Links

The Second Console

Polygon’s newly relaunched Besties podcast, January 2017 episode:

Chris Plante: If indie game developers care and the make “the switch” from Vita to this hardware, I’ll care. Obviously, that wasn’t enough to save the Vita, so I don’t see that as a big thing for other people.

Griffin McElroy: I think that’s a wack comparison.

CP: The Wii U had some of the best Nintendo games and that wasn’t even close to enough to get people interested.

Russ Frushtick: Consider that the Vita died primarily because Sony was dividing their time and energy between the PS4 and the Vita and they eventually gave up. Indies filled in a lot of the blanks, but the most part they just gave up and third-parties gave up, etc. Here Nintendo’s obviously not going to give up because it’s their primary console now.

CP: They won’t give up unless nobody buys it, which is a very real possibility if there are no games from Nintendo or third-party studios.

RF: There are certainly two to three years of Nintendo games pretty much guaranteed.

CP: But like I said, that’s not enough. That just doesn’t work at all for Nintendo. When it doesn’t have third-party developers and it doesn’t have a mainstream gimmick—something that’s going to make people who watch the TODAY Show be like, “Well, I’ve never bought a video game console, but I’ll try this,” then it doesn’t have it.

GM: It’s not going to be the Wii. It’ll never be the Wii. They’ll never do the Wii ever again.

RF: The Wii was an aberration.

CP: That’s a for real problem for them. The thing that they have to [face] right now is, “We are the second console.” If they truly don’t get third-party support and they only have a new game every five or six months—let’s be super generous and say three—then that is a second console for people, which is big money. And unlike the Wii U, which only had to be competing as a second console against people who maybe already owned an Xbox and instead of a PS4 they might buy a Wii U. Now they have to compete with the fact that Microsoft and Sony are going to be releasing new hardware, what, every year? Every other year?

Leave it to Chris Plante to shake me from my Switch hype hypnosis. And I’m glad he did.

I am very much looking forward to the Switch, but Nintendo certainly does not have an easy road ahead of them.

Tagged , , , , ,

Nicalis: Switch development is ‘light years ahead of what we were doing with Wii U’

Tyrone Rodriguez, the president of Nicalis, speaking to Polygon about developing for Nintendo platforms:

“The Switch is, by far the easiest and most programmer friendly so far,” he said. “I know this sounds like lip service to Nintendo, but it’s actually not. If this wasn’t true, we wouldn’t be able to get these games up and running as quickly as we have, and we wouldn’t be able to have a launch title. It’s light years ahead of what we were doing with Wii U.”

Nicalis has developed 18 games, eight of which shipped to Nintendo platforms—all eight to 3DS, two of which hit Wii U.

Tagged , , , ,

The Besties Are Back

Polygon:

Though we still don’t have a great explanation as to why, the first ever Polygon podcast has returned on a monthly basis. Join The Besties (Russ Frushtick, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy and Chris Plante) as they nonsensically attempt to pick the “best” game released in January 2017.

I was introduced to The Besties when I moved to San Francisco in 2013. Any time I was walking the city, out on a jog, or commuting to work, there was a fair chance I was listening to The Besties. Their comradely and banter provided me company during those moments when my wife was away. (Such is the power of podcasts!)

Over the past two years, what was a monthly show turned annual. This surprise relaunch of the monthly cadence is just what I, nay the world needs right now.

Tagged , , , , ,

Nintendo 3DS and NES Classic Still Out of Stock

Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge:

To put it plainly, with the Nintendo Switch launch right around the corner, the current inability to purchase the 3DS should seriously worry anyone without a preorder in place. Because if the Switch turns out to be as successful as the NES Classic or 3DS have been, fans could be facing yet another tough choice between a long wait or a grey market gouging for a Nintendo console.

Looking on Target.com, there’s not a single 3DS within 100 miles of Palo Alto. 250 miles on BesyBuy.com. Prime availability through Amazon is limited to Pikachu Yellow and Pokémon 20th Anniversary XL editions for $300+ through forth-parties. A new 3DS XL retails for $199. The Switch retails for $299.

I’ve shared Gartenberg’s concern since missing the Switch’s pre-order allotment. Not to mention the continued unavailability of the NES Classic. And being the dummy I am, I already traded my Wii U in at GameStop in anticipation of the Switch’s March 3 release date—$200 burning a hole in my pocket. This is crazy. At the very least, take my order and send when ready.

I’ve got a feeling I’ll be staring at my copy of Breath of the Wild longingly for a while.

Tagged ,

Nintendo’s ‘Conductor’

Matt Peckham, writing for TIME, with a great profile of Nintendo’s Shinya Takahashi:

“If all of Nintendo’s content creators were to be seen as a symphony, then Mr. Takahashi is our conductor,” says Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aimé, when asked to contrast Takahashi’s role with Iwata’s. “What I mean by that is, it’s his decision to bring the different players in our orchestra onto a particular game or a particular initiative. He’s the ultimate decision maker in what gets played by the symphony or what gets created by Nintendo as a company.”

And to follow the metaphor through, audiences rarely get to see the conductor’s face. “He’s been creating this big show, but because you only see his back, you really don’t know him all that well,” adds Fils-Aimé. “But he drives the orchestra and he sets the pace and the bar for the performance.”

Fils-Aimé pushes back on positional comparisons between the preeminent role Takahashi now plays with the myriad ones performed by Iwata, Nintendo’s former “ultimate decision maker,” calling them “different roles, different times, different needs of the organization.” What’s changed, he says, is that after Iwata’s passing, the company decided it was time to ask its less visible luminaries to step up. It’s a a philosophy others in the company, like Miyamoto, have espoused in passing for years.

“The people that came out in the presentation, when you look at it from the perspective of Nintendo, they’re actually not new at all,” says Miyamoto of the varied group chosen to rep Nintendo’s Switch during the system’s January feting. Miyamoto, whose hands have touched virtually all of Nintendo’s storied IP, will be 65 this year, while the company’s new president, Tatsumi Kimishima, turns 67 in April.

Takahashi has a storied career with the company. I especially love his history with Wave Race 64 and 1080° Snowboarding, two of my favorite Nintendo 64 titles. His views on management are similarly inspiring.

Tagged , , , ,

‘Same playbook, just on a wider scale’

Brianna Wu—software engineer, game developer, and South Boston congressional candidate—on the Tomorrow podcast with Josh Topolsky of The Outline:

Josh Topolsky: It seems like we’re in a particularly rotten place in America right now. We have Trump controlling the White House in a way—and with people like Steve Bannon—that seems dangerous. It feels somewhat out of control. I assume you’re following this pretty closely.

Brianna Wu: Steve Bannon—this is the editor in charge of Breitbart—legitimized vast parts of Gamergate. This is extremely personal to me.

JT: He is, in many ways, a major figure in the “alt-right” and Gamergate movements which are linked. I mean, they seem very linked to me.

BW: It’s the same people. It’s the exact same people; same playbook, just on a wider scale.

JT: Let’s talk a little bit about your experience with Gamergate. You dealt with enormous amounts of harassment from these people. Really violent and vile.

BW: Violent. I had to leave my house. They targeted my company’s financials repeatedly.

This is a great listen.

Wu speaks from first-hand experience to the source, damaging effects, and cascading effect of Gamergate and it’s current place in American politics.

It’s easy not to take a term with the word “gamer” in it seriously. But, as Wu explains, the lack of serious investigation into Gamergate and knowledge of tech in general is likely a big part how we ended up in this mess. It’s candidates like Wu—with deep knowledge of tech, engineering, privacy, and security—that will truly revolutionize the US government and make America 21st century ready again.

‘Is there an exodus from indie back to AAA?’

Simon Parkin, writing for Gamasutra:

It would be too much of a stretch to imply that, five years after the explosion of indie game development, we’re witnessing a widespread return back to large studio development. It is, however, undeniably true that, for every indie success story, there are scores of independently produced games that have failed to make a mark or to provide, for their creators, a viable new career. And as such, many are returning to more orthodox roles within established studios.

Parkin continues to ship fantastic work.

While game development is certainly it’s own beast, the perspectives in this piece will hit home for anyone who has moved from corporate culture to self-employment or startups. I’m also a fan of Teddy Dief’s (Hyper Light Drifter, Square Enix Montreal) faux three hour meeting:

He keeps a daily faux three-hour meeting in his shared calendar in order to ensure he has time to do “deeper work.”

I strongly recommend Parkin’s 2015 book ‘Death By Video Game‘. My dual-review with Playdead’s Inside here.

Tagged , , ,

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.

Tagged , ,

Just (Quietly) Dance

Xavier Poix, Managing Director of Ubisoft’s French studios, in a corporate update interview on UbiBlog:

Is the Switch going to revolutionise the market like the Wii did?

XP: The Wii attracted a very large audience – including kids and families – because it offered, on one hand, the motion controls, allowing for intuitive interactions with the console and on the other hand games with a strong social component. These aspects gave us the opportunity to develop Rabbids and Just Dance, for example. The Switch will probably have a similar impact, thanks to the mobility offered by the console. You don’t have to have a home console and a mobile console anymore; there’s one console, which is mobile, that you can bring anywhere.

Nice to see these comments, but that line-up doesn’t strike me as all to weighty. I see the value in the audience Ubisoft is targeting, especially after their experiences on the Wii and Wii U, but what of Ubisoft’s AAA games like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Watch Dogs? How will those hold up on the Switch?

And has anyone reported on the Switch’s speakers? I can’t imagine Just Dance being a thrill in handheld mode.

Tagged , , , ,

FBI releases Gamergate investigation records

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

The FBI appears to have made a serious investigation of some threats, but at least one email thread suggests there were breakdowns in communication with the subjects of them. “We feel like we are sending endless emails into the void with you,” complained one sender. Based on the timing and location details, this was Wu, who published her own account of the experience on the same day. Overall, at least one report indicates that centralizing the investigation in San Francisco limited its jurisdiction. It’s also not clear how familiar some of the FBI agents involved were with common internet services. Twitter is sometimes referred to as “Tweeter,” and one email mentions suspects using “Thor” (probably Tor) for security.

Via Twitter, Wu said that the threats the FBI discussed were only a fraction of the ones she sent them, and that the agency was largely unresponsive to her attempts to provide evidence. “All this report does for me is show how little the FBI cared about the investigation,” she told The Verge. “As I remember, we had three meetings with the FBI, we had two meetings with Homeland Security, we had three meetings with federal prosecutors in Boston. Almost nothing we told them is in this report.” She confirmed that the juvenile mentioned above had been making death threats using his father’s phone; he was apparently grounded as punishment.

This report was actually released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request last year, although at that point, it was difficult to verify whether the recipients had modified its contents. Since “Gamergate” was never really an organized movement, none of the people mentioned in the report are “members” of it, and some incidents predate the controversy, like a bomb threat against Anita Sarkeesian at the 2014 Game Developers Conference. But if anything, this emphasizes that Gamergate per se was one facet of a larger culture war — which it’s now been almost completely absorbed into.

I often wonder why it is I’m so fixated on video games and their culture. I initially started writing on the topic to help bridge what I felt was a chasm between “average joes” and “nerds”. These were worlds I strattled growing up, often hiding my adoration for video games because I was afraid to be uncool.

Later, after seeing my little brother and cousins take to the medium, I sought to bridge a chasm between parents and video games. I focused my writing on the health and education impacts of video games.

Today, in the midst of American uncertainty and woe, I wonder if thinking about video games anymore than escapism is worthwhile. Certainly, there are bigger things. But then I recall Gamergate; what I see as the first emergence of the “alt-right”. As Ezra Klein refered to it on his podcast episode with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, it was another moment of the merging of partisan and ideological identities:

Ezra Klein: I thought Gamergate was one of the most interesting things to happen in the last couple of years.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Because that had to do with politics, right? Like, why is this happening?

EK: Why did American political sites, Breitbart and Salon, develop an interest in an argument about whether video game sites were unduly influenced by some kind of personal relationship? When you say what happened out loud it sounds ridiculous.

TC: It’s hard to make it make sense.

EK: My big Rosetta Stone in American politics  for the last 20 or 30 years is partisan and ideological identities merged: if you’re a Democrat, you’re a liberal; if you’re a Republican, you’re a conservative. That didn’t used to be true. Once that happened, it set the stage for all of these other identities to align: where you live, who you marry, what you think about 12 Years a Slave, what you think about video game fights on the internet. The stronger this sorting mechanism becomes, the more lethal the collisions between it become.

Video games span a hearty set of demographics. It’s a medium that has taken the entertainment industry by storm. And it’s a medium that enjoys a massive online community, many players of which partake in anonymity. As ideologies and interests merge, it is important foster an inclusive and understood community, especially a community that encompasses the majority of American households.

It is important to write and talk about video games—even in anonymity (looking at me)—possibly now more than ever. And it goes without saying that a large swath of current day writers, artists, and activists were raised on and are familiar with the medium and likely its communities, let alone Tweeter and Thor. 

Tagged , ,