MediaFile

With a new Wii, new problems for Nintendo

Just in time for the utter madness of Black Friday, Nintendo has released an extraordinarily complex successor to its Wii, grandma’s favorite videogame console. The Wii, which made gaming accessible to every demographic through ease of play, is no joke. As of the end of September, it had sold 97 million units worldwide.

So what of this new machine? Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s swaggering president, has been hitting the road to promote the Wii U, a machine without the simplicity of the intuitive Wii. The Wii U is a kind of videogame console meets iPad. Its not easy to learn, and it’s a big gamble for the Japanese company. Replicating the Wii’s success is a nearly impossible task that even Mario with all his Power-Ups would find daunting.

A full year prior to the Wii’s release, Nintendo’s stock began to rise amid an elated, buzzy excitement in the press. The gauzy coverage said the Wii’s motion controls will yield a fascinating experience the whole family will love. By the time the Wii hit the shelves in November 2006, Nintendo’s stock price had more than doubled to over $28. A year later, at its high, it rocketed to nearly $77 a share. Not only did Nintendo make money on games, it made money on the Wii, which was cheap to produce. The Wii became a trend that doubled as a lifestyle choice. You could play Wii Sports with your family, and you could exercise with apps like Wii Fit.

In 2012 the world is quite different. A recession has hit the videogame industry, one that has led to numerous game studio closures. When people stopped buying the Wii in droves, Nintendo’s stock price retreated to pre-2006 levels. In the year leading up to the Wii U’s release, shares had fallen by almost 20 percent, from $18.66 to $15.52 last week, in part because Nintendo will lose money on each Wii U sold. (In the last day of trading before the Will U’s premiere, the stock passed $16. After a one-day bump, it declined again.)

This turn of events has severely stressed the business gurus at Nintendo. In 2011 at San Francisco’s Game Developers Conference, Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, railed against developers who make inexpensive mobile games for the iPhone and iPad. “Game development is drowning,” he warned, before laying into mobile game makers as if he were Tom Coughlin chiding the New York Giants after a disastrous loss.

Ouya: A hackable, $99 gaming console is in the works

Innovative games on mobiles and tablets are the rage these days as console makers and traditional video game publishers scramble to keep gamers hooked. But a new startup is embracing the openness of mobile and Internet platforms and developing Ouya, a $99 gaming console for the television with software and hardware that is designed to be hacked.

The Android-based console is being built by a project founded by Julie Uhrman, a former executive at video game website IGN. Microsoft Xbox veteran Ed Fries is an advisor and Yves Behar of design firm Fuseproject will design the console. The device will include a controller with a touch pad and a free software development kit.

“The current console market is closed, it’s expensive to develop and it’s expensive to buy games. And we really wanted to turn that idea on its head by creating an open game console where it was inexpensive and affordable for gamers both on console side and game side.” Uhrman said.

Curt Schilling’s video game finally gets on base

Curt Schilling, the former pitcher and two-time World Series champ is more nervous about his new video game than he ever was about baseball.

He told a New York crowd at an event put on by Electronic Arts on Tuesday that he slept like a baby before World Series games in 2007 — but didn’t catch a wink on Monday night ahead of the release of his company’s first video game.

Schilling’s personal fortune is on the line with “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” a fantasy-action game that hit stores Tuesday. Schilling told Reuters last July he had invested between $30 million to $35 million of his own money into the 400-person company he founded that made the game.

Microsoft’s Kinect eyes path beyond gaming, into other industries

As Microsoft Corp’s Xbox gaming console nears its 10th anniversay, the company said its future may lie beyond gaming.

“That’s still the core of what we do, but if you think of the next 10 years of our business, it’s all the new opportunities and possibilities that Kinect is opening us up to,” Craig Cincotta, director of communications for Xbox, told Reuters.

Microsoft’s Kinect, launched last year, is a sensing camera and microphone device that plugs into the Xbox 360 console, allowing users to play games purely with gestures and voice commands.

Is Zynga’s lead slipping on Facebook?

Electronic Arts, the second-largest video game company in the U.S., is stealing market share away from Zynga, the top dog in social games on Facebook, according to a new report on gaming behavior.

The report, released on Wednesday, is based on data that tracks the game play of more than 10 million users of Raptr, a website that automatically tracks its users’ video game activity on Facebook, consoles and PCs.

 “EA has stolen 10 to 25 percent playtime from Zynga’s top games,” the report said.

The Hoff wants a video game of his own

David ‘The Hoff’ Hasselhoff wants to stay “hip and current with the kids,” so he’s doing it the way he knows best–by getting beat up in cheerleader outfits and chicken suits in an ad campaign.

The Hoff is Electronic Arts’s latest pitchman in online videos for “Burnout Crash,” a racing video game on Xbox Live with the motion controller, Kinect, but he’s not stopping there: He wants a game of his own, he told Reuters in an interview this week.

“I’ve wanted to develop my own game so this was a way of seeing if this works and maybe we can take this one step further with using the same concept as ‘Burnout Crash,’ and maybe do something with the Hoff,” he said.

Zynga herding its users like sheep from game to game: data

Social games company Zynga is adept at converting its current players to its new games, just as smoothly as some of the top video game franchises like Call of Duty, according to a new 21-page report by the game tracking service and social network Raptr.

The report takes into account more than 3 million Zynga players who use Raptr’s game tracking applications.

“If Zynga were to release a new game tomorrow, our data reveals that 90 percent of users of that new game will come from an old game,” said Dennis Fong, Raptr’s co-founder.

PlayStation attempts fashion makeover, hires a Kardashian

“Where’s your ‘half tuck?” America’s Next Top Model star Jay Manuel asked Kourtney Kardashian in New York City’s Herald Square.

He was asking because Sony hired the pair to show off the style of a shirt that’s not fully tucked in, a look popularized by the video game hero Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, an Indian Jones-like adventure shooter game.

Kourtney, who is Kim Kardashian’s older sister and one of the stars of “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” wore some kind of leopard jumper. But along with Manuel, she plucked random guys off the street to give them Nathan Drake makeovers.

Zynga’s new game is less FarmVille, more Indiana Jones

Zynga is famous for making games about farm chores but now that it is on the brink of its IPO, it is trying something different. In the most complex game Zynga has released so far on Facebook, players in Adventure World need to unlock clues and puzzles to find the last city of gold, El Dorado. Reuters spoke with Nabeel Hyatt, the general manager of Zynga Boston about why this is a new direction for Zynga, which is not known for World of Warcraft-type quests. Zynga bought his company, Conduit Labs, last summer and now he leads the team that made the game hitting Facebook in a few weeks.

REUTERS: What makes Adventure World different from other Zynga games?

HYATT: We consider this to be a new genre of social game that hasn’t existed before. The overall adventure genre goes back 20 years and hasn’t really had a place in social games. You can’t build the same kind of social game that you would have built for a hardcore gamer. If you think about FarmVille and CityVille, we call them ‘invest and express games’ where you grow a city over time and you use that to express yourself. This is very different. It’s a new bold move for Zynga to make that is about exploring, discovering and uncovering secrets and solving puzzles and moving across lots of different maps and worlds. This game is a really broad expansive experience with more than 30 different environments when it launches and over 20,000 objects.

REUTERS: Why is this a new direction for Zynga? Is this going to be Zynga’s version of World of Warcraft?

In a twist, Zynga brings mobile game to Facebook

On Monday, Zynga said it would be bringing its most popular mobile game, “Words with Friends,” to Facebook. The social games maker said the game would be coming soon.

Players on Apple- or Android-powered devices will be able to carry over games from their phones or tablets onto Facebook. Zynga, in an attempt at bathroom humor, said this would allow “a seamless transition from your work computer to the bathroom… don’t lie, you know you do it.”

While it’s no surprise that Zynga would want to tap Facebook to attract more users to “Words with Friends” — a game you have to play with at least one other person — it’s a curious move for a company whose biggest IPO risk is its dependence on Facebook. Future investors are more likely to welcome an announcement in which Zynga distances itself from Facebook, like the recent one about Zynga entering mainland China through its partner Tencent.