Dr. Mario: A look back at an iconic game

For most people who had a Game Boy throughout the 90’s, Tetris was all the rage. The game was all about stacking falling blacks into patterns to clear the screen. I didn’t get my Game Boy until 1998, in the form of a Game Boy Pocket. And yes, Tetris was the first game I picked up to play on the wonderful little device. Yet there is one more puzzle game that I think deserves even more recognition that good old Tetris. Of course I am talking about Dr. Mario.

My first exposure to the game was in the form of a goofy TV commercial with that witch doctor song as the backdrop. I was pretty young at the time, probably seven or eight, so I didn’t know it was actually a real song. I just thought it was made up for that commercial. It wouldn’t be until seeing the iconic story of first love, My Girl, before I learned it was a real song. That’s besides the point.

Since I didn’t have a Game Boy I played the NES version. Now if you think that made it any easier you would be wrong. See we were pretty poor so the spare TV I had set up in my bedroom that we used to hook the NES up to was one of those old little tube sets with the rabbit ears and the UHF/VHS channel dials on the front. It also didn’t have coaxial inputs, we had to use one of those adapters with the y shaped prongs, you know which ones I mean if you had an Atari or similar console. Anyways the real issue was, it was an old TV which meant it was black and white. Now this was the same TV that brought me the magical wonder of the Atari in all it’s glory, so I was pretty used to playing games with no color. My first experience with Super Mario Bros. in fact was on that black and white set. So let me tell you the fact I got good enough to beat level 20 playing on a black and white TV should tell you how dedicated I was to that game. Oh, and it was a 3-day rental so I had to learn the game and get good at it in a very short time span. I instantly fell in love with that game.

Dr. Mario, for those that don’t know, is a puzzle game where the goal is to line up multi colored pills to match colored viruses. It sounds easy but if you take the colors out it’s much harder. This was back in the NES days when I still flipped through the manuals to read the story. I forget what it was but the fact it actually had some sort of narrative to justify Mario throwing pills into a jar was really cool to me. I kind of miss the days where you really had to use your imagination to flesh out the story for our video games. I kind of get sick of playing interactive movies. Not that I think modern games all suck, but still there is something special about a simple game with a straightforward objective, in this case clear the screen of colored viruses.

One thing I enjoyed about the game was the animations the viruses made. The way they danced around the petri dish in rhythm with the music. Or the way they would fall down kicking and screaming when you killed one of the viruses in the bottle. The game was pure magic. I even picked up the Game Boy version a few years later. I didn’t play it much. I wouldn’t actually play a handheld version again until I got the Classic NES edition for the GBA.

I also loved the music in this game. Like many puzzle games you really didn’t have very many tracks to chose from. But the few you did were still really great. I preferred the slower, angrier track to the happy up beat circus sounding music.

This isn’t so much a review of the game as just a trip down memory lane. I would spend hours playing this game. I had a few other versions over the years too. I bought Tetris/Dr. Mario for the Super NES during it’s heyday. I skipped the N64 Dr. Mario but I did have the Classic NES one on GBA. I also played Dr. Luigi on Wii U and there was a Dr. Mario On Wii but I think it was online only and I skipped that one too. I try to stick to the NES as my preferred way to enjoy this classic puzzle game starring my favorite video game character by far.

 

 

Getting to know famed video game collector The Immortal John Hancock

When I started getting really into video games I went all in. At the height of my collection I had hundreds of games spanning dozens of consoles. I couldn’t begin to list all of the games I had, but I can tell you the systems I had games for. When I sold off my collection to help pay for college I had an Atari 2600, 5200, Sega Master System, NES, SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, Saturn, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, N64, Game Cube, Game Boy, GBA, DS, DS Lite and even a Sega Nomad.
Well none of that amounts to much compared to a “super collector” that goes by the name: The Immortal John Hancock. A middle-aged family man, Hancock hosts a Youtube channel where he talks about his massive collection. How massive is his collection? For starters it was large enough to be featured in a January 2004 article in the Tips N Tricks magazine. Hancock’s collection consists of 26 complete sets. That is, he owns every single retail game released for 26 different systems. Still not impressed? The man has been collecting since the 1970’s.
How does a person find the time to collect all that stuff? It didn’t happen all at once.
“My mother was a collector. I used to go to flea markets with her as a kid. I began collecting carts, comics and figures. The collection evolved into games which I found much more satisfying.” he said.
His first game console he had as a kid was a Radio Shack TV scoreboard. He described it as basically a Pong clone.
As someone who also had a Radio Shack pong system myself as a kid, I find it refreshing to know many of us can still go back to our roots. In fact one of my only 2 true retro consoles remaining is a Sears Super Pong. My other retro console that sits in a box, a dusty old Intellivision 2 with Intellivoice Voice Synthesis Module. What’s interesting about Mr. Hancock is he started by seeking out unique Pong systems.
“I always have had a fondness for collecting pong consoles.  Mostly due to them being forgotten by others.  I just picked them up along the way due to being very affordable.” he said.
As a family man he enjoys sharing his collection with his wife and kids.
“My game collecting is something that I can share with my kids.  I always try to remember balance.   More strengthens my bond with my kids.” he said.
He also enjoys the support of his wife in his endeavor.
“My wife does not collect but she supports my hobby and I return the favor by not having it affect our relationship in a negative way.”
he added.
So what games do his kids enjoy? Well probably the same ones we all did when we were kids.
He said, “My kids love Nintendo and playing on games like Smash Bros or Mario Kart on the Wii U.  ARMS on the Switch is also a favorite.  Hard to say if they like video games the way I like them, but I can see them carrying on the mantle of at least playing video games with others.”
In recent years he has stated one of his goals is to some day see his games in a museum. Preservation has become more of a focus of his in the last 10 years. He is currently building a new game room onto his house to showcase his collection to his Youtube followers. His internet fame has begun to get him and his wife noticed. He said he gets noticed more at shows or conventions, and it hasn’t had any negative impact on his life to date.
A no regrets kind of guy, he has stated he doesn’t give much thought to his legacy after he is gone. He prefers to just do his best to be as good a person as he can.
“[I] ry to do my best as a human being whatever I do each and every day.   Teaching, talking, and interacting with others each day gives an opportunity to make a difference.” he said.
Speaking of teaching, aside from being a public figure on Youtube, he is also a school teacher. We all had that one school teacher that stood out for us. For me, when I was in grade school I had a teacher that would keep me after school to teach me BASIC programming on the classroom’s Apple II computer. At the end of the school year, I was able to demonstrate my programming ability to the class by showing off the program I had written. It was a monochrome bit map recreation of the Death Star from Star Wars. It was programmed line by line. It sort was sort of animated but not much. To me it was just really cool to have a teacher that recognized my potential outside of the classroom to give me that opportunity. Mr. Hancock has demonstrated that himself by using his video games to teach his students.
“I offer my kids experiences playing classic gaming at the end of the year. This last year my students got to play the original Oregon Trail.” he said.
He also shared he gives considerable thought to his students who has also impacted his own life.
His true goal is preservation. He wants to tell the story of gaming history and keep an objective outlook on the early days of video games. He shares his collection through his own channel, The Immortal John Hancock, and with his friend MetalJesusRocks, who helped launch his channel, and his friend Drunken Master Paul, also on Youtube, who helped give him the nickname that has become a part of his branding.
As I look back on the games I gave up in order to fund my college education I find solace knowing there are people out there that aren’t chasing down the rare games just to horde them, you have people like The Immortal John Hancock, and others, actively trying to preserve video game history. I can’t even begin to imaging ever building my collection back up to where it was so I can at least tell people about this interesting man whose videos often remind me of all the fun I had chasing down those rare video games. Maybe someday I will get back into it, for now I will gladly keep an eye on my subscription feed for a new video from The Immortal John Hancock. You can find John Hancock on Twitter and Facebook.

What if… retrospective: The TurboGrafx-16

The TurboGrafx-16 (TG16) is quite an oddity. Much like the doomed Sega Dreamcast nearly a full decade later, this game machine would be plagued as a mid-generation release that failed to catch on. Much speculation has been banded about on the internet on why it failed. Discussion forums are littered with topics discussing what could have been done differently. In this retrospective I will take a look at a few factors that are often overlooked in why this machine failed. First, I am mostly talking about within the context of the North American (mostly United States) market. While it is true the system performed better in Japan than it did in the US, and there is some doubt if it even existed in Canada at all, it still can be deemed a failure world wide by every measure. In fact, it didn’t even make it to the PAL region. Let’s dig in.

Usually two topics get brought up first when discussing the TG16. The first is Nintendo’s illegal exclusivity contracts in North America that would prevent third party companies from releasing games on the system. Often fans of the system will state that if it had better 3rd party support it would have sold more systems. While it is typically pretty obvious more games makes for a more attractive market, it’s not always the case. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Hudson could have found a way around this by vetting developers and publishers who weren’t even making games for the NES at the time. So that argument holds little weight, Sega was able to get plenty of support for the Sega Master System (SMS) and they sold quite a few more consoles and games than TG16, all on inferior hardware.

So first let’s look at the games that did come to the system. Despite most of what die hard fans will tell you, there are a few false statements often repeated about the TG16 library. The first is that the console had a great library of arcade style scrolling shooters, also known as shoot-em-up’s or shumps to some. The fact is, however, the NES, SNES and even Sega Genesis ALL had more shooters released for their consoles than TG16. The myth it is a shooters dream console is false. The reason this myth is spread has some merit. There is a significant percentage of games for the console that are, in fact, quality shooters. The problem is, there are only 94 games total for the console. So that means the fewer than 21 total shooters on the console stand out as the dominant genre by default. If roughly one forth of your consoles entire library is made up of a single genre, it stands to reason people will gravitate to that genre. No arguments there, the shooters on the console are all quality titles. Of course many fans today are looking at the ENTIRE library as a whole. They forget that for the super vast majority of gamers in the 1980’s when the console was sold people didn’t import as much as they do today. So when you add in all the PC Engine games to the list, especially when you take into account people playing these games using emulators, you start to see a skewing of the facts.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter how many arcade games were released in Japan at the time. When discussing why the console failed it is essential to do so within the scope of the time it was released. In this case it was 1987. This is important because those 94 games that made it to US shores, weren’t all available the first year. Keep in mind you have to look at it on a month to month basis. As a consumer in the late 1980’s even if you were contemplating getting a TG16. Either you were getting tired of the NES, or perhaps you never had the NES and were wanting to upgrade from your Colecovision console or something else. Maybe you were a PC person looking for a new console. Whatever your motivation for wanting one you always have to look at the games first. Everyone talks about how abysmal Keith Courage was as a pack in title. The problem is if you look at the console market at the time, pack in titles were relatively new concept. It really started with Super Mario Bros. on the NES. So when you talk about game consoles you can’t really put too much weight into what pack in title was included. Remember even today pack ins are rare and they were a BRAND NEW concept in the mid-80’s. It’s a fallacy to believe just packing in a different game would have enticed more users. Why? Because if the games that were sold separately weren’t going to convince you to buy the system, throwing on into the box for free wasn’t going to make a difference either. With pack in titles it’s always a gamble. Even when it works like with Wii Sports or SMB, or even Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s still a big risk when the publisher is missing out on all those extra sales. It’s at best a gimmick marketing tactic that is rarely used in the grand scheme of things.

Still, since it gets tossed out let’s debunk the myth anyways. My question is, if not Keith Courage then what? It couldn’t be an arcade shooter. Remember 2 facts, first at the time it was a NEW console so gamers wouldn’t be able to predict it would become a haven for shooters. 2nd, despite being popular among retro enthusiasts, even at the time shmups are NOT that popular. No console in the history of consoles ever packed in a shooter even if they did pack in a freebie. The reason is shooters have a low appeal. Even the best quality shooters only appeal to maybe a tenth of a consoles entire userbase. That is why they are so rare. Even to this day the number of shooters released is small and the ones that do get released are done in very limited runs. Newsflash, that was the SAME back then, why do you think all those so-called “gems” are so damn hard to find? Because, NOBODY BOUGHT THEM. They didn’t sell. There is no chance in HELL a shooter was going to sell the main stream gaming audiences on an untested console. Even the often cited spectacular R-Type, wasn’t exclusive to the console. Sure the NES port has issues, but honestly you are talking a small percentage of your gamers that even want a shooter, even smaller sub-set of those that care about a superior port elsewhere. That’s why when a shooter does become popular it’s some low budget throwaway title in the bargain bin. Gamer’s don’t spend money on them, only collectors do and only in hind sight because they are told to more often than not. Even me, someone who does occasionally enjoy the shooter game, wouldn’t rush out and buy a console even for the most perfect shooter. They are fun, in small doses but they are usually very remnants of older arcades.

Okay if not a shooter then what? The next game often cited is Bonk’s Adventure. That WAS a pack in just as soon as they game was released. But even that didn’t really move units. Again for as much fun as Bonk is, it’s only half as much fun as Sonic, which itself is probably half the fun of Mario. By order of transference Bonk’s Adventure wasn’t a great enough of a game to really convince people to give up their Mario machines. Sonic came close but it took a lot more than one game to get Sega on the map.

I try to be reasonable. I looked at the entire library and to be honest I could not find a single game that stood out as good enough to convince me to pick up a TG16 over an NES. Now I know it comes down to preferences, and I am NOT trashing the console just examining what if scenarios.

So what if it had a BETTER pack in comes down to, no real impact. I can’t imagine Hudson having it in them to imagine a game that would have that appeal. Some would argue Bomberman. I would reply, even the best Bomberman games didn’t help the Saturn, N64, Dreamcast or Gamecubes so sorry nope. Unfortunately there isn’t a single, stand out game on the console.

That takes us back to the first point, Nintendo’s illegal strangle hold on the market. It is well documented Nintendo forced publishers to sign contracts disallowing them from making games on competing consoles. Even if you tried to argue TG16 wasn’t an 8-bit system so it technically wasn’t competing, that wouldn’t pass mustard because Hudson referenced NES in their marketing.That leaves us to wonder then, what games could have potentially been developed on the console that weren’t.

Even if you take the 3rd party deal out of the picture and pretend the Turbo could get any old developer to make games for it. Remember the NES launched with barely 18 games. Now it had a POWERHOUSE launch combo with SMB/Duck Hunt that TG16 didn’t even have in its entire lifespan. So you get ONE shot to entice gamers to pick your machine over theirs. It took Nintendo 2 full years to get the 3rd party support we remember. If TG16 launched in 1987 that means it wouldn’t even begin getting the same level of games as NES until around 1989. That would be a full year into Genesis’s life and the Genesis could be cited as more of the death of the TG16 than anything else. Despite all the flaws of the SMS and the shortcomings of the TG16. Sega DID manage to get a quality launch period stash of games on the market. While Altered Beast is not fondly remembered today, when it released it was somewhat impressive. The scrolling levels, the large sprites, the transition animations, the cut scenes, and the compressed audio voices were all very big deals in 1989. So even if you look at the top tier NES games, let’s assume Castlevania, Mega Man, Contra, Ninja Gaiden and maybe even Double Dragon all have quality ports on Turbo by the time Sega launches. Fair enough, however some of those games did get ports on other consoles, and there is a Castlevania on the doomed Turbo CD (but that’s an entirely different story.) You have to keep in mind 1, how long it takes to port a game over, and 2 the cost to do so. Most 3rd parties wouldn’t have jumped ship to support an untested console when NES was doing so well so let’s just assume it still struggled. I can imagine it doing slightly better but remember NES was NOT successful because of games alone. Nintendo were masters of marketing their toys to kids at that time. So you have to look at the marketing along side the games issue.

Marketing can sink a good product and prop up a terrible product in the short term. Now for all intents and purposes, the TG16 is actually a decent product, sort of. It was more powerful than NES, but not as powerful as Genesis and SNES. Those would be the main consoles it had to compete with. Again NES would have still been replaced with SNES by 1991 even if the TG16 was successful, even more so because Nintendo would have felt threatened. So let’s look at just marketing. TG16 was ONLY sold in very big cities with populations over 1 million people. This is well documented. It was also ONLY marketed in the major cities where it was sold. This left consumers like me in the middle of no where Kansas reading about it in comic books and magazines sold nation wide, but I was not able to just walk into my local Sears, Radio Shack or K-Mart and pick one up. If I can’t find it how can I buy it? And you know what, I can say this with some degree of certainty because despite the flawed marketing strategy overall, it sorta worked because I DID want one. Even if it had a “killer app” pack in I still couldn’t have gotten my hands on one without great effort.

The 1-2 punch of lack of 3rd party support and terrible marketing is often given as the reason for it’s downfall. Now let’s go back to games and see if maybe Hudson could have done more even within the framework of Nintendo’s monopoly. Going back to the question of which game would have been a better pack in. When I look at why gamers wish for more games on the beloved TG16 I often remember its because they see the potential and wish it would have been realized. So let’s just assume they marketed it better, maybe localized a better Japanese games for the launch and it sold enough to at least get attention of developers that weren’t locked into contracts with Nintendo. Who does that leave?

The obvious choice is Atari first. Why them? Simple, they were willing to release games through their Tengen label on the NES. It stands to reason they would have seen dollar signs on TG16 if they saw an opportunity to get superior ports of their games on a competitors console. Why didn’t this happen? It’s often stated, obviously, because they were still marketing the 7800 at that time. False. You see Atari split into two companies following Time Warner selling them off. Tengen was a branch of the arcade division, the company that made Gauntlet and NARC, among others. The company that owned the rights to the Atari arcade catalog, the ones publishing under the Tengen brand, wouldn’t care about the 7800 at all, that was the home computer branch which would go on to release the Jaguar before dying. The arcade division would go through a few different sellers. This is important because while true Tengen did release games for the Sega Genesis, they did so as authorized 3rd party licensees unlike with Nintendo where they did so technically illegally.

Then why couldn’t they release games for TG16? Okay, the reason was business. Again by the time the TG16 released it was already doing poorly. Those Tengen games didn’t even come to the NES until the time when Hudson was scrambling to get their console into homes. Atari Games would have looked at the TG16 and seen it was doing poorly and considered it too risky to put games out for it. Hudson recognized the need for those games so they did license some themselves as Sega was doing with SMS, but it was too little effort as it just spread them too thin. Then why did they make games for Sega? Simple, whereas the TurboGrafix launched to abysmal sales in the US, the Genesis took off basically overnight by comparison. It was a hot item kids wanted. The marketing was perfect, the games were fantastic, the console looked futuristic by comparison. I am not saying all this as a die-hard Sega fan. Remember before I discovered Sega I did want a TG16. What pushed me over the top was, of course, Sonic. That’s another story for another day.

Even if we ASSUME the marketing was better and we assume Tengen was on board because why not. That’s still barely what, 20 or so games they released for the NES? Even if they ported every single one to the TG16, would it have really made that much of a difference? I mean okay, is Gauntlet or Alien Syndrome really going to get you to buy a system that Splatter House or Bonk’s Adventure didn’t already sell you on? Even if you add the ENTIRE Tengen (Atari Games) library, and you throw in a few NEW arcade ports here and there, we’re talking about not 2nd tier, not 3rd tier, Atari was making 4th and 5th tier games at this point. Sure that’s about on par with the slop Hudson was dumping onto the TG16, a few hidden gems aside. Looking at it this way, I still can’t see the TG16 doing much better. But, let’s keep going. Which developers weren’t locked into contracts with Nintendo at this time? Well I am not going to bring up the unlicensed NES crap games that sell for tons of money, because they all sucked and were only on the system as shovel ware because it sold so well. A dying console doesn’t get shovel ware unless the 1st party developer is making it themselves.

We could look to the PC scene. If you remember the NES did get a ton of Commodore 64, Apple II and PC DOS games ported to it. The problem is they came later in the life when it was more affordable to do so. Still let’s examine this as a potential for games. Remember I am assuming no NEW games were going to magically get made. Developers only have so much inspiration and I can’t believe for 1 second that just because they were making a game for the TG16 instead of Apple or Amiga they would miraculously be inspired. That is not how art works. That leaves companies like EA, Epyx, Sierra Online, LucasArts and SSI. All of these companies mostly avoided the NES until t was firmly established as a must own console everyone needed to get their game on. Each of these developers shined on the PC at the time. Here is why I find it unlikely you would have gotten them to port games over to TG16 (not talking Turbo CD here that’s whole other article.) These companies were large publishing houses, but they didn’t develop games for the most part. Lucas being the major exception. So what you have is a case where developers might have wanted to tinker with the guts of the PC Engine as it was known in Japan, their publishers would have said no. I have been talking within the framework of the launch window to the release of the Genesis and SNES. In order to assume the TG16 would have been more successful over all it would have had to be more so out the gate. If you consider that then which game developers making powerful graphic adventure games that use up tons of memory are going to release their games on tiny HuCards? Keep in mind even with the CD add on these companies largely ignored ignored the platform entirely. The reason it took later for them to get games on the NES was because it took that long for Nintendo to develop larger carts. Remember Legend of Zelda was originally released in Japan as a floppy disk game, something you could do with a computer but not a console. The floppy drive was not sold in NA, therefore Nintendo had to find a way to squeeze the game onto a cart. The solution was larger carts that could hold more data.

Even if you scour the entire library of games that were released for Commodore, arcades, PC, DOS, Apple, etc., that didn’t get ports to NES, it’s remained unlikely many of them, if any, would have been ported to the TG16 anyways. At most I figured maybe 30-40 games would have been released over the 94 that were, again maybe half of those in the time span it would have made a difference. By going through all the variables I discovered there was just nothing Hudson and their partners could have done to make it a success in the States. The deck was stacked against them from the start. Even if that mysterious pack in game that doesn’t exist was available, and the console was sold at every toy and department store in America, the things Hudson could control, they couldn’t force developers to make games for their console and even if they could, consumers still might have passed up on it. No matter how you examine it I truly believe the TG16 was always doomed to fail. Remember Genesis was right around the corner, SNES right behind that and before long you had so many games and consoles on the market the TG16 was always going to get lost in the shuffle. At best you might have gotten a dozen or so ports of games from Tengen and a few high profile PC ports that didn’t require large amounts of storage space. Even with all things in Hudson’s favor the system was doomed from the start. In a way it’s a shame because the console really isn’t half bad. If it wasn’t so expensive due to how rare it is, I might be temped to pick one up one of these days. As it is the machine is forgotten by the same people that mostly didn’t even know it existed. The library is ripe to be discovered through modern means, however, so there are still good games worth looking into these days. As I tried to think of any scenario, aside from Nintendo going out of business, there wasn’t anything that would have made it the success it’s die hard fans often wish for.

Why the Nintendo Switch doesn’t need ALL of the 3rd party games.

Hear me out those 2 fanboys that find a way to read this. Nintendo is NOT Sony, they do not make the same type of system and their games appeal to a different audience. If the Switch was just a true home console replacement for the Wii U I would make a case Nintendo needed to do better this time around attracting 3rd parties, but since that is not the reality I would like to lay out an argument for why they not only can succeed without that level of AAA support, they are better off without it.

First, the Switch is NOT a home console. Despite Nintendo touting it as a “hybrid” and some in the gaming press towing that line, let’s face it, the machine is weaker than the base Xbox and PS4 consoles which have already been replaced with more powerful iterations. The reality is, more and more reports of the big budget AAA games NOT coming to Switch due to the weak hardware is a reality gamers have to accept. However, Nintendo has traditionally done well attracting handheld and mobile ports or versions of games for their portable consoles, Rock Star who has not made a game for a Nintendo home console ever has made games for the DS family. Microsoft, who competes directly with Nintendo in the home console space, has allowed Rare, a subsidiary of theirs, to release games for the Nintendo handhelds. If Nintendo, and their partners, want to be successful on Switch they have to look at it from that perspective. Sure make a comparable home port running on last gen builds if you must, but the focus needs to be getting the maximum potential out of the handheld side and letting the console shine in that arena.

Second, the Wii sold gangbusters and it was not just weaker, it was pathetic how weak it was compared to it’s big brothers. Unlike Switch, Wii had more than just weak horse power, slow CPU, less RAM and puny GPU going against it, it ALSO had to deal with the issue of the Wii remote, which meant certain games either had to be reworked entirely for motion controls, games like fighting games didn’t work so they were axed after the first few attempts, and that meant some games either had to be compromised, or developers had to spend additional, limited, resources retooling their game to not only run on weaker hardware but to utilize wonky, non industry standard controls. In the end it was easier for them to develop exclusive games for the Wii from the ground up than to try butchering their square games to fit into the round hole Nintendo was selling. Another limitation of the Wii was the memory size. It had 512 MEGABYTES, at least the Switch has 32 Giga Bytes and is expandable up to 512 GB. Wii was only expandable up to 8GB and that was a hard limit. The base Xbox ORIGINAL came with that  much memory. So games that required DLC or patches, and such, had to be compromised, or skipped. I wouldn’t pay full price for a Wii game that was missing key features, and most gamers didn’t which is why 3rd party games that did that sold terrible and the ones that sold well were built from the ground up with Wii in mind, or were quick ports of PS2 games with motion controls reworked anyways because they were cheap to port games that were already fully developed.

Third, Nintendo 1st party games always sell best and 2nd party games sell behind there, 3rd party games that DO find success on the Nintendo platform do so by imitating what Nintendo is doing on the console. A game like Mortal Kombat X or Destiny won’t work on a Nintendo Switch, but a 3rd party game in the Mortal Kombat universe that is scaled down to run on the hardware and caters to the retro audience that eats up Nintendo consoles has a better chance of appealing to that audience. Think of it like this. Switch is NOT getting SF5, but it is getting a SFII game that is targeting the Nintendo audience.

Fourth, Nintendo fans = retro fans. Let’s face it, with their roots going all the way back to Atari, Nintendo has been a part of the gaming community and in the hearts and minds of gamers since the first successful home consoles. Sony has been in the game for 20 years, but Nintendo has an additional 15 years on them easily. That means there is a larger audience of classic and retro gamers who identify with Nintendo. Sony has always gone after the more modern, younger gamers and Xbox has always tried to make a PC for the living room, leaving Nintendo the last remnants of the early days of video games. This causes a lot of warm fuzzy feelings with Nintendo gamers that Sony doesn’t and Microsoft never will have. You could make a case that Microsoft was in the game just as long with their PC stuff, but PC gamers and retro console/retro arcade gamers don’t always intersect. That being said, Wii was a retro gamers wet dream and for that reason alone I keep that wonky butt of gaming jokes around. Even now, the majority of launch titles really play on that nostalgia. In fact, ARMS and Breath of the Wild are the only games that I own for the console that aren’t retro themed or inspired in some way.

Nintendo does need to get some of the big name franchises, the Call of Duty games, the sports titles, etc., but they don’t need the latest and more current console iteration, realistically that’s not going to happen anyways, but they can get by with ports that are catered to their audience and the gamers who see it as a second console will play it for the Nintendo games and the retro games with 3rd party ports catered to their tastes leaving them to buy the deeper, more complex and big budget experiences on their preferred Microsoft, Sony or PC of choice.

That being said, there are going to be those who buy the Switch as their primary console and they will want some 3rd party games too. However, the majority of them are likely to be the same pro-Nintendo audience that favors the “Nintendo” style of gaming so they probably aren’t Call of Duty or Destiny gamers to begin with.

Nintendo has learned a long time ago they can’t go toe to toe with the big boys. That is why the had to go the blue ocean route. They found their audience with Wii and DS because they learned what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately people, mostly short sighted folks that don’t follow the gaming industry, tend to see the failure of the Wii U as an isolated event and pick it apart. I could write an entire article on why that failed and Switch is doing well, but instead I will just say Nintendo knows how to reach their audience and by merging their home console and handheld audience into one market they have finally solved many of the problems they were having.

Nintendo isn’t going to abandon the 3DS/2DS family just yet, but people have to understand how long it takes to make a game and launch a new platform before they go throwing around claims like new games coming to that as proof Nintendo isn’t merging their platforms. The Switch is it going forward. Games that were 1-2 years out from release when Switch launched that were already in development for 3DS were going to continue no matter what. Nintendo wasn’t just banking on if Switch failed they were working on plan b, rather what likely is happening is games that were commissioned and started before Switch was even finalized were just too far along to move over to the Switch and Nintendo always supports their old handheld or console at least a year or two after they replace it. However with Wii U, they stopped cold turkey, just killed it with Breath of the Wild and washed their hands of it.

In a world where Nintendo has to divide their attention between making games for two platforms, a small developer like Nintendo falls into the drought situation more often than they can handle. Once the 3DS winds down and all you see are ports and games coming from the smaller, lesser studios and the interns, you will start to see a shift of full development migrating to Switch and the merging of the two markets into one will be complete. After that point you won’t see six or seven Switch games a year followed by six or seven 3DS games, you will start seeing 10-20 games for Switch and 3DS will just fade away. By then the 3rd party developers who figure out how to make games for the Nintendo audience will have done so.

This is mostly meant to reassure the Switch faithful and those on the fence that while it looks bad on the surface so many developers not bringing their big titles to the system, keep in mind it takes 2-3 years to make a new game and most of those games were in development years before the Switch was finalized. The ones that could run or be made to run on the hardware and that would appeal to the Nintendo audience, will find their way on the system. Those that can’t be done without compromising the games just won’t, and shouldn’t, be ported. I say this as someone who had, and LOVED, the Gamecube, bringing half-baked ports that cut features, severely limiting the appeal and remove key components of the game, are NOT going to sell anyways so it’s just a waste of time bringing them over. I would rather get a Nintendo-style port of a game catered to the hardware, than a watered down port that has to cut features. Some argue that is splitting hairs, after all if they have to cater it to the hardware isn’t that the same as watering it down? Not if done right.

Hand held versions of games, especially on Nintendo consoles, have typically been built from the ground up to utilize the platform’s unique features anyways, so handheld gamers have come to expect that a Call of Duty that does get released on their machine is going to be built to run on that hardware. Does that mean there is hope for WWII coming to Switch? No, Activision already said so. But there is a chance they will find a way to port next years game to the console, or create a specific game tailored for the Switch hardware and catered to that audience. In other words, it’s going to be DS/Wii all over again, but this time the hardware is closer and has fewer hurdles to over come. You won’t get a PS4 game on Switch but you CAN and likely will get last gen PS3 style ports that make use of the unique features of the Switch and, best of all, can be played on the go in full HD console style graphics. In other words a portable PS3 is NOT a bad console to be making games for.

I love my PS3 and while I do want my big budget AAA games, I will get those on my PS4 and be happy with that, sell me games made for the Switch that make use of it’s features or at least give me PS3 quality games I can take on the go and I will be happy. Also, unlike PS2-Wii ports, where the leap from PS2 to PS3 was very obvious, many gamers continue to say the leap from PS3 to PS4 was so minimal it’s barely noticable anyways, getting a ton of late PS3 ports and PS3 “remasters” isn’t going to be bad for Nintendo gamers that stuck to Wii and missed out on those games, even the tiny percentage that migrated to Wii U are still going to find a ton of games they missed out on. For example, I did stick with Wii clear into 2008. I went full PC only until about 2013 when I picked up both a PS3 and a Wii U and I had no trouble going back through the PS3 library and finding tons of great games that never made it to Wii, those gamers, also likely the ones gobbling up all the Switches at the moment, like myself, are probably going to be just as happy playing Skyrim in 2017 on Switch as their friends were who played it when it was new. Think of it as new to you games.

Nintendo gamers are fully accustomed to that mentality and unlike Wii U where development was hindered, Switch at least is easier to make games for, has features people want, is priced fair for what you get, and once game developers get into their groove, late 2018 and beyond the Switch is going to be a gaming behemoth. It’s going to have a short lifespan, sure, but it will be a great 5 years and then Switch 2.0 will be gearing up by then anyways. I know this ran a little long but there was a lot that had to be said.

I remain optimistic that Switch will

My experiences with Harry Potter and Pokemon

These two pop-culture phenomenons came out around the same time. I was probably 14 or 15 when they were first starting to get popular. Looking back I can see why I never really became that interested in either of these two properties. They just came out at the wrong time.

Still, I have seen movies and video games come out later in life that I was able to enjoy. For example, I am really loving ARMS and I was really into Splatoon, too.

When Harry Potter first came out I was just disinterested. I already was really into Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, so it’s not like these books weren’t in my wheel house. I just never found them that appealing. Maybe it was because the characters on Buffy and Sabrina were closer to my age and I was growing up. This was around the time I was getting out of Power Rangers and Transformers, plus I was also slowly losing interest in comic books. By the time I was 16 I was so involved with wanting to make music that I almost completely got out of video games entirely. Now I still read books around this time, mostly Star Wars books but also other stuff on rare occasions. I just never could bring myself to get into Harry.

A few years ago I was living with a friend of mine who was one of those child at heart men who remained constantly stuck in his childhood. He loved the Harry Potter books, films, games, everything. He was a few years younger than I was so it made sense it would appeal more to him. During the time I was living with him he had a full Harry Potter marathon. I can’t remember for certain but I think the final film in the series had just came out or was about to get released so he was either catching up or watching a full run, either way all I remember were bits and pieces. I didn’t sit and watch them with him, I was stuck on my computer working on my then latest music project. From what I did see, however, I found somewhat curious at the very least. The thing is, I also was not that strongly into the Lord of the Rings movies either, so it seemed to me Harry Potter was just a kids version of that. Maybe not exactly but that was my impression.

As far as Pokemon goes, I don’t have a good excuse for not getting into it to be honest. I discovered other “children’s” targeted Nintendo franchises following it’s release so maybe the whole concept just never appealed to me. I was mildly interested in Digimon and so I know there was also precedent for me to get into Pokemon, plus I am still a huge Kirby fan so I know I can’t really lean on Pokemon was too “cutesy” for me. To be fair, I have tried to get into Pokemon, I have played several of the games, seen a few random episodes of the cartoon, I even helped my younger sister build a collection of the trading cards, and yes I even tried Pokemon Go, so I am familiar enough with the franchise. I still never developed any liking for it, so even to this day I remain disinterested in Pokemon. I also don’t get into Animal Crossing or Pikmin so maybe there is something to it just being too many characters to keep track of at once?

Looking back on it all, I still have no strong desire to invest any significant amount of my time to watching a movie series about a young kid and his magic friends. I guess the time for me to get into Harry Potter has passed and that’s all there is to it.

E3 2017: Hopes and dreams

 

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Every June the electronic entertainment industry, primarily made up of video games and computers, come together to showcase all of their upcoming and latest projects at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. It can be an exciting time for a gamer so here are a few things I am hoping to get attention at this year’s expo, and a few wild dream projects I will throw out just for fun. I will break it down by platform one at a time.

xbox

Microsoft:

Normally I really do not pay any attention to what they are doing. Until recently I never even owned an Xbox console. Now that I own both an original and a 360 I am starting to change my attitude towards the system. But that is not why I am interested in hearing what Microsoft has to say. There are a couple of things I want to hear about from Microsoft and I am fully expecting 1 of them to get a lot of attention, one will be wishful thinking and the other pie-in-the-sky not going to happen but I will suggest it anyways.

Scorpio

Whatever it turns out to be I am at least curious to learn more about it. I want to see form factor, learn about what exclusive features it will offer that the normal Xbox One doesn’t, beyond 4K, and I want to learn about the price and potential exclusive games, if any.

If the price is right, and the rest is to my liking, I might make Scorpio my entry point into the Xbox One family of gaming machines. Of course I am also cheap so I might go the S route or just spend my money elsewhere, who knows. All I do know is right now I am actually curious to see what Microsoft has to offer, and that is a first for me.

Windows

I want to learn more about how Microsoft intends to keep PC gamers sticking to the platform and helping it grow. I also want to learn more about their tablet future. I have a Windows laptop/tablet hybrid and I rarely, I mean hardly ever, almost never, use the tablet mode. I want to learn what they are going to do to make the tablet features of Windows more appealing to the masses so that Windows can continue to be healthy and maybe not disappear like Amiga.

Mobile

I do not want Microsoft to give up on mobile entirely but I want them to do it right. A dedicated Xbox tablet that can play Xbox specific content, but also have a mobile OS that is built from the ground up to function on a hand held type device, with the power of an Xbox might be worth checking out. Basically copy the Switch but with Xbox games. I know this won’t sell in the same numbers, but they can make it profitable if they meter their expectations and focus on what works and don’t make it an all-in-one machine.

VR

Microsoft has done nothing with VR in any meaningful way, I want to see them get into the arena in a big way so that VR can finally become a real success once and for all. I am like most, I am on the fence because VR is expensive, so if there was at least one more major player in the game it will go a long way in both bringing down costs and increasing the output of content.

Playstation-logo-colour

Sony:

Honestly I am not that excited about hearing what Sony has to offer other than announce some games and if at all possible try to talk about VR. In fact all I want to learn about is VR, a price drop and with some good bundles might be interesting, and at least 2 to 3 new, compelling games might go a long way. I know VR is struggling, but there are too many players with too much money invested for it to disappear entirely, it’s going to catch on eventually, but I think the cost is the biggest hindrance, always has been, so if more companies get involved and the ones in it double down it might have more of a shot. I want Sony to succeed because I have grown attached to the Playstation brand and even their non-gaming stuff has always been appealing to me.

I would also like for Sony to announce another PSP family of devices, something with more in common with the Switch maybe. Yes, Switch has changed the game and we all know that means others are going to look for any way they can to get in on that success, which I hope they do, having 1 device that doubles as a portable and home console is every gamers dream, or, at least it should be.

Nintendo Switch logo

Nintendo:

Games. That is all. Announce as many games as you can. I want Switch to succeed and for that to be a reality it needs as much variety as possible. They have already proven it will be a decent machine for fighting game enthusiasts like myself, not hard core like Playstation but certainly better than Wii U. They are also bringing more RPG games to the table than they have in several hardware generations, at least on the console side. I always figured it they truly merged their two divisions into one it would mean very big success for the company, as when you get down to it splitting the fanbase has always been their biggest weakness, now with a unified Nintendo fanbase, yes, we are unstopable and MS better pay attention as they keep splitting their fanbase between console, tablet, and PC.

6165-windowsSonynintendo-logoSega

The future:

I predict there will come a time when you have 3 companies doing three different things all catering to 3 different demographics. This is not so much a place a bet kind of prediction and not just wishful thinking, call it more an educated guess coupled with some strong hopes.

I want Nintendo to throw everything into the Switch and just BE the handheld gamer kings with a machine you take with you but can also plug into the TV when you want. I have been asking for this ever since the Game Boy Player transformed by GameCube from a second rate Xbox wannabe into a true gaming masterpiece.

I want Sony to double down on the console space, pushing for the best VR and augmented reality experiences making themselves the premium gaming device for the game that wants a more solid experience than the basic, but steady, offerings of Nintendo.

As for Microsoft, I just want them to get out of hardware entirely and focus everything on making Windows the very best it can be so that PC gaming can live on. If these three companies each focus on doing their one thing and doing it very well, we will live in a gaming utopia where everyone gets what they want. Then Sega can continue to exist in the last area they still have some clout, the arcade scene, which is far from dead but not what it once was.

With everyone trying to fight for a piece of the pie, dividing the gamer base into smaller segments, it just causes much division, infighting, confusion, and so-called console wars. If Microsoft focused just on PC and conceded consoles to Sony, like Nintendo has, and Nintendo focuses entirely on handhelds and remains committed to their exiting of consoles, which I contend is what Switch is, then that leaves Sony alone in the living room, Nintendo alone in your backpack and Microsoft alone in the computer space and everyone wins. Okay maybe not entirely without some overlap but you still have competition, just more focused with each doing their own thing, but doing it better than ever. Since that scenario is not likely, I just want everyone to get the best games they can and not worry so much about what the other guys are doing. Competition is a good thing, but we do have too much overlap in some areas.

Looking back on the Nintendo Wii U: Nintendo’s last true Home console

So the topic I want to discuss today, is the Nintendo Wii U Nintendo’s last true home console? I’m sure I’ve dabbled on this in the past and I’m probably going to talk about it more in the future but this is just sort of a brief look back.

With the release of the Nintendo Switch people are saying that Nintendo future is bright and some people are saying their future is in doubt. But I don’t think Nintendo’s future has ever been in question to me. They’ve been in pretty good financial shape since they released the Nintendo DS and honestly Pokemon.

So if the Nintendo Switch is a true hybrid console then the question is does it count as at home console and that’s what I want to consider.

I’ve owned every Nintendo Home console since the NES so for me I have a lot invested in Nintendo’s success because they keep making products that I enjoy buying. However I have not owned every Nintendo handheld I’ve never owned a 3DS and I’ve never owned a Gameboy Advance SP or a GBA micro. I have owned Nintendo DS, Gameboy Advance, original Gameboy, Gameboy Pocket, and Gameboy Color, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the handheld’s my main problem is the screens are too small. I have bought most of them for a couple of games and mostly for road trips. I rarely just sit and game on a handheld.

So to me I don’t really think of the Nintendo Switch as a Home console I do have the doc but I never got it and I don’t hook it up to my TV I almost exclusively play in tablet mode with the joy cons attached. No it’s not that I haven’t tried it in console mode I have I played breath of the wild in console mode but most of the games that I have don’t really require being on the big screen and they don’t really gain anything from being on the big screen the tablet screen is good enough and I like to multitask so I usually will have my movies or TV shows playing on the TV while I’m gaming on the tablet this was the one feature I really enjoyed about the Wii U I could sit and play Nintendo games on the Wii U tablet while still watching a show.

A few years ago I was in a discussion board on a Nintendo fan site and we were talking about what Nintendo should do following up the Wii U and I had suggested that they should just make a tablet with buttons that has HDMI out that can connect to a TV for me personally I felt that a product like that would you not both of Nintendo’s core demographics their shrinking console market and they’re consistently loyal handheld Market. For me it seemed like such a no-brainer that I thought if they did anything other than that I was going to be disappointed and not be interested in buying the product considering how disappointed I was in there last two home consoles.

So for me I was very excited when I saw the Nintendo Switch reveal and learned it in fact was a tablet with buttons and HDMI connecting to a TV the best part is the controller’s word attachable that wasn’t something I had consider Nintendo doing as a tablet I kind of feel like maybe Nintendo could put a little more into some of the apps at least get a few multi media apps but I think Nintendo smart to stay focused on the gaming demographic if they were to take Apple head on or Google, they’d probably lose.

So let’s answer the question what to me makes a Home console. Well I’ve always maintained that in order to be a home game console it has to play video games on your TV that’s the core of it the Switch does not play video games on the TV not in its base mode it don’t you have to connect it to a separate piece of Hardware that connects that to your TV so to me that does not qualify the Switch is a true Home console to me it is a mobile device that connects to your TV not a true Home console.

So then to me that makes the Wii U Nintendo last true Home console assuming that the Switch moves forward as their new business model that looks like that’s going to be the plan. So I want to do some Reminiscing on the Nintendo Wii U as Nintendo’s last Home console. I’m going to briefly run down the things that I did not like about the Wii U first and then I’ll end on talking about the things that I did like. The very first thing I dislike about the Wii U was the name I hated the Wii I don’t make that a secret and I did not like the fact that the Wii U was the replacement of the way I wanted them to get away from the Wii brand the we name the motion controls in the little Mii Critters and they didn’t do that.

Some people can look past the name and I was able to do that as well but it was a hard sell. The second thing I didn’t like is how it force you to create a me I didn’t like the Mii’s on the Wii and I didn’t like having to use them and I don’t like being forced to I’ve never liked when any company video game website or anybody forces you to do something I like toys I like options if you give me the choice to do something I might choose to do so if you tell me I don’t have a choice then I don’t want to do it.

The interface was exactly the same as the Wii but there was a slight alteration and had to really annoying me verse and me Plaza and you couldn’t turn them off I didn’t like that either it was just a little reminder that you had a TV screen full of means running around chattering and that Mii gibberish language.

Looking back on it the only other thing I didn’t care for was how you had to load it into Wii mode in order to access the Wii stuff but now that I think about it, the one benefit to that is it allowed you to continue accessing the Wii virtual console and we download games which I did continue to do.

I don’t want to get to negative on it because I did buy the system and I did enjoy it I understand why other people didn’t but it was fun it had some fun games so let’s talk about the things I did like I loved the tablet in the off TV play being able to sit in my recliner and playing a game on the tablet while watching a Netflix show on the TV I enjoyed that.

I also liked the Pro Controller it was better than the classic controller on the Wii. I like the eShop it was easier to navigate the search function was a lot more useful it had a lot more games and it had a few non-game apps that Wii didn’t have as many of those.

I did like the web browser better on the Wii U and once they finally got profiles I liked using the Netflix app on the Wii U better than using it on the Wii which to be honest I never used it on the Wii but my sister did so I know what it was like and I didn’t care for it.

That’s enough about features a game console is only as good as its games so now I want to talk about the games. To a non Nintendo gamer the Wii U was a Barren Wasteland that’s a fact. Fortunately for me I am a Nintendo gamer and it had quite a few games that I really enjoyed.

The first game that I enjoyed the most with Super Mario 3D World I played this game a lot and I even showed it to people and recommended it to friends.

I also played Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Captain Toad, both New Super Luigi U and new Super Mario Brothers U, Smash Bros. U, Dr. Luigi, Pikmin 3, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, the Wonderful 101, Hyrule Warriors, The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD remake, The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess HD remake, Mario versus Donkey Kong game, Splatoon, and Super Mario Maker. I had a few eShop titles like Shovel Knight, Pier Solar, a few others I can’t remember them all. Overall I was mostly satisfied with the games that I had I like most people there were a lot of games I didn’t enjoy those were the games I never bought and there weren’t very many games to choose from so they weren’t a lot of options.

I know some people will disagree with this but I’ll remember the Wii U a little more family than the original Wii but not as finely as the Nintendo GameCube I think I’m going to put it on par with the Nintendo 64 which is the system I like just a little tiny bit more than the Wii.

I think the end of the day it was a good system it had some good games it just had some marketing issues it had a few technical flaws that Nintendo couldn’t overcome and the biggest problem was it was a full HD console it was Nintendo’s first full HD consult and they didn’t know how to develop HD games.

Looking forward I think Nintendo is going to have a better time getting games out for the Switch because they’re going to be in the middle there going to be a little bit better and 3DS games but not quite as good as PS4 games and I think that’s Nintendo’s comfort zone.

The way you did have an assortment of accessories just not a crazy number like the Wii, but I didn’t own enough of them to really comment on that. The Nintendo GameCube was the last time I tried to make a Nintendo console my only console so I had a Wii U but I also had a PS4 and a PS3 so I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on anything I do think if you are a Wii U only console gamer you probably didn’t have a very good generation.

I think maybe in time I’ll start to appreciate it more for what it was and maybe Overlook some of its claws and maybe discover some of the hidden gems although I don’t think there’s that many hidden gems to discover cuz there’s not that many games.

I don’t want to speculate on what could have been or should have been or how it could have been improved I’ll just say that I had fun with it I’ll keep it around and I’ll be able to go back to it from time to time and reminisce without too many negative thoughts. At the time my biggest gripe continued to me the system being overpriced for what you got

When I bought mine Nintendo was running a special if you bought the deluxe edition it came with 3 games and any digital game you bought in the eShop you got like extra bonus points so I got a lot of free games just by buying the system so it worked out for me but I still think it was overpriced.

The games that I don’t own that I still want to pick up I can’t think of any maybe Paper Mario Maybe Star Fox I don’t care for Animal Crossing I don’t care for the Wario games and I won’t buy any of the games and have the Wii name in them, or depend heavily on the Mii’s.

I do have Nintendo Land but that’s because it came with the system and I’ve just never played it and I’ve never saw fit to sell it.

The rest of the games unfortunately if they’re on Switch like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe I just bought for Switch I think I’ll get them on the Switch I’m not interested in going back to the Wii U at this point. I guess there’s a couple of Sonic games that I haven’t played and I think there’s a Rayman game on the Wii U but I’m not 100% I think some of those games are coming to Switch.

I guess that’s all I have to say on it I’m enjoying the Switch and I know all look finally back on the Wii U in time. I don’t think it had as much potential as some of Nintendo previous consoles I think it was held back tremendously by the hardware and it was also held back by some of the Wii stuff but it was a good system not their best certainly not their worst.

Does the Switch success actually hurt Nintendo?

Right now the entire internet, at least the segment of the internet that pays attention to video games, is paying close attention the Nintendo’s newest gadget, the Switch. I have to say since November when they first showed off what the Switch was capable of I have been taken in. Full disclaimer, I love Nintendo and I typically do buy their machines. But I can safely say my buying habits do reflect the larger gaming audience as a whole so I will use that as a measure to make my point.

Each subsequent home console generation from NES, to Game Cube, Nintendo seems to lose some of their market share. As I have previously pointed out, while their home console base has shrunken over the years, their overall base has grown, partly because they have continued to find success in their handheld divisions. They had 1 outlier, the Wii, which was the first time they not only increased sales, but surpassed their previous record holder, the NES. This was a big deal for the industry because it proved that Nintendo’s philosophy they weren’t competing directly with Sony or Microsoft could be true.

Here is where my question comes into play. I already assume the Switch will be a success because it combines the handheld market with the home console market, obviously that is part of the draw. The reason that could spell success is not because you can take the home console games on the go, that IS NOT a new concept there have been plenty of other systems that did just that. The first notable one was the Turbo Express which let gamers play their Turbografx-16 console games on the go. Then there was the Sega Game Gear which had a converter that allowed you to play Sega Master System games on the go. This was followed by two more portable home console devices from Sega, the CDX which was a sort of, portable Sega CD player, it could connect to a portable screen if you had one, and the Nomad a truly portable Sega Genesis complete with 6-button layout.

Then there is the reverse, which has many gamers also excited, playing portable games on the big screen. This has a big draw because hand held games tend to be reminiscent of retro or classic games. Typically handheld machines were running on last gen hardware or two gens back. The Game Boy was sort of NES hardware and was released during the NES lifespan, but it was black and white only and ran on a much smaller resolution, so compromises had to be made. Game Boy Advance, released at the same time as the Game Cube, PS2-era power, was basically running on SNES levels of power with slight tweaks. Even the Nintendo DS, released just before the Xbox 360-era, was running on essentially N64 hardware in portable mode. This is key because to keep costs down developers have had to make compromises. This means that mobile games running on Switch don’t have to be targeted towards lesser hardware, but they can be tweaked for the mobile experience. I suspect Switch will attract those typical mobile and handheld games that have made past Nintendo handhelds so popular among their target audience. But again playing mobile games, or handheld games, on the big TV is also not new.

In the mid-90’s Nintendo themselves first dabbled in putting portable games on the TV via the home console, they did is with the Super Game Boy cartridge that ran on SNES hardware. They perfected this in the Game Cube era with the Game Boy Player which ran the ENTIRE Game Boy library ranging from Game Boy, Game Boy Color and the then current Game Boy Advance. Sony has even found some limited success with this by putting TV outputs as an option on their PSP and PS Vita devices, especially if you look at the PS Vita TV. So putting portable games on the TV is nothing new, and taking the home console games on the go is nothing new, then what does excite people about the Switch?

This is where it gets messy for Nintendo. Most gamers are banking on the Switch being IT from now on. The belief is Nintendo will merge their portable and home console divisions into a single development platform, they have already stated this as having been done. The reason this is exciting is simple. If you look at a Nintendo release schedule in a given year, they make a TON of great games and attract a TON of great 3rd party and indie support. They do, just not on a single machine. If you divide their handheld and console into TWO machines, releasing separate games and having two divided release schedule you force gamers to make a choice, buy the less expensive, lower powered portable expecting it to have the games that will satisfy you. Another option that fewer people have been making, buy the home console machine for the grander experiences and sit through long periods of droughts with nothing to play. The third option, something fewer people do but what Nintendo really loved, buy both systems to get the entire library. This is key because typically, or traditionally that is, the portable games differed greatly enough from the console games you really had to chose which experience you preferred. Starting with Wii U Nintendo began merging the two libraries. First instead of releasing separate versions of some games, a home versions and a scaled down entirely different portable version, like Super Mario World vs. Super Mario Land, Donkey Kong Country vs. Donkey Kong Land, Kirby Adventure vs. Kirby’s Dreamland, etc. This time they gave you ONE game and released it on both systems. They did this with Super Smash Bros., NES Remix 1 and 2, Super Mario Maker, and a host of others. Another reason the Wii U failed was the library was too similar to the 3ds, which was selling much better and had far superior support. Super Mario 3D World didn’t really offer much different of an experience as Super Mario 3D Land.

So what happens if Switch just gets ALL the games going forward does that automatically mean it will get ALL the gamers going forward too? Here is my pause for concern. If you take this through logically it can mean only 1 thing. Nintendo has basically given up on the true home console market and doubled-down on the portable scene. Their hedging their bets on a dedicated portable machine that can connect to a TV. A few years ago I suggested Nintendo should just make a gaming tablet that used real buttons on the sides and could connect to a TV via HDMI out and I was called crazy for that. My logic was Nintendo’s consoles suffer from lack of releases because Nintendo cannot support two machines, they do not have the resources, money, man power, tools, etc, to do that. If they had all of their teams making all of their games for one system, then they will have the BEST software library in the world and could dominate the gaming industry. They did this twice before, the first time was with NES, they had 90 percent of the entire gaming market during those years. Granted the market was smaller and vastly different then, they dominated because they had so many great games on the system. It was beginning with SNES they had to split their attention between developing games for two machines. It wasn’t as noticable then because the Game Boy was basically just a watered down NES, they could get their summer interns to port NES games down to the Game Boy while sparing a smaller team here and there to pad the schedule with original games. If you look at the classic Game Boy library it really was just an NES port machine those first few years. Even if Super Mario Land was a truly original game, that was about it, and even that was very small scale compared to their console games. Also console games didn’t require as much of an investment to make.

This split wasn’t really noticeable until the N64 and Game Boy Pocket years. This was when Pokemon gave the Game Boy line a second life, remember Nintendo’s intention was for the Virtual Boy to replace the Game Boy, when that failed to take place they scrambled to double-down on saving the Game Boy to stay in business. Then N64 games took a much larger level of investment and a longer time and manpower commitment to get made. They were GRAND, they were large, epic masterpieces, for the time, that rivaled the games Sony and friends were making. The problem was they took so much effort to develop instead of having 7 teams working on 5 console games and 2 portable games, you had 2 teams working on 2 console games and 2 teams scrambling to work on 1 portable game. These numbers are not exactly literal, I don’t know the inner workings of Nintendo, but I DO know from reports at the time and talking to developers over the years, they did consolidate teams and if you read the end game credits you start to see proof of this. N64 was desperate for games so Nintendo handed out licenses to so many partners to help out, which is why you had Rare, Hudson and even Midway making games for Nintendo using their characters, they had no choice they were understaffed and over worked. Thing’s only slightly improved with the Game Cube, droughts were less common partly because Nintendo designed the Cube with their developers in mind, to make developing as easy as possible to streamline the process, they also purchased some new developers to pad the schedule and reached out to even more 3rd party partners to get Nintendo games made using their characters but made by other companies. This time they had Namco and Sega and even Square and Capcom helping out. This was even noticable on the portables when Nintendo handed their most prized IP, the Legend of Zelda, over to Capcom! This was all proof Nintendo couldn’t make enough games to support their systems by themselves.

The issue came about as console sales declined, they couldn’t continue justifying paying developers for support and as costs increased due to going HD and games becoming more complicated and advanced, developers had to be more cautious where they put their money. Again it takes even more resources to make games in HD than SD, even the same exact scope of a game, so that is where Switch comes in.

IF Nintendo can once again consolidate all of their teams to making games for just a single machine, effectively killing off the home console division and merging the two into a single portable first with TV play as an option, then they have succeeded in solving their BIGGEST issue, release droughts. Even now the Switch is seeing fewer games up front than Wii U did, it does have more games announced and in development then Wii U did during the same time frame and from the looks of it, many more 3rd party partners are on board. The key is portables sell better and are easier to develop for and don’t directly compete with the other home consoles, so this allows Nintendo do finesse developers to make games locked to a console, say an exclusive like SF5, because if the contract says console exclusive they could argue Switch is not a console it’s a portable, they have done this in the past, Sony and Microsoft have allowed their games to be released on Nintendo portables at times neither of them had portables in the market. Sony moved away from this once PSP and Vita came along, but even companies that never make games for the home console, still make games for the portable because 1, its cheaper, and 2, the sales potential, thus profit margin, is greater.

In the short term this could spell great success for Nintendo, a unified machine that does everything, gamers have been wanting this ever since PC gamers got their wish with the coveted gaming laptops and even the rise of gaming tablets. This is where the concern comes about, can Nintendo compete directly with Tablets and Laptops and Mobile Phones if say Sony decides to make PS5 a dedicated gaming tablet with multi media features, 4K output, and a Blu Ray disc support? History has indicated that in direct competition Nintendo handhelds do better than Sony while Sony consoles do better than Nintendo, but that is because Sony has ALL the 3rd party support while Nintendo just does well on their franchises and key 3rd party support while being cheaper. In a scenario where Sony had all their games on a machine that was equal parts home console, Playstation dominance, and equal parts portable, PSP tablet but with Playstation support, and instead of asking gamers to chose which machine to get, which they chose the Sony console and Nintendo portable, largely because the Sony portable mostly plays the same games as the console, this could backfire on Nintendo.

In direct head to head competition with hardware parity, 1 device that plays ALL the games no separate machines, and all the franchises land where they land, Sony wins because a dedicated gaming tablet that has Playstation controllers and Playstation level of games and Sony levels of multimedia, would KILL Nintendo because let’s face it, Nintendo survives on their franchises alone but they struggle to get 3rd party support. If Nintendo finds success with this model, Sony does have the resources to play the same game but this time could win. Here is why.

PSP struggled to take out DS despite having better hardware not because it was too expensive or the market just preferred Nintendo but BECAUSE the PSP library was not different enough than PS2. Even though it has a few select exclusives, basically every game on PSP is just a perfect or near perfect portable version of the same Sony Playstation home game. Basically what the Switch is but PSP had to also compete with PS2 and PS3 not just DS. DS was it’s own thing, it played entirely different games or different enough versions of franchises it would stand on its own. It didn’t directly compete with Wii, it complemented it. Switch replaces the home console basically putting all of their eggs in one basket. This could eliminate the edge that makes their portables so attractive. It already removed the SINGLE most attractive selling point, low cost of entry, because it is trying to be both a console and a portable.

Sony could easily out do them, they already have years of developing mobile tech and making a truly dedicated gaming tablet, even higher priced say $399 or even $449, people would buy. I think a single Plystation device that doubles as a portable would sell more than a Nintendo device that does the same thing, when you consider how the Sony machine will get ALL of the games and Nintendo will just have their games and select partners. Nintendo’s portable machines would start selling less each generation and Nintendo loses the edge they had. This is of course assuming Sony follows up with a Switch-like device. I think Sony would do better to stick with home consoles and concede the portable market to Nintendo, a return of the favor Nintendo just handed them the home console market.

See with Nintendo, the other Japanese developer out of the home console space, Sony wins by default. Japanese gamers and console gamers that enjoy Japanese games have had to chose get the Sony machine first and pick up the Nintendo second down the road when price comes down, pick up the Nintendo machine first for the 1st party games and get the Sony machine for the 3rd party stuff later when price comes down, or do what MOST people do anyways, get the Sony console and Nintendo handheld. In a world where every gamer buys a Sony home console AND a Nintendo portable, Microsoft either loses or is forced to compete harder. Sony can handle Microsoft but in a world with a united Nintendo core base, 100-200 million strong die-hard loyalists, Sony would be facing trouble. So Nintendo needs to concede the console space to Sony and concentrate entirely on making Switch a TRUE 3DS successor and let the Wii U and console line rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why to be excited for the Nintendo Switch

Just less than 2 weeks ago Nintendo dropped a bombshell on the entire gaming industry. They released a video that pretty much confirmed they are making the exact machine I have been begging them to make for over a decade, the exact machine I predicted they would make once I saw the Wii U. Okay they might have taken liberties with the concept but all I asked for was a powerful enough handheld console similar to DS that had TV output and could run semi-modern renditions of current games. Not only did they deliver on that they took it a step further.

The bottom line for those that don’t want to read a long article, is GAMES. This machine has the potential to have the strongest games line up for any Nintendo machine in years. Now read on for why I believe that if you dare.

But why am I so excited for a new Nintendo console if I have been so let down recently? For starters let me walk you back in time. I will keep this simple. In the early late 80’s there was no such thing as video games, there was only Nintendo. You invited friends over to play Nintendo, you went to the arcade to play next years Nintendo games, you watched Nintendo cartoons, ate Nintendo cereal, were duped into throwing away good money on the worst movie based on a video gamer simply because it had the name Nintendo on it. Then the world changed when Playstation came on the scene. Nintendo never faded away, contrary to popular belief they have actually increased market share and fan base every generation but they did it at a cost. The numbers don’t lie.

NES sold a whopping 90 million consoles world wide. Compare that to the less than stellar SNES, one of the most beloved and heralded as one of, of not THE greatest console of all time, barely sold over 55 million. You follow this up with the N64 selling a mere 33 million and the beloved, one of my favorites, the GameCube managed barely over 22 million and you get a picture Nintendo has been on the decline for years. Sure everyone points to the fluke that was the 100 million sales of the Wii as proof that wasn’t a case but then the mega flop that is Wii U died at a paltry 13 million and it took nearly 5 years to get there.

So what does that have to do with Switch?

Let’s wind the clock back one more time. The SNES barely sold 55 million units but in roughly that same time span the Game Boy sold an amazing 65 million units all on its own. Then while the N64 was barely pushing past 33 million the Game Boy color sold an impressive 45 million in the same time span. Along side the very small Game Cube user base was the very large GBA with a formidable 82 million units sold. Then there is the fluke years. Not only did Wii sell a phenomenal  100 million all on its own, it’s little brother the DS sold 155 million, besting even the world famous Playstation 2 for best selling dedicated gaming device, even if just barely. Why is that impressive? Because every hand held has had a 5 year lifespan, PS2 had a 13 year lifespan and PS1 had a 10 year lifespan. Oh and that failure that is Wii U and it’s pathetic, yes I said it pathetic, 13 million, well it’s counterpart has sold a respectable 62 million to date and it’s still going strong.

The point is if you look at just the console side it does appear as though Nintedo has been on the decline for nearly 25 years. But the reality is they have actually INCREASED user base every successive generation or at the very least maintained their minimum of roughly 90 million the NES launched.

So if you combine the handheld and the console the numbers are now much larger. Early 1990’s SNES/GB total is 120 units sold, or user base size. That is an increase of 40 million from the NES. The next phase was GBC/N64 (you could toss in the Virtual Boy’s less than a million but lets not) you get a number closer to 88 million, barey a 2 million decline from NES and a respectable number when you consider the POWERHOUSE that was Playstation 1 and the intense competition from Game Gear, Nomad, CDX, Neo Geo Pocket, Game.com, and you see a picture where that minor decline was really just a hiccup. Now the next phase, combined numbers put Nintendo at a very good 105 million for the GBA/GameCube, and yes many people owned Game Boy Players and relied on GBA connectivity with their Game Cubes so now even those numbers look good. Wii+DS is an incredible 265 million! So yeah for the 3DS/Wii U to be sitting at ONLY 80 million combined, all things considered, that’s still a feat worth noting.

Okay but I still haven’t explained how that will affect the Switch. Because true believers, it is BOTH a handheld and a home console. Why is that impressive? Let’s go back in time once again, the last time I promise.

SNES is the template for what a healthy Nintendo console library looks like, you had RPG games, fighting games, kids games, platformer and puzzle games, action games, quest games, maze games, cartoon games, ninja and martial arts games, if a game was made there was a very good chance it was on the SNES. But things took a dip with N64. SNES had a library over over 700 games released retail, and another 20-30 or so unlicensed games released via shady methods. N64 tops out at 297, and half of those are sports games. Not at all an impressive library. Sure it had some heavy hitters like Goldeneye, Mario 64, Smash Bros. etc, but come on no good Mega Man games, no 2D Castlevania, no Street Fighter, only 2 RPG games that barely qualify as RPG games the machine was a wasteland devoid of the kinds of games that gamers were flocking to the Playstation to get. But wait not so fast, Nintendo ‘gamers’ were still buying oh I don’t a little game called Pokemon that helped push the sales over the top. Okay you see the point? Now let me really make it clear. Even when 3rd party companies were dismissing Nintendo’s console they were still making great games for the handhelds, even Microsoft has made games for the Nintendo handheld even during the time Xbox was killing the console division.

Now imagine this scenario. You bought a GameCube, you took it home and oh crap you realize there are only 15 or so games to choose from, most are made by Nintendo and all the games you were wanted from Capcom, Sega, Konami, Rare, etc, were just gone. But those games were showing up in respectable SNES quality ports and sequels, where SNES was still the gold standard for game design, especially 2D, and suddenly if you have GBA and a GameCube you have access to a really robust library. The problem is buying a $200 + console AND a $100-$200+ dollar handheld well that is damn expensive. Many gamers are then forced to chose, which to buy first. The issue is gamers  had to split their money up so they go for the best bang for their buck, which turns out to usually be the handheld. Now not every gamer is going to buy both machines, most people don’t have that kind of money. Oh they do but they get the Nintendo handheld and the Sony or Xbox console. Well here’s is the kicker, the Switch is both.

What does that mean again? Basically it means that if you are in the market for a new Nintendo machine but you can’t decide which to get, the console or the handheld you look at the games. In the case of Wii U and 3DS you see a very similar library between the two so you decide 3DS is the better choice. But some people hate tiny handheld screens and do prefer to play on the TV, well if 3DS had just had TV output there would be no need for Wii U to even exist. That is the amazing part of the Switch, it means that you just spend the, presumably, $250-$350 dollars ONCE on one machine and spend the rest of your money on games. Now instead of picking the handheld first and getting 3 games and then the console next year and getting 2 games, you just spend all that money on 7-8 games, an increase of easily 2-3 games based on cost alone. The issue with Nintendo and 3rd parties is on console the games don’t sell because most people buy a Nintendo console for the Nintendo games and the Sony or Xbox console for everything else, or they stick with PC and Nintendo handheld. So in this scenario Nintendo is creating that means gamers will have more money to spend on the Switch games, companies will sell more games and make more money, that translates to them supporting the system longer. That is why I am excited for it. Not just because yeah I will finally be able to play Pokemon on a TV instead of a tiny screen, or that I will be able to take Smash Bros. on the go but because I truly believe this thing will easily do combined Nintendo sales, which will garner combined Nintendo support which to me means easily 80 million happy Nintendo fans all united under one platform playing all the same games, something we haven’t experienced since the NES days, you know before there even was a Game Boy and a handheld division.

Yes I am excited for the Switch, and based on the Pokemon Go craze I imagine many people the world over will be too once they learn what it truly is.

Disillusion of Debbie Gibson

I love Debbie Gibson, her music has always been very uplifting and optimistic. I especially like her song “Electric Youth.” It tells the optimistic story of the kids growing up in the 80’s that will become the next generation of Americans. This weekend I was coming back from a wedding so I was on a long road trip. As is my usual practice I put one my favorite road trip play list which includes several Debbie Gibson songs. As I was listening to the lyrics to Electric Youth I realized the song was made 30 years ago, the message doesn’t really hold true, she was singing about my generation and while I won’t go so far as say we are the worst generation, I think the optimism and carefree anything goes attitude of the song is not at all a defining trait of our generation. Maybe I am taking the lyrics to literal but the message was always this generation coming is the future and the future is bright. If she could go back in time she might tell her record produce, “I can’t sing those lyrics, their so far from true.”

I don’t know how I didn’t see this coming. In the 80’s we were all into Atari and Nintendo, Nintendo might sort of still be around, they are not at all what they were in the 80’s Optimism for the future dies just from an 80’s gamer perspective when you realize that as far as Nintendo has fallen, at least their still around, when you look at what happened to Atari, heck most people today don’t even remember Atari.

I can’t blame her though, as a teenager in the greatest most carefree decade our nation has seen in a very long time it makes sense she would have been optimistic for the generation that was coming up. But that generation, known as the Millennials, are one of the most pessimistic, narcissistic generation, probably ever, in our country. I am not going to complain to much, I am a part of this generation and I see we have done a lot of good things, but I am not optimistic for the future as much looking at this current presidential election cycle. She got one thing right in the song though, the generation was electric for sure. Maybe not in the youthful, carefree, optimistic way she intended but with our over reliance on technology, smart phones, smart watches, social media, we are more electric today than at any point in history.

I am not saying that I can no longer listen to the song and inspire a hopeful sense of the future, it’s been 30 years that future is here and it’s not as carefree as the 80’s were. Or at least how I remember them. I know every decade has it’s troubles but I just feel like this current generation coming up now isn’t as carefree as we were, as optimistic as we were or even having as much fun as we did. I think they have settled for mediocrity and accepted that things are what they are. I am not sure there is any reason to think it’s the end of the world, just that it’s not as “electrifying” as the song I used to really appreciate described. Today when I listen to the song it won’t illicit emotions of optimism for the future, instead I suspect it will only cause me to reminisce about the past. Of course personally I am optimistic about the future, my own future at least, as I have always been a mostly optimistic person. Hopefully once the election is done things will get back to normal and I will then get back to a point where the song won’t make me sad I had to see so many good things get replaced by less good things.

At the end of the day, I still enjoy her music and the songs are still fun to listen to as is most 80’s dance/pop music, it’s just the message is slightly altered now that we are 30 years into the future. On the plus side, Sony just released their Playstation VR and Nintendo is gearing up to launch a brand new game console that I am optimistic for, so there is still some hope.