How Nintendo Exploits Nostalgia to Sell Games

A little while ago I wrote about how Nintendo faces an uncertain future, but I still think that it will continue to thrive. This video from PBS’s Game/Show echoes that sentiment by breaking down why Zelda, a franchise that hasn’t really changed its formula since the ’90s, continues to be so successful. Their take: it’s all about the nostalgia. Nintendo sells games by tugging at the heartstrings of the gamers they won over 20 years ago (like me), and the whimsical style of their gameplay draws a new generation in. Then, in 20 more years, the cycle can come full circle.

My favorite line from Jamin Warren: “Nintendo should change their motto to: ‘hook em when they’re young'”

Trouble looming at Nintendo

The console wars are raging between Sony and Microsoft (backing the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One, respectively). And off in the corner, twiddling their thumbs with a stockpile of Wii U’s that they released over a year ago, is Nintendo. The same Nintendo that revolutionized home entertainment with the NES; the company that pioneered motion-controlled gaming and brought the Wii into the American family room. Some thought that getting a head start on other next-gen consoles would give Nintendo a leg up in the console race, but sales numbers prove they probably jumped the gun.

Bloomberg reports that after a $240 million loss in 2013, Nintendo has cut sales forecasts to 2.8 million Wii U consoles, down from 9 million total units.

Ok, they’re in trouble.

Nintendo has always focused more no great games and player experience than top-line specs for their consoles, but clearly it’s time to pivot. That’s not to say they should throw immersive gameplay by the wayside, but Nintendo needs to concentrate on an evolving user-base that cares about graphics, hardware performance, and mobile gaming. Executives even mentioned that their change in strategy could include a focus on existing mobile platforms. In other words, we may see licensed games starring Mario and pals on the iPhone sometime soon.

Things look bleak. Nintendo’s executives would probably be the first to tell you that. But I’m not ready to lump them in with companies like Sega and Atari, now shells of their former selves. I see some encouraging reasons to believe in Nintendo’s return to grace:

  • From Mario to Zelda to Metroid to Pokemon, they have some of the strongest exclusive franchises out there. Nintendo could still be an immensely successful company as a game developer (apocalypse scenario, of course).
  • They still do platforming better than anyone else. Just check out this review for New Super Mario Bros. U.
  • Nintendo understands how to create an immersive experience for gamers.
  • They’re dipping a toe into cross-platform gaming with the next installment in the Super Smash Bros. series. It’s always one of their top sellers, and could help tip the scales on the “should I buy Wii U?” question.
  • The 3DS is selling, bust still not as well as Nintendo had hoped. They lowered forecasts from 18 million to 13.5 million.

Bonus read: Paul Tassi wonders how the Wii U would fare if it launched alongside the Xbox One and PS4. The two challengers sold more than 1 million consoles each on launch day, and Nintendo is trying to stop the bleeding. So, short answer? Probably not well.

Image via justusbluemer

Chromebooks and the power of cheap computers

Gregg Keizer, writing for Computerworld after the holiday season, pointed out that Christmas purchases helped two Chromebooks vault to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling laptops. And apparently growth is exploding:

“Chromebooks accounted for 21% of all U.S. commercial notebook sales in 2013 through November, and 10% of all computers and tablets. Both shares were up massively from 2012; last year, Chromebooks accounted for an almost-invisible two-tenths of one percent of all computer and tablet sales.”

This makes sense on a lot of levels. Chromebooks are great for consumers (especially younger buyers) who use computers only as an internet machine. Plus, since Chrome OS (the operating system powering the Chromebooks) is free of charge to manufacturers, companies like Asus and Samsung are jumping on board.

Who knows what the profit margins are, but analogous to their Android strategy, it seems that Google cares more about the ubiquity of their product than getting dollars up front. It’s all about growing the ecosystem.

iPhone apps I actually used in 2013

One of my favorite tech writers, MG Siegler, recently made a list of the iPhone apps in his arsenal throughout 2013, highlighting the services that impacted his daily life. So I decided to follow suit by making my own list, along with a few quick notes about what I like about each app, or why I use it over others. You’ll also notice that I follow some of the same rules: I’m leaving off pseudo-apps like Settings, limiting the list to 25 items, avoiding games (I might do another list, but my two favorites right now are QuizUp and Ski Safari: Adventure Time), disqualifying iPad apps.

Without further ado, here are the apps I kept in heavy rotation in 2013 in alphabetical order:

  • 2Do – the to-do app I’ve been using for a couple of years. Still waiting on an iOS 7 update, but I have a lot of recurring reminders built in, and I’ve been too lazy to migrate elsewhere
  • Camera – always accessed from the lock screen (one of the many features I love about iOS 7). My default for a quick pic, but otherwise I use…
  • Camera+ – my favorite camera for the iPhone, and a pretty deep photo editor—especially with their latest update. I hope they’re working on replicating the stock camera’s new “burst” mode
  • Chrome – the browser I use everywhere, which is the main reason it’s useful on mobile. Chrome keeps my bookmarks, history, and current tabs synced across devices
  • Downcast – the best podcast manager on the market, and it gets daily use during my commute. Love that it syncs with the iPad app
  • Drafts – a surprisingly powerful note taking app. I use it for everything from tweets to observations for my freelance work
  • Dropbox – the best photo manager on mobile or desktop, and a great way to access my personal files anywhere
  • Evernote – I use Evernote for everything from project management at work to expense tracking for tax season. I feed it constantly, and the search function is like a second brain to me
  • Facebook – Remember how awful the Facebook app used to be? I use it for chat the majority of the time—some swear by the Messenger app, but I like the “chat heads” interface
  • Fantastical – everybody needs a good calendar, and I greatly prefer the Fantastical UI. Syncs with Google Cal, which syncs with my work schedule
  • Google Drive – used for professional work. My go-to for mobile word processing
  • Google Maps – switched when Apple Maps had problems, and never went back
  • HBO Go – I’m one of those people who’s leeching off of my parents’ cable (I’m a “cord cutter,” but now that term sounds ironic). I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, Game of Thrones, and The Sopranos at the gym and at home. Chromecast has made it vastly more useful
  • Mailbox – my favorite mail app (I’m probably a bit biased, since I once interviewed the founder)
  • Messages – a must, especially since the whole family and my close friends are on iPhones
  • Mint – I’ve been using Mint for a few years now, and it’s tough to beat the convenience it offers for bank account tracking. Much easier than jumping through the security hoops of first-party banking apps
  • MyFitnessPal – I’m a believer in calorie tracking, and although I’ve fallen off the wagon lately MyFitnessPal helped me lose 10 lbs in the past few months
  • Pocket – I save anything I want to read, write about, or share with friends here. Very powerful thanks to third-party friendliness
  • Snapchat – love it for the super-quick photo sharing. Hate that the founders turned down a $3 billion buyout
  • Spotify – not loving the mobile UI lately, considering checking out Rdio, but standing by for now
  • Tweetbot – the most full-fledged, elegant Twitter client out there, bar none
  • Jawbone UP – I have a love/hate relationship with my Jawbone UP—I’m wearing my fourth one, since the other three malfunctioned in various ways—and I dislike the “plug in to sync” necessity, but I’m very interested by the quantified-self idea
  • Velocity – for those who haven’t heard of it, Velocity pulls from sources like Pocket and Instapaper and displays your articles word-by-word, at a speed you determine, to help users master speed reading. And I can report that it works: my “inner voice” is more silent than before, and I really do seem to be reading more quickly. My favorite way to consume saved articles
  • Vine – near-daily consumer, rare contributor
  • VSCOcam – my secondary photo editor. I prefer the filters over Camera+’s offerings

There are some apps that I left off of the list since I mainly just use them for notifications (SportsCenter, MLB Trade Rumors, Breaking News+, NY Times), and although I have Netflix and Hulu+ installed, I mostly run them through my PS3.

Oh, and for good measure, here’s a screenshot of my home screen:

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Computers that “solve” video games, owning the moon, and Instagram from North Korea: Links on Links for April 19, 2013

Welcome to the Links on Links, the post where I list all the things I enjoyed reading/watching/consuming this week. Suggestions? Tweet at me.

Facebook for iOS updates with Chat Heads, fresh design

Remember Facebook Home’s bubble-based messaging feature Chat Heads that follows you throughout your Android phone? Now it’s being integrated into Facebook’s iOS offering, highlighting chat as one of their key features moving forward.

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Chat Heads cleans up the chat interface by speeding up communication and allowing you to stay on the same page while you’re answering a message. The new system groups the conversations you’re having into a stack of puck-like faces, which you can click on at any time to chat with a friend.

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You can drag your stack anywhere on screen to keep it out of the way,  and to close a conversation you just pull it to the bottom of the feed.

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Facebook also took a page from Path, adding stickers to the chat function. It looks like users will be able to purchase new stickers in the future through a mobile-based shop, and they function just like Emojis in other chat clients.

The update also brought some design upgrades, a new look-and-feel for the iPad app, and a flatter, more pastel-toned icon.

The next question: When will Facebook feel comfortable enough to kill off the stand-alone messenger app?

Links on Links for April 12, 2013

Welcome to the inaugural Links on Links, the post where I list all the things I enjoyed reading/watching/consuming this week. Suggestions? Tweet at me.


LinkedIn wants to buy Pulse for upwards of $50 million

If the rumors are true, LinkedIn is about to shore up their content creation efforts with a $50 million-plus acquisition of newsreader Pulse. But what could the social crossroads for networking addicts and resume-pushing prospects do with a content aggregation engine? Probably a lot more than you’d expect.

Peter Kafka says LinkedIn could use the framework to offer more relevant and location-based data.  That means using Pulse’s recommendation-based features to better display connection information within your network. Integration with LinkedIn Today could also lead to location-based news and better suggested stories.

Mixing Pulse into the operation might also help LinkedIn mine more data by monitoring user reading habits. And the more they understand about you (and your interests, and your professional experience), the more they can feed to their premium users.

My guess is we’ll see changes to LinkedIn content sharing structure first, followed by a more subtle overhaul of the site’s recommendation engine. With the expansion of their social graph database, based in Pulse’s data-mining structure, LinkedIn will have some powerfully specific user info at its fingertips.

Marco Arment predicts a 4.94-inch iPhone Plus

An iPhone with a larger screen has been rumored for a while now, and Instagram founder Marco Arment says it might not be completely off base. The key to his argument: Apple wouldn’t actually replace the current model with a Galaxy Note-esque “iPhone Plus,” but instead they would offer it as a middling product.

It feels backwards to move away from the sleek and slim form factor of the iPhone 5, but Arment points out that sales figures tell a different story, especially internationally:

Why would Apple release this? First and foremost, there’s significant demand for larger-screened phones. As much as we make fun of the Galaxy Note, it sells surprisingly well, especially outside of the United States… The iPhone has lost a significant number of sales by buyers either wanting a larger screen or being drawn to how much better the large screens look in stores.

When you factor in two iPad sizes, multiple iPhone models that are still on the market and the potential for an iPhone Plus, Apple would be spreading their product lines pretty thin. To pull it off, they would need an expertly managed manufacturing and distribution strategy—something that is clearly within their realm of expertise.


A crazier prediction: iPhone Plus is real, and huge—
Image via

Rumor: New Xbox Needs Internet Connection to Play Games

Following news that the next-gen Xbox will block used gamesEdge magazine reports that Microsoft’s new console will also require an internet connection to play games at all. The decision seems to indicate that in order to launch a disc-based title, the console needs a unique, transmitted code that signals sole ownership.

Writers speculate that the code check will act as a defense against piracy, which is good news for both game developers and the consoles supporting them. But if PC gaming continues to gain traction, piracy will still run rampant on desktop emulators. In other words, the new Xbox needs to deliver on their industry-changing living room experience to entice consumers to upgrade.

Microsoft’s code-based security system also makes used games unusable, and that’s a dangerous precedent. Brick-and-mortar shops like GameStop are in for big hits to their bottom-line, and it doesn’t bode well for backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360. But with downloadable back-catalogues of classic games, losing treasured titles is less of a concern than it was five years ago.

The new Xbox should be unveiled at E3 this summer. But if you’re craving new console news, Playstation is promising a sneak peek at their 4th-generation machine on Feb. 20.

Edge // The next Xbox: Always online, no second-hand games, 50GB Blu-ray discs and new Kinect