Nintendo Switch

Nintendo got it right again

Posted by | Gadgets, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

I worked Circuit City when the PlayStation 2 launched. For weeks, we were sold out, and there was always a crowd around the blue demo unit in the gaming department. It’s easy to see why the PlayStation 2 was a hit looking back. It was powerful, inventive and excelled at local gaming. It was the right system for the time.

If Nintendo’s recent success proves anything, building for the time is more important than making for the future.

Nintendo is coming off a massive quarter that saw 88% year over year operating profit on the back of the Nintendo Switch. The company has sold nearly 20 million Switch systems since its launch, surpassing the total amount of Wii U systems sold and closing in on Gamecube’s tally of 21.7 million units.

The Switch is great. I can’t get over how good it is. Again, like other systems before it, the Switch is the right system for the time. It’s portable, it’s small, and it leans heavily on cloud services. It’s not the most powerful system on the market nor does it pack 4k gaming or VR capabilities. The Switch doesn’t even have YouTube or Netflix. It’s a game system.

The Switch was a big bet for Nintendo. The company was coming off of the nascent Wii U, which besides Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon, was a game system without good games. It seemed Nintendo had lost its edge. The Wii U, in a way, was a trial for the Switch. It brought gaming off the TV and into the hands of gamers — but those gamers had to be in the same room as the Wii U base station. The Wii U didn’t go far enough in all sense of the phrase.

By the time the Switch came out, the looming threat of mobile games seemed to be over. A few years earlier, it appeared that the smartphone was going to take over and eat up the casual gaming market. Even Sony got in on the theme, releasing a hybrid smartphone and game system called the Xperia Play. While the smartphone game market is alive and thriving, it never gobbled up the home console market. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched and gamers settled into the couch. The Switch offers something different and timely.

To state the obvious, the Switch is mobile, and that’s what’s needed in today’s environment. It’s different from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and in the best way possible. Like previous Nintendo products, the graphics are below the market average, and the capabilities are less than competitors. But that doesn’t matter. The Switch’s gaming experience, to some, is superior. I take my Switch on long flights. I can’t do that with a PlayStation 4.

Gamers agree. With nearly 20 million units sold since it launched in 2017, the Switch is nearing the sales amount of the Xbox One, which launched in 2013 and has sold between 25 and 30 million units. The PlayStation 4 is the clear winner of this generation of game systems, though, with nearly 80 million units sold — and an argument could be made that Sony built the Playstation 4 for today’s gamers too, bypassing all the extras Microsoft included in the Xbox One and instead focusing solely on games.

Nintendo has done this in the past, too. Think back to the Wii. It launched in 2006 and went on to sell over 100 million units. In 2006 Sony and Microsoft were pushing heavily into HD gaming with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. And for a good reason, too. Consumers were heavily shopping for their first HDTV at the time, and Sony and Microsoft wanted to build a system for the future. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 went on to long, healthy lives but they never saw the runaway success of the Wii.

The Wii was the must-have Christmas gift for 2006 and 2007. It was novel more than beautiful. Compared to the graphics of the PS3, the Wii looked childish. But that was part of the appeal. First generation gamers were aging and having families, and the Wii was built for all ages. Anyone could pick up a Wiimote and swing it around to hit the tennis ball. To many outside the core gaming crowd, the Wii was magical. It was the right system at the right time.

The next part seems to be the hardest for Nintendo. Now that the Switch is a success, Nintendo needs to maintain it by building and supporting a robust ecosystem of games. And Nintendo cannot be the source of all the best games. Nintendo must court developers and publishers and keep them engaged in the advantages of the Switch gaming system. If it can do that, the Switch has a chance to be a generational product like the Wii before it.

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Nintendo’s profit jumps 88% as it nears 20 million Switch sales

Posted by | Asia, computing, Earnings, Entertainment, Gaming, hardware, mario kart, nes classic edition, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, super smash bros, Wii U | No Comments

Nintendo released its latest earnings report today and the headline is that the company has now sold nearly 20 million Switch consoles. The actual number is 19.67 million as of the end of June, so add July sales and the 20 million milestone is likely to have already been hit. Either way, it has easily surpassed its predecessor, the much-maligned Wii U.

Overall, the business recorded a 30.5 billion JPY ($275 million) operating profit, up 88 percent year-on-year, as revenue grew 9 percent to reach 168 billion JPY, or $1.5 billion.

The Japanese firm sold 1.88 million Switches in the most recent quarter, which is actually down from 1.97 million one year ago, although this quarter tends to be a slow one ahead of the holiday season. That slip was made up for on the software side as sales of Switch games jumped from 8.1 million last year to 17.96 million in the most recent quarter.

Nintendo has a bunch of new titles incoming — including Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and two Pokémon titles — while its Nintendo Switch Online service is due to launch in September so there’s plenty more to come. That said, Nintendo has some work to do if it is to hit its target of 20 million Switch sales during the current financial year.

Elsewhere, Nintendo said it sold 1.26 million of the NES Classic Edition when it was relaunched in June, while it sold 1.39 million Labo kits for the Switch.

The companies mobile gaming business continues to do well, grossing nine billion JPY, $81 million, in the quarter. That’s likely to spike when the company introduces Mario Kart Tour (huzzah!) and new title Dragalia Lost for mobile before March 2019. Although Nintendo suggested that the pipeline for new mobile games will slow once these two new arrivals are released.

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Nintendo’s new Labo Vehicle Kit looks like a buggy full of fun

Posted by | cardboard, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, labo, Nintendo, nintendo labo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

Nintendo has just announced the latest in its Labo series of whimsical cardboard accessories for the Switch gaming console, and this one looks like a must-have. Called the Vehicle Kit for obvious reasons, the flat-pack, assemble-it-yourself add-ons include a steering wheel, gas pedal, “keys” that activate different vehicles, all of which work inside a cool-looking game that comes with.

Frankly this just looks like a humongous bargain. Perhaps the most humongous of all time. $70 gets you a whole fold-up steering assembly with shifters on the sides; a pedal that I really hope stands up to some serious stomping; a joystick for piloting a plane, a weird thing that controls a submarine; and a “key” that your Joy-Con fits into, which itself slots into the various other setups to activate them.

They’re all meant to be used in a game that, despite not having a name, looks insanely cool. It looks like a big island with secrets hidden all over the place that you just tool around in using your buggy, your submarine, and your plane, and whatever other weird vehicles you might come across.

You can race, spray-paint your vehicles, blow up rocks and cut down trees. There’s also a two-player mode where you battle with cars that have extendable arms for some reason. Don’t think too hard about it.

Of course you’ll have to put all this together yourself (I guess either I think kids read TechCrunch or our readers buy Nintendo gear made for kids), but we found Labo to be a delight to assemble and play with so that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a feature, not a bug.

You’ll be able to buy this kit starting September 14 for $70, which, again, is obviously a steal. If any of us gets their hands on one ahead of that date we’ll definitely let you know.

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Oh, the things I would do to get this cardboard-style Nintendo Switch

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, labo, Nintendo, nintendo labo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

Nintendo is building on its strange but wonderful cardboard Labo platform with some sweet Mario Kart integration and a truly fabulous limited edition Switch with a faux-cardboard finish. It really is just the greatest thing and I would do terrible things to have it. Unfortunately some smart kid will probably get it, because you have to win it by designing something cool with Labo.

So, first the Mario Kart stuff. If you have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch, and you really should because it’s excellent, you can now use the Toy-Con (buildable with the Labo Variety Kit) as a sort of real-world controller. You twist the right “handlebar” to accelerate and rotate the whole thing to turn.

This is the first game to get its own special Labo support, but the company says more are on the way. Splatoon 2, perhaps?

If you’re a creative type and you have a Labo set, you’re in luck. There are two new contests you can enter, and entry puts you in the running to win the amazing neutral-colored Switch shown up top. I really don’t know why I love it so much, but I do. And if you do too, you should enter. (If you’re in the U.S. or Canada. Sorry, world.)

The first challenge is to create a musical instrument with the Toy-Con pieces and “craft materials.” You’ll have to document its creation and show it working on video; it’ll be judged on “Quality, Creativity, Spirit, and Sound.” Caps Nintendo’s.

The second challenge is to create a game or game-like experience using Toy-Con Garage. Same judgment categories as before, minus Sound.

There will be one grand prize winner and four runners up per contest. Grand prize is that amazing Switch (approximate retail value $1,000?!), plus a cool (?) Labo jacket. Runners up get a pair of cardboard style Joy-Cons and a jacket. Respectable.

If you’ve been looking for a reason to pick up that Labo kit again or use some random pieces you never tried, this is surely that reason. Now get to work!

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Check out this adorable Bluetooth controller for the Nintendo Switch

Posted by | 8bitdo, e3 2018, Gaming, Nintendo Switch | No Comments

8bitdo debuted a bunch of gaming controllers at E3 this week, but honestly, we only care about one. The Zero 2 is an adorable little Bluetooth controller that fits in the palm of your hand. It’s compatible with all sorts of systems, including desktop computers and Android devices, but the size makes it perfect for playing the Nintendo Switch on the go.

And as you can see by the “classic” color scheme above, the peripheral maker was clearly interested in evoking some serious Nintendo nostalgia, with a device that looks a lot like a Super Nintendo controller at first glance.

The Zero 2 sports four number buttons, select, start and a D-pad on the front, with L and R buttons up top, flanking a microUSB port. All have a solid click to them, though the company didn’t have a full operational unit we could play with (the controller isn’t coming out until the end of the year).

I suspect that the diminutive size means it won’t be ideal for long gaming marathons, but it does beat having to hold the Switch for an extended period. Better still, it can be connected to a keychain, so you’ll never lose the thing.

No pricing has been announced.

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How Nintendo regained its footing with the Switch and smartphones

Posted by | e3 2018, Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch | No Comments

As recently as a couple of years ago, Nintendo very much felt like a company at a crossroads. The Wii U presented a rare major misfire for the gaming giant, while its executives stubbornly clung to a strategy that actively excluded smartphones.

The Nintendo of 2018, however, feels newly invigorated. In January, the company announced that the Switch had blown past the Wii’s record to become the fastest selling U.S. console, with 4.8 million units moved in 10 months. These days, that number is closer to 5.9 million in the States, with 17.79 million units sold globally as of April, by NPD’s count.

“We learned from previous launches,” Nintendo executive Doug Bowser (different Bowser) said in an interview with TechCrunch upstairs at the company’s E3 booth. “We made sure we launched with great content. And then we’ve had a steady drumbeat of new titles.”

The company addressed that issue with the launch of the flagship Zelda title Breath of the Wild, alongside the console. This time two years ago, the company’s booth was awash with Zelda imagery, made up to look like a small-scale version of Hyrule. In 2018, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the clear focus, as its E3 presence has shifted to something more tournament style, with large screens displaying the mega-crossover fighting game.

For the company, those two titles represent the company’s first-party play for an “active gamer” segment — a more direct take on the likes of PlayStation and Microsoft. Nintendo’s family-friendly approach is still present in those titles it produced in-house, but things have softened a bit, perhaps, when it comes to embracing third-party titles.

“Our goal with Nintendo Switch is to appeal to a broad audience,” said Bowser. “That goes well beyond family-friendly titles, and obviously with some of the third-party content we’ve brought to the platform, there’s more mature content. We want to make it accessible, but clearly when it comes to our own IP, it’s in a more family-friendly arena.”

Today’s release of Fortnite for the Switch is a pretty clear example of this. It’s a big win for both parties, as the fast-selling console gets access to the large cross-platform title. But even that is a far cry from some of the extreme gore we saw on the big screen last night at Sony’s big kick-off event.

For younger players, the 3DS/2DS is still going surprisingly strong for an eight-year-old system. 2017 actually saw a jump in consoles sold over the year prior. “Younger consumers are coming in through our 2DS and 2DS XL platforms,” said Bowser. “It’s a great entry point for us. As long as consumers are voting, we’ll continue to support it.”

And for all of its early foot-dragging, mobile has clearly been a boon for the company. First-party games like Super Mario Run and third-party partnerships like Pokémon GO have gone a ways toward spreading the gospel of Nintendo IP. Late last month, Niantic announced that its AR game had hit a staggering 800 million downloads.

The newly announced Switch titles Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee represent another step toward a more open, cross-platform Nintendo, as well. The Poké Ball Plus peripheral lets users capture Pokémon on the mobile title and utilize them into the Switch game. It’s a compelling bit of synergy that could point a ways forward, wherein smartphones and the Switch play even more nicely together.

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Fortnite is headed to the Nintendo Switch, according to new leaks

Posted by | epic games, fortnite, Gaming, Nintendo Switch | No Comments

The question at this point, really, is which platforms Fortnite isn’t being planned for. The Amazon Echo, maybe? Fitbit? Honestly, those are probably just a matter of time, too, as Epic’s massively popular sandbox survival title steamrolls its way across the industry.

The latest rumor finds Fortnite headed for the Nintendo Switch, just in time for E3, later this month. The rumor arrives through what appears to be a one-two punch of leaks spotted by Eurogamer. First, an image said to be of Nintendo’s E3 booth layout and, more convincingly, the Korean ratings board, which has been something of a game rumor sieve in recent months.

After posting ratings for upcoming versions of Sunset Overdrive and Borderlands, the board has just gifted the gaming world one for Fortnite on Nintendo’s convertible console. The listing puts the title at “12 years old,” courtesy of a “comic expression of a slight level of attack.”

If true, the Switch version would join an iOS port, which arrived in March and one for Android arriving this summer. We’ve reached out to Epic for comment, but I wouldn’t expect to hear much on that front until around, say, the second week of June. Until then, there are no shortage of ways to get your hands on the title.

And Epic, it seems, won’t be hurting for cash. For now, at least. 

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Pokémon Quest hits the Nintendo Switch with two more Pokémon titles on the way

Posted by | Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, pokemon, Pokémon Go, TC, The Pokemon Company | No Comments

Much like the unique and forking joy of catching an eevee you plan to evolve, Poké trainers have some exciting branching paths ahead of them.

In a dedicated press event in Tokyo, the Pokémon Company, Nintendo and Niantic announced three new Pokémon games, with another on the way in late 2019. The first game, a casual “free to start” RPG called Pokémon Quest, is already available for download on the Nintendo Switch.

With a team of up to three Pokémon, you can explore the secrets of Tumblecube Island. Battle wild Pokémon, gather treasure, and even befriend new Pokémon—if you have the right ingredients, that is! #PokemonQuest puts the power in your hands. pic.twitter.com/BuVVenFAYR

— Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 30, 2018

Pokémon Quest revisits the well-loved core cast of ‘mons from the Kanto region (think Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow era) but with a cubist twist. The game will hit the Switch first (it’s already there!) before expanding to iOS and Android later in June. Cube charizard, be mine.

Beyond the cute cubey apéritif, a beginner-friendly set of games called Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! will hit the Switch on November 16. According to its creators, the two titles “bring the experience of a classic Pokémon RPG to Nintendo Switch with gameplay that is easily approachable for newcomers to the series, but is also deep enough to keep veteran Trainers on their toes.” We’ll see about that.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, and the #PokeBallPlus will be released on November 16, 2018 worldwide! https://t.co/kXLdxUMjjA #PokemonLetsGo pic.twitter.com/bUU3ZcnApi

— Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 30, 2018

The Pokémon Company also explained that the two games will tie into the hit mobile experience of Pokémon GO, though we don’t know the full extent of what that looks like yet:

There is a deep connection between Pokémon GO and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! For one thing, Pokémon originally discovered in the Kanto region that you have caught in Pokémon GO can be brought into these two new Nintendo Switch games. That’s not all, though. Look forward to more details at a later date.

Beyond the crowd-pleasing option to center either pikachu or eevee (let’s be real, you’re picking eevee), the Let’s Go games will showcase a new peripheral for the Switch known as the Poké Ball Plus that’s designed to simulate the evocative gesture that seasoned trainers know so well. Apparently, Nintendo put plenty of thought into that experience, so we’re hoping that it really brings to life the sensation of a wild animal wriggling rhythmically as its freedom seeps away, second by second.

You can use the #PokeBallPlus as a Joy-Con in #PokemonLetsGo! Good things may happen if you place one of your favorite Pokémon into the device and walk around with it in the real world. It will be able to connect to Pokémon GO as well! pic.twitter.com/I18Y55odpp

— Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 30, 2018

Pokemon CEO: Nintendo engineers helped make the Pokeball. The idea was to create the closest thing possible to an actual Pokeball that really felt like it has a Pokemon inside. Bless 😭

— Yuji Nakamura (@ynakamura56) May 30, 2018

Again, these games aren’t the core handheld title that diehard pokéfans are after, but if you’re going to have to wait until 2019 for a proper main series Pokémon RPG experience on the Switch, today’s news should offer plentiful snacks to tide you over.

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Nintendo’s $20 charging stand finally fixes the Switch’s kickstand problem

Posted by | Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, TC | No Comments

Versatility has also been on of the Switch’s best features. The latest Nintendo system is a fascinating hybrid device that skirts the line between home and portable gaming. Still, there are some in-between scenarios the console didn’t get quite right out of the box.

The kickstand problem has plagued the otherwise well-received device since its earliest days. It falls over often, it’s puts the device at a weird angle, and worst of all, the charging port is on the bottom, so you can’t play the system in table top mode while it’s plugged it.

Just ahead of E3, the company’s showing off a $20 solution. The simply named Adjustable Charging Stand props the system, while keeping it plugged in, via an AC adapter port on the side.

An adjustable kickstand on the back, meanwhile, means you can change the viewing angle, depending on the height of the surface it’s on. That’s good news for those times when you don’t have a TV set to plug into, but still want to pull out the Joy-Cons to get the full experience — be it on a desk or an airport tray table. 

The peripheral hits stores July 13.

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Nintendo Switch Online costs $20 per year and comes with 20 online-playable NES games

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

Nintendo has finally revealed the details of its paid online service after months of speculation by fans. The pricing is pretty much as expected ($20 per year), but the additions of online save game backups and NES games with added online multiplayer sweeten the deal.

We first heard the pricing last June, including the $3.99 monthly and $7.99 3-month options, but the announcement then left much to the imagination. This one makes things much clearer, but there are still a few mysteries it will perhaps clear up at E3 or closer to the September launch.

Save data being backed up online is perhaps the most asked-for feature on the Switch, and one other platforms have provided for years. So its official announcement will surely be greeted with cries of joy. The exact details are coming soon.

But it’s the online play for NES games that really caught my eye. Officially called “NES – Nintendo Switch Online,” it will be a collection of 10 games to start and 10 more to come, all of which can be played in both single- and multi-player modes online. How that looks exactly isn’t quite clear; the Nintendo release says “Depending on the game, players can engage in online competitive or co-op multiplayer, or take turns controlling the action.”

Does that mean we’ll have leaderboards? Ghost runs in Super Mario Bros 3? Low-latency battles in Balloon Fight? No clue.

At least the first 10 games are confirmed: Balloon Fight, Dr. Mario and Super Mario Bros. 3, Donkey Kong, Ice Climber, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros., Soccer, Super Mario Bros. and Tennis. The other 10 will supposedly be announced soon, with more added “on a regular basis.”

Those are of course all Nintendo-made games, suggesting licensing negotiations are still underway for classics like Final Fantasy and Double Dragon. For now it’s a package deal, you can’t just buy Soccer and play it unless you go for the full online experience.

The $20 per year subscription will also be necessary starting in September for online play. It might be a bit much to ask if you don’t play a lot of Splatoon or Mario Kart 8 or aren’t so into retro NES games, but it’s sure cheaper than the competition.

If you want to talk with your friends while trading off Zelda dungeons, you’ll still need the smartphone app, though. Perhaps a chat service will be announced another time.

A couple technical notes: the subscription is tied to an account, not the hardware, so if you and I shared a Switch and only I paid for the online aspect, you don’t get it when you log in. On the other hand, when I go to a friend’s house, I can log in to their device and use online services there. There is a $35 yearly option that lets you authorize up to 8 accounts though, for families with multiple users.

The Switch Online service isn’t needed for system updates or buying games online or anything — just online play, the NES games, and save game backups.

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