Tag Archives: nintendo

Video Game Music’s Tremendous Power

Voice actor David W. Collins digging into the Super Mario Bros. ‘Ground Theme’ on his recently debuted Soundtrack Show podcast:

As a general concept, game music is very often written to loop back around, seamlessly. This composition is meant to loop endlessly into itself so you can play for hours and hours and hours. But the actual composition that we just listened to was only 80 seconds long. 80 seconds! And there’s repetition within that 80 seconds; there are repeating parts.

There are other pieces of music in this game — the underground music, the underwater music, the castle music, a series of music fanfares, etc. — but in total, the amount of music written for this game adds up to less than 5 minutes. 5 minutes of music. 40 hours of gameplay, give or take on average. 40 million copies.

Now we’re starting to get a picture of the power of video game music. The amount of times that we heard that 80 seconds. That’s what I mean about video game music’s tremendous power. It’s why we have to talk about it.

Don’t take repetition for granted. When done poorly, repetitious music can become jarring — quickly. When done well, a great loop can increase the feeling of immersion in the game’s world. When done well, a standalone soundtrack’s standard of two loops per song feels wrong.

Nintendo has a knack for this. Koji Kondo — composer of many first-party Nintendo titles, including Super Mario Bros. — is without a doubt a master at this. But even Kazumi Tokata painted his masterful stroke with the Wii’s heavily repeatable ‘Mii Plaza’ and ‘Wii Shop Channel’ themes, both of which continue to live on in today’s mainstream.

While today’s AAA titles can incorporate orchestral arrangements through to procedurally generated soundscapes, repetition in video game music was born with the medium and will continue to live on. For those of us who grew of up listening to 8-bit repetitions to orchestral repetitions, we’ve had the great fortune of experiencing the evolution of a music technology, medium, and experience, as I touched on in my piece 1985: Burst and Bloom:

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.

Final Fantasy X, Kingdom Hearts, Mega Man 2, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage, Vectorman — these are some of my favorites.

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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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Switch Ports Hamstrung by Mario Carts

Christopher Dring in conversation with Ralph Egas, CEO of Abstraction Games:

He continues: “Performance is not really the issue. The issue instead is in the size of carts. The 32GB carts are expensive, you shouldn’t be wanting to do that. So we need to fit everything on 16GB, whereas the standard game on PS4 is much, much larger. It’s a crazy ratio we’re talking about. However, thankfully, there are a lot of opportunities for reduction without changing anything anyone will notice. Another thing we can do is do a cartridge version and then do staggered downloads to make the game complete. That’s probably the hardest part. Finding all the new technicalities and quirks that you get with a new platform.

Interesting and somewhat encouraging that performance isn’t the primary challenge of porting to the Switch. Also encouraging that dual-layer DVDs — the ancient technology used by the PS2 and Xbox 360 — maxed out at 8.5 GB. (Apparently, Xbox 360 discs topped out at 7.95 GB.) Thus, I remain hopeful for Final Fantasy X and Kindgom Hearts ports.

Please forgive me for the headline.

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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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Dark Souls: Remastered Announced for Nintendo Switch

During today’s Nintendo Direct Mini, Nintendo announced Dark Souls: Remastered will be heading to the Switch on May 25, 2018. The title will also be launching on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

This continues a trickle of AAA third-party ports to the hybrid portable/set-top console. In 2017, among other third-party ports, Bethesda released Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and DOOM to the console and will soon to be releasing Wolfenstein 2: New Colossus.

Dark Souls was originally released in 2011 for PS3 and Xbox 360. It spawned two sequels and riff Bloodborne.

I have never played a Souls game. The idea of sitting in front of a TV, beating my head against an insanely difficult boss for hours on end is not a luxury my life can afford. However, doing so on a portable console is a whole different story.

Killing hours traveling, accompanying my wife on the sofa, relaxing in bed, stealing myself away to any place to chip away at a game are the reasons I’ve tucked my consoles away. Furthermore, the ability to quickly put the Switch to sleep and seamlessly launch back into a title make it my ultimate gaming device. For all of these reasons, I feel the Switch will allow me to join the Souls conversation, finally.

While Dark Souls: Remastered is the first of the series, the announcement of another classic PS3/Xbox 360 port to the Switch extends my enthusiasm for the console. I’m reminded of how tickled I was seeing this tweet by Jon Cartwright:

Honestly, it’s remarkable to see a Nintendo console glean so much third-party support. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for Cuphead.

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Switch Sales Top PS2 in First-Year, Wii U Lifetime in Japan

Allegra Frank, Polygon:

Nintendo Switch has had a huge December over in Japan, with nearly 900,000 systems sold by Dec. 24. Based on the most recent cumulative sales data from Famitsu, the country’s biggest gaming publication, Nintendo has now sold just under 3.3 million Switch consoles in its homeland — both edging out PlayStation 2’s first-year sales numbers and matching Wii U’s lifetime sales to date.

Astonishing.

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Miyamoto: ‘I always look for designers who aren’t super-passionate game fans’

Simon Parkin reporting for The New York Times:

Even people like Mr. Miyamoto, 65, a leading figure at Nintendo since the 1980s, is ceding control at the company’s Japanese headquarters.

“More and more I am trying to let the younger generation fully take the reins,” Mr. Miyamoto said.

This younger generation has been carefully chosen; Mr. Miyamoto says he wants people who are more likely to create new kinds of play, rather than merely aim to perfect current ones.

“I always look for designers who aren’t super-passionate game fans,” Mr. Miyamoto said. “I make it a point to ensure they’re not just a gamer, but that they have a lot of different interests and skill sets.” Some of the company’s current stars had no experience playing video games when they were hired.

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