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Nintendo Announces First Mobile Game: Miitomo

MiitomoExpectations were high yesterday when word came out that Nintendo was set to announce its first mobile title at an investor briefing.  The gaming community held its collective breath waiting for a Super Mario or Pokémon title, but instead the company shared its vision for a free-to-play social game with optional microtransactions called Miitomo based on a fusion of the Mii characters and the curiously popular Tomodachi Life for the 3DS.  It's due out in March 2016.  No Pikachu for you!  But you know what?  That may be for the best.  Jeremy Parish at USgamer explains:

While Nintendo hasn't shared full details on the workings of Miitomo, it's easy enough to make some educated guesses based on early screens. As the name suggests, Miitomo makes use of Mii avatars, seemingly with the ability to mingle with the avatars of other people and interact directly with the player. That sounds, not coincidentally, a great deal like Tomodachi Life, a connection alluded to in the app's name. Tomodachi Life became a solid success upon its western release last summer, but it's been a monster hit for years in Japan. Goofy, fun social apps (most recently Line) tend to be far more popular in Japan than in the west as well. Combine the two and a massive hit seems practically guaranteed, at least in Japan. It's less of a guaranteed slam-dunk in the U.S., but the Nintendo factor should at least grab people's attention.

Nintendo's stock dropped following the announcement and the community complained that this wasn't the Pokémon Red port they'd just assumed would happen if everyone wished really hard, but Miitomo could work well for the company.  Nintendo aims to draw mobile gamers into its own hardware ecosystem, and apps like Miitomo could do just that by whetting appetites and sparking curiosity about what Nintendo has to offer on its hardware home turf.  Japan will eat this up, but North America and beyond could be a harder sell beyond app-loving kids seemingly born with an iPad in one hand.  The company's new NX project is moving forward and I'm sure that it would love to capture some lapsed Wii owners to bring them back to the world of Nintendo.  Like so many other things in this industry, we'll just have to wait and see what happens.  However, to all of you out there who have complained that you want to play Pokémon on the go, then I have good news for you.  Nintendo already sells a product that will let you do that.  It's called a Nintendo 3DS and it's in stores now.

Let's Watch Zen Pinball 2's "Balls Of Glory" Pack Featuring American Dad and Family Guy

American Dad PinballZen Studios won't release its new Balls Of Glory pack for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 until next week, but I was provided with a pre-release copy of the new pinball tables featuring American Dad, Family Guy, Archer, and Bob's Burgers in all their bumper and flipper glory, so I just have to share some gameplay video of me learning the ins and outs of Stan Smith's CIA challenges and Peter Griffin fighting Ernie the Giant Chicken on the table.  There's even a skirmish with Stewie's half-brother Bertram in there and you'll see me nail the Avery Bullock skill shot three times in a row.  Despite the overuse of certain sound clips from the television shows (the American Dad table loves to replay Klaus explaining the "Wheels and the Legman" gimmick and Patrick Stewart's Bullock often says "You're a complicated man, Smith"*), overall I'm enjoying these tables and all of the nods to their source material.

* The game cuts off the rest of this Bullock quote which is "I would love to do mushrooms with you."  I find myself saying it aloud just to finish it.

American Dad Pinball Table Coming From Zen Studios

Good morning, USA!  I've been very vocal about my madman's dream of a milk-proof robot American Dad pinball table, so I'm overjoyed today that Zen Studios has announced it is working on a table featuring the Smith family for its Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 products.  Coming soon along with tables based on Family Guy and Bob's Burgers in the Balls Of Glory pack, Zen has already teased another table as part of the bundle.  What'll be next presumably from the FOX animation line-up?  The Cleveland ShowThe SimpsonsFuturama?  Jon Lovitz returning to The Critic?  Whatever the answer, I have a feeling it's going to be a wonderful day.

What Is This? A Pinball Table For Ants?

Ant-ManZen Studios continues its fruitful partnership with Marvel with another pinball table for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 based on a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Ant-Man is the latest movie to cross over to the world of pinball, bringing a set of flippers and bumpers featuring elements and set pieces from the Paul Rudd / Michael Douglas action-comedy.  See the table in action as I run through it for the first time.  I always like to go into new Zen tables blind without reading the table guide first, so I have no idea what I'm supposed to do on the Ant-Man table in this video, but I think I start to find some of the sweet spots pretty quickly.  Next time I'll try and trigger a mission or two, perhaps.

See The Portal Pinball Table In Action

Thanks to developer Zen Studios providing me with early access, I've spent the weekend exploring the company's newest pinball table based on Valve's popular Portal seriesWatch as I set a new high score by completing missions while GLaDOS takes shots at me, Wheatley interferes, and Ratman lurks in the shadows.  It's another winning table for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 with plenty of fun little touches from the series.  The Portal table is available across the Zen product line starting this week.

Portal Pinball Table Coming From Zen Studios

PortalThe busy people at Zen Studios must never sleep because they keep cranking out new pinball tables at an increasingly amazing pace.  Just weeks after sending tables based on Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Rebels out into the world, the company has announced this morning that it's teamed with Valve to create a new table based on Portal.  It's due out the week of May 25, 2015 across the Zen line.  Here's what to expect via the Zen Studios blog:

Guide Chell and Wheatley through test chambers by navigating portals, using aerial faith plates, defeating turrets and facing other obstacles, and battling against GLaDOS as you attempt to escape the facility and reach the surface. Team up with ATLAS and P-Body for their Cooperative Testing Initiative Multiball and wreak havok on the Turret Factory by discovering Ratman’s hidden mini playfield.

I'm calling it right now: combining pinball and thinking with portals will make this one of the most challenging Zen tables ever made.  It's hard enough to follow the ball sometimes as it is, but once we add folding space to toss the ball all over the table, I know I'm going to need some serious practice to keep up with this one.  The description certainly sounds like they're making good use of the Portal license though, so I look forward to finding out how true they stay to the source material.

Power Button - Episode 171: Nintendo App-rehensions

Power ButtonThings get heated on this week's episode of the Power Button podcast as we discuss Nintendo's recent announcement that it's partnering with mobile publisher DeNA to come to the smartphone and tablet app store near you.  Nintendo is also working on its next traditional video game console, codenamed NX, and we spend some time hashing that revelation out and how it relates to the mobile news, too.  Round 1!  FIGHT!  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Nintendo Going Mobile, Announces New NX Console

Mario jumpsNintendo announced a partnership with Japanese mobile platform DeNA this morning, signaling an intent to bring its popular franchises and talents into the smartphone/tablet space.  Here's Mike Futter at Game Informer to explain:

The games that DeNA will be working on are completely new, rather than ports of existing titles. Nintendo's entire slate of intellectual property is open to the mobile company to tap for its creations. Nintendo continues to hope that its mobile presence will drive interest in its dedicated video game console devices, something the company has stated as a goal for entering the smartphone and tablet space. 

In addition, DeNA will be developing a membership service for Nintendo that will be accessible on PC, 3DS, and Wii U. The as yet unnamed service is targeted for launch later this year, however it was not specified if this will be a regional rollout or if the duo will attempt worldwide release.

As if that's not enough of a business bombshell, it was also announced that Nintendo's next dedicated gaming console, codenamed NX, is in the works.  We'll hear more about that and how it fits into the DeNA deal in 2016.  Here's Stephen Totilo at Kotaku to explain what we know about the NX:

Seeking to put off questions that Nintendo's future would be entirely mobile, Iwata says that Nintendo is still very much in the "dedicated video game system market", and that their next piece of gaming hardware is code-named the "NX".

"Nintendo has decided to deploy its video game business on smart devices, but it is not because we have lost our passion or vision for the business of dedicated video game systems", he said.

"On the contrary, because now we have decided on how we will make use of smart devices, we have come to hold an even stronger passion and vision for the dedicated video game system business than before." 

"Now that we're less devoted to the dedicated video game system business, we're more devoted than ever before!" Talk about your double-talk. Iwata should run for office.

"As proof that Nintendo maintains strong enthusiasm for the dedicated game system business", Iwata adds, "let me confirm that Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated game platform with a brand new concept under the development codename 'NX'."

Continue reading "Nintendo Going Mobile, Announces New NX Console" »

Last Dance With The iPhone 4S

iPhone 4SI'd been pushing my iPhone 4S long past its expiration date.  Purchased in June 2012 after my iPhone 4 did a spinning flip off of a countertop and smashed screen-first into a cabinet handle, my trusty 4S had been showing signs of wear and tear for a while.  No cracks, scratches, or cosmetic damage, thankfully, but instead I'd noticed little things like ongoing decreased battery life, apps frequently crashing, apps forgetting data, settings not staying set, and the ballooning of "Other" data that iTunes was unable to recognize, delete, or handle that had filled up the gadget's meager 16 GB of storage.  The phone even refused to be wiped for a fresh install from a backup.  I keep my technology around until I've clearly worn it out, so the 4S's time had clearly come.  It was time to upgrade.  Like all technology transitions though, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds.

Continue reading "Last Dance With The iPhone 4S" »

Power Button - Episode 162: The Great Prognosticus Predicts!

Power ButtonGaze into the future with this week's episode of Power Button in which our in-house seer, The Great Prognosticus, speculates on what the year 2015 holds for trends in the video game industry.  Marvel at potential price drops!  Wonder at the bottom falling out of the crowdfunding movement!  Look onward to where Destiny will go!  Fear the coming glut of microtransactions!  Tomorrow's just your future yesterday.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. Next Time: Preorder early and often if you want to get your hands on our discussion of limited collector edition releases. Ryan Olsen of MonkeyPaw Games is your exclusive pack-in for this spirited discussion.