Category Archives: Business

100 Nintendo Switch Titles in Development

Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima during the Q3 FY2016 financial briefing:

Next I will provide a follow-up report about our software publisher partners. After the presentation on January 13, we have continued to receive requests from more and more software publishers who want to develop games for the system. At the presentation, we announced that there were over 80 titles in development from more than 50 software publishers, but that number has now climbed to over 100 titles from more than 70 publishers. Please look forward to more announcements about the software lineup in the future.

Only 165 Wii U titles were ever released in the US—the least amount of titles for any Nintendo console—followed by the Nintendo 64’s 297.

This third-party interest seems promising.

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Nintendo’s Q3 FY 2016: Pocket Monsters

Nintendo announced their third-quarter earnings for fiscal year 2016 to mixed reaction.

6.45 million 3DS units were sold (10% increase YoY), driven by strong Pokémon Sun and Moon performance with 14.69 million units sold. In a press release, Nintendo points to the popularity of Pokémon GO as helping boost sales of Pokémon Sun and Moon, as well as boost hardware sales outside of Japan.

I’m fairly shocked by the 3DS numbers. The six year old, 240p handheld apparently still has legs amongst the massive mobile market. While I’d say that may be good news for the Switch, a “home” console that’s performance seemingly can’t match that of the PS4 or Xbox One, the 3DS starts at half the price of the Switch, $150 sliding up to $199 for an XL, and boasts a 1000+ game library1.

I know the Switch is marketed as a home console, but I can’t help but see it as a great handheld. With that perspective, and a guess that the Switch will see a price drop and bundle by holiday, it’ll still have a way to go before challenging the 3DS.

The highly anticipated and advertised Super Mario Run only converted approximately 5% of it’s 78 million downloads—about 4 million paid transactions. For a fantastic game, 4 million feels below my assumed “core” Nintendo base numbers.

Needless to say, 78 million iOS-only downloads is a lot of Mario icons on pocket computers at one time or another. This fits nicely with Nintendo’s renewed focus of “interacting with [Nintendo IP] every day.” And that’s just iOS. Android will see Super Mario Run in March this year.

Overall, Thomas Whitehead of Nintendo Life captured my feelings about the results quite nicely:

The most recent financial reports can fit whatever agenda you want. They can be construed as worrying and a sign of a company in difficult times, or interpreted as a demonstration of Nintendo’s strength and positive prospects. There are numbers to support both sides of the argument – the reality is that they represent a company still in transition, modernising its approach, utilising and boosting successes, while also dealing with mistakes and failures. The 3DS thrives, the Wii U dies, revenues come for an app in which Nintendo had limited involvement, and all of this with Switch and more mobile games to come.

I remain very positive about Nintendo’s future. Their IP and first-party games can’t be beat and are appearing everywhere, while the Switch seems like the “dream” console, pre-orders of which are already difficult to come by.

This is easy for me to say. I adore Nintendo. I can’t say the same for younger generations who grew up along side Minecraft rather than Mario. Is the new “Nintendo IP every day” strategy too little too late, or did Big-N hold out just long enough?


1UPDATE: The 1,000+ number is a combination of all games de-duped by region and format. Seeing as the 3DS is region locked and a fairly slim amount of players would even attempt to play non-localized games, it’s not fair to say 1,000+ games.

Additionally, Polygon’s Brian Crecente stumbled across an interesting set of data in Nintendo’s earnings report:

Stuffed in amidst Nintendo’s quarterly earnings report was an interesting, updated look at the number of games released for every system going back to NIntendo’s first.

I grabbed the numbers, which are broken down into three regions for each platform, and built a little chart with them for easier comparison.

As Crecente mentions in his post, 85 games have already been announced for the unreleased Nintendo Switch— already over half of the Wii U’s US library. If the populous reclassifies the Switch as a handheld console which I imagine it will, the Switch has a big mountain to climb considering it’s home console development costs and Nintendo’s set-top game library trend.

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Lightning and Louis Vuitton


Teddy Dief, developer of Hyper Light Drifter and Kyoto Wild, writing for Polygon:

Square Enix — a major international video game company — thinks that the Louis Vuitton-wearing chic folk of the world might sometimes come home from their fancy parties and boot up their PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Or you know what? Their Wii U. The fashion in Splatoon is so fresh that it’s inspiring a massive fan zine.

I mean, I’m excited because this is further evidence that the world outside video game enthusiast culture is acknowledging that:

  • Games are for adults too!
  • Game players have fashion sense!
  • There are a lot of women playing games!
  • Fashionistas might be super into turn-based combat!

The stereotypes of old are toppling left and right! It’s a delicious massacre.

[…]

Imagine what could happen!

  • “Diesel to release a line of Bayonetta-inspired pants”
  • “Nintendo reveals Ralph Lauren outfit DLC for Super Smash Bros.
  • “Lululemon teams up with Hyper Light Drifter for a new line of athletic wear”

The three Final Fantasy games centered around Lightning each take an average of 37.5 hours to beat. If these Louis Vuitton designs were to become available in-game, that’s an unprecedented amout of product placement screen time.

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Wii U on Target’s T-Day Top Three

Business Insider (via My Nintendo News):

Target had its biggest online shopping day ever on Thanksgiving.

“Demand outpaced 2014’s record Thanksgiving performance, making it Target’s biggest day for online sales yet,” the retailer said in a release.

The record-breaking sales online were driven by three items: the Apple iPad, Apple Watch, and Wii U gaming console, the company said.

How Videogames Are Saving the Symphony Orchestra

Sarah E. Needleman, The Wall Street Journal:

In Philadelphia, the 80-year-old Mann Center has held videogame concerts since 2012. Representatives say the shows attract as many as many as 6,500 attendees, roughly double the average attendance at classical concerts.

The growing popularity has helped offset a decline in U.S. orchestra ticket sales. Over the past decade, such sales have declined at an average annual rate of 2.8%, according to a soon-to-be-published report commissioned by the League of American Orchestras, an advocacy group.

While I had known of the popularity of these concerts with Video Games Live, whose album Kickstarters for Volumes 3 and 4 raised $285,081 and $187,646 respectively, et al., I had no idea of this level of success. Likewise, I was a bit surprised to see “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” perform on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”, but a bit less so now.

The piece continues:

Unlike classical-music performances, videogame shows feature arrangements that blend looping tracks of music designed to match various moments in a game, such as a slow, eerie medley of piano, percussion and string as the videogame character navigates a castle dungeon.

I think there’s something here. Two years back, in a post titled “Why Game?”, I wrote the following:

The sounds, visuals, and interactivity provided a pool of imagination. The limitations of early consoles could not provide orchestral arrangements. Instead, repetitious patterns were drilled into our heads. They not only encapsulated the game we were playing, but they opened the world outside to a new soundtrack, creating a wealth of memories that could be tapped into from a few simple chirps. Hearing these primitive arrangements evolve felt like experiencing the birth of music. As hardware progressed, so did the complexity if the music. Repetitive pieces turned into grand and iconic themes, each game re-shaping the idea and importance of video game music.

Back to the WSJ piece, a quote from illustrator Mathew Grigsby:

I developed a taste for classical music through videogames.

I echo this sentiment.

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Niche

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Q: Bill Gates said recently that he thinks Nintendo will be more of a niche player in the future, with Sony and Microsoft battling for the number one spot. What do you think of that characterization?

Iwata: Talking about the definition of the niche, or niche market, I really have the completely opposite opinion. The people the other companies are targeting are very limited to those who are high-tech oriented, and core game players. They cannot expand beyond that population. We are trying to capture the widest possible audience all around the world. (He cited the example of Nintendogs, a new virtual pet game for the Nintendo DS handheld machine that has taken off in Japan.) In other words, we are trying to capture the people who are even beyond the gaming population. So for that kind of company, we don’t think the term “niche” is appropriate.

RIP Satoru Iwata.

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‘Mother’ Released on Wii U Virtual Console

Hours ago, Nintendo released the 1989 Japanese title Mother to the Wii U Virtual Console as Earthbound: Beginnings, localized in English for the first time ever. Until now, the only exposure to the Mother series English audiences have had was 1995’s North American release of the critically acclaimed Mother 2, released as Earthbound.

The Virtual Console was the biggest selling point for the Wii for me, and it continues to be for the Wii U. My latest Wii U purchases include Super Metroid, Donkey Kong 64, and Paper Mario. The release of Earthbound: Beginnings is certainly interesting and a direct message to the hardcore/loyalist/older audience.

Paired with Super Smash Bros. and accidental Amiibo announcements, as well as the reboot of the Nintendo World Championship, Nintendo seems to be drawing a lot of eyes as E3 nears. 

[EDIT: After browsing the Nintendo eShop, it appears Wii games are not considered Virtual Console titles. I’ve removed Metroid Prime Trilogy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 from my list of recent Virtual Console purchases. That doesn’t change the fact that my most recent purchases have been legacy titles. Thanks to @AlexandreSitbon for encouraging my research.]

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Marco on Phil with John

On June 9th, 2015, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, a man who has spent half of his life at Apple Inc., joined Daring Fireball’s John Gruber on stage for a live episode of The Talk Show.

Here’s a bit from Marco Arment:

This meant a lot for both John and podcasting. Apple sent an executive to be interviewed on a podcast, and one of the highlights of John Gruber’s career as a writer didn’t involve writing at all.

To quote Marco further, “I’d listen to their podcast.” It will be remembered.

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Buttons

Over the past week or so, I’ve learned that you can play Splatoon with two controllers taped together. I’ve also learned that Batman: Arkham Knight is a sprawling complicated buffet of gaming genres.

While the latter may be less about controls, I’m going to bet a “complicated buffet of gaming genres” would be a whole lot less daunting if I didn’t have 17 input methods on my PS4 to use at a moment’s notice:

  • D-pad (up, down, left, right)
  • Left joystick
  • Right joystick
  • Circle
  • Square
  • Triangle
  • X
  • L1
  • L2
  • L3
  • R1
  • R2
  • R3
  • start
  • options
  • clickable touchpad
  • PS button

After you’re done digesting all of that, take a moment to get to know your Xbox One Wireless Controller.

As Ben Thompson pointed out:

Beyond casuals, this is a problem for returning and often busy players. The fear of returning to a video game after days, weeks, or months of not playing – hell, the fear of picking up any video game to begin with – may stem from the problems above. Tutorials are commonplace in video games. Half the time I forget what the tutorials taught me. But instead of digging through menus for a refresher, I return to button mashing and familiarity for the sake of progress.

I began playing video games with the following inputs:

  • D-pad
  • A
  • B
  • Select
  • Start

Today, most people start with less: A touchscreen. Even with an unabashed fondness for the admittedly hideous and complex Nintendo 64 controller, I’ve taken to iOS games that require simple gestures and brief touches but offer rich experiences.1 (See: Alto’s Adventure, The RoomMonument Valley)

Whether or not Journey can be considered a “game”, it is an award-winning experience that only utilized for 44% of the PS3’s buttons. While all buttons were used in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it did something extremely interesting: Auto-jumping. When I first played the game, I thought it crazy that jumping was defined by the world, not the player. But I got used to it and eventually loved it. It made perfect sense. In a physical world of button fatigue, a virtual world helped establish what was critical to player timing and what was trivial based on surroundings.

I’ve been dipping in and out of Far Cry 4 lately. I haven’t come across a good instance where I should be the one to define when to grapple or it necessary to control the climb mechanism. (Granted I’ve only played for a few hours.) Grappling seems trivial. On the flip-side, Dragon Age: Inquisition controls my use of potions based on programming, default or player defined. Potion use is trivial. Your character needs to be healed, so the game heals you. The player need not press a button.

I certainly have a reverie for the days of 5 inputs. A colleague and I spent time handling an original Game Boy last week, remembering just how comfortable and satisfying the early handheld felt. (The feels and travel of it’s buttons are a thing of beauty.) The more I sit back and think about the backwards oddity of shutting out an extremely large swath of consumers while deterring those who are ripe to purchase but are fatigued and tired of re-learning, the more I picture grandma’s remotes.

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1 UPDATE: Super Mario Run nailed it.

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Would Disney Buy Nintendo?

Shortly after posting my thoughts on the announcement of Nintendo attractions in Universal Parks & Resorts, Ben Thompson reached out and asked a simple question:

I’ve posted a couple of pieces about the cross-over between Disney and Nintendo, most relevant to the possibility of a Disney acquisition of Nintendo on 11/21/14:

Star Wars is Disney.

Marvel is Disney.

It was as if I had never really given weight to the thought. Nintendo has always been so evident and ripe to fit along classic Disney franchises. But Marvel and Star Wars? Put in the context of Disney buying Nintendo and Nintendo just seems like a no brainer put up against the other two.

On the flip-side, the majority have been spelling doom for Nintendo for years. And Nintendo has been putting up one hell of a fight. Let’s see how these Super Smash Bros. numbers do.

(Turns out those Super Smash Bros. numbers have done pretty well. Nintendo’s fiscal year 2015 report states 6.75 million units for 3DS, 3.65 million units for Wii U.)

Thinking a bit more about butting up Nintendo’s cast of characters next to Disney’s, there is an odd dissonance that begins to materialize.

Personality

Nintendo’s IP (Mario & Co.) compete directly with Disney’s foundational IP (Mickey & Co.). They serve a like purpose for both brands, only Nintendo’s are largely mute and and lack archetypes. It’s difficult to identify with Mario, Link, and Samus and I think that would be a problem for Disney. That’s not to say Mickey, Minnie, and Donald are easy to identify with, but what has grown from their foundation are characters like Ariel, Elsa, and Aladdin. Likewise, Marvel and Star Wars characters such as Spiderman and Han Solo exude heavy archetypes that fans, child or adult, latch on to.

It may seem like nonsense in the context of playful, lighthearted entertainment, but archetypes are hooks. I’m a big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, a team of four heavy archetypes. When playing as a child, I would pick which Turtle I wanted to be and act out their personality. Likewise, selecting a favorite Avenger (Captain America) adds a vast array of color to playtime or personal ethics. I’m not sure how kids go about acting out Mario vs. Luigi. (Other than a death-stare I suppose.)

Fight

Time and time again, Nintendo has shown that they can put up a fight. Most recently, with Wii U’s stagnant numbers, Nintendo tightened and polished mainstream hits like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. to help move the console back to relevancy.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata during the 2015 fiscal year financial results:

Specifically, I believe it was significant that “Mario Kart 8” and “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U” were released in the same year and that we have been able to maintain users’ active use of these titles months after their respective releases.

Lately, Nintendo has also been oddly quick to diversify and even innovate, entering into a new product category with Amiibo (of which 10.5M have already shipped), speaking with TV & Film creative houses, and most recently partnering with Universal to enter into the theme park market.

All of this speaks to Nintendo’s steadfast attitude and the pride that builds after proving themselves to the nay-sayers. From weird controllers to the motion-control frenzy to off-screen play, they remain resolute in their foundation as innovators; trusting themselves when embarking on new endeavors. Given the choice of the guarantee of making a buck or flopping with a new creative product, I trust Nintendo to stand-by the flop until it makes a buck.

I believe Nintendo sees themselves as the Little Mac to Disney’s Mike Tyson; a worthy underdog in the entertainment ring.

Price, or return?

Back to Ben Thompson’s initial question. Ben made the comment of “too pricey.” Disney bought Marvel and Lucasfilm for $4B each. Nintendo is currently holds a market cap of $25.73B. Disney currently stands at a market cap of $185.96B. Note that I have very little knowledge of how the financial markets work or if the price to buy would be based off of market cap. That said, I don’t entirely believe Nintendo would be too pricey, rather a return on an investment of $25.73B would stand to be an extremely long-game.

In a world where Disney owned Nintendo, I highly doubt any Nintendo property or product would see a rise comparable to that of the $2B in market cap the second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens generated for Disney. Nintendo’s current video game business would holdfast while their toy and other consumer products division would certainly expand. But, again, I don’t see a singular product, movie, or experience (let alone the speculation of success!) that would net as quick and massive a return as $2B. For Disney to see a valuable return on a Nintendo acquisition, I see Disney utilizing not only Nintendo IP but Nintendo’s game design infrastructure to boost the Disney Interactive brand, giving the weight and timelessness Nintendo franchises have to Disney games.

Lack of voice

Speaking of timelessness, I believe video games can be too timeless. In regard of Disney; their vault; and founding ideology of past, present, and future; time is key.

Great video games are seemingly endlessly re-playable for generations. Not to mention that the lack of captivating story elements in most Nintendo games means that they are typically always relevant because, well, they are not relevant at all. There is a tiny bit of nostalgia involved when playing a game you grew up with, but it’s not the sort of remembrance we give to artists of film and TV. It wasn’t until I saw Wreck-It Ralph that I my nostalgia meter peeked. I accredit this not to my remembers of the games, but the fact that Disney payed homage to my own private memories.

Likewise, video game production value has reached not what I would call a plateau, but a current landscape that spans generations. New 8/16-bit games are just as relevant as photo-realistic AAA titles. In the world of film, throwback production like The Artist, while great, can be considered novelty. That same sense of great timely novelty is what gives weight, connection, and excitement when seeing Han Solo on screen again. Possibilities are endless in video games that lack great voice talent. Because of this, I’m afraid that sense of great novelty and nostalgia would never happen on a mass scale for video games the way Disney would need it to.

Would Disney buy Nintendo? I say no. Disney doesn’t need Nintendo. Nintendo doesn’t need Disney.

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