Nintendo has cut the price of the Switch significantly in Europe

Japanese games company Nintendo has cut the price of the Switch in Europe. Previously, a new Nintendo Switch would cost €330 or £280. After today’s change it will instead retail for just €300 or £280. That’s a substantial reduction that may encourage consumers who were otherwise doubtful to give it a go.

You can also expect this to have a long-term effect on the second-hand market. If buying a new Switch is cheaper than second hand units should follow the same trend. Interestingly, this is the first price cut the hybrid console has received since its launch in 2017. That alone shows just how successful the Switch has been.

What about the US?

switch price cut OLED model

Although there has yet to be a cost cut in the US market, this may change. Recent reports suggest that a similar price cut to the Switch is expected to hit North America in the near future. We do not currently know how much cheaper it will be but it’s possible to take a guess based on the changes in Europe.

Currently, a new Nintendo Switch retails in America at $300. Once the price cut hits this will probably down to around $270. Not a bad cost at all for a console capable of playing all of Nintendo’s latest and greatest games.

But why is the Switch being made cheaper? It certainly isn’t because Nintendo is struggling to sell units. According to its earnings report, Nintendo estimates Switch sales at almost 90 million units. That’s comparable to the Wii, Nintendo’s all time most successful home console.

Instead, this change is probably in response to the Switch OLED’s upcoming release. This upgraded Switch model launches next month at €365, £310, or $350. It will feature a greatly improved display, 64GB of internal storage, and a wired LAN port. This will provide consumers with three choices to purchase: the Switch, Switch OLED, and the portable mode only Switch Lite.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 developers have been acquired by Nintendo

It’s not every day that Nintendo announces that it is adding a new team to its family. But earlier today the Japanese tech giant unveiled that it has purchased a 100% stake in Next Level Games. NLG is a Canadian studio best known for its work on Luigi’s Mansion 3.

However, Next Level Games have also worked on several other Nintendo titles over the years. Back in 2009, it was responsible for both ‘Punch-Out!’ reboots. Equally, in 2013 it released Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Some of its earlier games include NHL Hitz Pro and Mario Strikers Charged. Given that NLG hadn’t developed a none Nintendo game since 2011, this move seems sensible enough.

More Luigi’s Mansion to come?

Luigi's Mansion original gameplay

The acquisition itself appears to have been relatively straightforward. Nintendo states that it has purchased a complete share in the Vancouver based developer. The final details will be finalized on March 1 pending satisfaction of all relevant parties.

Nintendo’s handling of its now signature Mario spin-off series has been a mixed bag. The original Luigi’s Mansion was released in 2001 but didn’t receive a sequel until 2013. Although it has aged very well over the years, the original was not received well at launch.

One reason for the initial backlash was that not everyone was happy regarding its development. Despite being a spin-off, Luigi’s Mansion was marketed as the premiere GameCube launch title. A more traditional mainstream Super Mario game wouldn’t come until a year later in Sunshine.

However, those days are officially numbered. With both Dark Moon and Luigi’s Mansion 3 releasing in the 2010s, Nintendo is all in on everyone’s favourite green plumber. The acquisition of Next Level Games supports that idea too. Although it is possible that Nintendo will instead have its new addition work on a brand-new series instead.

Xbox controller stick drift is set to cost Microsoft heavily in legal dispute

stick drift

Video game controllers are built to last. That’s been one of the age old rules ever since Nintendo set the standards for the whole industry back in 1983. And for the most part, hardware developers have stayed true to that rule. But apparently nobody told Microsoft as the Xbox’s ongoing stick drift dilemma continues.

It’s clear that fans aren’t happy with the state of their Xbox controllers. Last April, Microsoft came under fire as it was sued for knowingly selling faulty controllers. According to the plaintiff, Microsoft made efforts to not disclose a defect that it was wholly aware of. And now another case has been opened that targets several more of its products.

The on-going stick drift battle

Xbox Series X backward compatible stick driftStick drift is a colloquial term used to describe a controller’s analog stick moving on its own. This was also a common defect with the Switch Joycon, but Nintendo made a great effort to amend it. The Japanese tech giant offered to fix everyone’s Joycons for free.

Even though the regular Xbox One controller is by no means flawless, it’s the Elite controller that has gamers particularly frustrated. Despite being branded as Microsoft’s premier controller and costing $140, it is seemingly not well made. The analog sticks are clunky, often slip out of place, and can suffer from severe stick drift.

As for how Microsoft intends to address these concerns, it’s unclear. History suggest it isn’t necessarily an anti-consumer company, but it has ignored this problem for several years now. If it wants to avoid paying out for free repairs, I’d suspect Microsoft will try to spin the case in its favor.

The worst thing of all is that the Xbox Series X will support current-gen controllers. This is great for consumers but makes it especially important that the stick drift issue is addressed. If early adopters of the Series X go into next-gen using a broken controller there’s going to be an uproar.

Nintendo’s bizarre Friend Code system explained thanks to new leak

Friend Code system

When dealing with Nintendo consoles there’s a particular part of online play which can be annoying. Friend codes. Every user is given a unique friend code and to add other players you need to manually all 12 digits one-by-one. But why doesn’t Nintendo just use a traditional friends list instead?

Thanks to a new leak we now know exactly why. A post on ResetEra details leaked information related to both the Wii’s design files and source code. As the first console to feature friend codes, Nintendo has a section specifically discussing those ever annoying 12-digit codes.

The reasoning behind Friend Codes

It turns out Nintendo’s largest motive was to avoid duplicate screen names. The design of all Nintendo consoles is streamlined to the point of impressive simplicity. Nintendo didn’t want its users getting lost as to how to do something. This includes error messages regarding duplicate names which would be unnecessarily confusing for less experienced players.

Equally, Nintendo didn’t want people to add other people by guessing their username. A degree of privacy and choice is important to Nintendo so it implemented a system where the player could always choose who to play with. After all, the likelihood of ever guessing someone’s friend code is very low.

nintendo wii friend code leak

Whilst some of these decisions feel a little unnecessary, it is worth noting they were made a long time ago. The Nintendo Wii didn’t debut until 2006 so it’s fair to say these design plan notes appeared at least a year or two before that.

Even so, the 2017 Nintendo Switch as well as their 2011 3DS both continue to use the age old friend code system. It’s difficult to know if the reason why is still the same or if it just became the standard for Nintendo. Either way, it looks like friend codes are here to stay.

Super Mario RPG: The Mario Game Nintendo Forgot

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG

When Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars came out in March of 1996, I was nine years old. Back then, I went to the video store with my parents and literally judged games by their cover. This game had Mario on the box. I was in.

I didn’t know this particular game was very different from the usual platforming, hop-and-bop gameplay you might expect. For one, it was an isometric game. Yet when I loaded up the save file of whoever played the video store cartridge last, the first thing I did was jump on a goomba. When the game screen wiped into a completely different area that had Mario on one side and the goomba on the other, I knew what kind of game this was.

It was like EarthBound.

Mario at Bowser's Castle
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/7279025226/

It was another turn-based game with lots of text (even though Mario never spoke a word) and memorable characters. Developed by Squaresoft (before they merged with Enix and became Square-Enix), it had classic Final Fantasy gameplay with a Mario twist. The game had timed hits and timed blocks. Both Princess Toadstool and Bowser could join your team.

As a kid whose first video game ever was Donkey Kong, and first console game ever was the original Super Mario Bros., this game was insane. The graphics were amazing (for their time), and the world of Mario became so much more than just floating platforms and turtle dragons. There were towns. There were regular people, with regular jobs.

This was a Super Mario World I wanted to live in.

I fell in love with characters like Mallow the cloud prince, and Geno the battle-puppet. I still hum the game’s soundtrack to this day. And the timed hits system was so ahead of its time, when games like Legend of Dragoon came out, it was old hat to me.

So how come very few people seem to remember this game?

Mario RPG World
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/10594718535/

Easy answer? Squaresoft broke away from Nintendo to join the Sony squad. The PlayStation was simply the best console for Final Fantasy VII. So while Nintendo may own Mario and his friends, characters like Geno and Mallow belonged to Square.

In short, these characters would never come back in a Nintendo game. Even after Square-Enix patched things up with Nintendo and started doing the Crystal Chronicles thing, Mario RPG was old news. And we all know how much Nintendo hates their old beloved SNES RPGs.

While we might see it on virtual consoles for Nintendo systems, the franchise has effectively been replaced by Paper Mario and the Mario and Luigi Superstar games. Which, if you ask me, are vastly inferior.

I will not stop clamoring for Geno and Mallow to become Nintendo regulars. Why can’t I punch Mallow’s fluffy face in Smash Bros? Why can’t I blast tennis balls from Geno’s arm rockets? I want my beloved childhood back. In closing, life is unfair. And so is Nintendo.

EarthBound Inspiration

earthbound

I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that my love of storytelling didn’t come from literature, or even film. Not originally, anyhow. It came from video games.

It bothers me to no end that I have to defend games as a medium. Truthfully, I don’t even like to call them games. I’d sooner call them interactive media or the like, but that just makes me sound like I’m calling porn “adult entertainment.”

I could go on forever about the medium. But I’m here to talk about one game in particular, and how it influenced me growing up.

It was called EarthBound

earthbound screenshot
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/14086391369/

A cult RPG on the Super Nintendo about a thirteen-year-old kid in contemporary America (called “Eagleland” in the game) alongside his best friends, saving the world from cosmic horrors. It’s one of the goofiest, trippiest games to come out of Japan at the time, and that’s saying something.

In a time when most RPGs were sword-and-sorcery fantasy, along comes this game where the hero uses yo-yos and baseball bats, orders pizza from payphones to heal, uses the ATM to get money, sleeps in hotels, travels via buses and bicycles, gets homesick, goes backstage of concerts, and fights hippies, taxicabs, pedophiles, ramblin’ mushrooms, wild ducks, possessed tents, and more. All done to a jazzy, ‘60s-’70s Western pop music inspired soundtrack. You can practically sing the Beatles lyrics along with some of the game’s soundtrack.

All this plus themes of courage and friendship and adventure. It was about leaving home and seeing the world–and not your usual fare of dark forests and magic castles, but of suburbia and big cities and wintery private schools and beachside vacation destinations. Ness, the hero, came from a small house in a suburb with his family. He had a baseball cap and a scruffy dog. He was me. And he had best friends that he saw the world with. This was my On the Road in the 1990s.

EarthBound was the first game that I’d played that was so chock-full of text that I might as well have been reading a pile of books

EarthboundScreen2
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/14273041415/

It had a quirky, but heartfelt story that I fell in love with. And from then on, I needed my games to draw me in with the story and the setting and the characters–a fact that continues to this day. “Fun” is secondary to aesthetic and narrative. I want art and I want story. Games got me drawing and they got me reading and they inspired me to create my own stories.

When I was in grade, oh, four or five, I did one of those reading evaluation things that teachers give you. They told me I read on a college-grade level. I was a quiet kid who had little use for books, but I read more than most book-lovers. After all, the games I loved were filled with words, back before everything was voice-acted. My reading skills came from games.

And EarthBound was the start

Earthbound Screenshot 3
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/14273039595/

It made me want to run away and have adventures. To write screenplays about psychics and mad scientists and aliens invading the suburbs. I wanted to build a house in the woods and listen to the Beatles on the radio all day long. I can think of so many beautiful, iconic moments in this goofy kids’ game that I could make this post go on and on and on.

Ultimately, EarthBound gave my mind a fictional wanderlust. Even though it was a game, it made me appreciate the beauty of the world outside my house. I look at the stars or smell the earth after it rains and I remember this dreamy feeling of wanting to put on my trusty baseball cap, leave home and save the world. Games like EarthBound provided this imaginary escape–the same kind books like Huckleberry Finn would do for readers. It was freedom. And that freedom is why I play games.

Show, Don’t Tell: Horizon: Zero Dawn vs. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Horizon Zero Dawn Logo

Zero Dawn vs. Zelda

I’m having a lot of fun with Horizon: Zero Dawn, and I am also a big fan of game narrative, but sometimes there are just too many words. Today I’m going to compare the design styles of the new Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the aforementioned Horizon. Specifically, how they use (or don’t use) voiced narration to lead the player.

In the first few minutes of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s gameplay, the protagonist, Aloy, points out what’s going on in the environment. Verbally. Even though there’s no one around to hear her. You could argue that you’re hearing her “thoughts,” or that she’s talking to herself because she’s scared, but neither case is a good excuse.

The player simply doesn’t need to hear it

Horizon Zero Dawn game
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/32545636372/

Aloy will describe her surroundings, talk about what she should be doing next, talk about what she just did, and ultimately treats the player like a blind person with short-term memory loss. It’s as though the writer wrote a book and adapted it verbatim for the game, cutting out the he-saids and she-saids and leaving everything else.

Again, I love game narrative. I think games are a powerful storytelling medium. But just because a game can have more words written or lines spoken, certainly doesn’t mean it should. Ideally, the player should be able to play the game with the volume and subtitles off, using only art and design cues to figure out what to do next.

Look at Breath of the Wild. While it’s a longstanding tradition for Link to not speak, many Zelda games since Ocarina of Time gave the player a talking companion who points out everything you need to know. Navi, Midna, the… blue person from Skyward Sword whose name I forget. They all helped lead the player without needing Link to speak a word.

But in Breath of the Wild, like the original Zelda games of yore, has no quest-long companion jabbering in Link’s pointy ear. The game simply trusts the player to figure things out on their own.

This is the ideal design

Image retrieved from Nintendo.com

The ironic part is that Zelda is a game for kids and adults alike on a Nintendo platform that facilitates new gamers. Horizon: Zero Dawn is rated T for teen, and requires the player to use a PS4 controller and its dual-analog configuration that new gamers struggle with.

In essence, Horizon: Zero Dawn holds the player’s hand despite there being very little chance that the player is someone new at games, while Breath of the Wild trusts the player to figure things out without someone yapping at them the whole time.

It’s easy to look at games like Horizon: Zero Dawn as the way of the future and games like Zelda to be relics of the past. But with these two game releases, both at nearly the same time, the “relic” has shown itself to be much more comfortable as a game. And future designers—especially narrative designers—should take note.

Did They Deliver? Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch Reveal

Nintendo Switch Reveal

Enter the Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch Reveal
Image retrieved from Nintendo.com

I was probably like the rest of you waiting up until the wee hours of the morning on the east coast to hear about the Nintendo Switch. Unlike some of the others though, I am not a Nintendo Fangirl. I have jumped ship from Nintendo consoles long ago in the Playstation 1 era but I do still buy their handhelds. I have a feeling that with the launch of the Switch they are folding their handheld and console consumer base into one house. From a business perspective its actually really smart. But their consoles have been lack luster and disappointing since the break out sales of the original Wii.

So I waited with bated breath to see if I could be convinced to invest in this new console/handheld device and I’m sad to say at this time that answer is a resounding “No”. Stay with me as I explain my thoughts on the Nintendo Reveal and why they couldn’t sell me on the Switch just yet.

The Console is Too Expensive

Nintendo consola
Image retrieved from Nintendo.com

Let’s jump on in. This console is 300 bucks. 3 hundred damn dollars. Most media outlets were projecting $250 at the most for several reasons with the main one being that they were late to the console party. PS4 and Xbox One have a bigger install base than Nintendo so they needed to convince players to shell out another huge sum of money for another console. With the console costing 300, the same amount as the base model of the PS4 and Xbox one, the barrier to entry is too high for my tastes.

Most of their handhelds started at $189 to $200 and while I didn’t expect it to be cheap this price was unexpected. Not to mention, their peripherals are expensive too. $69.99 for the Joy Pro controller, $79.99 for replacement JoyCon controllers, etc. I just can’t get over their audacity but I shouldn’t be surprised if I think back to the launch of the New 3DS system.

Where Are the Games?

Zelda game
Image retrieved from Nintendo.com

We all know Zelda is coming to the system so they should have lead with that reveal not ended the conference with it. While it is true that other launch games have been announced at a different event following the conference, why didn’t they show those titles to the players? A lot of people tuned out once it concluded so Nintendo may have missed their window to grab them.

Players like me who are not hardcore Mario and 1st party fanatics needed another reason to pick up the system. Sure they showed off some interesting games like Splatoon 2, Shin Megami Tensei 5, and Xenoblade 2 but none of these games had projected release dates. What if these games don’t come out until 2018? With the Xbox Scorpio looming around the corner, why would players waiting for games buy a Switch versus waiting for more power promised with the Scorpio?

Make no mistake, I understand that the Switch would not be graphically superior to either system and that doesn’t really matter to me. However, Nintendo has not learned that players buy consoles for games. Period. The End. By not showing those games off, some players are wondering why they should own a Switch and that is a problem.

Online Service Incentives Are Lackluster

Nintendo online servicePaying for online service is nothing new. PS Plus is $60 dollars now but we get free games every month that we can keep as long as the subscription is paid. Even if we lapse in our sub, players will still have the game but won’t have access to it. On Xbox Live, players pay their fee and keep their games regardless of having a Live subscription. Nintendo of course has to be the odd ball.

According to an article cited on Kotaku, the online service will only allow for players to try out the “free” game for a month then players will have to pay for the game. What in the world is happening Nintendo? Why make such a decision when your competition is doing the exact opposite? Xbox is even offering backwards compatibility for a majority of their library. At this time, no one knows if players who brought games from the E Shop will be able to bring those purchases over to the Switch. We will have to wait and see.

Gimmicks Galore

Gimmicks Galore
image retrieved via Kotaku

I had a feeling that Nintendo would not give up motion control completely. After reading a few more reports today it seems as if the JoyCon controllers are actually a good fit. I suppose I’m more irritated that it took up a good portion of their conference time. That time should have been used to showcase more games. We all had Wii Motes so we already have a point of reference for these controllers. The rest we could have discovered once we had the device in our hands.

To Sum It Up

I’m not worried about the Nintendo first party offerings. Mario in all of its forms are usually very good. I really want Nintendo to get a win for once but with all of the questionable pricing decisions I’m not sure if they will. I’m fed up with developers and game companies in general preying on the nostalgia and hype of their fans. I want players to finally get the console they deserve and at this moment, Nintendo is not doing it. Time will tell if they will improve as we get more information.

What did you think of the Nintendo Reveal? Did it meet your expectations? Are you still hyped for the console? Let us know in the comments.

 

Pikmin Platformer Announced for 3DS

Pikmin

Almost one year ago, Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that a new Pikmin game was in development and close to completion.  In today’s Nintendo Direct presentation, it seems like that game has finally been revealed.  Granted, it’s not completely clear whether or not this is the same Pikmin 4 game that Miyamoto described then as an official title has not been attached to the game.  The new game is also not exactly what fans would expect to see from Pikmin 4 as it will release exclusively for the 3DS and will be a 2D platformer as opposed to the unique RTS-style that the series is known for.

This unnamed Pikmin game still has a focus on gathering hordes of the sentient plants that the series is named for and commanding them to solve puzzles and battle giant beasts, but the core gameplay has taken a shift to simple, side-scrolling action.  Red, blue, and yellow Pikmin will all appear with their unique traits from the main series intact.  Red Pikmin are immune to fire, blue can breath underwater, and yellow can be thrown farther.  It’s currently unknown if the white, purple, flying, and stone Pikmin from the sequels will appear in the game.

The reveal for the 3DS game closed a Nintendo Direct that also revealed new amiibo for The Legend of Zelda series, a massive update for Streetpass that includes five new games, and 3DS ports for Super Mario Maker and Yoshi’s Wooly World.  The game is scheduled to release sometime in 2017.  You can watch the Direct in its entirety here.  What do you think about the newest game?  Does this new spin-off peak your curiousity, or are you just keeping your fingers crossed on the NX?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Dragon Quest XI Releasing on NX

Nintendo’s mysterious new system, still only known as Codename: NX, is slowly taking shape as more and more games are announced for it.  The latest title joining its line-up is the next game in the popular Dragon Quest series, Dragon Quest XI: In Search of Departed Time.

The newest RPG in the long-running franchise was originally announced for the Playstation 4 and Nintendo 3DS, but an interview in Japanese magazine Nintendo Dream revealed that it will also be coming to the NX with an English translation provided by Gematsu.

The Dragon Quest series has always been a major seller in its native Japan, which bodes well for Nintendo’s new system even if the game won’t be exclusive.  This announcement also reveals that the NX will be compatible with Unreal Engine 4 as that is what Dragon Quest XI is built from.

Dragon Quest XI is the fifth game officially announced for NX.  The remaining titles are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Ubisoft’s Just Dance 2017, Sega’s currently unnamed sequel to Sonic Generations, and Dragon Quest XI‘s predecessor, Dragon Quest X: Awakening of the Five Race Online.  Dragon Quest X is actually an MMO as apposed to the single-player RPGs that the series usually provides, including Dragon Quest XI.  That shows that the NX will have serious online support.  It’s strange to think that the NX is set to release in March and these last two paragraphs summarize everything we know for certain about the system.

Dragon Quest XI: In Search of Departed Time is set to release in 2016 around the time of the series’ 30th anniversary in late May.  It will have a simultaneous release on Playstation 4 and 3DS and, while it hasn’t been officially confirmed, the wording in the interview suggests that it also release on NX the same day.  It is currently only set for release Japan and it is unknown if it will receive an international release.  Let us know what you think of Dragon Quest XI and the NX in the comments below.