Natasha Lomas on how the numbers are shaping up so far in the gaming console space:

The thing is neither of these new generation console flagships is selling very well when compared with previous generations of flagship consoles. The console market appears to be shrinking significantly — and that’s evidently having a knock-on impact on games studios and game development.

At this relatively early stage the new generation stacks up as follows: Wii U at 6 million, XB1 at ~4 million and PS4 at 6 million: a total of ~16 million. So only around 244 million to go — just to perform as well as the last generation. But with game budgets increasing a flat console market isn’t a good thing. This new generation needs to be outselling the last, not looking like it’s going to have a really tough time shipping the same.

I hate to say “I told you so” …but, well, I did.

Jon Irwin on the odd Nintendo’s announcements last week:

Their solution? Yet to be fully disclosed. But Iwata dripped tantalizing details that may well flourish into the next unforeseen sensation. In a landscape obsessed with wearable technology, Nintendo hopes to base this new health-centric vision on something called “non-wearables.” The term itself feels like a joke, the nonsensical feint of a sore loser sick of being bullied. Oh you drink water to stay alive? I’ll drink rocks! You breathe oxygen? Ha, I’m going to breathe paint fumes! The future is wearables, you say?… Non-wearables it is! Nintendo, once again, has decided to zag where everyone else thinks it should zig.

Unlike most folks, myself included, he’s bullish. I hope he’s right. I fear he’s not. This sounds like a whole lot of hand-waving to me — and not the Wiimote variety.

Sam Byford on Nintendo’s announcements last week:

If there’s one thing to learn from Satoru Iwata’s 12 years in charge, it’s that you can always count on Nintendo to surprise. At first glance, the company’s much-hyped strategy announcement today was mostly devoid of revelations — yes, Nintendo will develop smartphone apps that may or may not include small games; no, the company won’t be swayed from its conviction that its future lies in creating software for its own hardware, even when that hardware performs as badly as the Wii U has done. But CEO and president Iwata threw a curveball toward the end of his presentation when he announced plans to “take on the challenge of expanding into a new business area.” What followed was an explanation as equally inscrutable in English as it was in Japanese, but it might just be the first hint of Nintendo’s next big thing.

I read through all the coverage of this event and still cannot parse what the hell Nintendo is doing — or planning to do. It sounds like they’re thinking a lot about the connected health space, which is red hot right now and about to get hotter, but not via a wearable piece of technology but rather a “non-wearable”.

Sounds like vapor… ware? We’ll see.

Simpler Games, Simpler Times

Flappy Bird. Flappy. Fucking. Bird.

About a week ago, I was perusing the App Store as I normally do. Much to my surprise, I saw a new king atop the free app charts: Flappy Bird. This was odd to me because I usually feel like I’m paying enough attention to see an app’s rise in one way or another. But not here. The app seemingly rose from 0 to 60 overnight.

Even crazier: the same developer now controls three of the top ten spaces in the App Store with Flappy Bird at number one, Super Ball Juggling at number two, and Shuriken Block at number nine.

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Serkan Toto relaying information from The Nikkei, claiming Nintendo is going to make the following announcements on Thursday:

But Nintendo will not simply put Mario, Pokemon or other games on smartphones. According to the report, Nintendo plans to use Android and/or iOS devices (not confirmed at this point) to market its console games.

To be more concrete, The Nikkei writes that Nintendo wants to use smartphones to expand its potential user base by spreading information about new game releases, i.e. by using video to introduce future titles. (This will probably happen through some kind of official Nintendo app.)

In addition, Nintendo is said to be planning to put so-called “mini games” on smartphones, playable demos of console games – content that can only be purchased in full on Nintendo hardware. The reasoning here is to give smartphone-only players a taste of the experience without making the actual game available on non-Nintendo devices and convert these users into Nintendo customers.

If this is accurate, it will go absolutely nowhere. And it’s actually even more concerning that Nintendo would consider this a “solution”. But it is in line with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata’s previous comments.

I’m not saying Nintendo needs to port all the games to mobile immediately, but there are certainly better ideas out there. This sounds like a lame marketing ploy, nothing more.

[via @viticci]

Ben Kuchera has a few good thoughts on how to save Nintendo:

Some ideas? Get aggressive about releasing Nintendo’s back catalog of NES, SNES, Game Boy, and Nintendo 64 games, and make sure each purchase works across all your devices. If you buy Mario 64 to play on your Wii U, you should be able to also play on your 3DS. Nintendo’s collection of amazing games from the past is one of its biggest strengths, and it’s rarely leveraged in a serious way.

Even better? Offer classic games in higher resolution. Emulators and hacked-together programs have allowed players to enjoy Nintendo classics with updated graphics, maybe it’s time to start offering this option in a way that allows players to support the company directly. The downside is that this approach would limit the ability to make a big deal out of games like The Wind Waker HD, but these releases don’t happen with any regularity.

Right now, most people view Nintendo’s inability to compete on the future of gaming with the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and others as a huge negative. But the focus should be on the past. That’s Nintendo’s strength. All that great IP. They should should play to their “weakness” and turn it into a strength.

Imagine a simple $99 - $199 box that focused on the ability to play retro Nintendo games as well as updated versions (better graphics, more levels, etc) of old classics. Nintendo could then start creating new, simple fun games for this box as well. And then they could open the box to third-parties to create their own simple titles — and not just the large game studios, but independents. Again, with a focus on simplicity and fun.

In many ways, it would be the anti-Microsoft/Sony strategy. It would be borrowing a page out of Apple’s iOS playbook — but again, with the benefit of all those years of great gaming IP and expertise.

Does anyone think such a box wouldn’t be a massive seller? Make it happen, Nintendo. Or stop wasting time and start moving your games over to iOS.

Continuing the videogame industry talk, the latest word out of Nintendo is just brutal. Many of us have been expecting this, of course, but it’s actually worse. Much worse. Mat Smith:

It’s not even financials season yet, but Nintendo is trying to lower expectations in advance. In a statement today, it’s announced that it’s reassessed unit sales for its flagship Wii U console, hacking it down from 9 million for April 2013 - March 2014 to just 2.8 million — less than a third of the original estimate. It’s also less than the number of Wii Us that Nintendo sold in its launch year. That was 3.45 million, if you’re counting.

2.8 million Wii Us. The original target for this year was 9 million. And the bearish analyst estimates were 6.2 million. Not good.

As a result, the company is now forecasting a 35 billion yen ($336 million) operating loss. (For the third year in a row.) Just this past October, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata vowed he would hit his forecast of 100 billion yen ($974 million) in full-year operating profit. (A huge miss for the second year in a row.) Really not good.

And just to pre-empt all the Nintendo apologists 1, it’s not like the handheld numbers were good either. The company originally expected to sell 18 million 3DS systems last year. They’re now forecasting something closer to 13.5 million.

A total blood bath across the board.

  1. As a reminder, I love Nintendo. I hate to see them like this. But I’m also realistic. They need a major change of strategy ASAP. 

Jeffrey Grubb on the latest numbers from the NPD Group:

Gamers and holiday shoppers were obviously drawn to retail outlets to pick up the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 systems from Microsoft and Sony. While those new boxes sold well, the Xbox One’s $500 price and PlayStation 4′s $400 price left little for consumers to spend on games.

Software sales were down 17 percent from $1.54 billion in 2012 to $1.2 billion in 2013. Essentially, consumers are spending just a little bit more on gaming, but most of that is going into buying the new systems.

This strikes me as a much more optimistic take than it should be. Yes, hardware sales were up — but only 28 percent over last year, despite the first two major console launches from Sony and Microsoft in seven years. And yes, there was talk of supply constraints, but these consoles are also significantly more expensive than their predecessors and sales were still only up 28 percent.

The fact that game sales were down 17 percent despite the aforementioned information is an awful sign. They’re blaming it on consumers spending too much money on the consoles, but it’s clearly more about a lack of must-have games — and the overall trend downward continuing for the industry.

Watch what happens next. My guess is that it’s not only Nintendo who starts to see red



I’ve forgotten more things in my life than I’d like to admit, but I remembered there was a turkey leg hidden in that wall in Castlevania for NES while playing it in OpenEmu1. Good to see where my brain’s priorities are.

  1. OpenEmu’s website is really nice, as is the app itself. 

Turkey is necessary to kill Dracula.

(Also, this game used to scare the shit out of me.)