The Calm before E3 2017 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 23, 2017

This will be the first prediction article since 2014. Last year, Nintendo’s Zelda-exclusive entrance made it moot to speculate much. And I honestly forgot about giving my predictions for the year 2015. So here it is, the return to glory, my crazy predictions for E3 2017. It marks the first E3 post-Switch launch and there’s also Sony that has to prove a lot. Also, for the first time ever, I’ll have to put Microsoft on the back-burner. Their new philosophy of having no Xbox-exclusives and instead putting everything on PC, too, has made me lose any interest in their console. It doesn’t help that their first-party games output is on an alltime low point, unless you enjoy driving sims, which I don’t. But let’s look at what will hopefully be present at E3 2017!

Fanboy’s Favourite: Nintendo

Nintendo’s first and foremost task is to keep the current momentum of the Switch. It’s selling even better than the Wii did back then, but it’ll be hard to stay at that level of sales. But Wii-like success or not, quality games that drive hardware sales need to be announced!

That’s why I want to preface this section with a simple statement: I want ALL my games on Switch! This would have been fanboy-drivel in the past, had someone said “I want all my games on Wii U/Wii!”. But the Switch is different. Finally, I am free from the TV! I no longer have to sit in that one spot in front of the television, no, instead I can play my games wherever I wish. And that isn’t necessarily out of my living place. It also means I can play lying on a couch, chilling in bed, taking it with me into the kitchen while preparing a meal. And I can play it on the big TV-screen if I choose so. The level of comfort the Switch brought to the world of video games is unprecedented and can no longer be undone for my gaming tastes. So when I say “I want ALL my games on Switch!”, it means I want all my games to have this level of freedom and comfort. And it just so happens that Nintendo is the only company offering a hybrid system.

Since I’m already at it, let me talk about 3rd-party predictions. Western publishers will be disappointing. I expect two key showings at E3: Electronic Art’s FIFA 18 will be shown and made a big deal about. But I see two significant problems coming in: For one, the game will use a last-gen engine, emphasizing that EA is unwilling to seriously support the Switch, as in saying “it’s not worth it porting Frozenbite, because we won’t ever release any future games on this system”. And secondly, the game will be missing a couple of key features when compared to the PS4-/Xbox One-versions. Which will be unfortunate to the n-th degree, because despite those issues, it’s probably going to be a fun game, perfect for a handheld. But it’ll fail commercially and give EA an excuse to say “see, our games don’t sell on Nintendo-systems!”. The end. *sigh* Honestly, I’d love to be wrong about that prediction, but it’s the only outcome I can currently envision. And then there’s Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Yes, it’s an old game that dozens of millions of gamers have already played. But I will say this: As long as it’s a good port, there’ll be plenty of hype for this version. I know because I’m kinda looking forward to it myself. I’ve played the game on both my old PC and laptop, but I never finished it. Having such a game on a handheld would immensely raise the chances of me beating the game. And nobody can say that the Switch-audience doesn’t love big open world-games, considering it’s number one-launch title. If this game can release in late summer/early fall, I could see it be a fantastic bridge title between Zelda and Mario, especially for gamers who prefer a more realistic artstyle (because there’s another big title announced for this year that will also satisfy fans of open world-games, except with a completely different art direction. But more about that one later). If Bethesda can maybe add some new Nintendo-exclusive stuff (like a Link-costume or a new dragon that’s called Volvagia or whatever), it would give even more incentive to Nintendo-fans to dig in.

Otherwise, I’m not sure what western 3rd-parties will be offering. If Ubisoft gave a damn about the Switch, they’d at the very least announce South Park: The Fractured but Whole for the system. If they’re fully committed, the new Assassin’s Creed-game should follow suit, too. But with them only having shown Steep, Rayman Legends and Monopoly so far, I’m not confident in them at all. The one semi-big third party-title that should be announced is Grand Theft Auto 5 from Rockstar. But rumors say that L.A. Noire is getting a port. Oh well … In terms of “it makes too much sense, so it’s probably not gonna happen”, I see Overwatch and Rocket League be ported to Switch. Both are social phenomena that could get even bigger by bringing them from online-only to local-multiplayer experiences. It’d be a good opportunity for these games to introduce offline-modes, too.

Now for Japanese 3rd-party developers. Much brighter outlook, although many announcements could end up being withhold until Tokyo Game Show in early fall. But ignoring the latter, some of the titles I expect for Switch are as follows:

All the obvious ports should become a reality. The upcoming Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory has no reason to not be released on Switch. Same for Persona 5, which would be so much better on a handheld than a console. I actively decided against getting the PS4-version, because I simply cannot play a 100 hours story-focused JRPG tied to a TV. Persona 4 Golden was so great partly because I could play it on the PS Vita. Unless Sony pays Atlus to keep a Switch-port from happening, it’d be true madness not to make this port happen. Lastly is the Dragon Quest 11-version for Switch.  It releases at the end of July in Japan. No idea if the Switch-version is planned for a simultaneous release, but even if it isn’t, it needs to be shown. And it better be based on the PS4-version, unless Square Enix wants to become the industry’s laughing stock. As for an out-of-nowhere neat surprise, I’d love to see Nier: Automata get ported to Switch. Platinum Games was very postive about the system and the game deserves all the attention it can get. And there could be exclusive Nintendo-themed costumes for 2B. Sexy Link-tunic dress maybe? ;>

But Switch needs new game announcements, too, so let’s get to them. These are based on what I’d love to see, not on existing rumors.

First of all, From Software needs to materialize its promise and deliver a game for Switch. Worst case scenario is a port of any of the existing Dark Souls-titles, something that would be boring for most players, as Souls-fans already played them to no end. I’d like to see a new franchise that’s exclusive to Nintendo, similar to how Demon’s Souls is exclusive to Sony. I have two predictions to make about such a new From Software-franchise for Switch: 1.) A slightly more light-hearted fantasy-action RPG. Emphasis on “slightly”, as I wouldn’t want some silly cartoon game. But speaking of cartoons, the kind of atmosphere I’m imagining here is that of the old cartoon-series “Dungeons and Dragons”, where a group of teenagers visits an amusement park and somehow gets lost in a parallel universe where dragons and magic are real. Despite being a kids cartoon, the atmosphere was very serious, oppressive, and gave a constant feeling of danger looming somewhere. What’s best, however, was how full of crazy secrets that world was. So when I say that I want a more light-hearted game, I mean an action-RPG with less focus on scary, tough fights, and more focus on creating a surreal atmosphere, induced with sympathetic, voiced NPCs. Less focus on stats, more focus on actual effects of your skills. Basically: “What if the Zelda-team helped From Software creating a game”. 2.) The second option for a Switch-exclusive From Software-game would be to simply make a game based on BLAME! or Knights of Sidonia. It’d be a scifi-take on the Dark Souls-formula. Focus on long-range weapons over swords. Not much more to be said about that, just watch a trailer of these manga/anime to get a sense of it.

Then there’s Capcom. Oh Capcom. I’ll put aside my annoyance over Monster Hunter Stories being released on 3DS instead of Switch in the West, sigh. But speaking of which, the Monster Hunter-franchise is *the* big topic here. The problem is that Capcom historically likes to have their own announcement event for MonHun, so it’s unlikely to see it at E3. But be it E3 or TGS, I predict that there’ll be an HD-version of Monster Hunter XX for Switch released in late fall/early winter in Japan, followed by a spring release in the West. They’ll also announce Monster Hunter 5 at the same event for the following year. Basically, a 1:1 repeat of how it went on 3DS (MH3 Ultimate first, MH4 the next year). I hope those silly PlayStation 4-rumors turn out to be wrong (stating that the main-version of MH5 is made for PS4, while Switch gets a lesser portable-version), although I’d take the entertainment of “Capcpom” driving yet another franchise into the ground by trying to appeal to an imaginary western audience. Keep MonHun MonHun, for god’s sake! But Monster Hunter isn’t enough from maybe the most important 3rd-party publisher during the Switch’  hardware conception. Despite personally not beingt that fond of the game, I expect Resident Evil 7 to be ported in form of a “Complete Edition” with all the released DLC. Capcom already talked about how they might look into getting RE7 to run on the Switch, so that’s already a precedence. Adding to that the fact that RE7 wasn’t a mega seller like previous series entries, it’d actually make sense to get another couple 100k units sold, while at the same time preparing Switch-owners for RE8. Following that train of thought, a release of the RE4-6 collection for PS4/One also makes a lot of sense. I don’t see any new franchises being announced. If we’re lucky, there’ll be a new Phoenix Wright-game.

I expect a bunch of games from various other Japanese developers and publishers. Bandai Namco Entertainment ought to show a reveal-trailer of their Tales of-title for Switch. Announce Code Vein for Switch, sigh. Sega will show more of Sonic Forces. I’d hope Konami brings something to the table after Bomberman’s success. Pro Evolution Soccer and maybe, although that’s from the realm of dreams, but maybe a new Silent Hill-game. Ideally Silent Hill: Shattered Memories 2, because the first game for Wii was fantastic. Unlikely to be shown at E3, but I want to see all of those smaller niche-titles that would typically be released on the PS Vita. Visual novels and such. And I hope to see some surprise-title like Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon and Opoona, too. Again, many of those are more likely to be shown at TGS, if they happen at all. But that’s it for 3rd-parties. Now on to my 1st-party predictions.

There will be big blow-out of the Switch’s Virtual Console-service. Not only will the amount of instantly available titles surprise everyone (100+ games), but there’ll be various business models, offering both the traditional “buy and keep” option as well as a subscription service. Previously purchased VC-titles from 3DS/Wii U can be played on Switch without any upgrade-fee, showing Nintendo’s good will towards its loyal fans. Most importantely, though: There will be online-multiplayer for all VC-games with multiplayer. Welcome to playing Melee online!

Other then the obvious huge Splatoon 2-showing, Super Mario Odyssey will be heavily demoed. Breath of the Wild’s new difficulty-mode as well as the new story-scenario will be shown. Splatoon 2 will have a lot of presence, considering its July release. The three most shocking announcements, though, will be: 1.) Xenoblade Chronicles 2 atually releases this fall in Europe and the USA! It’ll prove why a 100% MonolithSoft-developed open world-game is even superior to Breath of the Wild. 2.) Pokémon Stars will be unveiled. First home-console Pokémon-game. Massive hype. 3.) RetroStudio’s game. This will be a sneak-preview into 2018. It’ll be a non-cartoony 3D-game, maybe a shooter, maybe an action-RPG. The type of game the rest of Nintendo’s development studios isn’t good at.

Another group of smaller scale games will be announced: 1.) Endless Ocean 3 by Arika, 2.) a revival of Cosmic Walker, 3.) Wave Race and 4.) the long wished-for F-Zero NX.

More interestingly, Nintendo will have a trifecta of 3rd-party collaborations. These ambitious prestige projects will encompass The Last Story 2, Beyond Good and Evil 2 and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories 2.

To smooth things out, Nintendo will announce a stream of Wii U-ports that will add value to the Switch’  line-up without being an excuse for a lack of newer titles. Pikmin 3 will be the first of these ports, accompanying the upcoming 3DS-Pikmin.

To end their E3-presentation, they’ll announce a new Metroid-game that is developed in collaboration with a 3rd-party developer. I have no idea which one, but it’ll cause lots of attention. Maybe From Software. Maybe Hideo Kojima. Maybe Capcom.

Still there: Sony

I have one big task for Sony which also happens to be my prediction for them: They need to show why buying PlayStation VR was a worthwile decision. For the past couple months, it got more and more quiet around Sony’s virtual reality-headset. The software you’d see for it consisted of small-scale experiences, Resident Evil 7 marking the one big exception. But that’s not enough. Unless Sony intends to cement their unreliability when it comes to all things NOT a PlayStation home-console (see the Move-controller or the Vita), they need to show at least one big, ambitious PSVR-game, ideally exclusive to PSVR. The only game I can think of that would cause a huge splash is Sword Art Online PSVR. A first-person action-RPG title built from the ground for PSVR. No, nothing like those shitty Vita-games. I’m talking about a huge, seamlessly connected open world, full of well-animated, voiced NPCs. Dynamic battles that make you feel like you’re really there. And just a really engaging story and presentation (with a character editor. Please no more Kirito …). Would such an ambitious, expensive game make profit for Sony? Probably not. But neither did Bayonetta 2 for Nintendo. It’d be a strongly needed prestige title, there to reassure fans and the world that Sony gives a damn about PSVR. Show us, Sony! And don’t you dare announcing another bunch of 5 hour-experiences.

Why so PC: Microsoft:

Sorry, but due to their “everything releases on PC, too” policy, I have no more interest in anything Xbox-related. I’ll eventually play it on PC, when I ever buy a gaming-capable one again.

Conclusion:

As one can see, I’m stoked for Nintendo’s E3 offerings this year. As I laid out in the introduction, I simply want to play as many games as possible on my Switch. Free from the TV, wherever I choose to play. It’s been a fantastic experience so far, truly revolutionizing the way we play. Considering all that, it makes sense that the one thing I care about in relation to Sony is PSVR, which also has the potential to revolutionize gaming, but has been held back by the lack of risk-taking so far. When I think of E3, about the future of gaming, it’s the things that are new, that I haven’t experienced before. I don’t care about graphically impressive open-world games like Horizon that give me a feeling of “been there, done that”. I’m also not convinced that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be anything ground-breaking. But the Switch, the potential games for it, and the promise of PSVR are the elements that keep me invested in this greatest of all hobbies. Come June 2017, I hope to see at least some of my predictions turn out true. I know I tend to be overly optimistic, but … come on, Nintendo and Sony, show us! And Microsoft … at least make sure Phantom Dust rulez!

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Pokémon aren´t as real as Anime Girls – According to NeoGAF-users

August 16, 2016

According to Detroit Free Press, a local couple has now filed a class action lawsuit against Pokémon GO-developer Niantic. Their reasoning: Players of the popular smartphone app are being loud near their property, they cuss at them, they peek into their house´s windows, they even trespass and damage their private property. Because they couldn´t get ahold of the individuals actually committing crimes, the couple sues the developer, saying “they have made millions of dollars, while ruining the lives of many Americans“.

pokemon-go

It goes without saying that the couple doing the suing as well as those defending them are utter lunatics. Obviously, Niantic never encouraged, as several users from NeoGAF worded it, players of their game to trespass into private property. Not only does the app tell you at every start exactly that. Its Pokémon radar ever since after week 1 of the app´s release also doesn´t show Pokémon´s proximity anymore. A Pokémon is either visible on your phone and you can catch it, or it isn´t visible and you will have no idea in which direction to go to find it. But I hadn´t planned on writing this blog article about the pure logical counter argument to those demonizing developer Niantic. No, I´m writing these lines to use the EXACT same logic that SJWs love to use to defend censorship in video games that occurs during the localization process from Japan to Europe/USA.

As most of you will know, it is illegal to present sexualized underage girls in video games. Which, to be truer to the fact, means: It is illegal to present sexualized fictional/virtual underage girls. We´ve seen this in many recent Nintendo games, where ages are upped from originally 16 or 17 to 18 or 19 in Tokyo Mirage Sessions and Project Zero 5, or where customization was severely limited in the Western version of Xenoblade Chronicles X. Older gamers will remember how Dead or Alive´s Kasumi´s age was upped from 14 in the Japanese version to 18 in the Western version of the popular fighting game-series. I made this argument before and I´ll repeat it on this occassion: I strongly believe it is wrong and ridiculous to apply REAL law to FICTIONAL characters. No real underage girl is hurt by having sexy fictional underage girls. It´s just that, fiction. We have thousands of games where we can murder fictional people without them being treated like real people (obviously), but we draw the line when it comes to sexualization? Humbug!

TokyoMIrageCensored

However, if we accept for the moment that that´s the unfortunate status quo … then why not apply the very same logic to Pokémon GO? The opponents of the app argue that Niantic purposefully places Pokémon on private property, encouraging players to trespass said property. BUT: Within the context of the game, these Pokémon are wildlife. It isn´t Niantic´s fault that wild Pokémon roam private property. No company can control wild animals, it is nature at play here. When a rare butterfly flies into somebody´s house, you cannot sue the state for trespassing bug catcher. No, you sue the brazen bug catcher. Yes, Pokémon are only fictional animals, but so are the aforementioned underage girls that aren´t allowed to be sexualized, because real law is applied to them. Logically following, real law also must be applied to the Pokémon in Pokémon GO! These wild fictional animals are freely roaming the environment as they see fit, dictated only by their animal instincts, akin to how fictional underage girls must be protected from any abuse.

Should the Detroid couple honestly feel threatened or inconvenienced by the wild Pokémon in their backyard, then they probably ought to hire a professional Pokémon catcher, who will probably get rid of all the mongering beasts. Meanwhile, instead of spending a single thought on deciding if that silly class action lawsuit should be put to court or not, the United States of America (as well as the rest of the world) should publically thank developer Niantic for leading a sedentary generation of youth back into the outside world, breathing fresh air, enjoying sunlight and interacting with other people. Thanks, Niantic!

Source: FREEP


Post-Final (is that a thing?) Prediction for Zelda U

June 13, 2016

We´ve gotten this epic new piece of artwork last night and my hype for the new Zelda-title is through the roof at this point. You know, being able to freely climb any surface has always been my number one-wish for the Zelda-series. We don´t know the details, yet, but the way Link is depicted climbing that plain mountain wall instills a large amount of hope in me. Even when Skyward Sword marks the biggest disappointment in my career as a gamer and a lot has to be made up.

Speaking of which: Before we find out more hard facts about Zelda U, I want to detail a bit on my hypothesis for the game´s story. Here goes:

I already mentioned in the previous blog posting that I see the story set between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. There´s a major reason for that: The supposed sex choice at the start of the game, where the player can choose between a male or female character. See how I´m not using the name “Link”? That´s because I assume it won´t be Link who we´re going to play as. When Ocarina of Time ends, there is no hero in the adult timeline. Adult princess Zelda is left on her own, holding the ocarina in her hands. The end. We know from TWW that, as always, Ganon finds a way to creep back from hell, except this time there was no chosen hero to defeat him and save Hyrule. Instead, the god´s were prayed for to flood the entire land, keeping Ganon in check that way. Ever since then fans assumed that this was a failed scenario. But what if it´s not?

Since the hero shard is male, putting Zelda U at a point in time where there never was a chosen hero, rationalizes the possibility of a self-chosen sex for the protagonist within the established lore. But that´s not all. I imagine that we´d meet an elderly princess Zelda in this game, the same Zelda from Ocarina of Time. The nostalgic overload would be too much for me to handle, honestly. This Zelda knows about Ganon´s return, but she´s desperately in search for a hero – a hero that does not exist in that timeline. What happens is that some random boy/girl appears who offers help, and that´s how things get running. Since we know that Ganon cannot be defeated by anyone but the chosen hero, using the Master Sword, the protagonist of this title wouldn´t be following the usual thematic plot. Instead, Zelda U´s protagonist´s task is to prepare the eventual downfall of Ganon´s.

I´d imagine that princess Zelda somehow turns the ocarina of time into a new tool for this game´s protagonist, which grants him/her the ability to create mobile time bubbles akin to the time bubbles in Lanaryu desert in Skyward Sword. Except this time you can freely experiment with them and even travel to various time planes, not just one point in the past. Your task is to figure out a way to help “real heroes” of other eras, which is done by preparing a multitude of places. The flooding of Hyrule cannot be prevented, but a self-made hero/heroine can at least give it his/her all to make sure that eventually, good will prevail.

And that´s my in-depth prediction for Zelda U´s story. Now come, Tuesday!


Final Prediction for The Legend of Zelda U/NX

June 6, 2016

Due to Nintendo´s quasi-absence from this year´s E3-convention, I´ll reduce my yearly prediction in the same way Nintendo reduced their E3 appearance. So let´s talk about The Legend of Zelda U!

Without further ado, I will outline a rough draft of what we´re about to see when Zelda U is finally unveiled. There are three main elements that I expect to see:

1.) Drastic Usage Time Stones

One of the few high points of Skyward Sword was the Lanaryu desert with its time stone-feature. Let´s remember: You could activate said time stones to create a radial bubble. Everything inside that bubble would be changed to a different time, in this case the past. What I imagine for Zelda U is that this time, Link can create such a time bubble at any given time anywhere he wants to do so. This would add an entire second layer to the known overworld. It also invites the player to experiment, carefully choosing the center of the time bubble to make certain things happen. As the player proceeds the game, the diameter of the time bubble could grow and allow for more freedom and options. And last but not least: What if there were more than just one time shift? I imagine gaining access to several time planes, maybe even such that would cross with events of popular past series-entries. Picture creating a time bubble in front of Castle Hyrule, only to become witness of young hero of time-Link meeting Ganondorf, as the Great Demon Lord chases after Impa and Zelda!

Mobile time stones would make for great, experiment-inviting gameplay and bear the potential for lots of nostalgic innuendo.

2.) Sex Choice

It´s been rumored plenty and Emily Rogers basically confirmed it. Despite no official word from Nintendo, I can see this being real. Although I´d hope for a full-fledged character editor, otherwise the next five year will be spent with the SJW-community demanding a black Link at any given occasion. Just dive fully into it, Nintendo.

Since the hero shard is male, though, I have also come up with an idea that would make perfect sense in the context of a female protagonist. The game would indeed be set between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. It´d finally tell the story of an age where there was no hero and the world had to be flooded to keep Ganon in check.Both male and female hero could be mere good-natured characters who try to fight evil. This would make it the first Zelda-game without a “Chosen One”, which per se would be plenty interesting. Many fans have been skeptical about telling the story of a failed hero, but that´s not necessarily true, since we don´t have enough information about what really happened.

3.) Link is the author of the Book of Mudora

Zelda U´s Link is always carrying a book on his belt – why? My 6th sense is telling me that Link will be using the book to write down certain things. Since there is only one prominent book in the Zelda-series, I assume this will be the origin of the Book of Mudora, playing a huge role in A Link to the Past. I imagine that this Link is not your typical dungeon-clearer who enters a dungeon to save the world. No, this Link is an author and constructor, a true dungeon master, who is on a journey to inspect dungeons and check and verify their operational status. He will make notes in the book about each dungeon. And once the player has beaten a dungeon, he notifies the goddesses, who then place a gem or whatever reward inside the dungeon. For heroes of a later era to find!

This lines up with the time stones, as mentioned above. Traveling to various points in time to check if the dungeon works for future Chosen Heroes. If not, he´d have to go back and go as far as to change the dungeons by requesting the goddesses to do so.All of that would give the dungeons are very real, natural purpose, instead of being those gamey, abstract puzzle-places they´ve been in the past. And it´d give long-time fans an exciting look behind the curtain. Maybe it´s finally time to explore the eternal circle between Link, Zelda and Ganon?

 


One Opinion Only – The Anti-Discussion Culture

November 5, 2015

How do you start writing an article that goes against political correctness culture? You don´t start one to begin with, a likely answer would be these days.

As I´m eagerly reading a certain popular video game discussion forum, I have to admit that the point has been reached at which I´m not angry, frustrated or shocked anymore – I am disappointed. Disillusioned. Close to resignation. Yes, close to resignation, which is to say that this text will be my last attempt at exposing all which is wrong at the moment. Since I am but a single person, nothing you´re going to read here is meant to be taken as absolute, as objective. But that is a train of thought that´s not very popular with the crowd that I´m about to criticize, because discussion, actual discussion is apparently not as important as keeping an echo chamber (a phrase I only learnt about recently) of samey opinions running. Therefore a quick warning: This text won´t be a safe space, it won´t be political correct, and I guess some idiots (I´m calling them that because they´d be missing the point entirely) will accuse me of being a misogynist or pedophile. Either of which will be the case, because in this current climate, you´re either for or against something. There is no middle ground, only extremes. This is not what I think, this is what the current reality presents itself as. Despite these risks, I won´t hesitate to speak my mind and touch on subjects that often times are talked about so half-assedly that no matter how wrong something that was said is, is never corrected. Sometimes even willingly, because it would damage the on-going narrative. As somebody who´s found his way into online discussion forums during the worst days of the console war, back then when the PS2-GameCube-Xbox generation dawned upon us, I am devastated to watch as discussion, actual discussions go the way of the dinosaur in favor of reaffirming majority opinions. Man, writing this article makes me nostalgic about the times when I was that lonely Nintendo-fan, defending the greatness of Metroid Prime for kiddy GameCube against the oh-so mature Halo: Combat Evolved for Xbox (really, both were great games) – fun times, more fun than the present.

Since it´s hard to pick one topic that´s more important than the others, let´s simply start with the one that regularly occupies the front pages of many forums: Anita Sarkeesian. A short topic, actually. I could try to summarize the whole mess that current-day feminism, sexism, etc. is, but that isn´t necessary. If you´re reading this, you know who Anita is. You know about her videos, about her death threat claims, about evil GamerGaters and so on. Getting it over with: No, death threats suck, they´re not okay. Now on to the more important notes: Death threats posted on the internet are usually not real. Maybe there is some danger to a person like Anita who´s successfully turned herself into a celebrity, thus making herself more of a target for real crazy people. However, posting screenshots of mean tweets is not proof of people being dangerous, nor is it proof of people being misogynist. Anybody who´s been on the internet for a prolonged time and has partaken in certain communities has to have experienced the very same that many of these women claim to have experienced. Admittedly, a guy won´t be insulted with “bitch” or “cunt”. He will be insulted with “dick” or “motherfucker” instead. Sombody who´s fat will be called “fattie” or “pig”. Someone who´s black will see the typical “nigger” or variations of it. That is the internet – a place of, for now, freedom in its largest parts. When some people want to rile you up, insult you, they´ll attack what they perceive as your weakness. And taking a look at the current climate, it´s working. Every couple of weeks, Anita keeps releasing another video or blog posting detailing how mean people are to her, and each time it´s getting worse. I will say that I do not like Anita, I will also say that nobody deserves those reactions. But you are intentionally obtuse if you ignore the mechanisms of the internet! What exactly did you expect to happen after publishing an article about this currently happening online harrassment? You KNOW that it would only cause even worse reactions in the future. Somebody who writes you a tweet detailing how he´s masturbated “all over your profile pic” to mock you, will not turn for the better after being indirectly attacked. It really is the ancient saying “don´t feed the troll” that you choose to ignore. I fully support reporting people who send death threats to Anita, but even then: This is the internet. And no matter what happens, I like the internet for its freedom. And if you think you are entitled to change the internet by visiting the United Nations, I will do my best to be an obstacle in your crusade. How about instead of trying to change the environment, you try to do what most of us do in such situations: You “pwn” back. That is what this sort of trolling comes down to and what most gamers are well-versed in: Pwning, Owning, or simply put: trash talk. Nothing that people attack you with is gender-specific. It is the most typical, normal internet trash talk. You might want to intervene here and explain how changing such a, at face-value, hostile environment has some worth, but never, and this cannot be repeated enough, at the price of freedom. Even though I´m not big into competitive online-gaming, I wouldn´t want to worry about throwing the wrong insult at the wrong person, only to have to deal with serious consequences for “in-the-heat-of-the-moment trash-talk”. For those who are this sensitive, I recommend watching the animated TV-show “South Park” – if you understand this show´s point, it´ll positively affect your level of tolerance.

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On that matter, one very important addition: It is easy to accuse all of those who gave negative feedback to her videos as misogynists. In my humble opinion, though, many of those simply don´t like Anita Sarkeesian, the person. They have nothing against women at large. Having seen some of the videos of hers and how she often times spreads wrong things about the games she talks about, and seeing how her supporters then try to wave it all away with a mere “you missed her point!“, is creating an atmosphere of elitism, arrogance and false-superiority. Just because the end result appears to be of good cause, that doesn´t justify her methods. Therefore, it is okay to dislike Anita Sarkeesian. It does not make you misogynist. Though, attempting to hard-link Anita Sarkeesian with feminism´s success is most certainly a big problem. So … let´s not do that.

The next topic that needs to be rectified is the censorship of sexual content in Nintendo games as well as the proposed ban of lolicon-content in drawings. It is absolutely impossible to have a reasonable debate about either of these without being called a pedophile or being insulted in other demeaning ways. A lot of people are absolutely incapable of accepting differing view points, let alone realizing that they´re in the wrong. The way these people will attack you for going against them is nothing but vile. I´ve long since realized that people that make use of words like “creepy”, “titillating” or “pandering” have no sincere interest in a discussion – they post their comments to insult and bait others into getting punished by the forum´s moderators. And it is easy to get away with it, because, yes, who would be against the sexualization of children, right? Wrong.
As a society, we ought to progress as time passes. We should open up, we should hear out people with unpopular thoughts, we should improve ourselves. So what about those evil, evil pedophiles? Many would say “kill them all” and then praise each other as the reasonable ones. Others demand chemical castration and other similarily gruesome therapies. All the while wanting them to reveal themselves to society, ignoring that that´d be societal suicide, if not actual suicide. I´ve long pondered about if I should write about it or not, but the truth is: I know that I´m not a pedophile, and writing something in favor of that group, not even really defending them, just explaining some things, will not make me one, either. Sorry to give you no room for attack here, but I´d rather spend some time with Becky Quick than with some undeveloped brat. Anyways, the current drama relates to Project Zero 5 and Xenoblade Chronicles X, both games for the Wii U console.

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In Project Zero 5, players of the original Japanese version were rewarded with more skin-revealing bonus-costumes to dress the female protagonists with. Those costumes have been censored in the western release of the game. Instead, they were replace with alternate costumes inspired by Princess Zelda (The Legend of Zelda) and Zero Suit Samus (Metroid). The reason for this change is still unclear. Apparently, one of the girls is 17 years old in the Japanese version. However, as far as I know, that age has been changed to 18 or 19 in the US- and PAL-edition of the game. Although it doesn´t matter much: Project Zero 5 is sold as an 18+ game only, meaning it´s not meant to be played by children and teenagers. As prude as Americans might be, this game was never a danger to their pure offspring. To be honest, for as long as I gave it a thought, I kept arriving at the conclusion: PZ5 is the first ever game to be directly (and negatively so) influenced by Anita Sarkeesian´s agenda. The game isn´t a danger to young children being exposed to sexy designs. It doesn´t feature underage characters who mustn´t wear sexy clothing. The only thing that remains, thus, is that somehow the western branch of Nintendo deemed it a must to not sexualize female characters, because of the current hyper-feministic climate. Having played the game for the first time recently myself, I can only say that this is absurd. Even without the original costumes, the core design of all the female characters in this game is … sexy. Short skirts, naked shoulders, cute/hot faces … and then you have the new, supposedly less-objectifying costumes, which basically turn the heroine into a nude, blue-colored something. Oh dear.

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Meanwhile, it was revealed a couple days ago that at least one of Lin´s (character from the game) costumes from Xenoblade Chronicles X was changed to be less skin-conspicuous. Lin is a 13-year old girl in the open world-JRPG from developer MonolithSoft. Her original costume shows her in a very revealing bikini, leaving about naught to your imagination. So it was changed to cover up more of her breast-area. The reason why such a costume ever existed for a 13-year old character is simply that every character in Xenoblade Chronicles X can equip every amor. So while it´s less showy on an adult woman, it gets noticed more easily when worn by a young girl. Now, despite desiring the original version of a game being good enough of a reason to be against this censorship (and censorship it is, no matter by whom it is enforced), there´s an infinitely better point to make against this change, against this outrage, including the proposed UN-lolicon-ban: These are not real people.

It is such a simple statement, and just as true and powerful all the while. 13 years old, 17 years old, 19 years old, 1000 years old or 5 years old – it does not matter. It should not matter. These are virtual, fictional characters, products of somebody´s imagination. Real world law should apply to real people only, because those are people that need to be protected. Fictional characters do not need to be protected. That is why billions of fictional people are murdered every day, every hour, every second. We murder them on TV while watching CSI or Gotham; we murder them in books while reading something on the toilet; we murder them online while playing Call of Duty or Counterstrike. This is okay because they aren´t real people. Therefore murdering, killing and, increasingly, even torturing them is okay, is accepted. Yet, when it comes to sex, suddenly none of that seems to apply. And so the weirdest rulesets are put in action, resulting in awkward number changes. Kasumi from Dead or Alive was once 14 in the original Japanese game, her age was changed to 18 in the US-version. But … changing her age to 18 in the west doesn´t change the fact that her creator created her as a 14-year old. Deluding yourself she´s suddenly 18-years old is nothing but phoney behavior of the highest degree. No matter the number in the west, you´re still ogling a (hot) 14-year old girl. But that isn´t even the best argument against the unjustified ban/censorship of underage virtual characters: Having become a meme by now, it still can´t easily be waved aside: What about characters that look underage in appearance, but have an arbitrary number of age attached to them? The lolicon-girl that is actually a 1000-year old dragon? And should a widespread ban of such material ever happen, nothing prevents creators from keeping the drawings the same, just changing the numbers to 18 and above. Nothing will have been changed, except for our world to have become slightly more absurd. To put a cherry on top of it, we´ve already run into ludicrous situations like in Australia, where an adult pornography actress got into trouble, because she looked too young. In Australia, sexual content is banned depending on looks. The irony of the resulting misogyny is through the roof – no boobs, no adult woman. Aha.

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Now, the reasonable solution would be to accept that fictional characters are not to be treated as real people. A game where a 5-year old girl is gang-raped is unlikely to ever enter the NPD monthly top10 sales charts. As sick, gross or outrageous an idea might be, it should never be allowed to punish someone´s thoughts. When no real people are hurt in the course of production of content, that content should be legal to create and be published. If the world is so pure that certain vile content won´t see any popularity, it will vanish without anybody enforcing arbitrary bans. And if that certain vile content finds an audience, that´s okay, too. Nobody will ever be forced to consume this kind of content, but those who find joy by consumption will be able to relieve some stress. Which brings me back to the topic of pedophilia. Simply put: Somebody who finds a 17- or even 13-year old girl attractive is not a pedophile (since that´s the age context we were talking about above). People with such sexual orientation are attracted to pre-pubescent children. Trying to explain that important difference is all too often ignored by pc-culture, because going for the moral imperative is easier than to engage in actual disucssion. It instantly shuts down any discussion. And it is indeed frustrating to watch self-proclaimed “reasonable, tolerant people” call out people as pedophiles when they find teenage characters attractive. It´s even worse when they equate pedophiles as child abusers. It´s likely a tiny minority of all existing pedophiles that really turns into despicable criminals. The majority of them lives a peaceful, rather normal life, because why should they reveal themselves to other people? They know that it´d be suicide to do so, thanks to a society that is anything but tolerant and accepting.

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Lastly, I wanna talk about accusing games and gamers of being “pervy”, “pandering” or offering too much “fan-service”. Here´s the thing: Pervertness is good! Fan-service is for the fans, therefore good, too! This has always been one of the most ridiculous complaints to me: Complaining about hot girls, about boobs, about ass, about sexyness, about sex, about any sort of sexual content. If some women feel threatend by sexualization of women in games, they now have many alternatives where that won´t be a problem. Life is Strange, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mirror´s Edge are just a few examples. And it´s only getting better for them. But those games that DO offer hot female characters and put them in naughty, pervy scenes? Fantastic! Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 with PlayStation VR-support cannot come soon enough! “Summer Lesson” looks fantastic! And some of the designs in “Monster Girl Quest” were really nice. Gamers need to be less scared and insecure of sexual content – it is extremely silly, that we still cannot have pornographic games on PlayStation 4, Wii U or Xbox One because of prude attitudes. It is sad to see gamers that like sexual content getting shamed because of it. Sex is something great, sexual fetishes in all their niches are great, too, to certain segments of people. And while seemingly everybody is afraid of a 13-year old in a Bikini, murdering virtual people by the thousands is a-ok. Let me tell you: It is not.

Quite the opposite: Sexualization makes sense. Violence doesn´t. This might be hard to understand for American gamers, but it appears as if it is some kind of “give up-scenario”. With so many guns around, a ban of guns appears impossible. And just like that real world-problem, it is the same in those virtual realities: Games featuring guns and heavy violence exist in such abundance that complaining about them feels futile. But sex is still banned, so people get the feeling they can realistically keep it that way – unfortunately, that looks to be correct for the moment, despite the lack of reason and sense. So next time you see news about a game that reveals a scantily clad female character, how about you do one of the two: Have fun – or ignore it. But don´t try to change an environment many enjoy, only because you yourself do not. And if it´s so bad that you cannot find rest: Go discuss it with people. Listen, think, then reply. Ideally, you will come to understand and accept those differing opinions. Or change it via calm, respectful debate. The world won´t become a better one by ganging up on minority opinions until they´re gone. That would be fascism. But I don´t want that to be the last word of my text, so one last advice: Whenever you decide to do something, to say something, think about what its ultimate net gain for the world would be. Would it make the world better or would it make the world worse? Living by that has proven to be rather satisfying, I might say. Happy discussion!

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The Nintendo – Dreams about the Future

February 17, 2015

The year of 2014 has come to an end and put on display that hardware power is not the answer to our search for more fun. Aligning almost disproportionally to its sales numbers, in many peoples´ eyes the Wii U delivered the highest number of the most fun games released on gaming systems last year. However, such a moral victory cannot stand as a lasting remark. Nintendo is in need of raising their profits, they need ways to further survive, to eventually thrive like they did during the GameBoy-days, during the Wii-/NDS-combo. With the advent of the New Nintendo 3DS, a somewhat beefed up version of the original 3DS akin to the DSi, and the continuing low sales numbers of the Wii U, the gaming world loves to speculate about the real successors to both Nintendo´s home console and handheld console. Will 2016 be the year? Whenever it is, the FlyingFisch has its own conglomerate of ideas to share.

Unlike the obvious proposition of the question for new Nintendo hardware, hardware is the least important aspect of the company´s future plans. Do not read this wrongly, Nintendo needs capable, compelling hardware, they absolutely do. But their first and foremost goal needs to be expansion. And it is what Nintendo has begun with the introduction of their QoL-line. This Quality of Life-brand is a first step into a new area of businesses. It is one of many hardware endeavors that the traditional Japanese company needs to take risk in. Nintendo´s best bet for long-lasting future success lies in the creation of their own ecosystem. You can see it happening everywhere these days. Apple has it (iOS), Microsoft has it and is further building on it (Xbox and Windows), Sony has a store for all their devices. and reaches into various product areas. Disney not-so-recently acquired Marvel, making their overall market appeal so frighteningly broad that most people aren´t even aware anymore that what they´re watching is part of Disney. All of these companies as well as many others are expanding, they´re trying to converge as many assets as possible into their own dna. And who doubts to see Apple and Disney staying around for a looong time to come? As a as-of-yet video game-making only company, though, Nintendo´s next steps need to find a grip someplace realistic. It´s fun thinking about Nintendo simply buying other publishers like Capcom, Sega or Square Enix and use their franchises to form a stronger software lineup, but not only is it far from easily doable, it could also pose a high risk to the company´s overall stability. Moreover, it wouldn´t solve any of the deeper issues within the current Nintendo. If buying up a whole industry was possible, it wouldn´t be Nintendo to do so. No, their next step is internal unification.

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The newly built Kyoto building is part of this unification process. By accumulating many of its developers under one roof, all different projects get a greater chance to profit from one another. Software- and hardware teams can work hand in hand. And that´s a crass necessity for reasons that are to follow below. Unification needs to happen with Nintendo´s products, too, however. That is what the gaming community is waiting for at the moment. Hints had been given, near-confirmations been done. Nintendo is expected to be working on NOS – short for Nintendo Operating System. This OS-level software is supposed to bring a long needed independence from specific hardware machines and free the entertainment world of Nintendo´s. NOS could be accessed from a Wii U, 3DS, smartphone or PC. It´d be the unbound central hub of every Nintendo consumer. Away with the fears of losing a certain hardware and therefore losing the games bought for it. NOS lets you see all the eShop-titles you purchased and will let you re-download them as long as you have some device that runs those titles. Your Nintendo hub is wherever you are, all you need is your nickname and password. In a way, NOS could be looked at as the firm´s true next generation vehicle. Hardware is only the executionable part of the experience, but software is what it´s defined by. One big and important aspect of this unification process under NOS is crossbuys and crossplay.

There´s already some games that are released on both 3DS and Wii U. However, consumers usually have to pay twice to be able to play the same game on two different devices. That is especially bad for Virtual Console-titles that by no right should be limited to either device. But future Nintendo hardware must take it a step even further: Major new releases ought to be playable on both the new handheld console and the home console. This is not about some hybrid-console that lots of fans enjoy thinking about. While somewhere down the road a hybrid-device is inevitable, what we´re talking about here today is simply a shared software-lineup between similar, but not exactly the same machines. It makes sense for several reasons to keep certain titles exclusive to one system. But it also makes a lot of sense for a relatively small company like Nintendo to make a large junk of their projects crossplay-compatible. A core belief of this thought-process is our stance that we don´t see third-party relations as something that will ever be part of Nintendo´s dna. Finding ways to get third-party developers back on Nintendo´s console business is bound to end in fruitless attempts. A system that is so samey to that of Microsoft´s and Sony´s that it, in theory, salavages third-parties´ wants and needs would cost Nintendo an absurd amount of money. Moreover, it would not change the current realities, which sees the Call of Duty-crowd with Xbox and PlayStation. And not a single current CoD-player will forsaken his Xbox Live- or PSN- friendslist for the “newcomer” Nintendo. Somebody who has all of his achievements of Assassin´s Creed-games will want to continue gathering achievement points on Xbox Live. Someone who has all trophies of three Mass Effect-games will want to see Mass Effect 4´s trophies next to them. Not one of those players will be willing to give up the comfort of the existing ecosystem for another one that might feature the same basic premise, but lacks all the long built-up environment. Third-party developers are not central to Nintendo´s future sucess/failure. They should always be welcome and be supported in reasonable ways (like Bayonetta 2 or Super Smash Bros. 4), but they should never again be catered to as if they´re required for sustainable success. It doesn´t matter who´s fault it is at this point, all that matters is the realization of the status quo, which is: Third-party developers don´t matter a lot within Nintendo´s business. That´s what we´re starting from.

Without delving into any absurd speaking-around-the-bush, we´d like to outline drafts for some of the possible future products of Nintendo´s. With the exception of one of them, those are all products that have a reasonable chance of becoming exactly what Nintendo might do – this is not purely fantastical speculation, it is what we truly believe might be in the coming. The devices (given names for fun) that we will go into detail below consist of:

– (The) Nintendo /home console

– (The) Nintendo Go /handheld console

– (The) Nintendo Fun /handheld console

– (The) Nintendo Q /smart device

– Qudy /companion device

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A simple box is all that’s needed

The Nintendo /home console

Before we paint a clearer picture about the next home console, let us tell you that we think the Wii U will be alive for longer than most people would believe at the moment. The Wii U will never be a great success, it won´t magically turn things around – but it also is just enough for the company´s purposes. This is an important finding: Nintendo does not need a high end-hardware for fanciest graphical detail. Mario 3D World and Captain Toad look like a perfectly realized Mushroom Kingdom-game. Pikmin 3 and Mario Kart 8 look fantastic. And both Zelda U and Xenoblade Chronicles X manage to create breathtaking worlds. We expect a Wii U-successor to match or slightly trump the PS4´s graphical capabilities, but not much more than that. With third-party developers out of the bigger picture, a Nintendo-home console with PS4-power is just enough. When Xenoblade Chronicles X Infinity and Metroid 5 are released on this next gen-system, people will be in absolute awe, despite Xbox Two and PS5 being capable of significant better graphics on a purely technical level. And it won´t matter one bit. Since graphics are only part of the equation, anyways. By simply calling the system “Nintendo”, the company will position its system as an integral part of the living room. Featuring not only the latest AAA-games, but also granting access to a Virtual Console-catalogue of hundreds of games, from NES to N64 and even GameCube and Wii. As well as GameBoy, Nintendo DS and certain systems from other manufacturers, such as Sega. Offering 4-player local-coop gaming. And finally getting multimedia features right, such as video-stream services, Karaoke-services or letting you play videos/mp3s from your own collection. Also accepting Android. Instead of trying to fight hundreds of millions of customers that already use Android in their daily life, the new Nintendo-system should incorporate it as part of their own. No, Android won´t be the OS of any Nintendo-hardware, but it will be accessable quickly and naturally from your Nintendo. Letting you play all your favorite Android-games with a controller. This also means access to a near fininite amount of non-gaming apps. To finish the feature set of the Nintendo, it will also act as a hub center for all of your other Nintendo-devices. Offering overview of your streetpass encounters or organizing your QoL-data. This home console is the go-to point in your living room that will serve all gaming purposes and more. It´s not a fancy hardware, but it is the ultimate convergence of everything that is Nintendo, past and present. A neat, perfect Nintendo box, relatively low in cost and well-built.

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A capable 2016-hardware and a Nintendo logo is all that’s in need of change here

The Nintendo Go /handheld

Unlike past portables of the firm, this next generation handheld is not intended to play second fidel to its home console counterpart. The Nintendo Go will be slightly weaker in terms of raw hardware power when compared to the stationary system detailed above. However, these differences only matter for a small portion of games. Being born from the changed Japanese market, this handheld is a fully realized portable entertainment device, built for fullfilling gaming experiences that aren´t compromised in any way due to being displayed on a smaller screen. After over a decade of dual-screen gaming, Nintendo releases its first single-screen handheld console since the GameBoy Advance back then. This is no flashy hardware, think of it as a different-flavored PlayStation Vita in terms of design. One big screen, dual-analogues, four shoulder buttons, d-pad and four face buttons. Also a capacitive touchscreen and the usual features such as camera in the back and front, gyrometer, nfc, and so on. Whereas Nintendo relied on fresh gimmicks in the past to sell its handheld devices, the Nintendo Go is an attempt to simply offer the perfect handheld build, including everything that gamers want, not wasting ressources on “weird” stuff. Thanks to the crossplay philosophy, gamers will be able to choose to play games like Fire Emblem, Kirby or Mario Kart on either the home console or this handheld console. And if you own both hardwares, you can freely switch between both and continue from the same save state, only paying once for the game. Only the most complex home console-titles might not work on this handheld. Meanwhile, you can play all the Virtual Console-games and access Android on the Nintendo Go, too. Accept the competition, don´t fight it, that is the mindset behind the inclusion of Android. People want to play CandyCrush, AngryBird or PlantsVSZombies, so let them play these games – on a Nintendo-device.There´s not a whole lot to add here; the Nintendo Go marks the perfection of the traditional handheld, while opening up to market realities. It is a final attempt that will decide the fate of future handheld projects.

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Courtesy to neogaf-user Yurinka

The Nintendo Fun /handheld console

Remember all the rumors about Nintendo and Sharp working on some weird doughnut-shaped screen, a new kind of free-form displays? The idea here is that the whole front of the device would be a screen, only broken up by those areas where analogue sticks and buttons are placed in. The Nintendo Fun would be a low-cost product, that increases its actual value by virtue of the gimmick free-form screen it features. Well-made mock-ups have shown how cool this can look. Yet we wouldn´t really want it as the single go-to handheld of Nintendo´s, simply because the whole buttons-breaking-up-the-screen kinda ruins the atmosphere for games that rely on immersion, exploration and escapism. But a cheap, 99 Dollar-handheld with a screen that´s made from brand new technology, that allowed you to play tons of Virtual Console-titels as well as many of the less hardware-intensive retail games, say Mario Kart, could very well position itself as a fashion product. Yes, its target audience would be children and … hipsters.

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A dual-touchscreen device for Nintendo-fans´ everyday life

The Nintendo Q /smart device

Heavily supporting all future QoL-plans, the Nintendo Q is a chic portable device that focuses on many non-gaming features such as keeping track of weight, your daily diet and making notes about whatever you choose to write about. An extensive diary app would conclude the attempt to turn it into an everday-device that people keep with them despite already having a smartphone in their possession. What´s most interesting is the Q´s form factor. Finally bringing to reality the concept of Microsoft´s forsaken Courier, a dual screen device that was supposed to feature two touchscreens and be held like a book when opened. That is exactly what the Nintendo Q will look like and Nintendo is in the fortunate position to claim that this is a natural evolution of the NDS-design, not a rip off of Microsoft´s Courier. Lucky them. Anyway, another central feature of the Q would be its system-wide pseudo-A.I. that exists to interact with the user in a helpful and playful manner both. This A.I. would be capable of learning about its users preferences, remembering important calender dates and reminding the user of his schedule. Voice-recognition and voice-to-text features make it a well-rounded experience. Of course, the Nintendo Q wouldn´t be completely devoid of actual games. Due to the lack of any physical buttons, it´d be limited to touchscreen-only games, making it a prime candidate for puzzle-games or visual novels. Once again, Android-compatability would ensure a variety of software offerings. To summarize, the Nintendo Q is the perfect hardware for the matured Nintendo-fan who´s tired of sterile, boring GUIs found in smartphones, yet doesn´t need a full-on gaming device any longer. This is as close as we´d ever get to a “Nintendo phone”. And depending on Nintendo´s willingness to cooperate with an experienced partner, a version of the Q with SIM-card support might not be outside the realm of possibilities.

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Qudy – the first mainstream robotic companion

Qudy /companion device

We left the only completely out-of-nowhere option for last. Qudy is the name Nintendo registered a couple of months ago. Nobody knows what it is supposed to be used for, but … doesn´t it sound kinda – cute? Maybe we´ve watched too many anime series, but one recurring element in Japanese scifi-shows are pseudo-intelligent robotic companions that will always support the hero in acquiring much needed information. Now, we don´t have any such companions in our everyday lives, but we do have smartphones. Smartphones with Siri or Cortana or any such voice-supported apps. It´d take only one more step to go the full mile and give people their companion, a device centered around a smartly coded A.I. that keeps learning its user´s/owner´s behavior, thus being able to operate without any user-initiated input. For more detail on this, honestly, weird concept, we recommend reading our full-length article on Qudy.

That concludes TheFlyingfisch´ pitch for Nintendo´s future hardware endeavors. Of course, no company often appears as unpredictable as Nintendo, thinking back at the sudden revelations of motion controls or glassless stereoscopic 3D. But now is not the time to release another major home console iteration that´s based on a risky, unproven gimmick. The incredible demand for Sony´s PlayStation 4 shows that gamers are perfectly fine with just a typical upgrade in power. It´s not quite as simple for Nintendo, since hardware power cannot work as their primary driving factor in selling units. They need to focus on what makes them special, makes them unique. Which is: Their incredible first-party software and unparalleled history of making said games. Unifying software-lineups between all available devices as much as technically possible; offering a range of different valued devices that are targeted at different audiences/age groups; continuing attempts at crazier, riskier concepts, but putting it a bit to the sidelines. All that could become a fantastic, economically viable way for building a strong and successful business for the foreseeable future. Unification, Distribution, Innovation – people want Nintendo, all Nintendo´s gotta do is provide it to them.


A Fictional Story: Special Announcement // Iwata unveils QoL-device “Qudy” // Details plans for 2015 and beyond

September 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The following article is entirely made-up by its author. Other than some sources taken from reality, nothing you are going to read is true or fact. It is supposed to be a fun expression of the author´s wishes and hopes for future hardware endeavors. Why do this? Because it´s fun to speculate and write about it. Start!

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Special Announcement // Iwata unveils QoL-device “Qudy” // Details plans for 2015 and beyond

Earlier this year, Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo, made many fans´ heads turn when he started talking about the firm´s future plans. Accompanied by several images that didn´t really help making any more sense of it, he explained that Nintendo would venture into new markets, starting with the health and fitness sector. To make this happen, they would somehow, citation needed, “leap-frog” the competition´s mobile and wearable devices and enter a whole new market of so-called “non-wearables”. A new blue ocean, is what Iwata would say. Up to this day, Nintendo kept quiet about their Quality of Life-device (QoL) that they promised to talk more about later in 2014 and launch in the first half of 2015. This silence was broken last night, and we´re still confused by what´s happening. It is definitely a completely new market, though, that Nintendo is opening here.

Iwata opened his speech by outlining the need for major changes to keep a thriving business in the advent of affordable high tech. He didn´t mention specific competitors, but by saying how capable tablet devices are now available for less than 100 Dollar, it is clear that Nintendo´s aware of Amazon´s new kindle fire line. He also touched upon the widely used practice of handing down old phones to family members when getting a new one, also resulting in casual consumers owning highly capable devices. Nintendo would have to factor this into the planning and, thus, pricing of future systems. Despite those very predictable future hardships, Iwata believes that dedicated handheld gaming, as seen in the Nintendo 3DS, is there to stay. It is, however, not enough, he continues.

Over the past few years, Nintendo has undergone major internal changes to be ready for the next decade and beyond. These changes are also partly at fault for the less than stellar first-party software support during the Wii U´s first year, Iwata follows up. Moving their teams to a new building, where each team would be more closely intervined, was but one step. The next step is NOS. NOS is an abbreviation for Nintendo Operating System, and will be the center of all upcoming Nintendo offerings. A powerpoint slide shows the graphical user-interace running on Wii U, then on the New Nintendo 3DS. Clean, friendly, well-thought out is our initial impression. What´s important, though, is that NOS is the same on both systems. On three. No, on four. Or on how many systems there might be. Besides Wii U and N3DS, NOS will also have a web-based platform, granting access from every PC and smartphone. There´ll also be web-based access for the original 3DS-system. Featuring hardware-independent accounts, NOS is all about converging Nintendo´s offerings into one single place, reachable from just about every hardware a consumer might own. Part of the difficulty for this Nintendo OS, Iwata thinks, will be to make it clear to the consumer that not every piece of software available on the NOS´ eshop will be usable on every piece of hardware. So while you will be able to purchase Wii U-games using a 3DS, those games obviously won´t run on the 3DS. Right now, that isn´t all that obvious for Nintendo-gamers, who always had separate eshops. It is the New Nintendo 3DS´s task to introduce this concept to Nintendo-gamers, using the popular Xenoblade Chronicles as a gateway, with more exclusives coming down the road. Iwata, however, went on saying that even this convergence of software wouldn´t be enough to sustain a growing business. That´s when this speech of the company´s CEO dove down into crazy-territory.

While looking for a new blue ocean ever since the success of the Wii-console, we made many different attempts at broadening our product variety. None of our latest systems, however, were able to come close to the success of the Wii and its fitness line of software. Therefore, we at Nintendo decided to further dig into that area of health and fitness, the so-called quality of life-products. Unlike a lot of rumors and speculation, worries about Nintendo forgetting about its roots as an entertainment company are unnecessary. Quite the opposite, it is this expertise of ours that allows for the next step in consumer technology, passing by mobile and wearable devices. This next generation device is what we´d like to call Qudy.
And then a video presentation introduced Qudy to the world. Or, rather, Qudy introduced itself.

At first glimpse, Qudy looks like a smaller, but bulkier, fatter smartphone. There´s a screen on one side, somewhere between three to four inches in size. First glimpse end. No, Nintendo did not begin their venture into the smartphone business, so this is where any such comparisons will have to come to an end. Qudy features a display, capable of displaying information, pictures and videos. But you wouldn´t ever use it as a substitute for your smartphone. Yet.
The widescreen device sits on top of a compact, but sturdy base that allows for three options: Attaching it to your backpack´s carrying strap. Putting it on top of a plane surface. And clipping it on top of a flat screen monitor, like a webcam. Aside from the first option, a small, energy-effecient motor inside the base allows Qudy to rotate, meaning that if you put it on a table, it can freely rotate by 360°. One last question: WHY would it need to be capable of this?! The answer lies within Qudy´s intended purpose: Qudy is neither a gaming handheld, nor is it a mobile phone, nor is it a wearable device like GoogleGlasses or smartwatches. It is the first of its own kind, that is: Qudy is a mobile companion. A robot, yes, dear nerd-colleagues!

qudy
When our internal hardware development teams researched the current market for health and fitness, one key aspect caught their attention. This core problem for many people who are trying to lose weight or stay in shape can be summarized in one word: motivation. Many people create elaborate plans and goals for what they´re trying to achieve, but ultimately fail once some time has passed. To our surprise, it did not matter if these people used professional tools, like heart rate sensors or dieting plans, or none of that. The outcome would be the same: Most people would stop their new lifestyle not long after starting. Those with the highest success rate were the ones that would go to a gym or have friends joining them in their decision. After conducting a lengthy internal study, we arrived at first drafts for a new project. A project that combines elements of health and fitness with elements of entertainment. In other words, this is something that we at Nintendo believe ourselves to be in a most unique position to deliver. The result of this is Qudy“, Iwata explains.

A slideshow shows many different design prototypes for the new mobile companion, one or two eerily similar to the famous R.O.B. for NES. The modern companion, Qudy, however, is designed to be reasonably sleek, portable and eye-pleasing. The screen features saturated, deep colors, with a fantastic viewing angle. When we described its size to be between three to four inches, that was because it isn´t a typical rectangle-shaped display. Rather, it´s oval, with heavly rounded edges. That´s because the whole device isn´t a rectangle, no sharp corners to be found anywhere. If you were to look at it as a smartphone, it´d be terrible. But that changes when Qudy wakes up. Upon activating, the screen brightens, matching the bright white of the device itself. But it´s not a menu you´ll see on display next. Instead, two eyes appear. And a mouth. In terms of asthetics, it appears to intentionally match the looks of Tamagotchi devices from twenty years ago. But it´s animated extremely well, very smoothly. It needs to be, when next the on-display mouth starts moving and … talking. “Hello! My name is Qudy! From this day on, I will be your companion. Let´s have a fun time!”, a video presentation shows. Next up is a summary of functions that Qudy is made to deliver. A quick run-down as follows:

– Virtual A.I., featuring animation and speech
– Qudy originated loosly from Latin, meaning “every day” or “daily”
– 3.8 oval AMOLED touch-screen
– built-in camera and stereo-microphone
– advanced camera recognition software
– various notifying led
– motorized base, doubles as stand and clip
– wireless connectivity features (connects to Nintendo devices, smartphones, smartwatches, computers, hotspots)
– heart rate-, temperature-, velocity-sensors
– gyroscope
– compass
– lightweight design, most of which stems from the battery
– microSD slot

Iwata explained that more features might be added to the consumer version of Qudy, which is set to launch prior to Golden Week 2015 in Japan. International availability is said to be set for 2015, too, closer to the christmas holidays, for both the US and Europe. Pricing is not yet decided, but expected to be similar to a gaming handheld´s.
The heart of Qudy is its virtual A.I. that is capable of actual communication with its user. The experience with Tomodachi Collection for 3DS (Tomodachi Life) made Nintendo realize that it works we´ll enough to be implemented on a larger scale. Cooperating with leading A.I.-technology companies, Qudy was born. While still restricted by reality (true A.I.s aren´t possible, yet), its capabilities seem to be astounding. Communication between A.I. and user appears to be natural and easy-going. The camera-software can differentiate between who it is that is talking and will actually rotate to face whoever is doing the talking. Sounding tacky and gimmicky at first, Nintendo found it crucial to have this moving, mechanical feature as part of Qudy. Internal tests proved that people react vastly differently to a device that actually moves in real life as opposed to mere on-screen notifications. Based on the contents of your communication with Qudy, the A.I.´s personality develops differently – some examples are: polite, playful, casually, caring, blunt. And it´s actually up to the user to give Qudy an individual name on the first boot-up sequence.

Setting aside the option of rather random communication, Qudy follows the very serious need of motivating the user. To that goal, the first iteration of the mobile companion comes with various health and fitness routines in its software. You decide to tell Qudy what you want to achieve, what you will try to do, even what you plan on eating. Qudy will then act as central core for all of your day. From reminders, to check-ups, or analysis – Qudy will gather data and present advice, motivation and help as best as it can. And that´s surprisingly much. Iwata mentioned that something simple as confirming what you ate for lunch can be annoying to do by yourself for a lot of people. With Qudy, you simply tell your companion and it´s saved for later analysis. You can tell Qudy your daily weight (or link it with a WiiFit balance board) and it´ll display graphs of your weight progression, automatically correlating all other available data, like showing what you ate each day at what weight. However, Qudy is not only about strictly body health-related matters. It´s also designed to be a strong tool to assist you in your everyday planning in general. Thus, it becomes an intelligent calendar that will never forget to remind you of future events. When connected to the internet, it can quickly gather information about any kind of subject and, if you wish so, save it for later use.

What´s most important and making it fundamentally different from existing devices, is the indirect interaction with Qudy. Rather than typing and touching it by yourself, you speak to Qudy and Qudy will do all the work. No typing, no saving, no looking for specific functionality. It´s all there with a simple word of yours. Obviously, there are times you won´t want to speak aloud, so touchscreen-functionality will cover those times. Iwata expects that this will be important especially in the beginning of this new era of mobile companions, where most people will find it weird or awkward to actually talk to a machine. But as apparent with his wording: Nintendo looks at Qudy as the start into a new era of communication, life-planning and self-motivation. And as time flies by, people will use their mobile companion as a natural tool in their personal and professional life, feeling better about themselves and being more likely to reach their goals, be it in health, fitness or any other aspect of life. We´re not yet sure what to think of Qudy, a decive that sits in a weird spot between entertainment device, health device and serious tool. But we´re eager to find out!