Miyamoto ISN’T retiring

The big news last night was that Shigeru Miyamoto, the saviour of home consoles, was to retire from Nintendo. An announcement like that unsurprisingly sent shockwaves throughout the gaming community ranging from those saddened by such news and others (ignorantly) cheerful that Miyamoto would be leaving games. But as with so many things on the internet, the facts have become somewhat misunderstood. The original story was from Wired.com who stated that in an interview with Miyamoto (59), the legendary creator said he wanted to retire from his current position and take on a smaller role still within Nintendo, allowing younger designers to be in charge. His plan was not to ever really leave the company but focus on less demanding games and was excited to show off his first mini project next year.

Shortly after the news spread online, Nintendo was quick to clear up the potential PR nightmare by issuing a statement (via Reuters) saying this was not true and that what he has said all along is that he want to train the younger generation.

“He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned.”

And why should we be concerned? Firstly, it’s not ‘we’ as such but investors in Nintendo whose market stock has been rather turbulent ever since the launch of the 3DS which didn’t go exactly to plan. But in the last couple of months, after the price drop and release of Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7, things have started really kicking off for Nintendo’s handheld. So when the man responsible and who has very direct links to all of the company’s main IPs – the games that people buy Nintendo hardware for – confidence will naturally begin to falter.

However it does indeed have an effect on the everyday gamer as Miyamoto’s influence is pretty much everywhere. Most if not all platform games look to the Mario franchise for inspiration and the Mario games themselves are nearly always superb in their execution. And even further a field, game designers are applying ideas from Miyamoto’s games in titles that you’d never expect. Cliff Bleszinski of Epic games was famously quoted in saying that Gear of War was like Mario without the jumping. And of course, there’s the Z-targeting. Pioneered in Ocarina of Time, Z-targeting has become such a staple of third-person action games that it’s hard to think of a time when it didn’t exist. Lastly, we have motion controls. Love them or hate them, they’re now a huge focus for all the main platform holders and if it wasn’t for Nintendo and Miyamoto’s desire to push the boundaries of video game interaction, we wouldn’t be where we are today in the industry. The neigh-sayers may argue that motion controls and casual games are ruining the hardcore but in reality, that’s not exactly true so their importance is very much valid.

The idea that a visionary like Miyamoto could be working on smaller games that may not feature any of the usual characters is quite an exciting one indeed. The 3DS has the space and delivery method for these smaller games to exist and the chance that new IPs may spring up with of the same quality of Mario and Zelda is reason itself for at least some of the original story of Miyamoto’s stepping down to be true. But whether it’s PR tidying or delaying the truth, the fact is that one day Miyamoto will have to retire and even sooner, younger designers should be allowed to take control of Nintendo’s top franchises though for now, I’m quite happy to see Miyamoto on stage at each E3 to reveal the next big thing from Nintendo. Apart from Wii Music.

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The highs and lows of Nintendo’s digital service

When you have to slash the price of a brand new piece of hardware and your managerial staff take considerable pay cuts to make up for losses, you would have thought Nintendo would be upping their game when it comes to 3DS releases, especially via the eShop. The DSi was and still is littered with low-tier titles through DSiWare and the hope was the eShop would begin a new period of higher quality digital downloadable games from the Japanese giant. However, coming this week is the GameBoy version of Pac-Man. For £3.70 (€4).

Now Pac-Man maybe one of the all time classics video games but the very week after pretty much admitting your new handheld has a problem with generating interest and consumers, isn’t the time to trawl through the back catalogue of over-played hits. I don’t doubt the release date has been around longer than the idea to cut the price of the 3DS but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been pushed back to make way for one of the many more exciting classic GameBoy titles. Furthermore, charging £3.70 is baffling when you can buy newer versions with more features for much less on competing platforms. The mind boggles as to what’s going on at Nintendo HQ.

That being said, news that Nintendo is currently working on a transaction system enabling the 3DS and next year’s Wii U to receive premium DLC is also hitting the internet, lifting spirits dampened by silly eShop titles. In an investors meeting on Friday (via Andriasang) president Satoru Iwata said feature will be made available to developers by the end of the year allowing them to begin pumping out chunks of content presumably in-game for new titles and via the eShop for older ones. But we all know the shadiness of existing DLC services with things like unlock keys and purchasable stat increases and Iwata said these won’t be making an appearance on their platforms. Both he and Shigeru Miyamoto said they want to see content that will extend the life of a game – like new levels for example. Anything less than that they believe will damage any possibility of solidifying long term relationships with consumers and fans (ironic after the first two paragraphs of this post…)

Don’t expect to see free-to-play games appear on the 3DS anytime soon though as Iwata again down-played their importance. To him, a platform like that would undermine the premium value of Nintendo’s content. To everyone else, it starts to look like backward thinking from a company with massive potential to once again dominate the handheld space. I don’t go for free-to-play games myself but do understand their relevance in todays market and think that if Nintendo cherry picked the best ones for the 3DS and Wii U, it would do more good than not having them at all.

No 3D classics other than 3D Classics

Nintendo’s favourite game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, has been speaking with The Guardian about the future of the company and its games. One question arose regarding the adaptation of older Nintendo games to the 3DS since Ocarina of Time and Starfox 64 are receiving a three-dimensional lick of paint. His response was a little puzzling as it was a straight ‘no’: “Not really,” he said. “We would like to create more new titles. For example, this year we are making Super Mario 3D, but it’s not really a remake of [the Wii’s Super Mario] Galaxy. The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past could be one of them. I think it would be good to see that world with a layered 3D effect.”

It’s great to see a company who are becoming famed for re-releasing experiences prefer to create something new rather than games we’ve all played before. I’m not knocking them it has to be said, I’ll jump on the next Mario Kart and Zelda game whenever they come out but Nintendo are very good at re-packaging older titles with new additions for a new market. What puzzles me slightly is how come the end of May when the eShop launches for the 3DS, a free, 3D updated version of ExciteBike will be included sparking the beginning of the 3D Classics Virtual Console? Maybe what Miyamoto is suggesting that Nintendo aren’t going to be completely remaking older games with the same level of polish as Ocarina of Time. That has had almost every asset re-made for the 3DS whereas ExciteBike and presumably the other 3D Classics are only having a layered 3D effect added. I say ‘only’ but am stoked at the chance to play a much-loved game of my youth in 3D.

Although Miyamoto’s comments sounded rather final, I would imagine if the audience demanded it, Nintendo could be persuaded to re-make a few of their hits from yesteryear. Miyamoto did mention The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past in his quote. One avid fan has gone so far as to create stereoscopic 3D images (via MyNintendoNews) using classic GameCube and Wii titles and the result ranges from good to stunning. Viewed via the 3DS (by downloading the images and copying them to an SD Card) games like F-Zero and Super Smash Bros Brawl show the potential for some truly great throwbacks without all the effort of re-doing every asset. But of course with E3 around the corner, who knows what Nintendo will show – other than Project Cafe. After skipping the Wii, F-Zero could very well make a comeback in the form of a brand new game on the young handheld. Well, here’s hoping eh?

New details trickle out for top 3DS games

The launch of Nintendo’s 3DS may not have been as game-packed as some would have liked but there are at least one or two games that are worth picking up. As the months roll on and the surprising April sunshine gradually becomes a rain-soaked December, the 3DS will have had a good number of first party titles, the life blood of any Nintendo system. Speaking at a French press event (via VG247), Shirgeru Miyamoto revealed that the next Mario Kart will be arriving by the end of the year. Choosing not to say any more regarding Mario Kart 3D, Miyamoto turned his attentions to Star Fox 64 3D which he says is finished and has gyro support giving “a new dimension to the game.” The same was said about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D whom also includes gyro capabilities for such weapons as the bow and runs at 30 frames per second instead of the original 20 which will make the game appear a lot smoother.

Miyamoto spoke about Super Mario 3D saying it will be fully unveled at E3 and is currently heavily in development. As before, he explained how the game will be a cross between Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy and added New Super Mario Bros too saying that the camera will be fixed allowing Mario to run into the screen or towards it giving the illusion of depth.

Along with Mario Kart 3D, Star Fox 64, Ocarina of Time 3D, and not forgetting Kid Icarus, Super Mario 3D has been promised by the end of 2011. Five top franchises all making their way to the 3DS in its first year and that doesn’t include all the third party game which are said to be coming too. The 3DS should have a rich and diverse twelve months ahead of it. But what lies beyond that? Third party developers will no doubt still create titles and as the system grows in popularity so will the number of games but Nintendo are doing something similar to the launch of the Wii. Throughout 2007 and 2008 (the Wii hit stores in December 2006) Nintendo released at least eight triple A titles (Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Paper Mario, Wii Fit, Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros Brawl, Animal Crossing) and for a company whose platforms survive on first party games, you’d expect to high number of them. But compare that to now where there’s little if any games coming to the Wii and it seems support is drying up. Could it be the quiet before the storm of Project Cafe or Wii 2? Probably though there are those who believe the Wii may have piqued too early leaving only a handful of games to be excited about.

On the other hand, Nintendo lead the way with games, making sure our waggle machines were more than just, well, waggle machines and giving us the franchises that hold a dear place in our hearts early on and expanded on them. Nintendo could be doing the same with the 3DS only this time they’ve said particularly with launch games that they want third party devs to take centre stage and not have to feel as if they’re fighting with their games for attention. A gallant move and one that will hopefully pay off.

If anything can be said about the 3DS launch it’s that developers needn’t shy away from the system or think their games won’t work. Capcom’s Super Street Fighter IV 3D is often praised for utilising all the features of the 3DS while looking and playing great too. One friend tells me this on an almost daily basis (You know who you are!). So the fact we’re getting five top Nintendo releases in year one of the 3DS is definitely a good thing as I’m hoping come 2012-13 enough third party devs will be on churning out quality games so that the system is no longer reliant on its parent company to provide us the entertainment we’ve paid so much for.

The Nintendo Stream

UPDATE: Nintendo have officially announced their next home console code named Project Cafe and said that it won’t be out before April 2012.

No sooner had Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed the existence of Project Cafe, gaming site IGN managed to get hold of yet more alleged details about the Wii successor including a name, release date and price. If Nintendo don’t officially unveil it soon they’ll have nothing left to say! According to IGN’s trusted source, Project Cafe is expected to launch at the end of this year, around October or November and retail for either $350 or $400. But they also say that Nintendo may decide to hold off until the beginning of 2012 allowing studios to have longer with dev kits and potentially boosting the launch game line up. In the past, the Japanese gaming giant have been very secretive with their tech which annoyed a number of developers who could have benefited from the knowledge. Like LucasArts. They found out about the Wii MotionPlus add-on the same time as consumers and by then, they had already developed a light sabre-based fighter that could have been a great deal more successful if it included Wii MotionPlus support. If Project Cafe is as feature rich as everyone says it is, I’m sure devs would want to know about it way in advance and be at the forefront of the launch window.

Project Cafe is also said to be a bit of a beast, with insides that are meant to out perform both Xbox 360 and PS3 and have the potential for stereoscopic 3D too. But I highly doubt such a thing would be a integral to games since it’s taken this long for Nintendo to make the jumo onto HD TVs so they’re not about to leap frog that for 3D TVs. So the guts of the system will be ultra high tech but the outer is said to look like an updated SNES and have similar proportions to the first Xbox 360. As for the frankly perplexing name of Project Cafe, IGN say Nintendo have plenty of official names in mind with Stream being one that stood out. Probably due to the rumour surrounding controller. Project Cafe, Stream or Wii 2, whatever it’s to be called, will supposedly stream games straight onto a HD touchscreen fixed to the controller not so unlike the Dreamcast’s VMU or indeed the GBA and GameCube. They could be seen as early concepts for what Project Cafe is to become but possibly on a grander scale.

But that got me thinking, if the controller can be a gaming device all by itself, where does that leave the 3DS? Nintendo are potentially creating their very own iPods and you’d have to imagine they hold some form of memory capabilities. If they’re able to play standalone games as well as being accompaniments to Project Cafe titles, the 3DS could become an even harder sell. I think Nintendo will be very careful with what they do with the controller and how they market it. They’re not stupid and wouldn’t create a competitor for one of their own devices but would they also pass up the opportunity to make even more money off a peripheral? Think about it, WiiWare, DSiWare or Virtual Console style games playable on something that would be designed to fit snuggly in your hand. Sell them for a couple of quid or more and they could become very popular.

Nintendo, quite expectedly, declined from commenting on rumours when quizzed by IGN but all eyes will be on their press conference at this year’s E3 when we’re likely to hear more about the system. Unless of course more sources leak information before then. Ooh, isn’t it exciting eh?!

Miyamoto’s numerous confirmations

We’ve seen the logo, we knew it was coming but so far all Nintendo have said about Super Mario 3DS is that we’ll find out more come this year’s E3. Satoru Iwata announced the game early in the year at GDC showing a handful of screenshots and saying how the move from a 2D platformer to a 3D one proved to be problematic for some gamers, specifically precision jumping. Today, Shigeru Miyamoto spoke to Edge about Super Mario 3DS revealing “It’s a combination of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario on N64. It won’t convey the message if I talk to you today, but if you play it at E3 that will give you more understanding of what I’m talking about.” I think from such a statement like that, we can get a good understanding of what he’s talking about. Both those titles are quite similar with Galaxy adding gravitational elements and ramping up the creativity of levels and suits. If Super Mario 3DS is a combination of the two, we can expect comparable gameplay and innovative gravity physics.

Because the game will be in stereoscopic 3D, Miyamoto believes the difficulties of pseudo 3D Mario games will be a thing of the past. Using floating platforms as an example, Miyamoto said: “In 2D it’s difficult to judge the distance, but in 3D it’s really easy.” He also said that the title is coming this year and echo earlier comments in an Iwata Asks feature about how it’ll be completely original. Adding to the promised originality will be the return of the Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros 3 whose tail was seen in the logo shown at GDC. “The tail you mentioned on the logo – it’s what you think it is. You probably know what’s going to happen using that character,” said Miyamoto. Flying in Super Mario 3DS? Confirmed? Pretty much.

While he was at it, Miyamoto also confirmed the existence of a Wii successor but said even less about that, pleading for Edge not to ask anymore questions about it: “Don’t ask! Even when the Wii launched we were developing new hardware, work on 3DS had already started. It’s a matter of when we announce it. Please wait. Be patient until we decide.” No one ever thought for a minute that Nintendo wouldn’t be releasing another console but a lot of speculations were about simply a HD upgrade of existing hardware. From the latest rumours, the new system will be more powerful than the Xbox 360 and PS3, have the ability to play Wii games and a controller featuring a large HD touchscreen. Even if Nintendo weren’t planning on announcing anything about Project Cafe at E3, they may be forced to if more rumours keep surfacing. It could be another good year for Nintendo at E3 in June.

Celebrations continue for Link

Remember how The Legend of Zelda series turned 25 exactly last Monday? Nintendo have confirmed they will indeed celebrate with the gravitas a milestone like this is privy to but didn’t say what those celebrations entail. All that was said is that Shigeru Miyamoto is “working on a plan that will allow all Zelda lovers to celebrate together.” Together? Here we go, Zelda MMO confirmed! Right!? Don’t be silly. To celebrate Mario’s silver anniversary, Nintendo re-released the 16Bit collection of classic Mario games, Super Mario All-Stars complete with a book of early development ideas and a soundtrack. Perhaps Zelda will be treated to something similar, bundling the 8 and 16Bit games onto one Wii disc. But the remake of The Ocarina of Time coming to the 3DS later this year is fast becoming celebration enough if the new screenshots are anything to go by. Dodgy port this isn’t as Nintendo are seemingly sprucing up every pixel and polygon, adding detail where there was once a blurry smudge. Whatever this collective celebration of Zelda may be from Miyamoto, right now it’s taking second place to all these lovely new images (found on Siliconera).