Category Archives: Technology

Nintendo Cuts 3DS Price by 32% to USD$170

Just 4 months after the release of the 3DS, Nintendo has cut the price by USD$80 effective from August 12th. This was a necessary move for Nintendo as they have been struggling to get people to buy the system after having such great success with the Nintendo DS. With the PSP Vita tentatively coming out at the end of the year for $250 it was expected that a price cut would be made this year but it has come a few month earlier than expected.

Now all Nintendo need to do is to step up the release of quality games from themselves and third party developers. They needed to get the system in more hands so that developers have a greater audience to sell to, which is what the price cuts aims to do but people will still be hesitant if the games aren’t there.

Existing owners (830,000 in America), who Nintendo will automatically register into the Ambassador program, will be able to download 10 NES VC games and 10 Game Boy Advance VC games from the Nintendo eShop for free as part of their early adoption of the Nintendo 3DS. The selection of GBA games are very attractive with Metroid Fusion, Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart Super Circuit, WarioWare, and Mario vs. Donkey Kong all exclusive to those in the Ambassador program. I would love to have these games on my system to play at any time and I’m kind of tempted to buy a 3DS so that I could be part of the program since Nintendo are saying that they have no plans to make these games available to the general public.

Press Release Link (http://www.nintendo.com/corp/nintendo3ds/news/)

Traditionally Controlled Games Are Becoming a Thing of The Past

One thing that I have notice from all the games shown at E3 this year is that the traditional control method (twin sticks, 4 face buttons, d-pad and triggers) is being replaced or augmented by a range of new control paradigms. Last year’s E3 saw the introduction of the MS Kinect and PS Move, and this year both companies reaffirmed their commitment to the future of how we will control games.

Now I’m not saying traditional controlled games will be obsolete (they will still be ever present), but I do think developers are thinking of ways to allow people to more easily interact with games in new ways. Seeing the way voice commands are being used in Mass Effect 3 utilizing Kinect, or hearing Bioshock lead developer Ken Levine talk about the ways he will use PS Move in Bioshock Infinite, I see a definite trend of developers taking up the challenge of advancing the way we control games. It is no longer just a gimmick, it is the future of video games.

And I haven’t even mentioned Nintendo yet, with their next console they will continue the path of motion controlled games and will add the next big thing, tablet touch pad controls. They are taking the success of their portable systems and mobiles devices like the iPad/iPhone to create a system that will encourage developers to think of new innovative ways to design games. These new methods of control allow a wider range of people to pick up and instantly understand how to play certain games. It also makes gaming a more involved and fun looking endeavor which is necessary to continue growing the industry.

Nintendo had a true hit with the Wii by innovating the way games are played but their approach had it’s flaws. Nintendo looks like they have learned not to abandon the core gamers by creating a system that developers are excited to work on with powerful processing and graphics capabilities. Hopefully this would lead to more games being released on the Wii U than the Wii and I’m excited to see how games like Assassin’s Creed play on the Wii U.

Also I hope more developers take advantage of the capabilities of the Kinect and PS Move as we are at a point where the technology is there but we just need the games. The key is finding the right mix and making control decisions that make sense, enhancing the gaming experience rather than making it seem gimmicky. From what I’ve seen at E3 this year I feel confident that the industry is moving in the right direction.

P.S. 3D gaming is also here to stay and video games are the perfect medium to get the most out of it. The technology is improving each year and developers are doing a better job of implementing it in their games. It’s time to stop grousing about 3D in video games, if you don’t like it you can still play your games in regular 2D.

E3 2011 Video Roundup

Nintendo Official Videos

Electronic Arts Official Videos

Ubisoft Official Videos

Playstation Blog

 Other Videos

E3 2011 Nintendo – 3DS Games Galore and Wii Successor Revealed (Wii U)

 

 

 

At Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference today Nintendo made a number of surprising announcements, much of which we already knew due to rumours over the last few weeks. But no one predicted the full scope and innovation of Nintendo’s approach to their next console. Appealing to core and casual consumers while maintaining the Wii brand they seem to have satisfied the skeptics doubting Nintendo’s future.

The biggest surprise to me is the use of the current Wii Remotes, it seems multiplayer games will be designed with one person holding the tablet while others use Wii Remotes. People who have had time to demo the system commented on the surprising comfort (light and easy to hold) of the tablet controller and fun while playing the various tech demos showing off new game play ideas and possibilities. Disappointments are the lack of other Wii game announcements (or English ports of Japanese games such as Last Story) or more  third-party games on the 3DS but the conference isn’t over yet and often more information trickles out over the week. Third party game developer support is not a problem for the Wii U with plenty of developers on board intially bringing out ports of 360/PS3 games such as Batman Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed Revelations.

Zelda Games

  • Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Celebration – Orchestra Worldwide Tour
  • Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures – Free for DSi owners
  • Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Out on the Nintendo eShop
  • Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Out at the end of this year

3DS Games Announced

  • Luigi’s Mansion 2 – Developed by Next Level Games.
  • Super Mario 3D – 3D mario platformer but with 2D gameplay elements.
  • Mario Kart – Underwater and air sequences, Retro Studios helping with development.
  • Kid Icarus Uprising – 3 on 3 multiplayer announced.
  • Star Fox 64 3D
  • Tekken 3D, Animal Crossing 3DS, Super Smash Bros, Lego City Stories.
  • Potential – Kirby, Rhythm Heaven, Paper Mario, Mario Party sequels.

Wii Successor Announced – Wii U

  • SPECS – Touchpad controller 6.2 inch in addition to traditional controls, camera, accelerometer, microphone, speakers, 1080P, HDMI, IBM designed CPU (same architecture as Watson), SD and USB HDD support.
  • Features – Backwards compatible with Wii games and all controllers (Wii Remote, balance board), full HD graphics, video calls, web surfing, stream content to and from tablet controller.
  • Wii U Games Teased – Super Mario Bros Mii, New HD Zelda, Super Smash Brothers, and various tech demos.
  • Third Party Wii U Games – Lego City Stories, Darksiders 2, Batman Arkham City, Tekken, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Ghost Recon Online, DIRT, Alien Colonial Marines, Metro Last Light and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Various EA Sports games and potentially Battlefield and Army of Two.
  • Onboard Third Party Developers – EA, Ubisoft, Warner Bros Interactive, THQ, Irrational Games, Namco Bandai, Sega and Tecmo Koei.

E3 2011 Sony Press Conference – PS Vita, Bioshock Infinite Move Support and PS Branded TV

Here is a list PS3 games and features announced today at Sony’s Press Conference for E3 2011. After a montage of games and Playstation properties, the event started with Jack Trenton CEO of SCEA first apologizing about the recent PSN outage. 3D, Playstation Move and the PS Vita are all heavily showcased with the big news that the PS Vita will be USD$249/299 for Wi-Fi/3G model.

  • Already announced games featured – Uncharted 3 (release date 1st November 2011), Resistance 3, NBA 2K12 (Move Support), Infamous 2, Starhawk, Bioshock Infinite and Star Trek.
  • 3D Game Remasterings – God of War Origins Collections and Ico and Shadow of Colossus Collection.
  • Playstation Branded 3D Monitor announced – 24 Inch screen with unique feature of allowing split screen co-op games to display a full screen for each player. USD $499 for monitor, 3D glasses, HDMI cable and Resistance 3.
  • Bioshock Infinite – Move support and Bioshock 1 pack-in. Also a Bioshock on NGP teased.
  • More Core Games Move Support – Bioshock Infinite, Saint’s Row The Third, Star Trek and better move support for LBP 2.
  • EA’s PS3 Exclusive Game Content – SSX (Mount Fuji exclusive level), Need for Speed on the Run exclusive cars and Battlefield 3 comes with Battlefield 1943 pack-in.
  • New Games Announced – Sly Cooper Thieves in Time, Medieval Moves: Deadman’s Quest from the developer of Sports Champions and  Dust 514 (Playstation exclusive MMO FPS from Eve Online developer CCP Games).
  • NGP Name Announced Playstation Vita – Rumours are true the official name of the NGP is the Playstation Vita. AT&T announced as exclusive 3G partner in the US. More than 80 titles in development. Out this year, wifi model $249 and 3G model for $299.
  • PS Vita Games Shown – Uncharted Golden Abyss, Ruin (action RPG, loot based, social features, PS3 compatibility and cloud saving), ModNation Racers (easy track creation, access to user generated content), Little Big Planet (game changer, easy to create levels or game types utilising all the features of the PS Vita), and Street Fighter X Tekken (Cole from infamous is a playable character).

E3 2011 Microsoft Announcements Round-Up – Halo 4, Ryse and Lots of Kinect Supported Games

Here is a list of notable announcements and details of Xbox 360 games and features announced today at Microsoft’s Press Conference for E3 2011 (plus a couple features revealed later on Major Nelson’s Blog).

  • Already announced games featured Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect 3 (Kinect voice support, dialogue and squad commands), Ghost Recon Future Soldier (Kinect support for all future Tom Clancy games), Gears of War 3, Forza 4, Star Wars Kinect
  • EA sports games to get Kinect Support – Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden, Fifa and one other.
  • New Game AnnouncementRyse for Crytek, a Kinect game set during the Roman Empire era.
  • New Halo games announcedHalo 1 remake 10 year anniversary and Halo 4.
  • New Game Announcement – Fable: The Journey, on rail magic shooter just for Kinect.
  • Other New Games Announced – Kinect Sports Season 2, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, Disneyland Adventures, and Dance Central 2.
  • New Dashboard with graphical and functional improvements. Search support with universal Bing search capability, youtube, live TV (i.e. UFC) capabilities, more Kinect support, Beacon feature (more streamlined game invite system) and the big one cloud support for game saves and profiles.

Cost of PSN Attack to Sony: 14 Billion Yen

Ahead of Sony’s 2011 FY financial results due to be released on the 26th May 2011, revisions have been announced to take into account a number of events have had a significant effect on Sony’s profits. One of the events that Sony details is the cost of the PSN breach that is estimated at 14 billion yen or 170 million USD to consolidated operating income. This is a hefty cost for Sony as 14 billion yen is 7% of their current 200 billion estimate for the operating income for the 2011FY.

The key variables that will affect the estimate are the severity and number of credit card misuses or identify theft cases. Sony points out that to date there have been no confirmed cases but if this changes the estimated amount will have to be revised. Other that the cost of the protection program for affected users, included in this estimate is the cost of the Welcome Back Program, customer support, security enhancements and legal. They also mention a possible revenue decrease which will affect profits as a result of this breach. Lost revenue can be attributable to the PSN store being down for almost a month as well as the effect on the sale of PS3’s and PS3 games.

This is a major blow for Sony’s gaming division which was on track for a strong year with the PS3 Slim selling well along with many high profile PS3 software releases.

Warner Bros. Excels Where Disney Fails in Their Foray into Video Games

With the release of Disney’s third quarter 2011 fiscal year results last week we have further insight into Disney Interactive’s failure in the console video games space as they now transition to focus on mobile and casual games. In contrast we have Warner Bros. who like Disney (both starting the strategy around the same time in 2005) have made acquisitions of independent video games developers to build up their presence in the industry but have been doing much better job at it. The difference is with their approach to developing games and how they work with their acquired studios as well as the quality of the studios they are acquiring and building up.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment with the acquisitions of studios such as Monolith Productions, NetherRealmStudios (formerly Midway Chicago), Traveller’s Tales, and a majority stake in Rocksteady Studios have got it almost perfect in identifying the right studios to boost their video game strategy. With subsidiaries like DC Comics Warner Bros. have the properties and the talent to develop high quality games as well as coming up with original properties. Or like with NetherRealm Studios and the Mortal Kombat series they have successfully rejuvenated popular game properties for critical and commercial success.

Disney on the other hand have laid off a large percentage of staff at their Black Rock Studios and shut down Propaganda Games along with it’s projects. Recent acquisitions of Playdom and Tapulous are aiming to capture the casual and mobile markets but they still have Junction Point Studios who made the game Epic Mickey to mixed reviews. Junction Point is headed by industry veteran Warren Spector and they are still hiring and working on unannounced projects but they look to also be developing more social and mobile games.

Disney’s gaming division incurred a 115m operating income loss last quarter with investors questioning their approach to the video game market. With their focus on the Facebook and iOS gaming markets they are looking for the quick buck which may or may not be sustainable in the long run but at least they are acquiring the right sort of talent for the strategy.

As for Warner Bros. the future looks strong with Mortal Kombat selling well, Rocksteady Studios building a lot of buzz with their next Batman Game, Batman: Arkham City, and whatever MMO project Turbine is doing next. Also Monolith Studios just announced today that they are developing a downloadable XBLA/PSN/PC game in the Batman universe that will be a competitive multiplayer shooter, the next project by the creators of the F.E.A.R. games.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is a subsidiary of Time Warner (TWX).

Disney Interactive is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company (DIS).

Namco Bandai Games Sales Numbers 2010/11

Bandai recently released their financial results for the full 2010/11 fiscal year and it is interesting to see how well some of their games have sold. They are known for releasing games based on popular Japanese animated properties such as Naruto, Dragon Ball Z and Gundam but they have had some surprising high quality critical successes with Enslaved and Majin. Below are their top 9 selling games during the last year (400k cut off point).

  1. Tekken 6: 1.15m
  2. Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2: 1.1m
  3. Ben10: Ulimate Alien: 0.83m
  4. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West: 0.73m
  5. Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2: 0.58m
  6. God Eater Burst: 0.47m
  7. Despicable Me: 0.47m
  8. Gundam Musuou 3: 0.46m
  9. AKB1/48: 0.4m
Surprisingly Tekken 6 a game released in 2009 was number 1 (not a good indicator of the sales performance of their other games actually released in 2010/11). Enslaved claimed 4th place with 730,000 units sold but a significant amount of of them were likely sold at a discount. Enslaved was the only game in the top 9 based on an original concept. I have a soft spot for games developed by Ninja Theory and I commend Namco Bandai for picking up the publishing but it deserved better (at least a million).
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is nowhere to be seen as is Splatterhouse. And Demon’s Souls published in the EU by Namco Bandai did not break 400k, which is not surprising considering just the EU. On a side note it would be nice to see global sales figures of Demon’s Souls (SCE published it in Japan and Atlus in NA) and whether such a niche game could be viable commercially.

NGP (PSP 2) and Playstation Suite Announced

 

In Tokyo Japan Kazuo Hirai, Ceo of Sony Computer Entertainment, announced today that their follow-up to the Playatation Portable (PSP) will be out by holiday 2011. It is codenamed the Next Generation Portable (NGP), and almost every rumoured feature is included in the device.

The NGP features include:

  • 5 inch OLED touchscreen
  • Two analog joysticks
  • Rear Touchpad which is also 5 inches,
  • Six Axis motion controls
  • Front and rear cameras
  • Similar shape to original PSP by more of an oval/round design.
  • Flash memory storage,  – no more optical disks.
  • There will be 3G (connected to mobile carriers) and wifi models.
  • GPS – Social and location based features.
  • Backwards compatible with downloadable PSP games.

How will you play games? Sony showed a portable version of Uncharted where you can control Drake anyway you like, with sticks, rear touch pad, drawing lines or touching points on the screen. Expect plenty of ports of PS3 games as the system is design to make this much easier.

The NGP will also deeply incorporate location based and social networking features. Like the 3DS streetpass feature it will have the capability of sensing people around you who have NGP’s. But it will be more indepth with messaging, trophies, rankings and the most popular games in an area. Players will use a new interface called LiveArea to navigate these features.

However this isn’t the entire story, they led with the announcement of the Playstation Suite. What is Playstation Suite? It is a cross-platform games development platform (with Android OS). Games will be Playstation certified for quality. It is hardware agnostic where user chooses hardware. Aims to emulate first gen Playstation and PSP games, not the main NGP games. So basically it is the Playstation store coming to Android phones.

NGP games announced –

  • Uncharted
  • Little Big Planet
  • Wipeout
  • Resistance
  • Hot Shot Golf
  • Killzone
  • Gravity Daze
  • Hustle Kings
  • Broken
  • Smart As
  • Reality Fighters
  • Little Deviants

Developers who are making games for the NGP –

  • Epic Games
  • Activision
  • Capcom
  • Sega
  • Konami
  • Tecmo Koei
  • Q Entertainment
  • Rockstar