Showing posts with label Nintendo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nintendo. Show all posts

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Nintendo is making two new versions of its 3DS portable console, arriving in Japan this October

Nintendo releases recorded video presentations, known as "Nintendo Direct," pretty often. Usually they're focused on games, or they highlight an upcoming season's game releases. This morning, however, Nintendo revealed two new versions of its wildly successful 3DS portable game console. And just like the Mario series, Nintendo's not pulling any punches when it comes to naming conventions: the new 3DS is simply called "New" 3DS. And yes, there's a "New" version of the larger 3DS XL, too.
As seen above, the smaller "New" 3DS has Super Nintendo-themed buttons on the right side. Just above those buttons is a new, tiny analog stick. Bizarrely, Nintendo's president Satoru Iwata compared the new analog stick to the GameCube controller's yellow C-stick (which was rarely used in GameCube games).
Beyond the new analog stick (it's really more of a nub, isn't it?), NFC tech is now built into the 3DS, making this holiday's Amiibo figures all the more logical. There's also a new microSD card reader below the base panel (which is now easily swappable for new designs) -- convenient! Oh, and in case it wasn't clear from the images, the "New" 3DS models are both slimmer and taller than the previous models.
There are two shoulder buttons now on each side as well, and the cartridge slot's been moved to the bottom front. There's also word of a new CPU inside the new 3DS, but we've got next to no info about it thus far. Presumably it helps with the new "Super-Stable 3D" functionality -- which Nintendo says "will provide players with an even more comfortable 3D gaming experience" -- though we'll need more info before we can be sure.
The "New" 3DS will be available this October 11th, but they've been announced for Japan only thus far; a press release from Nintendo says that North America and Europe shouldn't expect the new 3DS until some point in 2015. Pricing in Japan ranges from about $150 for the smaller version to about $180 for the XL ("LL" in Japan).
In other Nintendo news, the company this morning announced release dates and rollout plans for its Amiibo NFC figurines. The first 12 ("Mario, Peach, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Kirby, Fox, Marth, Villager and Wii Fit Trainer") are available for pre-order starting today, and there's no solid release date given; they cost $12.99 apiece. That said, they'll need to be available in time for Super Smash Bros. Wii U -- arriving at some point "this holiday season" -- as that's the first game that'll use them. Nintendo says that first dozen is just the beginning, and there's "more on the way in the future

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Sony wins E3 2014: Microsoft gambled on games, and lost; Nintendo did better than expected

This story has been expanded to include feedback from Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event. The original story, about whether Sony or Microsoft won E3, has been left mostly untouched.
At its press conference last night, Sony casually sauntered on stage, slipped its hands nonchalantly into its pockets, offered up an expressive French shrug, and won E3 2014. Microsoft and its legion of fans could do nothing but look on with envy as Sony unveiled hit after hit for the PS4. For all of Microsoft’s talk about games, the only platform exclusive that might be a critical success — Halo 5 — was reduced to a 60-second-long pre-rendered clip. The Division looked fantastic, but it’s a cross-platform game. There were some smaller, art game-like titles that looked good — but nothing that Microsoft felt warranted more than a scant few seconds of gameplay footage. Sony, on the other hand, essentially showed off everything a gamer could want at E3: A new white PS4 (to celebrate the release of Destiny); a release date for PS Now and the PlayStation TV streaming box; more details about the Morpheus VR headset; the beautiful art game No Man’s Sky; and actual in-game/in-engine footage from two massive exclusives (LittleBigPlanet 3Uncharted 4) and many more smaller titles (No Man’s Sky, a remake of Grim Fandango).
Nintendo, with what appeared to be in-engine footage of the upcoming Wii U Zelda title and some fun new IP called Splatoon, actually did surprisingly well. If Nintendo can deliver on its promise of an open-world, Skyrim-like Zelda title, then we could be looking at a massive hit. Likewise, Splatoon looks like it will be the funnest new game to be revealed at E3 this year. But that’s a lot of ifs and buts: I am a lot more confident that Uncharted 4 and LittleBigPlanet 3 will actually be awesome, as opposed to possibly awesome.
With all that said, it’s not unusual for one of the console companies to come out ahead at E3 — but this isn’t just Sony winning by a nose; it’s a landslide, and such huge disparities are rare at E3. How did Microsoft get it so wrong? And what can Nintendo do to stay in the game?

Games, games, games!

“Today we are dedicating our entire briefing to games,” began the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, to huge cheers from the E3 2014 audience. But, if you put all of your eggs in one basket, you better be damn sure that you have a very strong basket — and Forza at 1080p and a pre-rendered clip of Halo 5 do not a strong basket make.
The question is, why did Microsoft decide to make games the focus of its E3 presentation, even when it knew it had nothing big to show off? Bear in mind that Microsoft almost certainly knew about all of the games that Sony intended to display, and so it knew full well that it was going to be eviscerated by core gamers for a weak showing.
But… what else could Microsoft do? Following its backtracking of every single policy and feature that made the Xbox One unique, all that’s left is games. After de-bundling Kinect, Microsoft couldn’t then take to the stage at E3 and show off some amazing Kinect-based game. Likewise, in the words of our associate editor James Plafke, Microsoft couldn’t really show off another peripheral such as IllumiRoom after the Kinect debacle.
Microsoft could’ve showed off a new console, though — if it rushed a cheap, slim version of the Xbox One, that would’ve given gamers something to talk about. Or it could’ve announced some exciting updates to the Xbox One dashboard. Or it could’ve re-introduced digital game sharing, or something else equally crazy.
Presumably, Microsoft figured if it focused on just one thing — games — it actually stood a chance at beating Sony at something. Now that Sony has shown its gaming hand, we know that isn’t the case. In short, games were the crux of Microsoft’s E3 presentation, and thus games were the crux of its failure.

Nintendo: Quirky as always

Like last year, Nintendo instead opted for a pre-recorded presentation instead of a flashy main-stage E3 event. As it turned out, this was a savvy move that kept expectations low and increased the impact of some fairly big games. The Wii U Zelda title, Super Smash BrosHyrule WarriorsBayonetta 2, and the new IP of Splatoon were all quite impressive. That Nintendo chose to unveil them in a series of quirky interviews and claymations was an interesting choice, but the overall impression is that Nintendo had a strong E3.
Nintendo has always relied on killer games to sell consoles — and right now, the Wii U only really has two games that make the console worthwhile (Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World). Individually, almost all of the games shown off by Nintendo at E3 2014, if they’re as good as Nintendo promises, would be reason enough to buy a Wii U. Personally I bought the Wii for Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess, and I would buy the Wii U for Zelda — if it delivers. Judging by the Wii U, I doubt I’m alone in that thinking — and likewise, I suspect Nintendo is counting on it.
Unfortunately, though, the Wii U Zelda game still isn’t due until 2015 at the earliest — and Smash Bros and Hyrule Warriors aren’t due until the holiday season, either. Nintendo definitely put in a good showing at E3 this year, but I suspect it’s a matter of too little too late. Life-long Nintendo fans will pick up the console to play their favorite franchises, and Splatoon might bring in a little new blood, but we’re not going to see a crazy resurgence in console sales.

PlayStation vs. Xbox, E3 2014Swaggering Sony

While Microsoft’s E3 presentation was full of obsequiousness — “you are shaping the future of Xbox, and we are better for it,” said Xbox’s Phil Spencer — Sony oozed confidence; the kind of confidence that comes from knowing that you almost have the eighth generation of the console war sewn up. Sony already had the lead in sales and consumer confidence, but it needed this E3 to show gamers that it can capitalize the advantage — by golly, that’s exactly what Sony did.
Not only did Sony beat Microsoft in the primary arena of games, but it also won the secondary conflicts by default because it didn’t focus solely on games. PlayStation TV (previously Vita TV), PS Now, and the white PS4 are all very cool additions that will only increase Sony’s sales lead. Perhaps this is Microsoft’s biggest problem coming out of E3 2014: The only real thing that will drive more Xbox sales is Halo 5, while Sony announced at least three or four games that are have the potential to become Game Of The Year. There’s a possibility that Sunset Overdrive — the only original IP announced by Microsoft — will become a runaway hit, but I still think Sony is in the lead by some margin.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tetris is 30 years old today: The history of the world’s most successful game

Tetris on the Game BoyTetris, the world’s most successful game, is 30 years old today. Thanks to its simple and addictive gameplay, the massive popularity of the original Game Boy and mobile phones, an estimated 170 million copies of Tetris have been sold since its debut in 1984. Not bad for a game that was originally written at the height of the Cold War in the USSR on an Electronica 60 — a rack-mounted computer that lacked the ability to output graphics (the blocks were instead formed out of the Russian equivalent of ASCII).

Tetris was created by Alexey Pajitnov in 1984 while he worked at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Considering it was created on an Electronica 60 — a clone of the DEC LSI-11 — very few people could actually play it. Pajitnov would soon give the Tetris code to Vadim Gerasimov, however, who qucikly ported it to the IBM PC. The original version of Tetris was much simpler than even the Game Boy version, without scoring or levels — the blocks, fashioned out of characters, just kept on falling at the same pace. “The program wasn’t complicated,” Pajitnov would later say. “There was no scoring, no levels. But I started playing and I couldn’t stop.” I like to think that Pajitnov was meant to be working on ways to blow up the USA with thermonuclear ICBMs, but got bored and wrote Tetris instead.
The name Tetris, incidentally, is a contraction of tetromino (each block is made of four squares) and tennis.
The very first version of Tetris, running in an emulator
The very first version of Tetris, running in an emulator
Obviously, once the IBM PC version of Tetris was created, the cat was out of the bag, with Commodore 64 and Apple II versions quickly emerging. It was soon discovered by the British company Andromeda, which, despite not owning the rights to the game, sold the rights to Spectrum HoloByte, which then sold the first commercialized version of Tetris, with Russian background images, in 1987. Despite the rather shaky licensing foundation, rights to Tetris continued to be passed around like candy. At this point, no versions of Tetris had actually gained the official rights from Pajitnov or the USSR. (Fun fact: “The Tetris Song” — yes, that song that gets stuck in your head — is actually a 19th-century Russian folk song called Korobeiniki.)
The Spectrum HoloByte version of Tetris, running on an Amiga
The Spectrum HoloByte version of Tetris, running on an Amiga
In 1988, the USSR eventually created an organization called Elektronorgtechnica that marketed and licensed Tetris. In 1989,Nintendo obtained a legitimate license and bundled Tetris with its new portable Game Boy. This resulted in the distribution of 35 million copies of Tetris — a single-platform record only beaten by Super Mario Bros on the NES and Wii Sports. (Interms of combined sales, though, Tetris is by far and away the leader.)
The rest of the story, as they say, is history. Pajitnov would eventually co-found The Tetris Company in 1996 and go on to obtain the worldwide rights for the game that he created 12 years earlier. Before 1996, due to all of the licensing shenanigans, Pajitnov’s earnings from Tetris had been pitiful. Now, presumably, he makes a buttload of cash. He also joined Microsoft in 1996, where he worked until 2005, but he has never again experienced the same runaway success as Tetris. You could almost call him gaming’s biggest one-hit wonder.
So, there you have it: From its genesis on a text-only computer terminal behind the Iron Curtain, to the most successful game of all time, by way of a skeevy British game publisher and Nintendo’s monumentally massive success in the ’90s. To celebrate, here’s one of my favorite videos of all time. Make sure you watch it through to the end, where the master/lunatic plays invisible Tetris.

Friday, 7 February 2014

How to save Nintendo from itself

Sad MarioNintendo’s recent financial troubleshave been well reported as of late. The Wii U isn’t selling and that isn’t expected to change, the projected sales numbers for the 3DS have been significantly lowered, and the projected number of games sold for both consoles have been slashed. The Big N reported a loss of a third of a billion dollars this year, and it regularly looks like the company has no idea how to save itself. Luckily for Nintendo, we know just what to do.

Release modern hardware, for once

For as long as anyone can remember, Nintendo has been unable to break from the bad habit of releasing hardware that is underpowered compared to its competitors’ offerings. Even when the console world was still measured in bits, the 64-bit Nintendo 64 was held at a noticeable disadvantage to the 32-bit PlayStation, partly due to its use of cartridgesinstead of high-capacity optical media. In keeping, the Wii U — a current-gen console — doesn’t always run last-gen games better than the PS3 and Xbox 360. The Nintendo 3DS is significantly less powerful than its director competitor, the PS Vita, as well as its true competitors, smartphones and tablets.
The Wii was actually more closely related to Chris Hecker’s infamous description than anyone wanted to publicly admit at the time. The console sold well, but that’s because it lucked out and broke into a new market — people who weren’t gamers — but that’s also why the Wii came in dead last in software sales that generation, and ultimately died before the PS3 and Xbox 360 called it quits.Mario Wii U

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Nintendo outlines new company direction, but it won’t save the sinking ship

Mario is sad
Nintendo hasn’t been doing well this generation, which is something that seems to happen every other console generation. This time around, the Wii U has gravely underperformed thanks to a gimmick that didn’t catch on and severely underpowered hardware that deterred third-party development. Inching closer toward the precipice of oblivion, Nintendo realized it had to change its ways, and announced a restructuring of the company strategy. However, it doesn’t appear to be enough to right the toppled ship.
Out of the few strategies the Big N announced, the most aggressive is a $1.2 billion stock buyback which amounts to about 7.8% of its stock, or about 10 million shares. The House that Mario Built also announced that company CEO Satoru Iwata will take a 50% salary cut in order to preserve some cash for his flailing business. Interestingly, this is not the first time Iwata has slashed his salary in half. Though the Nintendo 3DS isn’t a complete failure at this stage in its life, it bombed when it first released, and Iwata took that 50% pay cut in 2011 in order to compensate. Nintendo has had a rough go of it for a while now; Bloomberg states that Nintendo has lost 80% of its value since 2007. However, the company holds a little under $9 billion and has no debt, so not only can it afford this $1.2 billion buyback, but it has enough money to strategist for the future. What that future is, though, mostly remains a mystery.
Recently, a credible Nintendo rumor site posted reportedly leaked — and very detailed — specs of Nintendo’s upcoming new consoles, the Fusion DS and Fusion Terminal. If Nintendo abandoned the Wii U and 3DS so soon after their release — which would be unprecedented if not for Sega’s post-Genesis console release cycle — and managed to trot out the two new devices well before Sony and Microsoft managed to drop the PS5 and Xbox Two, then it would be the first time in a long time that Nintendo sold consoles composed of competitive hardware. The company, though, is legendary for its stubbornness — still no Pokemon MMO, still unwilling to use competitive hardware components, mostly standing staunch against the online revolution, and not embracing the meteoric rise of smartphone and tablet gaming. What’s even weirder than Nintendo’s unwillingness to make the obvious moves that would likely save the company, is Iwata’s actual plan for bringing Nintendo back to popularity.
Nintendo mobile
Confusingly, Iwata stated that Nintendo will use a “leapfrog strategy,” bypassing the (extremely successful) mobile phone market and the emerging wearable market in order to create non-wearable technology that has yet to be seen on a Nintendo console. So, it seems Nintendo will once again ignore a hugely popular market or two — most famously having ignored the online revolution — and possibly play catchup again whenever that blows up in its face.
Nintendo will also focus on quality of life applications — likely due to the moderate success of Wii Fit (even though the Wii Vitality Sensor never released) and the recent explosion of the fitness band market. This new sector of Nintendo could also focus on educational applications, as well as life management apps like the popular to-do lists that flood iOS and Android. Nintendo will reveal the plan for this new focus sometime in 2014, and will launch the initiative in April of 2015.
As for the report from earlier this week that suggested Nintendo will finally make a jump — albeit limited — to the mobile space, Iwata did state that the Big N will indeed use the mobile market in order to make connections with customers. This simply sounds like an official Nintendo app for smartphones and tablets that will serve up commercials and news. It would, however, be a very smart move to integrate Nintendo’s Miiverse into the app, so fans can access their favorite community on the go (considering the 3DS doesn’t have LTE or 3G capability).
Unfortunately, Iwata did say that Nintendo will not release games for smartphones and tablets, as the company feels that would inhibit its ability to “show its strength as an integrated hardware-software business.” This, of course, is deeply ironic because the whole reason why this stock buyback and new company strategy is happening is because Nintendo is currently not a strong integrated hardware-software business. Perhaps obnoxiously, as part of Nintendo’s “new” strategy, Iwata stated that Nintendo will stay in the business of creating traditional game consoles. So, for those of you that hoped Nintendo would go the way of Sega and finally focus on making games instead of gimmicky hardware, you’re obviously not very familiar with Nintendo.


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