TIME Magazine: Why Nintendo president Satoru Iwata mattered…

TIME (by Matt Peckham):

Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata has died at only 55 years old after battling cancer for over a year. His unexpected passing marks the end of a wildly inventive and broadly celebrated 13-year stretch helming the iconic Kyoto video games company.

Iwata, born in Sapporo, Japan in 1959, was only the fourth person to lead Nintendo since its inception as a playing card company in 1889, and the first president unrelated to the founding Yamauchi family. His ascent to the topmost Nintendo position in 2002 was unusual as it followed a career in software engineering, making him one of the industry’s only corporate luminaries with substantial hands-on game creation experience.

In an exclusive interview with TIME this spring — Iwata’s last with a Western media outlet — he talked about how personally involved he remained in helping drive and evaluate the company’s hallmark unorthodox inventions. He called Nintendo “a company of Kyoto craftsman” and joking “this is where my background in technology is quite helpful, because it means that the engineers can’t trick me.

At Tokyo-based Nintendo affiliate HAL Laboratory during the 1980s and 90s, Iwata helped develop some of Nintendo’s most memorable games. That list includes Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, the opening salvo in a critically lauded and financially lucrative fighting series starring Nintendo characters like Mario and Donkey Kong that’s since sold in the tens of millions for the company. After he was promoted to president of HAL Laboratory in 1993, he continued to work personally on the company’s products, including several titles in Nintendo’s wildly popular Pokémon series.

Iwata’s move to Nintendo came in 2000, when he assumed management of the company’s corporate planning division. Just two years later, then-Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi, who had helmed the company since 1949, decided to retire, allowing Iwata to step in and steer Nintendo through its most inventive period yet.

It was under Iwata that Nintendo ushered in the Nintendo DS, a dual-screen gaming handheld that succeeded the popular Game Boy, eventually going on to challenge Sony for the title of “bestselling games platform of all time.” Nintendo’s wildly successful Wii, now arguably the most recognizable video game system in the industry’s history, arrived in 2006, another Iwata-led gamble that paid incredible dividends following the company’s lackluster GameCube, which launched in 2001. And while Iwata’s critics often accused the company of reacting too slowly to industry trends, Iwata wasn’t afraid to enact radical change: after years of financial downturns (exacerbated by the company’s poorly received Wii U game console), he unveiled plans this March to develop games for smartphones and tablets. The world will now remember Iwata as the Nintendo leader who tore down the wall between the company’s heavily guarded iconic IP and non-Nintendo platforms.

But it was Iwata’s playful, almost mischievous and refreshingly candid personal style that so endeared him to the company’s fans. In 2011, he helped launch a video series dubbed Nintendo Direct, personally emceeing the company’s biggest surprises, often with quirky framing twists, like an effects-laden mock kung-fu brawl with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé for E3 2014. At Nintendo’s E3 2015 presentation last month, he appeared as a Muppet designed by The Jim Henson Company.

Iwata’s other significant public relations innovation was “Iwata Asks,” a remarkable series in which Iwata interviewed members of Nintendo’s many development teams, delving into the anecdotal history of some of the company’s best loved projects. It was a Nintendophile’s dream come true.

Above all, Iwata established and maintained a decorous tone often at odds with his competitors. In lieu of visually splashy, clamorous stage-led events at annual game shows, Iwata chose charmingly simple, almost dignified presentational vignettes. When fans responded negatively to a new Nintendo idea, Iwata’s reaction was often swift and direct: after an upcoming Nintendo DS game built on a hallowed Nintendo franchise was waved off by fans at E3 last month, Iwata tweeted his thanks to fans for their feedback and promised to meet their expectations.

Iwata’s health problems were first aired just before E3 in June 2014, when Iwata, who had been planning to attend the show (I was scheduled to meet with him), mysteriously backed out. At the time, Nintendo said Iwata’s doctors had warned him against travel, but didn’t say why. A few weeks later, the company disclosed Iwata was battling cancer, specifically a tumor in his bile duct. At that point he’d had surgery, and his prospects sounded hopeful because the doctors had apparently found the tumor early. When he resumed appearing in Nintendo Direct videos following E3, he was clearly thinner, but seemed otherwise unfazed. Though he again missed this year’s E3, he remained publicly active to the end, participating in Nintendo’s last shareholder meeting just a few weeks ago.

Sony shows off its new and improved virtual reality headset, promises 2016 release date

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RocketNews 24:

VR unit-awaiting heads up, gamers and tech fans. Sony has announced that Project Morpheus, its virtual reality add-on for PlayStation 4, will go on sale during the first half of 2016. And the latest build is boasting some impressive stats.

It may have been in development for years, but when Sony lifted the lid on its virtual reality headset at Game Developers Conference last year, many – most notably those who had either backed or firmly believed the path to VR enlightenment to be Kickstarter success story Oculus Rift – were quick to suggest that the Japanese tech company’s device would be a poor imitation of VR, pointing to Oculus’ superior specs and enormous number of financial backers and supporters.

A year on, and neither headset is yet available for consumers to buy, but today at GDC 2015, Sony Computer Entertainment announced that Project Morpheus will be in consumers’ hands in the first half of 2016. And with it they have announced a slew of improvements to the already impressive device.

  • Morpheus now has a 5.7 inch OLED display. After receiving comments from users who noticed some image blurring while using the 2014 model, Sony has fitted the newest version of Morpheus with a 1920 x RGB x 1080 OLED display. What that means is that the pixels which make up the image each contain red, green and blue “sub-pixels” which flicker on and off, thus helping to eliminate the kind of blur often seen on regular LCD displays.
  • The screen now boasts a 120hz refresh rate – double that of the previous model – and a latency of only 18 milliseconds. That’s fast. Developers can reportedly render their games at 60fps but output at 120fps thanks to a technique known as “reprojection”, thus enabling a smoother experience less likely to result in user motion sickness.
  • The unit’s field-of-view has been bumped up from 90 degrees to 100, which, while not quite as wide as Oculus Rift’s, has reportedly made a noticeable difference to the slight “letterbox” effect that some users commented on in 2014.
  • Users can now quickly and easily lift up the display panel section without removing the headset entirely – something that will probably come in handy when your cat rubs up against your leg while you’re being stalked by an acid-spitting Xenomorph or exploring a snake-filled cave and you just have to know what just touched you IRL.
  • The headset has also been given additional motion-tracking sensors which work with the PlayStation Camera, going from six in the model shown last year to nine, allowing for greater accuracy and 360-degree head tracking.

Of course, all of this is subject to change, and at the rate at which VR tech is improving, we can almost certainly count on a few more improvements by the time the unit is available to buy. But judging by these figures, providing Sony can launch Project Morpheus at an affordable price point (and hopefully with a new name), this could well prove to be the perfect entry model for those looking to make their first foray into the world of virtual reality, minimal tinkering and technical know-how required. And while the unit may or may not end up being eclipsed by its competitors in terms of technical prowess, Gizmodo UK’s Sean Hollister has already gone on record to state that Project Morpheus is easily the most comfortable virtual reality unit he has ever used, even going as far as to call it “the best I’ve ever tried”.

As for the actual games? Well, Sony has promised to show us more this June at E3.

Link

Sony unveils PlayStation TV Micro Console

 

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Hot news direct from this year’s E3 conference: Sony are set to launch their popular PlayStation TV unit in Europe. This pocket-sized add-on to the PlayStation 4 essentially allows you to connect the console wirelessly to another TV in another room. So, if your PlayStation is plugged in downstairs but that’s simply too far from your bed to cope with, now all you need is this handy unit and you can access all your games and movies without having to move an inch.
It will eventually also support PlayStation Now (once that’s rolled out in the PAL region), allowing you to enjoy PlayStation 3 titles via streaming, as well as a range of PS Vita, PSP and PS One classics. No specific details on price or release date have been announced yet, but watch this space for more details.
Check out this link: 

Sony unveils PlayStation TV Micro Console

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Sony unveils Glacier White PlayStation 4 and Urban Camo Dualshock 4 Controller

 

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The latest news to trickle out of E3 and into our inbox is that Sony will be producing a very sexy Glacier White edition of their latest console, along with a Dualshock 4 controller clad in a tonal grey camo print. Even sexier is the news that – in Northern America, at least – the console will be bundled with the forthcoming FPS title Destiny, produced by original Halo-creators Bungie, along with a matching white controller and priced at $450.
The Urban Camo controller, meanwhile, will be available separately for $59. Time to start limbering up those thumbs…
Check out this link:
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Nintendo bundling Wii U with two games and an extra controller for $330 on May 30th

 

Engadget:

 

You don’t have a Wii U yet, right? You’re forgiven, and far from unique (in that respect, anyway — you’re a unique snowflake otherwise). Should the eighth entry in the Mario Kart series pique your interest, Nintendo‘s got a pretty fantastic bundle arriving at the end of May with a copy of the game, an extra Wii Remote Plus gamepad, and a free download of one of four games. All that stuff comes together in one box for $329.99 — a pretty great deal considering the Wii U system in the box costs $300 by itself!

The price isn’t a measure of Nintendo trying to save you dough, but one of a company struggling to make its game console relevant against growing competition from Sony and Microsoft. The PlayStation 4‘s sales are already outpacing the Wii U, at 7 million consoles compared to Nintendo’s 5.86 million (as of Dec. 31 2013); Xbox One isn’t far behind at 5 million.

With major third-party publishers like EA and Ubisoft largely abandoning the Wii U, Nintendo’s leaning on first-party software to sell the system. And that’s where this Spring’s Mario Kart 8 comes in, the latest entry in a series going back to the Super Nintendo era. Like Microsoft offering Titanfall bundled in with Xbox One, Nintendo is bundling a major, exclusive release with its console, and taking a hit on profits from game sales in favor of putting more Wii Us in more living rooms. The hope is, in the long run, more consoles in homes means more game / accessory sales (which is where the real money is for Nintendo).

The company also announced this week that it’s going to skip holding a press conference at E3, instead opting to host a Nintendo Direct video stream.

 

Check out this link:

 

Nintendo bundling Wii U with two games and an extra controller for $330 on May 30th