Articles tagged with nintendo

Posted by James at 16:23
There's an interesting blog post detailing the basics behind Fire Emblem Cipher, a trading card game that's been overshadowed (as far as internet coverage goes, that is) by the release of Fire Emblem if last week.

That's a shame, as this collectible card game has been developed and planned in-house by series veterans Intelligent Systems.

As you'd expect, the cards are adorned with characters from various games in the series. Collect enough or pick up one of the starter packs and you'll be able to assemble a competent deck of Knights, Paladins and the like to face off against an opponent.

The post even details the rules of the game. Don't expect to see anything out of the ordinary though, as Fire Emblem Cipher contains all the tropes you'd expect from collectible card battlers: stat comparisons, card substitutions and the ability to pair two cards together are all in.

What's interesting about this is that a Fire Emblem card game seems like a likely candidate for a mobile game from Nintendo in the future. Perhaps not one of the five games launching before April 2017 -- expect Nintendo to use their biggest and most recognisable IP for those -- but it wouldn't be too surprising to see something like this launch once the dust has settled and Nintendo and DeNA's mobile business has firmly established itself.

Card games are a well established genre on mobile, after all, and Intelligent Systems has developed this one in-house.

There is one problem though: Each game in Fire Emblem Cipher takes about an hour to complete. That's not a great fit for a platform that's arguably best at offering bitesize chunks of interactive entertainment, and Nintendo wants to sufficiently differentiate their mobile offerings from meatier experiences on their dedicated games hardware.

As an example, you can complete a match in Blizzard Entertainment's Heartstone in a tenth of the time it takes in Fire Emblem Cipher. So if a Fire Emblem trading card game does hit mobile, expect it to be significantly retooled and built from the ground up for the platform. Which is as you'd expect from Nintendo, who have sworn to make every mobile game from the ground up.
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Posted by James at 07:31
The UK software sales charts are in for the week ending 30 May, and they give us an indication on how Splatoon performed on the market, Nintendo's latest (and biggest) new IP and their first shooter.

As you have probably figured out from the headline, Splatoon debuted in second place in the all formats charts, which collates software sales figures across several platforms instead of individual ones.

It debuted behind The Witcher 3, which isn't surprising given that game's mainstream appeal, established IP and rave reviews. The Witcher 3 is also on several formats (PS4, Xbox One and PC), which have a far higher combined install base -- both PS4 and Xbox One have passed 1 million sales in the UK, the Wii U has yet to attain this feat.

Indeed, if you look at the individual formats charts, Splatoon sold behind both the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the Bandai Namco-published The Witcher 3.

That being said, Splatoon still broke a few platform specific records. It was the best selling new IP on the platform since Ubisoft's launch title two-and-a-half years ago, ZombiU. That's actually a bit of a back-handed compliment, given ZombiU launched two-and-a-half years ago, but you could argue it benefitted from what some developers and publishers call the "launch effect", where early adopters pick up games amidst excitement for new hardware, and thus accumulated enough sales to make it a hard target for new IP on Wii U to beat.

Chart-Track also noted that Splatoon is the fifth best selling Wii U title in the country (not accounting for downloads), which is less rosy news. We have an inkling (sorry) that the shooter, which turns the genre upside-down by asking players to paint the map as squids in a frantic turf war, may have sold beneath Nintendo's expectations, given the above, and the game's Mario Kart 8-sized marketing budget.

Unlike Mario Kart 8 however, Nintendo does benefit from tightly integrating Amiibo into Splatoon. While the solus game carries an RRP of £34.99 -- £14.99 lower than Mario Kart 8, Nintendo sells three Amiibo alongside Splatoon, potentially raising the ARPPU (average revenue per paying user) above Mario Kart's within the game's launch window.

Interestingly, older Wii U software such as Wind Waker HD (October 2013) and Mario Party 10 (March 2015) re-entered the UK top 40, which implies that Splatoon shifted Wii U hardware as well, though it's unlikely to be at a level similar to Mario Kart 8's.
UK All-formats Top 10, week ending May 30
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
2. Splatoon
3. Grand Theft Auto 5
4. FIFA 15
5. Farming Simulator 15
6. Battlefield Hardline
7. Project Cars
8. Destiny
9. Mortal Kombat X
10. Minecraft: Xbox Edition

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JM: *Clears Throat*:
On Nintendo's new
flexible Amiibo pricing
May 31
Posted by James at 09:15

There was a Japan-only Nintendo Direct today, and it brought with it two interesting pieces of news surrounding Amiibo, the company's entry into the 'toys-to-life' and collectibles market.

Mr. Morimoto, Nintendo's PR representative, revealed a new wave of Yoshi Amiibo to tie in with upcoming Wii U title Yoshi's Woolly World. Like everything in that game, the Amiibo have this fuzzy, knitted, woollen feel to them, and certainly feel higher quality than some of the plastic Amiibo that came before them. The difference is reflected in price: they'll be 1800 yen, excluding tax.

This is big news. Previous Amiibo have all been 1200 yen, confirming our theory that Nintendo has finally budged from its fixed RRP. In a previous piece examining Nintendo's Amiibo supply woes, I noted that Nintendo's fixed RRP, combined with varying production costs for all Amiibo (Nintendo shoulders a loss on some Amiibo), were likely to be a large contributing factor to Nintendo's Amiibo supply woes:
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.
Since we now have confirmation of a more flexible approach to Amiibo pricing going forward, the move should certainly be welcomed. It tells us that Nintendo is aiming to realign its goals as far as Amiibo production costs and supply go.

How far they will go in achieving this is less certain. New Amiibo from series under the old pricing structure, such as those in the Super Smash Bros. waves, remain in short supply. Individual retail stores typically receive half a dozen of the figures upon their release dates. Pre-orders tend to overload websites, losing stores custom.

It's a cost-benefit situation, and given the potentially razor-thin profit margins associated with Amiibo at their RRP, many retailers have begun marking up the figures simply to make stocking the things worthwhile, rather than an obligation. In the United Kingdom, two retailers (GAME and ShopTo) have decided to price all new Amiibo at £20 -- £9 above the RRP. It's hard to blame them for doing so.

While there isn't much hope that the supply situation for older Amiibo waves will improve, there are signs that new waves are indeed being stocked more plentifully. Speaking at Nintendo's investor relations event this month, CEO Satoru Iwata claimed that the company has "increased production for amiibo figures that have sold out very quickly after launch, that are indispensable to play a certain game".

The latest "Splatoon" Amiibo are a great example of what Iwata calls indispensable. They unlock a variety of unique arcade minigames and single player challenges in Nintendo's outrageously fun shooter, far from the throwaway extras previous Amiibo brought to the table. So it's a good thing that Nintendo has seemingly kept to its word, then, as the Splatoon Amiibo are still readily available here in the United Kingdom, even after the game launched to a marketing budget as big as Mario Kart 8's. Had these Amiibo faced supply shortages, Nintendo would end up excluding players of its latest game in addition to the die hard collectors who bought into the concept in the first place.

What about North America, which currently accounts for two thirds (66%) of global Amiibo shipments? The region is likely to be Nintendo's biggest struggle as far as sorting Amiibo supply issues out goes, but there are signs that Splatoon Amiibo are indeed more plentiful there too. At the time of writing, both the Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl Amiibo are readily available on Amazon for the RRP of $13. By comparison, a Greninja Amiibo which launched at the same time as an addition to the long-running Super Smash Bros. waves, has long been out of stock.

Amiibo pricing aside, the other interesting piece of Amiibo news surrounds Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, Nintendo's first 3DS-focused Amiibo title. There were initial worries about its massmarket appeal, given only New 3DS supports Amiibo out of the box, and only 6% of 3DS hardware sold to date (52 million) are New Nintendo 3DS (3.3 million). Regular 3DS owners need to buy an optional, 2500 yen (£13/$20) Amiibo NFC reader/writer.

The good news is that Nintendo is offering a bundle with the game and Amiibo reader for 5000 yen, just 200 more than the typical price for Nintendo software on the platform, and 1000 yen more than the solus game. This should go some way towards improving the software's takeup, as will its use of "Amiibo cards": cards are much easier to manufacture and ship in bulk, and they take up far less space on store shelves, so Nintendo shouldn't run into any supply issues when the game launches globally (Japan accounts for just 10% of global Amiibo shipments).

It's an interesting time for the Amiibo platform, and Nintendo's ongoing and resposive experimentation ought to serve as useful lessons as the company inevitably moves from relying on Amiibo as a short-term revenue booster to something that will play a more defining role in the company's next platform, codenamed NX..

Find more Amiibo analysis here.
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Posted by James at 08:19
British retailer Asda appears to be winding down its stock of Nintendo products, including hardware and software for both of its current platforms, Wii U and 3DS.

As stated by a poster on HotUKDeals:
"All Asda stores will not be selling DS, 3DS, Wii or Wii U games in store as part of a range change in 8 weeks. Stores have been told to clear through at discretion with sale stickers. If your local store hasn't done this yet, they may just be holding on a while, as they won't get a credit for the markdown, and may be waiting on a central price change."
The move shouldn't come as any surprise given Nintendo's painful transition to the current generation. Both its 3DS handheld and Wii U console failed to match the mainstream success of their predecessors; last year the decline in Wii software sales last year wasn't matched by an equivalent rise in Wii U software.

Meanwhile, Wii U hardware sales went from small to small -- a 60 per cent rise on a small number isn't significant -- as Nintendo refocuses on its core fanbase in the run-up to bigger plans.

This isn't the first time Asda has dropped Nintendo from its in-store product lineup. In 2013, Wii U got the chop, a move that makes sense given post-launch sales for both hardware and software failed to reach even Nintendo's own expectations. Asda continued selling Nintendo's products online, which is likely going to be the case here.

This is all why Nintendo UK's decision to open their own online store is looking like an increasingly smart and well-calculated move. Operated by The Hut, The Nintendo UK web store spreads the company's risk as it lowers its reliance on retailers during what has become a short term slump. Asda's online Entertainment store offering happens to go through The Hut, too...
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Posted by Ben at 17:18
Bit of a kick in the teeth this. There's as interesting a Humble Bundle as there's been in a long time on at the minute. It's a mix of WiiU and 3DS games, including the Indie Game of the Year nominee The Fall (Mighty Switch Force and Steamworld Dig are very good too). Pay what you want too, amazing

Except it's Americas only, we Europeans are grumble bundled (sorry)

It's not all bad news, actually it is, but it may not stay bad news forever. Damon Baker, licence man for Nintendo, has posted on Twitter explaining that they tried to make the deal worldwide, but alas it wasn't to be, however he's hopeful they'll get there eventually.

Whether that means we'll get in on this one I'm not sure, or especially hopeful, but perhaps the next time this comes about it will be more inclusive
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Posted by Ben at 17:00
We did a First Play video for Adventures of Pip a while back, and very promising it looked too

It's also due very soon, with the PC release dated for June 4th, and the WiiU version following not long after, on the 11th June. It's currently priced at £10.99 on Steam, I'm not sure if there'll be a reduced price for release, presumably there wont be on WiiU, but you would assume it will be £10.99 there too

Hopefully we'll have a review of one, if not both versions, and in the meantime our First Play video is below

Show/hide video

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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

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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 as many? 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.
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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 canít 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.
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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: Nintendoís 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.
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