Goodbye, Mr Nintendo
“Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone.”
~ Satoru Iwata
A couple of weeks ago Xbox chief Phil Spencer made headlines for stating that the leadership of game companies should play their own games, so as to be familiar with the products they are selling. Saturu Iwata did not simply play games, he created them. A programming prodigy, Satoru Iwata joined HAL Laboratory fresh out of university in 1980, at the age of twenty-one. Iwata was instrumental to the creation of games like Balloon Fight, NES Open Tournament Golf, Earthbound, and, of course, numerous Kirby titles spread across the NES, SNES, Gameboy, and N64. Iwata became president of HAL Laboratories in 1993, where he remained until he joined Nintendo in 2000. Iwata remained close to games during his time as HAL president, with his final substantial roles being on Super Smash Bros. [where he served as producer], Pokemon Stadium [for which he programmed the battle system], and Pokemon Gold and Silver [for which he created compression tools, enabling the inclusion of the Kanto region]. Even after joining Nintendo corporate in 2000 as head of corporate planning, Iwata still was not afraid to get his hands dirty. When Super Smash Bros. Melee appeared to be in imminent danger of missing its November 2001 release date [which was to coincide with the launch of the GameCube], Iwata embedded himself with his former colleges at HAL in order to perform a three week review and debug of the game’s code:
“My actual last work on programming happened when I was working as the General Manager of Corporate Planning at Nintendo. Something happened and the GameCube version of Super Smash Bros. didn’t look like it was going to make its release date, so I sort of did a code review for it (laughs).
I went to HAL Laboratories in Yamanashi and was the acting head of debugging. So, I did the code review, fixed some bugs, read the code and fixed more bugs, read the long bug report from Nintendo, figured out where the problem was, and got people to fix those… all in all, I spent about three weeks like that. And, because of that, the game made it out on time.
And that was the last time that I worked as an engineer “in the field”. I was right there, sitting by programmers, in the trenches, reading code together, finding the bugs, and fixing them together.”
Perhaps we should have known that something was amiss. In 2014 Iwata missed E3 due to health complications, which we later found out involved undergoing some quite serious surgery. Since then Iwata appeared to bounce back, and was just as involved and energetic as ever, but by the time it came time for Nintendo to sign their agreement with DeNA in March 2015, Iwata had become visibly gaunt, and it is likely no mere accident that Nintendo chose to film this year’s E3 Nintendo Direct conference using puppets. Iwata dedicated almost two thirds of his life to creating content for Nintendo fans, and his work for the company was ongoing right up to the point that a growth in his’s bile duct claimed Iwata’s life. That is the kind of dedication that you see from a Pope, not a business man.
In his time as Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata quickly became just as much a mascot as Takahashi Meijin, Segata Sanshiro, or even Shigeru Miyamoto [who is now the likely frontrunner to assume Iwata’s responsibilities as president]. The genius in appointing somebody as amiable and well meaning as Iwata into the role of president is that it does much to blunt any criticism leveled at the company, as it is impossible to feel any genuine animosity towards the man. This makes for such a pleasant contrast to an industry which is led by hollow corporate shills like Riccitiello, Kotick, Moore, and Mattrick – all of whom would seem just as happily suited to filling command positions in the Galactic Empire.
appears appeared for all the world like one of those [now mostly extinct] ‘Mom and Pop’ toyshop owners, who often seem to have more passion for their product than do their children. This makes for a stark point of differentiation to Nintendo’s competitors, who are sophisticated and pragmatic like large corporate toy chains. Our relationships with Iwata and his Nintendo company have not always been easy, as, like many artisans, he wanted us to interact with his toys on his terms. There have been frustrations about the roll-out of Virtual Console content, and there have been frustrations at having our online interactivity paternalistically stymied. At the end of the day however, it is not artisans like Iwata who will end up ruining this industry, rather it will be the slick pragmatists who determine their corporate strategy by chasing market trends. It is the Iwatas of this world who stand against this race to the bottom, and is the Iwatas of this world who stand up for gaming as a hobby that should [first and foremost] strive for fun and entertainment. The day following Iwata’s passing a rainbow appeared over Nintendo’s corporate headquarters. Nintendo fans have begun referring to this as Iwata’s Rainbow Road to heaven. Seems fitting.
“Tezuka-san (from Nintendo) suggested that I make an appointment to see you, but I couldn’t find the nerve to do so. Now, after all my hesitation, I’ve learned that we truly passed each other by, and I’ll never be able to see you again. I wish I had a StreetPass feature that could connect with heaven. I would run out and buy a DS with that feature right now just so I could send you my thanks.
Life is always just a succession of regrets.
Iwata-san, thank you for everything. I don’t typically look up to a lot of people, but I really respected you. I would always be thinking from afar just how amazing of a person you are.”
~ Yoot Saito
Shameful: PETA Disgraces Itself Again!
If there is anything more sickening than a rusted on ideologue, it is one that hypocritically feigns sympathy because it will get them a headline. There has been no bigger issue in the world of gaming this week than the passing of president Iwata. Indeed, there has been no other issue in the world of gaming this week than the passing of president Iwata. Many people and institutions have responded to this news by paying tribute to the life of a man who has so selflessly given himself to the happiness of others. Our old friends at PETA on the other hand take one look at what is going on, and decide that they would in fact like some of the attention that is currently being paid to Satoru Iwata to be redirected and focused on themselves. This is what senior director of marketing innovations Joel Bartlett had to say on the passing of Iwata:
“We at PETA are deeply saddened by the death of Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata. Many of us grew up with Nintendo — we’ve celebrated games such as Nintendogs, which PETA Europe named Best Animal-Friendly Video Game, and our love for these games powered the parodies we’ve made, such as the Super Mario Bros. — spoofing Super Chick Sisters, in which players try to save Princess Pamela Anderson from the evil Colonel Sanders, and Pokémon Black & Blue: Gotta Free ‘Em All, in which players battle to free Pokémon from human enslavement. Our thoughts are with Mr. Iwata’s family and everyone at Nintendo today.”
Senior director of marketing? No fucking kidding! But Joel Bartlett, where has one heard that name before? Oh yes, that is the same idiot who, back in May, called on other not-for-profits to follow PETA’s lead in appropriating a company’s IP in order to attack them!
“Parody can be a powerful tool. Companies spend billions to build-up their brands and a parody logo can be an easy way to remind people of a brand’s actual values.”
PETA’s modus operandi is to attach themselves to something popular and then proceed to attack it, in the hope that doing so will bring attention to an an entirely unrelated cause or issue. PETA gives not one single fuck about the fact that doing this actively harms whatever it is that they attach themselves to, making them much like the corporate equivalent of SJWs in that respect.
Over the course of creating their shitty ‘parody’ flash games in order to “remind people of [Nintendo’s] actual values“, PETA has pretty much covered the full gamut of Nintendo’s most popular franchises. One is instantly reminded of Super Tanooki Skin 3D, which is exactly as ghoulish as it sounds. The banner reads “Mario Kills Tanooki“, and features the grisly image of Mario holding a severed racoon head, while wearing what looks to be the still bloody skin of Melmac’s favourite son, Alf – so fun for the whole family then!
“When on a mission to rescue the princess, Mario has been known to use any means necessary to defeat his enemy—even wearing the skin of a raccoon dog to give him special powers.
Tanooki may be just a “suit” in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur. Play Super Tanooki Skin 2D and help Tanooki reclaim his fur!”
Then there is PETA’s other masterpiece, Pokemon Black & Blue, a game which Joel Bartlett mentions specifically in his press statement ‘honoring’ Satoru Iwata. Pokemon Black & Blue depicts Pokemon trainers as cruel monsters who make their Pokemon fight to the death like real world dog fights/cock fights. The game features a bloodied and bandaged Pikachu with chunks taken out. Lovely.
Pokemon Black & Blue attacks Nintendo for supporting abject animal cruelty, while Super Tanooki Skin 2D attacks Nintendo for supporting the practice of skinning animals alive. PETA makes these claims about Nintendo, and then they release a teary press statement saying what a huge inspiration Iwata is to them all. They are taking the piss, surely? Do these fuck-knuckles not realise that Iwata has served as executive producer for every Mario game since 2002? Do these fuck-knuckles not realise that Iwata has personally programmed the battle system for a Pokemon game? Is PETA in the habit of releasing public statements mourning the loss of all the people they determine to be animal abusers? Of course not. There is one of two things happening here; either PETA does not give a shit about the loss of Iwata and is pretending to mourn his loss in order to get attention, or PETA on the whole actually does admire Iwata and enjoys Nintendo games, but has previously decided to throw them both under the bus in order to score some attention. One does not know which prospect is more sickening.
It is probably a small mercy that PETA did not choose to commemorate this occasion by dressing a Raccoon in the skin of president Iwata, but better still would be to commemorate PETA’s crocodile tears through their own much beloved instrument of choice; shitty flash game parodies – just to remind people of PETA’s actual values. Something along the lines of: how many dead kitties can Joel Bartlett illegally stuff into a dumpster in the span of a minute?
Broken Age Has Almost Broken Even
One is truly in awe of the utter incompetence of Tim Schafer. Just when one would think that he could not get any worse at managing a studio, he will go ahead and do or say something which is just the crystallisation of pure blithering idiocy. Schafer asked gamers for $400,000 in order to make a point and click adventure game, and ended up receiving a cool 3.3 million dollars. Great, so more than enough money to produce the game that he had planned, right? Wrong. There was a massive blowout in the game’s budget, and the team runs into a wall. How does one even blowout the budget for an adventure game? There is no physics of which to speak and very little in the way of AI – all it really consists of is art, sound, and ‘yes’ or ‘no’ triggers. What is there to even blowout?
At any rate, the budget blows out and Schafer has to break the game into two parts, and use the money earned from the sale of the first part in order to finance the second. In practice it would appear that Schafer reused an obscene amount of art assets from the first half of the game in order to cut costs during the latter half of production. Presumably this would mean that the title would place a relatively light burden on Double Fine’s balance sheets for the remainder of production, no? Presumably it would be smooth sailing from this point on, yea? And when Sony became involved, and Double Fine made the game a platform exclusive, surely that would have lightened the financial burden even more, right? No.
According to Double Fine’s own documentary the studio spent roughly twice as much of its own money as it did the free money that it raked in from other sources – and for what? A game that does not look like it would be worth the time to play it, much less the asking price. Now, after the game has been on sale for several months and has made all the money it is likely to, Double Fine says that it has just about broken even:
“My expectation with Broken Age in the end was just to break even… With Kickstarter, the risk is gone of losing money on it, so you know you’ve broken even if you just make the game to that amount of money. But we made it [for], like, twice as much almost as we got in. Or more. So we will just about make that back.”
Let us give a standing ovation to Tim Scafer! The man has truly been blessed by the gods – all the gold he touches turns to shit! This is what a ten million dollar game looks like: Broken Age! What could he have even spent that money on, San Franciscan rent? His game sucks and he has nothing to show for it. Not even wisdom. Schafer has gone on to state that he wishes that he could use Kickstarter to fund AAA games, and that he could use it for every project going forward. He also spoke at length about how Kickstarter has given the company more leverage when negotiating with publishers:
“The biggest change is that we don’t need the publishers anymore 100 percent. It used to be there was no money in the world outside of publishers. So now when we’re talking to a publisher, the deals are better. We’re asking for less money, but we’re also not entirely dependent on them to make payroll next week. We’re not like, ‘Please, we’ll sign anything, we just got to make payroll. OK, you get to kick us in the teeth once a month and all this stuff.’ Now we only have to take good deals with people we like.”
We can expect more Schafer debacles anon.
Anime Spotlight: Prison School
Hachimitsu Academy is one of the strictest all girl academies in Tokyo, and this year they have decided to admit boys for the very first time, five of them to be precise, one with a decidedly small face – hijinks ensue. This is where one would normally say ‘you know the drill’, only in this instance that may not strictly be true, as the show looks utterly demented, and it comes with a very unique premise: The academy features its very own on-premises prison, and the five male students have all been sentenced to a month of rock hard labour. That was an innuendo. Because this is the kind of show that requires innuendos. Also, the student council vice president looks formidable.
“On the outskirts of Tokyo stands Hachimitsu Private Academy, a storied all-girls boarding school for elite young women full of potential and good breeding. But as the new school year rolls around, one tradition is going out the window: For the first time in the school’s long history, boys are being allowed to enroll. But on the first day of school, only five boys make the cut. Kiyoshi Fujino, one of the lucky few, is thrilled by this discovery, his heart leaping with joy at the thought of being surrounded by all those girls, day in and day out. But little does he know of the shocking fate that awaits him……”
Prison School has been licensed by Funimation, and began its run on the tenth of July. If busty girls beating teenage boys with riding crops sounds at all appealing, then one could do a lot worse than giving Prison School the once over.