Nintendo

Pokémon GO is getting PvP by the end of the year

Posted by | Gaming, Mobile, niantic, Nintendo, pokemon, Pokémon Go | No Comments

As popular as Pokémon GO is, it has always been missing one major feature: pitting your Pokémon directly against another trainer’s. Strange, since that was the entire basis of the franchise to begin with! But the mobile game will at last get this much-requested feature by the end of the year, the company told Polish news site Gram.

After a record-shattering debut and then a long slump as players perceived the game’s shallowness and abandoned it en masse, Pokémon GO is having something of a renaissance. Improved gym and social mechanics, better reliability and, of course, a host of new ‘mon have brought players back, and it seems that features will continue to be rolled out.

What exactly the PvP mode will consist of is not clear. Chances are it will require players to be near each other, like the trading function. Though it is likely to produce some kind of reward, it likely will be limited in some other way, via a stardust or candy cost, to prevent people gaming the system.

Niantic’s Anne Beuttenmüller, in her interview with Gram, didn’t get specific. She was more interested in talking about the upcoming Ingress Prime, a sort of relaunch of the game on which Pokémon GO is essentially based; that will also be released toward the end of the year.

As for the highly anticipated Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which will no doubt involve people waving their phones around and uttering magic nonsense in full view of the public, her lips were sealed. It too will release around the end of the year! It’s going to be a busy holiday season.

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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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You can buy the NES Classic and SNES Classic on Amazon now

Posted by | Amazon, Gaming, nes classic edition, Nintendo, nintendo entertainment system, TC | No Comments

If you missed the first few rounds of excitement about Nintendo’s mini nostalgia machines, you’ve got another shot at paying a normal price.

Nintendo’s NES and SNES Classic consoles aren’t always easy to find, but they’re now available from Amazon for $59.99 (NES Classic) and $79.99 (SNES Classic). You can place an order for either right now, though be aware that the NES Classic won’t ship until it’s back in stock on August 12 and the SNES Classic looks like it’ll be back on August 3 — a pretty reasonable wait for a sure thing.

Update: It looks like Amazon’s stock of the NES Classic may have already run out in the course of the last few minutes, though the SNES version is still available at its normal retail price of $79.99 (and let’s be real, it was the best console). They seem to be dropping in and out of availability, so try refreshing!

When they were first introduced, the reimagined versions of two of the best-loved consoles of all-time arrived to feverish demand. Back in 2016, the NES Classic was difficult to hunt down, and when it hit in August 2017, the SNES followed suit, managing to even outpace interest in its own progenitor. (Naturally, scarcity is the perfect fuel for a nostalgia-powered fire.)

Nintendo originally didn’t intend for either console to be restocked indefinitely, but after observing the “unbridled enthusiasm” of the retro gaming boxes it decided to keep them around. The consoles reappeared in May and June but sold out quickly.

Even with the repeat appearances, it’s been hard to keep track of when and where the things go on sale. If you’re reading this and you’ve yet to score a one-way ticket to nostalgic 8- or 16-bit euphoria, the Amazon listings look like a sure bet — for the moment, anyhow.

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Chat app Line gets serious about gaming with its latest acquisition

Posted by | Apps, Asia, computing, Facebook, facebook messenger, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, Indonesia, iPhone, iTunes, Japan, line, messaging apps, Messenger, Nintendo, payments, ride hailing, social media, Software, taiwan, Thailand, WhatsApp, world wide web | No Comments

Line, the company best-known for its popular Asian messaging app, is doubling down on games after it acquired a controlling stake in Korean studio NextFloor for an undisclosed amount.

NextFloor, which has produced titles like Dragon Flight and Destiny Child, will be merged with Line’s games division to form the Line Games subsidiary. Dragon Flight has racked up 14 million users since its 2012 launch — it clocked $1 million in daily revenue at peak. Destiny Child, a newer release in 2016, topped the charts in Korea and has been popular in Japan, North America and beyond.

Line’s own games are focused on its messaging app, which gives them access to social features such as friend graphs, and they have helped the company become a revenue generation machine. Alongside income from its booming sticker business, in-app purchases within games made Line Japan’s highest-earning non-game app publisher last year, according to App Annie, and the fourth highest worldwide. For some insight into how prolific it has been over the years, Line is ranked as the sixth highest earning iPhone app of all time.

But, despite revenue success, Line has struggled to become a global messaging giant. The big guns WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have in excess of one billion monthly users each, while Line has been stuck around the 200 million mark for some time. Most of its numbers are from just four countries: Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. While it has been able to tap those markets with additional services like ride-hailing and payments, it is certainly under pressure from those more internationally successful competitors.

With that in mind, doubling down on games makes sense and Line said it plans to focus on non-mobile platforms, which will include the Nintendo Switch among others consoles, from the second half of this year.

Line went public in 2016 via a dual U.S.-Japan IPO that raised over $1 billion.

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Microsoft is building low-cost, streaming-only Xbox, says report

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, nvidia, onlive, PlayStation 4, Sony, xbox | No Comments

It was revealed at E3 last month that Microsoft was building a cloud gaming system. A report today calls that system Scarlett Cloud and it’s only part of Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox strategy. And it makes a lot of sense, too.

According to Thurrott.com, noted site for all things Microsoft, the next Xbox will come in two flavors. One will be a traditional gaming console where games are processed locally. You know, like how it works on game systems right now. The other system will be a lower-powered system that will stream games from the cloud — most likely, Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

This streaming system will still have some processing power, which is in part to counter latency traditionally associated with streaming games. Apparently part of the game will run locally while the rest is streamed to the system.

The streaming Xbox will likely be available at a much lower cost than the traditional Xbox. And why not. Microsoft has sold Xbox systems with a slim profit margin, relying on sales of games and online services to make up the difference. A streaming service that’s talked about on Thurrott would further take advantage of this model while tapping into Microsoft’s deep understanding of cloud computing.

A few companies have tried streaming full video games. Onlive was one of the first; while successful for a time, it eventually went through a dramatic round of layoffs before a surprise sale for $4.8 million in 2012. Sony offers an extensive library of PS2, PS3 and PS4 games for streaming through its PlayStation Now service. Nvidia got into the streaming game this year and offers a small selection of streaming through GeForce Now. But these are all side projects for the companies.

Sony and Nintendo do not have the global cloud computing platform of Microsoft, and if Microsoft’s streaming service hits, it could change the landscape and force competitors to reevaluate everything.

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Now you’re journaling with power! (with this Mario-branded Moleskine gear)

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, moleskine, Nintendo, stationery, TC | No Comments

Although this isn’t a stationery news site (how I should like that!), the latest collection from Moleskine is Mario-related, so technically I can write about it. There’s even a phone case and a rolltop backpack!

It’s pretty much exactly what you expect: the usual solid Moleskine notebooks with a Nintendo flourish. They’re all Mario-related, but have different styles: a cartridge and Game Boy for the pocket-size notebooks, and stylized NES graphics on the larger ones. Unfortunately there’s no planner (hint hint, Moleskine).

“It’s a newstalgic mixture of contemporary technology and timeless paper,” reads the press release. “Nostalgic” already implies both new and old so there’s no need for a portmanteau, and a Game Boy isn’t exactly “contemporary,” but they got the paper thing right.

Actually, the notebooks have some pretty dope detailing. The small ones are embossed with cartridge ridges and Game Boy controls. All of them have internal illustrations and come with a sticker pack.

I would have loved to have these in the old days, though some SMB3 gear would probably have been more timely.

In addition to the notebooks, there’s a solid-looking, candy-red phone case that you can only get in stores and a truly 🔥 backpack. Look at these details (click for the gallery):

Wear that at E3 and people will bow down. Well, it’s better than carrying around a giant swag bag from Atlus, anyway.

You can buy everything but the phone case online; you’ll have to find Moleskine dealers to get that for some reason.

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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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Microsoft and Nintendo release Minecraft trailer focused on cross-play

Posted by | Gaming, Microsoft, Minecraft, Nintendo, Sony, Startups, Switch, TC, xbox | No Comments

In the world of gaming, cross-compatibility between platforms has always bene a bit of a white whale. While most players hope for it, console makers and game publishers haven’t always been so willing. Until recently.

Microsoft, Nintendo and PC game makers have started making games more cross-compatible. Most notably, the companies have made Fortnite Battle Royale, the biggest game of the year, cross-compatible on the Switch, Xbox, iOS, and PC. Yes, there is a big name missing from that list.

Sony has yet to budge, forcing PS4 players inside of a walled garden. Obviously, players have been outraged.

But today, Microsoft and Nintendo are seemingly putting salt in the wound with a new trailer for Minecraft.

Rather than focusing on the game, the trailer’s entire thesis is centered around the fact that it offers cross-play between Xbox and the Switch. In the video, you can see a Switch player and an Xbox player gaming together in the wonderful world of Minecraft.

The tag line at the end reads “Better Together.”

Long story short, cross play is happening in the gaming world. Finally. Whether or not Sony chooses to catch up is anyone’s guess.

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