Monday, December 11, 2006

OFFICIAL: Dragon Quest IX for the Nintendo DS

At the Dragon Quest 20th anniversary event, Dragon Quest IX, the latest installment to the hugely popular RPG series in Japan has been announced to be a Nintendo DS title!
This marks Dragon Quest's return to a Nintendo console in 10 years and the first since Dragon Quest VI

The game is developed by Level 5 (the same team who worked on DQ VIII for the PS2) and will be in 3-D.

Update: The game is slated to be launched in the middle of 2007.
Update2: Subtitle is Defender of the Stars. It will apparently support up to 4 players.

read more | digg story

SONY: Oops! We did it Again.

Sony’s PSP marketing has gone off the deep end

The once well oiled marketing machine that sold the RPG to Americans with glossy ads have been reduced to bungling the advertising campaign of the PSP not once, twice, thrice, but FOUR times (at least).

There were the ill-conceived ‘fake’ PSP graffiti ads, the ‘White is Coming’ European PSP ads which featured a white woman grasping the face of a black man that were accused of having racist undertones. Then last year’s awful ‘Portable Nuts’campaign failed to ignite public interest in the machine in the territory where the PSP had performed the strongest, North America. The spots featured animated squirrels talking like gangsters and trying to sell consumers the idea of the PSP as being a portable equivalents of what gamers have in their home since the PSP is supposedly very close to the PS2 architecturally.

Like to eat nuts at home? Well with a PSP, you can take your nuts on the road, ‘portable nuts’ get it?

Well, this really takes the cake. Sony’s viral markets tried to cash in on the youtube craze by signing up and uploading various supposedly ‘fan made’ videos ‘normal’ people rapping or singing to concept of ‘wanting a PSP’ for Christmas. One of the most awful videos featured an Eminem wannabe who sings a very bad rap about wanting a PSP. As the original poster at Something Awful noted:

A few things stood out, though: he apparently bought a PSP faceplate just for dancing with in this video, he praises random features of the PSP (I love the big screen?), just small shit like that.

This caught the attention of a few people. The video leads YouTubites to a website, which proved to be the viral marketer’s undoing. A BBC blog later noted what happened next.

The video/blog/ads featured people portending to be authentic PSP fans creating messages of love/want for the console, but were quickly uncovered by's dedicated base as superficial facades shielding mouthpieces for the corporation.

So there you have it. Another awful Christmas for Sony and its PSP, and I was actually beginning to like its PSP marketing, you know, the classy ones featuring the emo girlfriend leading her boyfriend on a wild PSP/1 Gig memory stick scavenger hunt through the hip part of town ending with the two meeting. Those were nicely done, but it seems like these YouTube ads were the Internet component of that campaign.

read more | digg story

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The November NPD

The November NPD results was released last Thursday but I didn’t get a chance to make a post about it. Here are the numbers (US sales data only) gathered from official published sources.

  1. Nintendo DS - 918K
  2. PlayStation 2 - 664K
  3. Game Boy Advance - 641K
  4. Xbox 360 - 511K
  5. Nintendo Wii - 476K
  6. PSP - 412k
  7. PlayStation 3 - 197K

The Wii and PS3 Numbers were not big surprises as Nintendo has already noted it had shipped 600,000 Wii units to North America in November, and Electronic Arts mentioned that Sony managed to only sell/ship 200,000 PS3s in the same time frame.

The real star of the month was the Nintendo DS. This was a portable that many expected would have been demolished by the technologically superior PSP and for a time it looked like it was going to happen. In stark contrast to 2006, 2005 was when the DS and the PSP were engaged in a neck and neck race with the PSP outselling the DS most months by a hair (5k-20k units), although by that time, the DS was already outselling the PSP handily and Japan.

I can’t stress this enough, the Nintendo DS is a monster of a gaming machine. It’s transcended the ghettos of portables (think of GameBoy and most hardcore games think of the handful of AAA Nintendo franchise titles amidst a sea of 3rd party shovelware.). Although western developers may still adhere to this view and thus put out titles accordingly, the quality and quantity of titles coming from Japanese 3rd parties are absolutely amazing. Square-Enix’s big titles not withstanding, there’s a wealth of games ranging from RPGs, simulations, to classic point and click adventures. Even EA has a Sim City DS in the works (so far announced for Japan only).

I honestly can’t say I’ve enjoyed a gaming platform as thoroughly as I have with my DS since the days of the Super NES. I can jump for the brain teasers of a Brain Training game to the depths of a fantastical world of Final Fantasy in a matter of minutes and Animal Crossing: Wild World has become a kind of companion to me. I boot it up most nights for 20-30 minutes, to water my plants, pick my orchard and manage my virtual town. I go on-line occasionally to receive mail from the developers. This modest feature further enhances the connection the game has with the rest of the Nintendo universe – for example when the Wii launched, Nintendo sent out virtual mail packages to Animal Crossing residents announcing the launch of Zelda and Wii sports and containing either the Master Sword or Bowling pins (Wii sports), I got the bowling pins.

So there you have it. DS won November, but if you want to tally it by manufacturer, it is worth nothing that Nintendo romped everyone. DS + GBA + Wii sold over 2 million hardware units of the overall 3.8 million hardware units sold in the month. Oh and the GameCube sold 70k units if you’re still keeping track.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Wii Sells out in Japan, Luigi is Arrested

The Wii was launched in Japan on Dec 02, Saturday this past weekend and all 400,000 launch units sold out within the day according to Nikkei news service. For those following the Wii story, the sell out was unexpected.*

Although Nintendo hardware launches have always been met with a sell-out, the launch quantities and the lucklustre performance of the GameCube had left many speculating that once the die hard fans get their units, there would be plenty left over for walk-in buyers.

As this theory was proven false in the North American launch, it appears to be wrong in Japan as well. The big news aside from the launch day sell-out is that this is apparently Nintendo’s biggest home console launch ever, in terms of pure quantity of units shipped making it the next-gen market leader in Japan the day it was launched.

In a bit of a funny aside, a cosplayer (costume player) was mistaken to have been sent by Nintendo to participate in the launch celebrations and was asked to help a Tokyo games store mark the midnight launch of the Wii console. The in-store celebratory events (complete with confetti and a countdown to midnight) is not uncommon in hardware launches (there was a similar event for the PS3 launch).

Store employees soon discovered the Luigi mascot was in fact not a Nintendo representative but a regular guy in a Luigi costume and he was promptly arrested. His arrest has turned into a cult event celebrated among the Japanese netizens, which included a pictorial story of the sequence of events leading to the arrest and a photoshop showing the cosplayer behind the mask was none other than PlayStation creator Ken Kutaragi.

Funny stuff.

*Media Create, the weekly sales tracking service has tracked 350,000 Wii sold between Saturday and Sunday. This is 50,0000 units below Nintendo's stated shipment figures of 400,000 units. That said, Media Create's numbers are the 'quick and dirty' big picture look at weekly sales and are not 100% accurate due to the speed in which the data is produced (3 days after the Sunday end of the week cut off for its tracking).

Above: Luigi cosplayer moments before his arrest.