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Nintendo

Twenty Years Later, Nintendo's Virtual Boy Is Still an Oddity 43

An anonymous reader writes: Nintendo launched its Virtual Boy gaming console twenty years ago today. Expectations were high after the company sold tends of millions of its previous devices, but the Virtual Boy only sold about 770,000 units. It was conceived at the height of the '90s VR craze, but the technology of the time just couldn't produce the kind of experience that Nintendo (or gamers) envisioned. An article from Benj Edwards provides insight into the Virtual Boy's development and its inevitable failure.

"A major problem with the idea of making VR32 wearable, according to Makino, was that Nintendo engineers were concerned about placing a chip with high radio emissions near a user's head, since the safety of EMF radiation on the brain had yet to be thoroughly studied. Its proximity also produced visual noise in the displays. 'This meant that the internal CPU had to be covered by a metal plate,' says Makino, 'which made the whole system too heavy, forcing the goggle concept to be abandoned.' Not long after, Yokoi's console evolved from a strap-on headset into a heavier device that one could prop up onto one's face using a clumsy shoulder stand. Again, Nintendo's legal department feared liability issues; the device might cause children to fall down a stairwell while playing. ... Hobbled by liability concerns, VR32 soon evolved into a bulky red viewport mounted to a bi-pod that rested on a table."
Toys

The Tech Problems Inside Nintendo's Amiibo Toys 70

An anonymous reader writes: Nintendo's line of amiibo figurines are coveted by fans and collectors, even scalpers and robbers, with some harder to come by models fetching high sums on auction sites. But as a new article points out, every model suffers from similar technical drawbacks when it comes to interacting with the Japanese games giant's Wii U and 3DS consoles: there is currently only one game for instance that uses the write function of each figure's NFC chip, rather than simply reading it. But if there were more, Nintendo would be faced with another problem: where to store the data for each, since amiibo can currently only store one title's data at a time. The company may be looking to solve some of these issues with its upcoming NX system, but will it be too little too late?
Nintendo

Nintendo Fires Employee For Speaking About Job On a Podcast 152

An anonymous reader writes: You may not have heard of Chris Pranger before, but he's one of the localizers that works to bring Nintendo games over to the west. He recently talked about the localization process for a small podcast, providing Nintendo fans some details about how games make it from Japan to the western world. Nintendo's response to the fan interest in the game localizing process? They fired him, of course. It's unclear what statements in specific Nintendo objected to and Nintendo, so far, hasn't explained its decision.
Nintendo

Nintendo TVii Service Will Go Dark August 11th 34

Kotaku reports that Nintendo has announced it will shutter its Wii U TVii in just a few weeks; after August 11th, the service will be no more. The description that Kotaku offers gives some idea of why: Nintendo TVii promised to turn television watching into a robust social experience, tracking users' favorite shows, making suggestions based on familial preferences, integrating with all of the major streaming video services, programming DVR recordings and acting as a second screen experience on the Wii U game pad. It sounded pretty amazing. It wasn’t really. It was awkward and fumbling and a year later the Xbox One came along with its HDMI pass-through and voice-controlled TV watching and made Nintendo TVii look silly."
Businesses

Satoru Iwata, Head of Nintendo, Has Died At 55 56

An anonymous reader with the news, announced with a statement released by Nintendo on their homepage, that Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata died of a bile duct growth on the 11th of July, 2015. The news is noted by Kotaku and by Engadget. Wikipedia notes that Iwata was the first of the company's presidents to be unrelated to the Yamauchi family through blood or marriage.
Nintendo

A Look At the Rare Hybrid Console Built By Sony and Nintendo 37

An anonymous reader writes: Long before Sony and Nintendo were rivals, the two companies were partners for a brief time. In 1988 the duo started work on SNES-CD, a video game media format that was supposed to augment the cartridge-based SNES by adding support for higher-capacity CDs. In 1991 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Sony introduced the "Play Station" (yes, with a space) but it never saw the light of day. Now, more than two decades later, Imgur user DanDiebold has uploaded images of the unreleased console. This particular model (about 200 Play Station prototypes were created) confirms that the system was supposed to be compatible with existing SNES titles as well as titles to be released in the SNES-CD format. In other words, it would have been the world's first hybrid console: game developers and gamers alike would be able to use both SNES cartridges and CDs. If you want to learn more about this particular prototype, check out the following thread on Assembler Games.
Sony

E3 2015: A Lot of Nostalgia For Old Games 102

_xeno_ writes: E3 2015 saw a lot of game companies banking on nostalgia, but much less hype for new games. While the biggest thing coming out of Microsoft's press conference was undoubtedly the Hololens, the biggest buzz from E3 was probably Sony's announcement of Square Enix's announcement of a remake of a two decade old game (Final Fantasy VII), seconded by the announcement of a sequel to a fifteen year old game (Shenmue). Nintendo announced mostly new sequels as well. Ultimately, though, it isn't surprising that the biggest buzz is around old games. Old games are a known quantity, while truly new games are — well, new. Who knows if they're going to be the next classic or not?
The Military

USAF Cuts Drone Flights As Stress Drives Off Operators 298

HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that the U.S. is being forced to cut back on drone flights as America's drone operators are burning out. The Air Force is losing more drone pilots than they can train. "We're at an inflection point right now," says Col. James Cluff, the commander of the Air Force's 432nd Wing. Drone missions increased tenfold in the past decade, relentlessly pushing the operators in an effort to meet the insatiable demand for streaming video of insurgent activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones, including Somalia, Libya and now Syria. The biggest problem is that a significant number of the 1,200 pilots are completing their obligation to the Air Force and are opting to leave. Colonel Cluff says many feel "undermanned and overworked," sapped by alternating day and night shifts with little chance for academic breaks or promotion.

What had seemed to be a benefit of the job, the novel way the crews could fly Predator and Reaper drones via satellite links while living safely in the United States with their families, has created new types of stresses as they constantly shift back and forth between war and family activities and become, in effect, perpetually deployed. "Having our folks make that mental shift every day, driving into the gate and thinking, 'All right, I've got my war face on, and I'm going to the fight,' and then driving out of the gate and stopping at Walmart to pick up a carton of milk or going to the soccer game on the way home — and the fact that you can't talk about most of what you do at home — all those stressors together are what is putting pressure on the family, putting pressure on the airman," says Cruff. The colonel says the stress on the operators belied a complaint by some critics that flying drones was like playing a video game or that pressing the missile fire button 7,000 miles from the battlefield made it psychologically easier for them to kill. "Everyone else thinks that the whole program or the people behind it are a joke," says Brandon Bryant, a former drone camera operator who worked at Nellis Air Force Base, "that we are video-game warriors, that we're Nintendo warriors."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

ESA Rebukes EFF's Request To Exempt Abandoned Games From Some DMCA Rules 153

eldavojohn writes It's 2015 and the EFF is still submitting requests to alter or exempt certain applications of the draconian DMCA. One such request concerns abandoned games that utilized or required online servers for matchmaking or play (PDF warning) and the attempts taken to archive those games. A given example is Madden '09, which had its servers shut down a mere one and a half years after release. Another is Gamespy and the EA & Nintendo titles that were not migrated to other servers. I'm sure everyone can come up with a once cherished game that required online play that is now abandoned and lost to the ages. While the EFF is asking for exemptions for museums and archivists, the ESA appears to take the stance that it's hacking and all hacking is bad. In prior comments (PDF warning), the ESA has called reverse engineering a proprietary game protocol "a classic wolf in sheep's clothing" as if allowing this evil hacking will loose Sodom & Gomorrah upon the industry. Fellow gamers, these years now that feel like the golden age of online gaming will be the dark ages of games as historians of the future try to recreate what online play was like now for many titles.
Emulation (Games)

Building an NES Emulator 140

An anonymous reader writes: Programmer Michael Fogleman recently built his own emulator for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. He's now put up a post sharing many technical insights he learned along the way. For example: "The NES used the MOS 6502 (at 1.79 MHz) as its CPU. The 6502 is an 8-bit microprocessor that was designed in 1975. ... The 6502 had no multiply or divide instructions. And, of course, no floating point. There was a BCD (Binary Coded Decimal) mode but this was disabled in the NES version of the chip—possibly due to patent concerns. The 6502 had a 256-byte stack with no overflow detection. The 6502 had 151 opcodes (of a possible 256). The remaining 105 values are illegal / undocumented opcodes. Many of them crash the processor. But some of them perform possibly useful results by coincidence. As such, many of these have been given names based on what they do." It's an interesting look at how software and hardware interacted back then, and what it takes to emulate that in modern times. Fogleman released the source code on GitHub.
Nintendo

Mario 64 Remake Receives a DMCA Complaint From Nintendo 100

jones_supa writes: Well, we saw this one coming. Just a couple of days after computer science student Erik Roystan Ross released a free recreation of the first level of Nintendo's 1996 Super Mario 64, Nintendo filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaint. It was sent to the content distribution network CloudFlare and the complaint asked to immediately disable public access to the page hosting the remade game. CloudFlare forwarded the complaint to the person hosting Ross' game, after which the hosting provider (a friend of Ross) had to take the game down. Nintendo also sent Ross takedown notices for his downloadable desktop versions of the Bob-Omb Battlefield. Nintendo is famously protective of its copyright, taking issue even with "Let's Play" videos posted on YouTube and threatening to shut down live-streamed Super Smash Bros tournaments."
Microsoft

Microsoft Considered Giving Away Original Xbox 85

donniebaseball23 writes While the term 'Xbox' is firmly implanted in every gamer's mind today, when Microsoft first set out to launch a console in 2001, people weren't sure what to expect and Microsoft clearly wasn't sure what approach to take to the market. As Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley explained, "In the early days of Xbox, especially before we had figured out how to get greenlit for the project as a pure game console, everybody and their brother who saw the new project starting tried to come in and say it should be free, say it should be forced to run Windows after some period of time." Blackley added that other ideas were pushed around at Microsoft too, like Microsoft should just gobble up Nintendo. "Just name it, name a bad idea and it was something we had to deal with," he said.
Classic Games (Games)

SuperMario 64 Coming To a Browser Near You! 97

Billly Gates writes Since Unity has been given a liberal license and free for non commercial developers it has become popular. A computer science student Erik Roystan Ross used the tool to remake SuperMario 64 with a modern Unity 5 engine. There is a video here and if you want to play the link is here. You will need Firefox or Chrome which has HTML 5 for gamepad support if you do not want to use the keyboard. "I currently do not have any plans to develop this any further or to resolve any bugs, unless they're horrendously game-breaking and horrendously simple to fix," says Ross.
Power

Measuring How Much "Standby Mode" Electricity For Game Consoles Will Cost You 198

An anonymous reader writes: Modern game consoles have a "standby" mode, which you can use if you want the console to instantly turn on while not drawing full power the whole time it's idle. But manufacturers are vague about how much power it takes to keep the consoles in this standby state. After a recent press release claiming $250 million worth of electricity was used to power Xbox Ones in standby mode in the past year, Ars Technica decided to run some tests to figure out exactly how much power is being drawn. Their conclusions: the PS4 draws about 10 Watts, $10-11 in extra electricity charges annually. The Xbox One draws 12.9W, costing users $13-$14 in extra electricity charges annually. The Wii U draws 13.3W, costing users $14-$15 in extra electricity charges annually. These aren't trivial amounts, but they're a lot less than simply leaving the console running and shutting off the TV when you aren't using it: "Leaving your PS4 sitting on the menu like this all year would waste over $142 in electricity costs."
Nintendo

Nintendo To Announce Virtual Boy 2 68

SlappingOysters writes Nintendo has officially unveiled the development of its next home console, codenamed the NX. This article at finder puts forward the case that Nintendo will be stepping back into the virtual realty game with a follow-up to its ill-fated 1995 peripheral, the Virtual Boy. It would be going head-to-head with the Vive, Project Morpheus and the much-rumoured, not yet announced, Microsoft VR unit.
Nintendo

Nintendo Finally Working On Games for Smartphones 86

Several readers sent word that Nintendo is finally bringing its games to mobile devices. It's partnering with Japanese game publisher DeNA to develop games for phones and tablets based on Nintendo's popular game IPs. (Existing games will not get mobile ports, however.) DeNA first approached Nintendo about using the company's characters in mobile games back in 2010, Iwata said, and has been passionately pursuing talks on the alliance ever since. Iwata acknowledged that the transition from the Wii and DS lines to the Wii U and 3DS lines has not gone "as smoothly as we had expected," but he maintained that industry watchers predicting the death of dedicated video game consoles are being too pessimistic. Iwata tied the move to smartphones to Nintendo's historical embrace of TV gaming after decades as a physical toy and card game company during a time when TVs didn't exist. "Now that smart devices have grown to become the window for so many people to personally connect with society, it would be a waste not to use these devices."
Hardware Hacking

Watch an Original NES Run Netflix 80

sarahnaomi writes with this story about a NES running Netflix. I don't know how you get Netflix to play on an original Nintendo, but it's been blowing my mind for the last 18 hours or so. Netflix posted the video with painfully little explanation. I have tried in many ways to get in touch with the Netflix developers who did what you see above, but no one is getting back to me, so here are some wild speculations."
Businesses

Is Sega the Next Atari? 153

donniebaseball23 writes As CEO of Sega of America in the early 1990s, Tom Kalinske oversaw the company during its glory days, when all eyes in the industry were glued to the titanic struggle for console superiority between the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Times have changed, to put it mildly, and Sega is now a shell of its former self. Where did things go wrong? According to Kalinske, Sega's downfall was failing to partner with Sony on a new platform, and the bad decisions kept piling on from there. Sega's exit from hardware "could have been avoided if they had made the right decisions going back literally 20 years ago. But they seem to have made the wrong decisions for 20 years."
Input Devices

Nintendo Power Glove Used To Create 'Robot Chicken' 40

dotarray (1747900) writes "Despite its glorious introduction in The Wizard, the Nintendo Power Glove was, from all accounts, a bit of a failure. However, Dillon Markey has given the doomed peripheral a new lease of life — it's a crucial part of making stop-motion animation for Robot Chicken." The linked article doesn't have many more words, but the video it features is worthwhile to see how Markey has modified the glove to make the tedious work of stop-motion a little bit less tedious.