By Peter Nowak - Friday, February 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
It’s looking more and more like the Wii U is a flop, with at least one analyst describing it as such after Nintendo revealed disappointing sales numbers this week. The company was hoping to sell 5 million game consoles by March 31, but has now cut that projection to 4 million, with game expectations taking an even bigger downgrade – 16 million rather than 24 million.
The rising tide of mobile games in Asia is one factor for the slower sales. Anecdotally, the fact that it doesn’t really outshine existing competitors in any way is probably another.
Post Arcade had a telling story on Monday about another factor, the waning third-party support for the console. As with the company’s previous two consoles, the GameCube and Wii, support for the Wii U started out strong with its launch in November, but is now starting to lag.
By Peter Nowak - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 4:38 PM - 0 Comments
It’s not much of a stretch to predict that we’re going to see some new video game consoles this year. It might be a little surprising, however, to suggest that Microsoft is going to jump to a commanding lead in this ongoing console war and that the battle may go from the current three players to four–at least for the time being.
The writing on the wall couldn’t be more obvious in regards to new consoles, at least from Microsoft and likely from Sony as well. Slowing console sales are one indicator, but perhaps the most telling hint is Microsoft’s first-party release schedule.
The company has typically rotated its two biggest franchises, Halo and Gears of War, over successive holiday periods, with the former coming one year and the latter the next. Yet this time around, Halo 4 saw its release this past September while Gears of War: Judgment is scheduled for a March, 2013 launch. The two biggest franchises released within months of each other? What’s going on?
By Chris Sorensen - Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 8:10 AM - 0 Comments
Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are struggling to reinvent video games as touchscreens and tablets take over the living room
Nintendo’s 2006 launch of the Wii console marked a new era for video games. With its innovative motion-sensing controllers, used to mimic the swing of a tennis racquet or golf club, the $250 Wii immediately struck a chord with gamers and non-gamers alike. Amazon sold out of its initial stock of sleek, white Wii consoles in just seven minutes.
The Wii’s unexpected success catapulted third-ranked Nintendo to the top of the video game industry, ahead of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3—both of which are more powerful (and more expensive) machines. More importantly, it suggested a much wider potential market for game consoles beyond basement-dwelling teenagers.
But the renaissance has proved short-lived. Console sales have declined dramatically in recent years as existing systems grow long in the tooth. Nintendo posted a loss of $530 million this year, its first since 1981. And competition from tablets and smartphones, with their cheap, downloadable games, threatens to steal away millions of casual gamers. “Tablets and smartphones are the black hole of the consumer electronics industry right now, sucking the growth out of everything else,” says Kaan Yigit, the president of Toronto’s Solutions Research Group, a consumer research firm. “The growth rates we saw after Wii first came out are but a distant memory.”
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
Perhaps for the first time ever, Canadians will have first and exclusive access to a hot new piece of technology. On Dec. 7, the Nintendo Wii Mini will be on sale in Canada, and only in Canada.
Just what is going on here?
Wired breaks it down to two possible scenarios:
1) In the U.S., the original Wii is already on sale for as little as $130 with bundled games, and it still sells briskly. A $99 Wii Mini, which lacks Internet connectivity, presents no particular bargain to American consumers. But in Canada, you’ll have trouble finding an original Wii for less than $150, so the Mini is a good deal.
2) In the U.S., 25% of Netflix subscribers use their Wiis to stream video onto their TVs. There are tons of dedicated gadgets that’ll sling the Internet over to your TV screen, but most of them start at $100. Throwing this capability onto a console is a major value-add for Americans. Not so much for Canadians, because Netflix isn’t nearly as popular here. That’s because the Netflix library is much smaller in Canada and because our ISPs tax us with crazy fees when we burst through our miserly bandwidth caps, resulting in a true cost for HD Netflix that’s well over the $7.99 monthly subscription fee.
So: maybe we’re a good first market for a cheap-o Wii because we inexplicably pay higher prices than Americans for the same products with our more valuable dollars. Or, maybe we’re a good market because of our lousy Internet service. Either way, there’s nothing here to be proud of.
I’ll throw a third possibility into the mix, which is just as depressing:
Consumer electronics are settling down from a cycle of rapid innovation to one of global market exploitation. Tablets, smart phones and motion detecting game consoles will increasingly be offered in stripped down, bare-bones forms to 2nd world markets–places where people can’t afford the slickest new iPad, and where they lack the telecom infrastructure and content licensing to make full use of such gadgets if they did.
Maybe Nintendo is offering the Wii Mini to Canada first because we present a low-risk test-market for such releases. Instead of being, as we’ve dreamed, the testing ground for the world’s hottest new innovations, maybe Canadians will become the industry’s downmarket guinea pigs.
Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Sony’s powerful mobile gaming machine has trouble competing with smartphones, tablets and an Italian plumber
Sony’s Vita portable game console has won positive reviews, but so far consumers are taking a pass. Since first going on sale in December, Sony has sold just 2.2 million of the devices. By contrast, Nintendo has sold 19 million units of its competing 3DS since it went on sale in early 2011. Analysts blame a crowded gaming market increasingly dominated by smartphones and tablets, which also allow people to play games. Gamers, meanwhile, complain about a lack of titles for the Vita. Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai, who took over at the struggling electronics giant in April, responded to the critics this week when he told Reuters that Vita sales are in line with expectations and that the PlayStation 3 got off to a similarly slow start. But in the wake of last year’s shocking US$5.8-billion loss, Hirai needs to do more than just hold the line with Vita. He needs another Walkman.
By Peter Nowak - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 12:38 PM - 0 Comments
Sony’s next-generation handheld video game system, the whimsically named Vita, officially launches on Feb. 22 after shipping out this week to those who pre-ordered it. It’s a very impressive and attractively priced device–you can read my full review here.
At the Vita’s launch party in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, I chatted with Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, about the Vita, PlayStation and game trends in general. The Vita, as it turns out, comes along at a time of major change in the gaming industry.
Smartphones and tablets have opened up an entirely new frontier for the industry, with people who wouldn’t previously be caught playing video games now idling away for hours on Angry Birds and the like. Nintendo, Sony’s traditional rival in the handheld market, has already felt the pain, as people turned away from the more expensive and involved software produced for such devices and toward cheaper and simpler mobile games.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Nintendo new product is causing some skepticism
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata unveiled the hotly anticipated successor to the Wii gaming console last week at the E3 games show in Los Angeles. The Wii U, which won’t go on sale until next year, features a tablet-style controller that lets gamers take the game “off the TV,” and play using both screens or surf the Internet. But while the device got a warm reception from the assembled masses, it didn’t fare so well among investors. Nintendo’s shares fell nearly 10 per cent over the following two days. Analysts said it wasn’t immediately clear how the device worked. Was it just another tablet, or a whole new outlook on gaming, as Iwata promised? It didn’t help that no full-fledged games are yet available to demo the hardware. Of course, the original Wii was met with a similar puzzled response following its initial debut five years ago. Nintendo’s shares later tripled as the console went on to become a bestseller.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Manufacturers are rushing out new 3-D TV products, but some analysts see trouble ahead
At a recent trade show in Tokyo, Toshiba unveiled a 3-D television that doesn’t require users to wear bulky glasses. “A dream TV is now a reality,” said Masaaki Oosumi, president of Toshiba Visual Products. The main impediment to widespread 3-D TV adoption has always been that consumers—at least half of them, according to Nielsen research—refuse to buy 3-D TVs because of the hassle of wearing special glasses.
Despite that obstacle, industry research firm iSuppli estimates that by 2015, 40 per cent of TVs sold will be 3-D. Other manufacturers are betting on 3-D, too. Nintendo will soon launch a glasses-free hand-held gaming console, the 3DS. But even as manufacturers rush to churn out more 3-D products, some analysts say the sales predictions are too bullish. “If [the iSuppli forecast] is true, I’ll eat my light bulb,” says Alan Middleton, a consumer behaviour expert at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto. It’s true that Toshiba has overcome the biggest hurdle to mainstream adoption, but consumers can be fickle, says Middleton. For one thing, 3-D appeals particularly to sports fans and their “dream TV” doesn’t max out at 20 inches, like the new Toshiba. It also likely costs less than the Toshiba’s $2,950 price tag. Then there’s the question of comfort. The new Toshiba model produces its 3-D effect by shooting nine beams of light at each eye at slightly different angles. But to get a clear picture, viewers need to position themselves at a specific angle to the screen.
Another challenge for manufacturers will be to convince the average consumer to buy 3-D TVs when most TV content still isn’t filmed in 3-D. After all, “no one seriously expects all TV programming to gradually be converted to 3-D, unlike HD,” says Stewart Clarke, editor of TV industry magazine TBI. “There’s unlikely to be much demand to watch the six o’clock news in 3-D,” he adds. For those reasons, Clarke says it’s still too early to know if 3-D will become the new standard at home. Middleton agrees. “Mass adoption is certainly not going to happen in five years,” he says. “In 10 years, it’s possible, but before then? I expect not.”
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, May 28, 2010 at 4:23 PM - 5 Comments
Can it take a bite out of the $20-billion video game industry?
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs stepped on stage in San Francisco last January to introduce the iPad, much was made of the potential threat to the ballooning e-reader market—particularly Amazon’s hot-selling Kindle device. But it wasn’t just the digital book world that was paying close attention. So were the head honchos at video game giant Nintendo, the makers of the popular Wii console and hand-held DS device.
Downloadable video games have been part of the iPhone universe for a while—a game called Angry Birds is currently listed as the App Store’s top download—but the experience of playing a free or 99 cent game on your iPhone has so far paled in comparison to what Nintendo’s DS or Sony’s PlayStation Portable offers. The iPad, on the other hand, threatens to raise the stakes with its bigger screen and more capable hardware, taking a bite out of what has become a US$20-billion industry for consoles and games.
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 4:00 PM - 4 Comments
Microsoft exec Don Mattrick may change how the world plays
In 1982, at the age of 17, Don Mattrick created his first video game. What he couldn’t know then was that he was helping lay the foundation of Vancouver’s game industry, and taking a first step toward last week’s appearance on a stage in L.A., shoulder to shoulder with director Steven Spielberg. Mattrick, head of Microsoft’s video game division since 2007, was a featured speaker at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. And what he unveiled promises to revolutionize the way people play video games.
Code-named Project Natal, it uses sophisticated cameras and microphones to translate one’s body movements into action on the screen. No buttons to push. No wireless controller to swing around. If you can walk, jump, swing your arms and talk, you’re ready to play. But if Mattrick’s background is rooted in shoot-’em-ups and racing games, his real ambition is far grander. He’s using the company’s Xbox gaming system to lead Microsoft in a battle for control of your living room.
By Nancy Macdonald - Monday, December 22, 2008 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Shops can’t keep it in stock. Used, they sell for thrice the price. Meet the Wii Fit—if you can.
One retailer just laughs. Another tells me to come back Tuesday morning, when they may be getting a new shipment. “But come early,” cautions the clerk at Vancouver’s EB Games, a downtown video game store. “They’ll be gone within an hour.” It’s the same story across North America, Britain and Australia, where, in curious defiance of retail’s sweeping slump, Nintendo’s Wii Fit—a home-workout program disguised as a game—is racking up sensational sales.
Funnily enough, critics, gamers and industry insiders were initially cool to the Wii Fit, which was first announced in July 2007 by Shigeru Miyamoto, the Walt Disney of the gaming world, whose credits include Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong. Consumers, however, thought differently. It sold over a million copies in its first month on Japanese shelves—roughly one for every 127 people in Japan—and went on to become the fastest-selling game ever in Britain, where it debuted in April, 2008.