Nintendo Direct Does the Business
For owners of Nintendo consoles Nintendo’s Nintendo Direct presentations are quickly becoming the only game in town. Previous Nintendo Direct presentations have seen the announcement of Monolith’s tentatively named X, along with the Wind Waker remake for the Wii U – and this week’s Nintendo Direct was no different. Chief among the week’s 3DS-centric announcements is the fact that Square Enix’s Bravely Default [tentative title] has now been confirmed for a Western localisation, with Nintendo as the publisher. The title has been given a vague 2014 release date for America, yet we may intuit that it will likely be released in early January on account of the fact that Nintendo of Europe have confirmed a 2013 release for PAL regions. Bravely Default is still very much an unknown quantity, yet it can be confirmed to have one of the most exquisite soundtracks of any Square or Enix gaming properties since the turn of the century. In similar localisation news Shin Megami Tensei IV has been confirmed for an American release on the 16th of July – just two months after the Japanese release. Finally, Wii U’s Pikmin 3 has been laughably penciled in for an August 4 release – missing the console’s artificially extended launch window by some months. Nintendo’s post launch support of the Wii U has been shockingly poor, with even this mid-tier Nintendo offering many months away. It never pays to prematurely count a Nintendo console out, but Wii U looks dead in the water at present.
Nintendo also lighted upon this occasion to unveil the the first screens for New Yoshi’s Island and their A Link to the Past sequel for the 3DS – and… the results are not all that great. Both games look significantly worse than their SNES counterparts, and, while New Yoshi’s Island still manages to look somewhat attractive in spite of this, the new Zelda game would not look out of place on iOS. On a more positive note, the Zelda footage revealed several game mechanics not present in the 1991 original; namely the ability to turn link into a drawing in order to travel to inaccessible areas through the walls, and an increased emphasis on traversing a dungeon’s verticality – thus making use of the 3DS’ mostly awful 3D capabilities. Finally, Earthbound is at long last set to make its debut on the Virtual Console [yay!] but Caspius will not be able to play it [boo!] on account of it being released solely on the lackluster Wii U. Did Nintendo not think that 3DS owners might like to play a bit of Earthbound?
Journalistic Complicity Is the Real ‘Evil Within’
The father of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami, has this week announced his first proper survival horror title since the universally acclaimed Resident Evil 4. In an era when survival horror has largely fallen to shit, the announcement of The Evil Within should be met with universal enthusiasm, and to a large degree it has been, and yet some have been decidedly soured by the experience – including The PA Report’s Ben Kuchera.
For a long time now video game developers have been getting far too friendly with game journalists – and this can cut both ways. Sometimes this can lead to developers becoming very publicly upset with reviewers when a game they have worked on gets trashed by someone with whom they have established a personal report. Other times this ‘special relationship’ leads to a publication compromising their journalistic independence in order to maintain their privileged insider access. This can happen in the form of ‘Gameinformer’ early reviews, which one has never known to dip bellow 8.9/10, or it can happen in the way that occurred this week with the unveiling of The Evil Within.
Zenimax, the parent company to Shinji Mikami’s Tango Gameworks, has worked out a sweetheart arrangement with gaming tabloid, IGN, whereby IGN supplies very soft and uncritical early impressions of The Evil Within in exchange for exclusive early access to the game. Meanwhile, every other gaming site is left to transcribe IGN’s empty platitudes into their own words, which is a grave disservice to both readers and journalism as a whole. While the game will be properly judged in the fullness of time, early impressions will be shaped almost exclusively through the prism of IGN, when they almost certainly should not be.
Japanese Game Market Grows Despite Being Mauled by JRT
As James masterfully explained in his excellent editorial this week, the Japanese economy was once the envy of the world until years of decline led to a legacy prosperity tax, the JRT, essentially choking the Japanese economy of vital economic participation. No industry seems to have borne the brunt of the JRT more than gaming, as increasingly pessimistic consumers cut back on expensive discretionary purchases like gaming consoles; this has taken a bite out of handheld revenues and has essentially decimated the home console space. With this in mind, analysts have long wondered at what point the plunging fortunes of the Japanese gaming market would find a floor to this downward trend, and thus establish a new stable baseline for market performance. This week it would seem that the Japanese market has established this new floor, and thus 2012 marks the first time in five years that the Japanese market has not contracted.
In the fiscal year 2012 the Japanese gaming market grew by roughly 4.6 billion dollars – or 1.2 percent. That sort of growth might appear somewhat meager to our well-rounded Western eyes, yet it is a damn sight better than previous years of negative growth. This result appears to be largely hardware based, as hardware sales were up by five percent to 1.8 billion dollars, while software sales were down by 1.2 percent to 2.8 billion dollars. The real sting in the tail of these numbers comes by way of the fact that the Japanese social market grew by a much faster rate than the traditional game market in 2012, and is now valued at 4.3 billion dollars – just 300 million dollars less than the conventional games market. The reason for this is once again thought to be, unsurprisingly, the JRT, which kicks in at a higher rate for physical goods than it does for mobile downloads.