TriplePoints of Interest – Week of Jan. 23

In the first TriplePoints of Interest of 2017, the big stories this week center around an Overwatch milestone, Switch prediction, and a new tabletop-focused version of PAX.

It’s 2017. Welcome to the future!

Overwatch Hits 25 million Player Milestone
Overwatch, Blizzard’s competitive team-based shooter that debuted in May 2016, now has more than 25 million players – up an additional 5 million from the 20 million milestone which the company celebrated in October. Thanks to the game’s constant updates, achievements, and new content, Polygon noted that the game has already become a classic.

Analyst Prediction: Nintendo Switch Will Sell 40 Million Units Through 2020
Research firm DFC Intelligence has predicted that the Nintendo Switch will sell 40 million units through 2020. If this forecast is to be true, Nintendo Switch sales in the first four years of the product’s life would account for 40% of Wii U’s lifetime sales (which is a somewhat conservative estimate according to Forbes). Forbes contributor Paul Tassi, is skeptical regarding DFC’s estimated sales, stating that its too early to know whether or not the Switch will be as successful as the Wii U or Nintendo 3DS, noting that the product is positioned as a secondary console and is competing against other Nintendo products as well.
PAX Unplugged Announced, Focused on Tabletop Games
AX Unplugged, a new annual event focusing on tabletop games, was announced today at PAX South. The convention is set to debut November 17-19 of this year in Philadelphia. Organizers say the convention will highlight “board, card, and other tabletop games” and the event as a whole will include game reveals, tournaments, panels and special events. IGN says tabletop games will still appear at other PAX events, but Unplugged will focus on stepping away from digital gaming.

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 17

Image credit: Rockstar

It would be an understatement to say a lot went on this week. Here is a collection of the top tech and gaming news for the week of October 17th! Get a first look at Nintendo’s next game system, the Nintendo Switch; Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming in fall of 2017; and unionized video game voice actors are on strike.

Continue reading TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 17

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of July 11 – Featuring Pokémon GO!!!

We’re proud to say that we’ve been INCREDIBLY busy with the launch of Pokémon GO, an understatement considering the social phenomenon it has become in just a week since launch! The news cycle was dominated by the game, as we’ve outlined below, and all of us at TriplePoint have also been busy exploring the world in search of our favorite Pokémon. Head to our website at www.triplepointpr.com for a little Easter Egg, and input the Konami code for a pleasant surprise.  Continue reading TriplePoints of Interest – Week of July 11 – Featuring Pokémon GO!!!

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 26

The end of another week, another edition of TriplePoints of interest. This week Nintendo’s first mobile game gets a name, PewDiePie squares off against AdBlock,

Nintendo goes mobile in March

Nintendo has this week announced their first mobile game, Miitomo, which will launch in March of 2016. The app appears to be a messaging and communication app that will use Nintendo Mii characters to communicate with other players. GamesIndustry.biz has their take: Nintendo is taking a careful and thoughtful approach to mobile.

PewDiePie vs. AdBlock….FIGHT!

Last week, YouTube launched YouTube Red, a subscription service allowing viewers access to their favorite channels and content without having to watch ads. One of the more interesting threads to come of this was many viewers proclaiming that it didn’t matter to them because they use AdBlock, effectively enjoying YouTube ad-free and subscription-free. But cometh the hour, cometh the king – this week PewDiePie took to his blog to explain the pros to YouTube Red and the cons to AdBlock, noting particularly that AdBlock has a hugely negative effect on smaller channels trying to grow.

EA is going to sell so much Star Wars

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away the beta for Star Wars Battlefront attracted over 9 million players, making it the biggest video game beta in history. Based on this, Electronic Arts now expects to sell more than 13 million copies of the game by March 2016. That’s a lot of Galactic credits!

People on the internet are terrible

SXSW Interactive found itself in the middle of a bit of controversy this week when it cancelled two planned panels focused on online harassment in the video game space in the face of threats of violence on the – you guessed it – internet. In response to the conference’s decision, Vox Media boycotted the event, pulling it’s CEO from a featured speaker slot. SXSW has since apologized and begun building out a larger Online Harassment Summit to feature at the show. Can’t we all just get along on 6th street?

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of June 15

It’s just one trade show after another! This week is of course the special E3 edition of TriplePoints of Interest. Now sound off in the comments: what is your favorite announcement from the show? A game? A VR headset? Or something different entirely like photos of the awesome crowd and the industry’s gamer spirit shining through? In any case, here are some highlights!

Through the eyes of VR

Much like most trade shows these days, E3 continued to show love to VR. Gizmodo’s Sean Hollister released his list of his favorite games coming out for Oculus Rift, which includes Chronos, a “Zelda meets Dark Souls” game, platformer Lucky’s Tale, and EVE Valkyrie. Any one of Sean’s picks catching your eye?

GameSpot, in particular, was very impressed with Microsoft’s HoloLensHalo demo, saying it should be aptly renamed “HaloLens.”

Shenmue blows the doors off Kickstarter

Following the same trend as Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, the Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue 3, the long-awaited sequel to 2001’s Shenmue 2, reached its funding target of $2 million in under 12 hours, according to GamesIndustry International. This marks yet another major franchise revival game finding great success via crowdfunding. Funds poured in from fans who waited over 14 years for a three-quel after the announcement of the game at Sony’s press conference.

E3’s attendance grows yet again

Over 52,000 people attended E3 this year, up 3,000 from 2014, says VentureBeat. ESA chief, Mike Gallagher, said this year’s show was a testament to the way gamers are revolutionizing how news and media is shared with over 1 million clips uploaded to YouTube from the exhibit halls and 6.3 million tweets referencing the show. The show will return next year to Los Angeles June 14-16, 2016.

For those of you who missed the show…

Didn’t have time to watch all the press conferences? Polygon has you covered with summaries from Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, and Ubisoft.

Photo from Tech In Asia

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of May 25

Clearly, the big news of this week came out of Google I/O, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun (indie) game sales happening that might catch your attention. Ladies and gentlemen, here is this week’s TriplePoints of Interest!

What intelligence does Android M have for us? (Cue spy music)

Google I/O shook up Silicon Valley this week! The Verge presented a roundup of the top news emerging from the conference. The first was “Android M,” successor of Lollipop, that will streamline apps more including faster map uploads in areas of low connectivity as well as Chrome integration into all apps. More details were given on Android Wear smartwatches and Android Pay. The keynote also touched on VR, including a new iPhone-compatible Google Cardboard.

Fun weekend activity: the Humble Nindie Bundle

Nintendo announced its first Humble Bundle, the “Humble Nindie Bundle” aimed at highlighting indies from the eShop. According to Polygon, this is the first in a series of initiatives from Nintendo to support indie games. Included in the bundle are games like Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship edition and Woah Dave!

Higher security needed for truck full of games

Europe’s largest video game retailer, GAME UK, announced to consumers that pre-ordered Splatoon that its entire shipment of the game’s special edition, which includes the Squid Inkling amiibo, was stolen. According to IGN, no further details on the circumstances were provided other than that consumers will instead receive the game’s standard edition at a discounted price along with an Inkling Boy or Inkling Girl amiibo to make up for the losses.

This news is reminiscent of a similar incident where a truck containing 6,000 copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was hijacked in France in 2011.

More insight on how to improve the reputation of F2P

GamesIndustry International reported from the fourth annual Digital Dragons Conference in Kraków, Poland where a well-attended talk was given about the future of free-to-play and how to fight its bad reputation. Video game development veterans discussed the challenges the business model faces including stigma from the press, how PR must combat it, and how game designers can do better to model game mechanics to make the wait time between content availability more enjoyable. They concluded that F2P is overall a flexible system and can be tactfully tailored to suit each game and each audience.

Photo from Tech News Daily

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of May 18

A lot of fun news coming from Nintendo this week. The Nintendo World Championships are back this year and it looks like Bowser finally beat Mario to the top. Sort of! Here are our favorite news pieces from this week!

Nintendo World Championships is back from 1990!

Nintendo unveiled new details surrounding the Nintendo World Championships, a competitive event the company is reviving after 25 years. According to Polygon, the qualifying rounds kick off May 30 at Best Buy stores in 8 different cities from New York City to San Francisco. The first 750 customers who sign up must battle it out on Ultimate NES Remix for a spot in the big event!

eSports: the new frontier of advertising?

Game revenues will be taking on TV broadcast revenues, says research firm, SuperData. According to VentureBeat, video games are slated to push past broadcast TV into the #2 spot in entertainment market share thanks to the eSports phenomenon. Cable TV currently holds the top spot. SuperData states that this data shows eSports as a more lucrative platform for advertisers.

This conclusion is backed by EEDAR who, according to GamesIndustry International, stated that eSports viewers spend twice as much on PC peripherals and 30% more on their game systems than their non-eSports-watching counterparts.

The Mass Effect takes of Virtual Reality?

The importance of augmented reality in video games was amplified this week when it was announced by Polygon that Casey Hudson, former lead on the Mass Effect series, had moved to Microsoft to work on the HoloLens. Mr. Hudson is now the creative director at Microsoft Studios, leading the production of what he calls “mixed reality and holographic computing.”

Nintendo hires Bowser. And is dead serious about it.

Nintendo announced they hired a new Vice President of Sales, cleverly titling their press release, “Nintendo Hires Bowser,” according to The Guardian. Mr. Doug Bowser thanked fans for the news’ warm reception with a brilliant tweet.

Photo from The Punk Effect

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of May 4

Welcome to the first week of May and this week of TriplePoints of Interest. As we get closer to E3, we learn what is coming up for VR and what gamer lingo is being accepted into the English language!

The VRevolution is coming Q1 2016!

Oculus Rift has been given a real release timeframe and distributed images of the final product (no more prototypes). According to Gizmodo, the virtual reality device will ship in Q1 2016. Despite Valve and HTC’s Vive and Sony’s Morpheus making waves at GDC, it appears for now that Oculus Rift will beat the two to store shelves.

So it’s “esports” not “eSports?”

It’s official! A new word has entered Dictionary.com: “esports.” Written exactly as such, it joins other members of the gamer lexicon, “permadeath” and “completionist,” as “real” words, according to Daily Dot.

Can we drive Mario Karts in real life soon?

Universal Studios and Nintendo are teaming up to bring attractions based on Nintendo properties! Digital Spy reports that no specific games have been named yet, but Paul Tassi of Forbes had some creative ideas to share!

Sound off! What types of Nintendo-themed rides do you want to see at Universal Studios? I vote Skyward Sword-themed bungee jump a la Vegas Stratosphere.

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of April 6

Welcome to a new weekly feature here on the TriplePoint blog: TriplePoints of Interest, where we recap the biggest news from around the games and tech industry, plus subjects we just can’t stop talking about around the office!

Fixing the image of free-to-play

The image of free-to-play games has been a hot topic as of late. Steve Peterson of GamesIndustry International describes why free-to-play games have built a bad reputation and how it can be fixed. He first cites how quickly widespread the business model has become as reason for the extreme divide on opinions from within the games industry.

He then suggests that in-game merchandise must improve on the game, not be required to play the game, and that players shouldn’t have to feel they must make microtransactions to remove “annoyances” in the game or get to the fun. Developers and marketers also must be clear about the ways to spend money in the game. If a developer does not feel it is beneficial to “celebrate” the microtransactions, then the microtransactions are probably not ones that should be built in in the first place and will likely anger players.

The YouTubers versus Nintendo: the saga continues

Nintendo’s controversial YouTube policies have caused another YouTuber to cease reviewing Nintendo games. Joe Vargas of the Angry Joe Show stated in a video, according to Polygon, that he will no longer make videos relating to Nintendo games after his Mario Party 10 video was flagged for copyrighted material, keeping him from making ad revenue. Mr. Vargas has also been a staunch opponent of Nintendo’s Creators Program.

Heroes of the Storm collegiate league needs a GPA boost

The rise of collegiate competitive gaming, while growing exponentially, has not been without its share of snags. Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm collegiate tournament, “Heroes of the Dorm,” has been marred with no-shows and website bugs, leading to a host of scheduling difficulties, according to Daily Dot. The $450,000 prize pool, and involvement of Blizzard and TeSPA (high-profile collegiate eSports organization) meant very high expectations for the tournament from fans and participants alike, begging the question of the effectiveness of allowing over 800 teams to participate.

Ads and Kids, like water and electricity, do not go together

Consumer advocacy groups are asking the FTC to investigate Google’s YouTube Kids app due to concerns that it aims advertising at young children on smartphone and tablets, according to San Jose Mercury News. The concerns cite laws on broadcast TV that prohibit TV stations from placing products around kids’ programming due to children having not developed cognitive skills to resist advertising.

An old dog returns to the doghouse: Mark Pincus is back!

Zynga announced that Don Mattrick, their CEO of less than 2 years, is leaving and will be replaced with former CEO, Mark Pincus. GamesIndustry International believes that the company’s great losses under his leadership caused the change, but credited Zynga’s sharp rise in mobile profits–from 27% to 60% of the company’s worth–over the last 2 years to Mr. Mattrick’s work.

Check back again next week for more of the top news from games and tech!
Featured image from Geek.com

Wii U to Ditch Friend Codes, Welcomes Convenient Social Gaming

Wii U

One of my biggest gripes about the Nintendo Wii was the idea of having to jot down lengthy friend codes to play with friends and colleagues online. Talk about counterproductive measures to experience “social” gaming. However, earlier today, it was revealed that multiple user IDs will be able to be stored on the Wii U, which also means Friend Codes are now a thing of the past.

Sites like Destructoid are confirming that Nintendo has officially set the record straight, stating, “Our plan is to replace Friend Codes with a much more user-friendly Account ID system, which employs user-created account names.”

Finally, Nintendo has caught up to the consoles (and mobile devices for that matter), allowing quick, immediate connectivity to friends without the ridiculous number sequences previously required to connect. This just went a long way in getting me further intrigued in the Wii U’s launch, which is slated for November 18.

With a handful of launch titles featuring multiplayer capabilities, including Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Wipeout 3, FIFA Soccer 13, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed to name a few, you can bet friends looking to play together across the country breathed a collective sigh of relief around today’s Nintendo reveal – myself included.

Age of Aquarius: the video game industry at Comic-Con

Almost exactly ten years ago, I finished for the first time The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was that moment when I first identified as a gamer and felt a devotion to video games that I was at the time too young to understand. But over the next ten years, that devotion grew to become the incorporation of video games into my own being.

For keeping in touch with who I have become and investing in what is important to me, I obviously then felt a yearning to attend PAX and of course Comic-Con, which I knew was not focused on video games, but interested me nonetheless. What video game devotee wouldn’t want to see just how much video game fandom she could soak up at Comic-Con?

We are at a point in time when Comic-Con attendees no longer enter believing the show is about comics. That is not to say comics don’t have a strong presence at the show; one end of the hall was covered in nothing but DC and Marvel merchandise vendors. Attendees costumed as Thor, Spiderman, Superman, and Batman far outnumbered attendees dressed as video game characters (including myself). Still, one cannot ignore that the most crowded parts of the convention hall were around the likes of Fox and Warner Bros, and the most popular panels were any that featured Hollywood celebrities regardless of whether or not the panel was about a comic book movie.

We are also at a point in time where the fandoms of comics, movies about comics, movies and TV shows about fantasy worlds in general, cartoons, anime, manga, and video games have all collided, with the resulting explosion manifesting as the San Diego Comic-Con. But as I took my first steps into the convention center, I asked myself, how many video game companies might I find exhibiting on the show floor? Will they take up as much space as the fabled comics that started the show? Or, will they be shoved off to a corner where only the most hardcore of fans will bother to visit?

After pushing through the crowd surrounding the Fox and Warner Bros booths, I found Ubisoft, Activision, Nintendo, Square Enix, Sony, and Capcom nestled into one end of the convention hall. Each game demo station was populated, each with a player and a crowd of onlookers. I later learned Nintendo and Ubisoft had the rest of their games featured at Nintendo’s game lounge next door, SEGA and Microsoft had set up across the street, and BioWare had their own station at the Hilton two blocks away. After visiting each booth, each game lounge, and finding a wealth of merchandise from my favorite video games from vendors on the show floor, I continued each day satisfied with the presence of video games at the show.

As a gamer and a fan, I believe my trip to Comic-Con was fruitful. I got to demo new games. I bought a wealth of fun merchandise (video game and non-video game alike) and received generous VIP gifts (a Sonic comic from Sonic Boom seemed fitting). I got to reconnect with video game industry people who were equally as enthusiastic about the show. I got to see how video games had joined the cultural lexicon. I got to take a memorable vacation to a consumer show with friends whom I grew closer to. And most of all, I was reminded of how the gamer in me grew into the person I am today. This was not done via the games I demoed, the swag I obtained, the parties I attended, or the characters I dressed up as, but by coming to this realization ten years later.

I have heard the multi-genre fiesta that is Comic-Con described as a “nerd Woodstock.” Unlike trade shows like E3 and video game-focused consumer shows like PAX, Comic-Con encourages people of multiple interests to come together and “celebrate the popular arts,” as proclaimed by the Wreck-It Ralph banners on each San Diego street. As someone whose being lies predominantly in the gaming realm of Comic-Con’s pot of genre stew, I wondered if the video game companies who exhibited off the show floor this year would be inside the convention center next year. And, for video game companies who exhibit on the show floor annually, I wonder if they will build their Comic-Con presence over the years. Will that draw more gamers to the show? Will that raise the interest of non-gamers who might want to learn more about video games and video game culture? Will it tip the balance of Comic-Con as a multi-genre gathering towards a more game-oriented event? Or, will it simply boost the video game industry’s positioning as just that: a popular art?

Though I refuse to make an argument for whether or not video games are art, I want to know how video game companies themselves feel about Comic-Con’s role in the video game industry, whether the industry can be celebrated there like it is at PAX, and whether video games will continue to have as much or more presence as comic books, movies, and the other media at Comic-Con.

Whatever the future holds for the presence of video games at Comic-Con, we can safely assume the next ten years will only keep San Diego as the center of the Aquarian Exposition of Comics, Movies, Anime, Manga, and Video Games. And for now, I can at least say I’m proud to be a part of the video game industry’s involvement in the movement for peace and love across all fandoms.

Nintendo’s Battle for a Dedicated Gaming Platform: Throw In the Towel for Mobile?

Nintendo has been facing an incredible amount of pressure from existing and new entrants to the gaming space that has led to a decline of its market share. With only so much time in one day to consume media, consumers have a choice between “core” gaming, by way of consoles and PCs, and a more casual experience via browser and on mobile devices; Nintendo has found itself at the service of neither audience.

With the impending launch of Wii U, the company has taken a public stance in support of the core gamer, but is faced with overcoming the challenge of offering a superior online experience to the established leader in the space, Microsoft and its Xbox 360. Its track record with Wii Shop leaves many of us doubtful that it can rebound in this sense. Meanwhile, the mainstream audience that helped propel Nintendo to success in the last decade with the Wii is being abandoned in favor of more costly hardware and complicated controls of the Wii U.

Clearly, Nintendo’s platform is at risk of failure, and investors and Mario fans alike are clamoring for a shift in strategy. Most notable among the call for action lies with the leader and renowned innovator in software and hardware – Apple.  Prior to iOS, we had terrible interfaces that were counterintuitive to driving engagement of content and considered a 5% market penetration of games as a success. Since the debut of iOS and the App Store, we’ve seen the market expand to over 600,000 applications and indie developers rising to fame, claiming thousands in revenue, and in some cases millions. Google Play trails closely behind with over 500,000 applications available, although the platform faces piracy issues that leave it second to iOS in terms of developer support.

The new market opportunity is in mobile gaming, as Apple and Google continue to seed global audiences with smartphone devices that spur user engagement with various forms of content, most notably games. Should Nintendo bow to market pressures and take Mario, Zelda and Metroid to mobile devices? Certainly not now, without sacrificing its entire platform and affecting its remaining grip on the game enthusiast market. Let’s analyze the implications of what can be seen as a rash decision in several ways.

Shifts in Revenue

Nintendo’s revenues have taken a hard hit as a result of our shift to mobile platforms. Wii owners are largely content with Wii Sports, and those mainstream consumers have hardly converted into purchasers of additional software, resulting in decreased developer support. The 3DS launched to a cold welcome, but has since slashed prices and achieved moderate success among a stagnant core gaming audience.

The company recorded its first operating loss of $460 million for fiscal year ending March 31st, much of which can be attributed to the struggling Wii console, DS and 3DS, all falling short of sales expectations and incorporating price cuts in response to increased competitive pressures. We can also assume that much of the capital was allocated to continued support for game developers on each platform and R&D towards Wii U.

Meanwhile, Rovio released its 2011 earnings statement, highlighting $67.6 million in profit on $106.3 million in revenues that can be largely attributed to its Angry Birds property, 30% of which came from merchandising and licensing. Based on these numbers, we can estimate that around $70 million was generated by downloads of Angry Birds. Impressive numbers indeed and deserving of praise for the company’s immense success across the various platforms on which Angry Birds can be found.

Yet, Angry Birds is at the top of the food chain, and few (if any) can come close to matching the success that Angry Birds has seen. And in comparison to Nintendo’s current business, it fails to match the numbers of its own game platform business.

For fiscal year beginning April 1, 2012, Nintendo is expected to achieve $500 million in operating profit according to a forecast estimate compiled through a survey of 20 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company controls its own fully integrated platform specifically tailored to gaming, similar to Apple’s hardware/software strategy that spans personal computers and mobile devices, not to mention the impending launch of the rumored iTV. Nintendo sells the hardware and controls the pipeline of software making its way to consumers, consisting of its own popular IP and an ecosystem of developers from which it generates additional revenues with every game purchase.

Let’s take a look at another example, one that would be on the lower end of Nintendo’s sales figures on a platform that is largely characterized as “struggling” – Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS. The title has so far achieved global sales of nearly 5.5 million units, running at $39.99 a pop. That’s nearly $220 million in revenues, over double Rovio’s business. Now, the margin on packaged goods isn’t really as significant, but even if we’re looking at a 20% profit margin, we’re talking about approximately $44 million in profit from a single title that has been on the market for only 6 months and on hardware that isn’t even considered a mainstream success. Looking forward, it’s not a stretch for Nintendo’s hardware to go strictly digital as industry trends indicate and eliminating the packaged goods channel, increasing margins and generating even greater profits (considering a premium price point maintained through “deeper” gaming experiences of Nintendo hardware). Also, this is just for one title – consider all the other games moving through the 3DS, controlled 100% by Nintendo and generating even greater revenues from both 1st and 3rd party games.

For Nintendo to trash its own closed gaming platform for Apple’s in pursuit of revenues that have not publicly achieved the scale that Nintendo currently maintains just doesn’t add up. It’s also understandable that Nintendo derides the thought of having to pay Apple the 30% cut, which would make it an even greater challenge to achieve success on the scale of its current games business. A counter argument to this is that Nintendo can offer games on each platform, which doesn’t come without merit, but let’s take a look at this audience.

Can Mario Wear Different Hats?

For Nintendo to reach the scale of success on Apple’s platform that it currently achieves within the confines of its own closed platform, let’s assume two scenarios: 1) that the game experience is rich enough to sell on the level of Angry Birds (that’s 1 billion downloads!), or 2) that Nintendo sells at a premium with less market penetration. Both situations would have to involve the creation of new games based on its popular IP, rather than a direct port of old games which would only have a minimal impact on Nintendo’s bottom line, not to mention potential disappointment in the controls for some of our most favorite classics that were built for console controls.

The first scenario would be largely targeted at the expanded mainstream audience, one that Nintendo did a great job of penetrating with the Wii and DS. Yet, we have to ask ourselves if the casual gamer of an older demographic and one that skews female would be willing to purchase a Nintendo device if Mario could be had on an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Facing limited time in one’s day, chances are that this gamer would skip the purchase of a game-dedicated device and invest $0.99 on a more casual Mario experience. Asking my wife and her 21 year old sister if they’d purchase a new Mario for Wii if they had Super Mario World on their mobile device, they both confidently answered “no way, the app would be good enough”. This would affect the purchasing decision of millions of consumers and cannibalize Nintendo’s gaming platform at a much more significant loss than what it can possibly recover in $0.99 downloads. This isn’t a risk that Nintendo can afford to make, at least not right now.

The second scenario involves a very challenging balancing act of pricing games at a premium, say $9.99, and selling through enough downloads to generate a return on development costs. This would carry an even greater risk of cannibalizing Nintendo’s own platform as these premium games would also come with a deeper and richer gaming experience that could potentially directly compete with Wii U, DS and 3DS game quality. If I have a great Mario title on my mobile devices at $9.99, chances are that I’ll skip the dedicated hardware and $50 price tag for the game.

Additionally, either decision would send a very negative signal to the remaining developers who still believe in Nintendo’s gaming platform, causing additional speculation about those consoles’ impending demise, an even further loss of support in game development, and all but hammering the final nail in the coffin of Nintendo’s platform.

Finally, do we really want an innovator in the gaming space to drop what it does to hop on the iOS bandwagon and solely rely on a touchscreen interface? Is the future of gaming really only about the touchscreen, perhaps with gesture and voice recognition integrated within? Imagine where gaming would be now if Nintendo bowed down to economic pressures back when the GameCube was being labeled as a failure and the Wii and DS never happened. All those Wine, Cheese and Wii parties would have never happened, and one could fairly assume that the Kinect and Move gaming experiences may not have been inspired into market release, perhaps confined to TV integration and never having impacted the games we play.

“Tiiiime Is On My Side, Yes It Is”

Mick Jagger’s voice resonates in my head as I read that Nintendo is sitting on a pile of cash amounting to $14 billion. Not only is Nintendo expected to turn a profit for fiscal year 2012/13, but it has a war chest to conceive and define the “next generation of gaming” through a fully integrated hardware and software platform, one that’s made exclusively for gamers and consumers seeking a good time. Even though the new Wii U doesn’t spur much hope with industry analysts and other market players, such efforts would be completely lost if confined solely to the hardware and interface design choices of Apple, a company whose business is far greater than the games sector to justify a focus on giving us new ways to experience video games.

But how much time does Nintendo really have to make a decision? Even with $14 billion to cover years of operating costs, Nintendo can’t afford to sit around forever. A fair guess at the amount of time that Nintendo has to evaluate the marketplace and give a shot at maintaining a unique gaming experience lies perhaps in the 5-10 year range. Most everyone will understandably argue that this is too much time, but Mario, Zelda and Metroid aren’t going anywhere, and if Nintendo’s own platform faces a demise there will always be an audience ready to pounce on these titles when made available on iOS, Android or any other platform outside the company’s own walls.

Atari, who is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has hit a milestone of 10 million downloads just a year after releasing a number of classic and new games based on its renowned IP. Even decades after spending my hard earned weekly allowance in the arcades on Missile Command, Asteroids and Super Breakout, I can count myself among the millions that are downloading these games on iOS and Android (disclaimer: Atari is a TriplePoint client). You can bet that team Mario will have a lasting impact on consumers and maintain brand recognition that results in downloads 5-10 years down the road.

Losing Share to Angry Birds

Kids everywhere are wearing Angry Birds shirts and socks, while plushies continue to fill the rooms of children around the world. The ~$30 million merchandising/licensing business around this IP is a strong indicator that the property is capturing the mindshare of consumers, certainly at a loss for Mario. This perhaps is the greatest challenge facing Nintendo the longer it waits to nail down and execute a strategy for distribution on iOS and Android. Yet, the company has a history of bringing fans of its various 1st party IP a reason to buy back into the franchises, and the continued power of those brands will no doubt ensure that it continues to sell hardware and games, and that the expanded audiences take notice as well, even if these casual audiences may no longer be willing to purchase a Nintendo gaming device.

When all is said and done, nothing can sway Nintendo from sitting on its bankroll to continue attempts at innovating gaming fun as we know it, not as long as the market opportunities in mobile fall short of the rewards of maintaining its own closed gaming platform. A company that has over 120 years of history shouldn’t be swayed so easily by market pressures to ditch its game-focused platform for a new market that has been hot during the past 4 years (App Store launched in 2008). A survivor of the turbulent gaming market in the 90s and one that has stood up to Microsoft and Sony, we should be cheering on Nintendo to come up with a fresh gaming experience that takes us beyond a simple touchscreen interface dominated by a company that (understandably) deprioritizes gaming among all forms of digital media. Mario and team may one day land on our mobile devices, but considerations for its existing business should be taken into account, and we’ll always be ready to download Nintendo’s games years down the road.

 

Wii-Hab: Gaming’s Contribution to Treating Parkinson’s Disease

With every move you make, a chemical called dopamine sends a message to your brain to tell your muscles to function. When the dopamine supply is seriously depleted, messages cannot be transmitted efficiently, and the body cannot respond as easily. Imagine having your supply of dopamine cut down by eighty percent. That’s Parkinson’s disease (PD). With a bevy of medications available to deal with both physical and cognitive symptoms, the real challenge is finding non-pharmaceutical forms of relief.

Fortunately, good doctors prescribe exercise as seriously as they do drugs. A study at the University of Pittsburgh found that an exercise regimen slowed down the degeneration of nerve cells in rats with PD. Research is now occurring to find concrete evidence that this benefit also applies to humans.

Recently, a forward-thinking man named Dr. Ben Herz garnered a $45,000 grant from the National Parkinson’s Foundation to perform a study of his own. At the Medical College of Georgia, Dr. Herz determined that the Nintendo Wii may help treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including impaired motor skills and depression. Dr. Herz, director of the School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Occupational Therapy, presented his preliminary findings at the 2009 Games for Health Conference in Boston.

He theorized that the Wii, which simulates sports and activities, could aid in improving coordination, reflexes and fine motor-skills. Patients can use Wii as an occupational therapy tool on their own, administering a sense of autonomy and control.

In the eight-week pilot study, twenty Parkinson’s patients spent an hour playing the Wii three times a week for a month. These patients played two games each of bowling and tennis, as well as a game of boxing. These games were chosen because they require balance, a quick pace, and exercise.

Participants showed notable improvements in rigidity, movement, fine motor skills, energy and depression. Since depression afflicts an estimated forty-five percent of patients, this aspect of the study is particularly inspiring. Studies show that both video games and exercise can enhance the brain’s ability to produce dopamine. Dr. Herz believes that is why the Wii’s exercise aspect has such a positive effect on patients.

Although Dr. Herz doesn’t claim to have found an alternative to medicine, he is certain that game systems are truly the future of rehabilitation. It seems fairly obvious that these effects should be explored further – for PD as well as other neurological and degenerative disorders.

British physiotherapist Rebecca Redmond has created a website (wiihabilitation.co.uk) and online community for people who use the Wii as a form of rehabilitation. The site has a place for both professionals and the public to learn and discuss the benefits of Wii. Redmond also posts articles and findings on her Twitter feed: @Wii_Hab.

After the Wii study concluded, about sixty percent of the participants chose to purchase their own consoles. As with any ailment, finding a remedy that offers relief is a welcome gift. Parkinson’s disease is on the forefront of stem cell research, with a cure truly possible in the near future. Until then, therapies like Wii should be used in conjunction with pharmaceutical drugs to slow the disease’s progression and enhance a patient’s quality of life.