" products. Time to max out the credit card!
As our first day came to a close, we were sent back to our rooms with some serious schwag.
Next Up: We’ll be spending some serious screen time and getting touchy-feely with the Nintendo DS, and an up close-and-personal look at Metroid Prime 2 Echoes. More to come within the following week.
Click the link for more Day One snapshots of the Nintendo Enthusiast Summit 2004.