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!

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The Calm before E³ 2014 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 8, 2014

An unprecedented calm even? This year´s E3 will either be one devoid of many news or one full of surprises, seeing how we hardly hear about any rumors for the upcoming gaming-mega event in Los Angeles. Especially as a big time Nintendo-fan, the wait for news is excruciating. A Smash Bros.-related Nintendo Direct later this day promises to soothe things a bit, but even the inevitable reveal of a playable Ridley, Shulk and Krystal cannot mask the dire situation of the Wii U. What´s going to happen? Let´s try to predict some – and fail badly at it!

Fanboy´s Favorite: Nintendo

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My past predictions of Nintendo´s E3-offerings used to be high in numbers and overly positive. Ever since the company´s treatment of its own new home console, the Wii U, it is clear that such optimism is unfit the situation. I´d love to go into this segment of ths article full-steam and write “Metroid 5 will be shown, as well as a 1080p60fps F-Zero”, but I cannot. This is a year where I have to take into account the circumstances and reflect Nintendo´s best and most realistic chances at delivering a high impact-E3-showing. Thus, I will focus on a few selected titles instead of listing dozens of wish games. Here I go:

The Legend of Zelda U will be revealed as promised by Eiji Aonuma. There will be some major changes to the typical formula, lon-needed changes as Aonuma himself admitted. Firstly, the focus of the game is on exploration to a never before realized degree. Aonuma already hinted at more non-linearity and this entry in the series will finally be the one that takes the original Zelda 1 for NES and makes it into a stunning 3D-game. The player is thrown into the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a beautiful, open, living game-world. You´re free to go anywhere. This where the next major change is revealed: Environmental interactivity is taken to the next level. Link can climb any surface that´s not entirely flat. No “gamey” specially marked surfaces where you can climb, but truly everywhere. Think of Shadow of the Colossus´ climbing mechanic, but with less restrictions. The movement of Link will be central to the experience, with additional items expanding your options of locomotion. Within a world that wants to b explored, climbing, jumping and more are integral to the gameplay. Of course, the jump-button will return to 3D-Zelda for the first time ever. A big change in its visual design is the renunciation of the blocky, almost grid-based layout of the world that existed to allow for an easier implementation of puzzles. Instead, the world will look believable, no more blocky, perfectly flat walls of mud. The environment wants to be experimented with, thanks to the non-scripted movement options. One change might cause a huge uproar to some conservative fans: Link will be able to be customized. At the very least will we be able to buy and change his clothing, and not just limited to 2-3 status-effecting armors, but real custom clothing. Get rid of the ridiculous hat, thank you! As for the visual artstyle, I´m expecting something close to the E3-demo, but not exactly the same. They can´t stray away from that too much, or we´ll have Spaceworld vs. TWW 2.0. Nobody wants that. Whatever it is, this is a Zelda-game that needs to prove that Nintendo is still capable of producing ambitious games, and not just minimum effort-cash ins like Super Mario 3D World or Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Something.

Monolith Soft´s X will be shown. For the first time, we will see a lengthy, story-centric trailer that gives an elaborate glimpse into the world, its characters and its circumstances. Personally, I expect a lot of people to be shocked by the true scale of the game, that might even exceed what we´ve seen so far. Xenoblade was all about exploring a gigantic world – with a flying mecha, you have to up the ante a lot to keep this sort of exploration, so even a huge continent might be too small to keep it up. Think bigger. Think … stars! Anyway, the game will be set for an early 2015 release in the west and a holidy 2014 release in Japan. Worst wait ever. Oh, and a short bonus-teaser will reveal that it is indeed Shulk who we saw at the end of the first teaser in 2012.

Super Smash Bros. 4 will have a big show-casing at this year´s E3. I expect more character reveals and and in-depth presentation of the games modes, especially the online-ones. Even in worst times, Smash Bros. managed to keep Nintendo relevant, as proven by Super Smash Bros. Melee, the only million-seller on GameCube in Japan. The game builds on its great foundations, no big surprises incoming (other than any newcomer being a surprise in itself, or course).

Two major new announcements will be made: One of them is Pokkén, the long rumored Pokémon-fighting game. The fantastic graphics and the exciting choices of playable Pokémon will make this appealing to the entire fanbase. Developed by Bandai Namco and the Tekken-team, it´ll have more than solid gameplay as well as a flawless online-component. The other new title will be from RetroStudios, and it´ll be in the tone that most of us whished for a long time: Some “mature”, non-cartoony looking, open-world 3D-game. Three possibilities: 1.) StarTropics, 2.) A Metroid-game where you play a Federal Space Trooper, not Samus Aran, or 3.) a new franchise. Whatever it is, it´ll look great, moody and be released sometime 2015 or even later.

The rest of the Wii U´s E3 will consist of known titles like Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2 and Yoshi Yarn.

The Nintendo 3DS is hard to predict. Last year has been fantastic, this year is a lot quieter in terms of software. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate might be shown. Lots of smaller titles. Hopefully, Fire Emblem: Awakening sees a sequel; afterall, the game hints that the story is not over yet AND it´d make sense saleswise, since this turned out to be one of the best-selling games in franchise-history.

The big wild card for Nintendo´s 2014 E3 will definitely be the QoL-device. It´s either going to be the laughing stock of the industry or something truly awesome, a must-have gadget. Not much in-between, really. Since I refuse to believe that Nintendo´s putting so much effort into a generic me too-fitness device, I think that their QoL-device will be something really cool. My personal speculation revolves around improved AR-capabilities and/or some highly evolved, endearing A.I./algorithm-“companion” that manage your daily virtual ventures and becomes more individual the more you keep using the device, thus bein able to automatically set or deactive the alarm, notify you of someone´s birthday or, as that´s part of the concept, tell you about your health. The AR-part could be seen as a reasonable counter to the current VR-hype. VR is all about a solitary experience at home, whereas AR is all about experience virtual content in the real world, so it´s automatically a more social experience, thus befitting Nintendo´s philosophy. We haven´t really seen what´s possible with AR at this point, both the 3DS´ and PSVita´s AR-capabilities are a glitchy, jittery mess. Think along the lines of that supercool Google-April fools-video, where you could see Pokémon interacting with the real world by looking through your smartphone. That sort of AR. As for the virtual companion idea, that´d be super-popular in Japan (think of all the anime that had A.I. partners for the hero) and is already touched upon by both Apple and Microsoft. Apple had Siri, and MS just recently published their Cortana-update for Windows Phones. Both are a nice start, but so much more would be possible, if you made it the focal point of a device. Maybe the QoL?

Microsoft´s effort-machine:

phantom-dust-20050318010117915-000

Sony´s PS4 is currently beating the Xbox One´s ass, so Microsoft needs to show more than all those third-party multiplatform titles. While I have no interest in buying another system next to my Wii U and gaming PC, Microsoft managed to create some truly interesting first-party titles in the past. I´m looking forward to what they have in story.

The Third Place: Sony

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I´m (not) sorry, but i just don´t care.

Conclusion:

Games development gets more and more expensive as the industry turns more and more risk-averse. It is this year´s E3´s challenge to prove that creativity is not dead. All three big publishers and home console-manufacturers have to prove that you do not need a VR-headset for a fresh, fantastic experience. If they fail to do so, Facebook´s Oculus Rift might have them in for a bad awakening. It´s entirely up to each of Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony to prevent that from happening, though. An exciting E3, even without a plethora of new announcements.


January ND – Nintendo Doom

January 24, 2014

I was watching an old video I made during the hype for Nintendo´s 2010 Media Summit and felt like doing another such video. The result is a fun collage of scenes from a wide range of video games that paint a possible, though not likely, picture of what Nintendo´s and the Wii U´s future could hold. Anyway, it´s fun just seeing footage of some of these games. Here goes:


The Calm before E³ 2013 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 4, 2013

This is just creepy how year after year I keep thinking to myself “Hm, E3 is approaching, should I write my predictions article already?”. And then I look up when I wrote the last one it´s been almost exactly a year since. Guess what, time for this year´s crazy E3 predictions. Though, will it really be that crazy? Sure, one could make the claim that predicting anything positive regarding the Wii U should be considered crazy, but … we´ll see. Anyway, this going to be a once-in-five-years big E3, with two new systems being fully unveiled and Nintendo being pressured into showing what they´ve got for Wii U to the public. I´d like to say that I´m not hyped, but truth to be told, I am. Because, let me be blunt about this, if Nintendo doesn´t deliver their A (AAAAA …) – game here, they´re better off just ending their current home console right now. So here they are, the FlyingFisch´s 2013 Crazy E3 Predictions!

Fanboy´s Favorite: Nintendo

zeldatwwsea

So here we are, Nintendo. Do or Die – your motto for this year´s E3. Yes, maybe a bit melo-dramatic, but even as a big time fan, I´m annoyed by their silence when meanwhile negative news after negative news arrives. Super low hardware sales for the Wii U and developers and journalists openly laughing about your new console. The Wii U is, at this moment, a Monster Hunter-machine. And there´s nothing on the system´s release lists that will change that anytime soon. Still, all hope is not lost. And while I might underestimate people´s lust for graphics alone: IF Nintendo can show a ton of high quality AAA-titles, they could win E3, even with their competitors showing brand-new consoles. What those games might be? Here´s my take:

The corner stone for the Wii U´s inofficial revival will consist of a three-hit-combo for 2013. One of them is Mario Kart U. After the letdown that was MK7, I hope Nintendo puts more effort into the next entry of the franchise. Miiverse should help the online-experience, though. Just put more focus on the actual racing instead of items; ya know, more Mario Kart 64, less Double Dash. The second important 2013-title will be Super Mario U. And for the love of god, this better not be another Galaxy-like Mario-game. Have this be the true “Mario 64 2”. Big, open worlds, maybe one gigantic world? And, of course, it´ll be called “Super Mario Universe“. No need to be creative here. And then there´s number three: RetroStudio´s Wii U-title. Let me say this: If they´ve been working on another Donkey Kong Country-game, I wish Nintendo death and doom. No, RetroStudios is Nintendo´s only first-party studio capable of producing visually mature games, so that´s what they should be working on. And it´s not just about having them make some run-of-the-mill first person shooter. Whatever they´ve been developing, it needs to be the Wii U´s showcase title, the “game to go”. I can´t even really imagine what kind of game I want from Retro, all I know is that it needs to be big. Beautiful. Overflowing of ambition. First- or third-person perspective – it doesn´t matter. Just be … GRAND. And don´t be a Metroid-title. I´d rather have them work on Eternal Darkness, Startropic or, even better, their own IP (yes, I´m a fool who still yearns after Raven Blade …). Mario Kart in summer, RetroStudio-title in October/November and Mario for christmas. Left, right, punch! Add to that smaller titles like the HD-remaster of The Wind Waker and you´ve got a nice first year.
Now, part of me wants Nintendo to release “X” this year, too, but I doubt it. If it´s anywhere near as big as Xenoblade Chronicles, development will take time, and two to three years might have not been enough. If anything, “X” would make for a great spring 2014-title.

Speaking of 2014: The most important part of their Wii U-showing has to be a vision for the future, beyond the current year. Part of that is offering a transparent, dependable release liste for at least the first half of 2014. The other part is to fill that release list with sales-igniting games. Since Nintendo´s forced to go all out, here´s what needs to be shown at E3: Super Smash Bros. 4. We know we´ll get “so-me-thing”, but whatever, it needs to be a trailer, followed by a “coming summer 2014!”. Dear Sakurai, stop turning Smash Bros.-games into Nintendo-encylopaedias. It was neat in Melee, it was nice in Brawl, but it´s unnecessary at this point. I mean, most of the data could simply be copy&pasted from previous games anyway. Focus on the fighting side of the game, make it as fun as 64/Melee and give us 40-50 great, unique characters. Definitely let us play as Ridley, Krystal and Shulk! Crom from Fire Emblem, too, while you´re at it (sorry, Ike, you´re out).
What then? It´s damn hard to come up with actual big titles that could turn the Wii U´s misery to success. Bayonetta 2 will be there. And that´s it, for all we know. Anything else is pure guesswork, speculation and fantasizing/dreaming. Have Capcom develop a Wii U-exclusive Monster Hunter MMORPG. Same gameplay as MH3U/MH4, but you´re playing in a big, seamless world, meeting hundreds of other hunters in lovely towns, oozing detail. Climb up everywhere, gather in bigger-than-four-men groups to hunt down the most dangerous monsters. Have there be lots of ingame-story bits, like monsters attacking a certain town, or non-action-events like a king visiting or a party going on. Have it be like “Sword Art Online” (anime) in terms of atmosphere. Convince Square-Enix to remake Vagrant Story for Wii U. Maybe make them release Versus 13 for Wii U, too, and FF15, while you´re at it. Similarily, pay Sega to finally give us Skies of Arcadia 2! Show Konami the middle finger and don´t bother with Sony-fanboy Kojima. Motivate Marvelous Entertainment to develop another game in the style of Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the moon. Ensure that Ubisoft makes Watchdogs for Wii U a worthy version of the game next to their PS4/720-versions. The big one: Get GTA5 on board! Make it happeneing, even if only as a later port.
Then there´s your promise to work together with 3rd-party studios on known franchises. Let Team Ninja make another Metroid-game. Screw the feminist-idiots, the game was fantastic and turned Samus Aran into my most liked video game character ever, showing her as a human being and not as your typical “super cool badass” persona. Give StarFox to Capcom, so they can develop StarFox Adventures 2. Hey, they were capable of making a Zelda-game afterall.
Returning to first party stuff, Nintendo, if you want to positively shock your entire fan community, announce F-Zero U. Featuring 30 player-online multiplayer, 60fps Full HD-graphics (of 720p, but go for dat 60fps). Announce that RetroStudios has been working on two titles and their other game is due for a 2014-release. Give us Chibi Robo U. And Endless Ocean 3/Forever Blue 3. And if you want me to orgasm during your E3-live stream, show Cosmic Walker as basically a space-version of the former mentioned Endless Ocean.
I´d hope for even a lot of more stuff, but I honestly can´t come up with anything else. Or at least anything that´s significant both in terms of sales and mainstream/press hype. Surprise us, Nintendo.

A system that isn´t in need of surprise that much is the Nintendo 3DS. What a freaking great handheld, and easily shaping up to be my favorite handheld ever. Fire Emblem: Awakening is merely two weeks away from its European release. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is awesome, and I´m definitely planning on playing Luigi´s Mansion 2 some time in the future, too. Unlike the Wii U, I don´t need a release list for 2014, as I´m sure this thing will keep offering fantastic titles. My main prediction for E3 is about Zelda 3DS. Here´s what I hope will be happening: Majora´s Mask 3D is announced for a 2013-release. At the same time, a trailer for a brand-new 3DS-Zelda is shown, graphically similar to Ocarina of Time/Majora´s Mask. It is revealed in said trailer that this will be the third Hero of Time-title, showing us what happened to Link after the events of Majora´s Mask. Showing us his life´s journey. Showing us how he ended up as an eternal skeleton, a Stalfos. I´m not expecting any Zelda U-details at E3, and honestly, I´d rather have Zelda 3DS to be focused on first, using it as a statement of proof that Nintendo´s still capable of making games that rival their timeless masterpieces for the Nintendo 64. Have th is bee the highest quality trilogy in video game history.
Leaving aside first-party stuff like Pokemon and Mario & Luigi, there´s lots of Third-party games I wanna see. Bravely Default being localized (and don´t you dare cut out the AR-app! She´s mai waifu afterall! 😐 ), Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 5 being released this or early next year. Add Dragon Quest 7 and a new Resident Evil to that list and it´s ready to go. Oh, wait, a 3D-port of Skies of Arcadia Legends mustn´t be missing! How beautiful this game would look in 3D …
Non-gaming related, finally add Miiverse to the 3DS.

And if all else fails, just scrap the Wii U and announce your hybrid-system that functions as both handheld and home console. We all want it. We all expect it. No need for secrecy.

Microsoft´s effort machine: 

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Rumors about always-online and no-used-games are growing in intensity with each and every day. Dear Microsoft, while I don´t intend to get another console next to my Wii U and gaming PC, I sincerely hope these rumors turn out to be fud and nothing more. Should they, however, be revealed to be true, I will forthon call everybody an idiot that buys your next generation system. And that won´t be an insult. It will be fact.

The Third Place: Sony

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I´m (not) sorry, but i just don´t care.

Conclusion:

A hard to make predictions for E3. The 3DS is set to go, meanwhile it´s difficult to guess what even Nintendo themselves are about to announce for the Wii U, let alone third party-developers. All I can say is that it´s not really in the number of games, but in what the announced games bring to the table, both in visual appeal and gameplay ambition. This is not the time to play it savely, Nintendo. Show us your hand or fold and quit it.
While unimportant to my personal buying plans, I´m looking forward to see Microsoft and Sony show us their nextgen systems and what they´ve got in store for them. Is it all about shinier graphics or can they provided not-yet-possible gameplay experiences? Oh, and is any of them crazy enough to call for a 499$ or above price tag?
To conclude the FlyingFisch´s 2013 crazy E3-predictions: Have a nice E3 and don´t forget to play some more Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate!


GMotY-Awards 2012

December 31, 2012

Being busy, busy, busy. Been a long time since my last entry to the FlyingFisch´ blog, but let´s just get it over with: The past year wasn´t that great of a year for video games. Not a whole lot of originality to be seen, partly due to the transition into the next gen of consoles. Though, even next gen doesn´t give much hope for big changes. Shooters will remain the hot topic, and killing virtual people seems to be a perma stay for what´s most fun for people. Anyways,

These are the gameplay mechanics of the year-winners:

Kid Icarus: Uprising for its successful combination of presenting a cinematic story without negatively imposing on gameplay. If you´ve played angel Pit´s revival, you know how almost every second of the game is accompanied by voice-acting and stuff going on in the far background. Be it during those midair-sections or the on-land parts, the player always keeps control over Pit. All that while we´re enjoying an epic story full of twists. It is not my personal favorite from all the ways to tell a story, but if it´s that cinematic flair so many developers appear to strive for these days, Kid Icarus: Uprising is certainly doing a better job at it than most.

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Resident Evil: Revelations for doing Resident Evil the right way. A weird category, very subjective in several ways at once. I´m a fan of quiet, atmosphere Resident Evil. The old games for PS1/GameCube are my favorites, RE4 is also up there. Then came RE5 and introduced coop. And then RE6 came along and turned the franchise into a CoD-knock off. Revelations meanwhile managed to make the fine line between keeping the moody atmosphere of old RE and introducing the more direct controls of RE4 and onwards. And all that on a handheld no less! There´s a myriad of things to praise about Revelations, like graphics, music or online-modes, but what made it so memorable to me was that long lost feeling of playing a real Biohazard-game.

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Zombi U for doing Zombies the right way. Slight repetition of words, but since this is another game featuring the undead, kinda fits. I´ve played a lot of Zombie-featuring games. Not that difficult, when the zombie apocalypse has grown into one of the most popular settings for games and movies. Be it Dead Rising, Dead Island, Left 4 Dead or modern Resident Evil – none of those managed to put life (haha) into the nature of zombies as Ubisoft did with their Wii U-launch title. The zombies in Zombi U are kinda slow, strong, dumb, steady – they´re zombies! What´s more, even a single one of them can put you in danger. Meet two of them at once? Better have a very good strategy or you´re already dead! Zombies in this game are not beating bags. They´re the revived bodies of formerly living people. Killing such body with a cricket bat isn´t easy. It´s not elegant. And it´s nerve-wrecking for the poor guy/gal that´s hitting his/her hardest to survive. There´s a lot of room for improvements, but for as far as the zombie-theme, Ubisoft created the most immersive, best done zombie apocalypse-simulator.

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Unfortunately, some gameplay mechanics were rather disappoting.

These are the failed gameplay mechanics of the year:

The Walking Dead for being all trickery. I had great fun during my first playthrough of this adventure-title. However, much of this fun resulted from my anticipation for the second run. Why? Because a lot of choices I made, made me think about what might have happened if I did “this” instead of “that”. Turns out, once you start the game anew, all the illusion crumbles. The game always follows the same path and only minor differences will ever occur due to different choices being made. Once could say “well, you had fun the first time, why not leave it at that?”. Because that takes away all meaning from the choices I made. Had I chosen to stay with that one girl and left the rest of the group, where would I have arrived at? What if these boys were still alive? What if did that or that or that? None of it matters. Mattered, after starting a second game.

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New Super Mario Bros U for being so samey that it hurts. Admittedly, I´m not the biggest fan of 2D-platformers. But finishing the newest Mario-game for Wii U was more chore than it was fun. With so many people praising this title, I kept telling myself “just keep playing, it´ll get fun … soon … right?”. But it never did. Maybe that´s an old realization, but 2D-Mario-games aren´t so much about platforming and jumping, but rather about evading shit the game keeps throwing at you. There wasn´t a single scene in the game where I had to do difficult jumps. Instead, I had to worry about getting hit by that Koopa, falling into lava/acid or being pushed to death by some moving wall. Guess I´ll keep it at 3D-Mario. Figuring out how to reach a certain place by making use of all your available jumping maneuvers beats this pseudo-platformer. Yes, I went there.

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The Calm before E³ 2012 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 11, 2012

Just got done re-watching last year´s Nintendo press conference, then decided to take a look at when I posted the previous prediction-blog entry and found out that I´m right on time. Anyway, yes, it´s “that time of the year” again! Gamers´ christmas is almost upon us, with less than two months away.  From June 5th to 7th, publisher from all around the world will once again show off what they´re going to deliver in the near and far away future of gaming. Strangely enough, this E3 2012 is an odd one for me, personally. I was hyped beyond belief last year, which lead to a little bit of a let down. Wii U and its tablet-controller were unveiled, but we didn´t get to see any real, exclusive games, just smallish mini-game prototypes. Meanwhile, this year´s E3 is bound to feature a total Wii U blow-out. Yet, for the first time in a long time I´m unsure if I´ll get the new console at launch. But more about that in the next paragraph. No matter my personal hype-levels, predicting stuff, mixing the likely and crazy, is always fun. So let´s begin the Flyingfisch´ predictions for E3 2012!

 Fanboy´s favorite: Nintendo

 As I just mentioned in the introduction above, I´m strangely unhyped about the Wii U-system. It´s been clear for a long time now  that Nintendo´s nextgen-console wouldn´t be up to par with the supposed specs of Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4. But when rumors went from 4-5 times a 360, to 2-3 times a 360, to “on par”, and, as of lately, not even being as powerful as a 360 in certain areas of its hardware – that´s a bitter pill to swallow. By no means would I consider myself a graphics whore. I never understood how any enthusiastic gamer could let his fun be dictated by hardware, instead of software. When console gamers were still happy with the PS2´s SD-visuals, I was enjoying higher resolutions and smoother, more detailed graphics on my PC. At the same time now, I have no problem having fun with Radiant Historia, a 2D-ish Nintendo DS-game that I´m playing via my 3DS´s backwards compatibility, when I was playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Assassin´s Creed: Brotherhood, as well as Gears of War 3 not too long ago. The heck, I even tried playing Zelda II: Link´s Adventure, though I stopped that. Not due to bad graphics, but because it´s too frustratingly hard for me – shut up, you! What it all comes down to: I have no problems with enjoying games from any technological point in time, as long as they´re simply that: great games.

However, there´s a limit to it all. For me that limit is launching a brand new nextgen-console in 2012 that´s not even clearly more powerful than a 2006 console in every area of its hardware. It´s got nothing to do with actual game graphics. For me, it becomes a matter of principles. As much as I love Nintendo, I *do not want* to day 1-support a video game system that´s that disappointing in terms of raw power. And it truly is a matter of principles. I wouldn´t complain if the Wii U was only insignificantly stronger than a 360 in some areas. But it is absolutely unacceptable for it to be weaker in parts. Absolutely unacceptable. I do realize that this might sound like an unreasonable, irrational rant, but that´s just my very personal stance on these matters. I´m truly annoyed by gamers that´d rather play hardware than software – but there´s a difference between going for the blue ocean or simply taking a yellow stream of piss. Of course, all of those hardware rumors are, well, rumors. So I guess the above is something preemptive in its entirety. Let´s hope it wasn´t justified.

 Now, on to happier topics: Games! The one Wii U-game I cannot imagine *not* to be at E3 2012 is Pikmin 3. In my mind, this has long been confirmed as one of the new system´s launch-titles. While being loved by the fan-crowd, the Pikmin-franchise isn´t Nintendo´s most powerful one, so putting it at launch would give it a nice boost. Also, I couldn´t imagine any more suited titles to show off the improved graphical capabilities, if only for HD. And aside from the visuals, there´s just a ton of ideas that the tablet-controller could be used for. Another title I´m looking forward to is RetroStudios´ nextgen-game. I really hope they´re working on a “hardcore” title with impressive graphics, and not being wasted on another 2D-platformer that could have been done by any of Nintendo´s many studios. In a perfect world, RetroStudios would be working on a western RPG (*cough* Raven Blade *cough*), giving birth to Nintendo´s answer to The Elder Scrolls and Dark Souls. More likely, though, they´re developing some kind of first-person shooter. Even so, I´m looking forward to seeing that shooter, because there´s really only two developers in the world that create shooters that go beyond the Call of Duty-archetype: Valve and RetroStudios. As for this year´s surprise franchise-revival, I´d like to see a new Startropics-game. I hardly know anything about the franchise, but I´ve been told that it´s something like Nintendo´s answer to Sony´s Uncharted-IP, so just like a RetroStudio-developed WRPG, stepping into the blockbuster action-market would make for another interesting move. Since I´m actually having trouble to come up with more first-party related predictions, here´s the one thing I want above all else: A first-party announcement that has the gaming world in awe, both from stunning visuals AND daring, revolutionary gameplay. For a faint, spontaneous idea, I´d like to see some kind of open world game set in a sky world. Yeah, something along the lines of Skyward Sword being done right …

There´s not much of interest to predict about third-party support for the Wii U. Basically, ports, ports, ports. Accompanied by some ridiculous excuses for why game XYZ won´t be released on the Wii U (“if we were to make game for Wii U, we feel like we´d have to make good use of the tablet-controller. Since game XYZ doesn´t do that, we´ll not release it on Wii U.” sigh). There´ll be Assassin´s Creed 3 and Darksiders 2. Maybe Resident Evil 6 and the new Call of Duty. But what will third-parties be offering beyond their multiplatform stuff? Well, there´s Ubisoft´s Killerfreaks, which looked surprisingly nice at last year´s E3. But you cannot shake of the feelings of this being another Red Steel-repeat, turning out to be some half-assed token-effort. Prove my doubts wrong, Ubisoft! Other than that … nothing. I totally expect Square Enix to announce Final Fantasy 13 Versus for other systems than just the PS3 (they´d deserve to go bankrupt if they keep it PS3-exclusive), but not at E3. That´s something for Tokyo Game Show. Same reason why I don´t expect a new Monolith Soft-title at E3. Generally speaking, though, I expect more Wii U-announcements from Japanese developers as the year proceeds, while the West keeps putting lazy ports on the new console.

The Nintendo 3DS is in a completely different situation. We already got announcements for Kingdom Hearts 3D and Theathrhythm, both being released in summer, with Mario Tennis Open coming next month already. Here´s hoping Monster Hunter 3G will be announced, featuring an added online-mode for European and American gamers. The latter half of the year will see Paper Mario and Fire Emblem: Awakening, and a new 2D-Mario platformer is heavily rumored to be shown. Beyond that, I´m hoping to get a first trailer for Super Smash Bros. 3D, with a release date for early 2013. Since it´d be dumb to release both the 3DS- and Wii U-version of the next Smash Bros. at the same time (at least, it´d be horrible for my personal sanity), spreading them out over at least a year makes sense. Sakurai hinted at the handheld-version being a more personal experience, while the console-version would set up the grand stage. So, I´m expecting Smash Bros. 3D to be announced at this year´s E3, missing an elaborate story-mode, but introducing new, exciting gameplay-mechanics and enough content to be happy anyways, while a Wii U-version will be released some time in 2014 for the Wii U – letting 3DS-gamers transfer their individually equipped handheld-characters to the console-version (yeah, Sakurai´s totally putting some Kid Icarus into Smash Bros!). The one franchise only I and like three other people in the world care about, is Endless Ocean/Forever Blue. This should look fantastic in 3D, with the diver hovering in front of the screen, fish popping out even farther and using the depth to present the … uhm, depths. And, of course, there will be Zelda. Between a brand new 3DS-Zelda, a Majora´s Mask-remake or a New The Legend of Zelda-game, anything is possible. We´ll get at least one of them.

On the third-party side of new announcements, I´ll keep firm and demand Final Fantasy 15 to be a 3DS-title. That´s not just a fanboy´s wish, though. I truly believe that the only way to get the Final Fantasy-franchise back on track is by shrinking down its *glamour*. Get rid of Dragon Ball-esque attacks, forget about those fancy cutscenes that suck away so much of the game´s budget. Concentrate on what made the Final Fantasy-franchise popular: Creating a great, fun game. Maybe that´s just me, but Bravely Default (which is hopefully announced for a western release at E3) looks so much more charming and interesting than Final Fantasy 13 could ever wish to be. You don´t need to spend 5 years+ on high end-graphics to make a fun Final Fantasy-title. And maybe it takes putting the franchise on a Nintendo-handheld to realize that. Aside from a MH3G localization, I´d like to see Resident Evil: Revelations 2, or whatever it´d be named. Sales in Japan were good, though only solid at best in the rest of the world. Still, the first Revelations-game received lots of praise and 3DS-gamers from all over the world would love to get another entry of the RE-series. And while PSVita-fans are heralding it as the savior for their system, I´d actually be interested in a proper 3DS-version of the next Call of Duty, supporting the Circle Pad Pro as well as a Touchscreen-aiming option. Not expecting much from western developers generally, though, they don´t like money, so supporting the 3DS would make no sense, amirite. More Japanese games to be seen at, again, Tokyo Game Show or Nintendo´s fall conference.

Now, the one big surprise besides the Wii U blow-out would be a 3DS-revision that so many gamers are clamoring for. Honestly, I have no idea what Nintendo could change about the current Nintendo 3DS-model to make a revision appear as hot as the DS lite did when compared to the DS phat back then. There a some people that think the 3DS is ugly, but I don´t see what you could drastically change about its looks. Personally, all I want is better battery life and maybe a slide pad with better grip. Just for “the lulz”, I´d love for a revision to still lack a second slide pad, just to spite the silly, annoying “I´m waiting for a revision with two slide pads“-crowd. Anyway, the reason why I´m speculating about a 3DS-revision in such a casual way is that I honestly couldn´t care less about it. In times where idiots (yes, I think an ad hominem is justified here) spend 600 Euro/Dollars on a new tablet *every* year, a new 500 Euro/Dollar smartphone *every* year and a 300 Euro/Dollar handheld that´s got nothing announced for the near and far away future, in times like these, I can very well justify spending a measly 150 Euro/Dollar on a 3DS-revision. I would have never thought that I´d ever think like that -I bought a DS phat at launch and kept using it until I got my 3DS-, but all the insanity and neglect of crazy expensive prices for luxury devices changed my mind on that. So, uhm, … thank you?

Microsoft´s effort machine

I gave away my Xbox 360 during last christmas, so I have no Microsoft-console at the moment. I also don´t have any plans to get a Xbox 720. Being multiplatform doesn´t make sense for my software-likings, so having a 3DS, a gaming-PC and maybe a Wii U will do the trick. However, it´s going to be interesting what Microsoft is gonna do with their nextgen-system, and more importantly, when they´re gonna do it. Are they rushing it out to avoid giving Nintendo too much of a headstart? Are they going all out in terms of power to go for the kill move against Sony? And what´s going to be their lineup? Exclusives haven´t been Microsofts stronghold, but can they really beat the competition without these incentives? The new Halo-game will be a nice good buy-gift for 360-gamers. Maybe it´s time for Kinect to go *hardcore*?

The Third Place: Sony

I´m (not) sorry, but i just don´t care.

Conclusion: 

Phew, I guess that´s that then. Dunno if you got the same feeling during reading the above text, but it seems kinda … boring, doesn´t it? Even assuming we´ll get all the stuff I predicted, it´s all great, promising stuff, but nothing too revolutionary (well, except for where I predicted a “daring, revolutionary” game), but consisting of sequels and known franchises. Especially for the Wii U, it remains to be seen if Nintendo can successfully manage to make their first HD-system feel fresh beyond upped resolution. E3 2012 would be a good place for revealing new incentives and directions for this stale growing industry. With that in mind, I´d like to conclude this year´s crazy prediction with the following words: Have a nice E3 and fuck you, Apple!


Western developers, beware of Wii U

March 14, 2012

Nintendo seem to have put themselves in a similar boat as when they revelead the underpowered hardware of the Wii-system. Many gamers, many gaming journalists and also many developers hated the ancient SD-resolution, when compared to Xbox 360´s and PlayStation 3´s shiny HD-graphics. Nobody knows for sure, but it´s the most reasonable bet to assume that Wii U will be a console near a 360 in power and not much more. Rumors have it that it´s stronger in some, but even weaker in other areas of its architecture. However, setting all that tech-talk aside, the Wii still became the market leading system. Even without the support of third party developers, with a most apparent lack of western developed titles. But be careful, dear western developers: The Wii U could hurt you sensitively. 

This came to my mind when I thought about Nintendo´s chances in the future video game market: There´s a huge likelihood that a big split between western and eastern developers will happen in terms of supporting Nintendo´s new system. Western developers won´t be very fond of the Wii U, it´s not hard to figure that out. They´re happy with their 360 and PS3, and they´re ready to jump to the “true next gen”, whenever MS und Sony launch it. Mark Rein already subtly trolled Nintendo again by commenting about how great games would look on the Wii U using Unreal Engine 3. Meaning nothing other than that Epic won´t bring UE4 to the Wii U.

Meanwhile, we have a very different situation in Japan. Here, the 360 is irrelevant and even the PS3 is doing not-so-great numbers. The country´s gaming-industry is being dictated by handhelds, currently 3DS and PSP. What that means is that there is no dominating HD-system, since the only kinda relevant HD-console hasn´t reached a market-leading position even after a whole generation´s time. And this is the environment that the Wii U´s about to launch in. And they´ve already secured an improved version of Dragon Quest 10 for their lineup. And any PS3-support could easily result in automatic multiplatform-support. Following the current flow of Nintendo-software being “hot”, leading healthy relationships with Japanese third-party developers and launching in a market that hasn´t really experienced HD-games yet, I see Nintendo having the potential to dominate the Japanese gaming market with the Wii U like no system has ever done before.

And that is where the split between west and east is happening. I don´t see western developers supporting Nintendo beyond some ports, yet I see eastern developers putting their all on the Wii U (besides the 3DS). How that could be a dangerous situation for western developers? Think about it. The Wii dominated the current gen videogame market almost by Nintendo alone.  There´s not a single third-party game for the Wii that could be called a “system-maker”, a title that helped form the system´s dominance. All the games that made the Wii successful came from Nintendo themselves. So get this: If the Wii U gets the same first-party support, then gets the highest quality support from Japanese studious, both, but especially the former, with enormous global appeal, where does this leave western developers? Assuming they´re as keen of neglecting Nintendo-systems as they´ve been all those past years. Western developers have attained a certain style of creating graphics-intensive game experiences, aka EXPENSIVE games that need to sell a lot to gain back the invested budget. Should Nintendo be able to keep their own software´s appeal and combine it with the unified support of all your favorite Japanese third-party studios, ignoring and not supporting the Wii U could turn out to be one big risk. Too big of a risk, to be precise. You might convince yourself that next gen is a repeat of this gen, but that won´t be true if Nintendo starts dominating the Japanese HD-videogame market.