Polygon: Captain Toad feels like “Nintendo experimenting within the Mario Universe”

Polygon’s Michael McWhertor on the Quality Control podcast with host Dave Tach:

For a few years now, I have promoted and evangelized Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. To the point where I think even people at Nintendo are like, “hey, send this guy the Captain Toad review code first.”

I love the game. I love the character. It’s a great little puzzle game. It was one of those things that was released on the Wii U — which didn’t have a ton of great games, but this was a real standout in my opinion — and not a lot of people owned the Wii U. [Captain Toad] was something that was overlooked by a lot of people. It’s a fun little package. Now that it’s out on Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS, people have no excuse not to go play Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

In 2013, Nintendo released Super Mario 3D World, and excellent platformer for the Wii U. In that game, there were a handful of levels featuring Captain Toad. You gave up control of Mario, Peach, Luigi, etc., and you played as Captain Toad in these tiny little diorama-style levels where Toad would walk around with a headlamp and a heavy backpack.

He couldn’t run and jump. He could basically just walk around levels. He could fall down things. There were switches you could pull to raise him up on platforms. But each one was just this cute, clever little puzzle level that felt like Nintendo experimenting within the Mario Universe.

Mike and I share similar feelings about Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. The game itself is a charming, clever, puzzle game. But beyond that, it’s a wonderful expansion on a more realized Mushroom Kingdom. And it was great to see the character return in Super Mario Odyssey.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Captain Toad is genius.

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Kotaku: Octopath Traveler Is Nothing Like Final Fantasy VI

Jason Schreier:

The producer of the gorgeous upcoming Switch game Octopath Traveler made waves this week with a quote in which he said that mechanically it was a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy VI. Other people have made similar comparisons. But Octopath is nothing like Final Fantasy VI—it’s more like a SaGa game, with some experimental ideas that work, and some that really don’t.

I’ve played a little over an hour of the Octopath Traveler demo and am chipping away at some initial thoughts. One of those thoughts — contrary to both Takahashi-san and Schreier — is that Octopath Traveler feels like Final Fantasy X.

Each character has an individual relationship, conflict, and narrative, the visual turn-based system is akin to that of FFX, and there is an odd mismatch between the writing style and voice acting; the writing feels high-brow English juxtaposed to the modern American voice acting. While it’s certainly not the same problem, it is reminiscent of FFX’s infamous laughing scene.

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FastCoDesign: Why tech’s favorite color is making us all miserable

Amber Case:

A decade after my experience with the LED fans, I started seeing blue displays everywhere. From mobile phones to in-car displays, blue lights were becoming the norm. It’s hard for me to think of any examples of prominent high-tech products on the market now without pale blue screens or indicator lights. LED-based bulbs with more blue light are fast replacing incandescent bulbs. The default display to our iPhones and Androids operates along the blue spectrum, as do our laptops; new cars, especially those like Tesla which aspire to be “futuristic,” come with blue-lit dashboard displays, and so do our “smart” appliances, televisions, video game consoles, watches–the list goes on.

Unless it’s the post-apocalypse, imagery of the future is generally always depicted by some form of light. This article provides a brief history and effect of shifting from red and orange light (function) to blue light (form) on screen and in real-life.

I was obsessed with the blue eject light on the original PS2. When powered on at night, married to the start up chime, the blue light was a beautiful touch to round out the futuristic design and marketing of the console. The Wii’s disc drive bay gave me a similar feeling.

The poet in me would say it’s vast and mysterious sea, sky, and stars that make blue so extraordinary. While I agree that red and orange are preferred from practical standpoint, there’s no denying that blue is gorgeous. The Zero Counts design is certainly guilty of leaning on blue — ZC blue (#004992).

Regardless of your feelings about the film, try imagining Tron: Legacy with an orange Grid. Gross.

(Link via The Loop)

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Bloomberg Businessweek: The Legend of Nintendo

Felix Gillette:

More symptoms emerged in November, when the company released the NES Classic Edition, a miniaturized, rebooted version of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the console that had made the company a household name in Europe and America in the ’80s. The updated version was carefully calibrated to rekindle the latent passion of lapsed fans, with 30 of the most popular NES games built in. (Unlike the original, there were no cartridges.) From the start, supplies were scarce. Stores were constantly sold out, so customers lined up for hours to await shipments of even a few units. But what seemed to some like a supply-chain disaster looked to others like a calculated strategy. At $59.99 per unit with no additional games, NES Classics were a low-margin item; much more important for the company was to whet the world’s appetite for Nintendo games in preparation for the Switch. To that end, Nintendo and DeNA also released Super Mario Run for iOS and Android, giving hundreds of millions of people an opportunity to help Mario scamper across their smartphones or tablets.

The strategy worked. By the time the Switch arrived in the spring of 2017, legions of people had been enticed to reconnect with their favorite childhood game characters on a proper Nintendo device. Over the next fiscal year, the Switch accounted for $6.8 billion of revenue. Nintendo’s existing handheld platform, the 3DS, kicked in an additional $1.7 billion, and sales of smartphone games rose 62 percent, generating $354.9 million.

This is a fun write-up on the current state of Nintendo — from its headquarters to the injection of young talent to its now iconic business ebbs and flows. To toot my own horn, I think it works as a macro companion piece to my micro view in Big-N’s Big Year.

Needless to say, I’ll forever be tickled by major news outlets covering Nintendo and video games at large. It’s a no-brainer considering the size of the industry, but for someone who grew up in a time where video games were a niche, nerdy hobby, it’s extraordinary to watch a company like Nintendo become as culturally significant and observed as Disney.

(Link via MacStories)

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The Hard Times’ Hard Drive

Hard Drive:

A lead change occurred in the final lap of the Rainbow Road Grand Prix last night during what was supposed to be a friendly game of Mario Kart amongst friends, when a blue spiny shell struck the leading racer mere inches from the finish. The driver, Marty Witten, fell from first place to last before creeping over the finish line.

“Fuck shit goddamn motherfucking ass shit fuck,” said a visibly perturbed Witten, who had led the entire race before the shell struck. “Fuck fuck fuck I hate this stupid bullshit game AHHHHH!”

Hard Drive kills me. I chuckle at damn near every one of their headlines.

Part of The Hard Times, it’s essentially The Onion of video games. Whether you’re deep into video game culture or you simply reminisce on days spent playing Mario Kart 64, it deserves a follow.

Blue shells. Fuck shit goddamn. Haven’t we all been there?

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Nintendo Tops E3 Tweets

Rishi Chadha, Twitter:

A look at the most Tweeted about topics during the annual event offers a fascinating glimpse at what got gaming fans most excited.

  1. Nintendo (@Nintendo)
  2. Xbox (@Xbox)
  3. Super Smash Bros. (#SuperSmashBros)
  4. Fallout (@Fallout)
  5. Playstation (@PlayStation)
  6. Kingdom Hearts (@KINGDOMHEARTS)
  7. Ubisoft (@Ubisoft)
  8. Elder Scrolls (@ElderScrolls)
  9. Death Stranding (#DEATHSTRANDING)
  10. Fortnite (@FortniteGame)

These were the most Tweeted about newly-announced games:

  1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  2. Kingdom Hearts 3
  3. Fallout 76
  4. The Last of Us 2
  5. Death Stranding

These were the moments that generated the most conversation on Twitter:

  1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate release date is announced
  2. Ridley announced as newest character added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  3. Elder Scrolls VI trailer is revealed at @Bethesda press conference

I felt Microsoft’s conference was the most compelling, but this is pretty neat.

I’m curious to see how Nintendo handles social for Smash Bros. Ultimate. Social is Nintendo’s Achilles heel. I’m not sure how great Twitter is as a global barometer, but I think this is good motivation for Nintendo to double-down on it as a focus.

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Sometimes Failure Leads to Opportunity

Ben Thompson, Stratechery:

I’ve been pretty critical of the Xbox over the years, arguing that it failed at its strategic goal (winning the living room not just for gamers but for everyone) and didn’t make sense for Microsoft in the long run. Microsoft, though, has continued to insist that it was committed to gaming, and it backed that up at the ongoing E3 game conference.

First and foremost, if you’re not paying for Ben’s Daily Update, you’re missing out on the best business x tech analysis out there.

Ben’s latest regarding Xbox is a great snapshot of Microsoft’s motives for the future. Here are some choice quotes to summarize.

On Microsoft’s big acquisitions announcement of studios Ninja Theory (DmC: Devil May Cry, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), Playground Games (Forza Horizon), Undead Labs (State of Decay), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few):

The Xbox One originally lagged behind the PS4 this generation due to its misguided focus on the living room (including charging $100 more at launch because of the now-discontinued Kinect that was at the center of that effort), but the bigger problem has been a lack of exclusive titles relative to the PS4. One way to counter that is to simply produce them yourself, and these purchases augment Microsoft’s ability to do just that.

On Microsoft’s announcement of a game streaming service, “dedicated to perfecting your experience everywhere you want to play — your Xbox, your PC and your phone”:

Still, PlayStation Now requires a PS4: what EA and Microsoft are talking about is a service that works on any device, from a phone to a smart TV to a PC to a console, because all of the computation is done in the cloud, and that right there is where the Xbox suddenly starts to make a lot more strategic sense: Microsoft has a massive advantage in a future where games are predominantly cloud-based.

Ultimately, I think Ben summarized the Microsoft showcase perfectly. I do hope you read it. To end:

Indeed, I find this idea so compelling that I must formally withdraw my recommendation that Microsoft get out of gaming; I still believe that the Xbox was a failure in terms of its original goals, but sometimes failure leads to opportunity, and streaming seems to be a significant one, for both Xbox specifically and Azure generally.

I have to say, the Xbox event was my favorite of E3, with Nintendo in a close second. With that, I truly think Microsoft has turned a storytelling corner.

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PS4 Fortnite Accounts Are Blocked On The Nintendo Switch

Luke Plunkett, Kotaku:

Fortnite players who had an Epic account on PS4 and have tried to play the new Nintendo Switch version of the game are reporting that they’ve run into a problem: they’re not allowed to use the same account.

That’s right, if you have played the game on PlayStation 4—even just once—that’s enough to have got your account locked to that system. It goes the other way too; if you link your Epic account on Switch, you’re locked out on the PlayStation 4.

This is maddening, but it comes as no surprise. To Sony’s credit, cross-network/crossplay is fairly new to the console world. That said, as I noted in my piece Sold on Cross-Network Play, “this is not a technical limitation. It is political.” The fact that Fortnight crossplay is supported across Switch, iOS, Android, Xbox One, macOS, and PC tells you as much.

In Cross-Network Play is “the Next Logical Step”, I noted the following:

Sony claims their reluctance of opening cross-network play is out of protection of their community. I think that is a fair stance, but is the Sony community any less toxic than others? I think the real fear is losing an amount of ability to lock in players to PlayStation 4. It’s the same case made for exclusive games and content; the latter I vehemently oppose.

Looking at Sony’s sell through numbers, it’s easy to see where their comfort of lock-in comes from. They likely have an overwhelming majority of the console base on their platform. Here’s a visual from my piece Some Numbers that Illustrate Nintendo’s Switch’s Massive Success:

Sony is going to run that lead dry of security loyalty to their platform.

But the majority of consoles aside, the masses are playing Fortnight. And if they aren’t on PS4, they are everywhere else. If that’s not enough for Sony to about-face, I don’t know what is.

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