Category Archives: Nintendo

The Pokemon GO Phenomenon

Dad, there is a Zubat on you!

-My daughter, in the middle of the SF MOMA

Pokemon are literally everywhere these days.  Pokemon GO was the theme of the weekend.

PokemonGO_500px
I must admit I am a bit jealous of those who have smart phones for one.  The lure of Pokemon made me consider ditching my ridiculously cheap pre-paid burner phone… that is pretty much just a phone… in order to be able to join in on the fun.

It is one thing for my Twitter feed to be all abuzz about some new game, but it is quite a new thing to be able to actually see people engaged with a game out in the world.  On Saturday I drove my daughter up to the store to get a new inner tube for her bike.

In the car she was telling me all the Pokemon she could see.  Meanwhile, just looking out the window I could clearly see people hunting for Pokemon.  You see three guys with their smart phones out in their hands, one wearing a Pikachu shirt, and there is little question as to what they are pointing at.

My daughter wanted to get her bike going, which she has ignored for a few years, in order to ride around with a friend in search of Pokemon.  The park in our neighborhood, which has a Pokestop , has people walking all over with their phones out.  My daughter says that there is a group that camps the park and has a lure… a cash shop item that attracts more Pokemon to a location… running all the time.

Nintendo has been big on getting its users to get up an exercise from time to time, there being the Wii Fit, or the Pokewalker that came with Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver, to the built-in pedometer in the 3DS, to the simple reminders that come up during some games to encourage players to take a break, stretch, and maybe get some exercise.

But if Nintedo’s plan was to get its fans up and out of the house, it has succeeded. (Complete with sound track I guess.) In my daughter’s case, my wife has gone from, “You need to leave the house” during the day to “You need to be home by…” pretty quickly.

Meanwhile, people I know who pay no real attention to video games know what Pokemon GO is suddenly.  Without any big marketing campaign, it made it to the top of the download list on the iTunes store and, more importantly, to the top of the highest grossing app list as well.

Not there haven’t been problems.  A couple of times my wife handed me her iPhone 6 so I could try the game out, only to be thwarted because the servers were down due to the overwhelming load.  And then there is the battery drain.  The app uses GPS, data, and your phone’s camera, which conspire to kill battery life at a prodigious rate, though a fix to help that is reported to be on the way. (Some battery tricks are available.)

Then there have been the real life issues.  Along with the usual tales of people driving or riding bikes while playing, or restaurants dealing with the whole thing, a news story surfaced about somebody finding a dead body while out looking for Pokemon near a river, while a group was using Pokemon lures to attract players to a remote location in order to rob them.  And then there were some simple bad taste moments, like a Koffing, a Pokemon that emits noxious gas, being found at the United States Holocaust Museum.

But otherwise the whole thing seems to have been a rousing success, where the biggest problem is simply too many people wanting to play the game.  They have held off rolling it out in other countries until they get a handle on the server issue.  Nintendo’s stock is up and I expect that we will be hearing a lot more about Pokemon GO over the next couple of weeks.  Cue segments on the news, late night talk shows, and Ellen this week for sure.  There is a Blastoise in the fountain at the White House and people are going to talk about it.

Even today’s XKCD features the game.

This could be a moment of change for Nintendo.  After the tepid response to the Wii U, largely due to self-inflicted issues, Nintendo seemed to be grudgingly heading towards the mobile market to appease shareholders.

The culture of the company has always seemed to me to be that of a hardware maker, for whom software sells the hardware. (I’ve worked for companies like that before.)  They make new versions of Super Mario Bros. in order to sell more consoles in to the family room and new versions of Pokemon in order to sell more handheld units.  And that has been a viable plan for the most part.  Certainly the GameBoy, DS, and 3DS lines have been sustained by Pokemon.  I own a 3DS solely to play Pokemon, and I doubt I am alone in that.  But while they like software sales, they measure their success as a company in hardware units sold.

And, suddenly, they have a runaway success on somebody else’s platform, a runaway success where they are only the software vendor in an environment where they do not control everything.

This has to be an eye opening moment for Nintendo which has, in the past, disparaged the idea of things like 99 cent apps, stating that their games have more value than that.  And now they are making bank on an app they are giving away for free vie the age old scheme of giving the razor away and making money selling the blades.

I don’t think Nintendo is suddenly going to give up on hardware.  That is too ingrained in their culture.  It is too much a part of Nintendo’s identity.  But I imagine they will be even more serious about this sort of “software only” thing in the future.

In the mean time I am waiting for people to draw the wrong conclusions from this sudden success.  You know that, right now, somebody out there is going, “Hah, I can make a GPS AR app better than that!” while forgetting that the immediate success of Pokemon GO is in large part because Pokemon is a 20 year old franchise for Nintendo that has enjoyed immense popularity.  Pokemon is second only to Mario at Nintendo, and the plumber showed up nearly a decade and a half earlier.  Ars Technica has a post up on some of the realities.

It will be interesting to see how this changes things, if it changes things at all.

Back in our little corner of the world, my daughter caught several Pokemon at the SF MOMA.  While the place seemed to be mostly populated by Zubats, she did get a Growlithe, which made her happy.  She was a bit upset that we wouldn’t let her run out of the MOMA when there was a Bulbasaur across the street by the Metreon.  When we finally did walk over there it was gone, but there was a Jynx nearby.  We went over to grab that.  As my daughter was trying to catch it, I saw somebody else walk up who was clearly there to catch it as well.  Pokemon are contested and whoever catches it first gets it.  My daughter managed to grab it, but there were not hard feelings, just a nod to a fellow fan who moved off in search of further catches.

So it sounds like Pokemon GO will be a thing for a while, the app of the summer.

Addendun : Security concerns if you used Google to log in.

Others on Pokemon Go weekend fun:

The Pokemon 20th Anniversary Continues with a Shaymin Download Event and Other Tidbits

The celebration of the 20th anniversary of Pokemon continues.  This month’s legendary Pokemon is Shaymin, the hedgehog-like legendary grass type Pokemon from the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl era.

Happy Shaymin

Happy Shaymin

I remember going to a Toys R Us event to download Shaymin about seven years back.

Shaymin Event

Shaymin Event back in February 2009

This time around you do not have to go to Toys R Us (or GameStop) to get Shaymin, you can download it directly to your copy Pokemon X & Y or Pokemon Alpha Sapphire & Omega Ruby via your Nintendo 3DS wifi connection.

Next month though it will be a return to GameStop to pick up a code for Arceus.  Here are the upcoming download events:

  • August – Arceus (GameStop)
  • September – Victini (Nintendo Network)
  • October – Keldeo (Nintendo Network)
  • November – Genesect (GameStop)
  • December – Meloetta (Nintendo Network)

And, for the first time in a few months, there is no other download event going.  Of course, that may be due to there being enough other Pokemon related things going on.

Nintendo has been releasing more and more details about the upcoming Pokemon Sun & Moon, slated to be launched this November.

Sun and Moon coming in November

Sun and Moon coming in November

There is also the Sinnoh Classic Pokemon Global Link event coming up, which will require you to compete online with only Pokemon available from the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl era. (Rules here)

Back to when there were only 493 Pokemon

Back to when there were only 493 Pokemon

You need a Pokemon Trainer Club account and a copy of Pokemon Alpha Sapphire or Pokemon Omega Ruby in order to join in.

In addition, the 2016 US National Pokemon Championships ran this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio.  That leads to the 2016 Pokemon World Championships, which will be held in up in San Francisco (about an hour from where I live) on August 19-21 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

[Insert stock location establishing Golden Gate Bridge picture]

While the main event itself is invite only, there is at least the promise of some sort of side events for people showing up just to gawk, so I’ll have to keep an eye on the news to see if there is a reason to head up that when when it happens.  If nothing else, it ought to be a gold mine for street passes.

And, finally, this week saw the release of Pokemon GO here in the US.  Pokemon Go is the augmented reality game for your Android or iOS device that lets you catch Pokemon in real world settings.

PokemonGO_500px

While my iPad 2 is to old to run Pokemon GO, my daughter grabbed it immediately for her iPhone and almost immediately caught a charizard in our family room.  Then she wanted to head out the door to the park up the street where a PokeStop was located.

While I wasn’t able to play, other bloggers in our corner of the internet were on the job, so you can read some first hand experiences with the game here:

The Pokemon 20th Anniversary Continues with a Manaphy Event and More

The celebration of the 20th anniversary of Pokemon continues.  This month’s legendary Pokemon is Manaphy, a legendary Pokemon from the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl era.

Happy Manaphy

Happy Manaphy

I remember Manaphy well as, during the Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver era, getting a Manaphy was my key to collecting all 493 Pokemon then available.  I had to play Pokemon Ranger Guardian Signs to get it and then use another DS to transfer it into SoulSilver, but the deed was done.  Then I left it in the Pokemon Day Care with a Ditto to breed Phione and, for a brief moment in time, I had collected them all.

Instructions on how to download Manaphy to your copy of Pokemon X and Y or Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are available on the Pokemon site.  You have until June 24th to make it happen.  There are other Manaphy themed items available as well.

Meanwhile the word is that the June Pokemon Trainer Club newsletter will contain a code that will allow players to download Mew.  (To get the newsletter you have to sign up for the Pokemon Trainer Club, detail for which are available on the site.)

The alleged reason for the Mew code is that the GameStop cards from February giveaway went very quickly and ended up on eBay selling for real cash money.

Mew GameStop Card

Mew GameStop Card

In order to make it up to fans who might have missed out on the GameStop card, this will be an opportunity to get the missing Mew.  The only catch is that you had to have signed up for the newsletter by June 1st, so I hope you are already on the list.

That is this month’s anniversary news.  The upcoming download events for the remainder of the year as we count down to the launch of Pokemon Sun & Moon are:

  • July – Shaymin (Nintendo Network)
  • August – Arceus (GameStop)
  • September – Victini (Nintendo Network)
  • October – Keldeo (Nintendo Network)
  • November – Genesect (GameStop)
  • December – Meloetta (Nintendo Network)

Still plenty of rare Pokemon to collect.  More information is available at the Pokemon 20th anniversary site.

The Pokemon 20th Anniversary Continues with a Darkrai Event and More

The celebration of the 20th anniversary of Pokemon continues.  This month’s legendary Pokemon is Darkrai, the nightmarish legendary Pokemon that first showed up as a special download during the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl era.

Darkrai brings nightmares

Darkrai brings nightmares

This month though the Pokemon 20th Anniversary event requires another visit to GameStop to pick up a card with a code to claim Darkrai.  I went by GameStop already with my daughter and a friend in tow to grab a couple cards.

Darkrai GameStop Card

Darkrai GameStop Card

While there were three of us standing there when I asked about the cards, the clerk only handed me two.  I suspect he thought I was asking for the kids rather than for myself primarily.

As before, the code is only good for Pokemon X & Y or Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire on the Nintendo 3DS or 3DS XL.  Other Darkrai related items are also available in May.

That is the main event for May, but it is not the only Pokemon available.

There will also be three, one week only direct download events this month featuring Pokemon from Pokemon X & Y.  The Pokemon available are:

  • May 2–8: Zygarde
May 2-8 level 100 download

May 2-8 Level 100 Download

  • May 11–17: Shiny Xerneas
May 11-17 Level 100 Download

May 11-17 Level 100 Download

  • May 20–26: Shiny Yveltal
May 20-26 Level 100 Download

May 20-26 Level 100 Download

Xerneas and Yveltal are the X and Y styled Pokemon from which the Pokemon X & Y entries in the franchise derive their name.  Zydarde is the Z, who might have gotten his own follow up title if Nintendo and GameFreak had been on their old plan of putting out an interim title between (e.g. Pokemon Emerald or Pokemon Platinum) major releases in the series.

And, to wrap up the month, if you signed up for the Pokemon Trainer Club newsletter, as I mentioned in last month’s update, you would have three codes in your email inbox by now to download the legendary trio of Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres.

May is for rare flying Pokemon

May is for “Many” Pokemon

So if you are on the ball and serious about this sort of thing, you could be adding up to seven legendary Pokemon to your collection this month.  And the events will carry on through the remainder of 2016:

  • June – Manaphy (Nintendo Network)
  • July – Shaymin (Nintendo Network)
  • August – Arceus (GameStop)
  • September – Victini (Nintendo Network)
  • October – Keldeo (Nintendo Network)
  • November – Genesect (GameStop)
  • December – Meloetta (Nintendo Network)

The events will culminate in the release of the next entry in the Pokemon RPG series, Pokemon Sun & Moon.

 

Friday Bullet Points from Beyond the Blog

Or just some tidbits I want to bring up which didn’t quite justify posts of their own.

Nintendo and More Nostalgia Validation

As part of the 20th anniversary of Pokemon, Nintendo released Virtual Console version of the original Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on February 27th of this year.

Old games come to the Virtual Console

Old games come to the Virtual Console

They just reported some sales numbers, which included more 1.5 million copies of those three titles.  Not bad for 20 year old games.  Of course, as I noted, vanilla Pokemon, if you will, plays pretty well.

EverQuest II hits Game Update 100

I can’t recall if EQII has gone through every number, 1-99, with updates, but still, hitting 100 is something of note.  And this update has a bit of a nostalgia twist to it.  While I’m not exactly thrilled about the owl mounts, the re-use of Zek, the orcish wastes zone for additional content has me happy.  It has always been one of my favorites among the original zones, probably for its consistent/coherent “orcs, orcs, orcs” theme.

I won’t be playing it however.  For openers, I think my highest level characters are still in Kunark… which is late 2007 content.  And then there is the fact that I am still pottering around on the Stormhold nostalgia server, where I am level 22.

Nostalgia on Wayne!

Nostalgia on Wayne!  Often the theme of this blog.

However, Stormhold still seems to be lively enough.  There aren’t five versions of The Commonlands running any more, but Freeport always has a couple versions running due to population.  Still, it is nostalgia one way or the other.  That seems to be a theme of late.

Blizzard Might Give You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor

Way back after Blizz announced the Warlords of Draenor expansion, I had a post about phishing attempt offering a free version of the expansion.  One of the key tells was Blizz giving you a free copy of… well… anything.

Of course, things change.  As Keen reports, Blizz now has an offer out to long lapsed subscribers offering them some free game time as well as a FREE copy of Warlords of Draenor.

Nostalgic old WoW logo, image swiped from Keen and cropped

Nostalgic old WoW logo, image swiped from Keen and cropped

Blizz must be staring at the reality of a long spring/summer until WoW Legion hits.  They stopped announcing subscription numbers last year, but it would be hard to imagine they have gone up from 5.5 million in the last six months.

Of course, this offer has only gone out to people who didn’t purchase Warlords of Draenor, which is making me think about my pre-order of WoW Legion.  Given that my post-Cataclysm experiences in WoW have generally been best when I am late to the expansion party… being a year late to Mists of Panderia was excellent timing… I am tempt to just cancel my pre-order and wait a year or so until Blizz is ready to give me a free copy of WoW Legion.  Or until they open a retro server.  One or the other.

DC Universe Online and on XBox One

Well, the first title for the company formerly known as SOE has made it to the XBox.  As promised earlier this year, the five year old DC Universe Online has gone live on the Microsoft console platform.

XBox One! Would you like to know more?

XBox One! Would you like to know more?

Back during the Daybreak transition, this was one of Smed’s selling points, the ability to get titles on to XBox.  We shall see if it was worth the effort.  But at least they made their “Spring 2016” target.  Making dates is generally a good sign.

Diablo III Season 6 Starts Tonight

Just a passing note on this.  I had a lot of fun with Diablo III and Season 5… right up until the moment I got that last achievement and stopped logging in.  Goal driven much?  Still, the Season thing seems to work well, especially for those of us who are goal drive.  And here comes Season 6.

It has a 6 on a leaf, because leaves are seasons or something

It has a 6 on a leaf, because leaves are seasons or something

However I am not sure at this point if Season 6 is in the cards for me.  I might need to skip a season to keep it fresh.  I would want to play a fresh character again, but not another crusader, so I would have to figure that out.  And I would have to see if the rewards appeal to me at all.

EVE Vegas is Coming

One of the final announcement at EVE Fanfest this past weekend was the date for EVE Vegas this year, which has sort of become the US EVE Fanfest.   The official EVE Vegas site has all the details.

The would be Halloween weekend

The would be Halloween weekend

Tickets went on sale while players were still in Iceland and the early bird discount tickets were gone in a flash.  I am tempted to go.  I had a good time last year.  However, Halloween weekend seems like an awkward time to plan such an event.  It will definitely not be an “off” weekend for the strip, which means prices for everything will be up and venues will be crowded.  Not a problem for the party animals I am sure, but for a grumpy old guy who prefers discussion groups with maybe four or five people, this might not be the ideal date.  Anyway, tickets are going fast so my decision to go or not might be made for me.

Anyway, those are all the items that I had on my list of notes.  Tomorrow there will be an end of month post and then we will be in May.

The Pokemon 20th Anniversary Continues with a Jirachi Download and More

The celebration of the 20th anniversary of Pokemon continues.  This month’s legendary Pokemon is Jirachi.

Jirachi time

Jirachi time

Instructions on how to download Jirachi to your copy of Pokemon X and Y or Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are available on the Pokemon site.  You have until April 24th to make it happen.

In addition to additional Jirachi related items, Nintendo is also prepping people for an extra giveaway next month, when you will be able to get Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres.

May is for rare flying Pokemon

May is for rare flying Pokemon

Codes for those three Pokemon will come via email in the May Pokemon Trainer Club newsletter.  Of course, to get the newsletter you have to sign up for the Pokemon Trainer Club, detail for which are available on the site.

That is this month’s anniversary news.  The upcoming download events for the remainder of the year as we count down to the launch of Pokemon Sun & Moon are:

  • May – Darkrai (GameStop)
  • June – Manaphy (Nintendo Network)
  • July – Shaymin (Nintendo Network)
  • August – Arceus (GameStop)
  • September – Victini (Nintendo Network)
  • October – Keldeo (Nintendo Network)
  • November – Genesect (GameStop)
  • December – Meloetta (Nintendo Network)

Still plenty of rare Pokemon to collect.  More information is available at the Pokemon 20th anniversary site.

Pokemon – Into the Blue

My relationship with with core Pokemon RPG games on Nintendo handheld systems began about eight years ago with Pokemon Diamond and the Nintendo DS Lite hardware.  That is my foundation point when it comes to the series, my intro and indoctrination into Pokemon.

Pokemon Diamond and the DS Lite

Pokemon Diamond and my DS Lite

I obviously enjoyed the game as I have come back for every new version of the game… eventually… since that time.

But starting when I did, the game had already been in play and evolving for twelve years, through three generations and a remix of the original games.  Or I assumed it was evolving.  So when the series hit its 20th anniversary back in February and released virtual console versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow, I saw this as a chance to explore the origins of the series, to get the feel of how things were back in 1996 when the whole Pokemon thing was just starting.

Old games come to the Virtual Console

Old games come to the Virtual Console

When they came out my daughter said she wanted to play Pokemon Red… though I don’t think she has even launched the game yet… so I went with Pokemon Blue.  I thought about Pokemon Yellow for a bit, but decided against that because it was a revision that came later and might be different enough to matter.

So I downloaded it and off I went.

The first thing I want to say is that it runs very well and looks better than I expected.  Yes, my 3DS XL has more than enough horsepower to run an old GameBoy game, but the GameBoy also had a wee 160 × 144 pixel LCD display.  The upper screen on the 3DS series is 400 x 240 pixels, so I was a bit worried that Pokemon Blue might end up tiny to look at even on the bigger XL display.

However, they appear to have scaled it up well so it fills the screen vertically in emulation.  The game also looks good.  I was wondering how a 4 shade gray scale game might end up looking on a color screen.  The graphics are better than I expected and quite readable.  I don’t even have to put on my reading glasses to play, though first version Pikachu looks a bit more plump than the star of the series is rendered today.

Finding a Pikachu!

Finding a pudgy Pikachu!

It also plays very well.  It is zippy and responsive and aside from the fact that I keep reflexively pulling out the stylus when ever I want to name a captured Pokemon… no touch screen in the GameBoy era, so you have to move the cursor with the D-pad… I settled into the game very well.

The surprise, for me, is how fully formed the game came out back in 2006.  The story line is the same neglectful parent letting you wander the world at the whim of a Pokemon professor named after a tree.  There is an group bent on evil that you must defeat.  The progression through the world is the same, with all the usual way points in forests or underground passages.  You get a bicycle, there is a bicycle only road, there is a tower haunted by ghost Pokemon, there is your rival, there are Poke Marts and at the Poke Center Nurse Joy hopes to see you again even though this must mean that you have injured Pokemon.  There is the safari park, a ship, and the GameFreak offices.  Pokemon gyms have themes and you sometimes have to go find the leader, and you have to go find the Poke flute in order to wake up a sleeping Snorlax that is blocking your path.

I seriously went into the game thinking I would list out all the things that were the same as Pokemon Diamond and quickly found that listing out the difference was a much better plan.  I am 6 gym badges and about 20 hours into the game and items on my list include:

  • NPCs don’t have individual names
  • No running shoes
  • Very limited inventory space
  • Pokemon daycare center doesn’t do breeding
  • No personal base

That isn’t a lot. (There was more, but I can’t find the damn list I was making.)  I left out some specific things, like Nintendo WiFi, but the series seemed to have come out more fully formed than I thought it might have.  I am kind of impressed at how much stuff they got into a GameBoy game.

On the flip side of that, one of my repeated gripes about the series is that it can sometimes feel like you are playing the same damn game over and over with only minor variations.  I thought that might have just been for my eight years of the series, but it looks to be the way things have gone for 20 years now.  Talk about sticking to a formula!  There is an article on the standard aspects of Pokemon RGP game play that lays it all out.

Anyway, the lesson I have learned over my time with the series is that it usually pays to take a break between games, lest the sameness overwhelm the individual variations and nuances that each title brings to this very specific genre.  Because, while they do all feel like they start with the same basic pattern, each game does have its own flavor.  But sometimes your palate has to be clear to detect the subtle flavors.

And the initial game isn’t all that seemed to arrive on the scene fully formed.  The game took the world by storm such that before many months had passed there was an animated TV show, a collectible card game, comic books, and the image of Pikachu on just about anything you could plaster it on.  It all appeared over here in the states in such quick succession that back then I couldn’t have told you what the initial start point for Pokemon was off hand.

But it all goes back to the original GameBoy games, and it has built a pretty amazing legacy over the last 20 years.

Now I have to defeat Team Rocket, get the last two gym badges, and go face the Poke League.