Switch inherits Wii’s philosophy

Nintendo Everything has an interview up on regarding the inception and design of the Switch. We’ll take it at face value for now, all this sort of interviews are mix of hard facts and PR after all. It’s a bit on the long side, four pages in total, but a good read nevertheless.

The first thing they quote with big blue font is how the Switch was designed to bring everyone together and play. Remember Wii’s We’d like to play ads? The Switch encompasses the same idea, which incidentally is shared with the NES (which they specifically mention and want to go way back to the hanafuda cards) and to some extent with the SNES. Can’t forget the Game Boy and the DS. It’s sad to see Koizumi saying that playing together is core essence of Nintendo, when they’ve done so much do disregard this. It is also not the full extent of Nintendo’s core, but this is neither here or there. What Koizumi is saying with his little speech about getting strangers into gaming is expansion of the market, something that Nintendo’s successful consoles have done.

The idea of Nintendo’s home console being a device that could be turned into a sort of game-presentation/sharing device on its own probably shaped the console all the way through the development. The Switch is chock-full of technological things that aren’t really needed, like the HD Rumble that the upcoming Senran Kagura is probably going to use somehow to imitate the physics of female body. The split wireless controller would’ve been enough to allocate this, but Nintendo does have a history of obsessing with useless WOW!-factors, like the 3D screen on the 3DS or the tablet controller on the Wii U.

While the Wii wouldn’t fit into this console-presenter idea, it had much easier time penetrating the wall that modern controllers put up. The Wiimote is an easy contraption to handle and use, which made the Wii an excellent console to boot up and have people playing games without worrying much how to control a given game. The rest was up to how well the game itself was designed. There certainly was a WOW! factor in Wiimotes without a doubt, but at least they saw use.

I should note at this point that the Switch is mentioned began development about three years ago. This is about the same time Nintendo’s main support on the 3DS and Wii U started lacking in major releases (or on VC for the matter) and fits their modus operandi. Just like with the Wii and previous consoles, about half of the predecessor’s life cycle is dedicated for the development of the successor.

Both Takahashi and Koizumi mention how Iwata helped them with engineering challenges, as both of them have design backgrounds. While they paint designers’ life as a daydreamer, it’s much more closer to constantly trying to solve a puzzle but having jack shit idea how to proceed. You just gotta make things work, and it helps if there are people in your team who can tell you what’s possible and why. Giving a designer total freedom only asks trouble.

I’m also calling bullshit on the fact that single-player games saw a rise on the N64 because only one controller was included. Knowing how Nintendo has gone on the record how they don’t follow their competitors’ actions (which is probably bollocks as well), how can they determine whether or not N64 was the reason for this supposed rise in single-player games? If Nintendo is worried about lack of multiplayer games and support this view, they should’ve dropped the price of their controllers and adding multiplayer elements to games like Super Mario Sunshine rather than bitching how third party is doing the same. It could be also argued that a game that can be played both single- and multiplayer and can stand on its own in single-player mode is superior to a game that requires two or more players at any given time.

Naming your product something that could attract the consumer is no easy deal. Sometimes you find a perfect name that has nothing to do with the actual product, like how Uncle Ben’s has nothing to do with rice, yet it’s a good name due to branding and all that. A PlayStation does give some hint what done with it, as does GameCube. Switch on the other hand doesn’t, but with the marketing and branding Nintendo’s doing, the idea of switching things up on the fly seems be associated with the system. Whatever else they had as candidates would be interesting to see, but at least it’s something simple and memorable. Like GameBoy.

One thing that will make the Switch stand apart from its competitors… actually, I’m not sure if the Switch has any competition per se. Because it’s a hybrid console, it doesn’t compete in traditional game console field. It competes against whatever Sony and Microsoft will dish out next, but they’re on weaker legs due to decentralisation of home entertainment. On handheld markets it has absolutely no competition with Vita being dead in the water elsewhere but in Japan. I hope you like importing for that little bugger. What a load of wasted potential Vita was. Whatever it is the competition will offer probably won’t be a pure bred game console. Consoles as home media centres is a ruling paradigm Nintendo has mostly gone against, and the Switch continues to do so. It’s main thing is to play games and dammit it needs to do it fast.

Takahashi’s argument that they didn’t want to fight smartphones and wanted to make friends with them makes no sense. Nintendo’s games and smartphones are two different markets, but I guess this is where the whole DeNA thing steps in. The whole social media aspect is what they gunned for, and seems to be the reason online chat and numerous other aspects of their online seems to be less than screwed up. Now that their online will actually cost money, I really do hope they’ll up their game in every aspect. I know it’s a futile wish, but it’s good to live with hope.

Nintendo also knows VR is terrible but still claims to be researching in it.

What strikes hopeful in Switch’s development is that it took in young people, to an extent. While it is good to take in new blood in order to rejuvenate your company and get in some new ideas, this is a generation that has lived with game consoles their whole lives. Unlike with the first three or four console generations, there is a preconception with high-end consumers what a game console needs to be like nowadays. It’s like how Zelda fans who jumped unto the ship with Ocarina of Time tend to rewrite Link’s Adventure as some sort of terrible aberration from the form. That’s Majora’s Mask.

Perhaps the last bit that garners a mention in this post is how Takahashi agrees that Switch should have more software than what was on the Wii or Wii U. Wii might be a bit hard to overcome, but Wii U’s statistics aren’t anything to write home about. Bloomberg seems to think that the Switch will sell more than the Wii, which is a tall order. While the initial reaction to Switch was essentially the same as with any other successful Nintendo console, i.e. dead on arrival, its sales show otherwise. Because the Switch sits in the handheld console market, it has the possibility of selling higher numbers than the Wii without a doubt. If it hits both home console and handheld markets with equal force, it’ll outsell the Wii. If the devs have games half-assed, it’ll sell less.

The Switch had a similar launch to the DS. It was big, with big sales left and right. Then came about a year long slumber, after which it was revised as a portable SNES of sorts. The Switch could have a similar cycle, where after this big start it trails off, and when enough and certain kind of software is release, blows up in sales again. Most likely during a holiday.

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Better late than never, right?

With the latest news of MLA Total Eclipse being pushed all the way back to September, it made me wonder what things we as consumer are able to let be late. When it comes to basic planning, the deadline should be set in stone and everything should have their own place in the schedule. A good planner usually leaves some room in the schedule as well as overlap certain issues with each other. Of course, the earlier the project is finalised, the better.

As we’ve discussed, no product ever is finalised. Often finalising is cleaning the rough stuff off and hide all the worst flaws from the viewing eyes and using hands. Before the ‘net became as widespread as it is, even digital products had to be made to a point where they’re finished, polished and ready to used and enjoyed. Yes, using a well made product is nothing but joy. The 80’s Second Game Industry Crash was caused because the people developing the games at the time, be it the code monkeys or the big brass, didn’t care about the product that was put out. All that mattered that something was put out. Nowadays the same thing is happening to an extent with Steam Greenlight and other games that are, by all means, sold as they are. The difference at this time is that the users don’t realize that they’re paying for product that is far from finished and are actually defending their position as “early buyers” or some other bullshit. There has been some arguments that this sort of early-pay-early-access model supports the developer and allows them to put more effort and money into production.

This is, of course, a lot of bullshit.

There is no other industry that’s selling unfinished products to their users. A restaurant can’t sell you a meal that’s half cooked you to eat in promise for a proper one later on. A car dealer won’t sell you an unassembled car with a promise that they’ll assemble it later on. A musician won’t sell you a song that will be finished later. The comparisons may not be wholly accurate, but they still stand at their core; paying for an unfinished product is stupid, especially if the provider is able to take your money and unfulfil their part of the deal.

Which comes all around to release dates, in the end. A restaurant has a definitive deadline when it comes to meals, a car dealer has to deliver the car as promised (most cases instantly) and musician works according to agreements.

There’s very few industries that allow prolonged deadline pushbacks. The electronics game industry is a prime example of why this is a bad idea on all fronts. The rule of thumb is The longer the development time is, the worse the product will be. There is the other extreme as well, where there’s no use of pushing a product out too early.

âge is notorious on working on their products overtime, sometimes years to no end. Well, their products are all story after all. That doesn’t really excuse any of their pushbacks. Muv-Luv Alternative was supposed to be part of Muv-Luv as one of the routes, or the true route of you will, but things didn’t look all too good with the work they had for them. Alternative was released three years later as a sequel of sorts. âge really seems to love three years of nothingness.

From the perspective of consumer, there should have been no reason for the latest pushback. Total Eclipse has been written out in text form. It has an animation. Hell, they have released the VN on PS3 and X360 as well. What the PC version is, by all means, is the definitive release. It seems like they treat every iteration they do as some sort of blueprint for yet another version. After all, the console versions are the base where the PC version comes from, and the hard work has already been done. The PC version is merely a remixed version. Comparison the NES Super Mario and to All-Stars Super Mario isn’t all too inaccurate. Sure, this time we’re sort of promised an actual end and perhaps even some other things. I wouldn’t get my hopes up thou. To be honest, I’ve had a pre-order on Total Eclipse’s PC version from the time it was announced, but I’ve come to a conclusion that this sort of thing just doesn’t cut for me. I’ll wait until we’re closer to the actual release, that may end up being pushed sometime next year if things keep continue going like this.

Perhaps, in the end, it is the fan voice in us that keeps us putting money into products that we’re not going to have in our hands in some time. Pre-ordering is sort of normal and I can see its benefits as long as money does not exchange hands until the product is delivered as promised. With games, especially nowadays, there’s no reason to pre-order anything because of the quantity they have of each copy. There might some pre-order bonuses here and there, but these are worthless on the long run. You really can’t run out of a game if it doesn’t have a limited run, but even then the game will most likely get a digital release, which further undermines the value pre-ordering. The days when games were sold out the day they were released has been over for some time, and digital releases make sure that no new game is sold out as you can’t run out of digital copies, thou certain vendors might want you to think otherwise. Nobody is ever going to hunt a copy of a game for their children from another country for them to play on the same day. Long gone are the days when games could and would sell like Zelda II. The ‘net makes these things even easier, and you don’t even need to walk out from your lair nowadays.

That’s good thou, even if it comes with the double edged sword in the end.

Sales, reviews and customers

Dragon Quest X didn’t open it’s life on a very bold manner. Actually, to statistics it sold rather poorly. There has been large amounts of people already stating that Dragon Quest is dead and the game has been a failure all around.

However, DQX is a subscription based game and the costs it demands are different. Comparing a game that is sold around 5€ can’t be compared to a game that has a 60€ price tag. That’s just stupid. The monetary gain from these two sales are completely different. When I hear that smartphone game A has sold an X amount of downloads, I can’t help but think that it needs at least five times as much to reach the same sales status as game B that sold as well on a console. Of course, a smarthphone game might have fraction of the budget a console game had, so there’s a balancing factor at which point the company breaks even.

Nevertheless, DQX has inherently problems that are hard to fix, such as a need for an external USB drive and a keyboard. Reviewers, both customer and media based, have panned the game. Still, we can’t deduce much from the current situation because of the nature of the game, and we’ll have to see further in the future how much the game’s overall sales will be through the subscription.

In a large scale, Dragon Quest X isn’t really important game to follow. You should follow the new Super Mario and how miserably it’s failing. Both 3DS and PSVita are going weak, and some have already buried both consoles. I can’t really blame them.

What we can see from DQX as a whole, and in the change of the video game customers in general, is that in the past ten years there has been a change where the customers have become far more self-aware of their own opinions and knowledge at large. There was a time when people read IGN and took its word at heart. It was easy for the companies to uphold legends and tell tales through these channels. However, for some reason, be it the Internet or change in the industry, the curtain which has hold the development and business side of the games has been all but removed. The customers are far more aware how and why certain games are made, what goes on in the development and are not easily lead into believe legends any more. I find this transparency very good as then the industry has to change, and if they change the wrong way then they will fall.

To bring back the curtain that separates the customer and the service, the industry has to start producing good products again. When there’s no need to see behind the curtain, the customer is left with a content feeling with the product. Now, the customer do feel a need to see behind these curtains, because there’s a fly in their soup.

Any industry that thinks that they know better than their customers are in trouble. 3DS was supposed the a new breakthrough because Nintendo wanted to push the 3D. Customers didn’t want 3D and they’re feeling it in their skin now. Sony and Microsoft both thought that it was the machines that mattered, and ended up losing money by the truckloads. Michael Bay thought racists robots and robot testicles were funny, and nobody found them funny.

Same applies in design industry; we need to stop being dicks. We’re not creative gods. And if you think you are above your customers, please remove yourself from the gene pool.

However, there’s strange amount of customers who are nothing less than blind to the industries’ misdeeds and do continue believing the leading information they’re given. Everything has their blind fans. It’s no surprise that the industries wish to cater these fans most, as it boosts their ego and wishes, but then again concentrating on this crowd also shows in the monetary gain and in quality of the product.

Nowadays it’s natural to see bulk of the reviews on many websites to be by the customers themselves. These range from completely useless 10/10 ratings without a thought to a well thought review that put things in proper perspective. Usually the best reviews come out much later on after any product has been released, so that there has been enough time for the reviewer to spend time with the product and reflect on it overall. However, the same can also lead into sort of romancing the image if the reviewer has been biased towards the product from the start.

Sales in general are not as affected by the industry as they used to be. With DQX and the new 3DS Super Mario the customers have been able to tell themselves more than previously simply through observation. There has been more and more customers that are more educated by experience, and this is a positive thing. However, due to the current world’s nature not even the most experienced word is trusted without somebody going [citation needed] on a whim. This is both good and bad; when doing a research sources are important, but when there is someone speaking based experience and wisdom, then sources mean little.

If we the customers, and the people, can’t value voice of experience when making decisions any more, then there’s something inherently wrong.

 

 

 

Let’s take a look at E3

I’ve been quite busy lately with all sorts of work from crafts to writing. I wasn’t on the E3 train like I’ve been in the past, and perhaps it was for the better. Let’s take a look at the Big Three and their presentations.

However, let’s take a look at the E3 2006. The Wii was unveiled, YouTube: Kaz Hirai and Giant Enemy Crab became an instant meme, and Microsoft had something that nobody remembers. Nintendo’s stocks took an uplift after Wii’s unveiling and it divided opinions. The Wii created interest that made forums and messaging boards burn with fire. 2006 was a great year for gaming, the like we haven’t seen since the NES was brought to the West.

So, can 2012 hold up against 2006? Let’s start with the Microsoft presentation.

It was an unsurprising event that MS began with a Halo showcase, and this is a strong beginning; showcasing live gameplay without interruptions is always a good thing. It looks nice and dandy, and I’d love to play this game… on a PC with keyboard and mouse combination. While I’m not too informed of Halo story, I do know enough to tell you that the introduction of Forerunners wasn’t the most interesting move. It was expected, but they did it. It’s nothing from me, I’ve never bought Halo before, and most likely I never will.

When the MS representative steps in, he begins with propaganda without anything to back up his statements. While I have not followed the last years sales, I have hard time to believe that the 360 would be outselling either the DS or the Wii. Indeed, after a quick check we can see that in 2011 the 360 had a four percent growth, while the Wii had an eleven percent decrease. Still, the 360 and PS3 were selling less than Wii in total.

The new Splinter Cell looks like a… like an uninteresting piece. Why has the camera shake like that? Is the Kinect support necessary? Co-Op sounds good, but the game looks clunky.

And then EA rep steps in with sports. Sports games are a driving force, especially in the West, but there’s nothing of interest here either. If you’ve played any of EA’s sports games during the last decade, you know the drill. The same lack of interest continues with the new Fable showcase.

A new MS rep steps on the stage while proclaiming that 2012/2013 will be the best year for the 360. Why? Because we’re getting sequels upon sequels released on the system with little variety? Shouldn’t every year be a great year for a console? Oh yeah, I forgot. The developers do not like creating good games all the time, just games they are interested in. Sorry, my bad.

Forza Horizon looks nice, but where’s the gameplay?

Then comes the hammer; the next representative start babbling about other entertainment on your console. It’s never good idea to give access to your rivals. This is a showcase what a dumbed down PC can do, not what a video game console can do. People buy your console to play games on them, and if you do not provide games, people will end up using these other services that are ultimately out of your pocket. The music showcase was horrible on many levels as well.

This begs a question; why is Microsoft concentrating putting all these functions on 360 rather than on Windows, the thing that makes money? They could have an insanely well balanced dual support between PC and 360, much like Nintendo has between it’s home console and handheld consoles.

The Nike part was boring, but technologically interesting.

At this point we’re 45 minutes in, and I have no feeling to continue onwards. The showcase has changed from console showcase to personal computer technology showcase. They’re also playing into the hip crowd with Game of Thrones and the like. Later on we see Resident Evil 6 and another Call of Duty and the like.

What Microsoft’s event lacked was interest. There were one or two moments in the beginning and in latter half that makes you ask Why can’t this be on PC? HD gaming is present, and because of that everything else is lacking. All the games showcased were dumbed down PC games which will sell to a certain crowd, but only Halo will keep selling any hardware. I have to ask if Halo would sell better if it was on PC rather than on 360. Every game here tries to aim for a movie like experience and affect how we play rather than what we play, the same problem that both Sony and Nintendo share.

Speaking of Sony, let’s check their event next.
Sony decided to go with trailer showcase with uninspiring music. This lasts solid four minutes, where I was already making tea and taking some crackers. Disinterest quickly sank in. Much Microsoft’s starting words, Sony’s representative begins talking about the true heroes of the industry; the gamers. This man knows how to talk and how to complement people as scripted. However, if the customers are so important to Sony, why are they still sinking in the Red Ocean and are unwilling to listen what their customers want?

When Heavy Rain developer stepped on the stage, I had shake my head. Interactive storytelling is does not equal gaming or vice versa. Storytelling may be part of video games, but storytelling has always been driving force in computer gaming. These people do not know what makes a good game. The most important thing they have to reveal is the voice actor. What they continue to show is not a game, but a CGI movie. This should be the point where people again realize that the PS3 is not a game console, but the same kind of dumbed down PC as the 360.

Then, PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale. I have to wonder what forums do these people browse if they haven’t had anything but positive feedback. Nobody addressed the elephant in the room, which is the fact that this game is almost 1:1 carbon copy of the Super Smash Bros. series. Even the HUD during gameplay is nearly identical. This is like grayer and grittier version of Smash Bros., but not any better. The Hydra’s barely do anything but hang in the background majority of the match.

Only 80% of all PS3s and and Vitas are connected to the PSN. I say only, as this is a problem for Sony. I believe even less Wiis are connected to Nintendo’s network, but the amount of trust Sony has put on their network is stupidly insane. However, I do not trust these numbers, as there was large amount of people who disconnected their PS3 from the network because of the security issues.

PSVita’s getting the same kind of treatment with video and music services as the 360 and PS3 has had for some time. Vita’s becoming more and more like a smartphone rather than a handheld console, which will be reflected in its lack of sales. We’ll come to this point after we’ve taken a look at Nintendo’s event.

Now this is funny; 45 minutes in and I’m feeling of skipping things again. We do know how Assassin’s Creed already works, and we do know how Farcry works. It’s good to see some actual gameplay on-stage, but their showcase is uninteresting. I do have to admit, that the idea of playing as a pirate woman was interesting, but the Assassin’s Creed setting put me off.

Sony’s Wonderbook was… a surprise. It’s a neat idea that I’d expect Nintendo to pull off, but this isn’t a game. As the representative himself says; interactive books. One could call them as visual novels, no? However, a lot of people has thought the same thing as I; if I were to read a book, I’d read a goddamn book rather than boot up my PS3 to “experience” it. Augmented Reality has far more better uses outside this kind of… toying.

PlayStation phones. Let ask you a question; do you play dedicately on your phone? hTC is a good manufacturer for sure, but why would Sony want to divide their attention from handheld gaming to smartphone gaming (which is just another form of PC gaming)? It looks like Sony’s spreading their resources rather thin.

It just might be me, but the God of War showcase was cartoony with over the top motions I’d expect to see in a WB cartoon. It also looks very much same to the Splinter Cell demo in MS’s event, except the setting was naturally different. From this I noticed that HD gaming, while it may look better, sharper and all that, but it also makes all games look dull, uninspired and lacks the same touches non-HD gaming has. It makes games look less interesting.
And oh, the fire special effects looked bad, even if this was just a beta of some HD game.

While the new God of War indeed was a nice showcase for those who enjoy QTEs and PC hack-n-slash, The Last of Us was that peaked my interest in the while event. The Last of Us looks freeroam and explorable game, but at the same time I’d love to believe that it keeps the lines tight. However, the human monsters, which just are damn zombies with different appearance, put me completely off. Objectively this the Last of Us might sell decently, but I have hard time to see this as a system seller; it’s still a PC game at heart.

Talking about system sellers, Nintendo started with a game that never moved any systems; Pikmin. There’s nothing interesting here, so let’s move along.

WiiU Gamepad, which I will continue calling Tablet controller, is a threat to the 3DS. It’s part of the unfocused gaming, which many people confuse with “casual” playing. I used my DS and GBA to play games while doing other things, like writing reports and watching TV. The Tablet controller can replace this as it shouldn’t be dependant on the TV in most cases. If I had a WiiU, I’d be using that to play Super Mario 6 while designing a new chair or the like. I would have no use for 3DS for this.

Another point that we have to think about the Tablet controller is that it is symmetrical in design. This should enforce the way controllers used to be, and I hope this will also be used in such way that the controls will utilize the D-pad before the stick. The more we analyse the Tablet controller, the more we can see good points in it. Naturally, the low battery life is a factor, but we also have to notice another point with WiiU and the controllers; you do not need to buy new controllers abundant if you already had four Wiimotes. You might need to buy one extra Tablet, but that’s that. It saves money from both the developers and customers’ pockets.

Now, if Nintendo has always heard fans voices to have a new Mario game in the launch of a new console, why didn’t Nintendo have a new Mario game with the GameBoy Advance, with the GameCube, with DS or Wii or with the 3DS? Because at then Nintendo was lead by artists, but now the business side of Nintendo is forcing them to make a good decision. The musics are still horrible thou.

Nintendo’s trying to gather a strong launch lineup for the WiiU, but at the moment its weak. If we take a look at SNES’ lineup, it was much stronger, but after Super Mario World it took Donkey Kong Country to make the console move again. At the moment WiiU is lacking games that will create momentum. We see ports and few exclusives that nobody gives a damn about, like Alien; Colonial Marine, which also is a PC game.

3DS’ upcoming Mario game is a Wario game. There’s nothing more to add to this. I said that this is the fastest and least budgeted Mario game from Nintendo to date, and this just proves it.

Nintendo Land. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about this. If it is a continuation of Nintendo’s WiiSports, then it’s a good piece of software. WiiSports was one of the moving forces on the Wii, but Nintendo never took advantages of ‘Sports, and Nintendo Land continues this mindset.

After these three videos, I’m still a refusing customer for Microsoft. They have nothing of interest for me, but in general their event was plagued of disinterest. Sony got me interested in one game, but then threw zombies at me. At least they got me to shake my head and wonder why the hell is this company still producing games. Well, looking at how their financial status is, this might not continue for long. Nintendo didn’t convince me either, but WiiU might not be that bad after all. It would make my Wii completely useless device, and I’d have to take my GC from the closet after all these years. They should include backwards comp with the GC and GC controllers as well.

Not one thing will be as successful during the following generation and years. This reason for this is the governing economics. In 2006 the financial structure of the world was much better and customers had more money to spend. In 2012 the economical situation is much more bleak and unnecessities like games will always take the worst hits. 600 dollar game consoles would not survive at any point any more, and this is why the rumoured 200 dollar price point for the WiiU would be good. This is also the first time Nintendo’s home console would be going against imaginary consoles; the future of Xbox and PlayStation, whenever they might come. However, if both MS and Sony would like to play their cards right, they could announce that they’d continue working on their current consoles rather than creating something new. This would a blow against Nintendo, as it would mean that both Wii and WiiU would have fought against the same rival consoles. Of course, the people at MS and Sony are idiots and want something new and expensive under their belts and further bankrupt the companies.

The companies here do now really get the current macro economics, but they are feeling them. If they would look at the current world situation they would be able to maximise their profits. This glance at their E3 shows that the companies still don’t get what the customers are here for even thou one of them has hit the point three times already. I don’t want to paint the walls with devils, but I’m truly starting to expect Third Video Game Crash.

Now excuse me, I’ll be watching something good after these headache inducing events; Hepburn’s Sabrina.