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Thoughts on Nintendo's Figurine Platform for Wii U and 3DS

The Nintendo Figurine StrategyThe Nintendo Figurine StrategyNintendo doing a Skylanders/Disney Infinity-like take using their impressive stable of characters (news story here and seemingly everywhere else) was one of my past unsolicited suggestions for helping to goose the Wii U's listless sales, but I fear that their intended implementation, which seems to involve the figures working across a range of games is too non-specific. Critically, I think they also need a triple-A Disney Infinity-like open world/mini-game title for fans to rally around and where all of the figures will work. To my mind, having that (and future sequels) in conjunction with letting the characters work in several future games (Mario Golf, Smash Bros., their platformers, etc., all immediately come to mind) would be a slam dunk. It might even help turn the Wii U's fortunes around, but even if it didn't, it could certainly point to a great plan for Nintendo's future and an all-in-one successor to both the Wii U and aging 3DS (whose sales I expect to remain fairly steady, if no longer on a growth trajectory) that could incorporate the needed technology from day one. The only major hold up for incorporating connected figures in future Nintendo titles and, even with a possible triple-A open world/mini-game showcase title, is the company's continued sluggish software release schedule, which has plagued them for many years now. This inability to iterate quickly might also be why their strategy is just to bake use of the figures into select future titles--that would clearly take less time.

At its core, a correctly implemented figurine concept would indeed be a killer business plan, but not if Nintendo continues at their current glacial release pace since this is the type of thing that needs to feed on its own momentum. In any case, we'll know more about Nintendo's intended strategy for this concept around E3 in June. Let's hope they get it right.

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Just what exactly is going on with Nintendo?

This new Bloomberg article sums everything up nicely, with some much needed direct quotes from Nintendo's president, Satoru Iwata. It's both stunning and kind of sad we're getting this "we're going to embrace a new business model" rhetoric from Nintendo leadership, and that they're "going to study" mobile markets and what-not. It's stunning in that Nintendo is finally acknowledging that it may not be a bad thing to not always go against the grain and follow their own path. It's sad in that this smacks of Nintendo's snail-like move to HD and other modern technologies, which caused a lot of their problems in the first place, i.e., slow to produce new games, behind-the-times online services, etc. Once they're done with their studying and assumed eventual embracing of at least some of these things, how much more time will have passed? Maybe it's indeed time for Iwata to step down like promised and have new, more inspired - and quicker acting and reacting - leadership to take his place. Sometimes it's just time to move on and let someone younger have a crack at the future of the company--just ask Microsoft's Steve Ballmer.

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First Impressions of Microsoft's Xbox One

My Xbox One (2014)My Xbox One (2014)With the Xbox One's release this past Friday, November 22, we have the final piece to the next gen console puzzle. Whether you consider the Wii U next gen or not, or that neither the PS4 or Xbox One can truly be considered next gen in the face of a good PC, the fact remains that the Xbox One represented the last major new system we were waiting on for the forseeable future. Certainly the Steam Box will get some buzz once that's released, but price and compatibilty may represent hurdles to the type of adoption both the Xbox One and PS4 have thus far received. Plus, there's the argument - which I tend to agree with - that you don't necessarily gain any benefit investing in a Steam Box over a good PC. Final judgment will be reserved though once Valve's Steam Box initiative gets fully underway.

Naturally, both the PS4 and Xbox One launches can be considered a success, with each selling over 1 million units in the first 24 hours. The Xbox One needed 10 or 11 more countries with which to reach that number, but it was also priced $100 more, and faced similar supply constraints (meaning its arguable both could have sold more if stock was there). Like the PS4 and Wii U before it, a small percentage of Xbox One launch consoles were affected by technical issues, but, luckily, overall, all three seem to be solid hardware out of the gate. That does nothing to soothe those who actually have a unit with issues, but it seems that, based on percentages, all three major new consoles had reasonably smooth launches. To wrap up the sales commentary, if sales don't pick up for the Wii U this holiday and beyond, it's certainly reasonable to think that both PS4 and Xbox One will surpass total Wii U sales by or before June 2014 (as some analysts have suggested), which would also put to rest the idea that the industry's new norm is greatly reduced sales, i.e., the Wii U's sales issues are its own. No matter what, console gaming is still small change compared to smartphones and tablets, but we at least have the potential of still being a very vocal percentage of the technology ecosystem if sales for both the PS4 and Xbox One maintain positive momentum into 2014.

Now, with all that out of the way, I'll provide my impressions of the Xbox One. Since my wife and I are writing a book on the Xbox One, My Xbox One, follow-up to My Xbox, which covered the 360, we needed our usual two consoles: one to play with, and one to keep pristine so we could methodically document the goings on. For now, I just opened up the one to play with.

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Thoughts on the future of Xbox One, PS4, Wii U after E3

Sony PS4Sony PS4Before the year is out, we'll have the choice of the latest console systems from the three big manufacturers, with three very different value propositions. I'll briefly break each of the three down, one-by-one, then I'd like to continue the discussion in the comments.

First up, there's the Wii U, relying mostly on the same type of technology found in the current generation's Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles, with its primary hook being its tablet controller that allows for touchscreen interactions and off-TV play, priced between $300 - $350. There's a good chance, despite Nintendo's insistence that they won't or can't, that this will drop in price just before the launch of Microsoft's and Sony's new consoles. I base this on the jockeying Nintendo already seems to be doing, for instance with eliminating the $300 BASIC version of their system in favor of the DELUXE (and no doubt different future bundles). The negatives for the Wii U are that, for various reasons, third party support has already dried up, and there's no evidence that their tablet controller hook has resonated (or will) with the public. There's always a chance for things to change, but right now, I don't see how Nintendo recovers a dominant console position, particularly since there's really nothing that reeks of "next gen" in their forthcoming software line-up. Certainly with their first party software they'll continue to appeal to the Nintendo faithful, and that should be enough to help the platform stick it out for the next few years. Beyond that, it's impossible to speculate, particularly since we don't know how Microsoft and Sony will ultimately fare (it could just be the new norm, in light of smartphone, tablet, and PC competition to have a tough time with traditional consoles and gaming handhelds).

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A Critical Look at Today's Videogame Landscape and the Possibilities for the Future

My Nintendo Wii U (2013)My Nintendo Wii U (2013)I've been quiet on the blog front of late as I've been focused on writing three new books for 2013 (and hopefully do what I can to help get the documentary out as well). However, with the latest NPD figures for videogame consoles being dissected across the Web-o-sphere, and Sony likely firing the next salvo for next generation platforms with their upcoming PlayStation-centric announcement (and Microsoft to follow soon thereafter), I thought this would a good time to break my silence and chime in with my perspective on the current videogame-centric happenings.

First off, it's clearly not looking good for pure videogame stuff with three lackluster hardware launches in a row: 3DS, Vita, and Wii U. The 3DS recovered sufficiently with a dramatic price cut that was very much against Nintendo's previous corporate policies that discouraged losing money on hardware, which allowed it enough time to hold out for the software situation to pick up. While it will never reach the sales heights of the blockbuster DS, considering how much competition both direct and indirect there is now versus then, it should still end up selling quite well when it has run through its complete lifecycle.

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Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo TVii (ugh!), and more commentary about the big Nintendo news

We learned several things this morning at Nintendo's big Wii U Preview Event. One, Nintendo of America President and COO, Reggie Fils-Aime, does not appear to be a happy man; two, Nintendo still needs to work on their presentation skills at these events--it was pretty dull overall with not enough meat and too much focus on the wrong things; and three, and most importantly, we got the long awaited hard info on US launch date and system pricing.

You'll have two major system options on November 18, 2012: the Wii U Basic Set, which features 8GB of storage, for $299.99; and the Wii U Deluxe Set, which features 32GB of storage plus the Nintendo Land pack-in game. Besides me correctly predicting all of this back in June (not exactly hard), I still stand by my statement that the pricing is right where it needs to be. Naturally, the Deluxe Set is by far the best value, but Nintendo clearly wanted the sub-$300 talking point. Hopefully, not too many people will lose out either by decision or lack of stock for the Deluxe in getting the Basic.

Anyway, I also predicted that a second Wii U controller would run as high as $149.99. It looks like I was off a bit on that, as reports seems to indicate as much as $170 or so. The Pro Controller - the Xbox 360-like screen-less controller - looks like it will sell for around $65. Again, that seems a bit higher than many of us would have liked (in this case, $49.99 for me). At least the system bundles represent what we can perceive as fair pricing.

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E3 2012 - Most Significant Happenings from Nintendo's Wii U Showing

After giving my impressions of Sony's and Microsoft's respective efforts at e3, it's time to turn to Nintendo. Since tomorrow is Nintendo's stated day to focus on 3DS stuff, today it was pretty much all Wii U. I think there was a lot there to keep the Nintendo faithful happy, but I think overall there's still some work to be done for those who felt burned by the Wii or who didn't respond to the 3DS. Regardless, here is my impression of what I thought the highlights were:

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