Tag Archives: 3DS

Nintendo E3 Impressions

With Sony’s and Microsoft’s excellent conferences having already worked E3 attendees into a frenzy, Nintendo took to the virtual stage Tuesday to deliver their annual E3 non-conference.  As is becoming tradition, Nintendo opted out of the standard live press conference and instead offered a canned video presentation, essentially an hour-long Nintendo Direct.  Did Nintendo keep the hype train rolling, adding to the momentum created by Bethesda, Microsoft, Sony, and other E3 presenters?  Did they deliver an impressive, jaw-dropping presentation that would earn them a stream of coveted “Nintendo Wins E3” tweets and headlines?

Well, no.

Nintendo’s presentation this year was, in a word, underwhelming.  Even disappointing, at least for Wii U owners.  Big 3DS fans, and especially fans of Japanese games, might have found more to like, but the presentation did not bode well for Nintendo’s home console.  So before we get into the Wii U announcements and start dissecting Nintendo’s performance, let’s take a look at the 3DS games Nintendo unveiled.

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(Also, let’s take a moment to wonder why the presentation was hosted by Muppet versions of Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Reggie Fils-Aime.  Muppet Miyamoto’s dressing room looked like some weird, Nintendo-themed plush love nest.  I briefly entertained the thought that Nintendo was building to the surprise announcement of a Muppets or other puppet-themed game, but no, they weren’t.  They just decided to transform their executives into puppets for some reason.  Idea: a Kinect game that you control by holding your hand in the air as if it were inside an imaginary sock puppet.)

Continue reading Nintendo E3 Impressions

Here’s an Idea: An Amiibo Killer App

[When I’m not playing games or writing about games, I’m often thinking about games – thinking about what would make a cool idea for a game, or how I wish a certain game was different, or what I’m hoping for in a sequel.  So, to share some of these ideas, I’m starting a new occasional column called Here’s an Idea.  Basically, it’s game design fan fiction.]

Nintendo’s line of collectible, game-connected figures has so far been a huge success for the company.  In the six months they’ve been out, Nintendo has shipped 10.5 million units and is scrambling to get more product on store shelves.  This is, in one sense, perfectly understandable: similar products, like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, are hugely successful, and Nintendo has a stable of popular characters like Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, and… Wii Fit Trainer.  Why wouldn’t they be popular?  But in another sense, the success of Amiibo is a little weird, because unlike, say, Skylanders, they don’t really do anything.

(Image: Farley Santos)
(Image: Farley Santos)

Well, that’s not entirely accurate.  They do some stuff.  But what they do is a vague and inconsistent.  The most robust Amiibo support is found in Super Smash Bros., where Amiibo become NPC companions/opponents that you can level up and customize.  This is the closest Amiibo come to having Skylanders-type functionality, where you bring your character into the game, upgrade and/or customize it, and save the stats to the figure rather than the console hard drive, allowing you to bring your character to a friend’s house.  But in Super Smash Bros., you don’t get to play as the character, just alongside it or against it.

Meanwhile, Amiibo support in other games is pretty limited.  In Mario Party 10, a new “Amiibo Party” mode lets you tap your Amiibo to the gamepad a bunch of times to do things that could easily be done with a button press, and then save the powerups you earn to your figure.  In all other Amiibo-compatible games, functionality is limited to read-only effects, in most cases involving Amiibo unlocking things like extra costumes or consumable in-game items.  Of course, the fact that one Amiibo can be used in multiple games – though limited to one read/write game per figure – is a nice bonus, regardless of how limited the features are for those additional games.  But what is lacking is a really great killer app where Amiibo feel really essential to the gameplay.  So far, they kind of feel shoehorned in. Continue reading Here’s an Idea: An Amiibo Killer App

An NES console.

Nintendo’s Going Mobile

Nintendo recently released two news babies into the wild with nothing but the barest scraps of information to protect them from the Internet: the company, in partnership with DeNA, will be making mobile games; and, Nintendo is working on a new “dedicated game platform,” codenamed “NX.”  With almost no details to report or discuss, all we can really do is engage in the twin 21st century pastimes of Waiting in Agony to Know Everything Right Now, Dammit, and Wildly Speculating.  So, let’s speculate!

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Nintendo goes boldly into the future.

The two announcements came at a press conference on March 17, the primary audience of which was stockholders.  This is worth remembering when trying to draw inferences from Nintendo’s announcements.  Nintendo’s stock price has been stagnant for years, and this press conference knocked it up to as high as it’s been since 2011.

Let’s consider the mobile announcement first.  Nintendo has been understandably reluctant to jump into the mobile gaming fray.  They’ve enjoyed a more-or-less uninterrupted reign atop the handheld gaming market since they released the Gameboy in 1989.  The last thing they want to do is cannibalize their own market, trading sales of $200 handhelds and $40 games for some $0.99 apps.  They’ve also been adamant over the years that their games should be considered “premium,” and thus worth the $40 price tag, on top of the upfront console investment.  They don’t want to cheapen their brands by releasing a bunch of Nintendo-skinned match three games; if they did, people wouldn’t be able to see the value in such premium games as Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition.

But for all their reluctance, Nintendo doesn’t really have a choice.  They’ve been able to ward off all would-be usurpers of their handheld gaming throne for decades, but smartphones are an entirely different animal.  Nintendo’s best-selling handheld, the DS, sold just north of 150 million units.  Their current model, the 3DS, has sold around 50 million units.  (For comparison’s sake, the PlayStation Vita, released the same year as the 3DS, has sold about 4 million units, making it slightly more successful than something called the Bandai WonderSwan, which is powered by a single AA battery.)  Meanwhile, by the end of 2016, there will be over two billion people in the world people with smartphones.  Continue reading Nintendo’s Going Mobile