This Week’s Videogame Releases

There are a handful of interesting videogame releases this week. Leading the way is Kingdom of Amalur: The Reckoning, the debut title from Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios. The game combines the formidable talents of Ken Rolston (lead designer of several games in The Elder Scrolls series), R.A. Salvatore (renowned Forgotten Realms author and creator of Drizz’t), and Todd McFarlane (buyer of expensive baseballs). Fans of dark and gritty comics looking for a dark and gritty comic-book game will want to check out The Darkness II. Lastly, Resident Evil: Revelations brings Capcom’s famous survival-horror franchise to the Nintendo 3DS.

Any of you picking up new games this week?

Nintendo Boasts Four-Million 3DS Units Sold in America

Nintendo recently sent out a press release covering its 2011 sales. I know that a few of you are under the impression the 3DS performed poorly last year. With that in mind, are you surprised to learn that the company sold four-million systems in the United States alone? Remember, Nintendo sold 2.37-million DS systems in America during its first year of availability.

Oh yeah, Nintendo sold a bunch of other things too. Here’s a clip from the press release:

Nintendo sold more than 12 million total hardware units in the United States in 2011, marking the fifth year in a row that the company has accomplished that feat. This includes more than 4.5 million units of Wii, more than 4 million Nintendo 3DS systems, and more than 3.4 million units of the Nintendo DS family of systems. This brings the installed base for Wii and Nintendo DS to 39 million and more than 51 million, respectively.

Certainly Nintendo is in a valley period at the moment, with the DS and Wii at the end of their life cycles. The 3DS is less than a year old and the Wii U is a future release, so expect the down period to continue. The two takeaways here are that Nintendo has recovered nicely from its stumble out of the gate with the 3DS and that even in a down period the company moves an impressive amount of hardware.

Any of you surprised by Nintendo’s U.S. sales figures? Did you expect the 3DS would sell four-million units in 2011?

Free GBA Games for 3DS Ambassadors

Nintendo has announced 10 new Game Boy Advance freebies for 3DS Ambassadors. The games will be available on Friday December 16…in Europe and Japan. No word on what games American 3DS Ambassdors will be getting. Hopefully they’re the same because there’s some awesome stuff on the list. Check it out:

F-Zero Maximum Velocity
Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Mario vs. Donkey Kong
Metroid Fusion
Wario Land 4
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames

Man, I have incredibly fond memories of most of these games and would love to play them on my 3DS. Hopefully Nintendo of America does us U.S. Americans right and offers the same titles.

Shigeru Miyamoto Retiring, Shigeru Miyamoto Not Retiring

Yesterday, my excellent friend Wired Chris Kohler reported that Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto was planning to “retire” or “step down” in order to work on smaller projects. For the last decade or so, Miyamoto has been more manager than creator. On the handful of occasions I’ve gotten to chat with him, he always mentioned that he missed working on smaller teams and having a more creative role.

Nintendo promptly denied the story, chalking it up to a misunderstanding. Some are speculating that the denial had something (everything?) to do with the company’s stock dipping two percent after Kohler’s story spread throughout the Internet.

In my heart, I believe that Miyamoto has been tired of being in upper management for a long time. I believe that he’d love to “step down” and work on a smaller team with a more creative role. What do you think is really going on? Is Nintendo covering its ass due to the stock dip? Or was this really all a misunderstanding? Post your theory in the comments section (please!).

Are You Sure Nintendo is “Teh Doomed”?

Nintendo recently sent out a press release with numbers that surprised me. Apparently the Nintendo 3DS is on pace to outsell the Nintendo DS. Using the U.S. sales figures for the DS and the first eight months of the 3DS’ sales, Nintendo’s number crunchers came up with some interesting findings. Check ’em out:

In its eighth month on the market, the Nintendo 3DS system crossed 1.65 million units sold in the U.S., according to the NPD Group, which tracks video game sales in the United States. This milestone puts the platform on track to surpass the first-year total of Nintendo DS, the best-selling game platform in U.S. history.

The Nintendo DS system sold 2.37 million units in its first 12 months (November 2004-October 2005), with approximately 50 percent of those sales occurring in the holiday time frame. With its first holiday season and the launches of the Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 games on the horizon, Nintendo 3DS is poised to eclipse that number and establish a new benchmark for hand-held gaming launches in the United States.

I’m not smart enough to argue with NPD numbers, but I’m sure some of you are (or married to someone that is), so have at it! The one thing to keep in mind is that Nintendo is talking strictly in terms of unit sales. Given the complexity of the 3DS, the current economic climate, the increased cost of fuel, and the soaring yen (not my stage name), I’m sure that revenue and profits are another matter entirely.

What do you make of Nintendo’s claim? Are you surprised that the 3DS is on pace to outsell the DS?

PETA vs. Mario: The Great Tanooki Controversy

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has gone after an unlikely target: Nintendo’s Mario. As many of you know, Mario dons a tanooki costume in Super Mario Bros. 3 and more recently in Super Mario 3D Land. PETA sees Nintendo’s use of the tanooki suit as encouraging animal cruelty. The organization even made a game called Super Tanooki Skin 2D that denounces Nintendo. Here’s more from the site:

When on a mission to rescue the princess, Mario has been known to use any means necessary to defeat his enemy — even wearing the skin of a raccoon dog to give him special powers.

Tanooki may be just a “suit” in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur.

I’m not a fan of fur by any means, but PETA’s campaign seems completely misguided to me. Nintendo is one of the most family-friendly developers and publishers in gaming. Mario is one of the most wholesome videogame characters in history. Legendary designer and Super Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto is a known animal lover. Surely there are better companies for the organization to target, no?

Never for a second did I think that Nintendo had malicious intentions with the tanooki suit. It’s simply a cute costume that gives Mario silly powers. Does PETA honestly think that kids are going to be all, “Hey, know what would be awesome? Wearing fur!” after playing as Mario in the tanooki suit?

Naturally, I want to hear your opinion on this matter. While PETA certainly has a point in a literal sense, is it being misguided in going after Nintendo? Do kids get the message that wearing fur is okay from seeing Tanooki Mario in Super Mario Bros. 3?


This Week’s Videogame Releases (Mario! Zelda!)

It’s a Nintendo sandwich this week with Super Mario 3D Land kicking things off and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword wrapping it up. In between those Nintendo games are fine titles like Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Need for Speed: The Run, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Saints Row: The Third, Rayman Origins, and Kinect: Disneyland Adventures.

Any of you picking up new games this (absolutely loaded) week?

Smartphone Gaming Growing Rapidly, Nintendo DS Declining

[Updated 9:21AM PST] Flurry Analytics posted a fascinating pie chart (as fascinating as pie charts get, anyway) that illustrates the rapid growth of Android and iOS gaming, as well as the decline of Nintendo DS gaming. According to the company, Android and iOS are responsible for approximately 58 percent of U.S. portable game software revenue in 2011. This is up from 19 percent in 2009 and 34 percent in 2010. Compare this to the Nintendo DS’ 2011 software revenue, which Flurry estimates to be 36 percent of the market. This is down from 70 percent in 2009 and 57 percent in 2010.

One thing to keep in mind is that the DS is an end-of-life product and has been replaced by the 3DS. As most of you know, the console market is cyclical, so it wasn’t surprising to see DS software sales declining over the last three years. Android and iOS games are more evergreen, since they’re not tied to a specific set of hardware. Also, Flurry vice president of marketing Peter Farago made no mention of the 3DS in his blog post. I’ve reached out to the company to see if 3DS software sales were included in the overall DS figure.

Even considering the cyclical nature of consoles, the rapid growth of smartphone gaming is extremely impressive. It will be interesting to see how standalone gaming systems like the 3DS and the upcoming PlayStation Vita will perform. With smartphones and tablets becoming fantastic gaming platforms, it’s looking like the audience for specialized gaming is shrinking.

Let me know what you think of Flurry’s study on U.S. portable gaming revenue when you have a chance (please!).

Update 9:21AM PST: Flurry VP Peter Farago confirmed that the 2011 Nintendo figure includes 3DS software sales. He told me via email, “This is total Nintendo portable data, including 3DS.” Even though the 3DS stumbled out of the gate in the U.S., sales have been picking up and there are several hot games that will sell well this holiday season. In light of that, the number is even more fascinating.


Nintendo to Lose Money for the First Time Ever, 3DS Sales Up

Nintendo has announced that it expects to lose 20-billion yen (a shade under $264-million) for its fiscal year ending March 2012. Software sales are down, hardware sales are down, and the Japanese yen continues to be one of the strongest currencies in the world, which is bad news for a company that’s dependent on exports and global sales. This will be the first lost since the company started releasing its financial results in 1981.

In some positive news, worldwide sales of the Nintendo 3DS portable console have hit 6.68-million units. Considering its rough start and the fact that many pundits called it a “doomed” system, the sales are impressive. Like I’ve said in the past, I expect 3DS sales to be strong in the long run.

The exchange rate issues will continue to plague Nintendo for some time to come. There’s not much the company can do to counter that factor…outside of relocating the entire company to China and Mexico. Hmmmmm…I’m going to put a pitch together. I think I can convince at least 40 percent of Nintendo of Japan that Cabo San Lucas is where they want to be.

Skylanders Action Figures Video

Please, please, please check out this video of some of the 30+ action figures that can be used in Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures. The action figures themselves have some cool designs and the marketing copy is hilarious. Most of the action figures have tag-lines that are so silly that you have to laugh at them.

I’ve actually started my second run of the game and the main reason I’m playing it again is because it’s fun to use the action figures to swap characters. I’m positive that the game and the toys will sell like crazy this holiday season. Well played Activision. Well played.