#videogames

Brian Windhorst looking into the notion that LeBron James may have a photographic memory:

"When we were growing up we used to play this fighting game on the Sega Genesis called Shaq Fu," says Brandon Weems, James’ lifelong friend. "LeBron was the only one who had memorized all the moves and so he’d win every time. We all thought he definitely was cheating."

I’m not sure which is more surprising: that LeBron memorized all the moves in Shaq Fu, or that LeBron was playing Shaq Fu at all.

Speaking of Apple and gaming, here’s Sean Heber:

Apple now has everything they need to disrupt the game console industry in a way that none of them see coming. I predict that we’ll see a new AppleTV update (and hardware) this fall along with a new app extension type for AirPlay. AirPlay will become about more than just streaming video to your AppleTV - instead that’ll simply be one of the things you can do with it. Apps (mostly games, I suspect) will be able to bundle an AirPlay extension inside - just like how apps can now bundle photo editing or sharing extensions as of iOS 8. The key difference is where the AirPlay extension app actually executes - instead of running on your device itself from within another host app, the AirPlay extension app will be automatically uploaded to whatever AppleTV you are currently AirPlaying with and will run directly on the AppleTV natively instead. This means no video streaming lag and minimal controller lag. Your iPhone would then turn into a generic game controller with onscreen controls or, if you have a physical shell controller attached to your iPhone, it activates that instead. The game controller inputs are then relayed to the AppleTV and thus to the AirPlay extension app using the new game controller forwarding feature.

This is a very interesting idea — apps as air(play)borne viruses that “infect” the Apple TV unit. It sounds almost crazy enough to be true.

Remember that while it’s stated to have no internal storage, the Apple TV (the hockey puck variety) does actually have 8 GB of memory. This would certainly be enough for any single app (of which games are almost always the largest) to fully reside temporarily, while playing. 

The wild card here in my mind, is the input. The long-rumored new Apple TV box has long been said to be built around some sort of new control paradigm. Will a “magic wand” or some other such controller work with these games as well? Or will there be something else? Or will it simply rely on an iPad/iPhone?

[via John Gruber]

Ben Thompson:

Over the last two generations of consoles, however, prices have actually risen, and today a Playstation 4 or Xbox One is nearly the same price as an average PC.

In some respects, this makes no sense: why hasn’t Moore’s law had the same impact on consoles as it has had on PCs? Moreover, when you consider that consoles now compete with a whole host of new time-wasters like phones, tablets, social networks, dramatically expanded TV offerings, the Internet, etc., it’s downright bizarre.

And:

Let me be very clear: this is a perfectly rational response by Microsoft, and a strategic disaster, all at the same time. The reason the Xbox existed in the first place was to give Microsoft a toe-hold in the living room. Over time the expectation was that the entertainment aspects of the console would make it appeal to not just gamers, but normal consumers as well. Instead, Microsoft has (understandably) been captured by gamers, and the only purpose their original strategic intent has served has been to make them less competitive with said gamers (the Xbox was more expensive and made different processing choices in order to accommodate the Kinect-centric entertainment focus). Meanwhile, no rational non-gamer will buy an Xbox One for $499 $399 in the face of sub-$100 alternatives like the Apple TV, Kindle Fire TV, or Roku.

Lots of great stuff here by Thompson. Much of this is exactly why I felt like this generation of consoles could be very troublesome for these companies. And yes, why I think Apple has a very real opening here (I may have just been off by a year).

Microsoft isn’t just doing the wrong thing, they’re doing the opposite of what they should be doing if they really want to own the living room.

Eli Hodapp:

As pointed out by A List Daily, in Q1 of 2014, Candy Crush grossed more money than all Nintendo games combined. Sure, that’s easy to rationalize by saying “Well Nintendo didn’t have any big releases and Q4 is where they make all their cash,” but the fact remains, that’s a mind-blowing thing to be able to report. They’re not ahead by a small margin either, King is making 56% more money than Nintendo. King has mentioned in the past that Candy Crush generates 2/3 of their revenue, so, that game alone is beating everything Nintendo did.

Crazy.

Microsoft made a gaming box that didn’t game well, banked on controlling the content gateway with an expensive peripheral that customers despised and resented paying for, and wondered why it didn’t sell.
Charlie Demerjian, on Microsoft unbundling the Kinect from the Xbox One. The whole post is well worth the read for his take on how Microsoft has grown “irrelevant to computing”.

Chris Kohler on the news that Microsoft will soon begin selling a $399 version of the Xbox One without the Kinect:

Price is the problem, as others have learned recently. Getting Xbox One’s price in line with PlayStation 4′s was paramount, and matching Sony in terms of online video streaming features was as well since that is also an extra cost associated with Xbox ownership. Microsoft having to suck it up again and roll back a feature to get the price down illustrates that this was really its only feasible move. (Getting rid of an unpopular peripheral has got to hurt a lot less than Sony having to ditch backward compatibility to get PlayStation 3′s price to a palatable level.)

I’m not sold that price is the only problem here. As I’ve said from the outset, this latest generation of consoles sound like mediocre upgrades at best. They’re not Wii U-level disasters, but they’re just too “meh" to compete in a world that is increasingly mobile.

Further, I think Microsoft just created a quagmire for developers who were told time and time again that all Xbox One’s would ship with the Kinect. With the change, who in their right mind would create a game that takes full advantage of the device? And that, in turn, will ensure the device itself is not a success.

Kyle Vanhemert:

After all of that work, it took some other developers all of an afternoon, give or take a few afternoons, to rip Threes off. One of those derivative games, 2048, all but eclipsed Threes, even though it borrowed only the superficial joys of the original while ignoring much of what makes it truly great.

I was also guilty of touting 2048, without realizing the error. Which sucks, but:

Threes transformed dramatically over the year that followed, in a collaboration that transpired mostly in emails between Vollmer and Wohlwend. The saga is available for anyone to follow. Last month, as the duo were figuring out what to do about the 2048 problem, they decided to “show their work,” giving the world an intimate look into the making of their game. It takes the form of The Threes Letters, a compendium of correspondence comprising some 40,000 words in hundreds of emails. It’s like the WikiLeaks of game design–a document dump that offers a fascinating peek behind the curtain.

Great read (and great game) all-around.

Sam Byford:

Nintendo made an annual operating loss for the third consecutive year in 2013, ending up ¥46.4 billion ($457 million) in the red as Wii U sales failed to pick up following the holiday season. The Kyoto company’s net loss was ¥23.2 billion ($228 million). Total Wii U sales now stand at 6.17 million consoles worldwide, meaning that Nintendo sold just 310,000 in the quarter ended March 31st — a 20 percent drop on its performance a year ago.

310,000 for the quarter. Total nightmare.

This is in stark contrast to Sony’s fortunes with the PlayStation 4, which had reached 7 million consoles worldwide as of April 6th; Sony has already overtaken the Wii U despite Nintendo’s year-long head start. The 3DS handheld family sold 590,000 units in Nintendo’s fourth quarter for a life-to-date total of 43.3 million, 2.2 million of which are of the lower-priced 2DS variant.

But, but, but the 2DS was going to be a massive hit! I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about!

Nintendo expects to return to the black in its 2014 fiscal year, forecasting an operating profit of ¥40 billion ($394 million) with 3.6m Wii U and 12m 3DS consoles sold. Shareholders may not take the claim at face value, though — CEO and president Satoru Iwata maintained until January that the company would make ¥100 billion profit in 2013, before backtracking dramatically and predicting a ¥35 billion loss on poor Wii U sales. As it turned out, Iwata underestimated the loss by more than ¥11 billion.

I’m not sure which is crazier: that Nintendo is still giving guidance that everything will soon be fixed — or that they expect everyone to believe their guidance anymore? 

I’m more worried for the company than ever before. Please Nintendo, save yourself!