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

Xbox One Owners Can Now Pay $4.99 Month for EA Games

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana (L) walks on stage to join the head of EA Sports Andrew Wilson (R) as they introduce the new EA Sports Madden 13 game with Kinect voice functionality at the Microsoft Xbox E3 2012 media briefing in Los Angeles on June 4, 2012. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

Only four games are available so far

Electronic Arts is adapting the subscription service model to the video game industry with a new offering for Xbox One. The new service, called EA Access, will allow Xbox One owners to download and play hit EA games for an unlimited amount of time for $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year. A release date was not announced.

Netflix this is not, so far. EA Access will launch with four games: FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4. Combined, the games retail for more than $150, so the offer is a steal if you happen to enjoy some combination of sports games, first-person shooters and puzzlers. EA says more games will be added to the lineup in the future.

In addition to the catalog of older titles, EA Access members will get a 10 percent discount on the digital version of upcoming Xbox One games like Dragon Age Inquisition and NHL 15. Members will also have access to free trials of upcoming games five days before their official release.

Video game makers are keen to get gamers used to buying and downloading games online because they get to avoid manufacturing and distribution costs while often charging just as much as versions sold in brick-and-mortar stores. So far, there’s no word on a PS4 version of EA Access, but Sony is currently rolling out a new service called PlayStation Now that will allow users to stream older games to a variety of Sony devices.

TIME Video Games

With Firefly Cast Reuniting, Firefly Online Sounds Like the Franchise’s Next Big Thing

The cast of Joss Whedon's fan-loved Firefly will reprise their roles in the upcoming Firefly Online video game.

First you wanted a Firefly movie, and then you got one (and hey, it was pretty good). Then you got a comic — actually several comics, plus a roleplaying game, plus a novelization of the movie. After that, you made your own documentary about the series, and then you went and made an unofficial sequel to the movie that made over $100,000 for five separate charities. How the heck, short of creator Joss Whedon himself announcing another Firefly movie or TV-quel, do you top any of that?

Maybe the cast of the show reuniting, and not for another misty-eyed convention wingding, but as characters you’ll be able to interact with in Quantum Mechanix and Spark Plug Games’ upcoming Firefly Online, due out this summer for PC, Mac, iOS and Android?

Okay, maybe that doesn’t top a series part deux, but then if you’re partial to games over TV shows or movies, perhaps it does. And it’s really happening: i09 reports (via Comic-Con, transpiring now through Sunday) that all of the original Firefly stars will reprise their roles in the game, including Alan Tudyk, which is significant if you’ve seen Serenity. In the game, players captain their own customizable ships, assemble crews, then create jobs for each other while playing through various narratives and exploring a universe with hundreds of visitable worlds.

No pressure, development teams: as one commenter put it to i09, “If this game is bad the developers better prepare for pitchforks and torches outside their office.” Indeed, fandom is fickle, though the appetite for new Firefly content may be enough to help the game over any preliminary rough spots if the underlying concept measures up.

You can check out the game and read more about it at the game’s official website, keepflying.com, and here’s the first gameplay trailer, just released.

TIME Video Games

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Release Bumped Up a Week

October 7 was looking a little crowded. But September 30? Not so much.

+ READ ARTICLE

Warner Bros. and developer Monolith’s upcoming attempt to make you a heroic Nazgul, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, is apparently coming along well enough to earn a rare release date bump: instead of October 7, the game will release on September 30 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, followed on October 2 by the PC version (via Steam).

The game’s PR team says that’s because of “fans’ excitement.” I’m speculating, but I’d wager the more likely reason is that Tuesday, October 7 was a little crowded. On that day, we’ll see major releases like Driveclub (PS4), Alien: Isolation, NBA 2K15 (the latter two for PC, PS3/4 and Xbox 360/One), NBA Live 15 and Project Spark (Xbox One). That, and two days prior, Activision’s Skylanders Trap Team hits. So I’d wager Warner Bros. and Monolith backed up to September 30 because it’s wide open: the only major rival that day is Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox 360/One).

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is about zipping around Tolkien’s “land of shadow” just after Sauron (nee The Necromancer) shows up and wreaks demigodly havoc. You play as Talion, a raised-from-the-dead ranger who can thus tap the same sort of eldritch otherworldly powers the Nazgul could (and since this is a game designed to make you feel ridiculously formidable, plenty more besides).

The twist involves something called the Nemesis System, which is developer Monolith’s way of making its world and the things you encounter in it feel procedural. Each adversary you encounter has unique attributes that feed an elaborate ecology of behaviors, and your encounters ripple through that ecology, changing your relationship to other enemies and ultimately creating your own personalized bosses. Every time you play, that deck reshuffles.

Whether the reshuffling feels lively and organic in the playing or too obviously generic remains to be seen, but expectations are high, as they ought to be, given the level of affection and esteem for Tolkien’s world.

TIME Video Games

Watch the First Trailer for Halo: Nightfall

+ READ ARTICLE

Microsoft released the first trailer for its upcoming live-action digital series Halo: Nightfall.

The series, which is being executive produced by Ridley Scott, will feature a new character named Jameson Locke, who is an agent for the secretive Office of Naval Intelligence. The series will be bundled with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a compilation of past Halo games that launches this November.

MONEY Odd Spending

The High Cost of Being A Comic-Con Superfan

Night Elf at Comic-Con
Jessica's Night Elf Rogue outfit won an award at the 2012 San-Diego Comic-Con.

Some fans, known as cosplayers, construct elaborate costumes of their favorite comic characters. The results are amazing, but they don't come cheap.

On Thursday, the San Diego Comic-Con kicked off its 2014 edition. The annual four-day event has grown beyond comics into a geek-culture mecca, attracting fans of everything from superheroes and video games to mainstream network programming.

Of the thousands who descend every year on the San Diego convention center (at $45 a pop per session), most are just looking to meet other enthusiasts and see the latest on their favorite characters. But there’s a large number of fans who want to take their experience a little bit further—from liking a character to becoming it. They’re called cosplayers, enthusiasts who make costumes of their favorite fictional avatars. With costs that can run into the thousands of dollars, these costumes are an artistic and financial testament to the wearer’s love of a particular game or show.

Jessica Al-Khalifah is one of these superfans. She and a friend had gotten into the online role-playing game World of Warcraft and in the process grew attached their virtual avatars. Playing the game was fun, she thought, but what if they could actually be their in-game characters, if just for a day or two?

Lucky for Jessica, there was convention coming up nearby. “We decided we should make some outfits and see what it’s all like,” she says. “It turned out we weren’t so bad at it.”

“Not bad” is an understatement. Jessica’s creation, a Warcraft Night Elf outfit, took four months of on-and-off labor to assemble and involved learning a whole new trade in the process. “I just wanted to make it look really cool, so I said, ‘You know, I think I’ll learn how to leather work,’ ” she recalls. “I hurt my hand a million times.”

The finished product featured ornate leather-and-metal armor, as well as two gigantic painted scythes, and cost roughly $600 by the time she was done. The result was good enough to win her an award at the 2012 San-Diego Comic-Con, but it wasn’t even her most elaborate creation. Another costume, based around the Legend of the Seeker television show, included a leather bodysuit and fiberglass weapon that was electrically engineered to glow. The final materials bill for that one: $1,200.

That kind of price is especially common amongst contest winning outfits. Jen King, owner of Space Cadets Collection Collection, a Texas-based collectibles store, also won a an award at the San-Diego Comic-Con with a Galaxy Quest themed group costume. Jen’s Sarris (the giant green alien) attire cost $500 alone, and her whole group spend more than $4,000. This year, she flew back to Comic-Con to chase another title, this time with her husband and son in tow.

sarrisgroup
Jen King’s group costume cost over $4,000, but won Judge’s Choice at the San-Diego Comic-Con.

Luckily for enthusiasts, not all costumes need to break the bank. Lynn Chan and Sarah Bloom have been dressing up as their favorite characters for years, and tend to spend around $200 per outfit. If you’re careful about picking your subject, Lynn says costumes can be made for as low as $30 (sewing machine not included). That said, like any hobby, the costs do add up over time. When asked how much she had spent over her seven years of cosplay, Sarah couldn’t put a figure on it. “Oh god, I don’t even know,” she laughed. “Probably three to four grand?”

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.30.28 AM
Lynn Chan (left) and Sarah Bloom (right) spend about $200 per costume.

It’s a lot of money, but in the end, each designer says the effort is worth it for the feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a great costume. Jessica still remembers how she felt when she won the 2012 contest. Oh my gosh, that was awesome. It was so surreal,” she says. “All my hard work paid off.”

TIME Rumors

Valve Might Have Made Its Steam Controller a Little Less Peculiar

An analog thumbstick would bring Valve's game controller more in line with traditional ones.

Valve’s Steam controller is apparently looking less like a crazy experiment and more like a typical gamepad in a newly-surfaced image.

As discovered by Steam Database, the design shows an analog thumbstick on the left side, which would replace the directional buttons on Valve’s previous design. If the image is legit, the controller would have a pair of round, circular touchpads on either side, though, so Valve wouldn’t totally be backing off its original vision.

Having tried the original Steam Controller prototype at CES in January, I can understand why Valve would make the change.

With something like a first-person shooter, the right touchpad still makes sense as a way to turn and aim, as it kind of feels like moving a mouse on a gaming PC. Compared to a thumbstick, the touchpad allows for more precise aiming–at least in theory.

But for movement, you don’t need precision as much as you need quick action. A thumbstick, much like keyboard controls on a PC, can be quickly thrown in any direction with minimal effort. It doesn’t really matter that the controls aren’t as fine-grained as a mouse or trackpad.

Still, Valve would be making a trade-off: The thumbstick would come in place of directional buttons, which are popular for fighting games and can be useful for old-school platformers.

Valve could have just ditched the left touchpad entirely, but I’m guessing the company would want to keep it around for games that are mainly controlled by cursor, such as strategy games. That way, users could move the cursor with their left thumbs and use their right hands for buttons and triggers.

Besides, if you’re really bothered by the lack of a d-pad and thumbsticks, there are always more traditional controllers instead.

Valve hasn’t said exactly when it will release the controller, along with the first Steam Machine consoles, but it recently pushed the effort back to 2015.

TIME Video Games

This Is What Batman Might Look Like in a Final Fantasy Game

Japanese artist and game designer Tetsuya Nomura tries his hand at a rendition of Batman we've definitely never seen before.

Tetsuya Nomura, if you don’t know that name, is arguably Japan’s most visible video games character designer, best known for his work on the Final Fantasy games. He’s responsible for some of the most memorable dysmorphic faces, improbable pantaloons, kitchen-cleaver swords and punk-via-bouffant hairdos in gaming history.

And now he’s shown us what he might do were he green-lit to drop DC’s Batman into one of his games. Think Batman by way of Final Fantasy XII‘s Mydia by way of a Battlestar Galactica Cylon.

Square Enix

That’s more than just a concept drawing, too: You might eventually be able to buy this version of Batman, which Nomura apparently designed for DC Comics’ Variant Play Arts Kai action figure line. The figure was revealed in advance of Comic-Con, which kicks off today, July 24 and runs through Sunday, July 27.

Nomura’s going to be at the show autographing postcards on behalf of Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and DC Comics series Play Arts Kai action figures purchased at the show (you have to buy one to get the autographed postcard — a little gimmicky-sounding, I know).

No word yet on when (or I suppose we need to include the condition if) this claw-winged, crimson-visored version of Batman’s going to be available, but Kotaku says the figure will be on display at Square Enix’s Comic-Con booth through Sunday.

TIME Video Games

This Gamer Says He Found His Father’s Ghost in a Game

Video games have been archiving little facets of our selves for years, leading to unexpected encounters like this one.

This one’s a little hard to read, so prepare yourself. But it’s also kind of amazing, and a reminder of just how much gaming — once dismissed as a trivial pastime — is intersecting with people’s lives in utterly nontrivial ways.

Yahoo-based Motoramic reports that a gamer who lost his father when just six years old encountered him again, 10 years later, in a video game they’d played together before the parent died.

The game, RalliSport Challenge, was a 2002 Xbox and Windows racer that among other things allowed players to save their best lap time as “ghosts,” against which other players could race. When this child, now a teenager, decided to have another look at the game a decade later…well, maybe I’d better just let him tell the story, which Motoramic says he did as a comment left in response to a YouTube PBS piece dubbed “Can Video Games Be a Spiritual Experience?“:

Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty XBox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together – until he died, when i was just 6.

i couldnt touch that console for 10 years.

but once i did, i noticed something.

we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.

and once i started meddling around… i found a GHOST.

literaly.

you know, when a time race happens, that the fastest lap so far gets recorded as a ghost driver? yep, you guessed it – his ghost still rolls around the track today.

and so i played and played, and played, untill i was almost able to beat the ghost. until one day i got ahead of it, i surpassed it, and…

i stopped right in front of the finish line, just to ensure i wouldnt delete it.
Bliss.

I couldn’t locate that comment in the YouTube story, but I was able to track it back to an Imgur capture someone posted to a Reddit thread (a month old — this story isn’t breaking, and the PBS YouTube video ran back in May), which itself contains several moving stories by various users of their interactions with lost loved ones through left-behind, gaming-related experiences.

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.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser