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For Tim Sweeney, advancing Epic means racing into AR and VR

Epic Games chief Tim Sweeney sits down with Gamasutra in a wide-ranging conversation about everything from the Unreal Engine’s future focus on AR and VR to his own passion for land conservation. …

Gamasutra News

Analysis – What Wii U’s Lame Duck Status Means For Nintendo

Early this morning, Nintendo announced its financial results for the year ended March 31, 2016. Amidst staggering profit decline, the company also dropped a bombshell: NX is coming later than anticipated.

There was never a formal announcement that NX was coming in 2016. However, with the planned release of The Legend of Zelda Wii U (long expected to be an NX title, also) and the expectation of a speedy transition to the next hardware cycle, a fall 2016 launch seemed logical.

Instead, Nintendo has announced that the NX launches in March 2017 and the next Zelda game will release on the new platform and the Wii U simultaneously. This makes the Wii U a lame duck for about 11 months and robs the holiday of the system’s biggest software launch since Super Smash Bros.

This isn’t a “Nintendo is doomed” story. This isn’t a lament over the company’s former greatness or a condemnation of its recent mistakes.

This is a look at what the pieces of today’s announcements mean for the company between now and March 2017 when the NX launches. It’s an analysis of how 2016 will be shaped by information delivered in the year-end financial statements today.

The Wii U Is A Lame Duck
In fiscal year 2016 (ended March 31, 2016), Nintendo sold 3.26 million Wii U consoles. That’s a quarter of the life-to-date 12.8 million units sold worldwide since November 2012. 

This wasn’t Nintendo’s strongest year (it was bested by 2015 and the Wii U’s launch in fiscal year 2013), but with games like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker, interest in the console was on par with past performance.

That’s why we’re taking note of Nintendo’s expectation for the Wii U in the coming year. The forecast moving forward for fiscal year 2017? 800,000 units. Nintendo is communicating to investors that it doesn’t see a way forward for the console. 

Of course, despite announcing a March 2017 release for the NX, the company has not shared any predictions for sales numbers that would occur during the year ending March 31, 2017. Therein lies the problem. 

Nintendo has effectively killed the Wii U with 11 months left to go, but it can’t specify or substantiate any sales numbers for the replacement. Without detailing the hardware and an anticipated launch window software lineup (even if incomplete), Nintendo is sending the message that the Wii U’s best days are behind it without giving people reason to be excited about the successor.

So far, this hasn’t had a significant impact on the stock price (share value is only down about one percent). However, as 2016 winds onward, Nintendo is in an uphill battle to move stock.

The company says it anticipates producing Wii U consoles through some time in 2018. It’s unclear why it would go through the trouble.

Software Sells Consoles
The decision to boot NX and Zelda to 2017 creates an enormous vacuum for Nintendo through the remainder of 2016. First, lets look at what we know is coming on the software front from first-party in North America (remember that this includes all software announced for release from April 1, 2016 on:

  • Star Fox Zero + Star Fox Guard – Available Now
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – June 24, 2016
  • Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – June 24, 2016
  • Paper Mario: Color Splash – 2016
  • The Legend of Zelda (name not final) – 2017
  • Project Giant Robot (name not final) – TBD

The third-party list is filled with indie games from small studios. That’s not to say they won’t be good, but with Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens the biggest currently announced name (and only premium game from a major publisher), this reads like padding. Unless Nintendo decides to feature an indie on a Nintendo Direct, promotional support has traditionally been non-existent.

All of this is to say there is just about no forward-looking reason to purchase a Wii U right now. Nintendo’s aforementioned forecast for Wii U hardware signifies the publisher doesn’t expect much to move the needle for new hardware sales. 

Sending The Wii U Off With A Bang
The Wii U is too expensive at $ 300. You can get an Xbox One for that price and a PlayStation 4 for just $ 50 more. 

Alongside the NX release window announcement this morning, Nintendo should have immediately slashed prices on the Wii U. A price drop is long overdue and as competition has been coming down in price, Nintendo has been snuffed out of the conversation.

Without a price drop, that only gets worse. Nintendo profits dropped by 60 percent year-over-year. Nintendo has also predicted a sharp slide in software sales from 2.7 million units to 1.5 million. Even that seems ambitious with Star Fox Zero and Paper Mario: Color Splash the only marquee games.

In order to hit the 800,000 unit target, Nintendo needs to shift gears on its messaging. The Wii U isn’t the hot new system. It needs to be positioned as an inexpensive alternative for playing Nintendo greats like Mario Kart, Smash Bros., Super Mario 3D World, and others. 

It isn’t for trend-setters or cutting edge buyers – It’s for people who have been holding off until the price is right to play the games they can’t get elsewhere.

The end of the Wii U need not be a morose funeral. It should be a boisterous celebration of the console’s short-lived legacy. This is a chance for Nintendo to highlight the platform’s successes. This is the console that saw the introduction of multi-million selling Splatoon, gave gamers the tools to design like Miyamoto in Super Mario Maker, and brought Mario Kart into the HD era.

Nintendo’s 2017: More Profit, But Not A Full Recovery
As is financial practice, Nintendo has laid out a forecast for its next fiscal year in concert with its previous year report. The company anticipates nearly level sales, net profit growth of 112.1 percent, and a jump of 56.3 percent in operating income.

What this tells us is that Nintendo anticipates that NX will make up for sharp drops in Wii U hardware and software sales, as well as 3DS sales that are in decline. This is despite the NX launching late in the fiscal year.

Usually, new console releases are additive. Look at how well PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 continued to perform a year or more into the current generation cycle. Nintendo does not have that advantage given the Wii U’s softness.

However, Nintendo will be able to capitalize on add-on sales. The NX hardware might not make the company money (and may even be a slight loss-leader), but with new console software purchases, additional controllers, and any other launch accessories, Nintendo can recognize better profit margins than it would trying to push Wii U and older software. 

The Shape Of Things To Come
It’s going to be a strange year for Nintendo and its fans. The Wii U software we know is coming prior to the NX launch is underwhelming.

Nintendo will hit big beats in 2016 as it reveals the NX hardware and its first-party games, but the company has any interested third-party developers and publishers at its mercy. E3, typically a big opportunity for publishers to show games to retail partners, is a wash for any NX launch window titles. Games that are coming to the new system can’t be shown, because Nintendo won’t want anyone spilling the beans about unique functionality.

The first nine months of the year (three quarters worth of financial reporting) are likely to be grotesque. The bright spot along the way will be Pokémon Sun and Moon, which will sell millions out of the gate for 3DS. But Nintendo’s holiday will likely be quiet. Its best hope is making Wii U the impossible-to-refuse bargain deal.

Moving forward, all eyes will be on NX and March. Nintendo’s fiscal year hangs in the balance. – The Feed

What it means to grow up under the influence of Minecraft

“They think they’re just playing a game, but they have to solve some of the hardest problems facing humanity,” a social scientist told the New York Times. ”They have to solve the tragedy of the commons.” …

Gamasutra News

Gaming’s Oddest Means Of Traversal

It’s no secret that half the fun of the imminently destructive Just Cause 3 is spying a location in the distance and using whatever means necessary to get there, whether it be paragliding, skydiving in a wingsuit, or hijacking a military jet with the help of an absurdly competent grappling hook. But before Just Cause 3 spurred the creation of a thousand hilarious gifs, the world of gaming had plenty of odd ways to get around. These are the weirdest means of traversal gaming has to offer.

Squid Form – Splatoon
When considering the physics of a world inhabited by *** cephalopods and an immortal talking cat, is it really such a stretch to believe that a primary mode of transport relies on swimming through ink? Splatoon keeps players’ bipedal forms comparatively slow, forcing them to convert into an adorable squid to both move across the map faster and refill their ink. One special ability even gives players the ability to morph into the invincible Kraken. The only question is, since it’s a fact that cars still exist in this universe, why isn’t all transport done in the clearly superior squid fashion?

Rocket-Boosted Thighs – Vanquish
Before Platinum Games became a production powerhouse, its fourth title in under two years began to boost-slide its way into the hearts of a core fandom of action game fans. Vanquish, heavily influenced by the classic anime Casshern and gameplay of more traditional 2D “bullet hell” games, debuted to much critical praise thanks to its innovative sliding mechanic. As DARPA agent Sam Gideon, players use the Augmented Reaction Suit to wrestle control of a deadly super weapon from a robotic Russian army. Besides slowing down time when health drops dangerously low, the ARS allows its user to slide along the ground at breakneck speed, bypassing enemies and massive amounts of gunfire to grab a better vantage point.

Astral Projection – Driver: San Francisco
Patrick Swayze has nothing on the disembodied ghost of John Tanner, except maybe pottery. After a perilous chase with Driver 3 antagonist Jericho, race car driver-turned police officer Tanner is injured and put into a deep coma. Inside Tanner’s mind, things continue as normal for the high-speed sleuth, save for the addition of the new “Shift” mechanic. Shifting allows Tanner’s conscience to leap from vehicle to vehicle, possessing the driver while retaining his own persona, resulting in no small amount of hilarious encounters. Need a new ride? Take control of that lucky Dodge Viper driver. Losing ground on a fleeing perp? Possess the trucker coming down the next intersection and stop him dead in his tracks. Need to clench a killer stunt? That car carrier with the lowered ramp doesn’t look busy.

Morph Ball – Metroid
One of Metroid’s most important mysteries isn’t the ultimate fate of Samus’ adoptive parents, the Chozo, or Samus’ intentionally vague disposition. It’s actually how a six-foot-three-inches tall space bounty hunter manages to curl up inside of a ball roughly two-and-a-half feet in diameter. First appearing in the original Metroid as the “marumari,” Samus’ morph ball allows the hunter to slink through previously inaccessible areas, helping to define Metroid’s distinct interconnected world. Fans theorize that Samus is able to use the ball by momentarily becoming pure energy, indicated by the glow seen emitting from the ball’s seams. Others believe it has something to do with pocket dimensions. If you ask us, it’s probably the same technology as Pokéballs – but would that make Ridley Charizard’s son?

City-Issued Roller Coaster Claw – BioShock Infinite
Sure, plenty of games have their various grappling hooks and their rappelling ropes, but none come close to the absurd contraption that is BioShock Infinite’s skyhook. Originally used by young hooligans as a makeshift means to commit death-defying stunts on the city's precarious cargo transport rails, Columbia’s man of industry Jeremiah Fink eventually mass produced a more stable version for the city’s police and militia forces. Magnetic attraction allows for protagonist Booker to hop from one track to the next without worry of looking at Columbia from the bottom up. Just make sure to wipe off after accidentally gutting an officer with it. It gets a little messy. – The Feed

‘Dancing Baby’ DMCA ruling means little for YouTubers, say legal experts

An appeals court has ruled rightsholders must “consider fair use” before issuing DMCA takedowns of infringing content on, say, YouTube. What does this mean for the game industry? Not much, apparently. …

Gamasutra News

Legal experts weigh in on what the ‘Dancing Baby’ DMCA ruling means for video games

An appeals court has ruled rightsholders must “consider fair use” before issuing DMCA takedowns of infringing content on, say, YouTube. What does this mean for the game industry? Not much, apparently. …

Gamasutra News

Reader Discussion: Do You Play Deus Ex Using Stealth Or Lethal Means?

Today's cover reveal on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided got us thinking more about the series and how people approach it differently.  

Part of the fun of Deus Ex is having a choice in how you approach situations. This extends to the gameplay, which allows you to play as stealthy or as lethal you want. Many people try to play through using one style throughout the games, while some prefer to switch it up depending on the situation. Personally, I always try to go the stealth route and avoid conflict when possible, but I do like getting fists involved when the situation gets out of hand. Plus, there's always that unfortunate slip-up, where you blow your cover and just decide you're going lethal. 

As discussed in our cover reveal, It looks like Jensen will have some new augmentations in Deus Ex: Mankind to help him play as stealthy or lethal as he wishes. Which side will you choose? Did you have fun playing one way more than the other? Let us know in the comments below! – The Feed

How Shinra’s streaming tech works, and what it means for game devs

Shinra’s Colin Williamson seeks to shine some light on how the company’s remote rendering technology works and why game developers should care about this new spin on the game streaming service. …

Gamasutra News

Blog: VR – A means or an end?

“If you see VR as an end in itself, then you’re not going to focus as much on the content. If you see VR as a means toward another end (like good games), you’re not going to focus as much on the medium.” …

Gamasutra News

More players means more crashes in Trials Fusion trailer

Trials Fusion: Come for the camaraderie of four-person multiplayer races, stay because your pelvis was atomized by an oncoming tree.

[Image: Red Lynx]…
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