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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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Switch 2nd Unit Set

Sam Byford, The Verge:

Nintendo is now selling a cheaper Switch package in Japan that doesn’t include the TV dock. The “Switch 2nd Unit Set” is ostensibly aimed at households that already have a Switch hooked up to the family TV and therefore don’t need a second dock, but it could also be an option for players who only plan to use the system as a handheld device.

Home console?

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Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller

Microsoft Story Labs has a great piece by in-house writer Deborah Bach about the development of the Adaptive Controller. It’s great storytelling through and through; chock full of touching stories, business cases, and design implementation all the way down to the packaging.

Here’s the opening story:

Dan Bertholomey awoke in a hospital in June of 2010, four days after a hit-and-run driver almost killed him while he was riding his motorcycle, to the sinking knowledge that he’d lost the use of his right arm and hand.

As he lay in his hospital bed, Bertholomey pondered his future. He thought about his daily life and the things he loved to do. How am I going to game again, he wondered? He’d been an avid gamer since age 10, when an original Pong console from Sears magically transformed his family’s television set into an electronic playground that he could control. Bertholomey was instantly hooked. He loved the competitiveness of gaming, loved the places it took his imagination.

Bertholomey continued gaming into adulthood, playing often with his son and daughter. In 2005, when he was 40, Bertholomey placed sixth on “Madden Nation,” a televised competition of the U.S.’s best “Madden NFL 06” football video game players. For him, gaming wasn’t just a hobby, something he did in his spare time. It was a lifestyle.

“You can’t fathom losing something that you love so much, said Bertholomey, 52, who lives in Mesa, Arizona. It’s incredibly devastating.”

Bertholomey began looking for ways to play with one hand. He found someone to hack him a foot pedal that connected to his Xbox, but it didn’t work well for him. He eventually taught himself to play with his left hand, but it was awkward and he couldn’t play at anywhere near his previous capacity.

The solution Bertholomey needed is now a reality — and it has the potential to make gaming accessible to players with disabilities worldwide. The new Xbox Adaptive Controller, which will be available later this year, can be connected to external buttons, switches, joysticks and mounts, giving gamers with a wide range of physical disabilities the ability to customize their setups. The most flexible adaptive controller made by a major gaming company, the device can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games and supports Xbox Wireless Controller features such as button remapping.

Bertholomey, who is among a select group of gamers who have been testing the device, said the controller makes it easy to create different setups for various types of games and seamlessly switch between them. Gamers can set up three different gaming profiles on the controller and don’t need to reset the device every time they change games, as they sometimes do with modified controllers.

This controller is really something else. There should have been steps taken to get to this point a long time ago, but this is wonderful, nonetheless.

I’ve recently wondered how to make games more accessible. The thought (rather shamefully) finally occurred to me while playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Switch in handheld mode. I have perfect eyesight, but the text was just small enough to be uncomfortable to read. Seeing as the game was originally intended for a TV experience on Wii U, it’s not terribly surprising that the experience wasn’t tailored for the Switch’s 6.2-inch screen. However, with the success of the Switch and Breath of the Wild, it’s surprising Nintendo hasn’t patched the text size while in handheld mode.

More recently, I’ve been playing God of War on a 720p TV. Golly, is the text tough to read.

Software accessibility is difficult, let alone manufacturing a piece of hardware for a niche audience. But it’s a niche audience that must to be considered. Where many companies seemingly glance over serving mental and physical handicaps, it’s wonderful to see Microsoft doing the right thing by enabling play for as many people as possible.

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Ben Thompson: ‘Humans Run on Stories’

Ben Thompson on The Talk Show with John Gruber podcast:

Stories matter. Humans run on stories.

I look at my own site and the articles that often resonate are not the ones with brilliant analysis or something clever. It’s the ones that tell a story.

People know it implicitly, but have a very difficult time articulating it. If you’re selling to consumers, there’s so much that goes into it that doesn’t go on a spreadsheet. That sort of stuff matters.

I subscribe to Ben’s Stratechery Daily Update newsletter. I read a lot of it and consider Ben’s insights priceless. But it’s typically his free weekly articles that grab me.

His most recent, ‘Tech’s Two Philosophies’, had me reeling. After reading it over morning coffee, I raced to work to share it with my team.

I shoehorned Ben’s ideas into something relevant to our work. It was a stretch, but I don’t think overly so. Regardless, I was so moved by the story in the piece that it woke me up better than any cup of coffee.

Humans run on stories. They absolutely do.

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Adjustable Charging Stand for Nintendo Switch

Nintendo:

The adjustable charging stand allows the Nintendo Switch system to be charging while in Tabletop mode, enabling longer play sessions.

Home console?

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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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Griffin and Justin McElroy Depart Polygon

Griffin McElroy, Polygon:

With that sage wisdom in mind, it’s time for us — Griffin and Justin, who have, for the purposes of this introduction, fused into a singular, fraternal hivemind — to announce some big and bittersweet news: This Friday will be our last day as full-time employees at Polygon.

We’ve written our own individual letters below, but understand that everyone’s attention span might not sustain them through both; especially now that you know we’re leaving, and our relevance to you slips away like so many grains of sand through the hourglass. So, here’s a TL;DR, as the kids say: We’re leaving to focus on our other projects, and to have more time to live functional human lives. We’re gonna keep doing Monster Factory on some kind of recurring basis, as well as a couple other of our pre-existing Polygon projects. Our departure is completely amicable — so, SORRY, beef-hunters. No beef to be found here. This exit is strictly vegetarian.

Now that we’ve spoiled all the big surprises, here’s our individual takes. Thank you all so much.

This one hurts.

When my wife and I moved to San Francisco for my job, I felt alone when outside of her company. On my commute or wandering the city, I’d listen to Polygon’s The Besties with Griffin and Justin McElroy, Russ Frushtick, and Chris Plante. Their humor and camaraderie comforted me. On one episode, I caught wind that Griffin and Justin had another podcast: My Brother, My Brother, and Me. It was a treasure trove of wit and goofs; things that helped me through my days.

Even with their plethora of amazing and innovative endeavors outside of games journalism, I will always associate Griffin and Justin with Polygon. They’re perspectives and writing are exceptional. I always looked forward to their articles.

But the writing was on the wall. Their bylines on Polygon.com appeared with decreasing frequency, while their amount of “side-projects” began to seemingly multiply.

In their departure letters, they both reflect on Polygon’s editor-in-chief Chris Grant’s friendship — how he helped kick off their games journalism journey. It’s amazing to see how much adoration is paid to Grant for his support and willingness to allow them to balance their dream job while pursuing other endeavors.

The piece of this news that hits the hardest comes from Justin’s letter. It speaks to the heart and humanity I believe the folks behind Polygon harbor. It also speaks to why I write Zero Counts and the countless other blogs I left in its wake:

So for years, I wrote for myself. I created and maintained no fewer than three different blogs with a readership of, statistically speaking, nobody. I pitched myself to every major gaming site and magazine and was ignored by all of them. But I kept applying, kept pitching, and was eventually ignored by almost all of them. After a few years, I was able to cobble something that looked like a resume in dim light, and things got a bit easier.

The call that changed my life though came from Chris Grant, the EIC of Joystiq who remembered liking my submissions when I had applied for a job (six months prior, didn’t get it, natch). He was reminded of my existence after I emailed him trying to get Joystiq to post about some videos I had made about a laserdisc lightgun game featuring prop comedian Gallagher. I owe Gallagher so much that I’ll never be able to repay.

I’m happy for Griffin and Justin and look forward to supporting their other adventures. But this one hurts.

Godspeed, boys.

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