Sunday, February 09, 2014

Nintendo news round-up

Since my last post, I just kept collecting links to more and more news stories rather than being able to write a coherent article around them. So here is a rundown of what had happened in the world of console gaming in the past two weeks with some highly opinionated commentary at the end.

First, Nintendo president Iwata admitted to weak Wii U sales but refused to follow analyst advice to get out of the hardware business.

But how was Nintendo to move forward? Some reports noted they would soon be releasing mini-games on smartphones. After all, Nintendo could earn tons of money on mobile platforms, some analysts calculated. Other reports sprung up noting Nintendo would not be releasing mini-games on smartphones. It turns out that what Nintendo really has in mind for the future is a lot more cryptic than that.

The main theme: enhancing the quality of life through entertainment. The key word is health, Mr. Iwata says. Citing a flood of wearable devices already on the market, he says Nintendo is trying out something completely new: non-wearables to monitor your health. (...) For those of you wondering what “non-wearables” for health means, here’s the one clue he’s giving out for today: it’s not necessarily something you will use in the living room

Leaving strategy aside and concentrating on the numbers, there were some negative interpretations of the Wii U's recent sales figures (in German). In fact, there were lots and lots of negative interpretations. However, there were also some positive interpretations of holiday sales figures (in German).

Let us not forget that the Wii U still leads the pack of next-gen consoles by a decent margin.

Wii U: 5,86 million units (Source / as of Dec 31st 2013)

PS4: 4,2 million units (Source / as of Dec 28th 2013)

Xbox One: 3,9 million (Source / as of Dec 31st 2013)

The margin may be far too small considering that the console launched one year ahead of the competition. But it is still in the lead and, as such, the most sold next-gen console at this time.

In the end, Nintendo buying back plenty of its own stock seems to be an economically sound move in the current situation.

As if to save Ninty's grace in these troubled times, rumours of the company's next-next-gen plans surfaced. 'Nintendo Fusion' is supposed to be a project that, for the first time, would wholly integrate handheld and home consoles. And each would be packing quite a punch, according to the rumours which were later spread by another site.

This feels so much like 2005. And one thing is certain: Nintendo is working on their next-next-gen consoles. As soon as one console leaves the research and development labs, its successor hits the blueprints. Whether this is the case for Microsoft and Sony remains to be seen, though. All I can comment on regarding this specific rumour is that Nintendo did announce a much tighter integration of home console and handheld development. But let us briefly examine Sony's and Microsoft's fortune before summing up.

A few days ago, Sony's credit rating was reduced to junk status by the second rating agency. And soonafter, the corporation announced plans to sell its laptop business (including its 'Vaio' brand), spin off its TV business and sack 5.000 people.

Microsoft is not in an enviable position either. It is clear to everyone that the Xbox One did not have a hugely successful start. Already, there are rumours of a cheaper Xbox One in the pipeline and a recent $100 trade-in program for PS3. consoles suggests that Microsoft has signalled out the pricing issue as the culprit.

So what will happen? In a recent opinion piece for a German industry magazine, I noted that I was disappointed with Nintendo because of their uninspired offering so far. Because Nintendo should be able to win this generation hands-down. They won the last generation by a landslide and their new system is completely backwards-compatible (unlike those of its competitors).

Most importantly, though, Nintendo is swimming in money. According to analysts, the company has $4.4 billion in cash reserves. That might be enough to buy a third party publisher like Ubisoft or Capcom. So why have they not beefed up the Wii U to be at least on par with Xbox One and PS4? It is not as if those two are a huge leap from their respective predecessors. Or why have Nintendo not paid Rockstar to get GTA V generation-exclusive on Wii U? There are certainly missed opportunities here. But things are far from over for Nintendo.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How my predictions turned out.

In my last extensive post in May, I made a number of predictions. A lot of them were spot on, some were spectacularly wrong.

I was right to favour the PlayStation4 over the Xbox One for a number of reasons. Kinect was never a selling factor (certainly not one that would warrant paying a $100 / €100 premium), the name did not suggest a great advance from the previous console, Microsoft's emphasis on television content did not excite anyone (nor did the appointment of former CBS president Nancy Tellem as their newest executive) and things have been very quiet on the 'Halo' front.

As far as the PlayStation4 is concerned, I called the touchpad on the controller a gimmick with little use. And, owning a PS4 since its German launch, it really feels like that.

I was very wrong about Microsoft's and Sony's ability to launch their respective console on time. Although neither manufacturer was able to supply a large amount of stock. Xbox One being readily available despite of this (at least in Germany) speaks for itself. However, both manufacturers claim to have sold around three to four million units or so. My predictions regarding the continuing slump of Wii U sales materialised. So it is a neck-on-neck race at the moment, with Wii U apparently at around five million units, which is still about a million ahead of PS4, which in turn is about a million units ahead of Xbox One, according to VGChartz. It is going to be an exciting year.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Big news: The return of Falafelkid

Dear readers.

First of all, I wish you all a happy new year. After a long and painful hiatus, I have some big news for you. You may have asked yourself what I have been doing since I last posted here in May. I have, of course, been very busy in the videogame industry. I have presented the gamescom congress in August, fulfilled my duty as a member of various important juries, wrote a number of articles for print magazines and, most recently, wrote my very own deck of top trump cards about videogame scandals.

Most importantly of all, though, I have been trying hard to change jobs again and finally, I have done so, again for the better. As of this week, I am working for the heute journal, the ZDF network's daily news magazine. It is perhaps somewhat comparable to the BBC's Newsnight or the NBC Nightly News, certainly in terms of reputation and viewing figures. To be invited to work for a newsroom like this is a great honour and privilege. For someone like myself, whose main field of expertise lies within the area of consumer electronics in general and videogames, specifically, it feels unreal.

This new job will entail a number of changes to my personal life. And, as a result, I will be able to reinvigorate this blog. My new job will require me to keep a close eye on all developments in my area of expertise, more than ever before. So, here on this blog, I will be able to share both news, rumours and commentary, which I will trace up as part of my research routine. It will remain to be seen whether I will write shorter posts almost on a daily basis or whether I will continue to write longer articles, perhaps one every other week or so. I may even decide to ditch written text for shorter video clips. But my new job will definitely bring my professional work back in line with this blog. So I thank you for sticking around this long and looking me up again. I promise you I will do my best to make it worth your wait.