This Week’s Videogame Releases

Are you ready for some (American) football?!? A bunch of you had fantasy drafts yesterday and are amped for the season to start. Why not increase the anticipation with some Madden NFL 12? If you’re more about guns than balls then you should keep an eye on Bodycount, the spiritual successor to the underrated Black. Looking for something more esoteric and Japanese? How about Cladun X2 from the excellent people at Nippon Ichi Software America? You can add some (scary) spice to your life and get in shape on the Wii with Get Fit with Mel B.

Anyone buying new games this week?

Are You a Nintendo 3DS Ambassador?

As many of you know, in addition to slicing the price of its 3DS portable gaming console, Nintendo will be rewarding early adopters with its Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program. Ambassadors get to fly around the world and represent Nintendo to participating governments. Ambassadors will be rewarded with 20 free downloadable games for the 3DS, including 10 that are exclusive to the program.

Some retailers were selling the 3DS at a discounted price several days before the official price drop on August 12, 2011. This allowed savvy gamers to snatch up a cheaper 3DS and enjoy the benefits of the 3DS Ambassador Program.

Did any of you take advantage of this deal? Are any of you 3DS Ambassadors?

Coffee Talk #384: Nintendo Dropping Hardware for Android/iOS?

With Nintendo’s recent financial report and the company’s bungling of the 3DS, a lot of people are saying that Nintendo is doomed. As someone that has covered the company for several console generations…

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, how many idiots it takes to perform a successful server migration, Austin Aries on Impact Wrestling, or not missing Alex Rodriguez in the slightest, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

With Nintendo’s recent financial report and the company’s bungling of the 3DS, a lot of people are saying that Nintendo is doomed. As someone that has covered the company for several console generations, I find this amusing. We’ve come full circle! People were saying that Nintendo was doomed during the N64 and GameCube days, ignoring the heaps of money it was making with its Game Boy products. When the Nintendo DS and Wii were breaking sales records, people were asking, “Can anyone stop Nintendo???” A rough launch, currency exchange issues, and the tail-end of a console’s lifespan have Nintendo doomed (again). Funny how it goes….

One of the byproducts of this gloom-and-doom reporting is that “experts” believe that Nintendo should ditch the hardware business and focus strictly on software. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of how people used to clamor for Apple to get out of the hardware business and just be an outstanding software developer. Yesterday I read an extremely stupid article written by a writer I usually enjoy. TheAppleBlog’s Darrell Etherington wrote:

Nintendo wouldn’t be the first gaming company to stop making hardware and turn its attention entirely to software if it did change its focus to developing for Apple. Sega made the same move back in 2001, based in part on the same kind of mistake that’s causing Nintendo’s headaches today.

That’s one of the dumbest comparisons I’ve read all year. First of all, the financial situations are completely different. Nintendo has always enjoyed great margins on its hardware. Even when it was being outsold by Sega, Sony, and Microsoft, it made strong profits on hardware sales. The company has always had a lot of cash in the bank. Sure, Nintendo is having a down year with a mishandled 3DS launch and the Wii being on its last legs, but how does that compare to Sega, a company that was losing money at the height of the Dreamcast’s popularity?

Secondly, why would you even mention Sega as a reason for Nintendo to drop hardware and focus on software?!? Sega went from being part of the “big three” companies in console gaming to a middle-of-the-road game publisher. That’s hardly a success story.

I just don’t understand why people are calling for Nintendo to exit the hardware business at this time. Sure, the 3DS will not be as popular as the DS. I sincerely doubt the Wii U will put up the numbers that the Wii did. Having said that, I expect the company to make a lot of money with both products. This talk of Nintendo dropping hardware seems way too premature.

What do you ladies and gents think? Should Nintendo leave the hardware business? Or is that just crazy talk? Do you think Nintendo would develop games for Android and iOS while it still sold consoles? Do you think the admiration Satoru Iwata and Steve Jobs have for each other means anything in business terms? Should Ninten-Do or Ninten-Don’t?!?

Nintendo Execs Remind Me That RIM Execs Suck

You have to hand it to Nintendo’s executive team. They step up to their responsibilities and accept blame like men. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently addressed shareholders about the company’s decision to slash the price of its Nintendo 3DS handheld system. He acknowledged the failure, accepted the blame, and said that he would slash his salary in half. He also noted that other executives would be hit with a 20- to 30-percent salary cut.

Iwata’s actions are very Japanese and very Eastern. By Western standards, it seems unusual. A high-ranking executive admitting fault?!? That’s crazy (think Brian Fellow)!!! The whole thing reminded me of another company that has made several mistakes, but continually refuses to acknowledge them in a meaningful way. I’m talking about Research in Motion (RIM), makers of the once-dominant BlackBerry smartphones.

Once upon a time, RIM was the dominant name in smartphones. It offered — and still offers — some of the best emailing and security options on a mobile phone. However, the smartphone landscape has drastically changed thanks to the iPhone. Whether it’s for work or play, many users prefer Apple iOS and Google Android over BlackBerry for their superior multimedia capabilities. Web browsing, watching movies, listening to music, playing games, and performing big-screen work is simply better on Android or iOS than on BlackBerry OS.

RIM’s executive team has failed to quickly adapt to the dramatic changes in the smartphone space. It still offers phones with great call quality and excellent keyboards. It still offers superior email and security. Unfortunately, that’s not enough these days. The company has pinned its future on QNX, but has been comically slow to implement modern QNX features into BlackBerry OS. RIM claimed that it would make a big splash with the BlackBerry PlayBook. Instead it released a half-baked product that’s a joke compared to the Apple iPad.

Despite its glacial pace of evolution and numerous failures, RIM’s execs haven’t admitted failure the way that Iwata has. Part of the problem is that nobody is sure which CEO to blame. Another part of the problem is that having two CEOs is a galactically stupid idea. It’s also a cultural thing. RIM is a Western company with a Western culture. I don’t expect RIM CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to publicly cut off their pinkies (metaphorically) the way that Iwata did. That said, they probably should. The 3DS launch was arguably Nintendo’s biggest mistake in the last decade, yet Iwata immediately stepped up and accepted responsibility. RIM has been flailing around for years and nobody is stepping up.

Ultimately I see one company that has made a mistake and will most likely succeed again, partially because of its executives. I also see another company that has made mistakes and will most likely never be as successful as it once was, partially because of its executives. I found the contrast amusing and wanted to share it with all of you. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on Nintendo and RIM. What do you make of their executives’ behavior? What kind of success will each company have in the future? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!

Today’s Poll: Will You Buy a 3DS at $169.99?

Now that the Nintendo 3DS price cut has been announced, I wanted to see if any of you were planning to pick one up. It’s a neat little system with a bright gaming future, but its launch has been somewhat…unimpressive. Perhaps a price cut will make it seem exciting and new (think Love Boat). What do you think? Kindly take today’s poll and expand on your purchasing decision in the comments section!

[poll id=”126″]

Nintendo 3DS Price Cut: $250 to $170 on August 12, 2011

Nintendo of America has announced that its 3DS portable gaming console will list for $169.99 starting August 12, 2011. The 3DS launched in America this past March with a price of $249.99. Gamers that already own the system will be able to download 20 games for free — including 10 games Nintendo has no plans to make available to the general public — to make up for the rapid price drop.

While it’s surprising for any system to slash its price less than five months after its debut, it makes sense for the Nintendo 3DS. The system isn’t selling nearly as well as its predecessor. In fact, the Nintendo DS has been outselling the Nintendo 3DS in 2011. Many longtime Nintendo customers simply found the price too high.

Then there’s the PlayStation Vita factor. When Sony revealed that its upcoming Vita handheld will launch for $249, my initial thought was, “Well that makes the 3DS look silly.” The Vita is considerably more powerful than the 3DS and features more expensive parts. If both systems had hit holiday 2011 at the same price then the Vita would have slaughtered the 3DS in the gaming enthusiast market.

What do you guys and dolls make of the 3DS price cut? Is Nintendo in panic mode? Do you think the price cut was a reaction to sales figures or was it a preemptive strike against the Vita?

This Week’s Videogame Releases

Looking for a funky puzzle-platformer with lots of half-naked men and women? Of course you are! That’s why you’re excited for the release of Catherine. If you’re longing for classic gaming on your Nintendo 3DS then Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions will do you right. Normally I don’t include DLC in this weekly, but Dragon Age II Legacy is too awesome not to mention. I’m going to play the hell out of it this week. BioWare rules!

Any of you picking up new games this week?