Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 15, 2015

Email: Miyamoto

I don’t think there’s any way Miyamoto will be CEO. When Iwata had to field tough questions from shareholders, he may have given some cupcake answers, but you could always tell he knew what he was doing. Can you imagine Miyamoto answering shareholder questions?

You think he could have help on the “business side,” but I’m not sure what a CEO does other than the “business side.” You have to have one big cheese at the company that bears the weight of success or failure. As much as Miyamoto can serve as the public face of Nintendo, he’s way too much of a cartoon character to take that role. He’s like the crazy uncle that you always love to have in the house, but you’d never want as your *dad*.

Nonetheless, Miyamoto is by far the most powerful person at Nintendo now. He’s going to have the final say in who fills that role, so we can expect that the next CEO will be a guy that thinks every Miyamoto idea is brilliant and gives him carte blanche to do whatever he wants and influence every hardware and software decision that is made. In a way, Miyamoto can be CEO by proxy. Is that what you meant in the first place? Hopefully, as you say, Miyamoto has come to terms with what happened with Wii U and 3DS (and Virtual Boy).

But I just don’t know. As you’ve demonstrated, Nintendo has been infected with validation culture. Entire projects and products are devoted to proving that previous failures weren’t bad ideas, they were just ahead of their time. Miyamoto is right at the center of that. I never felt that Iwata was. So we’re hoping for an awfully big about-face in a short amount of time (since, say, the rerelease of Wind Waker). Also, Iwata was a very very humble guy–do you feel that way about Miyamoto? Pride has historically been bad for Nintendo.

 

This is why you are the emailer, and I am the Malstrom.

The Wall Street Journal is speculating Miyamoto as the next possible president.

I’ll let you in on one thing I know: the president needs to be able to travel. This is partially why Yamauchi retired and why a younger Iwata was given the responsibility. Miyamoto travels all the time. That ability to travel may be the most important requirement.

Miyamoto will retire soon. But if you are going to go out, you want to go out on top. Miyamoto has done nearly everything else at the company. Why not be president? The employees would accept it. The investors would be thrilled with it. And the public would love it. Miyamoto is also very good at talking to the press which a president would do often.

It may not be Miyamoto. The business world is about probabilities. The most probable new Nintendo president, from what I know, would be Miyamoto. Yamauchi used to call Miyamoto ‘son’. I don’t see anyone protesting him becoming president. From my limited perspective, he is the most probable successor.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 13, 2015

Iwata’s Balloon Fight Challenge

Here is a video of Iwata doing the Balloon Fight Challenge:

You know what I see?

Iwata isn’t selling a console here.

Iwata isn’t selling a game (unless you count the Virtual Console version of Balloon Fight).

What I see is someone in awe of gaming. He is in awe of how people experience gaming, how gaming is developed, and how it all brings fun into the world.

I liked how he asked: “What was your toughest challenge?” and the answer being Ninja Gaiden for the NES. Back then, Iwata explains, the game makers made games for themselves which is why the games were so outrageously hard. So us 8-bit gamers got placed into super hard games hahahahaha.

One aspect of Iwata’s life that doesn’t get commented on is how Iwata defied his parents to pursue a life in video games. His parents were very unhappy. I imagine his parents thought it was as if he was going to clown school. But Iwata had an optimistic vision for gaming. I’m not sure if his parents are still alive or not, but what better career success is there for a son to become president of a big company?

Iwata’s ‘optimistic’ vision can be illustrated with the Wii and DS, but I think it is better illustrated with his decision to invest his life in it.

You guys are younger. To you, video games have always been around like TV or the Internet. Some of you know how life was like before the Internet. To say, “I want to invest my life in doing stuff on the Internet,” sounds fine today but sounds INSANE thirty years ago.

Video games were not ‘a fact’ or ‘everywhere’ back then. And even back during the PONG days, it is not like every generation experienced it. Parents wouldn’t understand why a kid is playing the games for so long.

Here is a much younger Iwata. He was optimistic about gaming enough to bet his life on it. This was before gaming became ‘popular’. But in many ways, Iwata was part of the reason gaming got ‘popular’. To those who grew up with the DS and Wii, those distinct systems were shaped by him. And you, the old school gamer with your NES cartridge collection, some of your classic games are programmed by him.

He expanded the frontiers of gaming on every front: developing, business, and ones I haven’t seen before. He was the perfect ambassador for gaming.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 13, 2015

So what happens to Nintendo now?

Being this site as Nintendo business centric, I know readers and followers come to see what my take is on a new Nintendo console or a big new Nintendo game. In this case, it is the death of the CEO.

It is not a post I want to write.

However, we live in the cold reality of the world. In entertainment, the ‘show must go on’ and so, too, the ‘business must go on’. Some emailers have asked me to write things about Iwata, and I will do so. But Iwata’s death does bring up a huge ‘what happens to Nintendo now’ moment.

Nintendo’s reaction to this seems similar to ours: we are all shocked. We didn’t expect this. I don’t think Nintendo did either. When Steve Jobs died, Apple expected it. They already had a plan in place. In this case, there is no plan because I don’t believe it was expected.

A bigger issue for Nintendo is morale. The 3DS and Wii U were commercial disasters. Now their beloved president dies?

In the public statement Nintendo put out, note what it says at the bottom:

As a result, the following two Representative Directors remain at the company. Genyo Takeda (Representative Director; Senior Managing Director) Shigeru Miyamoto (Representative Director; Senior Managing Director)

There has to be a new CEO. There has to be someone who can correct the morale problems and win the trust of the investors. There is only one person at Nintendo I know who can do that.

Shigeru Miyamoto.

I believe Miyamoto will become the next Nintendo president. First of all, Miyamoto wants to be president. He was kinda miffed that Iwata was chosen by Yamauchi instead of him. Yamauchi handpicked Iwata remember. They told Miyamoto that he was better off heading off creativity projects. This probably was true.

Also, Iwata was chosen by Yamauchi because there are no real candidates to pick. A business president has to know business and sales and not just be ‘creative’.

I suspect Miyamoto will be elevated as president and they may put a ‘corporate president’ or whoever to help aid him in the business side. Miyamoto may not want the position now and maybe others may not want him as president. But I see him best as filling in that role even just as a figurehead position because Miyamoto represents so much about Nintendo to investors, to the employees, and to gamers. Miyamoto would make a great ‘transitional’ CEO until Miyamoto ‘retires’ when they find someone.

If Miyamoto becomes president, I think the smarting of the 3DS and Wii U along with various games has given him some wisdom. Let’s hope so.

Then again, Nintendo could put someone else up. But the thing is… Iwata was chosen by Yamauchi in part because of Iwata’s youth. You need a younger person to fly around the world and give public presentations and all.

And I almost forgot: Iwata was also CEO of NOA too. That position must be filled as well.

Right now, the NX blueprint has been written, and Nintendo will follow it for the next half decade. But there has to be a CEO. It has to be filled soon too.

What’s going on at Nintendo now? Aside from the sadness, there are emergency meetings going on behind the scenes. What Nintendo does from here, we can only wait and see.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 13, 2015

Iwata the Game God

Satoru Iwata has passed away. Here is the link.

I am not a fan of the term ‘game god’. It implies some developer has become an ‘angel’ and lords over everyone else as ‘worshipers’ of their ‘vision’. The most important entity in the gaming equation is the gamer. But with Satoru Iwata, he was a Game God. He was a game developer. He programmed HAL games and classic Nintendo games. He also understood the business sense of gaming. Gaming, itself, is a very difficult business. This is the reason why Yamauchi picked Iwata to succeed him.

Iwata was not just a passing CEO figure that many companies go through. His statements was a large part of why I began listening closely to the business side of Nintendo.

It was Iwata who said, “The only person who has the right to be selfish is the customer.”

It was Iwata who said, “The programmer does not get to tell the designer what the game cannot do.”

It was Iwata who heralded the revolution. None of us really know what goes on inside Nintendo and its inner workings. But it is clear that Iwata was a big factor behind the DS and Wii. I love Iwata standing before game developers telling them that things need to change. I loved his Heart of the Gamer speech.

Above is Iwata revealing the Revolution controller to the world. “I was greeted with silence,” Iwata remarked later on. “It’s like the crowd didn’t know how to react.” They didn’t!

Above is Iwata telling us about the Revolution.

While others are doing ribbons and other various things, I think it is best to put the spotlight on Iwata’s integrity when it came to gaming. From the business side to developer side, he wasn’t shaped by events but shaped them.

Honestly, I’m so shocked by the news that I cannot summon up words to say things. Anything I imagine I could say would seem so inadequate. It’s all such a damn shame.

When I think of Iwata, I think of class. I have read nearly every word Iwata has said to the public for almost a decade. Never did he say anything disparaging of another, never did he sound pessimistic, and never did he crap on anyone. As gamers, Iwata represented the best things we loved about Nintendo. But as a businessman, he represented the best things about business.

Why does it feel that we lost a friend today?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 10, 2015

Rocket Arena should be Mario Kart’s Battle Mode

Going to go through my email soon, but meanwhile…

There is a new game out called ‘Rocket Arena’. The reader should look it up and see the gameplay. It is basically cars  going around and hitting balls into goals. “But that sounds like Federation Force!” No….. As soon as I saw Rocket Arena, I thought that was how Mario Kart’s Battle Mode was.

Mario Kart’s Battle Mode used to have the carts hop around and use physics (in its primitive way) to create a fun and exciting little game. It’s a shame Nintendo doesn’t seem to get Battle Mode. Why have 200 CC and all this other DLC but not give us a good Battle Mode? How about a Bob-Omb Mode too while we’re at it?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 4, 2015

Is the IQ of gamers falling over time?

Let’s consider.

In the past, there were three distinct forms of video games. There were arcade games, PC games, and later on console games. Console games are games that are unable to be played on PC and the arcade. The first true console game would be the original Legend of Zelda. It was too elaborate to be an arcade game, but too fast paced to work on the PC. As Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter revealed the game, it was the ‘best of both worlds’. While many pre-16 bit games were arcade ports or PC game ports, many fully fleshed console games came to be. You couldn’t play Super Metroid in the arcade. But it doesn’t work quite right on the PC as well.

What IQ is there needed to play a video game? Very little in fact. This is evident in that children playing video games. PONG does not require a high IQ. I’ve noticed the lower the IQ a game has, the more it grants in ego or false accomplishment.

The home console games lost their edge when the Internet allowed all maps and hints to be easily revealed.

Today, console games are something else entirely. They are like PC games stripped of all mechanics and gameplay. I find most console games to be unplayable today.

But with the PC, did PC games cater to lower IQ people over time? We have gone from Apple IIs to Commodore 64s to IBM clones all the way to smartphones. Since it required more money to buy a PC back in the day and more time to set it up, one could make the argument that IQs were higher back then for PC gamers. But then again, PC games haven’t exactly been simplified. A MMORPG is far more complex than the early RPG games. Starcraft 2 is far faster paced than Starcraft 1 and Starcraft 1 wipes the floor with Warcraft 2 in its complexity.

One thing I don’t remember is people spending so much leisure time playing video games. The largest, beefiest games then were games like Ultimas or Civilizations. But compare Civilization 1 and 2 to 3, 4, and 5. It takes a week to play one game of 3. It wasn’t that way with 1 or 2. An Ultima game can take a good month, but it was not that different from an early Final Fantasy game in time usage. It was a meaty open world game. Ultima Underworld was amazing. But the game did not go on forever like Minecraft.

Then there are the smartphone games. No one will argue these smartphone games are the epitome of IQ. But it is not evidence of lower IQ.

What I believe is happening is not that games are dumbing down or that gamers are getting less IQ over time but…

Gamers are becoming less and less interesting as time goes on.

And do you know why, fair reader? It is because as gaming, as a leisure time, grows and swells to occupy people’s time, they have less time to do other things and become interesting.

Gamers used to be prolific readers. This is why adventure games were popular and why early RPGs had mountains of text in them. There used to be big beefy manuals. Today, gamers are not stupid because they do not read, gamers simply devote more time to gaming instead of reading (or whatever).

Gamers of the past used to go on more real life adventures. The Atari 2600 did not keep guys from meeting girls. However, World of Warcraft does.

Another darker way to look at this is that as a people who are getting poorer in society. With inflation adjusted, the minimum wage of the 1970s would equal the purchase power of $25 today. As people become poorer and poorer, they spend more and more time inside the Virtual World.

Is gaming becoming the medium for poor people? Look at your popular streamers. They can barely afford their rent. With things like Free-To-Play becoming more prominent, it is harder to hide the fact that to be a gamer is to be a poorer person. The hardcore gamers are the most uninteresting because their life achievements are Virtual World achievements.

And the big reason why commercials wouldn’t work in gaming is because gamers tend to be too poor to afford anything.

Gamers do have to eat and drink. Hence, this is why the marketing is doritos and mountain dew.

The growth of gaming in a person’s week of time comes in part of the decline of television and other hobbies. Games can still be interesting why television has become terrible. Even many books have become terrible so why read them? People tell me, “Malstrom, the gamers are not going to the woman. How do we fix this?” I say to them: “Why assume the problem is with the gamers? If a flesh and blood woman cannot compete with a video game, then something tells me there is a big problem with the woman. Is she fat? Does she have a crappy personality and not fun to be around? These would all be reasons for gamers to keep gaming.”

While gamers have increased their gaming and have become less interesting, the alternatives to gaming have really gone to the crapper and become uninteresting.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 4, 2015

Email: “Thief vs. AAA Gaming”

A video essay. I don’t agree with every point he makes, but he makes many good points. Namely, that modern game developers add in certain popular game mechanics without thinking about what their impact on they would have (like mini-maps or quest markers), modern AAA gaming’s obsession with “empowering” the player (a game is about what the player CANNOT do just as it is about what the player can do), and other things.

 

There is a much simpler way to look at this.

The first few Thief games were designed for PC. Thief 2014 was designed for console. End of story.

Now it is time to make a very controversial statement. I’ll save it for the next post.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 3, 2015

Email: Link is “not masculine”

I caught this recent interview between IGN and the director of the Zelda: Four Swords 2 game. If anyone needs another example that a) Nintendo doesn’t understand their own IPs nor their fans and b) Nintendo is obsessed with their “Vision”, here it is:

IGN: I guess I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t express some slight disappointment with that, especially because there is a Zelda outfit Link wears in the game. It just feels like it’s one step closer to giving the Zelda series’ female audience the chance to explore that universe from another perspective.

Shikata: Understood. I understand what you’re saying, and just as general information, we do have a lot of female staff members who are playing this game and enjoying it. It doesn’t seem to be a big issue to them. They still are getting emotional investment in this game. And to be honest, Link isn’t the most masculine of guys in the world, depending on how you want to project yourself into the character.

If they’re already giving players a cutesy wardrobe of dress-up clothes, how hard is it REALLY to add in female characters? Oh, you can sure dress up like a bomb-Link or a Goron, but it would break the expertly crafted storyline (lol) if they allowed you to be a female.

What really takes the cake is Nintendo responding “Link isn’t the most masculine of guys in the world” to why there aren’t women. As if they’re admitting “Link is an effeminate sissy, so it’s pretty much like playing a girl, right?”

I would be zero surprised if playable Zelda shows up in the next mainline Nintendo game, and then Nintendo will expect us to be surprised and impressed. They did the same thing with Peach: it was “too hard” to add her moveset into NSMB U (even though Luigi U had totally different physics….) but she showed up in Super Mario 3D World just fine.

 

What other perspective could there be? Nintendo already made a Princess Peach game where Peach saves Mario.

The real reason why people want to play Zelda in a Zelda game has nothing to do with ‘her perspective’ but everything to do with more gameplay options. Zelda uses arrows and spells. Adding in Zelda is like adding in the Wizard to Gauntlet or the amazon in Golden Axe.

Nintendo is responding to a crazy person here. What other perspective could a ‘female’ have? Does playing Metroid with Samus somehow make that a different perspective since Samus is a girl and not a guy? These crazy people suffer from a type of political cancer to the head. All they see is politics, and they cannot get away. They probably even politicize their dinner!

One of the big changes with Zelda is who plays Zelda. Girls did not really play Zelda back in the 8-bit and 16-bit generation. Now, girls did play Ocarina of Time and some of the other Zeldas (though I have hear girls, like everyone who thinks Ocarina is the bee’s knees, totally hate Wind Waker. Those who like Wind Waker are probably younger than 20 at the moment).

We can’t get a Zelda where Link becomes a badass with a sword and rips through enemies because Nintendo fears that might alienate the female demographic. This might explain why Link has been so wussified lately. NPCs talk to him about feelings to NPCs and performs ‘puzzles’. In the past, NPCs would give the clue and shut the hell up because they are NPCs and do not matter.

What will Zelda U contain? Probably some girl stuff. By girl stuff, I mean Facebook stuff. Link will probably grow a farm and raise vegetables like farmville. Link will also gather apples and give them to a NPC to make that NPC’s feelings happy.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 3, 2015

Email: 4-player versions of Dr. Mario and similar

My parents love games like Dr. Mario and Tetris, games that I call “puzzle-arcade” (so as to differentiate from “puzzle-adventure” like Myst and “puzzle-Aonuma”).

However, other than several verities of Tetris, (not including Tetris Attack / Panel de Pon) I literally know of only one to three (depending of how you define it) other “puzzle-arcade” games that have 4-player support:

– Dr. Mario 64

– Nintendo Puzzle Collection [updated versions of Yoshi’s Cookie and Tetris Attack / Panel de Pon; includes Dr. Mario 64] (Japan only, GameCube)Am I wrong, or is there simply a lack of”puzzle-arcade” games with 4-player local multiplayer that aren’t named “Tetris”?  Please enlighten me Master Malstrom!

(home console is preferred even if it’s Xbox, PC is OK, arcade might be possible with MAME, and handheld could be difficult even with emulators)

 

What you say sounds right. I can’t think of many 4 player Tetris clone games.

One you should consider is Puzzle Bobble. The DS one was great. Bust-A-Move (it was called) on the DS supported six players.

 

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 3, 2015

Reggie talks about E3 2015

This doesn’t work. The reason why is that Reggie cannot represent himself, and he is using too much ‘shop talk’. Reggie Fils-Aime is Nintendo. He cannot be ‘independent gamer’. No one really cares about Reggie’s feelings, about what he finds enjoyable or not enjoyable. I only care what I find enjoyable and not enjoyable as well as other gamers. Youtube personalities I also don’t care about since E3 is such a more closed event than it used to be.

Reggie, if you have to say Nintendo is ‘special’, then it isn’t special.

The shop talk I mean is Reggie referring to the ‘showfloor’. No one sees ‘show floor’. We just think of games. We don’t think in those marketing terms.

But as I’ve said in the past, I don’t really care about Miyamoto’s field trips or what gives developers ‘inspiration’. As far as their games are concerned, I haven’t seen any real inspired titles since the 16 bit era. It’s the same game over and over again. I do not care what gives Nintendo developers ‘fun’. I only care what gives ME fun. I only care what gives other gamers fun.

Yeah, I’m selfish. But I’m also the only one paying.

Nintendo World Event was a success because it revolved around gamers, not around developers.

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