Tag Archives: switch

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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Rumor: Microsoft Bringing Game Pass And Published Titles To Switch

Imran Kahn, Game Informer:

According to a report from outlet Direct Feed Games, an outlet that has a strong track record for rumors especially centering around Nintendo, Microsoft and Nintendo are about to get together in a big way in the near future. Not only will some Microsoft games find their way to the Switch, but it looks like the entire Game Pass library might arrive via the magic of streaming. 

Oh?

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Microsoft to Bring Xbox Live to the Switch

Jez Corden, reporting for Windows Central:

At GDC 2019, Microsoft is set to debut a new cross-platform development platform with the goal of bringing Xbox Live support to games on Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, in addition to PC and Xbox consoles.

Microsoft already has a few games with Xbox Live support across mobile devices, most notably via Minecraft, which requires an Xbox Live login on Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch. Until now, Microsoft reserved Xbox Live support on those platforms for its own games, but now now, Microsoft is aiming to bring Xbox Live cross-platform play to even more titles. Developers will be able to bake cross-platform Xbox Live achievements, social systems, and multiplayer, into games built for mobile devices and Nintendo Switch, as part of its division-wide effort to grow Xbox Live’s userbase.

Oh?

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Nintendo FY18 Q3 Earnings

A blockbuster holiday. Lowered expectations. Three pillars of business. Nintendo’s recent earnings report was interesting if nothing else.

Brian Crecente at Variety gave a tight business side recap:

Despite a strong holiday, Nintendo on Thursday lowered how many Nintendo Switch it believes it can sell for the fiscal year, dropping the goal by three million, down to a new target of 17 million, the company announced in its latest earnings report.

The company also increased its Nintendo Switch game sales forecast by 10 million, saying it will sell 110 million copies of games for the system in the fiscal year, which ends in March. Finally, the company nearly halved its estimates for the sales of the portable 3DS systems, down from 4 million to 2.6 million.

The following are pulled from the presentation:

On Switch sales:

And cumulative global sell-through, including sales outside of the major markets you saw on the previous slides, has surpassed 30 million units as of the end of January, and the Nintendo Switch business is on a trajectory for further growth. Also, all of the new titles released in succession during the holiday season also showed exceptional sales.

Comparison to PS4 and Xbox One sell-through looks like this:

console-sales-19-01-31

Comparison to the Nintendo 3DS looks like this:

switch-vs-3ds-19-01-31

On games:

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has achieved a sell-through of over 10 million units. The title has continued to show explosive growth after its release, with the fastest start for any title on any Nintendo home console ever.

Right in-line with NPD’s numbers.

Continued:

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This chart shows the combined sell-through in Japan, the US, and Europe since April of 2018 for the four titles you see here. All four were released in the year before last, 2017. Sell-through of each title continued at a reasonable pace, then spiked upward toward the end of the year. As the spread of Nintendo Switch progresses, the number of new consumers is increasing. And to consumers who just purchased Nintendo Switch hardware, every existing title seems new.

One of Nintendo’s strengths is how easy it is for consumers with past experience playing Nintendo games to become interested in new Nintendo-brand titles. And if the steady sales of our evergreen titles can reliably support our overall software sales, we believe that will help fill any gaps between releases of new titles.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the top selling title for the Nintendo Switch at 15.02 million units. Super Mario Odyssey is second at 13.76 million units. I still wouldn’t call Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a system seller, but certainly a must-have. Electrodome Boogaloo, indeed.

On third-party titles:

Titles from other software publishers are also seeing a steady rise alongside Nintendo Switch. Nintendo’s revenue related to software from other software publishers was more than twofold during April through December of 2018.

The idea that Microsoft would put games on Switch doesn’t seem so crazy.

On strategy:

Based on our basic strategy, we’ve organized the company’s initiatives into three pillars of business. The three pillars are the dedicated video game platform business, the mobile business, and the IP expansion business.

Each pillar has a different purpose and a different scale. They are each considered critical to the company, and we intend to grow them according to their unique traits and potential for growth. Let me explain each of these businesses in order.

Executives have made mention of IP expansion, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as core a pillar spelled out next to “video games”.

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Switch Is Selling Like Wii, Thanks To Traditional Nintendo Games

Chris Kohler, Kotaku:

NPD didn’t release the exact sales number for Smash, but it gave us enough to roughly figure it out. It said that Ultimate exceeded the launch month sales of Super Smash Bros. Brawl by over 70 percent. Since that number is known (2.7 million), we can add 70 percent to it to get rough first-month sales for Ultimate at a little over 4.5 million units—again, not counting download sales.

In fact, Ultimate’s debut was, NPD said, the best launch month for a console-exclusive game in “video game history.” The strength of the Switch overall also boosted the sales of its major games, sending 2017 games Mario Kart 8, Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey into 2018’s top 20. Overall, NPD said, Nintendo made more money on software than any other publisher this year, a feat it hadn’t achieved since—you guessed it—the salad days of Wii, in 2009.

Back-to-back big years?

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The Nintendo 3DS and the Importance of Ports

Viewers of Nintendo’s 9.13.2018 Direct were witness to a treasure trove of future Switch titles. To name a few:

  • Animal Crossing
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3
  • Mega Man 11
  • Final Fantasy VII, IX, X, X-2, XII ports
  • Yoshi’s Crafted World
  • New Super Mario Bros. U port
  • Diablo III
  • Civilization VI

But the one announcement I keep coming back to is the 3DS port of Kirby’s Epic Yarn — a 2010 Wii title — in the form of Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn.

This is not the first Nintendo home console port to the 7-year-old portable console — Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii), Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii), most recently Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U), to name a few — but it was the first during this Nintendo Direct. Shortly after, a port of the GameCube launch title Luigi’s Mansion (2001) was announced as a marketing tactic fix to hold fans over for Luigi’s Mansion 3 on the Switch.

Current sales numbers of the Switch reflect that of the hugely popular PS4. But even with that success, it’s fascinating to see Nintendo port back-catalog console titles to it’s aged handheld. The telling reason is the 3DS’s continued sales numbers, continuing to post 6.4 million units sold during Nintendo’s fiscal year 2018 ending March 31, 2018 alone.


It’s one thing that Wii U titles are seeing new life on the Switch — Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker — but it’s even more interesting the see the same tactic for a device that third-party support has all but dried up.

Nintendo sees continued life in the 3DS — a 2017 version in the New Nintendo 2DS XL is probably one clue — and seems to have found a method to maintaining the growth of an already stellar catalog with it’s own IP.

Short of the minority who still own a Gamecube or Wii, there is no other place to play Nintendo titles like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Luigi’s Mansion, Donkey Kong Country Returns, or Xenoblade Chronicles — all of which have or will have a Switch sequel. If you don’t have a 3DS/2DS, these games may be attractive enough to pick one up on the opportunity to play or replay alone. But even for existing owners of the 3DS/2DS, this stable of first-party ports are certain to whet appetites for their Switch sequels.

The 3DS is a brilliant promotional tool for the Nintendo Switch.

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Polygon: Captain Toad feels like “Nintendo experimenting within the Mario Universe”

Polygon’s Michael McWhertor on the Quality Control podcast with host Dave Tach:

For a few years now, I have promoted and evangelized Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. To the point where I think even people at Nintendo are like, “hey, send this guy the Captain Toad review code first.”

I love the game. I love the character. It’s a great little puzzle game. It was one of those things that was released on the Wii U — which didn’t have a ton of great games, but this was a real standout in my opinion — and not a lot of people owned the Wii U. [Captain Toad] was something that was overlooked by a lot of people. It’s a fun little package. Now that it’s out on Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS, people have no excuse not to go play Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

In 2013, Nintendo released Super Mario 3D World, and excellent platformer for the Wii U. In that game, there were a handful of levels featuring Captain Toad. You gave up control of Mario, Peach, Luigi, etc., and you played as Captain Toad in these tiny little diorama-style levels where Toad would walk around with a headlamp and a heavy backpack.

He couldn’t run and jump. He could basically just walk around levels. He could fall down things. There were switches you could pull to raise him up on platforms. But each one was just this cute, clever little puzzle level that felt like Nintendo experimenting within the Mario Universe.

Mike and I share similar feelings about Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. The game itself is a charming, clever, puzzle game. But beyond that, it’s a wonderful expansion on a more realized Mushroom Kingdom. And it was great to see the character return in Super Mario Odyssey.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Captain Toad is genius.

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Kotaku: Octopath Traveler Is Nothing Like Final Fantasy VI

Jason Schreier:

The producer of the gorgeous upcoming Switch game Octopath Traveler made waves this week with a quote in which he said that mechanically it was a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy VI. Other people have made similar comparisons. But Octopath is nothing like Final Fantasy VI—it’s more like a SaGa game, with some experimental ideas that work, and some that really don’t.

I’ve played a little over an hour of the Octopath Traveler demo and am chipping away at some initial thoughts. One of those thoughts — contrary to both Takahashi-san and Schreier — is that Octopath Traveler feels like Final Fantasy X.

Each character has an individual relationship, conflict, and narrative, the visual turn-based system is akin to that of FFX, and there is an odd mismatch between the writing style and voice acting; the writing feels high-brow English juxtaposed to the modern American voice acting. While it’s certainly not the same problem, it is reminiscent of FFX’s infamous laughing scene.

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PS4 Fortnite Accounts Are Blocked On The Nintendo Switch

Luke Plunkett, Kotaku:

Fortnite players who had an Epic account on PS4 and have tried to play the new Nintendo Switch version of the game are reporting that they’ve run into a problem: they’re not allowed to use the same account.

That’s right, if you have played the game on PlayStation 4—even just once—that’s enough to have got your account locked to that system. It goes the other way too; if you link your Epic account on Switch, you’re locked out on the PlayStation 4.

This is maddening, but it comes as no surprise. To Sony’s credit, cross-network/crossplay is fairly new to the console world. That said, as I noted in my piece Sold on Cross-Network Play, “this is not a technical limitation. It is political.” The fact that Fortnight crossplay is supported across Switch, iOS, Android, Xbox One, macOS, and PC tells you as much.

In Cross-Network Play is “the Next Logical Step”, I noted the following:

Sony claims their reluctance of opening cross-network play is out of protection of their community. I think that is a fair stance, but is the Sony community any less toxic than others? I think the real fear is losing an amount of ability to lock in players to PlayStation 4. It’s the same case made for exclusive games and content; the latter I vehemently oppose.

Looking at Sony’s sell through numbers, it’s easy to see where their comfort of lock-in comes from. They likely have an overwhelming majority of the console base on their platform. Here’s a visual from my piece Some Numbers that Illustrate Nintendo’s Switch’s Massive Success:

Sony is going to run that lead dry of security loyalty to their platform.

But the majority of consoles aside, the masses are playing Fortnight. And if they aren’t on PS4, they are everywhere else. If that’s not enough for Sony to about-face, I don’t know what is.

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