Welcome all, to the very first edition of Ask Alundra. This will be a weekly segment (provided we have enough questions) that will tackle the many issues that have been floating around the gaming industry as of late, but also will contain other questions about classic gaming and personal gaming preference.
This week, we will be discussing the future of Nintendo and 2D gaming, so let's get started:
"Will the Revolution be as Revolutionary as Nintendo claims? And more importantly, HOW?"
A: Still shrouded in mystery, the Revolution is still something that holds promise to some, while others have lost interest in a company that hasn't been delivering as of late. At E3, we were basically given an unfinished prototype console that was also rumored to have been thrown together literally days before the conference. The controllers, on the other hand, are the topic of most Revolution discussions, as it seems to be Nintendo's last resort at blowing us away.
But the question here is, what exactly is so "revolutionary" about a controller? There have been rumors that Nintendo was developing a headset, like the Virtual Boy, that would work in correspondence with the controller. Also, the fact that the console is so small, begs the question on how powerful the machine is; the latest from GameSpot and IGN says that the Revolution is only 3 or 4 times as powerful as the GameCube. This may sound good on it's own, but Sony was proud to boast that the PlayStation 3 is 12 times as powerful as the PS2, which makes the Revolution almost a generation short in a graphical standpoint.
A recent post on Nintendo's message boards, from what looked like a legitamate system spec, stated that the Revolution was going to have 4 processors in it's tiny unit. Well, the problem here is that since Iwata stated at E3 that the Revolution would be smaller in it's final form, where was all of the technology going to fit? Heat sinks are a must-have in order to run an unheard of 4 processors; any less that one for each processor would most likely cause a system meltdown, that hardware alone will need a bit of space to fit, so will Nintendo be sacrificing technology space to keep it's very Japanese concept of "smaller is better"?
The downloadable content is also an issue, as Iwata recently commented in a review that first-party Nintendo game downloads would most likely not be free. This seems to be a pretty lewd move by Nintendo, seeing as they are currently unable to make any profits on games that predate the N64; that market is owned by used game chains like EBGames and GameStop. It almost looks like Nintendo is banking on its hardcore-fanboys (which all congregated at the Nintendo press conference at E3) to float its finantial boat instead of just stepping out of the box and actually try to pull in more players. Even worse is the fact that Nintendo wants to stay strictly a family-based game company. They recently added to the philosophy in staying as a "strictly content-based game developer", that they wanted to also be able to attract the whole family to the TV on games that are being played on the Revolution. Nintendo actually had a chance this time around to shake the kiddy-console stigma that the mass media placed upon the GameCube, but they rather translated that curse into their next generation development philosophy.
Furthermore, Nintendo is also holding itself back by not even trying to participate in the "HD-era" of gaming. Even though HDTV is still a niche market, as less than 10% of the US own HD capable TV's, Nintendo is still shortchanging that 10% that will be able to enjoy their PS3 and XBOX 360 games to their full resolution potential.
In conclusion, the Revolution debate is pure speculation, and we will most likely be subject to the Revolutions true unveiling at Japans SpaceWorld convention this year.
"As the entire gaming world turns to flashier graphics and 3-D FMVs in all their games, how do you think the classic games from the 16-bit era hold up? There are still a lot of die-hard fans of the super NES days"
A: Unfortunately, the 2D gaming era is looking to supported by Nintendo until it meets it inevitable end. Many people don't know this, but Sony (SCEA) actually adopted a strict non-2D policy on it's games about a year ago, games like Guilty Gear Isuka just happened to be released after the fact. Sony saw the 2D market slowly declining and deteriorating, and knew that supporting a dying genre of games would be a bad business move, and Microsoft will most likely never publish a 2D game.
Nintendo DS owners are most likely going to be the only people playing 2D games in the near future, as the PSP is looking to follow Sony's philosophy on 2D games and continually deliver 3D games in the future. The only 2D game that comes to mind when thinking in the future is Castlevania DS, and even though Castlevania is one of the best game franchises, even it won't be able to continue its 2D tradition against the high demand for 3D games.
Sorry to dissapoint, but 2D gaming is will literally be a thing of the past in the next year or so.
"In your opinion is Nintendo going to hold up against Sony and Microsoft. Will
the DS be able to compete with PSP in this new generation of handhelds?"
A: This is a very tough question, since Nintendo is gearing up for it's major releases like Castevania DS, Kirby: Canvas Curse (which is out now), Super Mario Bros., Nintendogs, and Sonic Rush; Sony has been slowing down with it's strong lineup of release games for the PSP. The main problem with the DS is that it forces developers to be deviously creative with both the touch-screen technology, and the dual screens. Development for the PSP is easier on developers, as they don't have to worry about fully fleshing out the creative properties of the device, but rather push the hardware to its limit and deliver a beautiful looking handheld game. (On an anime-related note, check out Bandai's Ghost In The Shell: SAC game.
In future applications, the PSP is supposedly going to act as a media link for images, movies, and music that you have on your PS3 hard-drive, and will supposedly be capable of connecting to your media no matter where you are (provided you have a connection). It will also act as a wireless controller via Bluetooth for the PS3. Another thing Sony has up it's sleeve is actually to get the pornography business involved, seeing as it has already lined up 8 porn titles to be released in UMD format over in Japan. Time can only tell to see if Sony of America will adopt this idea and release American porn titles in UMD.
But possibly the biggest advantage the PSP has over the DS is it's ability to be hacked into using web applications, and the ability to convert any movie you have on your computer to play on your PSP.. Since the release of the PSP, hackers have been hard at work making the PSP a web-ready device, which actually makes it more attractive premise to web-obsessed Japanese gamers. Another interesting idea whispered to me was the capability to have a MMO on the PSP, can anyone say World Of WorldCraft: PSP edition?
But not to be outdone, the DS and GBA are also able to play movies and music. Using the Play-Yan device, SD memory card owners (found mainly in digital cameras) are able to place their media files on the card and play the movies and music on their GBA's and DS'. The upper hand is held here in the media section since the GBA has such a long battery life (11 hours with the backlight on), which may make it more appealing to hardcore movielovers.
But, of course, we can't forget Nintendo's little social maneuver called the GameBoy Micro. No, its not the next generation in the GameBoy family, and no, it has nothing new in the means in technology (except a brighter and clearer screen allowing for easier text reading); what it basically is, and I quote, "for kids who felt embarassed carrying around a GBA SP", thank you Reggie. This worries me, seeing Nintendo actually making an investment to make it more socially acceptable to carry around a GBA.
For those who think ahead, this also means that Nintendo is not evolving its GBA to bring another compeditor to the handheld market, but rather clinging onto its main money-maker. The GBA is still currently the #1 selling console in Japan, and Nintendo looks to be too attached to its cash-cow to move on to new technology. The last company I would imagine that would worry about social standards and making gaming "cool" would be Nintendo, but it looks like they have stooped to the mainstream level in this situation. The ploy is to get the cell-phone addicted kids out there to buy a GBA, since it is about the size of a Nokia phone, but my question to Nintendo is: Is there really a viable market that you already haven't cornered with the GBA SP already? Is it really worth going through with developing and manufacturing a 3rd generation GBA instead of spending that money on development on a true compeditor to the PSP?
One thing that the DS has that actually made me go out and pick one up myself was the introduction of Nintendo's free online service. The two games that will be online ready, Animal Crossing and Mario Kart, were already titles that I wished were online when they were originally released, so this is more or less their complete versions. With these baby-steps in online gaming, with the assistance of GameSpy, Nintendo will finally realise the power of the internet. Nintendo has always been a content company, where its games were always about the experience you have with other people, and not those you would connect over a LAN or broadband; this move into the online world could mean the rejuvenation of public outlook of the DS.
If you have a worthwhile question, please feel free to post it here at the forums. There will be a good amount of time to get your questions in before the next article, so feel free.
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