Category Archives: Business

Virtual Console kinda sucked

Chris Kohler, Kotaku:

Virtual Console is no more, but that doesn’t mean that Switch won’t become the best place to play classic games. It’ll just be done in a different way than what Nintendo’s tried in the past. And that’s a good thing, because Virtual Console kinda sucked.

Now, by “Virtual Console kinda sucked” I do not mean “Nintendo’s old games are bad,” or even that Virtual Console’s game selection was bad, or anything like that. In case you are wholly unfamiliar with my work, I love old games and think that as many of them as possible should be kept in print on modern-day hardware. I just think that Virtual Console, the feature, was an inefficient way of implementing this idea, and that there is a better way. Virtual Console died so that retro gaming on Switch could live.

My knee-jerk response to Nintendo Switch Online was disappointment. 20 8-bit games, while great, seemed paltry.

However, heeding my own words, Nintendo doesn’t need to release any more than this for the new service. The games are the lure. The online play and cloud saves are the lock-in. Nintendo will trickle classic titles out over time when needed. Additions of consoles (SNES, N64,… GameCube) will be tentpole announcements — when needed.

That said, I agree with Kohler. And Adult Swim Games’ Chris Johnson. Truth is, as much as I loved playing NES, SNES, and N64 games on my Wii and Wii U, I hated not knowing what releases to expect and when to expect them. Likewise, as Kohler mentions in his piece, the pricing structure seemed bananas. Virtual Console kinda sucked.

I do wish Nintendo was offering up more than NES titles, but I get why they aren’t. I’ll take this handful for now with the excitement that lots more classics will arrive at the low fee of $20 per year.

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Some Numbers That Illustrate Nintendo Switch’s Massive Success

Jason Schreier reporting for Kotaku:

Nintendo today reported its earnings for the 2017 fiscal year, which means a whole bunch of interesting new sales numbers to look at. They’re all impressive, and they all show the massive appeal of Nintendo Switch.

Here are a few numbers that, taken together, make for some good perspective on just how successful Nintendo’s latest console has been throughout its first year on the market.

Wild numbers to the Switch’s set-top predecessor, the Wii U.

The Switch is more or less tracking the same sales pace as PS4. It took a little over one year for the PS4 to reach 18.5 worldwide hardware sell-through units — November 22, 2013 – January 4, 2015.

Microsoft has been mum on sales figures, but in 2016 slipped that the Xbox One had sold “around 18 to 19 million” units, two years after launch.

Update: Here’s a sales trajectory visual. Data source: Wikipedia.

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The Verge: ‘My Xbox One S is now a meaningfully different console to my PS4’

Sam Byford, The Verge:

It’s also something that Sony simply isn’t able to offer, given the complexity of the PlayStation 3 hardware and consequent difficulty of emulating its software. And to be clear, Sony doesn’t really need to do it — the PS4 library is more than strong enough to make the console worth buying. If I only owned an Xbox and had the choice of being able to play the likes of Nier Automata, Uncharted, and Horizon Zero Dawn instead of a bunch of games from the last decade, I’d take it. It’s the paucity of Xbox One-exclusive content that is forcing Microsoft to find other ways to get people to use the platform.

That’s actually fine with me. I like that my Xbox One S is now a meaningfully different console to my PS4 Pro, with different use cases and functionality. It’s the box I go to for 4K Blu-rays, Forza Horizon 3 in HDR, or Ninja Gaiden Black with a usable controller. It’s the box I switch on to browse through when I’m not sure what I feel like doing, or when I’d rather play Cuphead on the couch than at my desk.

As I said, I think Microsoft has turned a story-telling corner.

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More Original Xbox Games Coming to Xbox One Backward Compatibility

Xbox Wire: The official Xbox blog:

Starting today, fans can play Sonic Generations for the first time on the Xbox One family of devices alongside other Xbox 360 favorites that will receive Xbox One X Enhanced updates such as Darksiders, Gears of War 2, Portal 2, Red Dead Redemption, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

Later this month, we’ll release two batches of Original Xbox games – the first on April 17 and the second on April 26. All of these Original Xbox games will take advantage of the power of Xbox One with up to 4X the pixel count on Xbox One and Xbox One S, and up to 16X the pixel count on Xbox One X. See below for the full list of titles that will be available later this month, and don’t forget to visit https://majornelson.com/blog/xbox-one-backward-compatibility/ for the full list of backward compatible titles available on Xbox One.

This is an impressive list of titles.

Microsoft’s continued focus on backward compatibility is a smart move. It certainly won’t be enough to sell the tens of millions of units necessary to catch up to PlayStation 4’s sales figures, but in conjunction with increasing cross-network compatibility and the impressive power in the Xbox One X (vs. the PS4 Pro), I think Microsoft has turned a story-telling corner.

That said, for the same reasons I think backwards compatibility is a winning strategy for Xbox One, I think the Nintendo Switch will hold the lead on the conversation for a long while. After only 1 year on store shelves, the Switch’s sales trajectory (14 million units) will likely surpass Xbox One’s total 25-30 million units in 2018. PlayStation 4 has a much greater lead at 76.5 million units sold over 4.5 years. However, 14 million units in one year is without Nintendo breaking the seal on their back-catalog. And unless Microsoft or Sony glom on to exclusive licenses for third-party back-catalog — they won’t — there’s no telling who else may hop aboard the Switch train. (Come on, Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts!)

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Cross-Network Play is “the Next Logical Step”

Matthew Handrahan, GamesIndustry.biz:

Epic believes that the same process is starting to happen in markets like the US and Europe, thanks in no small part to refinements and improvements made to the Unreal Engine. During State of Unreal, Studio Wildcard’s co-founders Doug Kennedy and Jesse Rapczak came onstage to talk about Ark: Survival Evolved on mobile, and announced that it was being ported for Nintendo Switch. Sweeney also mentioned the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which was first announced in November last year.

Another example is, of course, Epic’s own Fortnite, which Sweeney believes is “unique” even within the context of the larger trend; principally because the work Epic has done to make it possible will benefit anyone that uses the Unreal Engine.

“So that they can do the same thing,” Sweeney adds. “And that is build one unified game that runs on all platforms, that is the same experience everywhere, and is a social experience that you can play with friends across all of the different platforms.

“What we have is this one engine that’s supporting AAA production values and game sizes and content bases that runs everywhere. This is going to be a great setup for the games industry, because it means that now you don’t have a divide between casual mobile games and high-end PC and console games.”

For Epic, this all makes complete sense and will give Unreal Engine a massive leg up as a development tool.

I wrote about the need for cross-network play in my piece Sold on Cross-Network Play. Much of the piece — albeit not transparently — stemmed from my frustration of having to hook up my Xbox One to play Overwatch with my friends. It was extremely encouraging to learn that players of Minecraft and Rocket League would be able to share experiences between Switch, Xbox One, and Steam.

Sony claims that 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.

Maybe it’s just the era I grew up in, but I believe in exclusive first-party experiences. Beyond the console wars which were somewhat steeped in technology battles as much as publishing and political ones, there is something to be said for the marriage of first-party hardware and software. Nintendo and Apple are prime examples this, creating unique and often stellar experiences by leveraging both sides of the stack.

Sony can hold their own when it comes to exclusives. It’s time to open the network.

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Nintendo Switch breaks records for first-year US sales

GamesIndustry.biz:

According to data from the NPD Group, the device has now achieved more year-one sales than any other console in history. While no figure was specified, it’s likely to be well over five million, as Nintendo reported 4.8 million sales in the US by the end of 2017.

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Nintendo Switch Is the Fastest-Selling Console in U.S. History

John Ballard, The Motley Fool:

The best-selling console ever is the PS2, which launched in 2000 and sold 157.68 million units over its life cycle, according to VGChartz. Sony shipped 10.61 million units in the first year of  PS2 sales.

Nintendo’s all-time best-selling game console — Wii — sold more than 4 million units within the first 10 months, and totaled 101.63 million units over its life cycle.

As for Switch, management says it expects Switch sales to reach 16 million by the end of Nintendo’s fiscal year in March 2018. That puts Switch way ahead of PS2, and on pace to be the best-selling console ever.

Big-N’s Big Year, indeed.

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Nintendo Stock Jumps 4.2% After Labo Reveal

Christopher Dring, GamesIndustry.biz:

Nintendo’s share have risen more 4.2% and hit an almost ten-year high following the reveal of its Labo concept.

Nintendo Labo is a toys-to-life style Switch project, which combines the Switch hardware with DIY cardboard models to create new gameplay experience. The concept is targeted at younger gamers, although judging by the online reaction, is going to appeal quite broadly.

We’re not entirely convinced by its commercial potential (although it does look great), but Nintendo shareholders clearly are. At the time of writing, Nintendo’s share price is the highest it has been since 2008 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It currently sits at ¥48,320, which is the highest since September 2008, during the initial comedown of the Wii and DS.

Cardboard — overhead: low; margin: very high.

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Nintendo: Crazy Toy-Con Maker

Michael McWhertor, Polygon:

Labo will let Nintendo Switch owners build cardboard versions of real-world items like a 13-key piano, fishing rod or motorbike. Nintendo calls those cardboard creations Toy-Cons. And, by inserting Joy-Con controllers into those Toy-Cons, players will be able to play games themed to the cardboard creations.

“With each Nintendo Labo kit, kids can transform modular sheets of cardboard – specially designed to interact with the Nintendo Switch console and Joy-Con controllers — into creations called Toy-Con,” Nintendo said. “As you build, you will have fun discovering how the technology works, and might even invent new ways to play with each Toy-Con!”

No one could have predicted Toy-Con. Try as you might, cardboard attachment kits for the Switch are not just out of left field, they are on a different pitch altogether.

There is an increasing wealth of junior robotics and toy-to-life experiences on the market. This is a clever, unique take on that market — and does Google Cardboard one better.

When folks call Nintendo a crazy toymaker, they’re not joking.

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‘Everyone feels lost all the time’

Uncharted director and writer Amy Hennig and Campo Santo (Firewatch) founder Sean Vanaman in conversation for Polygon’s excellent 2017 Year in Review essay series:

Amy Hennig: I talk to students and young developers sometimes, and they’re always sort of amazed to find out that everybody has imposter syndrome.

Sean Vanaman: I still feel like I’m ripping everyone off.

Amy Hennig: You look back at your own work and go, “I’m not even sure how I did that.”

Sean Vanaman: Exactly.

Amy Hennig: So even though you have this underlying sense of faith and tell yourself, “Well, I’ve been here lots of times, and I’ve always figured out a way to solve these problems, so I’ve got to relax and assume that I will figure it out again,” in the moment you’re like, “I don’t know how I did that before. I don’t know what I’m doing.” And everybody feels that way. It’s something I haven’t heard creative people talk about that much until recently. I always hear this sigh of relief when I bring it up. Everyone feels lost all the time.

This is a wonderful conversation between polar perspectives. Whether you’re running a large ship or a tiny dinghy, self-doubt is inevitable. I’ll add that it’s not just the captains that encounter it.

The quicker everyone and lay bare their uncertainties, the quicker the entire crew can sail in the same direction.

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