Articles tagged with nintendo

Posted by James at 07:47
A recent jobs listing over at Nintendo of America's jobs website suggests that Nintendo Software Technology (NST) may be working on mobile games and apps in the future.

While we already know quite a lot about Nintendo's partnership with Japanese services company DeNA and their long-term objective behind it, we're still only beginning to see all the relevant pieces fall into place.

So far, we know that Hideki Konno will be heading up Nintendo's mobile game development, which likely refers to the five games launching by the end of March 2017. We also know that Nintendo is not interested in chasing 'whales' as far as monetising these games goes.

It now seems like NST will be playing a part, as this new job listing, for a "Software Engineer -- Mobile Game Developer", suggests that the successful individual will "play a key role in helping Nintendo build fun and engaging mobile applications and games as a member of NST’s game team." They must also possess "working knowledge of iOS and/or Android SDK’s."

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean they will be involved with Nintendo's five core mobile titles set to launch by March 2017, but they will almost certainly be focusing on mobile software that will fall into place as part of Nintendo's vision for the future -- an interconnected online system to act as a bridge between mobile devices and dedicated hardware.

DeNA's expertise in services is a big part of this, of course (expect Nintendo to utilise "big data" for its upcoming loyalty system), but it indicates a shift towards providing mobile-like software for the devices in question.

For instance, the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata hinted at a Mii Maker application for smart devices before Nintendo's mobile plans were even made public, and NST already have experience making cross-platform HTML5 apps with Wii Street U and Mario Vs Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. You could make a solid case that NST are one of the best set-up in-house studios under Nintendo's belt to transition into mobile game and application development.
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Gunman Clive HD
Gameplay Video
Sep 02
Posted by Ben at 17:49

Gunman Clive HD hits the WiiU tomorrow, and we've been sent some review code for the game. No review yet, but there is a gameplay video of the WiiU version below

We reviewed both Gunman Clive and Gunman Clive 2 on the 3DS, and really liked both. The WiiU version includes both games, and is well worth a look, especially as it's so cheap

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Posted by James at 20:57
A web-based Nintendo eShop has been a long time coming, and while that still hasn’t arrived, Wii U and 3DS owners in the U.S. are on the receiving end of a solution that’s nearly as good, just operated by online retailer Amazon instead.

As expected, it works seamlessly enough. As with other digital code services provided by Amazon, purchasing a code will directly link its contents to the service in question (in this case, Nintendo Network). Actually getting your hands on the content/subscription/currency after purchasing is painless.

It's encouraging to see Nintendo's digital content receive more exposure in the U.S. On the other hand, such an initiative reduces the inventory risk Amazon takes on when it sells a particular game.

However, this particular outcome may not be exactly what Nintendo is aiming for. three years ago late president Satoru Iwata envisioned a situation where the price of Nintendo digital goods varies by retailer.

This was meant to be the result of a plan to run its digital distribution business differently as part of an effort to expand it, also ceasing the opportunity to do so in a world where physical game prices are generally lower than their digital equivalents.

As outlined to investors, one of the key differences that Iwata wanted to pursue was to give retailers an active role to play in distributing digital downloads. Traditionally, the platform holder (say, Sony Computer Entertainment) is the seller of the goods, so they decide pricing and shoulder any billing and settlement costs involved, cutting out the intermediary in that regard.

By contrast, Nintendo’s digital distribution product channel works like this: It sells the digital product to retailers at wholesale, allowing them to be involved in the price setting process. However, the retailer shoulders all expenses relating to billing and settlement. This gives the retailer flexibility to lower prices of digital goods as they see fit, similarly to how they would physical ones.

This plan produced tangible results. In Japan, many Nintendo digital products are sold below RRP on Amazon Japan’s storefront, as are digital download cards in brick-and-mortar retailers. Specialise retailer GAME was the first retailer in Europe to adopt this system, and as a result offers the download version of almost every 3DS and Wii U retail game at below the recommended retail price (RRP). For example, a download code for Pokémon Alpha Sapphire is listed for £32.99 – if you were to buy it from Nintendo’s digital storefront it would set you back £39.99.

However, the same situation has not happened in this case with Amazon Digital Services in the U.S. The price of every game available matches its eShop RRP equivalent, similar to how digital downloads from Sony’s PSN and Microsoft’s Xbox Live are priced.

In this case it’s hard to tell whether this is down to Amazon holding onto profit margins, whether it has a vested interest to shift physical product (which would also allow customers to discover the Amazon marketplace), or whether Nintendo is shouldering billing and settlement expenses like some of its competitors do. Another possibility is that Nintendo is using the reduced inventory risk of digital downloads as leverage to charge higher wholesale prices for its digital goods, a scenario that was hinted at during an investor Q & A session in July.

Despite this setback, this is the right step forward, one that helps not only Nintendo but its customers and a retail partner who in the past refused to stock Nintendo hardware. It increases the exposure of Nintendo’s digital offerings while also allowing Amazon to reduce inventory risk, especially when certain types of games are being increasingly marginalised at retail. Hopefully this is the start of bigger plans in the region.
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Posted by Ben at 14:12
Bit of a long title, kind of says all that needs saying, but Gunman Clive HD is coming to WiiU this week on the 3rd September, a collection which includes both the 3DS games

I can personally recommend both games, assuming nothing odd has happened during the transfer to the big screen. I liked Gunman Clive but I really liked Gunman Clive 2. It's also really cheap, which always helps, $3.99, so maybe £3? Either way it's got to be worth a look.

We'll have a review and a video up in the next week or so, so look out for that, until then there's a trailer below

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Posted by Mark at 13:40
For people who aren't James the majority of us, earnings reports from companies make for dry reading, even in games. So it stands to reason that often, little tidbits of news sneak out without people noticing.

Fortune have noticed one thing in Nintendo's most recent report-
For Nintendo IP, a more active approach will be taken in areas outside the video game business, including visual content production and character merchandising
Nintendo properties have appeared in film to varying success recently in Wreck-It Ralph and Pixels, but it seems that Nintendo are going to look for a little more control.

Rather than simply handing everything over to marketers, future excursions into film will be overseen by Software Planning & Development- the arm of Nintendo overseen by Shigeru Miyamoto and Shinya Takahashi.

Incidentally, that project to make a sequel to the Super Mario Bros. movie in comic form is still up and running.
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Posted by Ben at 14:33
Prior to Splatoon's launch Nintendo ran a couple of Testfire's, essentially demos or betas, both to test the servers, but also a good way to get fans to experience the game. It worked too, it sold a lot of people on Splatoon, and now Nintendo are launching a timely reminder

you probably should have received an email about it by now if Nintendo have your details, but on August 22nd you'll be able to test out the game and maybe try a couple of different maps than last time
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Posted by James at 08:33
When Nintendo announced a business and capital alliance with DeNA, part of the plan was to jointly develop a new online membership system using DeNA's expertise. This new service is planned to replace Club Nintendo this autumn.

Fast forward to today and we’re witnessing a few early signs that the transition is well underway. As originally spotted by Perfectly-Nintendo yesterday evening, and now officially confirmed by Nintendo of Europe, you'll be able to log into the Nintendo UK website using a Nintendo Network ID, rather than your Club Nintendo account.

This development confirms what Nintendo has been planning: A global online loyalty system to span mobile, Wii U and 3DS, and NX, its upcoming platform dedicated to videogames. Nintendo wants this online service to nudge new users of its mobile games, who left Nintendo this hardware generation, to its own platform, NX. The Nintendo Network ID will be a pass that links all of Nintendo's services together, not just a few broken pieces.

Since Nintendo’s first mobile game hasn’t formally launched yet, transitioning as many users as it can to Nintendo Network IDs in the run-up to bigger things seems like the goal in the meantime. Wii U owners have always been able to link their Nintendo Network ID to the existing loyalty service, but 3DS owners haven’t.

This setup changes this, offering users 750 stars (Nintendo of Europe’s loyalty currency) as an incentive for users to make the switch ahead Club Nintendo's closure on September 30.
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Not So Special

Aug 05
Posted by Mark at 18:00

Controversial statement time: I don't think Special Editions are all that bad.

Alright, they're a bit of a waste of space/money/whatever, but if people like them then that's fine. So when today's welcome announcement that the new Project Zero game is coming to Europe came with news of a Special Edition wasn't that surprising. What was surprising was the lack of Standard edition.

We're looking at the usual bonus fare- steelbook case, artbook and cards, poster, and- unless you're buying digitally- that's your option. There's no solus game.

This makes it notably different to other Special Editions. Xenoblade Chronicles X is also getting a similar release, but Nintendo have been careful with their language, using the word 'only' in both their tweet and press release, in reference to Fatal Frame, but not in reference to Xenoblade- something mirrored in their tweet on the matter.

It also puts it in a different bracket to the Special Editions we see with other games. A plastic toy that costs £10, yet increases the retail price of the product by £30, is simply chasing whales (the merits of which is an argument for another day) and a slightly higher-priced version of a game which has the Season Pass bundled is a legitimate offer of choice. More importantly, both of these are available alongside the 'normal' version.

The Special-Edition-Only release of Fatal Frame means that Nintendo are adopting the tactics of Nippon Ichi, Atlus, and other publishers peddling otakubait JRPGs who, as a function of the games retail market, have to bribe people into buying their niche titles with assorted trinkets under the guise of a 'Limited Edition'.

This shows either a lack of confidence in the game- which is not entirely unreasonable, considering that previous entries in the series have hardly set the charts alight- or that Nintendo, having an utter nightmare at retail in the UK, has found itself backed into a corner and needs to hit safer, smaller bets in order to remain relevant.

It's an interesting change of course, considering the Wii was all but built on slow-burning titles like Wii Fit and New Super Mario Bros.- and considering the use of Free-To-Start, one which could tell us a lot about where they plan to take their future titles.
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Posted by James at 13:17
This is the last in a three part series which examines how Nintendo’s NX platform will redefine the way the company approaches the traditional hardware and software lifecycle. Part one examines some of the weaknesses behind that current approach, which ultimately harmed Nintendo this generation. Those weaknesses can be summarised as follows:

1) Software shortages throughout a video game system’s lifetime. Developers struggle to develop for both Wii U and 3DS at the same time due to the massive differences in hardware and software architecture.
2) The cyclical nature of a console generation, and how a new platform traditionally means starting all over again. With a clean slate, the tide can turn in favour of an entirely different platform holder.
3) Every new generation begins with an effective new software library of nothing.
Meanwhile, Part two reveals the direction Nintendo plans on taking with NX. Which brings us onto the big question: How will NX overcome these weaknesses compared with that came before it?

Piecing together Nintendo's NX platform
A three-part series

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3
Weakness 1) becomes a thing of the past in both the short term and long term, because developers can target all Nintendo hardware at a much lower cost, much like developers can target iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, optimising easily and cheaply between the three. Or they can even just target specific hardware based on the requirements for their software – upcoming strategy title SteamWorld Heist will only be available on iPad because its roomy display goes hand-in-hand with touchscreen input within the strategy genre.

For games available across the entire spectrum of NX hardware, Nintendo can also make initiatives like cross-platform purchases – popularised by Sony as “cross-buy” – prevalent across the whole platform, not just for a few games. On PlayStation, games from independent developers and those published by Sony make up the bulk of games supporting cross-buy. Why? One major reason is that it’s more costly to make separate PS4, PS3 and PS Vita versions of a lot of games, so publishers will want a return on that investment.

All signs point to this barrier being removed for NX, since Nintendo is targeting a common hardware architecture and a single way for developers to program across all devices – just look at the number of iOS games which are “universal apps”.

NX being a scalable platform that will retain its software library in the long-run solves problem 3), of course, but it also solves problem 2). Nintendo will bear less risk launching a new piece of hardware because it’ll play well with current and future software being developed for it.

A good example of this is the iPod Touch, whose hardware sales have long been cannibalised by the iPad. Despite a move into irrelevance (iPod doesn’t even show up on the front page for anymore), developers continue to support it because it’s cheap and easy to do so. Customers, on the other hand, continue to receive new software and games for the device. The conclusion to make here is that if a piece of NX hardware ends up being cannibalised by another, it’ll still guaranteed a large chunk of upcoming software support.

Not only will this help Nintendo minimise risk in launching new types of hardware – with a scalable platform they will no longer need to start over from scratch – but it’ll minimise the amount of risk Nintendo faces from some of its competitors when they launch new platforms that “start from zero”.

A good example to look at is Valve’s Steam store, which exists on the PC, a platform which also has an expanding and continuous software library, and does give developers a way of programming across many types of hardware. Valve has accumulated an extensive library of software contracts over the past decade; any new competitor hoping to do battle with them in the PC gaming space will need to start from zero, just like Microsoft is having to with the Windows 10 Store.

As a hypothetical situation, if Sony actually does end up making another handheld, Nintendo can release a "New NX handheld" to keep their platform competitive, while still allowing developers to continue supporting any older hardware that exists within the typical support timeframe of 5 years.

It’s an asset that becomes more valuable the longer the platform exists for. Yes, in the short-run, NX won’t offer a clear path from Wii U to 3DS – that’s what Nintendo’s mobile games, and the cloud-based membership platform are for. Generation 1 hardware isn’t going to be as good as anything else planned down the line, and the software library, being the start of a brand new platform, will indeed start from zero. It’s not going to be everything to everyone on day one, because it can’t be. But there will reach a point where it becomes “good enough” for most people, and this value will be retained across several generations of hardware releases, not just one.

This is all doable in the long run. Four-five year old iOS hardware, powered by the Apple A5 SoC (system on chip), cotninue to receive regular support and updates from Apple, and thus developers continue to support these devices with new software.

Five years is a very long time in the mobile space, and enough for a traditional console lifecycle. For example, iPad 2, the first device with an Apple A5 inside it, launched on the same day as Nintendo’s 3DS, yet it’s quite possible that it will outlive it -- it's already guaranteed support up to September 2016. The same goes for the four-year-old iPhone 4s.

In other words, this model of software and hardware development has recently become sustainable for dedicated video game platforms, where users are not going to be upgrading frequently. Nintendo will most likely offer several types of NX device (think the product differentiation between iPhone and iPad but on a larger scale between handheld and console form factors, or control inputs), but update them less regularly than once a year.

This ties into Iwata’s comments about how Nintendo does not know whether only one device will be needed in the future – Nintendo will most likely experiment with a few different form factors over the years and if one wins out against another, so be it. Like the iPod Touch, developers can still support it despite the iPad taking centre stage as the “other” non-iPhone device on the iOS platform. It won’t be the end of the world for users who bought one.

Pulling all of this off will not be without its challenges. Nintendo firstly needs to make sure the first generation of NX hardware is future proof for purpose, much like how Apple’s A5 was for iOS development. That way they can release new form factors and hardware without annoying early adopters. They should also encourage developers to adopt a "bottom-up" approach to game development, so that software still works well on older hardware before its lifecycle is up.

Nintendo invested in DeNA for their expertise in running services, so it’s vital that they utilise these strengths in order to ensure that switching between various types of NX hardware is as seamless as switching between an iPhone and an iPad. It needs to “just work” if Nintendo wants evolve of the platform with new form factors and encourage users to want to own them as well as whatever NX device they already have.

So that’s the vision behind NX based on everything we know so far. Expect a near-seamless transition between new hardware launches on the same platform, and for NX as a platform to last much longer than the traditional console generation does. If done right, it should evolve and change much faster than what we’ve seen in the dedicated video games space, so that’s something worth watching. As for specifics on the hardware...while Nintendo hasn’t formally given us any clues, a few interesting rumours are lingering here and there. Exciting times.
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Posted by James at 20:02
This is the second in a three part series which examines how Nintendo’s NX platform will redefine the way the company approaches the traditional hardware and software lifecycle. Part one examined some of the weaknesses behind that current approach. This followup will look at how Nintendo is approaching NX in order to overcome those weaknesses.

Piecing together Nintendo's NX platform
A three-part series

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3
Based on Satoru Iwata’s comments over the past year and a half, we already have a good picture about the overall vision behind the NX platform and how it’ll differ with the traditional, cyclical handheld and console generation which, as Iwata outlined, caused a few problems for Nintendo in the present day..

All signs are pointing to an expanding software environment, and a single platform that will continue to exist in the long term, one that is flexible enough such that Nintendo can continue introducing new pieces of hardware without needing to “start from zero” as they have done in the past.

The year after Nintendo merged both its handheld and console development teams in 2013, Satoru Iwata told investors the following:
"Previously, our handheld video game devices and home video game consoles had to be developed separately as the technological requirements of each system, whether it was battery-powered or connected to a power supply, differed greatly, leading to completely different architectures and, hence, divergent methods of software development. However, because of vast technological advances, it became possible to achieve a fair degree of architectural integration. We discussed this point, and we ultimately concluded that it was the right time to integrate the two teams."
"Also, as technological advances took place at such a dramatic rate, and we were forced to choose the best technologies for video games under cost restrictions, each time we developed a new platform, we always ended up developing a system that was completely different from its predecessor."
However, I think that we no longer need this kind of effort under the current circumstances. In this perspective, while we are only going to be able to start this with the next system, it will become important for us to accurately take advantage of what we have done with the Wii U architecture. It of course does not mean that we are going to use exactly the same architecture as Wii U, but we are going to create a system that can absorb the Wii U architecture adequately. When this happens, home consoles and handheld devices will no longer be completely different, and they will become like brothers in a family of systems.
Here, Iwata says the time is right to unify hardware architecture next generation. Before, handheld and console development were forced to take on radically different paths, due to the nature of the technology available at the time, as well as power requirements across both form factors. Nintendo would end up with completely different and incompatible systems across the board.

Since then, both ARM (a processor architecture used in the mobile space) and x86 (desktop space) have converged rapidly in both performance and power efficiency. No one would have dreamed of using mobile tech inside a console box at the time the 3DS was in development in 2009.

But it’s possible to use either and scale up or down depending on hardware requirements. As a case in point, 2014’s iPad Air 2 has a more modern and capable GPU than what is in the Wii U. The iPhone 6’s PowerVR GPU isn’t quite as capable, but it’s pushing less pixels on its noticeably smaller display that’s better suited for certain uses than others. Regardless of those differences, the iPad 2 shares core elements of its hardware architecture with the iPhone and iPod Touch.

In short, the technology is mature enough to build a platform where all hardware (say, handhelds and consoles) share a common and scalable architecture. Iwata continues:
Currently, we can only provide two form factors because if we had three or four different architectures, we would face serious shortages of software on every platform. To cite a specific case, Apple is able to release smart devices with various form factors one after another because there is one way of programming adopted by all platforms. Apple has a common platform called iOS.
Iwata points out the iOS model of hardware and software development, where Apple provides a common way to program across all its devices, making it easier for Apple to introduce new hardware within the same platform.

Developers can easily target iPhone, iPad and even the iPod Touch with far, far less effort and cost than, say, porting from PS4 to PS Vita or Wii U to 3DS, or Xbox One to Xbox 360. Because of these synergies between hardware and the software environment, Apple does not “start from zero” when it introduces a new piece of iOS hardware.

Even the iPad, which had a radically different form factor when it launched in 2010 (a 10” display at 1024 x 768 versus a 3.5” display at 480 x 320), faced a relatively smooth transition when it launched in 2010 with little iPad-specific software support outside of Apple’s own apps. It supported the iPhone’s vast library of old and new applications, while also receiving versions of that software which developers optimised to use the iPad’s more powerful hardware and extra screen space.
"Another example is Android. Though there are various models, Android does not face software shortages because there is one common way of programming on the Android platform that works with various models. The point is, Nintendo platforms should be like those two examples. Whether we will ultimately need just one device will be determined by what consumers demand in the future, and that is not something we know at the moment. However, we are hoping to change and correct the situation in which we develop games for different platforms individually and sometimes disappoint consumers with game shortages as we attempt to move from one platform to another, and we believe that we will be able to deliver tangible results in the future."
Iwata makes a sweeping statement: Nintendo platforms should be like iOS and Android in this sense. Note that Shigeru Miyamoto, general manager of Nintendo EAD, also claimed similar things, when speaking in an interview with Kotaku:
So, particularly with digital downloads now and the idea that you're downloading the right to play a game, that opens up the ability to have multiple platform digital downloads where you can download on one and download on another. Certainly from a development standpoint there is some challenge to it, because if you have two devices that have different specs and you're being told to design in a way that the game runs on both devices, then that can be challenging for the developer—but if you have a more unified development environment and you're able to make one game that runs on both systems instead of having to make a game for each system, that's an area of opportunity for us.
In summary, Nintendo is aiming for a common platform with a shared hardware and software architecture. This brings with it a continuously expanding software library; there will be a single way of programming that will work across all hardware on the platform. Developers will be able to optimise their optimising their software cheaply and easily for each piece of hardware – like a hypothetical NX Handheld and an NX Console.

It wouldn’t be too surprising if the “X” in NX stands for “Cross”. Head here for part 3: How the NX will solve the problems which Iwata associated with the traditional video game platform.
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