The return of the Wii

This year’s Gamescom, which is still in full swing, looks to be all about the shrinking of SKUs and their price tags. Sony announced a price drop on the PS3 to around £200 for the model with the smallest HDD (160GB) as well as the bizarre relaunched PSP which will have no Wifi connectivity, only UMDs and will cost £90. The move is a complete 180 to their last push for the PSP, the PSPgo that famously had no UMD support in an effort to create a market similar to that of Apple and Android where all games are bought digitally via PSN. That, for lack of a better word, failed leaving Sony to turn back to good old UMDs. After all, some companies didn’t even release their games onto PSN but did have disc-based versions. I can’t help but think Sony are flogging a dead horse by releasing yet another PSP when the PSVita is just around the corner but getting a device under £100 does strange things to people and seems to instigate fresh interest in old hardware. Good luck to them, the PSP was a great little handheld and deserved more support than it received.

Speaking of wanting to revitalise a disappearing platform, Nintendo too had a relaunch of their own, the new smaller Wii. It also looses something from the previous model, the ability to play GameCube games. That’s probably not a big deal what with some of the more popular titles having Wii ports and like Sony, Nintendo are hoping to do what they can to gain the most money out of the last few official months of a product’s lifecycle and streamlining features means less cost to produce and more profit to sell.

Along with the revealing of another Wii was the confirmation that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will be coming to stores on November 18th (20th in the US). Because of this, plus a price drop and the release of a new model, general manager of Nintendo Germany has told Reuters (via GoNintendo) that he believes the Wii will have a healthy and profitable Christmas:

“We have seen an enormous increase in sales since [the price cut] and this gives us another indication of what will happen in the Christmas season.”

It’s a definite possibility since many Wii owners have been clambering for the next home Zelda game ever since they finished Twilight Princess (I know I have) but most likely these people already own a Wii so won’t pick up a new console. That is unless they sold theirs after the lack of titles caused it to gain dust under the TV. A price drop and redesign could them see a lot of ex Wii owners pick up another console just to play Skyward Sword and then hopefully go on to play the other great games they’ve been missing, Like Donkey Kong Country Returns and GoldenEye 007 Wii. I am a little dubious as to whether consumers will buy a Wii just on the strength that it’s cheaper and smaller because the insane eBay bids and hysteria surrounding the system not too long ago would suggest anyone who really wanted a Wii already has one. But sales figures and the power of a brand often surprises me so who knows, this Christmas may be the right time for a lot of hesitant families to finally grab themselves a slice of Nintendo pie.

But that does bring up another question. If the new Wii does indeed sell exceptionally well would that impact the launch of the WiiU? There’s yet to be any firm date for the tablet-controlled console so Nintendo could still shuffle their early 2012 plans for hardware and unknown whether the sudden and severe price reduction on the 3DS has forced them to rethink the RRP for the WiiU. Nintendo may not have the luxury anymore to launch a device and make turn a profit straight away so if the GameCube-less Wii boosts sales they may want to coast on it until the very last minute. Then again, there’s pressure from Sony who are set to release the PSVita towards the end of the year in Japan and Q1 2012 for the rest of the world. The ability to link the PSVita to a PS3 would make it a potential competitor to the WiiU so Nintendo might not want to wait too long before unleashing their HD beast. So may questions, so many ‘what ifs’ but one thing’s for sure, the 3DS should enjoy a decent holiday. That at least is a little more certain.

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GoldenEye 007 Reloaded is real, people

UPDATE: Activision put out a press release today confirming the existence of the game and how it’ll be running on a brand new engine. But the graphics won’t be the only new aspect. Here’s the most interesting chunk of the press release: GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is a contemporary James Bond experience featuring HD visuals and realistic environments running at 60-frames per second, akin to today’s elite action games. Additional to the legendary story campaign, the game introduces the brand new ‘Mi6 Ops Missions’ – new, distinct levels separate from the campaign that span the varied environments from the story and challenge players to complete different Assault, Elimination, Stealth and Defence objectives. GoldenEye 007: Reloaded also takes multiplayer to new heights, maintaining and improving its renowned four-player split-screen action and adding full, adrenaline-pumping 16-player online matches with more maps, weapons, characters and game modes than ever before.”

ORIGINAL STORY: A good few weeks ago there was some stirring online about something called GoldenEye 007: Reloaded which slipped out from Activision. Suffixing and name with Reloaded generally means some form of upgrade when it comes to video games and in this case, it looks like last year’s neat remake of an N64 classic is to be remade all over again.

GoldenEye 007 for the Wii was a fun FPS that took the original ideas from the iconic N64 launch game and amended them to fit within the contemporary Bond timeline. As always, there was grumbling from ‘hardcore’ fans who were desperate for the ill-fated HD port of Rare’s GoldenEye to become a reality but since that simply will never happen (too many companies hold separate chunks of the IP for it to ever come out) GoldenEye 007 was considered a suitable alternative. I enjoyed it and like the glory days of my youth, its multiplayer component was hugely entertaining. From the screenshots bagged by Videogamer.com, Reloaded appears to hoik up the graphics for a release of the remake onto PS3 and Xbox 360. But little more is known of the project just yet with more details said to be coming in the next few days at the San Diego Comic Con so there could be more additions other than sparkly new visuals (interestingly enough, the Wii game used the same heavily altered IW Engine which ran the SD Call of Duty games. This could mean the HD GoldenEye 007 would use the original IW Engine).

Even though I already own the Wii version, I may have to pick this one up too. Like I said, I really enjoyed playing it on the Wii but it came at a cost; the controller. Choosing not to re-learn how to play an FPS using the Wii remote and nunchuck, I bought a Classic Controller which did work well but still not as comfortable as an Xbox 360 pad and subsequently shortened my playtime. My fingers are crossed that the transition to HD consoles brings with it a tightening of controls on the relevant pads. And anyone grumbling how GoldenEye 007 Reloaded still won’t be close enough to the N64 version, this is probably the closest you’re ever going to get.

Offline gaming is dead. Long live offline gaming

I don’t know about you but I very much enjoy the offline experience in games. Developers have proven that shoehorning in an online mode, usually multiplayer, doesn’t make a better game (anyone tried The Darkness online?). But EA Games label president, Frank Gibeau, thinks single-player games are dead and that all future titles from the studio will pretty much have to feature some form of connectivity: “I volunteer you to speak to EA’s studio heads,” he said in an interview with Develop. “They’ll tell you the same thing. They’re very comfortable moving the discussion towards how we make connected gameplay – be it co-operative or multiplayer or online services – as opposed to fire-and-forget, packaged goods only, single-player, 25-hours-and you’re out. I think that model is finished. Online is where the innovation and action is at.” Really? Some of the best games this year have been solitary experiences and the ones that do include online aren’t always best implemented. Games like Heavy Rain and Mass Effect 2 were fantastic as stand-alone products with their respective online features merely playing a supporting role. And even then they were DLC. To say that an online space is the only area for innovation is a little shortsighted when a lot of developers’ idea of a connectivity will either abuse your Twitter and Facebook accounts or add a multiplayer component that has its servers closed down shortly after release. PlayDead’s Limbo was innovative in how it approached storytelling GoldenEye 007 for the Wii shows how you don’t need a game to be connected to the internet in order to have a great time playing with friends.

To be fair, Gibeau isn’t forcing the inclusion of online to every type of game – Develop cited Dead Space as part of a genre where being alone adds to the immersion – but does want to see how developers can broaden their ideas with online services; “I don’t go up to every game team and ask – what is your deathmatch mode?” He chuckled. The PR manager added “It’s more about educating the developers. Not on the creative side, but on the way people play games. Social media has really changed the way consumers look at entertainment. Everything’s more interconnected and 24-7 these days.” EA don’t want to insist but “inspire” game creators and Gibeau believes his role is to “edit and tweak [their creative vision] so it’s a bigger commercial opportunity.” But ‘inspiring’ teams to add some kind of online feature to their games seems a waste of resources if it’s not key to the experience. One area where it could work is an extended version of Mass Effect 2‘s Cerberus Network, an nonintrusive screen that tells you of new DLC etc. Expanding on that idea could be hints and tips from other gamers, promotional information that helps gameplay, user videos etc. Again, such a thing would be pretty cool but not integral and I’d rather the developer concentrate on making a better game than making sure it’s always online.

It’s still way too soon for the industry to put all their eggs into an online basket. We’d need to see real evidence that doing so would be entirely beneficial for all concerned, not just the publisher before a move like that would make sense. That and a promise to keep servers alive regardless of user numbers plus continuing support for these 24-7 connected realms.

GoldenEye 007 proof core games can make it on the Wii?

Determined to beat off the popular thinking that the Wii is only a first party or mini game player, Nintendo are using the success of Goldeneye 007 as their retaliatory argument. They state that: “the sales of GoldenEye show that these titles can and do perform well on Wii,” and “a good quality title, supported well by both publisher and retail, has just as much chance of performing well as any Nintendo title.”

I think GoldenEye 007 is a bit of an exception here. For one thing, it’s dripping with nostalgic value for anyone who owned the N64 game and have been itching for a similar experience since and arguably are the devoted audience whom have stuck with Nintendo all their gaming lives. Newcomers would have no doubt heard of the legendary 64-Bit game or likely to have been persuaded by the Bond licence. It reminds me of the fighting genre renaissance that Street Fighter IV started last year. That’s not to say Nintendo is wrong with their comments per say, but the sales figures do lean towards mini games and first-party titles being the most profitable on Wii.

Publishers thankfully haven’t given up though and over the next few weeks, more ‘core’ focused titles are being released. Last week saw the aforementioned GoldenEye 007 (waiting patiently on my Christmas wish list…) and Call of Duty: Black Ops that for all intense purposes it a direct port of the HD versions. This week (19th) has Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, next week sees Epic Mickey take the stage with finally Donkey Kong Country Returns coming December 3rd. Whether or not their content is hardcore, I’m not sure Epic Mickey and DKCR would be considered core games but then we’re getting into the scary territory of public perception which is a confusing beast at best!

{Thanks MCV}

Nintendo release US dates for top titles

The lists you’re about to see are kind of heartbreaking in a way as they’re the US release dates for Nintendo’s upcoming games, both first and third party. Although a lot of the titles should make their way over to Europe very soon after the US, there is no guarantee and it was reported last week that the adorable Kirby’s Epic Yarn won’t be out until next year for us. As I claim I have something in my eye and mop my dampened cheek, the hope that GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong Country Returns will be out this holiday is still very strong…

Wii
Metroid: Other M – August 31st
Wii Party – October 3rd
Kirby’s Epic Yarn – October 17th
Donkey Kong Country Returns – November 21st
Just Dance 2 – October 2nd
NBA Jam – October 5th
Sonic Colours – November 16th
GoldenEye 007 – November 16th

DS
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future – September 12
Pokemon Ranger: Guargian Signs – October 4th
Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! – November 14th
Super Scribblenauts – October
Final Fantasy The 4 Heroes of Light – October 5th

{Thanks Giant Bomb}

Hands-on: Goldeneye 007

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I spent far too much of my late teenage years playing Goldeneye on the N64. And I’m not alone in that sentiment, it was a brilliant party game and something of a landmark in console FPSs. Lurch forward to the present and after numerous teases, rumours and legal battles, Goldeneye returns to gaming with a new Bond, new look but old gameplay. But Is that a bad thing? Certainly not! I feared that my cherished memories of multiplayer duels would be tarnished by what is fundamentally a homage to the N64 game but instead got to play a very entertaining first person shooter. Only the multiplayer was available to try though in my eyes, that mode is the main reason why I’d pick up the game when it’s eventually released. At the press event, Goldeneye 007 (as the new game is known) gathered a lot of interest for good reason. Whether you were playing the game or not it was still fun to watch over the shoulders of those who were, cheer at their wins and laugh at the loses. All in good spirit of course. As I did I realised that Activision has created a ‘hardcore’ party game for the Wii. Being a split screen game with up to four players, Goldeneye 007 stirred the same excitement of the original because players are sitting next to each other instead of being linked via the internet. While the original Goldeneye was forced to do this, Goldeneye 007 has chosen to offer such close quarter combat and is to its credit. But due to the Wii having to produce four separate windows of gameplay at once, the graphics did suffer slightly. They were still a commendable effort and did the job as well as could be expected for such a fast-paced game. And because of this speed, I found the best way to play the game was with the Classic Controller as it handled the infamous ‘run, circle strafe and shoot’ mechanics more comfortably than a Wii remote and nunchuck. The latter may work better in a home environment but bear in mind when you’re playing with three friends, your screens are a quarter of the normal size so the movements of the Wii remote have to be that much more precise. If you have a super steady hand however, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Sticking with the Classic Controller, I had a blast as did those around me with one chap to my left giggling heartily with every kill. That’s the kind of glee Goldeneye 007 gave us all and only after playing on one map too. I’m very much looking forward to its Winter release and am already amassing a group of friends ready to join me in some classically inspired multiplayer matches. Can’t wait!