E3 07: Is Nintendo abandoning the hardcore?

A fab and fun Q&A session with Zelda: Phantom Hourglass producer Eiji Aonuma and Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto had the designers talking about keeping in touch with the hardcore in an all-access world.

"Let's keep it light and lively, shall we," Aonuma tells the small audience of journos, setting the tone for today's E3 developer Nintendo Q&A in Santa Monica.

Aonuma, who also directed the acclaimed Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, just released the Wind Waker sequel Phantom Hourglass into the wild in Japan. The game's been consistently sold out since its launch last month, and it's not just veteran players who've been buying the game.

"In the past, I thought it was impossible to make a Zelda game that appeals to core and new users," Aonuma says. He explains that Phantom Hourglass has found an audience with first-time Zelda players and adult females, namely because of the intuitive stylus control.

"I wanted to get rid of preconceptions" of Zelda, Aonuma says.

"[Casual gamers] are just looking for something to play," he says, echoing Nintendo's belief that there's a gamer within everyone.

At Nintendo's press conference earlier this week, the message remained clear: the Nintendo strategy is accessibility. But where does this leave the hardcore gamer who doesn't want to be spoon-fed?

Aonuma believes that control can be pick-up-and-play, but that doesn't necessarily mean a game overall has to be easier. But he still states that his "goal was always to appeal to...a vast audience."

One attendee pushed the issue further, asking if all Zelda games from now on are going to cater to the more casual crowd - will we ever again need a strategy guide to complete a Zelda game? Aonuma says that judging by Japanese sales so far, accessible "stream-lined play has been effective," but he wants to see how Western audiences react to the new Zelda before making a final decision on future games' difficulty levels.

Aunoma also hopes to venture into new territory and create a wholly original game at some point in his career.

Phantom Hourglass launches in the US October 1.