The Golden N

December 16, 2003

--Posted by Straydog @ 22:27 PST.

Today I would like to discuss a subject that is near and dear to many of our hearts: Nintendo. There was a time (in the mid 80's and early 90's) when Nintendo was synonymous with home console gaming, sass mouthing aliens freely ate cats, and overgrown sewer turtles beat up robots (the PAKer knows what I mean). You would say to your school chums, who were playing with blue Army Ants and trading Garbage Pail Kids, "Fellows, I am off to play Nintendo now." And they would reply, "okay, see you later." It was a simpler time, if I do say so (and I do). No one had a doubt in their mind that Nintendo would be the one and only console. Sega who? Then things, as they are wont to do, changed. Many would say that Nintendo made some bad decisions. I am forced to grudgingly agree. After all, they did pave the way for (and even assisted in the development of) the largest and most widely distributed game console so far (the PlayStation, which then evolved into the PlayStation 2. Do the math) by disagreeing with Sony. For those who don't know, the PSOne was originally going to be a SNES CD add on. Oops. And while the Big N squashed all the competition hands down in the hand-held market, their initial strangle hold on the market (which included third party developers who had to sign exclusivity contracts just to develop for the NES) lost ground to the Genesis and it's meaningless hyperbole filled "blast processing" and gradually let the competitor's Trojan Horse through the castle gates. Then while Nintendo was sleeping on its huge pile of laurels, thousands of little bandicoots and purple dragons ransacked the Mushroom Kingdom, making off with a great deal of the older "mature" audience that found Nintendo to be to child oriented, casual and sports gamers, as well as Square Soft (now SquareEnix, "Final Fantasy" and "Mana" series developer) which had been, until that point, a huge feather in the cap of the SNES.

To make matters worse, Nintendo answered with the N64. While a competent machine, was still in a cartridge format as opposed to CD, due to Nintendo's (justifiable) fear of piracy. This is all fine and dandy for keeping games from being copied but, as it is hard for software pirates to recreate cartages, it is difficult and quite expensive for publishers to produce them. This and the lack of storage and inability of the cartridges to play grainy, antiquated video caused a lack of third party support. Some games, if kept in the form their creators intended, would take up 20 or more cartridges (ahem, FFVII).
This meant that these franchises had to go to 3 or 4 CDs instead (i.e., PSOne) leaving the Nintendo faithful to wait out the long droughts between first party titles, excellent though they were.

Fast forward to the present. Is Nintendo doing any better? A little, I think. The strength of their first party titles is undeniable and nearly absolute. With franchises in its pocket like Mario, Zelda and Metroid, Nintendo isn't doing to bad for themselves. They have also been redoubling their efforts on the third party front with such exclusives as Capcom's "Resident Evil" series and the long overdue return of Square. The "kiddie" image still hurts them, though they have released many mature titles (just none about Mario killing prostitutes, as the Pres. Of N said at E3 gaming expo). Not to mention the fact that they are the only company of the major three that actually makes money on console sales rather than losing it.

And yet, there is still their baffling decision to stay offline and focus on Game Boy Advanced to Game Cube connectivity and new accessories. Connectivity is an interesting prospect, if not impractical but one must also weigh the merits of the online community. I myself have no use for it but I still understand that there is money to be made. As for the peripherals the range from the useful (GBA player) to useless (E-reader) to strange (Donkey Kong Bongo, anyone?). Let's focus here, guys!

Speaking of hand-helds, the GBA is finally getting some completion on three fronts and, though I have no doubt that the GBA can easily stomp the Nokia N-gage, it may have a tougher time with the Palm Pilot highbred that is the Zodiac Tapwave and its old rival, Sony, with the PSP. I hope that Nintendo's execs are taking these threats more seriously than they say they are.

Still, deep down I have faith that Nintendo will carry on, despite the odds and continue to produce quality products. I also can't help but wonder if Nintendo is holding back a little and testing the waters waiting for the next generation of consoles, of which it plans to be the first to arrive, not the last. Who knows what they have up their sleeve but it better be good. Oh, and if they are going to make a new console so soon, it had better be backwards compatible. You hear me? Well do you?

Stray Dog's Bargain Bin: my games: $20 or less: their games: $50 or more. That's a 60% savings on the other guys' video game reviews. Think about it.

This time: "Golden Sun" for GBA used: $19.99

This was one of the first and the best RPGs released for the GBA. An epic and engaging quest and battle system, mild GBA to GBA connectivity options this one has it all, and it's priced to move. He best thing about picking this title up now is that when you reach the ending (which is a huge tease) you can buy the sequel (which is the second half of the game, actually). When it came out, it beat the heck out of that Breath of Fire port (it had aged poorly) and is still relevant to this day. Do yourself a favor if you like good games and buy this one while you still can. I'll be watching to make sure you do it! Don't think I won't!

If you have any questions, comments or derogatory comments for the Stray Dog, email him at straydog@limitlessunits.com

I would like to weigh in on the...

December 16, 2003

--Posted by Riposte101 @ 22:30 PST.

Nintendo situation. My problem has always been the arrogance of Nintendo and the smug way that they respond to external threats. They seemingly make decisions with blinders on as to what their competition is doing. It is a shame to see that my once steadfast loyalty to this company is abused on a consistent basis by their retarded business strategies. Do not be fooled, the cartridges of yore along with the current mini-discs utilized by the GameCube is not designed to detract from the copying of their games, but instead aimed at profitability. Let me illustrate this bullying tactic in the eyes of the third party video game producer, say for instance SquareSoft. As SquareSoft you want to make a game for the Super Nintendo. You create the game, then buy proprietary cartridges from Nintendo. At this point in the video game industry you do not have much choice because they are the sole producers of this format. Then Sony comes out with the PSOne, that is run off of CD and Nintendo comes out with the N64, again with the inferior cartridge. So as SquareSoft you can make games for Nintendo and buy their prohibitively expensive cartridges, which in turn cuts into your profits, or you can go with the PSOne and buy, the superior in every way, CDs from Taiwan for pennies. A large portion of Nintendo's profits were created by selling blank cartridges to their third party publishers. The same holds true for the GC's minidiscs versus the DVD. To make money off of your third party producers, who are helping you with software is just wrong.

I'm hard pressed to believe that Nintendo is not losing money on their now price cut GameCube. This is not necessarily a bad thing because lost profits in console sales can be balanced by the greater software sales that come with a larger hardware base. As is evidenced by the sales of the Cube quadrupling because of the $50 price drop and the now packaged Zelda classic title which includes four of Nintendo's classic Zelda games, their strategy has worked. It has long since past time Nintendo started taking their competition seriously or they will likely be forced to go the route of Sega as an exclusively software based company soon.

As an online solution for the GameCube check out Warp Pipe. This tunneling software will get you online and playing with others in no time. Their current supported games are Kirby Air Ride, Mario Kart: Double Dash! and 1080°: Avalanche.