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PonkotsuMember Since 12 Jul 2011
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Writing, video games, multitudes of nerdy junk.
Opoona, Mother, Dragon Quest
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Posted by Ponkotsu on 21 February 2012 - 09:15 AM
Anyway, the point of bumping this again is to note that Wii no Ma is back in the news again. Specifically, the service is being discontinued as of the end of April. Makes sense, given that the Wii is winding down, with the Wii U only months off, and the 3DS has taken off in a huge way globally. Makes one wonder what kind of successor services we may see planned in the future on these new platforms now.
Nintendo Video's a global hit, Japan has additional streaming services, and the west has Netflix and Hulu Plus. Given that we know Hulu Plus will be coming to the 3DS soon too, and both Netflix and Hulu Plus are easy locks for the Wii U - the former's already been officially confirmed, as I recall - one has to wonder if we'll see perhaps something smaller like Nintendo Video on the Wii U, or if they'll go all out with the virtual environment for a new Wii no Ma on the Wii U in Japan. It does seem reasonable to say it makes sense to go for simpler, moer straight to the point menu-based video streaming with some nice chilled-out music like Nintendo Video, though, and to separate the virtual world/life elements and put those into something more social and better suited to that sort of thing in the first place. Whether this could be taken as a sign of the potential for something like Miitropolis, though, is hard to say. They could be pouring this sort of thinking further into Tomodachi Collection 3DS, which may at least have a shot at coming west where the original did not.
That said, they've been very coy about revealing planned features and services for the upcoming Nintendo Network, which has partially launched in Japan as of last Thursday. Some sorts of additional online Mii social features - even if not as conceptually ambitious as Wii no Ma - seem like a natural idea, especially seeing as they've even begun creating Mii mascot characters (As in the case of Nikki) to further bring life to their little world within our Nintendo systems and features. There's a new Nintendo Direct online conference coming up tomorrow, though, and the first global one since last fall, several months ago. While I don't expect we'll hear much - if anything - about the Wii U just yet (And the GDC is coming up at the beginning of March, so if they tease anything Wii U soon, it may be tehre.), I suspect this will be the event at which they unveil the Nintendo Network on a more global level and perhaps set a timeframe in which we should expect the arrival of the next major 3DS firmware update to connect with our Nintendo Network accounts, add new features, and so on, given that it's been nearly 3 months since last update, and that one was pretty massive. Of course, I also expect we'll see more 3DS - and potentially 3DS Download - titles revealed there. And very possibly some unexpected surprises. I'm not expecting any major answers on questions we might have about on online virtual Mii world just yet, but with the launch of the Nintendo Network looming near and Iwata having referred to many and various services being planned for this leap forward much further into the online arena, things are only going to get more interesting.
- Andy likes this
Posted by Ponkotsu on 21 February 2012 - 02:42 AM
I've definitely been thinking that it would be interesting if Nintendo's longtime flirtations with online - starting notably with Satellaview - would see some kind of reference in their upcoming new online model with the Nintendo Network, now that they're finally going to be plunging into online features their most seriously yet. The original Satellaview hub has a good bit in common conceptually with elements of the Wii no Ma channel on the Wii and my Miitropolis concept on the hardware board, at any rate, and bringing back some features like this could definitely do a lot to help set Nintendo further apart from the competition, as well as potentially drive their online software sales.
In short, the more they can do to make using their online services on the Wii U and 3DS a part of customers' daily lives - socially and otherwise - the better. And that's been a cited goal of Nintendo's for over five years now, as they've been openly discussing always wanting to give customers reasons to turn on their Nintendo systems every day, with new surprises and things to find. Something like this could be an interesting way to do that. It'd take a fair amount of dedicated resources internally, so I'm not going to hold my breath, personally, but this is definitely a neat idea.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 16 February 2012 - 03:31 AM
As is, Nintendo Network has officially launched in Japan today, though we haven't seen the arrival of the usernames and profiles just yet, but upon scouring the website for one of the games launching Nintendo Network - Theatrhythm Final Fantasy - I couldn't help but notice that the game has its own indepth in-game achievement system, with lots of stars to collect, some for hidden achievements with Smash Bros. style messages that pop up when they're earned, and others are things you earn up to 4 stars for, in just playing a lot with each character, setting certain sorts of records, tapping the screen a certain number of times, and other assorted stats. There was a similar sort of achievement system in-game in the second Taiko no Tatsujin DS game, which I picked up an import copy of years ago myself.
Also of note, when the 3D Photo Contest website updated in Japan the other day - the only part of the Nintendo Network domain that's online and viewable to users right now, with dedicated username logins, profiles, and so on that seem like they will either connect directly to Nintendo Network profiles in Japan or evolve directly into the gaming Nintendo Network profiles - for the site's advancing to the second photo contest theme, they added an experience and level system much like PSN and Kongregate's, with each user getting a level displayed on their personal profile and points seemingly earned for participation on the little photo social network and for others voting for and recommending the photos they uploaded. Potential further signs of things to come.
Since Nintendo Network has officially launched in its most basic terms at this point now, anyway, I'm expecting we'll see an update by E3 at the latest. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed for new Nintendo Direct online conferences by the end of March for both Japan (Which had their last one of those on December 26th) and the west (Which last saw our only Nintendo Direct video back in late October or so - both regions are due for an update now), introducing the Nintendo Network website for us to get usernames on and synch our 3DSes with as a part of our next major firmware update after the early December megaton, which one would hope would arrive by the latter half of March at the latest, with Kid Icarus: Uprising playing a major role in the larger global launch of Nintendo Network. One would think Nintendo would want us watching Nintendo Direct videos and getting their latest news through the 3DS, as well as getting our E3 content through the 3DS - and Wii U too, starting next year - and perhaps rewarding little social achievements for our profile for checking out content like that through this and future years' versions of the E3 Nintendo Network, recalling their use of the name for their E3 website last year.
At this point, anyway, they really can't get around to fully enlightening us and unveiling the Nintendo Network with our new online profiles, connectivity, and social/communiction functionality, apps/channels, and so on with lots of little achievements and trinkets to earn soon enough. Things like Facebook and Twitter connectivity should be a given, too, considering that the 3D Photo Contest website allows you to synch with accounts on those social platforms. (Square also has some sort of interesting 'Social Theatrhythm' online profile setup coming now that the game is out in Japan now too, apparently, which seems like something ideal to link to a Nintendo Network profile too, to keep things conveniently unified and linked together.) And with any luck, hopefully we'll see continued expansion of our accomplishments and unlockables in the StreetPass Mii Plaza, as well as the addition of similar features for our new online functionality and social features - as little StreetPass games style free online social games would be an ideal way to get users online, ditto for packed-in/preinstalled Wii U software and online social apps/channels - and the addition of accomplishments and additional content for the likes of Face Raiders and the AR Games, since those should be updatable, too.
Anyway, some recent thoughts.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 07 February 2012 - 04:02 AM
But yeah, Miis aren't going anywhere, and rightly so, as they're still by far the most popular and fully standardized avatar system in gaming. The more they can do to expand their use in games - whether appearing in icon form on your save file, as playable characters in games built for Miis exploring more of the Mii world, as playable characters or bonus content or cameo characters (As in Metroid Prime 3's ship dashboard Mii bobblehead or the Japan-only Sorcery Blade WiiWare RPG, which had an entire Mii village in it, or even the Japan-only retail Bomberman version of the WiiWare game, which featured a full story mode in which you were rescuing your Miis as Bomberman), collectibles, and so on - and expand them further into being our personal profile figurehead and general online representation across friend lists, gaming stat cards/sigs, profiles, social virtual worlds like in my Miitropolis thread from a while back, the better.
There's so much that can be done with Miis as a concept to personalize one's gaming experiences and online social presence to make it all your own, and Nintendo hasn't even really fully explored the tip of the icberg, as they say. The only real aesthetic updates, as already mentioned by many were, would probably be simply to update them to be a bit sharper looking to appropriately fit in with the higher-end Wii U visuals - where the lower end appearance still works fine on the 3DS, but would need a bump up on its successor - and more customization features, more varieties of hair, eyes, noses, mouths, and other facial features. And of course, as others have mentioned, clothing and accessories, which would work well as potential unlocks to tie in with whatever achievement system is coming to the Wii U and 3DS. Likewise, rather than charging microtransactions like the competition for avatar clothing, taking a StreetPass Mii Plaza and play coin type approach would be the better way to go - include some online and offline minigames and metagames like those in the StreetPass Mii Plaza to unlock some standard basic clothing with, and bring in a means of earning a simple little meta-currency for the Wii U's play coins, probably going ahead and keeping the game, with a variety of means by which to earn them. Then rather than charging and spending real money on Mii clothing and accessories, you could spend play coins on them instead, in addition to earning them from games, with new updates (Via whatever passive online connection service name they use on there akin to WiiConnect24 and SpotPass - WiiUConnect24, perhaps.) every few weeks to months bringing some more clothing and accessories to purchase to personalize your Mii as much as possible.
It'd be nice to see Nintendo do something with all their numerous other mascots too, if only to add some basic achievements to all 3DS and Wii U 'channels' and apps of sorts to fully encourage exploration and use of these features (As well as to add more content and some more replay value to the AR Games and Face Raiders), to perhaps earn little badges for the little internet mascot on the 3DS (Perhaps by simply connecting to the internet for the first time), 3DS Camera and Sound parakeets, the Wii's help cats (Assuming they're carried over to the Wii U, like the parakeets were from the DSi to the 3DS, as I'd imagine the Wii U will bring even more little mascots like that, considering the huge explosion in their growth on the 3DS), the 3DS's little shopping bag mascot, Mr. AR, Swapnote's Nikki (Perhaps having her show up as part of the population or your personal population in an online virtual Mii world like in my Miitropolis concept), the Face Raiders UFO, and so on.
Considering how Nintendo Network officially launches on the 16th when Theatrhythm comes out in Japan, too, and that we may potentially see first Nintendo Network detailed for the west at the GDC, we could potentially have accounts and logins set up on the new network with some little badge or achievement systems and our Miis on there within the next few months, by the end of winter or perhaps sometime in the spring. I wouldn't be surprised if they set things up for us to watch E3 content and the conference itself through Nintendo Network too, whether through the 3DS or on your web browser - like their past E3 livestream and content page networks - and perhaps doling out little E3 2012 badges to users who watch their conference and otherwise check out the new media, demos, and offerings on their E3 network once the Nintendo Network is fully rolled out and we're all using it. I suspect the next big 3DS firmware update will be bringing Nintendo Network, presumably username connection - though I don't expect we'll lose friend codes on our Nintendo portables entirely until the 3DS's successor launches many years off - and more. As it stands, there is already a username and login system on the only Nintendo Network website in Japan, for their 3D Photo Contests. Through that, you can see what photos people have uploaded for the latest contests and view simple profile pages displaying their uploaded photos. Presumably, the aesthetic layout used for that can be taken as a preview of what our official Nintendo Network webpage, profile pages, and user login will be like when all these things launch in the coming months. From what I've seen firsthand, they're simple, but nice.
Anyway, I'm getting off-topic, and I've been fairly redundant after all the good things others have said here. Miis good, enough said.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 27 January 2012 - 04:20 AM
As for the Wii U reveals, things like the Near Field Communication tech are very interesting, too - I'd never heard of that before myself. Some definite surprises in all this news - exciting year ahead.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 26 January 2012 - 03:35 PM
Xbox 360 versions of multiplatform games it shares with the PS3 sell more, yes, but it's a small number of titles, and their sales are frontloaded. The vast majority of Xbox 360 games do not sell sell outside of a scattering of major yearly titles, due to the dramatic costs of development on the platform. And there are numerous cases of multi-console releases on the Wii actually outselling Xbox 360 releases. To name a few, virtually every LEGO series entry this generation - that franchise dosen't sell on non-Nintendo platforms - Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing, Sonic Unleashed, de Blob 2, pretty much every multi-platform release exercise and dance game (Including all the Just Dance games and Michael Jackson: The Experience), every Guitar Hero game this generation, all of the Rock Band games save for the first two, GoldenEye 007, Skylanders, and Rockstar Table Tennis.
Basically, saying that you didn't think a multi-console game on any console had ever sold more than an Xbox multi-console release revealed again that you haven't paid attention to software sales at all - the Wii has numerous games, both multiplatform and exclusive, that outsell the average Xbox 360 game every year. And the system's biggest sellers leave everything on the PS3 and 360 this generation in the dust, the Xbox 360's best seller being Kinect Adventures at 18 million, while Wii Sports is nearing 80 million. And Mario Kart Wii, which has crossed 30 million sold in the past year, is the best selling racer and online game in the history of the industry.
You're also uninformed if you think Xbox 360 games make more profits than the Wii - the average Xbox 360 game costs millions of dollars to develop and requires at least 1.5 million copies sold to break even, let alone turn a profit. I even provided examples in a previous post - in both Bulletstorm and LA Noire - of major games last year that failed to turn a profit despite coming from a major developer and receiving a huge marketing campaign, and in the latter case, put their developer out of business. Wii development, on the other hand, costs little more than PS2 and Gamecube era development on the whole - Wii games can easily be made for under a billion dollars, and most can break even and even make good money at less than 200,000 copies sold. The average Xbox 360 game does not come close to 1.5 million copies sold. You do realize that Halo and Call of Duty's sales are not every Xbox 360 game's sales, right? Please tell me you understand this simple concept. A few major franchises that sell very well are not all game franchises. Most Wii games, due to the low cost of development, easily and comfortably meet the sales requirements to at least break even, if not make a strong profit.
In fact, check out the Wikipedia article I linked - by December 2009, the Xbox 360 had sold 353.8 million games. By March last year, the Wii sold 716.09 million games. The Wii surpassed the 360 in total million-plus sellers in just this past year, too - and all WIi million sellers have reaped a massive profit, where many Xbox 360 million sellers have still lost a ton of money - on top of selling dramatically more games in total to a much larger userbase.
Good to hear you're not here to troll, anyway. But honestly, you could stand to pay more attention to actual numbers and sales trends. You've been blinded by a lot of PR and spin, and like I've said - I've got nothing against you being an Xbox fan or anything like that, but facts are facts. It's not hard to dig up actual evidence to everything I've been saying. The Xbox 360 gets more big name blockbuster titles in the west, but only a scattering of them are big overall titles every year - the vast majority of the Xbox's library does not break even or make a profit. The Wii has a much larger audience both in North America, Europe, Japan, and globally as a whole than the Xbox 360 does, and the Wii attach rate is on par with the 360's, most Wii owners owning plenty of games - more than even the average PS2 owner did. The Wii moves far more games every year than the PS3 and 360, and even the two combined. This is not something that hasn't been known, or that we haven't had numbers backing for years. Most Wii games don't make the charts because most Wii games released are smaller name titles with literally zero advertising, but in stark contrast to the average Xbox 360 game, the average Wii game has no problem turning a profit, even if it only sells 200,000 copies or less, where it's problematic financially in a huge way for the industry when the average PS3 and 360 game can't break even with even a million copies sold. The Xbox 360 has not been a wash of major industry profits - it's been very good to a very small number of huge franchises from major western companies in very few select genres. It's been entirely toxic to the rest of the industry, and the PS3's been even worse. There's a reason the industry spent most of this generation funding PS3 and 360 flops with money made on lower effort Wii games. This is a strategy that's been outright discussed before.
I'm about done with this, having dropped all the evidence I have. Am I wasting my time here, guys? I probably am, aren't I? If someone can't be convinced with facts, they can't be convinced. It's too tiring.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 26 January 2012 - 02:34 PM
That said, I'm not really sure what you hope to accomplish by registering on a Wii U forum by registering, as an Xbox fan, just to establish this. All that really remains to be said is that you've dramatically overestimated how much Microsoft makes per unit, and just as dramatically underestimated the depth of their losses. But hey, listening to their PR has that effect.
And, what the hey - for fun, I dug up some more concrete numbers and came across some gold on both Microsoft internal and the problem of Microsoft gaming division profit obfuscation. In fiscal year 2010, we have Microsoft's gaming division losses only shrinking, but the losses still happening - the Xbox 360 division wasn't even making a per-unit profit in 2010. Over on Gamasutra, the analysis in the comments is the important part here - it's a direct breakdown of the obfuscation that Microsoft actively practices in order to cover up how poorly their gaming division is actually doing. Their only profit on the Xbox 360 division in fiscal year 2011 was in terms of $52 million - they tried to hide that within billions in profit with other unrelated divisions within Microsoft making profit in order to give off the appearance that the Xbox 360 was bringing in big money that it wasn't. When in their most recent fiscal year they weren't even making $100 million on the Xbox 360, when both Xboxes together have resulted in a net loss of numerous billions - $4 billion on the original Xbox alone, and over $7 billion on the Xbox 360 - they aren't even coming close to making back the money they've lost on the Xbox and 360 with what little profit the Xbox 360 actually does bring in. Like I've been saying in long form here, they're throwing money down a financial hole.
Meanwhile, the Xbox board of directors is, in fact, worried about the next Xbox taking an even bigger loss than the billions they've already lost on the Xbox 360. And as the article notes, the Xbox division is still down by a net loss in billions even now. So again, you may like Microsoft and the Xbox 360, but it doesn't mean they're doign well or competing with Nintendo - they are, in fact, still down by net billions in losses a decade later, with not an actual cent in net profit made on the Xbox or Xbox 360. As I've been writing far too many numerous posts detailing here. Every point I've made stands.
That all said, this thread should probably get back on track to Mii discussion at some point.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 26 January 2012 - 01:39 PM
Sony and Microsoft both saw catastrophic financial results this generation after putting out extremely expensive 'luxury' consoles with huge costs to customers, developers, and publishers alike, while selling their systems at a huge loss. That on top of also intentionally going for incredibly narrow audiences, Microsoft focusing right out the door on, above all else, the violent FPS audience. They netted the biggest audience for those - though FPSes actually did well on all three consoles this generation as probably one of the most overdone, but also most consistently successful genres of the generation - but outside of a few other major western brands, failed to create a healthy, thriving platform. After the PS2 had drawn in wide support across all regions and appealed to a broad audience itself - though its controllers kept the attach rates low, as the average person isn't comfortable with the overly complex controllers of last generation or even this gen's traditional ones, alienating and unintuitive as they are - the PS3 ended up being the messy result of abandoning their previous path to follow Microsoft in pushing a massively expensive luxury platform at devastating cost to themselves and fixating on western games and shooters above all else too. (Including juggling multiple FPS franchises that really desperately wanted to be 'Halo killers,' and consistently fell short - this generation also saw their mostly western-focused development wreck their own first party offerings, with most Sony first party titles now struggling to a million sold at best and rarely making money, while Japanese games sold slightly better on the PS3 than the 360, but still didn't sell anywhere near enough to make money.) When both companies finally tried to broaden their audiences years later with the cynically conceived Move and Kinect, each with a small selection of games attempting to appeal to a broader audience, they only demonstrated a thorough lack of understanding of and meaningful respect for the wide gaming audience that Nintendo drew in droves when the Wii and Wii Sports pretty much ended up being the first real video game cultural phenomenon we've seen since the '80s.
So yeah, following the Sony and Microsoft path this generation would be tantamount to following them off a cliff. But Nintendo's created a powerful, beloved pair of brands with the Wii and DS, and they've already begun channeling that into the 3DS and are obviously set on doing the same with the Wii U - the right idea there is absolutely to continue to go as broad as possible in terms of audience. And as we saw with all the major western support unveiled at E3 last year, third parties are eager to have a Nintendo console out with the levels of hardware power that western developers have been wanting to work on. It's largely just a matter of Nintendo giving it their all with the Wii U to continue to represent everything the Wii did and use the new hardware power to cultivate stronger third party relationships - which should be much easier with this level of hardware power, especially considering how eager many have already shown they are to work on the Wii U - and simply having the games and online infrastructure to appease those who preferred the PS3 and 360 there. So long as they keep building a strong library with a lot of exclusives - which the Wii had more of than both the PS3 and 360 - and get the wider market excited with tons of mass market appeal titles and software features, they won't have much trouble absorbing a significant portion of Sony and Microsoft's much narrower markets, as trouble as both those companies are in gaming.
It's like Iwata emphasized at E3 - 'wider and deeper.' More and more bigger and deeper gaming experiences for the 'traditional' or 'core' crowd, with more and more features, software, and games with mass appeal like Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Wii Party, Brain Age, and more. Exactly the right path, without even a hint of narrowing. Though the competition's in a much weaker position now, with Apple their biggest competitor - as Nintendo have acknowledged outright - and their needing to continue to compete against every other form of entertainment and personal household hardware they can and the game industry increasingly evolving, mutating, and getting more nebulous with games on all sorts of platforms now, Nintendo can't afford to concentrate on any less than the absolute broadest audience possible. And we all stand to only benefit from this.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 26 January 2012 - 01:23 PM
The Xbox line has seen a net loss in billions - not millions, but billions - as the linked article even outright cites. Any money made on Live subscriptions has been thrown into a huge hole of overall net losses that they don't factor in when they report 'profiting.' They're not about to dampen their own celebrations by noting that they've lost far more money overall on the brand than they've ever made on any part of it. They spent half a billion marketing the Kinect at launch alone, and Kinect sales have slowed significantly - while most Kinect games actually sit on shelves and sell very poorly - since its initial launch rush. On top of that, it isn't remotely true that Microsoft sells the most games - despite what you might hear on many sites online, it's well documented that between the Wii and DS, Nintendo's sold the vast majority of software this generation, dwarfing both the Playstation and Xbox brands by a huge margin.
Xbox games get the largest and most visible push, but Nintendo's platforms have sold consistently more software overall, and have benefited from an evergreen market situation that neither Sony nor Microsoft have cultivated, where many DS and Wii titles have sold extremely well over long periods of time. On the whole, PS3 and 360 games are incredibly visibly front-loaded - they sell the vast majority of copies that they're going to in their first one to three weeks, then see significant drop-offs and rarely return to the charts. Likewise, the sales thresholds for the average HD game this generation to make money are - around 1.5 million copies on average - so high that the vast majority of games on either system have not made money. We've seen this reflected in the increasing financial decrepitude of third parties on the whole over the course of this generation, who bet their cards on Sony and Microsoft and against Nintendo, and in the past year, largely ceased their practice of bankrolling HD flops with money made on lower budget, lower-effort Wii games that made money.
That said, as you're obviously a Microsoft fan and customer - you registered solely to comment on this and argue - I do understand that you, as you put it in your last sentence, 'think Microsoft is doing fine, and are a great competition to Nintendo.' And it's perfectly fine to own and enjoy whatever brands and platforms you like - I'm not coming down on you for that here, so don't worry about that - but this is a matter of being informed. I'm speaking to you as a Sega fan here, who grew up enjoying their games just as much as Nintendo's, and was quite sad to see what became of them financially after the Genesis, when the Sega CD backfired, and then the 32X, and the Saturn never took off outside of Japan, and then the wonderful Dreamcast never had a prayer when the PS2 bulldozed through it. But the fact of the matter is, whether you like Microsoft and think they're doing fine, personally, or not, the reality of the situation is that they aren't - it's well-documented that the Xbox is a troubled brand within Microsoft, that they've taken massive financial losses on it for a solid decade now and aren't really in much position to expect a third Xbox to suddenly break the trend and turn things around for them.
The Xbox was a catastrophic stumble into the industry for them, losing an incredible amount of money where even Nintendo made more money on the Gamecube than Sony did on PS2 hardware sales, despite just barely coming in last place last generation. The average Xbox 360 game doesn't make money, Japanese games don't sell on it in any region, and only a scattering of major western titles - increasingly a seemingly endless parade of sequels in the same franchises year after year - within a very narrow selection of genres actually manage to make money on the platform or come along and turn into hits. A telling example is last year's Bulletstorm - as popular as Gears of War is, everyone expected the Epic brandname to turn that into a smash hit. Instead, it stumbled its way to 1.5 million in sales across both the Xbox 360 and PS3 and barely broke even, but it didn't make money. Another example is LA Noire, which despite its initial critical acclaim and solid sales, bombed so hard that it put its developer, Team Bondi, out of business entirely. And these were high profile 2011 titles with big budgets.
At this point, the competition Microsoft serves as to Nintendo could hardly be called 'great,' so much as extremely narrow, and beloved by a small, passionate audience that has very specific tastes in games that Microsoft and some third parties successfully cater to, but don't actually buy that many games in the long run. This generation's narrative of Microsoft (And Sony, for that matter), being the 'hardcore' company falls apart when little sells on the Xbox 360 outside of a scattering of FPS franchises - and Microsoft only has perhaps two major first party franchises that can be counted on to sell in Halo and Gears of War, though if I'm forgetting another, someone feel free to chime in - and the occasional major western RPG from Bethesda or Bioware, though those aren't guaranteed big sellers either, considering some of the stumbles Bioware's seen this generation too. Japanese games do not sell at all, and unless you're releasing a hyped up new iteration of a very popular franchise, you can't actually count on profitability on the 360.
As for Kinect, while it certainly successfully creamed the Move - which more or less died on arrival, as Sony's Vita now seems to be doing in Japan - in large part thanks to Microsoft giving it the biggest marketing budget in gaming industry history, it in no way turned into a rival for the Wii. It had one holiday season as a hot item back in 2010, but by this past holiday season, it was no longer a major gift item, nor moving much software to speak of. Game support for it dwindled significantly over the course of 2011. Last fall, when the game finally got a more violent title, we saw online and televised marketing for it basically begging people to buy the game - "The hardcore Kinect game you've been waiting for is finally here!" - and predictably, it was a huge bomb. Every multiplatform dance game released on it has sold better on the Wii and mostly gone ignored on Kinect - same with fitness releases. The family oriented kids' games have consistently tanked. And where the accessory largely remained a laughingstock among the 'core' gamers that never wanted it, it has long since faded from mainstream attention as anything more than a novelty, particularly compared to the Wii. It's interesting to look at the Wii narrative, where you'll see many on blogs insisting the system sold only as a 'Wii Sports and Wii Fit machine' to children and the elderly, where in reality the average Wii owner is documented to own more games than the average PS2 owner did. By contrast, Kinect seems to have largely sold as a Kinect Adventures machine, but little else has seen notable numbers on the platform. And with very few games revealed for Kinect in recent months and titles like the embarrassing Star Wars game from last E3 showing that Kinect possesses little more potential as a gaming device than Sony's very limited Eyetoy did on the PS2, coupled with Microsoft's less-than-serious efforts to push it as a mainstream platform, we've seen software support for the Kinect largely dry up, with little of note for it on the horizon. This also makes it kind of funny to see people suggesting that Microsoft will be banking heavily on another version of Kinect in their next Xbox - should they indeed ultimately release a third one - considering that it would be putting it gently to say they've struggled to sustain meaningful interest or develop a bountiful audience for the Kinect.
By contrast, the Wii sells a much larger variety of all sorts of games - both from Japanese and western developers - at a much lower cost, and it's been one of the industry's greatest failings this generation that they refused to take the market-dominating mass market console seriously.
In reality, the 'competition' Microsoft is to Nintendo is minor at best. They've put out two consoles that have lost them billions in net losses that they haven't even begun to make back in that division in the long term, and they've failed to gain any kind of mass market audience. They have a smaller, very vocal audience of fans - and it sounds like you're cut from that cloth, which is fine, as what matters most is that you're having fun with whatever game systems you own - that enjoys and supports a small number of major western titles that the 360 receives each year, but they're not a mass market audience. They don't have broad tastes. And they don't buy more games than the Wii audience. The financial difference between Nintendo and Microsoft in gaming this generation has been as stark as stark gets - Nintendo grew to their largest and most successful in the company's history, outgrowing the entirety of Sony (Which has been shrinking and seen multiple credit downgrades in the past couple of months alone.), while Microsoft has dealt with a lot of internal troubles, seen many employees and directors fired, and experienced a major financial fiasco due to the poor quality manufacturing of the Xbox 360, with the Red Ring of Doom upending that division of the company while they sold the console at a loss for most of the generation. That they lost merely as many billions as Nintendo made is staggering, and there's no way to spin that positively.
They aren't successfully competing - Kinect went rather expectedly from being marketed as a 'Wii killer' to turning into the Eyetoy 2 and failed to capture a broad audience or attract meaningful support. Microsoft itself took even larger losses on the 360 than the original Xbox, between both the massive leap forward they took with the technology - driving costs for both hardware manufacturing and game development through the ceiling, a problem that devastated Sony this generation too, considering that the PS3 is the biggest financial catastrophe in video game industry history - and a combination of cutting costs and poor hardware design leading to the RROD problem (Which they're still paying for repairs over to this day.), Microsoft dug a massive financial hole for themselves with the Xbox 360 this generation that the system could never hope to fill back in. Whenever they report 'profits,' they're always factoring out their losses - classic corporate spin and nothing more. Something Microsoft's been doing for longer than many of us have been alive. And when the vast majority of Xbox 360 games have failed to turn a profit thanks to the very narrow tastes of the system's userbase and the incredibly high cost of development - something Nintendo's been working on dealing with with the Wii U, to make it a less hostile environment to smaller developers - it's very difficult to paint Microsoft as 'great' competition to Nintendo.
You may not want to believe this - it's not a fun thing to accept as a fan of any platform, and believe me, as a Sega fan of old, I do understand - but this is the reality of the industry as things are now. Where the Wii broke records and reached new audiences formerly thought untouchable this generation, like the PS3, the Xbox 360 was a financial catastrophe for its parent company. Microsoft is financially solid enough outside of the Xbox division and extremely savvy when it comes to market and investor relations - especially when compared to the increasingly clunky, disjointed, and all-around poorly managed Sony - to make every effort to cover up how poorly the Xbox line has done and has continued to do for them. And people have lost their jobs over coming out and discussing the reality of the situation there, as mentioned in the article I previously linked. The fact of the matter is, after all these billions in losses over a decade, crossing two generations, it isn't a safe bet that the Xbox line will continue for too much longer. They're in a very difficult position with a third console, especially with the Wii U notably aggressively encroaching on territory thought to be Microsoft's this generation, and if they try to pull off another extremely powerful platform that ends up being a massive leap forward from the Xbox 360, they'll find themselves in another position where they're taking billions in losses on hardware for years again, while game development costs only get even worse than they are now. They're also under pressure over Xbox Live, with the competition offering free alternatives, and Nintendo known to be stepping up their online significantly this year to compete more directly on that level.
Considering how quickly the Kin and Zune were both axed as product lines after both led to hefty losses, with all that Microsoft has lost in the long term on the Xbox brand, its future is anything but guaranteed. I don't doubt that Microsoft will stick around in gaming if the Xbox line goes, though - they were producing PC games and releasing their own titles on Nintendo platforms as a third party before the original Xbox, much as Sony was. And I can easily see them channeling their vocal following in a new direction whenever the Xbox line does eventually come to a close, still keeping Xbox Live alive, but perhaps turning it into a direct Steam competitor on the PC and running their own games on it - as well as offering third parties incentives to use it too - as a third party service for some games on future Nintendo platforms, much like EA's Origin, Ubisoft's U-Play, the aforementioned Steam, and so on. Likewise, while Kinect has already shown its distinct limitations as a gaming platform, it's a very versatile piece of technology in terms of non-gaming applications, as many who've developed their own separate non-Xbox applications for it have already shown, so it certainly has a future as hardware goes. It's a bitter pill to swallow, and you really do have my sympathy - watching the slow burn of Sega's demise in hardware over the better part of a decade wasn't fun - but there's no saying you can't continue to enjoy the Xbox systems and the games they offer that you like while also being informed and accepting the actual reality of the financial state of the brand, which is anything but rosy. Sony is outright visibly falling apart over hefty losses across the whole company, and the PS3 nearly bankrupted them a few years back - they're nowhere near as well run, nor do they have the kind of massive financial reserves that Microsoft does. They can't cover up where they are in gaming like Microsoft can, and has deftly made every effort to do - but as Microsoft is also a better run company than Sony, they aren't going to keep throwing billions of dollars into a bottomless pit, like they have been with the Xbox line for the past decade. It would take something entirely unprecedented for an Xbox 720 to completely turn things around for Microsoft and make them the kind of money it would take to erase the losses they'll undoubtedly be taking on the hardware when it launches, let alone the entirety of the Xbox and Xbox 360 billions in losses. More likely than not, shareholders are going to pull the plug at some point, and we're going to see the Xbox brand and Live evolve into something else entirely - Microsoft will maintain some presence in gaming, there's no question of that, but when they can't compete and make money for themselves or third parties on their own consoles and are still billions in the hole in gaming ten years later, it's not even remotely wise for them to continue their current business model in gaming. And there are paths forward for Microsoft that would be and likely will be much more successful and profitable for them in gaming in the future. But financially speaking, they're clearly completely in over their heads in gaming hardware, and like Sony, don't know how to compete against a much smaller, numbler, and ultimately more adaptable company like Nintendo, where they completely understand what kinds of products they're making and selling, and know how to sell to wide audiences without it being something as cynical as Move and Kinect were.
At any rate, whether or not you choose to accept where Microsoft actually is in terms of finances and profits in gaming makes no difference either way, and it certainly shouldn't affect your enjoyment of their systems. What matters most to individual gamers is that you enjoy whatever you're playing, be it something as big as the PS2 or Wii or failed as the Dreamcast or Game Gear. But there's nothing to be gained from remaining willfully ignorang or uninformed about the financial realities of the industry today - if anything, it will help prepare you for the shocks of the major changes we're going to be seeing in gaming in the coming years. Sony's era is long over at this point. Microsoft hasn't proven themselves financially viable in gaming hardware a decade later. And Nintendo has come roaring back to the top and changed things significantly with the Wii and DS, and they're moving into another disruptive era with the 3DS and Wii U. Five, ten years from now, the industry will not look like what it looks like today - more likely than not, we won't see the Playstation or Xbox brands continuing on in console form. We may not even see another manufacturer step up and start pitting new home consoles against Nintendo unless a company like Apple or Google takes the plunge. But as we've been seeing for years now, with things like smartphones, iPhones, and iPads, what constitutes a video game platform is becoming more and more abstract and nebulous a concept. And the industry as we know it is only going to get foggier as the traditional console and handheld models have to compete with completely new and different circumstances and games being played on all sorts of additional home and personal devices.
The video game industry as we know it now, and as we've known it for decades is only going to continue to change into something radically different. These past two generations have shown that the market will not sustain three competing home consoles, and that hit the industry - which made the poor call of betting against Nintendo - incredibly hard this generation. Things are only going to get stranger, more exciting, and even more difficult to predict as the industry model as we know it continues to crumble under the spread of games to so many other devices and the problem of the rising costs of development wrecking developer bottom lines and shrinking the whole of the industry in a dangerous manner. It's evident that neither Sony nor Microsoft has what it takes to continue competing in the traditional console and portable models, where Nintendo is industry and market savvy enough to keep that up much longer than either of them. But that said, even Nintendo will have to adapt to the changing times and we may see them build their own gaming-focal smart devices in the future, adapting and mutating as necessary to survive while still producing dedicated gaming platforms. In Sony's case, dropping gaming hardware is a visible necessity as the company increasingly desperately needs some major reorganization and refocus in order to stay in business before their creditors call in their massive debts and we see them fold. In Microsoft's case, the Xbox brand's future is pretty much a matter of how much longer shareholders are willing to continue to see the company lose billions of dollars in gaming consoles that can't compete with Nintendo's mass market appeal and following. It's not so much a matter of if, but when - just as we Sega fans had to face when the Dreamcast came out. It was fun while it lasted, but it couldn't last.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 26 January 2012 - 03:38 AM
In short: always take their public financial reports with a grain of salt. Neither Sony nor Microsoft has a history of being reliably honest about their financial woes in the video game industry.
Relevant: an article from 2009, well after the claims that they were suddenly making money, detailing both the hefty ongoing Xbox 360 losses Microsoft was still dealing with even then, including over $7 billion in total Xbox line losses - practically the entire value of Nintendo as a corporation lost on a single product line. The Xbox line is in no way making money, and hasn't even come close to making up for the massive losses taken on both the Xbox and Xbox 360. As there's some detailing of in the article, though, Microsoft goes to great lengths to try to hide the overall massive losses they've taken on the Xbox line. Financially, there is no way to frame the Xbox line as successful, and they can only cover the losses for so long before it's inevitably dropped and their gaming strategy shifts to something legitimately profitable in the longer term. The Kin and Zune only lasted so long as failed product lines - the Xbox line has been losing more money for longer than both. But Microsoft really doesn't want the public to know just how badly the Xbox line has actually done, let alone how most games lose money on the 360 - it goes against the popular image that the 360 is a 'hit hardcore console,' when the reality is that it's been very financially toxic for both Microsoft and the gaming industry as a whole.
Joshua: Thanks! I try to provide something valuable in the discourse, though I tend to just pop in and out and don't always blog consistently about the industry, or always post completely regularly. I tend to get kinda exhausted if I get embroiled in numbers and narrative arguments with the uninformed or misinformed - typically those convinced that things are much rosier for Sony, Microsoft, and their self-destructively loyal third party support, as well as those who tend to believe in the misinformed narratives about Nintendo you'll casually read on sites like Kotaku, where the company can do no right and the whole 'casuals versus hardcore' narrative is lifted from a brand fanatic's fantasy, rather than holding any kind of roots in the reality of sales trends or the financial bottom line in today's largely unhealthy, unstable industry.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 23 January 2012 - 08:11 PM
Nintendo Network was only just leaked and made apparent to exist in just the past few days as the 3D Photo Contest in Japan got going and the Theatrhythm box art was released. No western branch of Nintendo is in the know or about to comment - let alone definitively - on the new Nintendo Network information we've just seen. Nintendo of Japan hasn't even commented yet, and they're only likely to do so and finally unveil Nintendo Network for what it actually is during the new conference coming up later this week.
In short, a phone rep from Europe's input in this case has nothing to do with the new Nintendo Network logo or rumors we've heard lately. In fact, a mere Nintendo WFC rebrand wouldn't make sense - we already have a simpler internet rebrand on the 3DS with a little globe icon for the internet on the back of 3DS cases for games with online features to signify internet content in the game.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 20 January 2012 - 03:56 PM
Just as Caius just pointed out, and I'd speculated earlier in the thread. NintendoNetwork.net's a brand new domain name they only just started using in Japan for the 3D photo contests on the 3DS, and now that we're seeing things like this, it's looking pretty clear that it's Nintendo Network.
Funny thing is, I actually saw some signs of this years ago. There used to be a rather well done Facebook app called Nintendo Network, which was a great place to collect and display your Nintendo games collection on your profile. It stopped updating, and then vanished suddenly without trace at least two years ago now. Odds are good that this was due to Nintendo licensing the name and thus having the app taken down then.
At any rate, there's another investors' meeting coming up on the 26th. There's always an event unveiling new games and software the day after - that's where we learned about Pandora's Tower and Kirby's Return to Dream Land last year. With the NintendoNetwork domain name now being used and this interesting little icon showing up in the Theatrhythm case, I wouldn't be surprised if the January 27th event included the official unveiling of Nintendo Network and its opening in at least Japan.
Hopefully this will include a full extension to the 3DS of a single username and profile with a standard accomplishment system in games starting with Theatrhythm and others onward - with patches and updates for already released games in time also ideal to boost their replay value further, ditto for connecting the StreetPass Mii Plaza's accomplishments to a profile and adding them to the other built-in games and applications - and lay the groundwork for a standard, consistent online Nintendo identity as their counterpart to the likes of PSN, Live, Steam, and all other online networks, as well as lead into a more social online setup for Nintendo fans with their 3DS and Wii U onward, perhaps with some online metagames to get addicted to and go online daily to play, much as the StreetPass games serve such a purpose for our local social networking via StreetPass. (As, in many capacities, my whole Miitropolis concept is pretty much its own ambitious social metagame to give people good reasons to go online daily. I'll finally be adding some more ideas and thoughts to that thread soon too.)
Anyway, it's going to be exciting to watch for new concrete news on just what Nintendo Network means. We've already seen Nintendo take a successful plunge into a strong online networking setup for Pokemon Black and White with Global Link and Dream World last year. If they can get Nintendo Network usernames issued - assuming they aren't directly tied into an expansion of Club Nintendo itself - and get as many users as possible online and hooked up to that in all regions as soon as possible with the addition of new social content, accomplishments for as many games as possible, and so on, and third parties just as involved, we could see one of Nintendo's biggest ongoing weaknesses finally turning into another strength.
As it stands, we've already seen the 3DS grow and evolve significantly in the near-10-months since launch outside of Japan. And we've known for over half a year now that this was going to be the year Nintendo finally took a serious plunge into online features, gameplay, and networking to eliminate one of the few remaining advantages of the competition, while taking their own approach, working with third parties. Things really are only going to get more interesting in the coming weeks and months. There's a tremendous amount that we've yet to learn. Exciting times.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 13 January 2012 - 02:15 PM
I've always been frustrated with the extremely low level of discourse you tend to see online in gaming forums, as well as the levels of vitriol and proud ignorance of the state of the industry - typically coupled with some rabid, blind loyalty to either the Sony or Microsoft brand and a frothing hatred for Nintendo. So, in response, I've tried to do my part to be as informed as possible as a gamer and simply do my part to raise the quality of the discourse, while enjoying my hobby as much as possible.
Posted by Ponkotsu on 13 January 2012 - 01:51 PM
Based on Sony and Microsoft's continued performances and unchanging philosophies in gaming hardware in the face of failure, I suspect we're going to be seeing a very different gaming industry in terms of hardware and major players by the end of this decade. At this point, the days of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are visibly nearing a point of unsustainability, and when the Playstation and Xbox brands take their leave, it'll be Nintendo facing an even more complicated situation with Apple and potentially Google and other competitors as the face and structure of the video game industry continue to evolve and alter - it'll be up to Nintendo to remain as sharp and adaptable as they are now to keep their leadership position. Given that they're the only major player in gaming hardware that's entirely dedicated solely to video games and gaming devices - as opposed to simply having that as a mere division of a much larger electronics megacorporation - they're the only one with much real history, perspective, or vision when it comes to the medium as anything more than a simple feature on an electronic device. Their size, sharp leadership - which kept them in fantastic financial shape with careful management and hardware design even in their decade in last place in hardware - and focus as a smaller, dedicated company has been nothing but an advantage to them in this industry that the megacorporations can't touch. Losing them would be catastrophic to gaming as a whole.
That said, the future's only going to get more interesting, the 3DS is going to keep evolving as we get more firmware updates - December's huge one was just the start - features, and all sorts of games, and we haven't even really seen the tip of the iceberg with the Wii U yet. Exciting times ahead. Not so much for the present competition, though, going on their failure to react or adapt to failure and their increasingly clear visible lack of understanding of why Nintendo is as successful as they are now, or how to reach out to - let alone respect - the mass market audience.