Thursday, September 22, 2005

Food can be funny

I discovered the Gallery of Regrettable Food in my meanderings tonight and it made me laugh out loud. It reminds me of the site I saw years ago where a guy published some old Weight Watchers recipe cards that had just plain unappetizing pictures of so-called dishes that fell below predetermined caloric limits while at the same time remaining allegedly tasty.

The picture and caption that put me over the edge.

Remember, this stuff was promotional material, meant to sell a product.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Insights into Nintendo's innovative process

Lost Garden has an excellent essay on the philosophies behind Nintendo's strategy of constant innovation. The author discusses market forces in the gaming industry, how those relate to the concept of game genres, and then how Nintendo's new controller logically fits into the overall approach and strategy that it takes toward the industry.

One clarifying observation I liked was this:

People often look at Nintendo’s releases of a half dozen Mario games a year and assume that they are all clones. In fact, they are typically radically different games across a wide variety of genres. Nintendo gains their value from the Mario brand, not ownership of a specific genre.


Nintendo needs new genres to make money.

It seems obvious when you read it, but people often discount Nintendo, saying they only recycle the same characters and games, without realizing what the company is actually doing. They create new genres of games using familiar characters, the thinking being that gamers will be willing to go with something they're familiar with which will allow Nintendo to introduce something unfamiliar, i.e., innovative, that hopefully gamers will adopt and want more of.

Nintendo's innovation benefits the entire industry by expanding it. Don't worry, Sony and Microsoft will commoditize any innovations soon enough, but for now enjoy the freshness that is Nintendo.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Satoru Iwata's keynote address

A webcast of Mr. Iwata's keynote address at TGS is available here. It's extremely thorough and reviews a brief history of the industry including Nintendo's continuing innovation with software and hardware, including sales figures and demographics. A nice feature of the webcast is that the video and digital presentation the audience saw is presented right alongside the video. Next Generation does a nice summary.

The video lasts approximately 50 minutes, so if you want to skip to the part where Mr. Iwata introduces the new Revolution controller, skip ahead to 25:40 in the presentation. It's obvious this controller is a natural progression for Nintendo's innovation and is also part of a well thought-out plan.

Nintendo: the revolution is in the controller

Yesterday at the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo's president Satoru Iwata revealed the controller for Nintendo's next-generation console, Revolution.

Nintendo certainly is not following the crowd with this one. The controller resembles, very simply, a remote control like you would have for your tv. At first I didn't quite know what to think. With all the hype around this thing I expected some wild ergonomic analog stick button-fest, but here is this simple device. It's revolutionary by being the most ordinary thing to see on your coffee table.

First watch this movie to give you an idea of how this thing can be used. It is essentially a 3D mouse, able to detect movement of the controller in six directions, up, down, left, right, forward and back.

You can imagine controlling a sword (or lightsaber!), golf club or fishing pole by actually swinging the controller around. Notice that if you rotate the controller 90 degress the D-pad is on the left and "b" and "a" buttons are on the right, just like the old Nintendo NES controller -- perfect for the back library of old games Nintendo will be making available for download to Revolution. Apparently the demos shown to some of the media gave just these types of examples. The best article I've found is on 1up. Briefly, the demos showed:

1. The controller functioning as a light gun, aiming it at the screen;
2. The controller functioning as a fishing pole;
3. The controller guiding an object through a side-scrolling maze;
4. The controller in an air hockey game;
5. A basketball variation;
6. "Where's Waldo?" variation showing the ability to zoom-in (potential: sniper rifle)
7. Flying a plane by holding the controller as a paper airplane; and
8. An adaptation for a first-person-shooter, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.

There's tons of articles out right now(developer response), including the official press release from Nintendo. It's still very early on, so it'll be interesting to see the response to this.

My opinion is that this has a lot of potential. Not only in the creative sense, but this will likely help Nintendo reach its goal to bring in non-gamers and casual gamers by having a simple, non-intimidating controller that is intuitive for just about anyone to use. It's crazy, just watching the above demo movie makes me smile. That's fun, and that's what Nintendo wants.

Hopefully Nintendo will make it easy for developers to translate traditional controller schemes to this new configuration. If that can be done easily, Nintendo has a winner. It may not rise to the level of a coup, dethroning Microsoft and Sony, but a "Revolution" has to begin somewhere, right?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tennis: on a lighter note

One of my favorite sports to watch is tennis. Right now the US Open is being played in Flushing Meadows, NY. It's a nice distraction from most of the news that's happening right now. Most televised coverage during the week is on USA Network, with some primetime and weekend coverage on CBS. has some nice web coverage with the clearest and easiest-to-navigate brackets. The semis and finals will be this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Observations related to Katrina

I ran across this blog entry and found it piercingly insightful. It deals with the idea reported by some in the media that those who were trapped, injured or killed as a result of hurricane Katrina have no one but themselves to blame. The author highlights an interesting focal point for much of mainstream society when it thinks about the poor: children and the elderly. He suggests it's easy to focus on these age groups because it's easy to feel compassion for them. For those poor who happen to be 18 and older and are "able-bodied," however, being poor is obviously your fault and if you'd just work harder...

A quote from the post that sums up these ideas for me is:

For poor children, we have bleeding hearts; for poor adults, we have three-strikes legislation and prim, pursed lips.

The author includes a link to John Scalzi's post "Being Poor," which is superb, and provided the germ for the author's post.

Friday, September 02, 2005

PAX 2005 write-up

I have posted an article describing my PAX experience on the community gaming site (GameDays) I'm a member of. There's a few more pictures over there too.