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Is The U.S. Losing The Supercomputer Race?

March 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Advanced computing experts at the National Security Agency and the Department of Energy are worried that that China is “extremely likely” to take the leadership in supercomputing as early as 2020.

A report with the catchy title “U.S. Leadership in High Performance Computing” has been penned by HPC technical experts at the NSA, the DOE, the National Science Foundation and several other agencies.

It said that China’s supercomputing advances are not only putting national security at risk, but also US leadership in high-tech manufacturing.

If China succeeds, it may “undermine profitable parts of the U.S. economy,” the report warns. Of course, it does not matter – the US government is going to start investing in private coal companies soon and that will sort the whole mess out. Nothing says high-tech like a coal powered factory. We are sure Isambard Kingdom Brunel could come up with a steam powered supercomputer, if he were alive, and American.

Of course the report will be dismissed by the current US government as it is written by scientists and no one believes them any more – after all they think the world is older than 6,000 years and that God is going to wipe us out with another flood, which he promised not to do.

The report said that it is easy for Americans to draw the wrong conclusions about what HPC investments by China mean — without considering China’s motivations.

“These participants stressed that their personal interactions with Chinese researchers and at supercomputing centres showed a mind-set where computing is first and foremost a strategic capability for improving the country; for pulling a billion people out of poverty; for supporting companies that are looking to build better products, or bridges, or rail networks; for transitioning away from a role as a low-cost manufacturer for the world; for enabling the economy to move from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Made by China’”.

Courtesy-Fud

Intel Goes To The Cloud With Alibaba

March 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Alibaba Cloud (Aliyun), has announced a pilot program with Chipzilla for a cloud-based FPGA (field programmable gate array) acceleration service with the goal of enabling customers to have virtual access to powerful compute resources in the cloud to help them manage business, scientific and enterprise data application workloads more effectively.

By using Intel Arria 10 FPGAs, Intel Xeon processor-based servers and software development tools for application acceleration as a ready-to-go preconfigured infrastructure, Alibaba Cloud offers systems designers cloud-based workload acceleration as an alternative to investing in on-premises FPGA infrastructure.

The service delivers on-demand scalability of workload acceleration with FPGAs while reducing upfront investment risks and accelerating delivery of new infrastructure services.

Senior director, Alibaba Cloud the appropriately named Jin Li said that Alibaba Cloud offers customers access to a number of services in the cloud, and adding an FPGA-based acceleration offering means they can access it without the cost or requirement of building out their own infrastructure.

“This service greatly adds to our value as a leading provider of highly scalable cloud computing and data management services that provide businesses with flexible, reliable connectivity,” Jin said.

One of the key benefits of FPGAs is that they are programmable and can be customized to accelerate and scale for varying workloads, such as machine learning, data encryption and media transcode.

Dan McNamara, corporate vice president and general manager, Intel Programmable Solutions Group said that Intel FPGAs were enabling new business models such as Alibaba’s approach of using FPGAs to accelerate diverse workloads via cloud services.

“In addition, Intel offers customers scalable solutions for accelerated computing with its data center leadership in Intel Xeon processors, FPGAs, optimized tools and software, and a global partner ecosystem across the spectrum of deployment models.”

Courtesy-Fud

New FCC Chairman Pledges Faster Response On New Technologies

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has pledged his agency will implement quicker response times regarding new technology proposals, a move that might influence the direction of 5G development around the world.

Pai was appointed by President Donald Trump in January. In his first major policy address on Wednesday, Pai directed Federal Communications Commission staff to follow a little-known section of U.S. communications law that says the agency should decide within a year whether a new technology or service is in the public interest.

“Going forward, if a petition or application is filed with the FCC proposing a new technology or service, we’ll supply an answer within a year,” Pai said in his speech at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

With carriers and equipment vendors racing to test and deploy new 5G mobile technologies over the next few years, regulators are under pressure to act quickly. Europe, China, the U.S., Japan and South Korea each want to lead the next generation of mobile, and the regulators in these leading countries often follow each others’ leads, said analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. A commitment to quick decisions can only help the U.S. in that race, he said.

The FCC has already opened nearly 11GHz of spectrum in high-frequency millimeter-wave bands for use in 5G mobile services, and has signed off on a number of 5G trials, Pai said. He thinks faster FCC decision-making could help to make even higher frequencies above 95GHz available for new uses. He favors opening up those bands to experimentation by letting companies try out new ideas.

Spectrum above 95GHz may be useful for high-speed backhaul connections in places where it’s expensive to lay fiber, or as an emergency backup in case fiber gets cut by natural disasters like earthquakes, said Michael Marcus, an independent spectrum technology and policy consultant and former FCC official. Some companies that want to use it have waited years for the FCC to review their applications, he said. Marcus hopes that Pai’s pledge is the start of a major shift at the agency. But the impact remains to be seen.

“It’s too early to say it’s a sea change,” analyst Entner said. “Like everything in Washington, there are intentions and then there is the reality of what actually happens.”

In the speech, Pai also called for efforts to bring broadband to underserved communities, through both federal programs like the Universal Service Fund and streamlined regulation of private carriers. He tied that goal, one he’s frequently promoted since joining the agency he now leads in 2012, to Trump’s call for investment in national infrastructure like roads and bridges.

“If Congress moves forward with a major infrastructure package, broadband should be included,” Pai said.

Sega Acquires Crytek Black Sea Developers

March 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

In an effort to bolster Total War developer Creative Assembly, Sega Europe today has announced that it’s acquired Crytek Black Sea and added the 60-person team from Bulgaria to the prominent UK developer. Crytek Black Sea has been renamed Creative Assembly Sofia and will be working on a number of unannounced projects.

Tim Heaton, Studio Director at Creative Assembly, commented: “Now in our 30th year of games development, with an army of multi-million selling titles to our name and a history of world-renowned partnerships, Creative Assembly is proof of the UK games industry’s potential for global success. Due to this success, we are further expanding our UK base and developing additional projects overseas, whilst pursuing top talent from across the globe to join us, all in support of our commitment to creating high quality, authentic gaming experiences. Our continued growth allows us to be dynamic with our future projects, constantly seeking new opportunities and reaching a wider audience with our games.”

Jurgen Post, President and COO of Sega Europe, added: “The acquisition of Crytek Black Sea further enhances Sega Europe’s development capabilities and strengthens our ability to output diverse and engaging content for our IP. Creative Assembly Sofia will be working exclusively on content for Creative Assembly and will prove an invaluable asset given the multitude of unannounced titles currently in the works. This acquisition represents another step in the right direction for the growth of our global business, underlining our commitment to add value to our existing studios and our continued support for the UK games industry.”

Fresh off the Halo Wars 2 project, Creative Assembly has been in a growth mode over the last year, as the studio’s headcount has risen by 37% and is now over 500-people strong. The addition of Creative Assembly Sofia comes after the opening of the studio’s third UK site at the end of 2016, which resulted in an 88% increase in development space to its creative footprint (with over 70,000 square feet of in-house development facilities including a 45-camera motion-capture studio and dedicated audio suites).

Creative Assembly is looking to stay ahead in the UK games market, which generated £2.96bn in 2016, 1.3 times the size of the video market (£2.25bn) and 2.6 times the size of music (£1.1bn).

In an email interview prior to the news, Heaton informed GamesIndustry.biz that Creative Assembly has been looking to expand for a while. “[We] have actually been eyeing potential studios specifically to expand CA’s output for some time. Parties have been discussing this deal over the last few months, since the opportunity arose to purchase Crytek Black Sea, and integrate them into CA’s operation,” he explained.

“While Sega are always looking out for acquisitions that fit with the rest of the business, this addition has been motivated by the growing CA output, and the need to support that growth with talented and experienced teams,” Heaton continued. “CA has never had the aim solely to grow big, but our games have given us the opportunity to work on more projects. As we have taken those opportunities, we have needed to seek out more talent who reflect the calibre of our games.”

While Crytek has run into financial troubles and has unfortunately missed payroll at times, Heaton assured us that the new CA studio would not have to worry about its status any longer.

“We’ve been working closely with the CA Sofia team over the last few months to ensure they are setup for success, and have a comfortable and healthy work environment,” he said. “This has included upgrading their IT infrastructure, setting up clear HR support processes and integrating them with our UK teams; in fact, some of the CA Sofia team are with us in the UK at the moment, as part of their ongoing training and development.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Are Analyst Right About The Nintendo Switch?

March 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The games industry’s leading analysts have highlighted just how difficult it is to predict how well Nintendo Switch will perform.

IHS, SuperData, DFC and Niko Partners’ predictions range from 4.4m to 10m shipped by the end of 2017.

DFC thinks Nintendo Switch will sell 8.3m units in its first year, as detailed back in January, to eventually hit an install base of 40m.

IHS estimate a rather weak first year for Switch at just 4,4m, reaching 10m by year two and 30m by the end of the lifecycle – which is a slower start than Wii U but a stronger finish.

SuperData, as revealed yesterday, have concerns over the Switch’s price and software line-up and pencil year one as hitting just 5m units – which is slightly better than Wii U.

Finally, Niko Partners’ Daniel Ahmad thinks the machine could ship 10m this year, although how it does beyond that he’s not sure. That’s stronger than most Nintendo launches, but behind that of Wii and PS4.

Much like previous consoles from the company, Nintendo is targeting an altogether different market to PS4 and Xbox One, and even a slightly different one to its previous machines – which makes estimating its potential difficult.

There are legitimate concerns about the price – if not of the console itself, then the accessories and games. Although it’s possible Nintendo will address this if consumer uptake is sluggish, as it has done in the past with 3DS and GameCube.

There are also concerns about the relatively soft launch line-up and the rather sparse schedule throughout the year – although it’s important to note major first-party IP including Zelda, Mario Kart, Mario and Splatoon are all scheduled to launch his year. It’s also likely Nintendo is holding off many game announcements for E3 in June.

As we’ve observed twice now, it appears Nintendo is taking a softer approach to the launch of Switch than previous machines, although early retail reports is that the product is selling out in many locations.

We won’t get an accurate picture of the Switch’s potential for little while now. In the words of our very own Rob Fahey: “As with any risky new venture, keeping an open mind until the picture is clearer is going to serve any observer of the industry well.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Does The Nintendo Switch Have a Pixel Problem?

March 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo has doing its best to see off stories that its new Switch portable console is blighted with dead pixels.

Those who have got their paws on the Switch have been complaining of distracting dead or stuck pixels, or light or dark patches on the screens of their brand-new consoles.

Nintendo’s answer to this is that such pixels are “normal” and are not defects. In contradiction to this statement, Nintendo claims that only a small number of cases have been reported.

Either way if you have a problem with dead pixels Nintendo will not give you another one.

But “dead” pixels belong to the early days of LCD screen technology but improvements in the underlying technology and manufacturing techniques driven by their use in billions of smartphones has generally been regarded to have significantly reduced the issue.

It seems that Nintendo has not learnt much about customer support a similar issue happened with the Nintendo DS at launch in the US, but the Japanese gaming company eventually relented after complaints from buyers.

Nintendo said at the time: “We suggest that you use your system for a few weeks to determine whether this interferes with your enjoyment of game play. If, after using your system for awhile, you feel that this tiny dot is too distracting, the Nintendo DS does carry a one-year warranty.”

Bizarrely Nintendo also warned users that using the Switch near an aquarium or within a metre of another wireless device, including laptops, wireless headsets, wireless printers, microwaves, cordless phones or even USB-3.0 compatible devices “such as hard drives, thumb drives, LAN adapters, etc”, might cause the Joy-Con controllers to disconnect from the Switch.

It is increasingly looking like Nintendo are trying to shifted a console with an underpowered processor and graphics system with dodgy LCD screens on a slightly more cynical buying public. Time will tell if it will get away with it.

Courtesy-Fud

Does The iPad Have A Rocky Road Ahead?

March 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Those responsible for inflicting the iPad on the world are experiencing a rather large slice of karma, thanks mostly to their dependence on the fruity tax-dodging cargo cult.

According to Digitimes, the first-quarter 2017 results of iPad supply chain manufacturers are not that good. Touch panel makers TPK Holding and General Interface Solution (GIS), are hanging in the balance and they are really hoping that Apple is going release its new iPad Pro lineup soon.

It had been expected that Apple is planning three new tablets for 2017, an entry-level 9.7-inch iPad, a 10.5-inch iPad, and an upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Vendors need at least one of the two large-size tablets, 10.5-inch iPad or the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, to be released in the first quarter of 2017 along with the entry-level 9.7-inch iPad, otherwise they might be facing a cash crisis.

However, Apple, with its usual caring and sharing attitude to suppliers and consumers alike, seems to be planning to release the two large-size models in May-June, which will mean that first quarter sales of supply chain makers are going to be pants.

TPK is expected to see its revenues drop within a range of 10 percent in the first quarter of 2017. But the company is still likely to post growth for the first half of the year thanks to follow-up orders for the new iPad Pro lineup, commented the sources.

GIS is expected to see its revenue decline over 35 percent in the first quarter from the $963.28 million of a quarter earlier.

The hope is that orders from Apple as well as non-Apple handset, tablet and notebook clients will help GIS boost sales for the second quarter and eventually for the first half of the year.

But there are indications that iPad sales will continue to fall. Optimistic analysts say that shipments of iPad devices are expected to reach 40 million units in 2017, down slightly from a year earlier. Even if these figures are correct, then a few suppliers will be regretting their dependence on Jobs’ Mob.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Christmas 2017 Gauge The True Success Of Nintendo’s Switch?

March 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

It doesn’t feel right. It all seems so muted. Sure, there are those that can’t decide if Nintendo has made the ultimate games machine or the most pointless, but even so, it doesn’t feel like a new machine from the most iconic name in video games is a little over a week away.

Up until yesterday’s onslaught of unboxing videos, there has been a distinct lack of significant press coverage. Where’s the massive media campaign? Where’s the release countdowns? Where’s the surprise last minute announcements?

You know something is up when Sony’s big new IP launch, Horizon: Zero Dawn (which is also out next week) is comfortably winning the PR battle. Switch was announced six weeks ago and somehow it has already managed to lose its momentum.

And there’s so much we still don’t know about it. Where are all the games that have been promised? What about the Virtual Console? How does the online infrastructure work?

If I was a cynical man, I’d almost suggest that Nintendo is sending its next console out to fail and are preparing a more complete ‘switch’ to smartphones in the near future.

The reality is perhaps something a little more simple – the launch of Nintendo Switch just isn’t that important. Christmas is the true test.

By the end of March, there will be 2m units in the channel worldwide, which is a relatively cautious figure (Nintendo sold 3m Wii Us in that time, albeit over Christmas). There should be more than enough Nintendo fans or Zelda obsessives to pick up most of those – the sort of people who have already dropped £150 on the new Zelda collector’s edition and its assorted Amiibo (which are all gone). Switch has sold out at major US retailers, although there’s still some stock available in the UK.

In fact, you can easily see who Nintendo is targeting with Switch by the level of PR and marketing focus being spent on the new Zelda, as opposed to the actual console.

If you think back to the last time Nintendo released a console at this time in the year, it was the 3DS in 2011. Nintendo got the fundamentals of that launch wrong, both in terms of software line-up, price and PR positioning. In the months that followed the company took drastic action. It dropped the price significantly, ramped up its development resources and launched two big games at Christmas (Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7). The move meant the 3DS had a strong first Christmas, and the console went from there to 65m units globally in five years.

That first Christmas is crucial and is often more important than the console launch itself.

Nintendo now has the same window of correction. Based on its current schedule, by Christmas there will be four significant first-party Switch games available (Zelda, Mario Kart, Splatoon 2 and Mario Odyssey). It will have a better idea of what parts of the machine are resonating and which aspects are not. It will also know for certain if that price is too prohibitive for anyone that isn’t a hardcore Nintendo fan.

We will have also passed E3. We will know whether GameCube games are coming to Switch and we’ll have a better idea of what the software pipeline looks like.

If you look at the rather understated marketing campaign, the continued announcement of new 3DS titles, the fact that Nintendo revealed the release date so late (including to many of its own employees), and the absence of rather salient information about the machine’s digital functionality, and you get the feeling that the arrival of Switch next week is almost a soft launch.

There’s a risk here. Next week Nintendo has a brand job to do in establishing the Switch, irrespective of how many units it has in the channel. And the problem with soft launches is that consumers and third-parties can quickly perceive a cautious approach as a failed one – it’s something Sony has been wrestling with a little bit with its approach to PlayStation VR.

the close of March, Nintendo should have 2m Switch consoles in people’s homes worldwide. The machine will be doing the rounds with friends and families, word will spread, there are a smattering of big releases during Spring and Summer to keep the conversation going. And then by November, as Sony’s PS4 Pro and Microsoft’s Project Scorpio duke it out over the high end sector, Nintendo have their £250 hybrid complete with a new Mario to tempt you.

It almost sounds deliberate.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Toshiba Wants Nearly $9B For Memory Chip Business

February 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Japan’s Toshiba Corp wished to receive at least 1 trillion yen ($8.8 billion) by selling most of its flash memory chip business, seeking to create a buffer for any fresh financial problems, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The beleaguered conglomerate was pressured to abandon an initial plan to sell just under 20 percent by its main creditor banks which are worried about potential writedowns that may come on top of $6.3 billion hit to its U.S. nuclear unit, financial sources also said.

Toshiba said last week it is now prepared to sell a majority stake or even all of its chip business, the world’s biggest NAND chip producer after Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, also rocked by the emergence of fresh problems at its Westinghouse unit that have delayed the release of earnings.

The company has not decided on the size of the stake to be sold, preferring to focus on the amount that can be raised but would like to retain a one-third holding as that would give it a degree of control over the business, the source with direct knowledge said.

Its willingness to relinquish so much of the unit underscores not only the depths of its financial woes but also resignation on the part of management to becoming a much smaller company.

The sale “is the best and the only way Toshiba can raise a large amount of funds and wipe out concerns about its credit risk,” said the source, adding that the sale should be completed by the end of March next year.

It wants to restart the sale process as soon as possible and may sell to multiple buyers rather than one bidder with interest already received from investment funds, other chipmakers and client companies, he also said.

A separate person with knowledge of the matter said Toshiba will outline terms of the sale by the end of February, conduct a first round of bids in March and aim to have chosen a preferred bidder or bidders by the end of May. The person also said Toshiba valued the chips business at around 1.5 trillion yen.

A Toshiba spokeswoman said the company cannot comment on the specifics of the sale process. Sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

AT&T Has Plans For IoT Network Later This Year

February 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

AT&T is accelerating its planned debuted of LTE-M, an IoT network that’s already being used to track shipping containers and pallets, monitor water use and connect fleets to the internet.

The carrier said Tuesday it will have nationwide LTE-M coverage in the U.S. by the middle of this year, six months ahead of schedule. Previously, AT&T had said LTE-M would cover the U.S. by year’s end.

That means everywhere in the country that AT&T has an LTE network, it will also offer LTE-M. By the end of the year, it will have LTE-M across Mexico too, creating a broad coverage area for businesses that operate on both sides of the border.

LTE-M is one of several LPWANs (low-power, wide-area networks) that are emerging to link sensors and other devices to the internet of things. It’s not as fast as the LTE that smartphones use, but it’s designed to allow for longer battery life, lower cost, smaller parts and better coverage. LTE-M has a top speed of around 1Mbps (bits per second) upstream and downstream and a range of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles), including better penetration through walls.

AT&T is part of a wave of mobile operators considering or rolling out LTE-M. Others include Orange in France and SoftBank in Japan. AT&T launched its first commercial trial of LTE-M last October in San Ramon, California, and has since opened another in Columbus, Ohio.

Several companies are already using the network for enterprise and consumer applications, AT&T said. They include Capstone Metering, a supplier of wireless water meters; RM2, which makes storage pallets with sensors for monitoring inventory; and PepsiCo, which is using LTE-M to collect usage data from soda fountains. Consumers can dispense their own blends of soda from these fountains, and PepsiCo uses sensors to keep the fountains stocked and learn what blends are popular.

There are already several emerging LPWAN systems from mobile operators and other service providers. The growing LoRaWAN, Sigfox and Ingenu technologies come from outside the traditional mobile industry.

LTE-M and another technology, NB-IoT, are based on LTE and are designed to run over carriers’ licensed spectrum. They may be the best options for enterprises concerned about interference and security, Ovum analyst Daryl Schoolar said.

 

Is The Nintendo Switch Finally Going Unreal?

February 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Nintendo, is finally getting around to embracing third party development tools including the Unreal Engine.

Nintendo has always had trouble getting third-party developers to make games for its consoles, but the Switch is supposed to show off a new image for the former playing card maker.

Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto has announced that Nintendo engineers have been learning how to use third-party apps and especially the Unreal Engine.

The Switch, like the Wii U, supports the Unreal Engine but has not been particularly enthusiastic about it.

Nintendo’s Shinya Takahashi said Nintendo now wants to develop an environment where “a variety of different third-party developers are able to easily develop compatible software”.

Miyamoto also suggested that Japanese developers no longer are behind their western counterparts when it comes to third-party engines. He added that his engineers’ skill set can “now be compared with those of Western developers”.

While Nintendo will stick to using its own development tools when building games for its new hardware, its engineers are apparently trying to understand one of the most commonly-used game development engines.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Nintendo Taking A Risk With The Switch?

February 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

You know a company has had a rough set of results when its CEO needs to publicly state that they represent the lowest extent of a slump, with a bounce surely to follow; this being essentially the line that Nintendo boss Tatsumi Kimishima attempted to soothe worried investors with this week. It didn’t exactly work; Nintendo shares, which had been trading at their highest levels in five years, dropped back below the 23,000 Yen mark for the first time since last September. The figures reveal sentiment; investors aren’t sold on the Switch, don’t really know what to make of Super Mario Run, and while they’re generally more positive on Nintendo than they were a couple of years ago, they’re feeling jittery and nervous about the firm’s prospects.

As well they should. In fact, 2017 is likely to be a rollercoaster of a year for Nintendo investors, and those nerves are likely going to get more and more jangled as the year rolls on. The reason for that is simple; Nintendo is taking risks, and they’re not the kind of risks that it’s easy to calculate an over-under on. That makes them into the kind of risks that investors love and hate at the same time – but mostly hate. If Nintendo’s risk-taking pays off, it might soar, but there’s also a strong chance it’ll all come crashing down, and the worst part is, nobody can accurately assess what the risk of either of those scenarios, or anything in between, may be.

There are essentially two major risks Nintendo is taking on. The first, of course, is Switch. The company is hoping for Wii-like sales of the device; almost anything would be an improvement over the Wii U, of course, but in reality it probably needs to hit 40 or 50 million to be considered a genuine success, while anything below 20 million would be enough of a disappointment to cast a pall over the company’s entire future in the home console business. Switch is a high-concept device, quite unlike anything else on the market; from the control system it affords to the mixed-mode portable/home console design of the system, it’s a genuinely unusual piece of kit (far more so than the Wii U was) and that alone will undoubtedly inspire a lot of early adopters to pick one up out of sheer curiosity. It could ignite the imagination of a wide swathe of consumers and become a must-have entertainment device, like the Wii before it. It could equally prove attractive only to Nintendo’s fanbase and sink into much-loved but commercially disastrous obscurity like the Wii U.

My personal guess is that it’ll do far better than the Wii U, but come nowhere close to the success of the Wii, but I’m at pains to call that a guess and nothing more. Anyone demanding that their forecast of the device’s performance is of more worth than mere guesswork is, bluntly, a bit of a charlatan. Not only is the market into which Switch is launching extremely poorly understood at the moment (find me a single soul who predicted pre-launch that PS4, at this point in its lifespan, would be outselling the mighty PS2?), with vast new differences emerging between different global markets and demographic groups, the device itself also has no clear analogues to which we might look for guidance. The strength of the Switch is that it’s Nintendo doing something genuinely different and distinctive from its competition – a metric on which the Wii U, ultimately, failed. The weakness of Switch is that that means success or failure, though clearly influenced greatly by traditional factors like software support, is impossible to pin down with a probability calculation.

Having one big, risky venture on the go would be enough to make investors jumpy, but Nintendo has another one running in parallel. The company has been told for years by its investors that it should be involved in the smartphone market, and indeed its recently relatively buoyant share price is largely the result of its initial announcement of a partnership to do just that with DeNA in 2015, and the launch of Pokemon Go last summer. As the company’s titles roll out, though, things are getting a little more grounded and sober, and investors are perhaps recalling that the market they’ve told Nintendo to dive into is one of the riskiest in the business. The first game title created under the Nintendo-DeNA partnership (discounting Miitomo, which wasn’t considered a game, and Pokemon Go, which was simply Nintendo IP licensed out to a different developer, Niantic) was Super Mario Run, which has been largely well-received critically but hasn’t set the world on fire otherwise. Eschewing the F2P business model and the various hooks and enticements it offers for player retention was taken as reassuring by the company’s vocal core fans, but has seen Super Mario Run fade rapidly from consumer consciousness. After a backlash over its $10 price, which laid out just how uphill the struggle for premium-priced mobile games is, Mario Run has managed around a 5% conversion rate and $53 million in revenue so far.

To be clear – that’s not bad, it’s just unremarkable, and not really what investors had hoped for when they pushed Nintendo towards mobile. The company’s next launch, Fire Emblem Heroes, arrived this week and uses the more established business model for mobile titles; a few months down the line we’ll also have an Animal Crossing title on mobile. The thing is that despite the popularity of these franchises and the pedigree of their development teams, their success simply isn’t assured – even the very best mobile developers have had trouble replicating their greatest successes or even being consistently successful with their titles. Many of the world’s biggest mobile game companies are essentially sustained by one huge, evergreen game, and show no evidence of knowing how to bottle that lightning; the reality is that it’s a hugely fickle, difficult market where, even if you produce a brilliant game, external factors (including a pretty big dose of luck) play an inordinately large role in success. Nobody should doubt the quality of the games Nintendo will launch on smartphones, but nobody should consider a gigantic commercial hit to be a sure thing, either.

All that being said, the point here isn’t that Nintendo is going in the wrong direction; it’s that it’s facing a risky, bumpy year ahead, and that’s going to play merry hell with the firm’s relationship with its investors. Since, unfortunately, the media remains convinced that stock markets are magically possessed of grand insights unattainable to mere humans, like a modern-day Oracle of Delphi – where the reality is that stock markets, in their short-term motions at least, are just the sum total of a load of largely not terribly well informed people charging around in blind mob panics – we’re going to see a lot of context-free stories this year about Nintendo’s share price plunging or recovering as the balance of risk seems to sway one way or the other. The reality behind that is that at least in the next few months, the actual nature of that risk profile is going to be utterly obscure to everyone – even to Nintendo itself.

Right now, the wrong direction for Nintendo would be the direction it was headed in two years ago; competing head-to-head with Sony and Microsoft with a home console that was poorly differentiated from the competition; pretending smartphones hadn’t upended its market; making some of the best software in its history for some of the least-played hardware on the market. The right direction is one that changes that path, and change means risk – especially when the only avenues of change available to you involve innovation, untested ideas, and a tough, poorly understood market.

Buried in Nintendo’s statements this week is cause for great optimism; the success of Pokemon Sun/Moon, which are already among the best-selling installments in the series, was built upon the use of Pokemon Go as a marketing and awareness vehicle, allowing Nintendo to reactivate older consumers of the franchise and change the demographic profile of its audience. As a test run for its future strategy of building struts of mutual support between mobile and console titles, it’s been damned near flawless; sure, it got lucky with a timely implementation of AR tech and a lovely marriage of IP to gameplay, but the underlying business strategy has also played out as well as could be hoped. These are the things to watch for in the next year. Ignore the markets; with any company as highly exposed to risk as Nintendo is right now, share price movements will be exaggerated and hypersensitive, even to rumour and falsehood. Watch, instead, for evidence that Nintendo’s actual plans – the things it wants to sell, the consumers it wants to cultivate and the ways it wants to link together its IPs across platforms and approaches – are coming together or falling apart. Only that will tell us whether Nintendo is really going to bounce back, or if Kimishima’s certainty that it’s already hit rock bottom is going to be tested.

Courtesy-Fud

Nintendo Plans To Add Virtual Reality To The Switch

February 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Virtual reality will be coming to the Nintendo Switch – just as soon as the company is convinced people can play it for longer periods of time.

The news comes from an interview between Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima and Nikkei, as translated by Dr Serkan Toto, CEO of Tokyo-based consultancy Kantan Games. According to Toto’s tweets, Kimishima said Nintendo is studying VR now but will hold off until users can “play for hours on end without problems”.

Nintendo has been extremely cautious about virtual reality, partly due to ongoing reports of nausea and headaches among early adopters. The platform holder’s US president Reggie Fils-Aime also said the technology is “not fun” and “not social”.

However, patents emerged back in December for a virtual reality accessory designed to be used with the Nintendo Switch, suggesting the platform holder is at least preparing to make its new console VR-enabled.

Meanwhile, Kimishima has also detailed prices for Switch’s paid online service, suggesting Nintendo plans to ask for 2,000 to 3,000 yen per year.

3) Nintendo plans to introduce yearly and monthly paid plans for the online service. Again, price range is 2-3,000 yen/year (.70-.50).

— Dr. Serkan Toto (@serkantoto) February 2, 2017

As Toto observes, that translates to between $17.70 and $26.50, or £13.95 and £20.89 for the UK.

Little is know about the paid service yet, save that it will be required for online multiplayer titles and that subscribers will receive a free NES or SNES game every month. Some of the latter will also have online multiplayer added.

While the price point makes Switch’s paid service cheaper than those of PlayStation and Xbox, it will be interesting to see whether consumers deem there to be enough value to signing up. Both PlayStation and Xbox also offer free games every month, often major AAA releases from the past year, and thanks to strong third-party support the number of online multiplayer titles subscribers gain access to is much higher.

The Nintendo Switch launches worldwide on March 3rd, and VG247 reports that Kimishima is confident it will reverse the platform holder’s recent fortunes, with the president claiming Nintendo’s fiscal performance will only improve from here.

He said the Switch’s unique features mean it could sell as well as the Wii – which means Nintendo is targeting sales of around 100m. Regardless of whether or not it reaches that, hopes are high that it beats Wii U’s disappointing lifetime sales of 13.5m.

Courtesy-GI.biz

With The Switch On The Horizon Nintendo Go Black

February 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Former playing card maker Nintendo has managed to make its first profit in four quarters thanks to its mobile gaming division.

For those who came in late, like Nintendo, the game maker did not want to touch mobile gaming with a 10-foot barge pole because it would cannibalise its portable console market. However it looks like it was wrong.

However it warned that there might be trouble ahead as there are lower game downloads for its consoles.

Operating profit reached $284 million in October-December, which is 3.7 percent lower than the same period a year earlier but better than the cocaine nose-jobs of Wall Street expected.

For the year ending March, Nintendo cut its operating profit forecast by a third due to lower game software downloads for its consoles.

Nevertheless, projected income from investments and a weaker yen allowed it to almost double its net profit forecast.

In the nine months through December, the games maker said it earned $93,903,200 from mobile gaming, accessories and related merchandise, including from its first Nintendo-branded mobile game, Super Mario Run. The figure was up from $ 36 million in the same period a year earlier.

Super Mario Run, featuring the princess-rescuing Italian plumber, has reached about 78 million downloads since 15 December, Nintendo said.

But the game has also received a high number of reviews from users complaining mainly about its $9.99 one-time cost, with less than 10 percent of users paying to unlock all features. Most mobile games are free to play and charge small payments for special features.

Nintendo has said it plans to release around 3 mobile games a year, with two titles – Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem – planned for the coming months.

Still, it continues to regard mobile gaming primarily as a means of luring players to its mainstay consoles. Nintendo’s president, Tatsumi Kimishima, said at a news briefing on Tuesday that the games maker plans to move up production plans to meet orders.

Courtesy-Fud

Will The Nintendo Switch Be A Success?

January 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Smart money is on the Nintendo Switch being a lemon, but it seems that the maker of toilet branded consoles is making lemonentry mistakes on its launch.

Firstly, there is a lot of confusion over what the Nintendo Switch can do. Multiple account support was teased in a photo posted by indie developer Nicalis on Twitter but then this was pulled and people shut up about it.

Now Kotaku have confirmed that the system does support up to eight multiple users but really people should not have to be digging for that information right now.

Nintendo’s colourful Miis will be making a return and Mii characters can be used to represent a user profile, but are not required. They can still be used in games if developers choose to include them.

This is a new detail which for some reason Nintendo forgot to mention at its presentation in Tokyo. Some think this is because they are too closely associated with the Wii era, but others are think Nintendo is daft for forgetting to mention it. After all they are a function which the console will have and a sales point.

But the biggest problem for the console is that for some reason Nintendo forgot to sort out support for video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Video.

Streaming video is available on practically anything and would be an important feature of any entertainment centre, so why did Nintendo forget to include it? Apparenly they were spending all their time “making the Nintendo Switch system an amazing dedicated video game platform, so it will not support any video streaming services at launch,” a spokesperson said.

Such apps are “being considered for a future update.” To be fair the Wii U was not a great video streaming set-top box, but then again that console was also disappointing.

Courtesy-Fud

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