Tag: ds

Study rubbishes Nintendo health benefits

Nintendo has come under fire from a medical study after the calorie-shedding health benefits of its Wii console were rubbished.

In the past, the Japanese firm has been on the receiving end of reports which have questioned the benefits of games such as Brain Age on the DS.

Now, it seems that one of the principle selling points of the Wii are facing claims that the games will not lead to increased physical activity among kids.

The Wii has been marketed at the health conscious, releasing a string of titles which have gone a long way to changing the perception of the near catatonic couch-bound gamer. For parents, it has been a compromise to allow their children to play video games without vegetating in a darkened room.

Nintendo was something of a pioneer with putting physical interactivity into games, with the movement sensor of the Wiimote allowing for a range of titles involving healthier pursuits such as boxing and aerobics. However, a study at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas has shown that there is no evidence to show an increase in exercise amongst youngsters.

The study looked at the activity rates of 78 children between 9 and 12 over seven days, with each child given a Wii console and fitted with an accelerometer.

The children were divided into two groups, a control group which played more sedentary games, while the others were given games which involved more activity. Using the accelerometer to measure the amount of movement among the children in each group, the researchers found that there was “no difference in physical activity” between the control group and the study group.

One of the researchers went as far as to claim that “It doesn’t appear that there’s any public health value to having active video games available in stores”.

While those playing active games may have moved around more while playing, any benefits appeared to have been cancelled out by a lack of movement during the rest of the day.

Those who played less active games were thought to be more likely to get out and become more active during the rest of the day. So, it appears that parents buying their children Call Of Duty are just as likely to see the calories flying off their rotund offspring as those vainly hoping their kids will invite friends round for a few hours of Wii Fitness Plus.

Nintendo denies Miyamoto quitting

Nintendo appears to have been caught on the hop with the news that games legend Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda is stepping down from his management role at the firm.

Miyamoto, who is general manager and head of development at Nintendo’s internal EAD studio, told Wired that while he was stepping down he would remain  to work on smaller games.

“Inside our office, I’ve been recently declaring, ‘I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire,'” Miyamoto said. “I’m not saying that I’m going to retire from game development altogether. What I mean by retiring is, retiring from my current position.”

Nintendo’s share price took a bit of a battering on the news and was down two percent by the time that the game maker’s PR department heard of the interview. Miyamoto’s retirement appeared news to the Nintendo corridors of power. Perhaps they had their Walkmans on when he announced it.

Anyway, there must have been the sound of voiding bowels in the PR department, after all it’s pretty difficult to get around the fact that Miyamoto clearly announced the was retiring from his current position.

Nintendo’s finest spinners did have a stab at it anyway. In an official statement to Metro, Nintendo said Miyamoto’s role is not changing and he will continue to be a driving force in Nintendo’s development efforts. All Miyamoto explained is how he’s encouraging the younger developers at the company to take more initiative and responsibility for developing software.

So where did the word retirement come from? It seems pretty clear to us that Miyamoto has had enough of being a manager and wants to get back into game development.

He said that he would ‘probably’ work on a smaller project with younger developers. Or, he told Wired, he might be interested in making something that he can make himself. “Something really small,” Miyamoto said.  We guess he means an origami swan. They are pretty small.

The other quote which makes Nintendo look silly is that Miyamoto declared that unless he said he was retiring he wouldn’t be able to nurture younger developers.

“If I’m there in my position as it is, then there’s always kind of a relationship,” Miyamoto said to Wired. “And the young guys are always kind of in a situation where they have to listen to my ideas. But I need some people who are growing up much more than today.”

Sounds pretty clear to us. 

Nintendo thinks piracy will become a thing of the past

Makers of the Wii, Nintendo has made the somewhat bold declaration that piracy on its gizmos will become a thing of the past.

While we have come to expect strange things to emerge from an outfit that thought calling a games console the Wii was a pretty neat idea, Nintendo appears to have topped itself.

According to Computer and Video Games, Nintendo thinks that piracy days are gone and people are happy to pay huge amounts of dosh for one game.

UK general manager David Yarnton said that thanks to improved security and changes in international law, they now see a time when piracy isn’t viable.

He was particularly keen on the 3DS’s anti-piracy tech saying that this is probably one of Nintendo’s best pieces of equipment.

The game maker went flat out to protect its IP and its third-party publishers’ IP as well.

He said that it was not just the technology which was becoming harder to crack but also the international climate. Governments have worked out that piracy is costing industry and are taking steps to stop it.

Of course what Yarnton does not understand is that people do not hack machines for commercial gain. They do it because people like Yarton tell them that it is impossible. Some also do it as a protest against Big Content. Other than the blokes who used to flog pirated disks in the centre of Sofia, it is rare that pirates set up shop to make much cash. The bulk of hot software is found for free online.

Sony to announce PSP2 on January 27

Sony is to announce the PlayStation Portable 2 (PSP2) on January 27, according to sources close to game magazine MCV.

The successor to Sony’s PSP, which launched as the major contender to Nintendo’s DS in late 2004, is set to be unveiled at a press event in Tokyo towards the end of the month, which may also feature the recently leaked PlayStation Phone.

The device is supposedly high-spec, with graphics rumoured to be comparable to early PS3 games. This will cater for a higher end of the market than Nintendo’s recently launched 3DS, although Sony confirmed it won’t have the 3D feature.

The PSP2 will feature a trackpad on the back, which will be used for controls, according to mounting speculation. Sony already ruled out a touchscreen, but a trackpad is still a likely option.

A number of big game developers are said to be already well into development of the PSP2’s initial release titles, but it’s not clear which companies these are or what franchises will be pushed onto the handheld device, but we can expect some big titles.

MCV claims that some elements of the PSP2 will come as “a huge suprise” and promises to deliver the shocking details in the Friday edition of its magazine.

People should be careful about effects of 3D on kids

Nintendo president Saturo Iwata has highlighted concerns over health risks of the new 3DS handheld gaming device, though he insists the product is not dangerous.

“We are being proactive about informing our customer, even though it may not necessarily be positive for our sales,” said Iwata in a rare interview with the  WSJ.

Concerns over the safety of the glasses-free 3D technology used in the new version of the highly successful DS were raised last month after it was said on the Nintendo website that the development of children’s eyesight could be adversely affected by continuous use of the product.

No details of medical evidence were given at the time, though the firm said that children aged six or younger were not advised to use the device in 3D.  It is believed that the 3DS will in fact feature a sliding scale so as to allow users to switch the three dimensional functionality mode off.

Iwata, a former programmer who took control of the company in 2002, has presided over notable achievements in the firm’s history such as the unexpected popular of the Wii, as well as the previous incarnation of the 3DS.

With the handset going on sale in February 26 in Japan, before hitting shops in the US and Europe in March, he is acutely aware that by highlighting concerns over the glasses free 3D technology he is risking sales of the product being hit.

It appears that the threat of litigation is a contributing factor in the decision to inform customers of the potential risks ahead of its relese, though the WSJ was careful to state that while Iwata did not deny that litigation was a factor in the decision, he stated that it was not one of the “main reasons” as to why the public were informed.

Of course Nintendo is not the only brand to feature such disclaimers for 3D products, Toshiba has also had to state that its own 3D TV sets should not be viewed by small children

The warnings are, according to Nintendo, the result of consultation with unnamed experts, though little more is known.  Panasonic however stated at CES that it would be consulting with the Japanese government to enable a set of international guidelines for 3D products.

While Nintendo seems to be rather short on details, Karen Sparrow at the Association of Optometrics, told TechEye that the firm is right to warn people about the potential health risks attached to the 3DS.

“Although it is, to a certain extent, essentially the same as watching 3D images through other means such as at the cinema or on a 3D television, there are two factors which could give rise to concerns with the 3DS.  This is because the close proximity of the device could place more stress on eyesight than looking at a television set, meaning that eyes have to focus harder, as well as the fact that it is more likely to be used by children.

“The short term effects are the same for adults and children, such as headaches and double vision.  However, though children’s eyesight will usually reach its full strength by the age of around five, new research shows that the eye can remain flexible for a number of years more.

“This can be a problem when viewing 3D if you have a weaker eye. If a child spends excessive time using a device such as the 3DS it can effectively act as a negative exercise, as opposed to strengthening the eye it can leave it underdeveloped, causing a ‘lazy eye’.

“Although there is no hard scientific evidence to show the exact effects due to the newness of the specific technology – the first results will only begin to be shown in the next year or so, while the real effects may not be known for even longer – Nintendo are right to warn of potential harm of excessive use.”

Nintendo aims to ship 1.5 million 3DSs

Maker of large amounts of Wii, Nintendo said that it plans to ship about 1.5 million units of the 3D-capable handheld game players in Japan next month.

President Satoru Iwata said in an interview with the Nikkei Business Daily published on Monday said that Nintendo wants to make sure it has a continuous supply.

Nintendo lost lots of dosh when its DS versions were released in Japan and it could not keep up with supply.

The figures give an indication of how big Nintendo thinks its 3D console will do.

The 3DS is scheduled to go on sale in the United States and Europe in March and Nintendo targets to sell 4 million units worldwide by the end of that month.

It seems that it is betting the farm on a big seller after years of success with the WII, Nintendo needs a number two. Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony ‘s Move controllers have made the Wii’s motion-gaming technology less of a game stopper and tablets are dealing to Nintendo’s handheld gaming market share.

The Nikkei said Nintendo may release the 3DS in emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere where economies are growing rapidly.

Over the weekend at Nintendo World event in Tokyo was giving a lot more details on the 3DS. The first games will be Battle of the Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, Nintendogs and Cats, Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle, Puzzle Bobble 3D, Samurai Warriors: Chronicle, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, Ridge Racer 3D and Winning Eleven Soccer 3D

Apparently, battery life will be in the region of three to five hours while playing 3D titles, and five to eight hours while playing a standard 2D Nintendo DS or DSi title. This is around a third of the playing time users can expect from a conventional DS.

The Nintendo 3DS uses a “parallax barrier” screen, developed by Sharp, to provide a glasses-free 3D effect. Users are able to use a sliding controller to lesson or accentuate the “depth” of the image on the 800×240 pixel LCD display. As with the DS, there are two screens, the lower of which is touch sensitive. The console also has tilt sensors to allow for motion controls. The price is about £190.

Panasonic will return to console market with hand held "Jungle"

Panasonic has announced today that it is to return to the videogame industry with a new handheld gaming system, despite its early nineties failure with the doomed 3DO Interactive Multiplayer.

The new handseld system will compete with Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DS and upcoming 3DS, not to mention the rapidly growing array of smartphones and tablet PCs which can play games and have been causing increasing competition for the traditional floggers of consoles.

With such a crowded market, it raises some eyebrows. Anyone remember Nokia’s N-Gage?

A Panasonic spokesperson indicated that the device will be called the Jungle and there appears to be a teaser website available which shows what it will look like and what kind of market it’s aiming for.

It highlighted the goal of the project to “create an ecosystem around online gaming.” It also advertised an upcoming browser-based Battlestar Gallactica MMO, along with a new Machinima show called Online Underground, which in turn highlighted another MMO. 

This is an interesting move, as the MMO market is huge but mainly confined to PCs. If Panasonic can target this specific area rather than trying to directly compete with Sony and Nintendo for an overall handheld console, it may just be able to make it work. At least until other portable gaming manufacturers and developers clock on, if it takes off.

That is, of course, providing it doesn’t charge through the roof, like it did with the flop that was the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer  in the 1990s. The 3DO launched in 1993 with high expectations, but it had a massive $700 price tag, not to mention expensive games which were few and far between.

With cheaper rivals on the market from Nintendo and Sega, the 3DO struggled to gain traction, and even with prices cuts in 1996 it was discontinued by the end of that year. 

Panasonic attempted to create a  successor to the 3DO called the M2, but this was cancelled in late 1997 when the company realised it would be unable to compete with its rivals, which by that point included Sony’s highly successful PlayStation.

Advertising and game development for the M2 was already in full swing, with the cancellation announced very close to its planned launch, adding insult to injury.

It’s been over a decade since these forays into the games market, so it remains to be seen how Panasonic will fair with the Jungle. The concept is interesting and could appeal to the millions of MMO players who want to game on the move, but with the 3DS set to be released in early 2011 it will be up against stiff competition.

Nintendo delays 3DS launch until Q1 2011

Nintendo  announced that it will be delaying the launch of the 3DS, its 3D-capable portable gaming device, aiming now for a first quarter 2011 release in Japan, with European and US dates yet to be decided.

It was expected that the device would be released in time for Christmas, particularly with rivals Sony and Microsoft releasing their Move and Kinect motion sensor systems, late-coming competition to Nintendo’s highly-successful Wii, in the run up to the holiday season. The news today, however, reveals that Nintendo was unable to get the 3DS ready in time.

Nintendo announced a date of February 26 of next year for the 3DS’ release in Japan, with a suggested retail price of 25,000 Yen (around $300). Global release dates and prices were not revealed, but we can probably expect it in the US and Europe some time in March.

The 3DS is the successor to the Nintendo DS, another of the company’s extremely successful gaming devices. Various incarnations of the DS have arrived over the years, such as the smaller DS Lite and the camera featuring DSi, but the 3DS will add a whole new dimension to gaming, quite literally, with its Sharp-licensed autostereoscopic display allowing 3D images at the flick of a switch without the need for glasses. 

Nintendo also issued a profit warning, revising its forecasts downwards to account for poorer performance and the delay with the 3DS release. While it was keen to downplay the delay, it is now looking at significantly less shipments of its products over the April 2010 to March 2011 period. 

Previously it estimated 30 million shipments of the DS, but that is now revised downwards to 23.5 million. Of those, four million are expected to be the 3D units. The Wii is also performing badly, but not quite as bad, with a revised figure of 17.5 million shipments compared to the previous forecast of 18 million.

TechEye takes to Cologne for Gamescom (GDC)

The Gamescom and Game Developers Conference Europe (GDC) took place in the carnivalistic and jovial Cologne last week. TechEye was there.

Cologne’s just a small train journey from the doorstep of yours truly, who was happy to see trainloads of young people from the struggling Ruhrgebiet shuffling frantically through the great, cavernous halls of Köln Messe. Gamescom proved to be a far nicer and less strenuous affair than Hannover’s CeBit, although it is perhaps unfair to compare them with each other.

Apart from a whole load of games designed to titillate, eat time, money and grab attention, Gamescom offered two interesting opportunities: namely to ask an Nvidia flack how the company will regain market share lost to DAAMIT and Intel in the last quarter, and to see and play with Nintendo’s 3DS console behind closed doors.

Back late July, figures released by Jon Peddie Research indicated Nvidia had lost market share of around ten percent year over year. Nvidia’s marketing man Igor Stanek blamed the delay of Fermi for the bad performance, however he naturally was very upbeat about the new GPUs bashing up the competition and his company regaining shares in the next few months. He claimed demand for Quadro was huge.

TechEye gave both the Quadro FX5000 and its larger brother the Quadro FX6000 9 out of 10 points. Stanek said he didn’t know if Nvidia will be able to ship enough cards in order to meet demand, but then he is supposed to be upbeat about his employer’s prospects and products.

In the consumer market, he said the GTX450 is coming up and will bring Fermi to the masses, i.e. the majority of gamers and PC users who shell out around or below €200 for a graphics card.

Stanek added he was a bit peeved about early criticism of the Fermi cards, explaining most people didn’t understand that the performance of a new architecture is always linked to its drivers which aren’t all that great when the product hits the market.

New drivers, however, give the GPU a performance kickstart, as well as developers getting acquainted with the inner workings. He commented the world plus its dog will be surprised on the tessellation front, claiming developers have got the groove and their feedback to Nvidia has been great.

Mafia II 3D

In the show room, Nvidia had Mafia II running in 3D on three monitors, as well as Ubisoft’s Avatar game running on a 3D telly. Wonderful stuff to behold, Avatar was especially impressive. Ubisoft did fall flat on its face with the title, as the company believed there’d be more than enough 3D screens out there to make a profit by the time it hit the market. As we all know, that’s still not the case. Prices for 3D hardware have to come down a ton before Joe Bloggs will put it in his living room, the whole process will still take a few years. This is something Nintendo has understood.

Nintendo’s newest handheld console was relatively impressive. Nintendo had a preproduction model of the 3DS on display behind closed doors, out of reach of the general public’s grubby hands and firmly chained to the floor and shackled to the young lass showing them. Various demos were shown but none of them were new. They were nonetheless more than sufficient to gain a good overview of the 3DS’ capabilities.

The screen was bright and very sharp, giving a far better impression than lower-resolution videos available on Youtube and elsewhere. Kid Icarus looked very good. Nintendogs in 3D was a load of fun, though it can hardly live up to a real pooch.

Metal Gear Solid was the best entry, but unfortunately it was unplayable. The camera angle could be adjusted using the analogue pad which worked effortlessly. At the highest 3D setting, things got a bit strenuous, as white flower petals floating around the screen hurt a bit to look at, however this was solved by setting the slider to two-thirds, regulating the depth of the 3D effect. This proved to be the best setting for these eyes.

Metal Gear Solid 3DS

Regulating the 3D effect worked seamlessly on nearly all demos, except for one or two titles where it was a bit bumpy. It can be expected that such minor problems will have been dealt with by the time the hardware is finalised and shipped.

So how will the 3DS change the game? First it has to be recognised this will be a make-or-break product for Nintendo. The company is under pressure on the mobile front, as smartphones are already very popular with the casual gamer crowd. In the console arena, Nintendo will have to face Kinect & Co., which make the PS3 and Xbox360 look a tad more attractive than the Wii.

Nintendo decided to create and sell an innovative product instead of over stretching the company’s resources. While Sony and Microsoft were sticking it to each other over which GPU and CPU had the better performance, Nintendo simply released the Wii built around comparably cheap hardware with a new concept focused on increased interactivity and family entertainment.

Nintendo won out to a degree, making Microsoft and Sony look like PC companies trying to replicate their business model in the console market. Despite having superior hardware, both companies were forced to play catch-up on innovative concepts – it could be said that Kinect would not have been created without Nintendo’s Wii.

After having seen the 3DS in action, it seems the unit will be able to repeat Nintendo’s success story. Some people may regard the small 3D display as a mere gimmick compared to an 81” telly, however Nintendo is right in choosing not to make itself dependent on future sales of third party hardware.

Instead, partnering with Sharp to roll-out an autostereoscopic display puts Nintendo in full control of the game. Consumers can be expected to flock to Nintendo’s upcoming effort for both gaming and movies. “Legend of the Guardians”, a 3D animation flick set for release in September, looked great on the unit despite the size.

Being able to watch a 3D movie on the train or in a cafe will be a major selling point. The 3DS will give Nintendo a good breather for the next few years in the mobile sector, at least until Sharp is allowed to market its 3D display to phone makers.

Nintendo loses money

Maker of games console, Nintendo is posting its first loss in two years as interest in its DS handheld player dropped to the same levels as interest in the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein among Apple fanboys.

The outfit, which was making cash hand over fist a copy of years ago with its daftly named Wii console has been suffering a bit from the stronger yen. This has slashed the value of overseas earnings.

It lost $289 million in the three months ended June, and this compares with about the same level of profit a year earlier.

DS sales plunged by a third in the US last month, mostly because games developers could not be bothered writing anything for its platforms. Nintendo only released 168 titles for the handheld player in the period, compared with 278 games a year earlier.

President Satoru Iwata is betting the farm on a 3-D model of the DS and a heart-rate-tracking “Vitality Sensor” accessory for the Wii console this year to pull the outfit out of the poo.

To be fair, a lot of Nintendo’s problems are not of its own making. It made a fortune flogging stuff to the EU and US only to suffer when the currency rates for these regions fell.

First-quarter sales of DS hardware dropped half to 3.15 million players, while those of software dropped 23 percent to 22.4 million units, the company said.

But its woes could become more woeful, with scattered woe turning into heavy showers of doom next year. Not only has Sony pulled its socks up a bit on the PS3, Microsoft is set to release its Kinnect controller which makes Nintendo’s Wii look positively steam powered.