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Jason Venter's blog

5:51 PM on 07.09.2013

I'm not delusional. I just like Nintendo's chances!

I have grown to hate the words "in denial" and "delusional," because people often misapply them to me and others like me for one simple reason: I don't think that the Wii U platform is doomed, doomed, DOOMED!

Look around the Internet right about now and you'll find that I am in the minority. That doesn't mean that I'm wrong to hold out some optimism for the Wii U platform's future, though. Examine the company's record to date and you might even wind up agreeing with my own stance, which is that betting against Nintendo at this early stage is... well, to borrow that phrase I find so tiresome, it's just plain delusional.

I've been playing Nintendo's games since the NES era. I was in my early teens when the Super Nintendo arrived, and then I was about to graduate high school by the time the Nintendo 64 was struggling against the PlayStation. One thing that history has provided me with--besides a mountain of great gaming memories, of course--is the luxury to know that people will regularly bet against Nintendo. Each time a new console arrives, those same folks are lining up to predict that we'd better enjoy this last hurrah while it lasts because Nintendo won't be in business for much longer.

People said those things about the GameCube (which made a decent profit for Nintendo), and I remember their glee as they celebrated the Wii's almost certain demise. Then that system actually launched and it was a massive success, so Nintendo's detractors were forced to put their dreams on hold for six more torturous years. With Wii U, though, Nintendo is finally stumbling straight out the gate... and so you see those people returning to their seats in the peanut gallery with hopes that they'll witness the event that they've long dreamed would finally happen: Nintendo's exit from the hardware business.

The bad news for those people is that Nintendo is not actually on the ropes, so to speak, not in the way that Sega was when it finally gave up on the Dreamcast and (arguably) not even in the way that Sony is as it works to reclaim market share with the PlayStatoin 4. In fact, Nintendo is sitting on a monstrous mountain of cash and beloved IP that continues to sell like crazy.

I don't think that the people who are cheering for Nintendo's failure are ignoring those facts, and yet I start hearing the harsh adjectives the second I try to introduce such points to the conversation. I gave the matter some thought, and I reached a conclusion: people expect this to be the end for Nintendo because they have "outgrown" the experience that Nintendo provides and they think everyone else should too. They're predicting the future that they want to see, and perhaps the future that would actually happen if they were representative of consumers at large... but it's not the future that is actually the most credible.

Nintendo's games have been hugely successful, even the recent ones. I'm not entirely sure how people manage to forget that so easily. Critics loved Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, for instance. Those titles rank as two of the top three most favorably reviewed games of all time, according to GameRankings. Also, Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Wii Play feature prominently on any accurate list of the best-selling video games of all time. It's clear that many consumers continue to respond favorably to the specific breed of game that Nintendo offers, and yet I'm told that I'm delusional if I think that something like Nintendo's (insert a derogatory adjective of your choice right here) software is going to help the company's newest console perform well in the future.

Apparently, I'm also delusional if I suggest that Nintendo's biggest problem right now is the fact that so many consumers still have no idea the system even exists. I don't see how that lack of consumer awareness could not be an issue, though, since consumers have to know something exists before they can... consume. Far too many people still believe that Wii U is just a new gimmicky tablet device that you hook up with your existing Wii. That view is held by the people who are sort of paying attention. There are many, many consumers who still don't know even that much! I feel like if Nintendo can turn that situation around, it'll make a real difference.

And then there's Nintendo's financial situation. Look at Sony and you'll find a company that is struggling to regain a portion of its former dominance. Perhaps it will succeed. Look at Microsoft and you'll see a company that is pouring resources into making the Windows 8 operating system a success in a world that has turned to smartphones that run on iOS and Android. Maybe Microsoft will succeed in that effort. In any event, what you see in Microsoft and Sony are two companies for which games are not the entire business model. Neither company is in a position to invest all of its resources in that future, which means that Nintendo's pile of cash puts it in a position with some real options.

Oh, and there's also the possibility of a price drop. Nintendo has steered away from that for now, which I think is probably a mistake, but that doesn't mean an adjustment won't come a few months from now... or tomorrow, for that matter. Sometimes, Nintendo likes to announce big changes almost overnight. If a price drop actually does happen, that could have some real impact. It's absolutely not proof that I'm in denial if I point to the positive impact that a price drop and quality software had on the 3DS. And although I realize that 3DS was facing different opposition than Wii U faces, a price drop of $50 to $100 could put Nintendo in a very attractive position when cash-strapped parents look around for a console this holiday season or beyond. For that matter, even a bundle with a game or two could make a significant difference. Those are two weapons that Nintendo hasn't even had to use, but I bet it will use one or both of them sometime in the not-so-distant future.

In the end, I'm not saying that Nintendo will definitely turn the Wii U into a dominant force this generation. I know that it very possibly will not. However, I don't see this as the generation when Nintendo becomes a third-party publisher, struggling to survive after releasing a string of bad games and poor business decisions. The fact that the people who do see the company in that light are calling me delusional is one that I frankly find galling, since they're the ones that are ignoring so much of the available data in order to nourish their view of the probable future.

You don't have to like Nintendo, and I'm not asking you to go around saying that Wii U is about to make a comeback. But if I do make those predictions that you won't, that doesn't make me delusional and it doesn't mean I'm in denial. It just means that I've taken the time to look at the big picture and I see a bunch of ways that Nintendo could easily survive and thrive in the coming console generation. Please have the courtesy to stick to the facts, rather than calling me names.   read

8:59 PM on 06.13.2013

Don't worry about iOS, consoles. You got this!

If you spend much time on Twitter, you will eventually run into someone who is convinced that the reign of consoles is numbered, that they are about to finally lose to something far, far superior: the iOS platform. A lot of the time, these people are obvious morons, but sometimes you'll hear otherwise smart people saying the same things (and very clearly believing it), not because they're trying to troll you, but--usually--because they don't understand the appeal of consoles and very probably haven't for years.

I usually just listen to those comments and brush them off, but I'm feeling grumpy today because we just saw an amazing E3 that showed us what consoles have in the works... and still, those same people are barely impressed at all by consoles (if that) and ready to declare iOS the victor or a "game changer" even before the game has really begun. So here it is, the one reason iOS will almost certainly never pose a serious threat to consoles: screen size.

You can tell me all you like about how iOS has a controller coming--so that you don't have to deal with the horrendous touchscreen controls anymore--and you can talk about comparative price--only $1 to $3 for a total turd of a shovelware title that you'll argue doesn't have to be all that good anyway because it doesn't cost a lot of money--and you can even regale me with tales of all the phenomenal features that iOS has that consoles never will (which I guess works out to a calendar and, uh... well, there's probably other stuff too that I should be excited about). What you can't get around is the fact that--due to very obvious portability requirements--the screen size on an iOS device is really quite small.

There's nothing wrong with that small screen, per se. It works great on small devices, but screen size changes how a person plays games. I discovered this myself when I recently picked up a 60" television. Even familiar games suddenly played much differently. The timing was all wrong, the sense of scale was much more impressive, and my ability to watch the whole screen in a multiplayer match went bye bye. A larger screen makes for a different experience, and sometimes to a dramatic degree. That's particularly true if a game was made by capable developers who are developing specifically for certain dimensions.

Even if iOS devices are soon fitted with proper controllers as a matter of course--an unlikely scenario, but let's run with it--and provided the means to output to your television, they're not going to produce images that look anywhere close to what blockbuster console games will provide. It takes a lot more power to make something beautiful that fills the whole screen than it does to paint a gorgeous picture on a 10-inch canvas.

As long as consoles stay far enough ahead of the technical curve that can conveniently be included as part of an affordable iOS device (not something that's especially difficult to do with a dedicated console, though the console manufacturers have been slacking off in that department as of late or we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place), consoles will always have the advantage. The console industry will need to make a series of ridiculous mistakes in order to fall in the face of any iOS onslaught. If anything, the console has more to fear from a completely different multi-purpose device: the PC.

iOS? People who develop apps for that platform can keep churning out 50 new free-to-play and shovelware titles every day, flooding the marketplace with so many too-similar disasters that eventually, even the bravest iOS consumers will decide that finding games that are actually worth playing on that platform simply isn't worth the hassle. If anything, I see the iOS platform's days as a popular gaming device as being numbered...   read

12:03 AM on 06.12.2013

Which hardware manufacturer won this year's E3?

I've been told that since this is a game site, I should write more about games and less about movies. I'm not entirely sure how I'll proceed on that count, but this is E3 and so I figure I might as well share some thoughts on games... even though some of you are likely sick of reading about such things by now.

So... the big three hardware manufacturers have shown off their plans for the next year and beyond, and E3 is well and truly off to the races. What did you think of the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo events?

To me, it seems like there's a general consensus and it seems like it doesn't match my own impressions, so I thought I'd share what I thought briefly.

First, you have Microsoft. Going first probably didn't do the company any favors, but at least it got the non-game stuff out of the way a few weeks back. That move provided room for a focus that was almost purely on games, which was definitely a good thing. I was intrigued by a lot of what I saw, even if I wasn't especially surprised (and yes, I even figured out who I was looking at well before the cowl came down and the desert wanderer's identity was revealed).

Until Sony's conference followed much later in the day, I thought that Microsoft might have managed an upset. Certainly, it was the best conference I've seen from the company in... ever. Unfortunately, it was quickly upstaged by a Sony event that drew applause when Jack Tretton announced precisely what gamers have been hoping for: a $399 price point for the PlayStation 4 and the promise that there would be no new DRM baked into the system hardware.

Peresonally, I buy my games new and I have reliable Internet. I don't foresee that changing a whole lot, so Microsoft's approach to DRM and used games didn't bother me all that much. Going into E3, I liked Microsoft more than I feel was typical, and now I like Microsoft more than I feel is typical. What changed? Somewhere along the way, everyone decided that Microsoft is a villain. Me, I don't agree. I just think Microsoft is proud of its relative dominance with Xbox 360 and believes that a $500 price point will work. Judging by the consumer reaction yesterday and today, that was a miscalculation.

As for Nintendo, the company decided not to show a proper media briefing. Then it aired a video this morning that didn't want to stream properly. It finally got through, though, and Nintendo showed very little that came as a surprise. We'd heard of every game already, with the exception of the new Donkey Kong title. The game looks great, but it's no megaton announcement. As for Super Mario 3D World, it feels a lot like a handheld title masquerading as something more. I wrote more detailed impressions about that here, if you'd like to read them.

At the end of this, the second day of major E3 news, who do I think is in the lead? That would be Sony. I plan to buy all of the stuff that Nintendo showed--or very close to it--but I can say the same thing about Sony. Though its approach to DRM and used games isn't as meaningful to me as it is to some people, I still find it to be an encouraging, pro-consumer approach. And the games it showed look great too, as expected, with some great support for indies.

My general summary of the three systems is that Microsoft and Sony have swapped approaches. Microsoft is making the mistakes that Sony made with the PS3--which cost it more than it really could afford--and Sony has come back to the ground and is focused on the sort of approach that gamers are likely to appreciate. Meanwhile, Nintendo seems mostly to be stuck in an enjoyable but predictable rut. I'm glad I have a Wii U, but it's not necessarily the first system I would buy right now if I were left to make a choice based only on this year's E3 showings.

What did you think? Are there any games that blew you away? Do you agree that Sony "won" this year's E3, or are you more inclined to run with Nintendo or Microsoft?   read

11:05 PM on 06.07.2013

Does anyone else here like Columbo?

How many of you have watched the "Columbo" series, starring Peter Falk? It initially aired in the 70s and the original run came to a conclusion right about the time I was born, so I don't expect that most of you would have watched it back in the day. Since then it has been on television periodically, though, and there were several revivals that resulted in a string of new releases up until 2003, a few years before Peter Falk passed away not terribly long ago.

"Columbo" initially began as part of a run of mystery movies, from what I can tell. There were several detectives, so the weeks would alternate and sometimes you would watch "Columbo." Sometimes you would wind up watching something else. At least, that's how I think it went. "Columbo" seems by far to have been the most popular.

Lately, I've been watching "Columbo." Amazon had the complete series available on DVD, and before that I had enjoyed the odd assortment of episodes--not so much as a single complete season--that were available on Netflix. The complete set was a terrific bargain at the time, available for under $60, so I totally jumped on that and now I've finished filling in the episodes Netflix forced me to miss. I've moved on from there, as well, and now I'm almost done with the original seasons. From there, I'll be progressing to the newer stuff that actually did air during my lifetime, when I was old enough to watch it. I will likely review some of those episodes here.

So anyway, each "Columbo" is movie-length, because of the format in which it originally aired. What you're seeing is roughly the same as a 90-minute movie now, and there are guest stars (some big names like William Shattner and Leonard Nimoy and Leslie Nielsen, among others). Each new episode tells a self-contained murder mystery, beginning with the murder. A lot of my favorite mystery movies leave the identity of the murderer a mystery, and part of the fun as you watch comes from determining who the killer is before the sleuth can do so.

"Columbo" is a different sort of mystery--not entirely unique--that finds you blessed with information about the crime. The big question now is how Lieutenant Columbo will interpret the clues and how he will solve the crime. Mostly, he will trick the culprit into giving too much away. A murderer might be about to get away with a near-perfect crime, but Columbo will spot something small in the case that bothers him. He'll latch onto the killer, and he'll find a way to make that person build a case against himself (or herself, as the case may be).

In general, I'll admit, the writing in "Columbo" is slow-paced. It's a show for people who like smarts and interesting characters more than they like explosions and in-your-face tension, but that works for me. I've found myself enjoying the mystery genre more and more as I get older and the constant diet of fantasy and science fiction loses some of its allure.

If you also like mystery shows, I hope that you'll explore "Columbus" with me in the coming weeks, and that we can maybe discuss some of the episodes if I post impressions here and something triggers your memory. I do hope, at the very least, that I'm not the only person here who loves the sight of a police officer in a rumpled overcoat...   read

11:59 PM on 06.06.2013

An ever so slightly overdue self-introduction

I probably should have done this sooner, before posting two posts here (one of which has since been deleted), so here goes...

Hello! My name is Jason Venter, and I play video games. I also watch movies and TV, and I enjoy reading fantasy/sci-fi and mystery novels. When I'm not doing one of those things, I'm writing or running a retro gaming site or I'm talking to people on Twitter. In a nutshell, I'm avoiding sunshine because probably I have some vampire in me.

I'm here on Destructoid because of the writing part. I've written for a number of outlets, including Hardcore Gamer Magazine (where I was an editor during its entire print run), GameSpot, GamesRadar, Joystiq and so forth. I've never been staff at any of those web sites, because I live in Oregon and that limits my role to freelancing. Plus, you know... it's always possible that no one would hire me even if I did live in California. Whether I'm currently being paid or not, I enjoy writing about games and movies and entertainment and technology, so I thought it would be cool to start blogging on a few sites, when I'm not busy with my ongoing freelance work (which for reasons related to keeping a roof over my head will remain my priority).

On this blog, you can expect to see me writing about the various movies I watch, the television shows, the anime... all of that sort of stuff. I plan to post completely original posts here a few times each week, and I'll be blogging elsewhere about game stuff unless something changes.

I'd love to get to know as many of you as possible, but I should mention up front that I especially love interacting with people who put love and care into whatever they write. If you leave a comment on this post or any other one I write and I can easily make out what you're saying (meaning that there aren't many grammar and spelling errors), I'll probably click through and follow you. I'm looking to interact with the bright gamers and movie fans who I know lurk and post here, and I hope that we can enjoy reading each other's posts for a long time to come.

If you'd like to know more about me, please feel free to visit my portfolio site, or you can ask questions here or just read more of my posts. See you around!   read

11:47 PM on 06.05.2013

Is Clannad worth watching or what?

Recently, I posted elsewhere about Bunny Drop, an anime that I had enjoyed quite a bit. After checking out my article, a reader mentioned "Clannad" as another anime that I might enjoy, which was a helpful reminder because I'd been thinking about trying that one out for quite some time. I placed an order for the set, then and there, and now I'm back with the first of what I expect will be several posts letting you all know what I thought of it.

"Clannad" is a series about a high school lad named Tomoya. He's a rather generic protagonist, but I always identify most easily with those sorts because I'm a rather generic guy myself. There's a reason these sorts appear so often in anime, so I'm guessing I'm not alone in that.

Tomoya begins the series by meeting a cute little red-head named Nagisa, who is quite withdrawn and not especially healthy. She missed enough of the previous school year that she was held back, so now she's one of the oldest students still roaming around the school campus. With her friends gone, she spends most of her time alone until she and Tomoya strike up an unlikely friendship that to me seems destined to at some point become something more.

I guess I should mention now that I've only watched the first disc in the blu-ray set, which contains the first 9 of 24 total episodes. At first I was a little bit ticked off that they didn't just put 8 episodes on each of the three discs--because I'm silly and obsessive like that--but the 9 episodes that make up the first disc actually work nicely and the substory comes to a suitable head with the last of those included episodes.

Once Tomoya and Nagisa have grown comfortable around one another, they spend a lot of their time trying to revive the high school drama club. That's a difficult task because it is currently on hiatus, due to a lack of involvement from students.

As the two protagonists are coping with that particular challenge, Tomoya also meets another student who he quickly befriends, Fuko Ibuki. She is a strange girl who spends all her time in the school corridors, but gradually she opens up to her two new acquaintances and they learn her sad story. Throughout many of the first nine episodes, Fuko is as much a star of the show as her two new friends, despite being a secondary character. That's especially true in the last 4 or 5 of those episodes. She has an interesting story that takes a lot of effort to unravel. Probably because some comic relief is required to keep viewers engaged during some of the more dramatic scenes, Tomoya betrays a certain mean streak as he plays practical jokes on Fuko once she falls into a near-trance after receiving a hug.

It's difficult to offer much detail at this point without venturing into spoiler territory, but I will say at least that "Clannad" takes an unexpected supernatural turn. I wasn't sure what I thought about that as I saw the twists that the story was taking (they were rather obvious, once I accepted that maybe this is a series that would include some of that), but the evolution of that particular plot line was handled quite expertly. I already mentioned the comic relief as a point of interest for the less engaged audience, but the dramatic twists caught me off guard and I grew interested in the fate of the various characters in spite of myself.

People have warned me that at times the "Clannad" story can be a bit sad, so I probably should have been ready for that, but I found myself wiping the edges of my eyes by the time the ninth episode was reaching its conclusion. That was the point when I realized how great a job the writers were clearly doing, because I couldn't look back and point to a specific scene that won me over, but there I was on the verge of tears. Manly tears, naturally.

As far as voice work and such goes, I'm not the sort to insist on dubbed translations or subtitles. I'll take what I can get, as long as it doesn't get in the way of the story. In this case, I felt that the voice work was handled very nicely. The actors had the usual tones I would expect to hear from Japanese actresses and actors, but they were very English. Mostly the mouths synched up and all that, so either I'm nowhere near picky enough or Sentai Filmworks did a great job on this. Either way, I'm satisfied.

With one plot point basically resolved, I'm now looking forward to starting the second disc and seeing what new adventures await me. I'll likely update you on what I find on the second disc in a subsequent post. In the meantime, I'm happy to discuss the initial nine episodes right here in the comments if there's something you'd like to say...   read

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