Estimates: Nintendo Switch passed the Xbox One in hardware shipments

Daniel Ahmad, senior analysts at Niko Partners, regarding Nintendo’s FY19 Nine Months Financial Results Briefing:

Also worth pointing out that according to our estimates the Nintendo Switch passed the Xbox One in hardware shipments during the holiday quarter last year.

The Xbox One is not too far behind, but it has only taken Switch 34 months to achieve what the Xbox One did in 74 months.

Nintendo reports that they have shipped 52.48 million Switch units since launch. It’s estimated that Microsoft has sold 46.9 million Xbox One units since launch. 5.58 million more units in nearly half the time.

On the Playstation front, while it’s been a back-and-forth race, it took Sony over 37 months to ship the same number of consoles as the Switch.

Here’s an updated chart for perspective:

The Switch also appears to be leaving it’s older sibling—the 3DS—in the dust:

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — A Review

Star Wars is about balance. Light versus Dark. Jedi versus Sith. One versus one. Should the Force fall out of balance, chaos ensues.

The Rise of Skywalker epitomizes balance — balance in story; balance in heritage; balance in its namesake.

This will not spoil. It is intended to be read after viewing the film. This is due to a balance in context versus content.

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It is fun to watch J.J. Abrams play in the sandbox of Rian Johnson before him, as it was fun to watch Johnson play in the sandbox of Abrams before him.

Abrams built up what Johnson tore down, and thus Abrams is challenged to rebuild from those pieces. To construct a cohesive narrative, Abrams must construct something cohesive from the rubble Johnson laid before him.

Like Empire after Hope, Johnson laid waste to the monomyth laid before him. He’d done away with nearly every construct setup before him. Rey’s parents are nobodies. Snoke was an easy kill. Luke’s saber means nothing. Like an angsty teen, Johnson throws away legacy. He wants to define his own path. The Last Jedi is punk.

By blowing The Force Awakens to hell, the return to its author had to be nothing but a challenge. Abrams is forced to not only to piece together loose ends, but also tie it up with a satisfying bow.

If Kylo’s helmet is a symbol for this third act, The Rise of Skywalker is the valiant effort to salvage the pieces it was born from.

Fast vs. Slow

The Rise of Skywalker is fast. Maybe a little too fast. Fast to the point where it feels like it’s doing its best to ignore The Last Jedi. It simply wants to snap into The Force Awakens, working as it’s own Star Wars trilogy second and third acts in a single film. But as soon as one feels that way, there are questions and weight from The Last Jedi that must be answered — Jedi books, helmets, and Force ghosts, etc.

The Rise of Skywalker is slow. This is a third act that feels like a single film full of third acts. It’s relentless, but moves at a slower pace than that of The Last Jedi. There is less plot than there is filling gaps or doing the grunt work of attempting to reconstruct Johnson’s deconstruction. By the end, I had a hard time remembering the beginning or even caring about it for that matter.

Big vs. Small

The Rise of Skywalker is big. This film above all other Star Wars films feels massive. The scale of the fleets. The cinematography of the ships. The velocity of light-speed chases. The variety of planets. The sheer magnitude of the shots is breathtaking. Impossible odds haven’t felt so impossible since the first front on the Death Star in A New Hope.

The Rise of Skywalker is small. The relationships feel small. Where The Last Jedi expands familial, friendly, and sexual bonds, The Rise of Skywalker contracts them into a focused few. The stakes stay within the family. The stressors are on individuals. Our heroes and their connections to each other and themselves are at the heart of this story.

Fan-service vs. Familiar

The Rise of Skywalker is fan-service. Every “I” dotted”. Every “T” crossed. The Rise of Skywalker pays tribute to the series to date as a whole. Yes, to the point of eye-rolling, but that could be seen in The Force Awakens, between the Death Star 3.0 (Starkiller Base) and the new Cantina band. The Rise of Skywalker goes above and beyond these callbacks by embracing Johnson’s (or even Gareth Edwards’ (Rogue One)) ideas and even playing them up every now and again. Anything seems possible in the Star Wars universe, and if I surrender to the idea that this is all make-believe, I’m ok with that.

The Rise of Skywalker is familiar. While the fan-service is welcome, we’ve seen this story before. None of the encounters feel magical. None of the cameos feel surprising (save for one, maybe two). The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens before it did a great job shocking the audience with unexpected moments, be it live-action puppeteering or reappearances of deceased characters. The Rise of Skywalker has plenty of fun, but it feels like we’ve been there before.

Rise of Skywalker

Between these three aspects — fast and slow, big and small, fan-service and familiar — it may be the speed that gets in the way the most. I struggled to care about the characters. I remember them from the previous films, but I did not have time to reconnect with them. If The Rise of Skywalker has shown anything, it’s that Johnson is the gravity to Abram’s lightness. The Last Jedi made us feel the depths of characters and the internal demons they were facing. The Rise of Skywalker seemingly doesn’t have time to dwell on that and tries to race to the finish line, soon realizing it still has another hour of story to tell.

Where The Rise of Skywalker shines is in its balance. There is balance in how Abrams and Johnson handle the saga. There is balance in the pace of each of the films. But speaking to The Rise of Skywalker in particular, the title speaks to balance most of all.

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Hail Mario 3: Revenge of the Stock

Cameron Faulkner at The Verge:

Nintendo has announced its Black Friday deals, and chief among them is a $299.99 Switch console bundle that includes a free download code for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This deal will start on Thursday, November 28th, and will be available at several retailers. So far, we’ve seen it confirmed in Target’s Black Friday ad, but expect it to pop up at the other major players, like Best BuyWalmartAmazon, and more. 


Getting a free game with the Switch is great, especially one that’s as good as Nintendo’s popular kart racer, but there’s some fine print with this deal that you may, or may not, care about. You’ll only get the free game with the HAC-001 version of the console, the original launch model that has been superseded by a new version with vastly superior battery life (a range from 4.5 to nine hours versus the original’s 2.5- to 6.5-hour claim, depending on the game). 



This deal might read as a way for Nintendo to clear out its remaining stock of launch units without cutting the price, but thankfully, the older version is no less capable, and crucially, no less fun to play on.

I’m willing to bet Faulkner is correct here.

I’ve written about Nintendo’s use of Mario Kart 8 as a unit mover. For the Wii U, it was used as a final Hail Mary to reinvigorate Wii U sales with not only the game, but a very early review embargo and a free additional game. For the Switch, it was a the first widely recognized party game to offer local multiplayer support, allowing early Switch adopters to showcase the console’s unique modes of play ahead of the holidays, namely table-top mode — the mode that allows two local players to play anywhere, each leveraging a single Joy-Con as a controller and prop up the Switch as the screen.

Here we are on the other end of the spectrum. With the wild popularity of the Switch and a relatively new SKU that boasts better battery life, what better way to exhaust stock of the original SKU than to throw in arguably the most polished, popular, and accessible game in Nintendo’s library for free.

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Polygon’s 100 Best Games of the Decade

Polygon Staff:

We began with a long list of around 300 games that team members nominated. Then we individually voted for the 50 we most wanted to see in the list. After we tallied the votes, we gathered together to sort out the unholy mess, and to argue the merits and faults of the top 150.

After a surprisingly calm and erudite discussion, we agreed on the following list. It is, by its nature, a compromise, but it’s the best we’ve got.

A fun look back at a decade that now seems shorter than it felt — I’ll blame that on the past three years.

I played 23.5 of the 100 titles mentioned in this list. Honestly, that’s more than I thought I would have. (While Red Dead Redemptions 1 and 2 are counted as a single entry, I only ever played the first, so it counts as half.)

As I have a soft spot for Nintendo games, I’m happy with Polygon’s Mario pick over what I assumed would be the shoo-in. Likewise, I’m happy to see an overwhelming industry/fan/consumer favorite sit extremely high in the list at number 2, but not receive top honors. Societal/cultural impact takes precedence here, as I argued back in 2016.

My biggest takeaway is that the past 10 years of games have broadened the scope of what constitutes a “video game” more than any other decade. That seems an obvious observation as there’s evolution in any medium, but video games by their infinite malleability allow for innovation and creativity beyond any other. Video games can be anything (and therefore video games do not exist). Just read Polygon’s justifications for Device 6, Johann Sebastian Joust, or Journey.

If 2000–2009 cracked the door on infinite possibilities, 2010–2019 blew it wide open.

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Video Games Do Not Exist

I was invited to write an original piece for the ‘From the Aether’ newsletter — the bonus newsletter for backers of the Into the Aether Podcast Patreon., which, as of December 9, 2019, became available to the public. I’d love it if you gave it a read on Medium.

I’ll leave a teaser here, but I encourage you to listen to the podcast. If you’re so inclined, become a patron of an insightful and welcoming low-key video games podcast.

The year is 20XX. Video games do not exist. They never have.

But tomorrow they will.

And when they come, all of today’s modern technology and tools will be available to their creators. There will have been no precedent other than their analog counterparts, which — come to think of it — consist of cardboard, cards, metal or plastic tokens, dice, tiles, paper, pencils, backpacks, guns, talking… walking… geese…

[Edit] This piece was updated on December 9, 2019 to reflect the public availability of ‘Video Games Do Not Exist‘.

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Fire Emblem: Management Simulator

A new day dawns. Another Wednesday in the office. The hours go by; meetings and one-on-ones had. But something feels different.

I care for my employees. It’s normal for me to wear their burdens — work-related and otherwise — upon my shoulders. But today, it feels like my attention of their emotional well-being and performance has gone a level deeper. Maybe it’s because it’s review season and I’ve been carefully reflecting on their year? No. This is different than years past. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been a sounding board and observer of each of them a bit more as of late.

Then it dawns on me. I haven’t been spending more time in the office, but I have spent at least 20 hours of my free time playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses — a game that puts me in the role of a military academy professor intently focused on the subtleties of my students’ personalities and behaviors, strengths and weaknesses. The better I can guide them down the right paths, uncover hidden talents, or find deeper relationships, the better they will perform in battle.

Many a review and commentary focus on Three Houses’ Harry Potter-like setting and structure. Garreg Mach Monastery is a sizable castle (Hogwarts) with its students divvied up between three houses — the Golden Deer (Gryffindor?), Blue Lions (Ravenclaw?), and Black Eagles (definitely Slytherin). In addition to students, staff and several members of the Church of Seiros walk the halls helping you train, build relationships, and assist in battle. Consider these the professors of Hogwarts. You will spend a majority of your time wandering the monastery speaking with students and staff, teaching your recruits different skills, analyzing individuals over tea, fishing, forcing conversation between students over a meal, fishing, taking exams to unlock a new military class, and fishing.

This is a game focused on education and academy life. It’s not about a 9-5. That said, since I become a manager, I’ve felt there is a direct parallel between teaching and managing. Harvard Business Review will tell you the best leaders are great teachers. It’s no surprise that I began to see my own work-life take place within the walls of Garreg Mach.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is my first foray into the Fire Emblem series. Jumping into the 50 hour TRPHPFS (tactical role-playing Harry Potter fishing simulator) took very little deliberation. Since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, every core Nintendo franchise title released on Switch has been the fully realized version of itself. I figured this would be a good place to dive in. I wasn’t wrong. I haven’t been sucked into a game like this since Breath of the Wild. Even then, it was less about the game itself and more about the zeitgeist propelling me forward.

Three Houses taps into something true to my core: empathy. I legitimately care about the cast as I care about my real-world contacts. Will Ignace realize his full potential as an artist? Will Raphael, the jovial brute, realize he can master the battlefield? Will Marianne realize she is a wise warrior… that can talk to… horses? Will Lorenz stop fucking harassing women?! If none of them can on their own, can I help them get there by revealing chinks in the armor of their ignorance?

These are not the same issues as the employees I care for. But I care nonetheless. Will they approach ambiguity with unease or confidence? Will they understand the subtleties of negotiation within a large bureaucracy? Will they learn to lean on the specialities of someone with less “professional” experience? Will they feel comfortable leading a particular project?

I take these thoughts home with me. And when I pick up the game, they come back to life. I think carefully about which skills to stretch, not entirely sure my judgement will pay back the greatest dividend. I think beyond the workplace and wonder how home-life may be influencing my employees’ creativity. Are they committed? Are they motivated? Do they care? Is this what they really want? Do they need a break?

Fire Emblem: Three Houses asks these same questions with every explore-teach-fight loop, ultimately growing my cadets. And they do throw it back at me. If I offer and incorrect response or pair incompatible personalities together, they’ll let me know. No two students are alike. No two employees are alike. No two human are alike.

And like management, the more students I have under my purview, the less time I can spend teaching them individually. Who is more critical to grow? How balanced does my team need to be? Should I round out each individual, or focus on their strengths? And ultimately, who are my favorites?

And there in lies the beauty of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. There is a repetitive loop, yes, but there is also painstaking care put into each of the students. And the fact that you will likely only experience 1/3 of them on your first play through is quite incredible. There are two other houses, two entirely different yet connected campaigns to explore. (I’m a sucker for games where only a fraction can be played through, leaving more to discover again and again. Think Star Fox 64.)

What is more is understanding how to balance the comfort of an individual for individual-growth. The best path forward may not be the easiest or the one that suits an individual’s strengths. There is pain in growth, for the individual(s) involved as well as for the leader calling the shots.

Where things divide — where a game cannot mirror reality — is balancing the growth of an individual and the goals of the bureaucracy. A role-playing game will almost always propel you to win, regardless of the “feelings” of its characters. In reality, it’s impossible — or should be impossible — to ignore the feelings of our own kind. As a manager, it’s a more difficult and existential challenge to prioritize the company’s goals over the fulfillment of your employees. More often than not it’s your job to move the company forward — increase revenue, decrease cost; increase productivity, decrease bottlenecks.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses rewards you as a professor with growth whenever you successfully pair students in activities or win a battle. These are balanced by days on a calendar. Will you converse with students this week, or will you fight? Either way, you’re leveling up. In reality, those choices are not and will never be as clear cut. Your professional growth is measured by the value you provide the company. Creating a great culture amongst your employees ultimately pays the company back, but the time it takes to build that culture versus hard and quick calls will always be under the omnipresent eye of the corporation.

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‘But when I play video games, I begin feeling guilty and even bored’

I had the great fortune of hearing a question I’d asked to the hosts of the Into the Aether podcast via Discord repeated on the episode “There’s a Troll in this Chili’s”, timestamp 34:51. (Honest to god, the question is more serious than the title of the episode.)

Yours truly:

Howdy! I love video games. I love the idea of playing video games. At work, I get excited by the idea of sitting down for a long bout of video games. But when I do, I begin feeling guilty and even bored. Am I broken, or am I just playing the wrong games? Have either of you dealt with this?

Hosts Brendon Bigley and Stephen Hilger spent nearly 25-minutes thoughtfully addressing these questions, ranging from living in the moment, mental health, and easing up on the burden caused by zeitgeist and “completionism”. Even if this weren’t my question, I’d tell you it’s worth your time.

If you’re unfamiliar with Into the Aether, the hosts bill it as a “low-key video games podcast”, but I think they’re selling themselves short. It’s funny and intelligent; the commentary on video games is never one of snobbery; the subject matter spans beyond just games and into art, community, and culture. It has honestly become one of my favorite shows. And over the past few months, it has quickly jumped up my priority listening queue. Seeing as I only listen to podcasts while out on a jog, I find myself running a bit more often these days.

Additional note: Prior to launching Into the Aether, Brendon Bigley interviewed me about Zero Counts and about my piece “Big-N’s Big Year”. You can find the interview at the bottom of the post or on the Ported Podcast feed.

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‘It’s like friendly punk’

Bennett Foddy, Playdate game developer, in an interview with Edge Magazine (via Apple News+):

We’ve standardised around two hardware platforms: the touchscreen, and ten buttons, two analog sticks. That’s got its benefits, but you miss out on novel experiences. So yeah, there is something that is kind of punk about it, and that yellow case. It’s like friendly punk.

I recently restored my Game Boy. I don’t play it. It just sits on my desk. But I pick it up every now again because, aside from nostalgia, there’s something so pleasing about it.

As I’ve been thinking about Playdate today, it dawned on me — that something is the buttons.

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Playdate

Playdate press release:

Playdate is both very familiar, and totally new. It’s yellow, and fits perfectly in a pocket. It has a black-and-white screen with high reflectivity, a crystal-clear image, and no backlight. And of course, it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack. But it also has a crank. Yes, a crank: a cute, rotating analog controller that flips out from the side. It’s literally revolutionary.

There’s more: Playdate includes games — a full season of them. The games will be delivered over-the-air, once a week for 12 weeks, and they’ll be a surprise: when the new game light flashes, you’ll never know what you’re about to play. Panic recruited some of the world’s best game designers — some well known; others under the radar — to make games exclusively for our system. Playdate isn’t just hardware: it’s a complete experience.

Hot on the heels of the 30th anniversary of the Game Boy, this little handheld console is a sight to see.

Since bringing my Game Boy back to life, I’ve been yearning for the good ol’ dot-matrix days. But I’ve also had the feeling they‘d likely disappoint. Rose-colored glasses and all. Seeing the Playdate feels like a realization of that pining. Something new of something old:

Playdate’s 2.7-inch (68mm) screen is a unique, black-and-white, low-power LCD from Sharp, with a resolution of 400 × 240. On the surface, it might be tempting to compare the screen to, say, the Game Boy. But Playdate’s display is quite different: it has no grid lines, no blurring, is extremely sharp and clear, and has much higher resolution. It sounds odd to say, but: it’s truly a “premium” black-and-white screen.

And it wouldn’t be the same without Teenage Engineering. At initial glance, I knew something looked familiar. Sure enough, I noticed that Teenage Engineering had a hand in the design (and crank!) of the Playdate. I keep a PO-20 in my nightstand and am constantly enthralled by its ingenuity.

I encourage you to read the press release in full — ideally on an iPhone or iPad as there’s a very cool AR experience to check out. The damn thing is so cute!

I’m signed up to receive updates about the Playdate and I recommend you do too.

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A Video Game Developed To Detect Alzheimer’s Disease Seems To Be Working

Zack Zwiezen, Kotaku:

According to researchers, every two minutes spent playing the game is equal to five hours of lab-based research. Because Sea Hero Questhas been out for a few years and downloaded and played by over three million players they’ve collected the equivalent of 1,700 years of research data on Alzheimer’s

Researchers involved with the project studied people who carried the APOE4 gene, which is thought to increase that person’s risk of developing dementia, as they played the game. They then compared these people’s results to the results of folks who played the game who don’t have that gene.

“We found that people with a high genetic risk, the APOE4 carriers, performed worse on spatial navigation tasks. They took less efficient routes to checkpoint goals,” said Professor Michael Hornberger, a member of the team.

Two minutes. 99.33% of time shaved off. Truly incredible.

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