Articles tagged with nintendo

Splatoon First Play
Gameplay Video
May 12
Posted by Ben at 17:04

At the weekend Nintendo launched a 'stress test' for the upcoming paint-em-up Splatoon. Myself and James managed to get in on it, me only for an hour, but I did capture most of it, then talk over it

Splatoon seems fun, obviously that's based entirely on an hour with the Turf War mode, but it ran well and at least one of the maps is good

Click the bump below for some gameplay

Show/hide video

0 comments / permalink

JM: *Clears Throat*:
Posted by James at 09:35
Nintendo's latest investor meeting brought with it some more news on its recently formed partnership with DeNA.

The alliance is sure to become a defining moment in Nintendo's history, as the company begins to utilise smart devices in an attempt to build a long-term relationship with its customers, the goal being to build a "bridge" between smart device users and its dedicated games business and entice players to hop between the two.

Meanwhile, DeNA naturally wishes for games that bring in large amounts of revenue. This is understandable given the company's negative growth post Bandai-Namco merger, but it also raised concerns about a potential conflict of objectives between the two companies.

Last week's news brings both companies' objectives back into focus. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata stated that the company only plans to release five games by the end of the next fiscal year, March 2017. The reason for such a small number in two years, when Sega today announced several times that? Nintendo wants each of its five games under the partnership to become big hits.

It believes that the quality of these games needs to be top-notch in order for them to make a lasting impression, with Iwata claiming that "the odds of success are quite low if consumers cannot appreciate the quality of a game". In order to show its commitment to ensuring it gets this right, not only has Nintendo secretly been experimenting beneath everyone's noses, it also appointed long-time Nintendo veteran Hideki Konno (currently producer of Mario Kart) to head up its mobile development division.

Indeed, Iwata's words certainly make it easier to see how both companies will achieve both of their goals in tandem, rather than in conflict.

The bridge between both Nintendo's new smartphone games business -- Iwata called it a "third pillar" of revenue, much like what Nintendo DS was to GBA and GameCube in 2004 -- and its dedicated games business will be handled by its new membership service, rather than explicitly by the smartphone games themselves.

This explains why Nintendo is happy to focus on getting five big hitters out the door with DeNA, rather than, say, the kind of companion apps that have become so commonplace with publishers of games on dedicated systems. Big hitters in the smartphone business tend to go hand-in-hand with big revenue and millions of users, too (think of the top grossing charts in regional App Stores).

If all goes well, Nintendo will have a captive audience of smart device users who don't necessarily play on their dedicated games platforms. DeNA's desires for games that bring in lots of income are certainly not infeasible either.

How Nintendo will tie it all together is a different story. While we now know it'll be via their all-encompassing membership platform, we're still left wondering how Nintendo will entice back the users they lost from the Wii and DS days, who didn't return for Wii U or 3DS. Pulling this off seems even more difficult given the company has essentially made a clear split between their two businesses going forward: premium games for NX going forward, and more experimental business models for smart device software.

There was also something to gather about how Nintendo's smartphone games might operate. Satoru Iwata also said the following last Friday:
Regarding the number of the titles, you may want to know that we will release approximately five titles by the end of the next fiscal year, which is the end of March 2017. You may think it is a small number, but when we aim to make each title a hit, and because we want to thoroughly operate every one of them for a significant amount of time after their releases, this is not a small number at all and should demonstrate our serious commitment to the smart device business.
Iwata said previously mention that his company was open to all sorts of business models for Nintendo-DeNA smartphone games, ranging from what he calls "Free-to-Start" (of which EA is also experimenting with its own interpretation) to premium.

But it's clear some of Nintendo's smartphone games will be run as services, perhaps with a dependency to online servers for metrics-based game design and other features that only the cloud can deliver. DeNA's specialism in this area is one of the reasons Nintendo decided to partner with the company in the first place, so in hindsight this approach isn't too surprising. But it is shocking, given Nintendo's previous approaches to software and the preservation of older works through its (admittedly waning) virtual console service.

We'll soon discover DeNA's update on the situation and their future plans with Nintendo in the company's earnings call tomorrow. Stay tuned for more analysis as developments unfold.

Read Nintendo's latest financial results briefing here.
0 comments / permalink

An update on Nintendo's
Amiibo situation
May 08
Posted by James at 09:33

Nintendo recently published their results for the previous fiscal year, and CEO Satoru Iwata gave investors a slight -- if somewhat lacking -- update on the situation surrounding its recently launched line of Amiibo toys.

It turns out that 10.5 million of the figures were shipped worldwide by March 31, 2015. At Nintendo's last investor meeting, we found out that 5.7 million Amiibo were shipped in the third quarter ending December 31, 2014, which would mean another 4.8 million of the figures were shipped worldwide in the first three months of 2015.

Regional shipments across Nintendo's three key markets shifted a little. The proportion of Amiibo reaching European markets fell to a fifth (20%) of the global total, a three percentage point drop. This fall was reflected by an equivalent rise in North America and Canada, where the region now represents approximately two thirds (66%) of global Amiibo shipments.

Information on sell-through rates was disappointingly absent. During the Amiibo launch window late last year, the sell-through rate in Japan, North America and Europe stood at 70%. An updated figure would be a helpful indicator on how Nintendo has handled the supply chain of this year's newer Amiibo waves.

As would more granular sales data. All things considered, Amiibo sales for the more popular characters from this year's new "Super Mario" wave should be analagous to last year's "Super Smash Bros." waves, which also featured globally loved and recognised characters.

Indeed, the Super Smash Bros. waves released this year have featured more obscure characters which non-fans would struggle to recognise. If we knew what the sales split between this year's Super Mario Bros. and Super Smash Bros. Amiibo waves we'd have a better idea of the audience Amiibo primarily targets at this point in time, or the impact launching Amiibo alongside a tentpole game release has on sales. The Super Mario Amiibo wave was launched alongside Mario Party 10, a far less significant game than Super Smash Bros.

Satoru Iwata also provided more information on the Amiibo supply situation going forward, following Nintendo of America's attempts to assuage fears last week:
Our consumers have been inconvenienced by stock shortages on some of the figures in our amiibo lineup. We have increased production for amiibo figures that have sold out very quickly after launch, that are indispensable to play a certain game and for which we have received strong demand from retailers and consumers. However, we are very sorry that we can’t promise at what point we will likely be able to resolve the current situation because figures such as these require a considerable amount of time to produce, store shelf space is limited and it is difficult to precisely predict the exact amount of overall demand.
Nintendo's supply problems risk upsetting loyal fans and retailers, leading many to question the long term health of the Amiibo platform, especially as new competitors enter the market.

Combine this with new Amiibo waves that unlock more than just throwaway content in their associated games and Nintendo also risks excluding not only its biggest spenders who buy every single Amiibo (or 'Whales' as the industry sometimes calls them), but their wider audience who might buy a few Amiibo here and there, particularly those which complement Nintendo's software well.

So it's certainly pleasing to see the company come to its senses and make efforts to supply "indispensable" Amiibo more plentifully. Anecdotally speaking, the upcoming Amiibo to coincide with paint-based shooter Splatoon -- three Amiibo which unlock 45 single player challenges and 15 exclusive pieces of gear between them -- have gone back up for pre-order at various retailers here in the United Kingdom.

Lastly, Iwata's words also suggest Nintendo is still having trouble gauging overall demand for the various figures. I suspect this is down to two things: The sheer number of less-popular characters that Amiibo waves tend to represent, and the thorny issue of Amiibo production costs combined with higher-than-expected demand. Both of these things are exactly what the upcoming Amiibo NFC cards set out to rectify.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Mark at 13:19
James has had a lot to say on the matter of Nintendo are handling their Amiibo range, and now it seems Nintendo have finally chimed in themselves.

Amidst endless reports of stock shortages- and the inevitable scalping such tends to attract- as well as rumours of reissued figures, Nintendo America have taken to Facebook to tell people more or less rock-all.

The post simply re-iterated the forthcoming Animal Crossing cards for the end of the year, the existence of Wii U game amiibo tap: Nintendo’s Greatest Bits- or amiibo Touch & Play to us filthy Europeans- and of course that Nintendo "are constantly looking for the opportunity to reissue amiibo and are already making plans to bring back some currently out-of-stock amiibo figures."

While this probably won't do much to assuage fears that Nintendo are creating artificial shortages of figures to drive demand, Beanie Babies-style, it does suggest that Nintendo are starting to feel the heat of the negative PR which has come from the matter.
0 comments / permalink

JM: *Clears Throat*:
Nintendo's Amiibo and
managing supply going forward
Apr 16
Posted by James at 11:53

If you've been following Nintendo lately then you probably already know that their Amiibo range of NFC-powered figures, a variant on the Toys to Life genre, have quickly proven themselves to be a viable new revenue stream.

Launching in late November last year, 5.7 million of the figures were shipped in the last two months of 2014 alone, with North American sales being enough to land Amiibo 36% market share at Best Buy, according to estimates from industry expert Bryan Cashman.

As such, Nintendo has comfortably been able to increase the average revenue per user for the games that complement the figures -- particularly Super Smash Bros. for Wii U -- and Amiibo fit the bill as a smart short-term strategy to keep the company in the black as it transitions to a new long-term platform.

It's safe to say that Nintendo has also begun to realise that Amiibo have been far successful than predicted. You could point to the last Nintendo Direct broadcast, where eagle-eyed viewers pointed out how it was keener to talk Amiibo than games. But the biggest news is that Nintendo is beginning to adapt the Amiibo line to changing circumstances.

At Nintendo's last investor meeting, CEO Satoru Iwata mentioned the following when speaking on the topic of Amiibo production costs:
I think you can easily tell just by looking at several Amiibo figures that production costs vary for each of them; some Amiibo have a more complex structure and a greater number of colours, which means they cost more to produce than others. Nevertheless, since setting different price points could be misinterpreted as the company valuing certain characters more than others, we came to the decision to set an MSRP (RRP) that would return a profit from the Amiibo platform as a whole.
Indeed, every Amiibo line to date has been sold in the ballpark of the same RRP: £10.99/€14.99 in the UK/Europe, $13.99 in North America and ~1300 yen in Japan. But Iwata's words also go some way towards explaining why Nintendo hasn't been so keen to supply more Amiibo despite the high demand.

Simply put, Nintendo shoulders a loss on some Amiibo figures, while making a tidy profit off others. Many scarce Amiibo happen to be of rarer, less popular characters, which also happen to hold more intricate figure designs. Just compare the difference in quality between the best-selling Amiibo to date, Link, and his urine-yellow" stand with Rosalina, an Amiibo in scarce supply.

Like any rational company, Nintendo is handling its Amiibo supply situation based on production costs and consumer demand. But it's regularly underestimating this demand and leaving money on the table. New Amiibo pre-orders are events which habitually bring down retailers' websites (think Black Friday on a smaller scale), with new stock regularly selling out within seconds at worst. Many fans feel excluded as a result.

This is a distinct problem, and the way Amiibo have been set up to work from a pricing and production angle has meant Nintendo hasn't been flexible enough in dealing with it.

Ramping up production of older, scarcer figures would be fine had their designs not been fixed in a way that means they aren't going to turn a profit. Nintendo, committed to keeping the price constant across the entire range in order to return an Amiibo profit overall, is now on the verge of angering fans. It faces a distinct trade-off between short term profits and retaining longer-term loyalty of its fan base.

Worse still, Amiibo are now beginning to unlock extras in supported games which are far from the throwaway goodies were once were associated with. Upcoming 'Splatoon' Amiibo unlock 45 challenge missions and 15 rare pieces of gear in the corresponding game, and they have already proven themselves difficult to find a month before the game even launches.

It's encouraging, then, that there are signs which indicate that Nintendo is beginning to loosen some of its rigid policies surrounding the figures, hopefully before it does more harm than good.

The latest line of Amiibo figures, made to complement upcoming Wii U exclusive Yoshi's Woolly World, aren't being priced at the typical Amiibo RRP. At the time of writing, retailers across the United Kingdom are charging above and beyond it, with GAME and ShopTo offering the knitted Yoshis for £20, nine pounds more expensive than regular Amiibo.

If this is indicative of a more flexible approach to Amiibo figure pricing, then it should be welcomed. Of course, the higher price reflects the fact that these Amiibo are made from wool and stitching, rather than painted plastic. But it also tells us that Nintendo is aiming to realign its goals as far as Amiibo production costs and supply go.

There are also Amiibo NFC Cards in the pipeline, the first of which unlock furniture and other trinkets in a downloadable Animal Crossing game. Their compact form also makes them cheaper to manufacture and ship en masse, so it'll certainly be intriguing to find out whether they fall under any supply constraints. Retailers should also be able to pack in more of these into a display unit. Being functional with just one title also makes quantifying their success an easier job.

A new form factor and more price points across Amiibo lines going forward will give Nintendo an extra degree of flexibility that they just didn't have with the Super Smash Bros. or Super Mario Bros. collections. Whether this will translate to more supply of perceivably less popular Amiibo is another story. If Nintendo is smart they'll ensure that money isn't being left on the table for eBay resellers and scalpers, otherwise they risk losing some of the goodwill they've built-up with their fan base.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by James at 11:07
Nintendo revealed today the full lineup of new courses to be bundled with Mario Kart 8's second batch of exceedingly generous DLC. But there was a well hidden surprise hidden between the announcements, one that shows off the astounding detail packed into each track.

The screenshots Nintendo shared -- likely taken from a Wii U dev kit -- proudly display the game's new courses at 2880p, also known as 5k resolution.

Despite being a game designed to be viewed at 720p, Mario Kart 8 holds up extremely well when rendered at sixteen(!) times the intended viewing resolution. Usually we'd expect the extra pixels to expose imperfect geometry and muddy textures, but here the majority of textures remain crisp and geometry curved -- just look at Wild Woods, Cheese Land and Ribbon Road.

It just goes to show how much work Nintendo put into making Mario Kart 8 look as good as possible, and not just from a technical perspective either. Ribbon Road looks Pixar-levels of magical, and Wild Woods has an earthy, organic feel to it. Scrumptious.

Click on the links below to view each course in its detailed glory. More can be found over here.

GBA Ribbon Road

GBA Cheese Land

Big Blue

3DS Koopa City

GC Baby Park

Super Bell Subway

Wild Woods

With thanks to Nintendaan.
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Ben at 13:57
NIS America have announced they will be bringing the very interesting looking Etrian Mystery Dungeon and anticipated sequel remake Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker to Europe, on 3DS, later this year

NISA have also announced they'll be releasing Dungeon Travelers 2 over here, which I'll confess to not knowing a huge amount about. There's no precise dates for any of the games yet, but it's nice to see some stuff confirmed for the end of the year
0 comments / permalink

Posted by Ben at 13:26
Pretty much everything you need to know is in the title, and I can confirm, Sonic 2 aside (maybe), I'll be buying them Day 1

If you've missed it, Sega have been releasing various classic 2D games on the 3DS, with a bit of work done so that they work with the 3D effect, and they've been fantastic

The best game ever made, Streets of Rage 2, will be releasing in July, the excellent Gunstar Heroes in August, and the classic Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in September

The games will be priced at $5.99/€4.99/£4.49, and follow Fantasy Zone II (this week, and Thunder Blade (May)

0 comments / permalink

JM: *Clears Throat*:
Posted by James at 10:16
DeNA CEO Isao Moriyasu, in an interview with Reuters:
"We want to create games that will be played by hundreds of millions of people. We want to create multiple hit games rather than aiming to succeed with just one powerful IP element."

"We haven't talked to Nintendo about targets, but at DeNA, our best-selling game brought in 3 billion yen a month, and we want to surpass that."

This brings to light the differing interests both Nintendo and DeNA have as part of their recently formed alliance.

Nintendo sees the partnership as a long-term opportunity to utilise smart devices and engage a wider audience with bespoke content made for the platform. The endgame? To tempt them towards Nintendo's dedicated hardware business (or back, if you consider where Wii's audience went). Indeed, if you pore over what Satoru Iwata has had to say on the matter (1, 2), the company couldn't be more cautious.

DeNA, meanwhile, is focused on expanding its global reach, after a previous alliance with Bandai Namco proved to be unfruitful. But expansion in mobile tends to be correlated with an ability to consistently publish big hits.

Mr. Moriyasu's hopes -- that the Nintendo-DeNA alliance will lead to games that bring in over £17m a month -- seem to reflect this. With DeNA playing the role of 'platform holder' in this relationship, they could be bringing in a fair chunk (30-40%, by some analysts' estimates) of all income from Nintendo-DeNA published titles, in addition to that from the rest of their portfolio.

And that's where it all becomes a bit muddied. Nintendo doesn't need games that bring in record-breaking amounts of income in order to achieve its goals, it just needs to engage users with its upcoming all-encompassing online platform. DeNA's objectives, while perfectly justifiable, go a long way towards explaining why it formed the alliance in the first place.

The emerging concern is simple: Will Nintendo and DeNA both be able to handle things in a way that satisfies both companies' long-term objectives?
0 comments / permalink


Apr 01
Posted by James at 06:27

Please note: For all intents and purposes, this is a repost of our Hakoboi! review, unedited in all but name. Yes, BOXBOY! is still a masterclass in minimalist game design.

Qbby is a box with legs. He can jump about, extending his two legs. He can retract them and, erm, literally become a box. Or several boxes - from himself he can spawn a chain of them in different directions. Oh, and his game is the latest from HAL Laboratory, creators of Kirby.

Soon after Nintendo's own Captain Toad marked the return of the bigger budget puzzle game, BoxBoy! stands at the opposite end of the spectrum. It's as minimalist as they come, sporting a charming yet basic monochrome look which is made up almost entirely of angular shapes. Its ability to entertain therefore lies almost solely in how well designed its levels and various features are.

There's an incredibly compelling puzzle platformer in BoxBoy! which extends around Qbby's strong yet slim moveset. In finding the exit door to each stage, you're frequently encouraged to find news ways to utilise those moves to solve a variety of puzzles.

To begin with you'll be creating boxes to throw into spike pits and safely jump across, or using those boxes to build bridges. So far, so straightforward. But give it a few worlds and you'll discover neat tricks within the world's rules. One favourite is being able to reverse-retract your Tetris-shaped box extension if it hooks itself onto a ledge, thereby transporting Qbby to new places.

These 'Eureka' moments of discovery make you see the game in completely different ways. Going back to the previous example, you'll need to do some jumping to 'hook' your box extension onto ledges, and the box shapes you create need to take this into account.

Each new world introduces increasingly inventive gizmos, objects and traps, further eking more smart ideas out of what Qbby can do. Conveyer belts and Star Blocks encourage you to solve a solution in reverse. Cranes make you quickly realise that you can manipulate Qbby's location based on nearby walls and his ability to create new boxes as an extension of himself.

BoxBoy! does the near-impossible and makes the most of each world's central mechanic in just seven levels. Its puzzles are focused and least retrospectively speaking. You'll frequently have to think hard and experiment, but there really is nothing better than spending a while on a particular solution only to realise the pure simplicity and genius of it all. It therefore avoids long, drawn out solutions without feeling overly easy - things sail along, and before you know it that quick five minute session to tackle the next level just became an engrossing two hours.

To cement the challenge, crowns (which grant you credits to spend on goodies) have been placed in some devious places, stretching your thinking further. They'll also only appear if you've been economical in creating boxes, encouraging you to find the optimal solution each time. And levels containing an even bigger, smarter, meatier challenge await after the credits roll.

It's all a sound proof of concept for Nintendo Web Framework, a WebKit-based development environment. The constraints of making a game using web technologies like HTML5 and Javascript have allowed even a big developer like HAL Laboratory to focus on crafting a compelling videogame above anything else.

BoxBoy! is a triumph. Not because it remains vastly interesting across its 160 or so levels, but in how it goes about achieving this. It'll make you feel like a genius with surprising regularity, and it does more with the few levels containing each world's standout features than you thought possible. It's a masterclass in minimalist game design, and never less than a delight to play.
0 comments / permalink

Older posts