TIME Nintendo

No, Nintendo Isn’t Putting Its Games on Smartphones

Nintendo Co's President Iwata poses with company's Wii U gaming controller at company headquarters after an interview with Reuters in Kyoto
Yuriko Nakao / Reuters

Not now, and probably never.

Use the words Nintendo and smartphone in a sentence nowadays and chances are you’re either misguidedly prognosticating or wantonly trolling. So it’s a mild surprise to see Japanese news site Nikkei reporting (in Japanese) that Nintendo plans to step into smartphones without really stepping into smartphones.

Put another way: this is one of these stories that sounds like a status quo shift, but isn’t.

In short, the piece claims Nintendo plans to do what any good company with a forward-looking (or in this case, backward-looking-catching-up) marketing department’s been doing for years: using smartphones (and tablets) as an adjunct medium to promote stuff on a bunch of other platforms, say Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS. Any surprises there? It’s a little like realizing that the world’s full of billboards, then firming up plans to rent space.

I don’t read Japanese, so I’m trusting Engadget’s interpretation of Nikkei’s paywalled article when it describes this as Nintendo exploring the possibility of contextual material, say background narratives, videos, tours of game worlds and other promotional fare through smartphone or tablet apps. There’s additionally talk of “mini-games,” though what form they’d take, or whether they’d even be “games” is guesswork at this point.

In any event, if Nintendo starts selling IP-themed, casino-style mini-games for the sake of promoting its mainline IP that lives somewhere else, would you call that maneuver — from a company that makes its bones upending conventions (or trying to) — capitulation? Or just savvy PR?

One thing seems clear: Nothing in this piece appears to indicate that Nintendo’s planning to shift game development to smartphones. The company cares too much about controlling the end-to-end gaming experience — the interface as much as the software.

If you still doubt that, consider what Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said during a 2013 financial Q&A (my emphasis).

…I believe that the era has ended when people play all kinds of games only on dedicated gaming systems. For example, I think it is natural that many people feel that it is more convenient to use smart devices, as opposed to dedicated gaming systems, to play games to kill a bit of time. That is to say, there are some areas in which dedicated gaming systems were once used that now have greater potential on smart devices. On the other hand, dedicated gaming systems are developed by considering the software that is designed to run on the hardware, enabling us to make unique propositions. With that in mind, my view is that the gaming market will be segregated to a fair degree. However, this does not mean that smart devices will simply compete with dedicated gaming systems. Given their growth, I feel that we should make an effort to take advantage of their existence. For instance, we already made it possible to browse Wii U’s networking service called Miiverse on smart devices. Starting with this attempt, we are discussing among us how we can expand the use of smart devices to help drive the business of dedicated gaming systems.

Update: Nintendo just clarified its position, i.e. nope to Nintendo games on smartphones (including mini-games) in a statement to Engadget, writing:

…Mr Iwata has also stated that Nintendo’s intention is not to make Nintendo software available on smart devices and as such, we can confirm that there are no plans to offer minigames on smartphone devices.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Video Games

At 20 Million Copies Sold, Skyrim Is in the Top 20 Bestselling Games of All Time

Bethesda

That's across all platforms: PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360

This is technically last week’s news — last Thursday’s to be precise: Skyrim has sold 20 million copies since it launched in November 2011.

That figure was buried in a press release about Bethesda’s upcoming The Elder Scrolls Online, so mentioned almost offhand, but I noticed a few sites picking it up this morning, and I understand why. While something as mainstream-obvious as Grand Theft Auto V already has Skyrim by some 9 million copies, Skyrim is a roleplaying game. Make that a deeply traditional roleplaying game: the apotheosis of computer-automated realizations of the sort of thing Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson were thinking about back in the early 1970s.

I’m not asking anyone to genuflect at the altar of D&D, or even saying Skyrim‘s one of the greats (for me, because of the kinds of things Skyrim has to do to be the kind of game it was, given technological limitations in 2011, its greatness inexorably diminishes — just as Oblivion‘s and Morrowind‘s and Daggerfall‘s and Arena‘s did — with time and hindsight). I’m just noting that it seems counterintuitive, after years of treatises on the death of single player gaming, the death of extremely long form gaming and the stagnation of so-called Western fantasy gaming, that a game like Skyrim exists a decade into the 21st century, much less ranks in the top 20 bestselling games, across all platforms, of all time.

Bear in mind that 20 million copies comprises all the subsequent compilation editions, and a certain number of buyers (myself included) are probably double-dipping, but consider that by comparison, Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. 3 sold 18 million copies, while Super Mario World grabbed just a tick more at 20.6 million. None of the Halos are in that list, nor any of the Gears of Wars. Not a single Zelda game’s ever come close, and the top-selling installment in Sony’s bestselling PlayStation 2-exclusive franchise, Gran Turismo 3 (and remember that the PS2 is the bestselling game console in history), couldn’t crack 15 million copies. Even on the PC, granting that the revenue model for a lower-selling game, copy-wise, like World of Warcraft, is another matter, The Sims 2 is merely a sales tie — there’s nothing better-selling.

I still haven’t “finished” Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Between all the false starts and character rejiggering, the marathon play sessions that started out with the best of intentions but fizzled around the post-Dark Brotherhood quest-line business or the cosmic chitchat atop the Throat of the World, I’ve probably played more than most. But I have yet to feel that finish line ribbon snap across my chest. Maybe I never will. That’s what I love about games like Skyrim, and that’s why I’ll keep returning to them, story problems, gameplay drudgery and all.

TIME

Microsoft Locks Up Gears of War Forever, Snatches Former Series Producer to Helm New Games

Microsoft

All eyes to Vancouver, Canada, because that's where the future of Gears lies.

Do we need more Gears of War games? Microsoft thinks so. Enough so, in fact, that it’s gone and placed further locks, chains and other securing mechanisms around a franchise it already had pretty much squared away as the popular third-person shooter’s exclusive publisher.

Make that the owner now, too: Microsoft announced just a few minutes ago that it’s picked up the rights to the Gears franchise from developer Epic Games, which means Redmond now holds everything, soup to nuts.

Big deal? Kind of, because instead of subcontracting Epic to continue developing new games in the series, Microsoft’s handing the gig to its own Black Tusk Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia. That would be the studio formerly known as Microsoft Vancouver, formed in 2010 and responsible for work on Microsoft Flight (development cancelled in mid-2012) and a Kinect-based interactive TV project for kids (also cancelled mid-2012).

I know, that makes me nervous too — “unproven” is the polite, PR-friendly way of describing this. But Microsoft’s drawing a dotted line back to Epic by hiring former Gears production director Rod Fergusson to head up Black Tusk’s work on future games in the franchise. Fergusson left Epic and signed on with Irrational Games back in August 2012 as BioShock Infinite was wrapping up, but left Irrational shortly after that game arrived, delayed, in March 2013. Last September, he saddled up with 2K Games to lead development on a new, as-yet unnamed game, and…now he’s working for Microsoft in Canada. Gears fans can hope, at least for the sake of continuity, that Fergusson’s tenure at Black Tusk is less abbreviated.

It sounds like that Epic dotted line will extend to future Gears games’ world-building engines: in a Microsoft Q&A, Black Tusk Studios general manager Hanno Lemke confirmed his team “will collaborate closely with Epic to ensure the inclusion of the Unreal Engine technology into the ‘Gears of War’ franchise going forward remains consistent with the high quality fans have come to expect from the franchise.”

TIME Internet

This Video Game Lets You Pretend to Be a Cat and You Win by Knocking Stuff Over

Getty Images

Oh, what a world.

Obviously being a cat would be the best thing ever: your life would revolve around napping, rubbing up against people because you think they’re giant cats, and jumping up on shelves and knocking things over. Some beautiful genius has taken that last part of the equation and turned it into a video game that you can play online.

The first-person cat simulator is called Catlateral Damage (duh) and seriously, the player’s only objective is to knock over as many items as possible in two minutes. For now, the game — developed by QA tester Chris Chung — is limited to the owner’s bedroom. It’s currently in its alpha stage, and the full version will include more levels and more objects to send tumbling to the floor. The player’s sole weapon, however, will still be a paw.

Chung hasn’t yet announced the official release date, but you can play the alpha version in your browser, bringing you one step closer to finally figuring out how it feels to be a cat. And we can say this: the knocking stuff over part definitely feels good.

TIME Video Games

The History of Video Game Consoles: Part Three

From the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One -- with a couple of PlayStations and Wiis in between.

+ READ ARTICLE

Take a look back at the seventh and eighth generations of video game consoles in the final installment of our three-part video series (click here for part one; click here for part two). Hosted by yours truly, this installment features insight from TIME senior editor Matt Vella, Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, IGN’s Greg Miller, and Sony’s Scott Rohde.

TIME Video Games

The History of Video Game Consoles: Part Two

Sega's final console, Sony and Microsoft throw their hats in the ring, Nintendo's hits and misses. All that and more in part two of our continuing history of video game consoles.

+ READ ARTICLE

Take a look back at fifth and sixth generations of video game consoles in part two of our three-part video series (click here for part one; click here for part three). Hosted by yours truly, this installment features insight from TIME senior editor Matt Vella, Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, IGN’s Greg Miller, Sony’s Scott Rohde, and Video Games New York’s Giulio Graziani.

TIME Video Games

+ READ ARTICLE

Take a look back at fifth and sixth generations of video game consoles in part two of our three-part video series (click here for part one; click here for part three). Hosted by yours truly, this installment features insight from TIME senior editor Matt Vella, Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, IGN’s Greg Miller, Sony’s Scott Rohde, and Video Games New York’s Giulio Graziani.

TIME Video Games

The History of Video Game Consoles: Part One

Everything you wanted to know about the video game consoles from your childhood.

+ READ ARTICLE

Take a look back at the early generations of video game consoles in part one of our three-part video series (click here for part two; click here for part three). Hosted by yours truly, this installment features insight from Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, IGN’s Greg Miller, Sony’s Scott Rohde, and Video Games New York’s Giulio Graziani.

Check back for part two, which launches Thursday, December 26.
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TIME Video Games

Are You Addicted to ‘Candy Crush’? Take Our Quiz and Find Out

See where you rank on our Candy Crush Obsession Scale. After all, it might not be a question of whether you're hooked, but exactly how distracted you've become by this little game since its debut a year ago. (Disclaimer: this is an unofficial, nonclinical diagnosis.)

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