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  Nintendo Opens Up Wii Development [Updated]  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-27 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Nintendo introduced its WiiWare service today, opening up its Wii game console to independent game developers, who will be able to sell downloadable games through the Wii Shop Channel. According to an official press release, to-be-announced content for the service will launch early next year.

It's not clear from Nintendo's press release what exactly WiiWare is, aside from offering game creators "a simple method" to get games to the public and "reduced barriers to development." Presumably details are forthcoming, but in the mean time I have to wonder about the development platform's hardware, software, and license-fee details. [Update: citizen game picked out a few choice details from a couple of Newsweek stories. Turns out Wii development isn't all that open after all.]

If Nintendo's promises hold true, bigger things are in store for the Wii, which already appeals to a wider audience than the other major game consoles. Opening up to indie developers increases the opportunity for innovation and further expansion of the Wii demographic.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Major League Gaming’ Gains Solid Foothold in Canada  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Insight Sports, a Toronto-based media company, is bringing Major League Gaming to Canada, providing a localized, organized pathway to "professional" video gaming. To this end, Major League Gaming Canada will be staging an Xbox-exclusive tournament this fall: "The MLG Canadian Open will be held Friday, November 2nd – Sunday, November 4th, 2007 at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre. It will serve as a marquee event within the larger Gaming and Digital Lifestyle show that is expected to attract over 25,000 core gamers and technology enthusiasts during the weekend."

I spoke briefly today with MLG co-founder Sundance DiGiovanni, who told me that MLG chose consoles over the PC platform because of the lower barrier to entry for console gamers--the cost of buying a PC rig is just too high, he said. While MLG is Xbox-exclusive for now, DiGiovanni told me the Nintendo Wii is a possibility moving forward.

Support from Xbox Canada, Yahoo! Canada, Zellers, The Score and G4techTV has already been secured for MLG's Canadian debut. Xbox Canada has ensured the Xbox will be used exclusively during league play; Yahoo! Canada will promote MLG through its media network; Zellers will facilitate retail sales and promotions; The Score TV network will be the official home of MLG, including the U.S., with G4techTV apparently picking up the broadcast scraps.

Not sure what to make of this until I actually see a televised MLG tournament. On the one hand, it's good to see video games get a "pro sports" treatment. On other other hand, is MLG meeting a need? Are North Americans ready for video games as pro sports?
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘High School Musical’: The Games  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
High School Musical was originally a Disney Channel TV movie, but has since spun out in the form of a soundtrack album, an ice tour, a live concert tour, an upcoming sequel, a movie planned for theatrical release, and now... video games. Disney Interactive Studios will extend the High School Musical experience across Wii, PS2, and DS game consoles this summer. Sorry, parents: Your pre-teens are going to sing you into insanity.

The Wii and PS2 versions of the family-friendly game will involve karaoke antics involving characters from the property and about 30 songs. The DS version doesn't require singing (a pity, since the DS has a built-in mic), instead approaching High School Musical from a rhythm-game angle. DS gamers will be able to compete and trade videos with others via Nintendo WiFi. It would have been an added bonus to tie in DS and Wii game play, but I suppose that'd be asking for too much.

I suspect that even if interest in the sing-along, dance-along genres is waning, a High School Musical game will still have plenty of appeal to the tweenage set, particularly given the pending movie sequel and spinoff. Not sure 30 songs is going to provide much repeat play value, but I suppose the point is to sustain interest in the brand long enough to sell movie tickets.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Opera Browser: Free Wii Download Until June 30, 2007  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Opera Software announced today that its Opera-powered "Internet Channel" for Nintendo's Wii console will be available as a free download until the end of June, 2007. Although no price was mentioned post-June, Opera did state that once downloaded, the browser "is free for the lifetime of the system."

The Internet Channel has been improved since its initial launch as beta software. Most notably, the toolbar--which formerly obscured the lower 20% of the screen--can be hidden, and overall performance of the browser has been increased. Other adjustments include better zoom, search, scroll functions. The weakest new feature allows multiple cursors to be shown on the same page (if the users have multiple Wiimotes) in order to "point out interesting content."

I'm glad the toolbar is now optional, rather than required. Content-creators could certainly make better use of the screen real-estate. However, I'm not convinced adoption or usage of the browser will be widespread enough to justify a rush of Wii-specific content.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Brand Confusion: Wii Miis, WeeMees, Meez  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Wii is the Nintendo console that features Mii avatars, oft-pluralized as "Miis." Meez are 2D avatars developed by Donnerwood Media used on the web and IM services. WeeMees are 2D avatars developed by WeeWorld, featured on AOL Instant Messenger. Seems to be an awful lot of soundalike branding going on in the same commercial space--I can't imagine consumers are completely clear on which brand is which. Last month I observed brand confusion in action when Donnerwood's Jan D'Alessandro visibly bristled due to Miis being momentarily misidentified as Meez (notes from that panel at 3pointD.com).

Although I missed its initial mention, I'm not surprised that WeeMee maker WeeWorld reportedly filed suit against Nintendo--however, as GameSpot explains, WeeWorld has since tried to drop its lawsuit, despite Nintendo's refusal to let it go. Clearly there's some namespace worth defending here. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems that there's enough overlap in naming and commercial interest that a shakeup is inevitable. I don't expect such a tussle to end well for anyone but Nintendo, particularly if it scores an initial victory against WeeWorld.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Homestar’ Wii-nabled  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The insane universe of Homestar Runner makes its unofficial debut on the Nintendo Wii console through Videlectrix, the fictional game developer of such retrolicious titles as Secret Collect and Population: Tire. Only a few games are featured on the Wii-specific Videlectrix page so far. Each seems to be Wii-friendly--control is all point- and/or click-based. The dated visual style of the games is particularly suitable for playback on a standard TV set, even if the game play is limited in its appeal (I think that's sort of the idea, though).

Continue reading: ‘Homestar’ Wii-nabled
 
     
 
   
 
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  Browser War Comes to the Wii?  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
2Old2Play.com reports that Nintendo has announced the Mozilla Firefox web browser will come to its Wii game system: "[Firefox] will utilize the Wiimote motion and buttons to navigate web pages. It will feature a text entry system that boasts the ability to enter 50 words-per-minute."

I'm rather stunned by this news. First of all, Opera has already co-branded the Wii. The Opera browser, available as a temporarily-free download is the Wii's "Internet Channel." Where will Firefox fit into the Wii's channels? Secondly, web designers are potentially facing two separate web browsing platforms with potentially separate capabilities and limitations. What version of Flash will Firefox support, for example? Opera supports version 7. Will Firefox support version 8? Version 9?

Oh, and while I'm asking questions, will Firefox be a free download? That will settle the browser wars pretty quick.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Sims’ Still Kicking  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
‘Sims’ Still Kicking
The Sims goes Wii.
Electronic Arts' The Sims is the best-selling PC game in history, having sold over 6 million copies since its release in 2000. Since then, the artificial-life sandbox has spawned several progeny, including a successful second iteration in The Sims 2, and a generally-unsuccessful online iteration in The Sims Online. Two more spin-offs are on the way this year, each of which take The Sims franchise in different directions.

The Sims Stories provides a series of directed, themed narratives for Sim newbies. Each one-shot story game is due out early this year, boasting "laptop-friendly" system specs and "the ability to play the game in a separate window while using your own IM and email to stay connected with friends." Being standalone (and hopefully inexpensive) titles, the games won't support the inclusion of additional content from The Sims expansion packs. It seems clear that EA hopes to hook newcomers to the franchise in the hopes of expanding their already-substantial audience.

The Sims Wii reinvents the traditional, semi-realistic Sims characters as kawaii anime simulacra (say that ten times fast!). Apparently Wii "Mii" avatars will stand in for the usual Sims characters--few details are known about the game, which is believed to ship to Japanese players some time this year. It's a major departure in aesthetics, but if the core game-play remains unchanged, I can't see how the Wii-specific version can fail.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Wii Hands-On First Impressions  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Having finally picked up a Wii on the weekend (and finding out that controllers are at least as hard to find as the console at this point), I've had ample time to gather my thoughts on Nintendo's latest console. After fiddling with it for a few days, I can confirm what many others have already said: The Wii represents a major shift not only in the way we play games, but in the potential future gamer demographic. That's why it's more important than the PS3 and differently important than the Xbox 360, which comes at the gaming "revolution" from a different angle. The Wii is social in a warmer way than the Xbox.

I'm not at all bothered by the Wii's weak graphics--that's only a part of the gaming experience. Obviously the controller interface is a huge positive in the experience department--what game designers do with this interface is crucial. Jane McGonigal says the Wii isn't a simulator, it's "real." I appreciate that this is true for some people. For me, it isn't sufficiently real and it doesn't sufficiently simulate, but it's still a great control system. There's very little involved in learning how to play Wii Sports, but the latest Zelda title has a higher learning curve. Non-gamers and hardcore gamers on the same game system. Pretty cool.

Continue reading: Wii Hands-On First Impressions
 
     
 
   
 
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  My Wii #: 5068 7235 1890 2015  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-13 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Can't talk. Making Miis. If you'd like to connect to my console at 5068 7235 1890 2015, make sure you contact me with your registration info so we can hook up.
 
     
 
   
 
  4 comments  
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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