Nintendo and Sony temper console expectations ahead of E3

Nintendo and Sony temper console expectations ahead of E3

2:06pm, 26th April, 2019
just over a month away, and per usual, the news in the lead up has offered more insight into what we won’t be hearing about at the big gaming show. Late last year, Sony announced that it would be its big annual press conference at the event. The move marks a key absence for the gaming giant for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, as the company will instead be “exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019.” The sentiment should ring familiar for those who follow the gaming industry. Several years ago Nintendo made a similar move, eschewing the in-person press conference for the online Nintendo Direct “Treehouse” it uses to showcase new trailers. It’s a method Nintendo has held to ever since. Game publisher Square Enix this week happily slid into Sony’s prime-time slot, leaving the last of the remaining three major console makers with a press conference at the Los Angeles event. The death of shows like E3 has been overstated throughout the years, of course. These things tend to move in cycles, with much of the hype tied specifically to new system reveals. Microsoft took the wraps off its disc-free this month, leaving many wondering what the company could still have up its sleeve for the June event. Earlier this week, meanwhile, Sony batted away suggestions that the PlayStation 5 was coming soon. Details are, not surprisingly, still vague, but the company says the next-gen console won’t be arriving in the next six months. On its earnings call, Nintendo that it would launch a low-cost version of the Switch. The console has been a wild success for the company on the heels of the disappointing Wii U, but slowing sales have pointed to Nintendo’s longstanding tradition of offering modified hardware. Rumors have largely pointed to a lower-cost version of the system that can only be played in portable mode. None of this is to say we got some kind of preview. Companies love to tease these sorts of things out, but it does appear that the big three are tempering expectations for the show. That leaves some opening for other players — of course, E3 has long been dominated by the big three. Among the other rumors currently circulating ahead of the show is a 2-in-1 gaming tablet from Nvidia.
Microsoft unveils $250 Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, its first console without a disc drive

Microsoft unveils $250 Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, its first console without a disc drive

4:17pm, 16th April, 2019
The new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition. (Microsoft Photo) Microsoft today unveiled the new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, confirming rumors of the . The $250 console — $50 less than other Xbox One S models — is geared toward gamers who prefer to download games digitally rather than buy physical discs. The new console is another example of Microsoft shifting’s gaming strategy to focus on reaching more gamers on a variety of devices and a greater emphasis on cloud-based gaming. Xbox One S All-Digital Edition will go on sale starting May 7 and come bundled with , and . Microsoft is painting the new device as the most affordable way to play Xbox games and guaranteed that it will remain less expensive than other consoles even as prices fluctuate. Microsoft today also announced plans to , the company’s rotating catalog of 100 games that users can download. The $15 per month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will roll out later this year. Microsoft might have another new console up its sleeve. A second rumored Microsoft project, “” is designed to work with Microsoft’s planned game streaming service. There’s a chance it could be unveiled at the big E3 gaming conference, where Microsoft promised its . The all-digital console feels like a bridge to the company’s grander vision where users can play Xbox games on any number of devices. It has taken other steps to get there, including to Android and iOS devices. The shift will really kick into high gear later this year when the ambitious Project xCloud begins public trials later this year. Microsoft will look to leverage its cloud presence by making it possible for people to play high-powered Xbox games on smartphones. The news of the new Xbox console comes as rival Sony on plans for its next-generation console. The new model won’t arrive this year, and it will feature capability that provides a greater degree of visual realism and ship with a solid-state drive to make it easier to seamlessly load big-budget, open-world games.
Commentary: Sony’s next-generation PlayStation console feels like a victory lap

Commentary: Sony’s next-generation PlayStation console feels like a victory lap

2:30pm, 16th April, 2019
Sony lifted the hood on its next PlayStation console in a today featuring an interview with Mark Cerny, the lead architect of the PlayStation 4. To summarize briefly, the new model won’t arrive this year, will feature capability that provides a greater degree of visual realism by allowing even better simulation of light and sound, and most importantly, will ship with a solid-state drive. The addition of a solid-state drive is notable, given that big-budget games at the moment tend to involve big, open worlds for the player to explore, which means the game has to load an entire, miles-wide map when you fire the game up. A solid-state drive would allow nearly seamless transitions for console games. But overall, Cerny makes it sound like the PlayStation 5 (which isn’t officially named that yet, but let’s stick with it for now) is based around a few quality-of-life changes, rather than marking a seismic transition between console generations. The PS5 isn’t the stalking horse for a new media brand, as the PlayStation 2 was for DVDs or the PS3 was for Blu-Ray discs; it’ll at least be backwards compatible with your PS4 library; and you’ll still be able to buy discs for it. It’s just a new, more powerful, more versatile PlayStation. This is perversely refreshing. For the last few console generations, success or failure has generally been determined by which of the major players went first, and thus, made the first big mistake. The PlayStation 2 launched against weak competition (Sega’s , while the GameCube and the first Xbox didn’t come out until the next year), and promptly took over the console market. Drunk on that success, Sony launched the PS3 in 2006 and . Microsoft promptly leapt into the gap with the cheaper, easier-to-use Xbox 360, pulled out in front, and immediately squandered that lead with initial reports for the Xbox One. At launch, the console wouldn’t allow games to be traded or resold, and was intended to require consumers to have the Xbox One “phone home” via the Internet every 24 hours to renew its licenses. The company immediately had to , which handed Sony an easy marketing win for the PS4. Meanwhile, Nintendo stayed off in its own lane, making a off of its typically lower-powered devices. The average Nintendo console has significantly less under the hood than its major competitors, but Nintendo actually builds its machines so they turn a profit per sale, whereas both Sony and Microsoft . In a lot of ways, Nintendo is in a different games industry than its competitors, and always has been. With the PS5, Sony is planning to reenter a marketplace that’s in a constant state of flux, with no stated plans to do anything but offer more of the same. It currently enjoys a , so why not? Nothing is broken on Sony’s end, so there’s nothing to fix. It’s the mark of a secure, seasoned competitor that’s actually learned from past mistakes, when the last few console generations have all been marked by one company joyfully throwing its lead away at launch. However, it’s also coming up to bat in a video game industry that’s in a greater state of flux than normal. Google’s streaming service Stadia promises to put serious marketing and programming muscle behind cloud-based gaming in a way that can’t help but change the landscape around it. Microsoft already has a streaming service of its own, as well as new initiatives such as the, the, and bringing to its competitors’ platforms. Sony does run the risk of bringing a machine to market that’s “just” a traditional games console, when other major players are focusing on redefining how games are played. Still, it can afford to do that. Depending on how you look at the data, Sony has roughly two-thirds of the console market on lock. If Microsoft or Google do end up causing a small-scale revolution, all Sony has to do is offer a new option and it’s golden. The big challenge for Sony right now isn’t withstanding the competition; it’s simply sitting back and not screwing up.
A console in the cloud: Google unveils ‘Stadia’ streaming service, looks to shake up video games

A console in the cloud: Google unveils ‘Stadia’ streaming service, looks to shake up video games

12:44pm, 19th March, 2019
Google unveiled a new gaming streaming service called Stadia on Tuesday morning, looking to shake up the video game world by leveraging its experience in cloud technology, and posing a new threat to fellow tech giants that operate the dominant gaming platforms. The search giant’s announcement promises to accelerate the industry’s evolution away from high-end hardware in the living room and toward streaming technology in the cloud. The move will be closely watched by existing game platform providers such as Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve, Sony and Apple, some of whom are or their own streaming services. Google is unveiling its plans this morning at GDC, the Game Developers Conference, starting at 10 a.m. Watch the live stream above and stay tuned for updates. The company also unveiled a Stadia controller with a dedicated button for sharing and saving gameplay on YouTube, and another button to get help from Google Assistant, using a built-in microphone. The connection to Google’s dominant video platform illustrates the potential threat to Amazon’s Twitch. Google gaming exec Phil Harrison shows the new Stadia controller. (Screenshot via YouTube.) The search giant previewed its gaming ambitions with Project Stream, a test that allowed gamers to play a streamed version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in Chrome web browsers, with the game streamed from a Google data center rather than running on the user’s hardware. “Internally, we were actually testing our ability to stream high fidelity graphics over a low latency network,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, in his opening remarks at the event this morning. “We learned that we could bring a Triple-A game to any device with a Chrome browser and an Internet connection, using the best of Google to create a powerful game platform.” Sundar Pichai unveils Google’s plans. (Image via live stream.) Phil Harrison, the former Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation executive who now leads Google’s gaming initiatives, said the company was able to stream games at 1080p and 60 frames per second in that test. “We will be handing that extraordinary power of the data center to you, the game developers.” Previewing the features of the Stadia service, Harrison showed the ability to jump directly into a game from a YouTube trailer, without any download required. “This new generation of gaming is not a box,” he said. “With Stadia, the data center is your platform. There is no console that limits the developer’s creative ideas, and no console that limits where gamers can play.” As the operator of a large-scale cloud platform, Google is in a unique position to launch a streaming service. , “It’s not a new technology, but past stabs at it have fizzled mostly because of latency issues, a problem that Google’s decision-makers think they can solve thanks to the data centers they’ve got all around the world.” Developing story, refresh for updates.
A console in the cloud? Google looks to shake up video games with streaming technology

A console in the cloud? Google looks to shake up video games with streaming technology

12:08pm, 19th March, 2019
The eyes of the video game world are on Google this morning, amid widespread speculation that the tech giant is preparing to unveil a new gaming service. Google’s expected announcement promises to accelerate the industry’s evolution away from high-end hardware in the living room and toward streaming technology in the cloud. The move will be closely watched by existing game platform providers such as Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve, Sony and Apple, some of whom are or their own streaming services. The search giant previewed its gaming ambitions with Project Stream, a test that allowed gamers to play a streamed version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in Chrome web browsers, with the game streamed from a Google data center rather than running on the user’s hardware. Google will unveil its plans this morning at GDC, the Game Developers Conference. The company will deliver the keynote address starting at 10 a.m. this morning. As the operator of a large-scale cloud platform, Google is in a unique position to launch a streaming service. , “It’s not a new technology, but past stabs at it have fizzled mostly because of latency issues, a problem that Google’s decision-makers think they can solve thanks to the data centers they’ve got all around the world.” Watch the live stream above and stay tuned for updates.
Nintendo Switch tops 3M units in latest quarter, surpasses GameCube in lifetime console sales

Nintendo Switch tops 3M units in latest quarter, surpasses GameCube in lifetime console sales

7:58am, 30th October, 2018
Source: Nintendo Nintendo sold 3.19 million Switch consoles worldwide , up from 2.92 million units in the same period a year ago, reaching a lifetime total of 22.86 million units for the hybrid home/mobile console, surpassing the 2001-2007 era Nintendo GameCube in cumulative sales. The result, , signals a continued strong reception for the Nintendo Switch, which had already exceeded its immediate predecessor, the Wii U, in lifetime unit sales. For the upcoming holiday season, Nintendo is counting a major lift from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Nintendo Switch, set for release on Dec. 7; and Pokémon: Let’s Go! Pikachu/ Let’s Go! Eevee, scheduled for release on Nov. 17 on the Switch. The Pokémon games will be released in conjunction with a separately sold, $50 device called the . Nintendo maintained its forecast of 20 million units sold for the Switch for the current fiscal year, which ends in March 2019. So far, in the first six months of the fiscal year, the company has sold 5.07 million units of the Switch, . During an interview at the GeekWire Summit in October, Reggie Fils-Aimé, president and COO of Redmon-based Nintendo of America, explained how the company learned from the Wii U in developing the concept for the Switch, which can be picked up and taken on the go. “Certainly without our experiences on the Wii U we would not have the Nintendo Switch in terms of what we learned, and importantly what we heard from our consumers,” he said. “They were telling us, I want to play with this tablet, this Gamepad, for the Wii U, but as soon as I get more than 30 feet away, it disconnects. So the core concept, something that you could take with you anywhere, anytime, was really compelling. So it was an important step for us to be able to deliver on this proposition.” [Watch a GeekWire TLDR video report on Fils-Aimé’s comments above, and .] By comparison, Sony this morning said it in the September quarter. Microsoft no longer discloses Xbox unit sales, but , “Gaming revenue increased $842 million or 44%, driven by Xbox software and services revenue growth of 36%, due to third-party title strength, and Xbox hardware revenue growth of 94%, against a low prior year comparable due to timing of the Xbox One X launch in the second quarter of fiscal year 2018.” Operating profit in the July-September quarter , up from 23.8 billion yen a year ago. The outcome fell short of analysts’ estimates but qualified as the company’s . Nintendo said its results were helped strong sales of Switch games including Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (1.67 million units; May release) and Mario Tennis Aces (2.16 million units; June release). Total software sales for Nintendo Switch reached 42.13 million units, the company said.
How Nintendo learned from a Wii U disappointment to create the popular Switch console

How Nintendo learned from a Wii U disappointment to create the popular Switch console

2:44pm, 3rd October, 2018
Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé holds a Nintendo Switch during a fireside chat at the GeekWire Summit 2018 in Seattle on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire) For Nintendo, the past six years have been a lesson in learning from disappointment and rebounding with record-breaking success. Speaking on stage at the GeekWire Summit on Wednesday, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé talked about how the video game giant went from facing lower-than-expected sales with its Wii U console to creating the Nintendo Switch that flew off store shelves. The Nintendo Switch debuted last year and is already one of the most , with sales nearing 20 million units. The device, which doubles as a handheld and traditional console, helped from its previous console launch, the Wii U, which wasn’t as popular with gamers. But sometimes failures can lead to success, and that’s what happened for Nintendo. “We had launched the Wii U, following on the heels of the Wii, which had sold 100 million units globally,” said Fils-Aimé, who joined Nintendo in 2003. “The Wii U did not have that same level of success. But what we heard from consumers is that the proposition of a tablet that they could experience gameplay [with], coupled with the ability to play games on the big screen TV, was really compelling.” The Switch comes with a docking station, two Joy-Con controllers, and a Joy-Con Grip to make a more traditional controller. (Nintendo Photo) Consumers also wanted a system that could exist not only inside the home, but go with them on the bus or to the park. The Wii U wasn’t necessarily a “beta test” for the Switch, Fils-Aimé said, but it was essential for what ultimately became the Switch. “WIthout our experiences on the Wii U, we would not have the Nintendo Switch in terms of what we learned and importantly what we heard from our consumers,” he said. “They were telling us, ‘I want to play with this tablet, this gamepad for the Wii U, but as soon as I get more than 30 feet away it disconnects.’ So the core concept, something that you could take with you anywhere anytime, was really compelling.” Michael Pachter, a research analyst for Wedbush Securities, said Nintendo launched the Wii U too late and with limited software support. “The device was complicated and awkward, and it didn’t resonate with consumers,” he said in an email. “They then launched the Switch (also very late), but since it is essentially a handheld, it was familiar to anyone who grew up with a GameBoy device, and it had a ton of first and third party software support.” Asked about leadership tactics he used while guiding Nintendo through the Wii U letdown, Fils-Aimé said reinvention is “in our DNA.” “We reinvent ourselves every five, ten years,” he said. “We have to, in this fast-moving entertainment business.” Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé holds a Nintendo Labo, a new line of DIY kits, while on stage at the GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire) Having a balanced perspective on success and failure is also key, Fils-Aimé said, echoing a Nintendo philosophy about staying even-keeled. “When you’re doing well, don’t be excited about that high-flying performance,” Fils-Aimé said. “When you’re doing poorly, don’t be sad. Always have an even keel and always focus on the next big adventure. And that’s what we do.” The success of the Switch has been a boon for Nintendo’s bottom line. The company posted of $1.51 billion, a 9 percent increase from the year before, and operating profits of $275 million, up 88 percent over last year. “Nintendo isn’t going anywhere,” Pachter said. “They’re consistently profitable and have a large cash cushion, so I think they’ll be around for another 100 years.”
Profits soar for Nintendo and Sony despite slight console sales slowdown

Profits soar for Nintendo and Sony despite slight console sales slowdown

11:49am, 31st July, 2018
(Nintendo Photo) Sony and Nintendo both reported their quarterly financials Tuesday, and the gaming giants brought in sizable profits despite a slight slowdown in game console sales. Nintendo has and 86.93 million games. Switch has come out of the gate since its spring 2017 release as one of the most , and it has a been a boon for Nintendo. Nintendo has set a goal of in the current fiscal year. For the quarter, it sold 1.88 million consoles, which is down slightly from this time a year ago and behind the pace the company set for itself. Nintendo has put up some huge quarterly numbers in recent months, comparing current figures with the pre-Switch era. But annual comparisons now factor in the impact of Switch, and it will be interesting to see what the balance sheets look like now that the initial spurt caused by the successful console has past. Nintendo posted of $1.51 billion, represent only a 9 percent increase from the year before. However, operating profits of $275 million are up 88 percent over last year. Sony, which is powered by a variety of different divisions, beyond just gaming, $2.1 billion in profits on $17.9 billion in revenue. The company’s gaming division was responsible for $4.2 billion in revenue and $746 million in profits, more than twice as much as any other organization within the company. Sony moved 3.2 million PS4s in the quarter — also down slightly from a year ago, but less of a drop off than the company had previously warned. More than 40 million games sold during the quarter. Despite the slowing console sales, both companies have reason to be optimistic. Both have major releases in the coming months — Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and two Pokémon Let’s Go games for Nintendo and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Battlefield V and Red Dead Redemption 2 for PlayStation. Microsoft’s Xbox division doesn’t break out a lot of these numbers, such as the number of consoles sold. But it’s , which includes Xbox hardware, Xbox and software and services, games made by Microsoft as well as other studios brought in $2.29 billion in revenue in the quarter, surpassing Nintendo but behind Sony.