Monday, July 31, 2006

ESA confirms restructuring of E3

The Entertainment Software Association, organizers of the E3, have issued a press release, confirming previous rumours of a restructuring of the event. Here´s the press release.
Entertainment Software Association Announces Evolution of E3Expo for 2007


Contact: Stacey Wade
202-223-2400 or

Washington, DC (July 31, 2006) – To better address the needs of today’s global computer and video game industry, the 2007 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3Expo) is evolving into a more intimate event focused on targeted, personalized meetings and activities, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced today.

“The world of interactive entertainment has changed since E3Expo was created 12 years ago. At that time we were focused on establishing the industry and securing orders for the holiday season,” said Douglas Lowenstein, President of the ESA, the trade association representing U.S. computer and video game publishers and the owner of E3Expo. “Over the years, it has become clear that we need a more intimate program, including higher quality, more personal dialogue with the worldwide media, developers, retailers and other key industry audiences.”

The new E3Expo will take shape over the next several months. As currently envisioned, it will still take place in Los Angeles, described by ESA as a “great and supportive partner helping to build E3.” It will focus on press events and small meetings with media, retail, development, and other key sectors. While there will be opportunities for game demonstrations, E3Expo 2007 will not feature the large trade show environment of previous years.

“E3Expo remains an important event for the industry and we want to keep that sense of excitement and interest, ensuring that the human and financial resources crucial to its success can be deployed productively to create an exciting new format to meet the needs of the industry. The new event ensures that there will be an effective and more efficient way for companies to get information to media, consumers, and others,” said Lowenstein.

Additionally, the evolution of the video game industry into a vibrant and expanding global market has led to the creation of major events in different regions, such as the Games Convention in Leipzig, the Tokyo Game Show, and company-specific events held by Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and others around the world. As a result, Lowenstein said, “It is no longer necessary or efficient to have a single industry ‘mega-show’. By refocusing on a highly-targeted event, we think we can do a better job serving our members and the industry as a whole, and our members are energized about creating this new E3.”

Additional details about the new E3Expo event will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Well, we knew this was coming. And let´s not quibble over details: E3 is dead. At the very least, it will never be the same again. I still cannot quite believe it, but that is the way it is.

Though Lowenstein steered clear of specifics or reasons, there are some subtle hints that show us what ´the new E3Expo´ will look like. After recognizing the importance of the "Games Convention in Leipzig, the Tokyo Game Show, and company-specific events held by Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and others around the world", Lowenstein concludes that "it is no longer necessary or efficient to have a single industry ‘mega-show’" and continues to talk of ´refocusing on a highly-targeted event´ for the sake of the members.

This pretty much confirms that the publishers ganged up on the ESA because of the phenomenal costs of E3. They prefer other, cheaper events like TGS and GC. As such, E3 really is no more. I attended all seven shows since 2000 and, even though it was always stressful, far too loud and far too busy and everyone was always behind schedule, I shall miss those days.

EDIT An indicator of the implications of the announcement can be seen in the ESA removing the provisional date for E3 2007 from the show´s website entirely.

It used to read:

Planning is already underway for E3 2007. Mark your calendars:

E3 2007
May 16-18, 2007
Los Angeles Convention Center

Next Gen has a good analysis piece up on what led to the E3´s downfall. GameSpot explores the consequences for the ESA and the City of Los Angeles very well.

In contrast, and somewhat ironic, Ars Technica, who bitterly lashed out at Next Gen, are not even aware of the ESA´s press release yet.

EDIT Incidentally, SPOnG have nothing better to do than jump on the bandwagon and contribute to the bonfire of vanities, also taking a stab at Next Gen (who turned out to be completely right - after all, people are just interpreting the same facts mildly different).

‘E3 finished’ claimed a report on website late last night. (...) Well, it turns out when one decides to check the facts, this is simply not the case, but why let facts get in the way of a good scoop, eh, Next-Gen?

They end the article with the sentence "SPOnG will bring you the official line from the ESA as soon as we have it" and - poetic justice in full effect - no, they haven´t got it yet. Why update your news site when you can just lash out at others, eh, SPOnG?

EDIT SPOnG have finally woken up to the ESA´s press release. They´re now in a position that they have to downplay the whole thing: "E3 will simply shrink" is their comment. A ridiculous euphemism when you consider that E3 will relocate from the LACC, most likely to a much smaller venue. We don´t even know the full extent of the planned downsizing, but they are happy to comment on it already.

Ars Technica still haven´t posted a news story. There´s just an entry on their blog. Way to hide information!

Source: Entertainment Software Association

Another Wii specs rumour

I am declaring today Superpost-Sunday. Here are some rumoured Wii specs, courtesy of MaxConsole.
The Wii Hardware

- Nintendo Wii’s ‘Broadway’ CPU operates at 729MHZ with a maximum bandwith of 1.9gbyte/sec.
- Nintendo Wii’s ‘HollyWood’ GPU is clocked at 243MHZ, the internal memory of it includes 3mb of embedded graphics memory and 24megabytes of high speed main memory.
- 64megabytes of GDDR3 (MEM2) as the external main memory. Just like the internal memory, it can be accessed from the CPU and GPU with a maximum bandwidth of 4gbytes/sec and can also store programs in the MEM2.
- The GPU of the Wii is identical to the GC’s but it is on average 1.5X faster.

Wii's Optical Disc Drive

- Opitcal Disc Drive (ODD) supports single and dual layer Wii disks, discs eject with software or button and the maximum read speed is the equivalent of DVDx6.
- Two main disc types supported the single sided 12cm single sided 4.7gb and the double sided 8.51 GB. Nintendo GC discs also supported. Some of the capacity of the discs are used by the system and games can not use full disc space.
- Inserting a disc will start the Wii console, even if it was already in an off state. Pressing the eject button will change the console to an on state to take out the disc also.
And there´s more where that came from.

Well, these are the umpteenth Wii specs we have seen. So these could be just as fake. However, as we are nearing the release of the console, the possibility of leaks is becoming much more acute. So I am actually inclined to give this one some proper attention. Make of it what you will.

Source: MaxConsole
Thanks to: Digimonmonters

Sunday, July 30, 2006

E3 cancelled for good?

There is shocking, shocking news on Next Gen. They claim to have heard reliable rumours that E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, organized by the Entertainment Software Association, is rumoured to be cancelled for good. Here´s their story:
Publishers believe the multi-million dollar budgets would be better spent on more company-focused events that bring attention to their own product lines rather than the industry as a whole.

Well placed sources say the news that larger exhibitors were pulling out had prompted urgent meetings among publishing executives. They decided that, without the support of the larger software publishers and hardware manufacturers, there would be no point in continuing.

ESA president Doug Lowenstein will likely announce the news some time within the next 48 hours, possibly on Monday. It's likely that the ESA will seek to limit the damage by organizing some form of lesser event in May, but it's clear that the days of an industry event attended by all the major publishers, spending big money, are gone.

I don´t believe it.

Allow me to elaborate. It is claimed that the event costs too much. While I know it´s a very expensive event for everyone involved, the ESA, though, should be profiting from it. So when exhibitors were complaining about the costs and threatened the ESA with non-attendance, they could have reacted. At this point, the ESA should have been able to reduce booth rental fees or other costs. This would have cut into the ESA´s budget, but I cannot see how this disadvantage would not have been outweighed by the advantage of keeping the show alive.

Also, it´s the world´s most important show in this industry and it provided publishers with a unique opportunity to present their products to the world. And big media attendance was rising. Every year I noticed more Betacam camera teams at the pre-E3 conferences and the show itself. That should have been worth quite a bit, from a publisher´s perspective.

So I won´t believe this until Doug Lowenstein, head of the ESA, confirms this.

EDIT On the other hand - and just to make this as clear for you as possible - the rumours originate from one of the most reliable sources in the business. The website is run by Future plc, the publishers of EDGE magazine and others. It does make sense to believe this rumour. I simply cannot get my head around it.

EDIT I have just checked the Los Angeles Convention Center´s event calendar and E3 2007 is not listed there. The E3 homepage lists ´May 16-18, 2007´ as the next date and the convention center as the location but the fact that it´s not confirmed on the LACC site shows that nothing has been finalized.

EDIT Now the tidal wave has somewhat died down and we are awaiting the ESA´s official word, I have come to accept that E3 will not be E3 anymore. However, a lot of people are quoting Ars Technica´s take on the story to be a kind of rebuttal of Next-Gen´s claims. Here´s what they write:

E3 has not been cancelled. Next-Gen had hoped that they would blow the lid off of a hot story by revealing that the show had been cancelled, but some quick fact checking shows that they are simply incorrect.

Now, while they make it sound as if they got the story right (whereas Next-Gen apparently got it wrong), they go on to state exactly the same facts as them:

Sources close to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) tell Ars Technica that the show can and will go on, but that big changes are planned. (...) Sources say that two major factors have led to the decision to transition the show to a more "closed-door" event.

See? The facts are the same. Only Next-Gen interpretes this as ´E3 is finished´, whereas Ars Technica prefers ´E3 as we know it is finished´. The upshot is the same. Even the differences in interpretation are marginal. Ars Technica should really stop pretending they know better. They are simply instrumentalizing this story to elevate themselves into journalistic heaven. And needlessly bashing a reliable news outlet in the process.

EDIT Yet another edit. I just wanted to credit the insiders who broke the story. Incidentally, it was no US site but England-based MCV UK. They reported already on Friday:
Despite the Los Angeles event's undoubted importance and pulling power, some leading companies - and particularly Electronic Arts - have called for a review of the event in terms of budgets required. (...)

MCV understands that a meeting has been held between ESA president Doug Lowenstein (...) and major exhibitors in the US to discuss next year.

"Costs have been getting out of hand. We're talking double digit millions for some of us," said one senior industry insider. "But that's not just floorspace, of course - it's build, parties, hotels, flights. Security, particularly, has become a massive cost."

You might also want to check GameSpot´s coverage.

EDIT I love this. Now Next Gen have updated their article and are responding to Ars Technica and upping the tension.

Some gullible journalists, evidently blinded by a desire to do-down a rival scoop, have taken this as evidence that E3 is alive and well and merely being 'downsized'. But this euphemism doesn't change the facts. The decision by big manufacturers and publishers to walk away has left ESA in damage-control mode. As we reported yesterday, E3, in its present form, is dead.

This is turning into a slagging match. Allow me to spell this out: Both news sites are saying the same thing. This is a phantom discussion.

Sources: Next Gen, Ars Technica
Thanks to: Joystiq, SG007

Ad reveals launch date?

Yes, the launch date debate has received new cannon fodder. Let´s tear it apart. There´s an alleged ad making the rounds through various forums that Game On picked up on in his blog. Here´s the picture:

Interestingly enough, a lot of commentators are seeing the poster as confirmation of the October 2nd launch date. Maybe they are all still dizzy with Nintendo´s recent press release. I myself can only make out a date of October 21st 2006.

There are two questions to ask here. Firstly, is it real? And if it is, does the date relate to the system´s launch? It´s most likely that the ad already fails the first question. But even if it doesn´t, the date may relate only to a pre-launch event, not the launch date itself.

The image shown doesn´t show the ad up as fake, that´s for sure. It´s the most recent Wii hardware image, used in the first print ads that cropped up.

Source: Game On

Friday, July 28, 2006

E3 interviews

Hi everyone. It finally happened: I transcribed the relevant parts of my E3 interviews for you here. That is how much I love you. Enjoy - and please read the legal note at the end of the post before you republish the post or any part of it.

Satoru Iwata
President, Nintendo Co. Ltd.

A lot of people are still waiting for a big secret. Miyamoto-San and yourself have said so. Was it the speaker on the Wiimote or are there still secrets to come?

"That - and Wiiconnect24, which we recently announced. We have not yet announced details about this. Well, maybe you are underestimating the power or potential of Wiiconnect24 now. After all, Wii is a console that can be connected to the internet 24 hours a day with minimal consumption of power. In the near future we can reveal what it can do an then you can understand many secrets behind the Wii machine."

Can you give any examples of what it can do now?

"Wii is going to become the machine which is new every day and which is for everybody. Because every day you are able to receive something new with the Wiiconnect24 feature. While you are sleeping, you may be receiving some new courses, weapons or stages for the games you are playing. Or you may be receiving some messages from one of your friends. And when you receive a message with your Wii, the Wii disc insertion slot is going to light up to tell you someting new is happening with Wii. (...) If we can intrigue people to turn on the Wii every day, then we can change the relatonship between videogames and human beings."

Robbie Bach
Chief Xbox Officer, Microsoft

Now, both of your competitors are using some kind of gyroscopic control. Are you not going to be left out in the cold as far as playability is concerned?

"There are two things to know. One: we did gyroscopic controls in a controller six years ago. We know exactly how interesting it is. And it is useful for a very narrow segment of the games. So it is interesting as an add-on. It's not at all interesting as the main controller for your game console and we know that from experience. We also know that Sony took out of their controller the ability to get rumble feedback and tactile feedback. And that is the number one requested feature for people as an add-on to their controller. So we think their controller actually went down in capability, not up."

So if Sony is not going to be much competiton, what about Nintendo Wii?

"Well, Nintendo has a very focussed business model and a fairly narrow set of customers. They will do great with those customers but it is a very young audience, it is not an audience that is into broad mainstream entertainment, it is much more of the toy entertainment category. We think they will do well there, but we think that the mainstream part of the market is in the broader entertainment space that we are in and we think we can very effectively compete with them."

Peter Molyneux
Founder, Lionhead Studios

I would love for you to do a Wii game. Are you not itching to work on such an innovative console?

"Well, the controller is the thing, that is what I love. And I think there is a lot of interest in this industry as a whole about how people control games and what they do when they are controlling games. And things like cameras are becoming important, online is massively important, connecting to other devices is massively important... I agree with you: the way... (gesticulates) it is very, very good. It is very interesting about that controller. I will be fascinated to see how motion detection comes out. But I do not think that the industry is going to stop there. I think that this is just the start of the industry questioning that thing that you hold."

Doug Lombardi
Marketing Director , Valve Software

I remember Gabe Newell said the Xbox360's and PS3's business models were totally unattractive to him and he mentioned someting about developers in a stranglehold.

"There are these added obstacles of even getting onto the console, which in the old days people could justify because there were technological advances and what have you there. Now we are seeing the PC have these technological advances now and as this generation lives, the PC is going to keep leapfrogging and leapfrogging while those console platforms are frozen for the next four or five years."

Denis Dyack
Founder, Silicon Knights

Why is Matt Casamassina so excited about Too Human?

"Matt and I are really close friends and we talk a lot, off the record. So he knows a bit more than most people. So I think that may be another reason why he's excited."

Julian Eggebrecht
Founder, Factor 5
(translated from German)

How interested are you in Wii? You still have good contacts with Nintendo, right?

"We are still very good friends with Nintendo. And as a gamer, I am absolutely thrilled. Especially tennis and Super Mario Galaxy are fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. For me as an independent developer, there are two things to consider. First, (...) [what type of games are there] that are not already being developed by Nintendo? (...) Second, as soon as you try to opt more for photorealism, genres like Metroid or (...) Red Steel, I must say that I see the console lacking in graphics quality. (...) [From that perspective] I cannot ignore that the graphics are last generation."

Cliff Bleszinski
Lead Designer, Epic Games

Did you have a chance to play Nintendo Wii? Of course, the graphics are not up to the Xbox360´s ...

"Graphics are very important but graphics are only part of the equation. What Nintendo has done is they have not opted for necessarily as high-end graphics. They opted for very interesting input devices and amazing game design and polish. You know, if something has the Nintendo name on it, you know it is going to be fun. Not a lot of people can say that.

Are you excited enough to actually...

"I have not had any chance to be hands-on with it. I can tell you now that there is no ... anytime soon that I will be developing myself. But I was on a panel with Hideo Kojima and Xavier from Ubi Soft who was demoing Red Steel yesterday. And I finally got to see it, though not use it yet. And it looks really, really cool. I mean, the whole system... it is like the Power Glove done right."

Todd Hollenshead
Founder, id Software

Which console is id Software more interested in: is it more PS3 and Xbox360 - beautiful photorealistic graphics - or Wii, where you have a revolution in First Person Shooter control mechanisms but less graphics capability?

"Interesting question. At this point for us we are still kind of like you are with respect to getting information as Nintendo releases it about Wii and what it is going to be like. So we really have not gotten our hands on actual advanced hardware yet. So the stuff we are working on now is more the stuff we know, which is... we have access to the PS3 development kits and obviously the Xbox360. (...) The next project, sort of our super secret project we are working on at id, we have not announced or announced a title for, we do anticipate will be a multi-platform, across PC and multiple console launch. Multiple consoles means more than 360, so we definitely see no reason why it canot be there for 360, PS3 and PC. And we will have to see what we can do with Wii once we get more information about how what we are doing in our game will match what hardware Nintendo is making available."

On a legal note: You are free to republish this entire post or individual excerpts from it, as long as you do not alter the content in any way and you also absolutely must cite the two following sources by copying and pasting the following HTML code alongside without alteration:

Sources: <a href=>RTL II News</a>, <a href=>Wii: Definitive speculation</a>

The interviews have been conducted on behalf of RTL II. Please appreciate that there are copyright issues attached to these interviews and, as a consequence, failure to give appropriate credit might result in legal action. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nintendo to announce Wii launch event in Germany?

There are fresh rumours concerning Nintendo´s upcoming announcement of the Wii´s release date and pricing, courtesy of Nintendo Now and thanks to my good friends over at Go Nintendo. The former claims to have been given off the record info from a reliable source.
This source (...) informed us that there is a strong possibility that some new annoucements about the Wii will be made at the Leipzig Game Convention, which runs from August 24-27. We were also told definitively that Nintendo will hold its own show to demonstrate the Wii, which will likely be the console's final display before the launch. He did not give any details on kiosks--this does not mean there will not be any, he just did not know.

When asked about the Tokyo Game Show, our source said that Nintendo will likely not surprise anyone with a sudden appearance on the showfloor, but he was not certain whether or not further announcements were planned for the show. He did say, however, that new information was more likely to come at Leipzig.

Now, the wording in the article is a little unclear. Particularly this sentence: ´Nintendo will hold its own show to demonstrate the Wii´. Will this be a show to take place alongside the Games Convention (much like Electronic Arts pre-show to the UK´s former ECTS) or are they talking about a later date? In the latter case, where would it take place? If it was to take place in Japan, surely it would be a SpaceWorld.

At any rate, if their source is correct, then we will at least learn about that event at the Games Convention, if we don´t get any direct information concerning Wii there.

I happen to know a few things concerning the GC myself. I understand that Nintendo is again not too happy with allowing third parties to install Wii consoles on their showfloor booths. In fact, noone has been able to assure me that Wii (or PS3, for that matter) would be accessible to the public. However, I know for sure that Wii consoles will be playable in the Business Center area (for both exhibitors and media professionals). And Nintendo would be fools not to scatter dozens of Wiis across the showfloor, too, particularly after the strong E3 showing in May.

Source: Nintendo Now
Thanks to: Go Nintendo

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Nintendo speaking in riddles?

It seems that Nintendo really is speaking in riddles. At least, they are openly toying with us. A recent press release on the Nintendo press server reads thus:
The fourth quarter of 2006 will herald a new era for Nintendo with the launch of its remarkable new Wii™ home video game system. But that's not what this news item is about! How could that be, you ask? Perhaps the secret to the launch information for Wii is somehow encoded in the text of this news item. You might want to pore over it for a few hours before staying up all night to debate phraseology and comma placement with your friends online. Or maybe it's all just a scam to get you to read the other games we have launching this fall. One of the two. (...)

For Nintendo GameCube™ owners, The Legend of Zelda®: Twilight Princess will be available for you this fall. An enhanced version also will be a launch title for Wii. That will all happen on … Oh look, we're out of space.
Now, there are surprisingly few theories on the kind of code possibly used to hide a subtext in this press release.

In fact, the only theory I found was courtesy of Gaming Target. Read for yourself:
The fourth quarter begins on October 1. Now look at the list. At least one game is released every Monday in the fourth quarter except for the following dates: October 2, November 20 and November 27.

November 27 is after Black Friday, so it's out. November 20 is after the launch of the PS3, so that's out too. That leaves us with October 2.

The Wii will launch on October 2, you read it here first.

They are right, all dates given are Mondays. However, their logic in discounting November 20th and 27th is not exactly elegant. For example, why wouldn´t it be Black Friday? That´s precisely the kind of day you would want to launch a console. And who said that Wii would definitely launch before the PlayStation3?

Also, how could the actual launch dates for those titles compose a riddle? Do you think Nintendo arranged the launch dates with regard to forming such a subtext when these games could actually have been launched earlier? That appears very doubtful. I am positive that we can discount this approach.

Now, I have tried a number of possible alternatives. In my mind, the strongest clue (if there really are clues here, at all) is to be found in the end. The text ends with the sentence ´Oh look, we're out of space.´ Now, these guys are free to write their press releases as long as needs be. How could they be out of space - unless there was some kind of significant limit? So, I checked the word count of the article and here´s what I came up with:

Entire text:
Word count: 320
Characters (without spaces): 1477
Characters (with spaces): 1783

Text without last sentence:
Word count: 308
Characters (without spaces): 1396
Characters (with spaces): 1691

Text without last sentence and headline:
Word count: 295
Characters (without spaces): 1337
Characters (with spaces): 1620

Though this is getting into splitting hairs, it´s worth noting that the character count on the pure article (i.e. without headline and last sentence) is 1337. This number usually signifies Leet, a simple code language, substituting alphanumerical characters with numerical ones.

But how could this be a clue? The entire text translated into Leet may be full of numbers, but they don´t appear to make any sense. So this approach must be discounted, too.

I also tried anagram software on some of the more suspicious sentences. But that didn´t help, either.

There is one much simpler approach, though. Simply check the text for blatant clues and the first two words of the text read ´the fourth´, which would relate to November. It may just be as simple as that.

The only other viable alternative is that there is no subtext in the statement. After considering all the theories above, this is the conclusion I invariably come to.

But I am sure there are people on the net with more ideas and more time on their hands. I am intrigued what people come up with in the next few days and weeks. Happy hunting, people.

EDIT Thanks to Jimmybald, we have another interesting theory. Here it is (spelling mistakes corrected):
Now, when you look at it, there may or may not be clues hidden in the text above.
2.Nintendo DS™
3.Clubhouse Games™
4.Elite Beat Agents™
5.Yoshi's Island™
7.Magical Starsign™
8.Custom Robo™
10.Nintendo GameCube™

What do all these things have in common. EACH HAVE A ™ beside it. Ten in total when not counting the repeated words. So the tenth month is October. Now...

2.Game Boy®
4.Children of Mana®
5.The Legend of Zelda®:

There is 5 ®'s.

We know Wii will launch in 2006, so ??.??.06
Now, its 10.05.06

Sources: Nintendo press server, Gaming Target
Thanks to: Raphael, Infendo

Monday, July 24, 2006

Wii to use digital distribution for game development

I have just come across a new patent, detailing a digital distribution platform like the Virtual Console to be used for the development of games. The patent is entitled Method and apparatus for secure delivery and evaluation of prototype software over a network. Here are the details:
Before software is provided in its final form to end-users, it goes through a development, testing, and evaluation process. As the software moves through various stages of the process, it is oftentimes desirable to send that software to parties other than the developers to execute and experience (hereafter "third parties"). (...) Although it is possible to bring such third parties to the physical plant of the software developer and carefully control the conditions under which third parties evaluate the prototype software, it may be more convenient and efficient to have third parties test prototype software away from the developer's physical plant. (...)

One security approach is to load the prototype software into a secure "lock box," and have a developer employee physically deliver the prototype software to the third party evaluator. (...) The time and expense associated with this approach are significant. Moreover, there is always a risk that the prototype software may be lost, stolen, or otherwise misappropriated despite precautions and preventive efforts.

The technology described below overcomes these problems. The technology securely delivers software over a network to an evaluation site and monitors the evaluation of the software at the delivered site also via the network.
The actual technicalities are hardly interesting: the patent mentions multiple encryption as well as authentication. The question is, though, how such a process may impact upon the industry.

If implemented correctly, this technology could significantly change the relations between Nintendo and its partners, whether publishers or developers, by allowing for a more flexible presentation schedule. Game presentations would no longer be limited to physical visits of company representatives. Previewing the latest software build could be arranged anytime.

By making it more flexible, this technology may also speed up the development process significantly. Finally, it enables smaller developers to participate, since driving down logistical barriers also drives down costs.

But it may go beyond that. I have played a few preview copies on debug GameCube consoles and know that Nintendo is more protective about preview titles than any other manufacturer. The consoles are usually permanently shut by a metal bar that is screwed into its side. Debug consoles are usually accompanied by Nintendo representatives at all times. Hardly ever are such consoles given to journalists permanently.

I, for one, hope that a digital distribution network for games in development could also benefit the media trying to evaluate a preview build. As far as publishers and developers go, this technology will undoubtedly prove to be a revolution.

Source: US Patent & Trademark Office

Nintendo to sell 6 million Wii consoles until April, after all

While Nintendo´s previous financial statement, issued at the end of May, only spoke about shipments, the company´s most recent release confirms that Nintendo expects to sell the entire batch, as well.

As detailed in the statement under the heading ´Consolidated Sales Units´, Nintendo expects to sell six million Wii consoles by the end of March 2007, along with 17 million software units (making for a tie ration of just under three games per consoles).

While it was to be expected that the initial shipment of consoles would be sold through (they usually do for consoles), this is Nintendo pretty much committing to this expectation. No huge news, perhaps, but a further show of confidence on behalf of Nintendo.

EDIT Again, check out GoNintendo for further analysis of DS Lite and other sales figures mentioned in the statement.

Source: Nintendo Co. Ltd. - Investor Relations

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nintendo not at TGS, SpaceWorld 2006 likely

The Tokyo Game Show keynote speakers have just been announced on the Japanese TGS site and Nintendo will not be speaking. Instead, Sony Computer Entertainment´s Ken Kutaragi and Square Enix´ Yoichi Wada are occupying the opening keynote slots.

Since Nintendo is also not an exhibitor at the show, there will be no Nintendo related announcements or news at TGS 2006.

This piece of news will probably send shockwaves through the Nintendo community, since most people were expecting the Wii´s launch date and price to be announced at TGS. This is out of the question now.

So where will Nintendo make the announcement? Obviously, they need to wrap the announcement in a big event to maximize media coverage. There is no big gaming event other than TGS that would fit such a purpose (Germany´s Games Convention is the only possible contender, but Germany is only the third most important market for videogames). So, this proves to me that Nintendo is planning to stage their own show. Get ready for a SpaceWorld this year.

EDIT The good people over at GoNintendo have picked up on this story and my comments concerning a SpaceWorld. Go check it out.

Source: Japanese TGS site
Thanks to: SPOnG

More Sony-bashing by analyst

Analyst firm DFC Intelligence is at it again. These are the people who recently asked Could Sony go from first to worst and their answer to that question was something along the lines of: ´Hell, yeah!´

Now, the Sony-bashing continues in an article entitled The Fight for Number One in Video Games. Here´s the beef: (formatting is mine)
For the past ten years Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) has been the king of the video game market. (...) DFC Intelligence has always said that as the dominant market leader, SCE was largely in control of its own fate. Microsoft and Nintendo had to hope Sony fumbled or significantly changed its strategy so that they could get an opportunity to capture some of that PS2 audience. Now it is clear Sony is handing its competitors a golden opportunity.

DFC Intelligence has just released a 600 page report with our latest forecast for the interactive entertainment industry. In this report we predict several different scenarios for the individual game systems. (...) Two things are clear: 1) the high price of the PlayStation 3 is going to slow overall industry growth, especially for software and 2) if Sony does not change its current strategy for the PS3 the system will probably end up in third place in installed base. Microsoft and Nintendo have been handed that golden opportunity and both companies have a chance to make their systems the market leader. (...)

We think the company with the biggest opportunity is Nintendo. With a market leading price and a compelling mass market message the Wii has the opportunity to be the market share leader in all major regions. (...) By letting Sony and Microsoft split the hard-core teenage/twenty something video game marketplace, the Wii could end up number one in market share for the next generation.

An interesting calculation undertaken in the article is the following, conerning the PS3´s price point:
At 600 euro, the PS3 would be more than 35% of the monthly household income of a family in Valencia. Combined with the 2000 euro for an HDTV that could take advantage of Blu-Ray and four games, the total cost could top 15% of a family yearly income. On a per person basis, that would be almost 40% of an adult Valencian’s average income. Consumers in much of Europe (and North America as well) simply aren’t ready for that type of expenditure and success for Sony will require that 1) they can keep the PlayStation 2 business alive and slow consumer adoption of new systems and 2) they can make the price more affordable. (...) Even under the best case scenario the PlayStation 3 has a much lower installed base than the PlayStation 2. Under the worst case scenario the bottom falls out for Sony’s market share.

Sony is undoubtedly in a difficult position. They have allowed their biggest rival to launch a year early. A huge mistake, since 5 million people already own an Xbox360, as Microsoft claims. Those sales figures are not too good, but they certainly aren´t bad either. And consider that most of those buyers might have considered a PlayStation3 (and I mean any PlayStation3, really) a viable alternative, had it been available at the same time. But it was not to be - and Blu Ray is the main culprit here. Incidentally, Blu Ray might spell even more trouble for Sony, if HD-DVD should gain the upper hand (and this battle is still far from decided).

So Microsoft´s product is out of the door already and an aptly titled ´killer app´ for it looks set to be released at the same time as Sony´s new console. If anything, the Xbox360 could put a dent in the PS3´s sales figures, not the other way ´round. So, what about Sony´s other competitor? Nintendo doesn´t even claim common ground with Sony, their console costing a mere third.

And while Nintendo has been getting plenty of good press since E3 2005, the two pieces of information that brought the PlayStation3 onto the news agenda recently were the half-year delay and the ridiculous price tag of $600. And I already called the PS2 a ´PayStation´ back in 2001.

Microsoft´s suggestion that buyers should rather spend that amount on the two competitor´s models instead is, of course, plain madness. You don´t plug a competitor in a market of three. But that madness started with Sony´s price tag, let´s not forget that. And, surely, early adopters will have to skimp out on software. This is Sony shooting themselves in the foot - with a bullet to spare for every one of their third party partners. Unless Blu Ray turns out to be a great success, Sony could be flogging a dead horse and can rely on nothing but their clever marketing, which has also gone downhill of late.

Let´s afford a brief look at Sony Corp. shares, courtesy of

Sony Corp. shares over the past 3 months: (as traded at the Frankfurt stock exchange)

Sony Corp. shares over the past year: (as traded at the Frankfurt stock exchange)

Sony paid a relatively minor penalty for the PS3 delay announced March 15th (a delay that was to be expected), the announcement of the price tag at E3 proved to be the last straw. To make it absolutely clear: Sony is in trouble.

The DFC analysts, however, not only agree with this assertion. They now appear to assume the position of a doombringer. They have made up their minds and cynics may argue that they are turning analysis into self-fulfilling prophecy.

Their author David Cole seemingly plans on publishing an article entitled ´See? I told you so!´ in about a year´s time. Alternatively, it could just as well be called ´Remember where you heard it first!´ - you get my point.

In conclusion, I would urge readers to take concerns about Sony´s future seriously. Just don´t underestimate the weight of the PlayStation brand. The PS2 is still the console with the largest installed base - at around 100 million units worldwide. This is both a great source of revenue for the company, as well as an ideal bargaining position.

Yes, their market share is almost certain to slip, perhaps significantly. But don´t expect Sony to be pulling out of the console market in 2007 (and I don´t think DFC would go as far as to suggest this). SCE is pretty much the only cash cow that Sony has left (after the demise of both their television and walkman divisions). So this market will see Sony fighting for sheer survival. And, in my opinion, they will manage to cling on, if not to the top spot.

EDIT Now Business Week is joining in the fun. Here´s what an Enterbrain analyst (publisher of acclaimed gaming magazine Famitsu) told them:
One troubling sign already indicates that the PS3 might not be quite the hit Sony expects. Game makers are steering development resources away from Sony and toward games for machines from Microsoft and Nintendo, says Hirokazu Hamamura, president of Enterbrain, a game-industry researcher in Tokyo. At its autumn games preview on July 13, for instance, traditional Sony ally Electronic Arts spent far more time showing off innovative Nintendo games than it did titles for the PS3. EA announced six Nintendo Wii launch titles and showed long working demos for two of those. But it offered only a short clip of a car-racing game for PS3. EA says it's still testing the potential of the PS3. "Many developers think the console's initial high price will lead to slow sales and are holding off on creating games for Sony," Hamamura says.
Still, there has been no hard evidence of development resources being relocated away from the PS3. The paragraph is not totally clear on this. Has EA reduced PS3 budgets and allocated them to Xbox360 or Wii? I don´t think that is what is being claimed here. If it is, I would like to know the concrete project before I believe it.

Sources: DFC Intelligence, YouTube,
Thanks to: Slashdot Games, Gamasutra, Codename Revolution

Monday, July 17, 2006

The good, the bad and the mysterious

There is good news, bad news and some very mysterious comments to ponder. Well, let´s hear the bad news first.

1.) The bad

Amazon Japan has published the following graph, showing current pre-orders for Wii, 60GB PS3 and 20GB PS3, respectively.

Punchjump have commented on the graph as follows:
The overseas retail division of has published a graph that represents customer interest in each platform, with the 60GB PS3 edging out the Wii. The 20GB PS3 was the least popular among customers.

In addition, Amazon Japan is allowing customers to pre-order an array of software for both the PS3 and Wii. The U.S. division is currently allowing pre-orders for select PS3 and Wii titles.

While Amazon Japan's customer data represents a stonger interest in PS3 over Wii, recent magazine surveys in Japan indicate the opposite, with many in favor of Wii's game selection and lower price point.

I have filed a media request with to check if they already have any similar data (though it appears they are not yet taking preorders). However, as the article rightly points out, there were plenty of consumer polls (most notably by Famitsu) that suggested the opposite to the above graph. Well, wait and see.

2.) The good

On the developer front, there were positive news. Eurogamer published a video interview with THQ president and CEO Brian Farrell. Sister site Games has summed up the interview:
"We love the Wii - it's all about having fun, right? Games are about having fun and sometimes this industry takes itself a bit too seriously," Farrell said. "If you watch people with that Wii controller, it's just fun to play with.

"A lot of our properties, like Cars and Spongebob and others, really map well... Potentially even wrestling - I can think of a lot of great things to do with the controller for that product as well," he added.
And if that wasn´t enough, Eurogamer also spoke to Jeff Brown, corporate communications VP at Electronic Arts, who believes that Wii could come in first.
"Everybody's saying that the Nintendo Wii is so unique that it's going to be the second system people buy, meaning if you own a 360 or a PS3, you'll probably also buy a Nintendo Wii."

"The funny thing is, some people say that discursively, like it's some sort of dig at Nintendo - and what they don't get is that if you're second on everybody's system, you're first overall."

Brown also revealed that EA plans to offer the Wii more support than it did the GameCube. "This is not a business plan, but there are a lot of people at EA who are walking around whispering: '40 / 40 / 20 per cent'," he said. EA has already pledged six titles to Nintendo's next-generation format, and Brown says that interest in the console internally has gone up after it received a spectacular welcome at E3.

"One of the things that we noticed after E3 is we thought, you know, we're going to support Nintendo, they've got an extraordinarily loyal base of consumers all over the world, and we had a number of games we planned to make for Nintendo Wii. That said, we were very surprised by the level of enthusiasm we saw at E3 and subsequently for the Wii," he told Eurogamer. (...) "I don't want to be indiscreet, but the truth is EA is most committed to the platform with the biggest installed base."
So EA´s full support is pretty much up for grabs. Unusually clear words, there. However, Brown also wanted to defuse widespread concerns of Sony pricing themselves out of the market with the PS3:
"Everybody writes these big stories like 'Oh my God, what will this mean? Will they stumble for the next for years, can they recover?' When Sony first put out the PlayStation 2 there were hardware shortages, and some manufacturing glitches, and everybody was like 'Can they recover?'," he told us.

3.) The mysterious

Finally, we have some weird comments from Nicolas Eypert, creative director of Ubisoft's Red Steel. He gave GamePro a very cryptic answer when aked about the shooter´s multiplayer functions:
In Red Steel, you'll have up to four players [in the multiplayer mode]. If they play together in split screens we can only say that the fight will not be only on screen (grins).

Concerning the [multiplayer] gameplay, we will reveal more later in the development process. We must ask you to be patient.

Now, I am sure that this comment makes a lot of people remember what Miyamoto told Business Week in November 2005:
It's convenient to make games that are played on TVs. But I always wanted to have a custom-sized screen that wasn't the typical four-cornered cathode-ray-tube TV. I've always thought that games would eventually break free of the confines of a TV screen to fill an entire room. But I would rather not say anything more about that.

I am assuming that the bad news and the good news cancel each other out. So let´s talk a little about that weird comment above. Read alongside Miyamoto´s comment, do you notice a recurring theme? Perhaps there is one. But it´s important to remember that what they would be hinting at (if they really were hinting at something here) could be nothing short of some kind of implemementation of Augmented Reality, in my mind.

Now, I have always made it quite clear that I believe such a technology is ready to be implemented in a videogame console today and, as such, it´s definitely a possibility. My research has shown this. However, I have also always maintained that it´s not likely to be implemented. Not because of the cost of AR or the current state of research. My reasons for believing it´s unlikely we will be seeing an AR console next-generation are twofold.

First of all, for simplicity´s sake. Nintendo wants to keep their console simple and accessible to new consumers. Headgear scares people. And while it is possible to implement AR in a non-threatening way, we should acknowledge that it´s a challenge.

Secondly, AR would be totally wild, crazy and way out. Nintendo have tried to push a similar technology with the Virtual Boy and failed. No Nintendo rep ever seems to mention this piece of hardware anymore. It´s not referred to on any official Nintendo site I know of. So this venture is a bit of an embarrassment for the company. On the other hand, forcing a controller like the Wiimote on both the industry and consumers is as bold a move as any.

I hope you see that it´s quite a complex issue. There are no logistical or technological obstacles to implementing such a technology this coming generation. And the two reasons that stand in the way of an AR-enabled Wii can be worked around. Yet I just cannot get myself to imagine a practical way of implementing it. So, in conclusion, my response to the developer comment above is what I have always said about this issue: It´s possible, but not likely.

I will leave you with some further reading (i.e. past posts from this blog) on the subject:

Why 3D projection makes sense (February 2006)
The price of the future (June 2005)
Augmented reality is reality already (June 2005)
Not virtual, but augmented reality? (June 2005)

What I would like to know from you guys is this: What do you think could be the practical upshot of Eypert´s comments? Would it have to involve visualizing content (as I believe) or are there any ways of fighting one another off-screen without added visualizations? Think sound, perhaps. After all, each Wiimote has its own speaker.

EDIT I stand corrected on two counts: Firstly, it appears that the graph published by Amazon Japan related only to people signing up for email alerts concerning the product. That changes the impact of the graph to some extent. Thanks to everyone who pointed out my mistake.

Secondly, there actually is an official Virtual Boy site, courtesy of the good people at Nintendo Co. Ltd. It´s not much, but it´s there.

Source: Amazon Japan, Punchjump, Eurogamer, Games, Eurogamer, GamePro, Business Week
Thanks to: AnanaG12, Codename Revolution, Codename Revolution, The Wiire, ,

Wii will launch in November, after all.

Here is exclusive news that Wii will launch in November, after all, thanks to SNES Link.

He is working for a big retail chain and drew my attention to the retail online resource CyberScholar, which claims to be:
A fun interactive product-education resource created just for you, the retail sales professional.
This resource site also has information on Nintendo products on a subsite called The Nintendo Link. Here, they have brief product presentations followed by a short test. These presentations come in the form of modules and module 57 (registration required) concerned itself with the Wii. Here are the two pages of that product presentation, as Shockwave files:

Training 1
Training 2

Page 2 clearly speaks about a November launch. The test that followed is unfortunately no longer available. However, SNES Link also included the following screenshot from it, making the point absolutely clear:

So there you go: It´s November, after all.

No need for lengthy comments. The source is totally reliable and I´ve always maintained the console would launch in November. It just makes sense.

Source: The Nintendo Link
Thanks to: SNES Link

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Road to Release: All major gaming-related events until the end of the year.

Are you wondering where and when Nintendo might reveal new Wii info leading up to the console´s launch? Here´s a rundown of all important videogame related events until the end of the year.

IEMA Summit
18th - 20th of July 2006

Description: The Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association´s annual summit.

Venue: Hyatt Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, Huntington Beach, California, USA

Notes: The IEMA Executive Summit is a retail purchasing show bringing together the leading merchants and publishers to discuss topically-important industry issues and conduct purchasing meetings. It´s apparently a trade-only event.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news very low.

Online Gaming China 2006
25th - 26th of July 2006

Description: Optimizing marketing competitiveness, profitable game development and revenue strategies, organized by the International Quality & Productivity Center

Venue: Renaissance Shanghai Pudong Hotel, Shanghai, China

Notes: There is no full list of exhibitors, this is possibly a workshop and session only event. Nintendo not on the speakers list.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news very low.

29th of July - 3rd of August 2006

Description: The 33rd International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, organized by the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques

Venue: Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Notes: Co-located with Sandbox - an ACM Video Game Symposium. Nintendo not an exhibitor.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news very low.

Edinburgh International Games Festival 2006
21st - 22nd of August 2006

Description: The festival celebrates the best of the interactive entertainment industry and creates an environment where the development and publishing community can celebrate the latest creative milestones and look to future innovations.

Venues: Royal College of Physicians / Odeon, Edinburgh, UK

Notes: Co-located with the EIEF06 Edge Award. Nintendo is on the sponsors list.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news high.

Games Convention 2006
21st - 27th of August 2006

Description: Europe´s biggest gaming expo.

Venue: Leipziger Messe, Leipzig, Germany

Notes: Co-located with GC Developer Conference. Nintendo is on the exhibitors list. Wii console is expected playable at the event.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news very high.

PAX 06
25th - 27th of August 2006

Description: Penny Arcade Expo

Venue: Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue, Washington, USA

Notes: PAX is a three-day game festival for tabletop, videogame, and PC gamers. Nintendo is on the sponsors list.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news high.

Toronto Independent Games Conference
31st of August - 2nd of September 2006

Description: 2nd educational conference and trade event for game developers, with a strong focus on 3rd party "indie" developers, hobbyists, and students.

Venue: George Brown College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Notes: Largely academic speakers, full event schedule not yet published.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news low.

Austin Game Conference
6th - 8th of September 2006

Description: 4th conference for online and networked game development, including massively multiplayer online games, casual games, online PC and console games.

Venue: Austin Convention Center, Austin, Texas, USA

Notes: There is no full list of exhibitors, this is possibly a workshop and session only event. Co-located with Game Writers Conference, Casual Games Conference and Game Audio Conference. Nintendo not on the speakers list.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news low.

TGS 2006
22nd - 24th of September 2006

Description: 10th Tokyo Game Show, organized by The Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association (CESA) and Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. Asia´s biggest gaming expo.

Venue: Makuhari Messe, Chiba, Japan

Notes: Nintendo is no exhibitor (like last year) and will not hold a keynote speech. Sony Computer Entertainment´s Ken Kutaragi and Square Enix´ Yoichi Wada are occupying the opening keynote slots, according to the Japanese TGS 2006 site. The English speakers list is still to be published.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news low.

GameCity 2006
25th - 29th of October 2006

Description: 1st Annual Interactive Entertainment Festival, GameCity aims to entertain, inform and educate individuals, industry and the public sector on the value and the potential of interactive entertainment for everyone.

Venue: Not Specified, Nottingham, UK

Notes: Since it´s the first such event, little is known about it. There is no exhibitors list.

Likelihood of Nintendo related news low.

vgXpo 2006
27th - 29th October 2006

Description: 2nd America's VideoGame Expo

Venue: Valley Forge Convention Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Notes: Nintendo not on the provisional exhibitors list
Likelihood of Nintendo related news low.

EDIT I overlooked a sort-of important event, Digital Life in mid-October. Microsoft´s Peter Moore is holding one of the keynotes, but Nintendo isn´t even exhibiting. I just thought I added this in case you want to treat this as a complete list of gaming-related events, regardless of Nintendo´s participation.

EDIT It appears that Nintendo will not appear at this year´s Tokyo Game Show at all. It was widely believed that Satoru Iwata would again hold one of the opening keynotes and reveal more information about Wii. This is not the case. Sony Computer Entertainment´s Ken Kutaragi and Square Enix´ Yoichi Wada are occupying the opening keynote slots, according to the Japanese TGS 2006 site. So it looks like there will be no Nintendo news at TGS this year.

EDIT I will no longer update this post, since I am constantly updating its mirror, so to speak, over on the NSider forums. The formatting is slightly different, so I cannot simply paste the same information here without some effort. And since this post has moved off the blog´s front page and my NSider forums thread is floated on the Wii board, I kindly ask you to go there for updates.

Sources: Gamasutra, Siggraph, SPOnG

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Wii to launch in October?

The freshest Wii launch rumour is October. Kotaku claims to have learned this from an inside source.
A large development team working on a still to be disclosed Wii title just got a big kick in the ass from Nintendo.

The source tells us that Alpha, Beta and Final times for the game just got vastly reduced and the common belief among the team is that the Wii will in fact be hitting this October.

This latest tidbit lands as Nintendo starts making the rounds in Europe and here in North America meeting with mass readership magazines to give them first-hand experience with the Wii and it's tiny wii-mote.

Here in the U.S., the company is meeting with folks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, all to give them a chance to play on the new console.

An October release of the Nintendo console would make all kinds of sense. If they can swing beating Sony out the doors, why would they wait?

Why would they wait? Because they want a convincing array of launch titles, as I don´t get tired of repeating. Kicking some developers´ butts won´t work in every case, I am afraid. However, October is the only reasonable alternative to November (which I´m still putting my money on), so it´s at least possible.

Source: Kotaku
Thanks to: Codename Revolution

Monday, July 10, 2006

New Miyamoto game screenshots?

My god, what a productive Sunday this is turning out to be! Thanks to Raphael, we can all enjoy these six beautiful screenshots from this Chinese DS site´s forums:

According both to GoNintendo and their source, German Nintendo site, these are supposed to be the first screenshots from a new Miyamoto IP. However, no such reference can be found on the original forum (which seems to be down at times).

The original thread is entitled 个未定名的游戏,游戏概念图, which approximates (according to Babelfish) to ´Has not chosen a name game, game concept chart´.

Further below, the topic creator writes: 游戏概念图, 应该不是即时演算的,不过感觉不错, which is translated as ´The game concept chart, should not be the immediate calculation, but feels good´, probably meaning that they are not real screenshots, but what the studio is aiming for.

Other people commented on the screenshots thus:

- ´From the old castle to the modern metropolis, the disparity a little too was big´

- ´Hypothesis a little FF meaning... ...´

- ´Flies the spatial ship all to have, the model finally fantasized´

- ´Is game which quite anticipated´

- ´Originally is this game´

I know that Babelfish turns every sentence into Yoda-Speak, which seems to fit the Star Wars feel of the screenshots. But some of the sentences are clear enough to suggest that this is a game that has been anticipated for some time. In this case, it couldn´t possibly be anything to do with Miyamoto, because there has been no word on a new IP - and who could anticipate something that hasn´t yet been announced?

In my mind, it can´t be a Miyamoto game. It may, however, turn out to be for the Wii, after all. Since it was posted on a DS site´s forum, that is actually rather likely.

EDIT The images are indeed from a Chinese CGI movie called ´Thru the Moebius Strip´. Thanks to Fyter for pointing this out. You can visit the movie´s website here. Some of the scenes from the alleged Miyamoto screenshots can be seen in the trailers. This could leave the whole story fake. However, it does not explain the comments by the people on the Chinese forum. They were clearly recognizing a game. Perhaps there is a game in development alongside the movie?

Source: NDSMan Forums
Thanks to: Raphael, GoNintendo, (German)