TIME Gaming

The One Reason the New Nintendo 3DS Is Going to Crush Competitors

Nintendo New 3DS Nintendo

Doubling down on what tablets and phones simply can't do

Nintendo unveiled an updated design for its popular handheld system, the 3DS, on August 29. The sleek new version is more powerful and packs a number of incremental improvements like better cameras and screens. As competition for consumers’ attention with phones and tablets increases, the Japanese gaming giant is also doubling down on something Apple iPads and devices powered by Google’s Android system typically don’t have: buttons. The New Nintendo 3DS features a new analog control stick as well as two new buttons.

Buttons matter because, no matter how much more powerful phones and tablets get or how much more sophisticated the software that runs on them, manipulating many games without them is still cumbersome. The best mobile games have devised unique control methods for touch interfaces, but titles with traditional setups—guiding a character across 3D space, for instance—still suffer. Nintendo’s trio of new buttons amounts to a keen doubling down on what a gaming-dedicated device like the 3DS still does best, namely playing console-like games.

On Nintendo’s new device, the right analog knob is located above the right-hand face buttons. In addition to the new controller, the gadget has third and fourth back trigger buttons, dubbed ZR and ZL buttons, located for use in conjunction with the new stick. The New 3DS will be available in both regular and XL-sized models with dimensions similar to current hardware.

In a presentation, the company promised a wider 3D viewing angle than previous models. Additional features include an automatic brightness adjustment sensor, Micro SD card slot, camera improvements, and colorful face buttons. The New 3DS will be available in Japan in October 2014. A U.S. release date has not been set yet.

 New 3DS
Nintendo
 New 3DS
Nintendo
 New 3DS
Nintendo
TIME Video Games

This Is What Happens When Jimmy Fallon Plays Goldeneye 007 with Pierce Brosnan

Hint: It does't go well for Mr. Brosnan.

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Want to see Jimmy Fallon square off with James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan (playing as his digital Bond-ian self) in Nintendo’s Goldeneye 007? Wish granted for roughly two minutes if you click the video above.

It’s weird watching someone like Brosnan, who I’m guessing isn’t a routine gamer, play a game like Goldeneye 007 on national TV. And that’s the point: It gives you little sense of what it’s like to play a fan-beloved game plenty would call Rare’s magnum opus, but then you’re watching to see how merciless a relatively serious gamer like Fallon’s going to be (relatively merciless), whether Brosnan’s going to be a good sport about it (a very good one), and what the audience is going to make of Fallon’s trademark sputtering and faux-obsequiousness.

Why was Brosnan on Fallon last night? To talk up his new film, The November Man, a spy flick about an ex-CIA agent drawn into the thick of an agency coverup.

TIME Video Games

Sony Says 10 Million PlayStation 4 Game Consoles Have Been Sold Worldwide

Sony confirmed the PlayStation 4's latest sales figures during its Gamescom 2014 press conference in Cologne, Germany.

At Gamescom 2014, Sony announced that it’s sold more than 10 million PlayStation game consoles worldwide since the system launched in November 2013. And that would be 10 million plucked off shelves by consumers, not just shipped to stores.

The last time the console majors rolled out unit sales specifics (around the end of March), Sony said it had sold through some 7 million PS4s, Nintendo that it had sold through just over 6 million Wii Us, with Microsoft bringing up the rear at around 5 million Xbox Ones shipped to stores. Microsoft said in July that with the Xbox One’s price drop from $499 to $399 and removal of Kinect in early June, Xbox One sales had more than doubled, but it was unclear then (as now) what the actual figures were.

TIME Video Games

You Can Drive Mercedes Cars in Mario Kart Soon

Mario Kart 8 Mercedes
Mario Kart 8 Nintendo

Luigi isn't any happier to be behind the wheel of a Roadster, though

Mario Kart 8 players who also happen to be fans of fine German engineering are in for a treat: Starting Aug. 27, three Mercedes whips — the GLA, the ’50s-era 300 SL Roadster and the ’30s-era Silver Arrow — will be available as part of an update for the Nintendo Wii U title. Traditionally, Mario Kart vehicles range from go-kartesque options to more outlandish choices, like gliders.

The Mercs come alongside other new Mario Kart features meant to celebrate the twenty-second anniversary of the first Kart title, Super Mario Kart for the SNES, back in 1992 — and as an extra bonus, that original game’s now available for download on the Nintendo eShop on Wii U.

TIME Earnings

Nintendo’s Financial Struggles Continue, Even With Mario Kart 8

JAPAN-COMPANY-EARNINGS-NINTENDO-GAMES
Customers play with Nintendo's videogame console Wii U at an electronics shop in Tokyo on July 30, 2014. Yoshikazu Tsuno—AFP/Getty Images

Even the smash hit Mario Kart 8 doesn’t seem to be able to save Nintendo and its Wii U. The Japanese video game giant posted a loss of 9.92 billion yen ($96.7 million) between April and June, according to its first fiscal quarter earnings report. Nintendo had a profit of 8.62 billion yen ($84 million) during the same period last year.

It’s not a great start to the fiscal year for a company that posted an annual operating loss during its last three. Sales for the company were also down, with revenue of 74.7 billion yen ($728 million) falling 8 percent from last year’s figure of 81.5 billion yen ($794 million).

The Wii U recovered at least somewhat from its disastrous 2013. It sold 510,000 units in the quarter, more than triple the 160,000 it sold during the period last year. Software sales were also way up, mostly thanks to Mario Kart 8, which sold 2.82 million copies and is already the third best-selling Wii U game of all time. But the 3DS, Nintendo’s true moneymaker, is on a precipitous decline, especially in Japan. The handheld gaming device sold just 820,000 units during the quarter, down from 1.4 million during the same quarter last year. Software sales also declined 22 percent to 8.6 million units.

Nintendo is still projecting that it will sell 3.6 million Wii Us and 20 million Wii U games over the fiscal year, while making almost $20 million in profit. That forecast will rest heavily on the performance of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, which is slated to launch in the fall, as well as titles like the Legend of Zelda spinoff Hyrule Warriors.

TIME Video Games

The Luigi ‘Death Stare’ Is Now Nintendo Canon, Apparently

It's also probably not a good idea to say his name three times while standing in front of a mirror.

Remember the Luigi “death stare” meme that surfaced after Mario Kart 8 shipped? The thing where Luigi (green-capped brother of Mario) stares down his victims on the raceway like the Wrath of God in a go-kart?

Nintendo tipped its hat to the meme during its E3 2014 Digital Event, and now it’s identifying that steely, spleenful gaze with the character in Japanese ads for Mario Kart 8. Check it out.

How’ll we know it’s really canon in years to come? How else: Have Luigi whip out his flashlight and shine it from under his chin while doing his pitiless thing in the next Luigi’s Mansion game. Make it a special move even.

TIME Gadgets

How to Build a Better Game Boy with Raspberry Pi

Note that if you're so inclined, you'll need to be handy with a soldering iron, hot glue gun, dremel and a bunch of other things.

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You know how we like to remember things, as Bill Pullman’s character says in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, in our own way? When I think about Nintendo’s original Game Boy, released over two decades ago, it’s of a tiny handheld with sharp graphics and a screen like a pocket-sized poster.

Except looking at pictures of it now, the Game Boy resembles more the brick it probably was, and that eensy-teensy screen is a postage stamp dipped in pea soup. How did we ever game on that thing?

What if you could build a better Game Boy, or at least one with a better, bigger screen and a vastly more flexible backend?

Right, Nintendo already checked the bigger, better screen box with its Light and Color and Advance models. But I’m talking about a Game Boy that still looks like the original XL-sized model, with the same cerise-colored face buttons and off-white ABS plastic housing, only under the hood it’s a Raspberry Pi.

In the spirit of mods that require soldering irons and hot glue guns and bucket-loads of patience, meet the “Super Mega Ultra Pi Boy 64,” a Game Boy shell with a Raspberry Pi soul.

Raspberry Pi, in case you don’t know, is a computer on a single circuit board. It’s tiny (about the size of a credit card), relatively powerful (on par with an older Android phone or iPhone) and extremely cheap (in the $20 to $30 range). It runs a medley of operating systems, including Linux, RISC OS and Windows CE, and was designed for educational as well as enthusiast purposes, the idea being that kids (or anyone, really) could tinker with it to make who knows what.

Fair warning: the process whereby modder Microbyter put together his “Super Pi Boy” looks arduous, but what the heck — it’s a great read. This fellow picked up a damaged Game Boy for $5, dremeled out the battery compartment, converted a 3.5-inch LCD from 12v to 5v (to make it work with the battery), soldered in the original Game Boy controller PCB, rejiggered the audio to work with an amplifier, loaded an emulator called Retropie, then dropped in the Pi board itself and wired everything together.

And it works, which is some kind of miracle, and has me wishing I had one so I could play through this twitchy grayscale gem all over again.

TIME Video Games

Nintendo’s ‘Wii U to Wii U’ Transfer Feature Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Nintendo adds a system-to-system transfer option, but Wii U owners still can't backup save files or move data around conveniently.

I’m not sure it’s the feature that’ll motivate fence-sitters off their palisades to buy one, but if you already own a Wii U — or better still, two — the latest system update finally adds the option to run a full system transfer, Wii U to Wii U.

To be clear, you’re already able to transfer data off the Wii U, you just can’t back it up. Does that sound oxymoronic? Let me explain.

Wii U data can only exist in one place, so you either have it on the Wii U’s internal flash or an external USB storage device, but never in both places at once. If you brick your Wii U and your save files live on an external storage device, then you buy or receive a replacement Wii U, you’ve had no way of recovering those files. Making matters worse, Nintendo doesn’t offer cloud saves, so you could argue the Wii U is inferior to the original Nintendo Entertainment System (which in some cases allowed you to save straight to the cartridge) as well as most systems that’ve come after it.

Nintendo’s latest Wii U system update, out yesterday, goes some way toward rectifying this deficit, but the restrictions are pretty onerous. For starters, you’ll need the source Wii U alive and kicking and running the same system software version as the destination Wii U. From there, you’re in essence running an all-or-nothing clone operation: the source Wii U transfers “any users, Nintendo Network IDs, save data, and digital content” to the target Wii U, then wipes the source Wii U clean.

That’s helpful if you own a vanilla Wii U, say, and want to transition to the annual custom-painted limited edition. But we’re probably talking about a handful of hardcore Nintendophiles. Who wants to own two otherwise identical Wii Us? And even then, you’re not backing anything up, you’re just moving it from one system to another.

It’s a shame, because what I’d wager Wii U owners really want — or at least what I do — is a way to back up those Wii U save files, be it to the cloud or an external storage device. Microsoft and Sony have supported save file duplication to external storage as well as cloud save-file backups for years. Nintendo’s system update is arguably helpful for a tiny fraction of Nintendo’s audience, in other words, but not the backup/transfer feature Wii U owners have long deserved.

TIME

Here’s Definitive Proof Nintendo’s Wii U Isn’t Dead Yet

Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto demonstrates the new control scheme in Star Fox for the Wii U. Nintendo

Nintendo hasn’t had a great run of it lately. Sales of its latest Wii U consoles have generally been down and, during its last earnings call, the company admitted how far away they were from the company’s original projections. Even its 3DS handheld—which had been a bright spot—has seen better days. Now there’s some good news for fans of the old-school Japanese game-maker.

As Time.com’s Matt Peckham writes:

Nintendo claimed Mario Kart 8 (reviewed here) was June’s top-selling game and gave us a few rare figures: 470,000 physical and digital units sold in June, bring the total to more than 885,000 units sold (in the U.S. alone) in the game’s first five weeks. Nintendo says June 2014 Wii U sales are up 233 percent over June 2013, while Wii U software sales are up 373 percent for the same period. (Nintendo says Mario Kart 8 was the top-selling game once you factor in digital sales.)

While NPD says portable sales declined year-on-year, Nintendo notes that June 2014 3DS sales were up over the prior month by more than 55 percent, driven in part by sales of Tomodachi Life (175,000 digital and physical copies sold).

Nintendo still has plenty of challenges ahead of it. The Wii U lacks compelling specs or a sweetheart price. And worse, the company’s failed to woo third-party developers, leaving the Wii U’s cupboards bare on an on and off basis. But now, at least, the firm’s strategy of banking on beloved franchises appears to be working in the marketplace.

 

TIME

PlayStation 4 Sweeps June Game Sales, While Mario Kart 8 Resuscitates the Wii U

Sony's PlayStation 4 (upper-left) and Microsoft's Xbox One (lower-right). Sony, Microsoft

Retail tracker NPD says June marked another up month for video games, led by sales of Sony's PlayStation 4 and Mario Kart 8 for Nintendo's Wii U.

You could argue that now we know why Microsoft sent out that bolt-from-the-blue Xbox One sales claim half a day before NPD’s June sales figures arrived: it turns out Sony’s PlayStation 4 was the top selling console for June 2014, while Nintendo’s Wii U snatched the top selling single game SKU with Mario Kart 8.

Let’s start with overall industry sales, which saw something of a spring banquet when May 2014 came along and year-on-year retail hardware, software and accessories sales soared by 52 percent.

June 2014 saw further year-on-year growth across retail hardware, software and accessories categories by 24 percent over June 2013. Once again, the key factor was hardware sales growth of 106 percent (in May, by comparison, hardware growth was 95 percent year-on-year), offsetting declines in portable hardware sales.

As usual, we don’t have unit sales specifics, but Sony claimed victory for next-gen software sales in an email, writing that the PS4 “[led] two of the top three titles” (Watch Dogs, FIFA 14) and was first in unit sales “for the sixth consecutive month.”

Nintendo, for its part, claimed Mario Kart 8 (reviewed here) was June’s top-selling game and gave us a few rare figures: 470,000 physical and digital units sold in June, bring the total to more than 885,000 units sold (in the U.S. alone) in the game’s first five weeks. Nintendo says June 2014 Wii U sales are up 233 percent over June 2013, while Wii U software sales are up 373 percent for the same period.

I’d list NPD’s physical software sales, but at this point it’s getting too confusing: Watch Dogs was the top-seller (over Mario Kart 8) across all platforms if you ignore digital sales, but as noted above, Nintendo says Mario Kart 8 was the top-selling game once you factor in digital sales. (If I were NPD, I’d either figure out how to fold accurate digital sales into the rankings, or stop publishing the physical software sales chart entirely.)

While NPD says portable sales declined year-on-year, Nintendo notes that June 2014 3DS sales were up over the prior month by more than 55 percent, driven in part by sales of Tomodachi Life (175,000 digital and physical copies sold).

We’re now well into an extended up-trend, too: NPD says nine of the last 10 months saw year-on-year growth, thanks primarily to the new console launches last November, but NPD notes that growth trend started with software sales in September and October 2013 (in other words, Grand Theft Auto V — still listing in NPD’s top 10 chart for June 2014 software sales, incidentally).

What’s next: July 2014’s going to look pretty sleepy, sales-wise, and we’ll probably see declines across the board, though the Destiny beta that kicked off on PS4 and PS3 yesterday, adding Xbox One and Xbox 360 next week, could bolster hardware sales. The Last of Us for PS4 should do reasonably well, but it doesn’t launch until July 29. August is pretty quiet until Diablo 3 (for PS4 and Xbox One) comes along on August 19, followed by the latest Madden NFL on August 26.

But it’s September everyone’s waiting for: Assuming Destiny and The Sims 4 don’t suck, those two alone could well set sales records.

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