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Nintendo Takes E3 Coverage Into Their Own Hands With Treehouse Live

I’ve been watching Nintendo’s E3 presence over the past couple days, and it’s really kind of fascinating. In addition to eschewing the traditional press conference again this year, Nintendo has taken a unique approach both to their digital event and to their ongoing presence at E3. And it signals big changes ahead for how games are marketed by publishers and covered by enthusiast press.

As far as Nintendo’s Digital Event, instead of just showing games (which they certainly did), they decided to give you a look into the creative process with the developers making some of the upcoming games for WiiU and 3DS. The digital event felt almost like a documentary, and really stood out from what Sony, Microsoft and the other big publishers were doing. It didn’t change the fact that most of the games we saw are coming in 2015, but it was an interesting approach nonetheless, and the response to it seems pretty positive overall. 

What is much more interesting though is the Nintendo Treehouse, which is basically a continuous stream of interviews and game demos, featuring everything from sit downs with Reggie Fils-Aime to new game reveals to in-depth looks into the changes in the new Super Smash Bros. game. In the course of three days, Nintendo was scheduled to stream over 20 hours of Treehouse Live.

Wired’s Chris Kohler made the astute observation that the positive response to Treehouse Live is another step in publishers replacing enthusiast press with their own direct marketing.

This kicked off an interesting discussion on twitter, which you can read here.

I happen to agree with Kohler’s assessment, and if that is what ends up happening, the gaming media has absolutely no one to blame but themselves.

Currently, the majority of games coverage from enthusiast sites comes in one of two flavors: barely edited press releases and marketing speak that might as well come directly from the publishers themselves (and often does), or jaded fanboy ranting about how everything sucks. And here’s the thing–people are sick of it.

The scary thing for the enthusiast press is that publishers are now starting to refine their marketing approaches to seem a lot less market-y. What Nintendo is doing with Treehouse Live is essentially what you would want any enthusiast outlet to be doing in terms of E3 coverage–bringing on developers to showcase games and talking to them about the development process. With this approach, the outlet providing the best coverage of Nintendo this week is–Nintendo.

And why wouldn’t they take matters into their own hands? Outside of the small amount of praise they’ve received around Mario Kart 8, Nintendo has taken an absolute beating from the gaming media since the original Wii was dubbed a casual games machine. They never got a fair shake with the WiiU, and the constant stream of negativity certainly hasn’t helped their efforts to right the WiiU’s ship. And this is a company who had the best selling console in 2013 with the 3DS. So with their Nintendo Directs and things like Treehouse Live, Nintendo is doing a much better job of controlling their message.

Microsoft already has Major Nelson, but don’t think for a moment they aren’t strategizing how they can take further control of their public perception after the how the gaming media has shredded them since last year’s Xbox One unveiling.

Sony is currently in the good graces of the gaming media, but that could change in a heartbeat (just ask Microsoft).

Make no mistake, the gaming media creates the narrative around the gaming industry and the “console war” the same way CNN and Fox create their own news. Right now, the narrative is that Sony is “winning,” but that Microsoft may have turned a corner with their focus on games at E3. The narrative on Nintendo in the gaming press is that they are finally showing some of the games they need to, but it may be too little, too late.

My long-winded point is this–the enthusiast press is now going to have to justify their continued existence by providing coverage and games discussion that is different from what consumers can get from publishers themselves or message board fanboys. Publishers are becoming more savvy in their use of new media to market their own games and connect with gamers, and Treehouse Live is a shining example of it. If game journalism doesn’t grow up soon, it may become obsolete.

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E3 2014: What I’m Excited About (Part 1)–New Crackdown!

Last week I made my wish list, and now the E3 press briefings for Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are behind us. While it looks like only one of my wishes are coming true, there were some things from each conference that I’m really excited about/ In the next few posts, I’ll highlight some of them.

First up, let’s talk about my one wish that came true. We are getting a new Crackdown. Here’s the new trailer:

It doesn’t look like the MMO I was hoping for, but from the look of the trailer, it’s going to be big. There were a number of encouraging things in the trailer, even if it didn’t feature any gameplay. First off, we see the leader of the Los Muertos gang in this new city, which means the gangs from the original Crackdown are back. The trailer also leaned heavily on the concept of cooperative play, as the agents are all working together to make an assault on the gang boss’ headquarters. The big moment in the trailer certainly suggests there will be some destructibility in the environments, which would be a great addition to the gameplay.

Perhaps most exciting though, was the fact that this game is not being called Crackdown 3. Whether it’s a complete reboot or not, I like the idea of giving the series a fresh start on the new platform, and it suggests this could be an ongoing franchise moving forward.

The only thing that bummed me out was there were no Freaks in the video, which means it looks like the franchise is moving away from the concepts introduced in Crackdown 2. That’s probably a good thing, as Sunset Overdrive is using a similar concept, but I actually enjoyed the Freaks in Crackdown 2. Remember them?

I am really looking forward to learning more about Crackdown, who is developing it, and getting some idea of when we’ll see it. My gut tells me it won’t be until 2016. In the meantime, I would love to see a port of the original Crackdown (and maybe even Crackdown 2) for the Xbox One. I wouldn’t even care if they gave it the full HD treatment, as the cartoonish style holds up better than a lot of last gen games. I just want to dive into that world again–soon. Here’s a great fan-made trailer for the original, in case you forgot how much fun it was. There’s a lot of great ideas that the series doesn’t get credit for, like the voice of the Agency who is constantly commenting on your actions in the games.

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My Ridiculous E3 2014 Wishlist

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is next week, and we are all bracing for the dog and pony shows, the buzzword-laden marketing promises, and CGI glimpses of games that will be arriving two years from now.

For gamers, E3 is both exciting and frustrating at the same time, as there will inevitably be some pleasant surprises, but they’ll be wrapped in a whole lotta nonsense.

We all have our hopes and dreams though, and each of us has an E3 wish list for the big three (Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony) that we would love to see become a reality. I know that my E3 wishlist is pretty far-fetched, but it’s fun to think about anyway. So without further ado, here is something I would love to see from each of the big three at E3 this year.

Microsoft–Crackdown MMO
I’ll start with Microsoft, as my wish for them is the least far-fetched of the three. I want an new Crackdown. I love the Crackdown series. The original is still one of my top five Xbox 360 games, and I was one of the few that also loved the sequel. And we all saw the Crackdown orb symbol in a pic of the Xbox One dash during the new console’s reveal. So it’s safe to say there is a new Crackdown being worked on. and there are rumors of Crackdown 3 arriving in 2016.

Here’s where I get far-fetched, though–I want a Crackdown MMO. Drawing on Crackdown 1 and 2, there could be various factions battling over control of Pacific City (The Agency, Los Muertos, Volk, Shai Gen, Cell). You could also keep the Freaks as a grunt-level threat that all factions would have to deal with. In many ways, it could be similar to what Realtime Worlds tried to do with APB. But, it would be developed by Ruffian (Crackdown 2 devs who are still around, having worked with 343 on Halo: Spartan Assault and Rare on Kinect Sports Rivals as well as their own Game of Glens).

Since this is my wish list, I would also make the game a one-time purchase, then free to play MMO for Xbox Live Gold subscribers.

Nintendo–3DS as a WiiU GamePad Replacement
I’ve talked about this before, but I feel like Nintendo is missing a great opportunity by not having more interoperability between the 3DS and the WiiU. Sony is smartly trying to bolster Vta sales by giving PS3 and PS4 owners reasons to own one, but Nintendo has not leveraged the huge install base of the 3DS (43 million worldwide and approximately 12 million in the US alone) to bolster WiiU sales. Combine that with the fact that the GamePad is what keeps the price point of the WiiU where it is, and Nintendo has even more reasons to bring the 3DS into the WiiU ecosystem.

My proposal is this: Any 3DS (regular or XL) that has a Circle Pad Pro attachment should be able to function as a WiiU GamePad. With the Circle Pad Pro attached to the 3DS, you’ve got the touchscreen, the triggers and the shoulder buttons.

Not only would this open us cross-save, cross-buy, Virtual Console library sharing and more, but it would allow Nintendo to cut the price of the WiiU by putting out a version without a GamePad. And they wouldn’t have to screw developers by removing features or upset existing owners.

There could be a $199 WiiU SKU, with a Circle Pad Pro included, or a voucher that could be used to order a free Circle Pad Pro from Nintendo’s website. They could do a 3DS XL/WiiU bundle for $399, giving consumers a compelling reason to go with Nintendo over Microsoft and Sony this holiday season. Not to mention, there are a ton of great games for both consoles right now.

While this may be the most far-fetched thing on my wish list, it makes so much sense that it hurts my brain. Just do it, Nintendo.

Sony–Free PS Now Rentals for PS+ Subscribers
I’ll preface this by saying that of the three bigs, Sony is doing a lot of things right. PlayStation Plus is fantastic. The PS4 is offering experiences that the Xbox One and WiiU aren’t. I can play a pretty darn good free MMO (DC Universe Online) on PS3 and PS4 right now, Sony is doing everything they can to bolster the Vita and they have a next-gen only exclusive in Infamous: Second Son. Of the big three, they are the only one that could strategically stay the course and be okay. (And yes, I know about Sony’s financial troubles, but those losses aren’t coming from the PlayStation division, which posted a profit this year).

The game streaming service PlayStation Now is currently in beats on both the PS3 and the PS4. From what we’ve seen and heard so far, when the service fully launches, users will be able to rent PS1, PS2 and PS3 games for one, seven or thirty days. Whether or not there will be a subscription option to access the entire library isn’t clear yet, and it seems these options will not be part of the PlayStation Plus subscription service as it is right now.

What I would love to see is for PS Plus subscribers to essentially get rental vouchers for PS Now games every month. Similar to the lending library on the Amazon Kindle, I’d like to see PS Plus subscribers get at least one free rental credit a month. Each month brings a new voucher, and the old one expires. Sony could also offer a discount to PS Plus members for additional rentals, similar to the discounts that Plus subscribers enjoy on games purchase through the PlayStation Store.

I don’t see this happening, as PS Plus users already enjoy some pretty big discounts, as well as great games every month. Even if Sony never added value to the PS Plus subscription again, what I’m getting now is more than worth it. But, if I was getting a game or two to stream from PS Now every month, I’d be more like to try out others on the service.

So, those are my E3 wishes for the big three. Here’s hoping the game genie will come along and grant at least one of them.

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Let the Summer of Vita Commence!

Despite its ongoing lackluster sales, the PlayStation Vita has quite a stable of solid games now, with more on the way in the near future. Borderlands 2 just dropped (I am enjoying it so far), the Ratchet & Clank HD Trilogy was just announced for July, as was Ubisoft’s new RPG Child of Light. Dragon’s Crown will be free in June to PS Plus subscribers, and there’s a steady flow of indie titles coming to the handheld for the rest of 2014.

For me, Borderlands 2 and the announcement that Child of Light is coming has given me a renewed interest in my Vita. With summer right around the corner, I know I’ll be spending less time in front of my TV, which means more of my gaming will be taking place on a portable platform. I’m looking forward to this, to the point that I’ve kind of planned out my “Summer of Vita.”

June will be dedicated to immersing myself in Borderlands 2. I only played about five hours of the console version, but the first hour or so I spent with the Vita version was pretty impressive. I look forward to delving deeper and perhaps even some online co-op.

July will be an RPG month, as I will definitely be playing Child of Light on Vita and would love to get through Dragon’s Crown as well. Coming off of Dark Souls 2, I’m looking for a different flavor of RPG, and both of these fit the bill.

For August, I’m leaning toward the Ratchet & Clank HD Trilogy, but I also want to dig into the Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, which I got free when I bought the Vita.

So, three months and at least four games will see my Vita getting more use than it has since I bought it. I may even have a PS4 by the end of the summer, in which case I will definitely be taking advantage of some remote play.

So without further ado, let the summer of Vita begin!

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There’s Fun to be Had in Amazing Spider-Man 2

Much like the the movie, the reviews of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 game have been fairly mediocre. But also like the movie, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying the game.

ASM 2 was developed by Beenox, a studio who knows how to make a decent Spidey game. They had been porting Spider-Man games for years before taking over development of them with the well-received Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions in 2010. The followed that up with Spider-Man: Edge of Time in 2011 and the first ASM movie tie-in game in 2012.

The problem with having a veteran studio attached to a game like this is there is a certain expectation of quality. If Rocksteady puts out an Arkham game, you have a certain expectation. If High Moon puts out a Transformers game, you have a certain expectation. And if Beenox puts out a Spidey game, that expectation is there as well.

But a movie tie-in game is a development challenge in and of itself, and the constraints of such a project are evident in ASM 2. The game does not in any way leverage the power of the new consoles (I’m playing on Xbox One), and there is a general lack of depth that suggests a shortened development cycle.

All that said, ASM 2 is still fun to play. Beenox has refined some of their mechanics over the years, and they have crafted a web-slinging system that in my opinion feels better than any that’s come before it. When swinging through the city, your web shooters are mapped to each trigger, and the physics of web-slinging are great. If you invest a little time in it, you can really get into the rhythm of easily navigating the streets and rooftops. You can also look horrible swinging around, since you can’t just blindly fire webs when there’s no building to attach to, and the different heights of buildings have to be factored in when you’re swinging around.

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The combat is a shallower version of the Arkham series, although its premise makes more sense here. Your Spider Sense warns you of incoming attacks, and by dodging and countering, you can chain combos together and execute finishing moves, which earn you more XP. Your XP unlocks upgrades and new abilities. It’s simple and effective, just not as robust as what we’ve seen in other games.

The stealth system is okay, and involved you using your Spider-sense to identify enemy locations and then taking them out covertly. It works decently enough and is a nice palette cleanser, but I’d rather be using Spidey’s acrobatics to combat the bay guys instead of sneaking up on them.

Boss battles usually involve some sort of quicktime events, but they are only a piece of the overall battle, so I wasn’t bothered by them.

I’m about four or five hours into the game so far, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve just started unlocking new suits, and I will definitely keep playing until I at least unlock the Spidey 2099 suit.

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USgamer Continues to Be a Bastion of Great Games Discussion

Today on USgamer’s site Editor in Chief Jeremy Parish outlined some changes that are taking place at USgamer. Former 1UP alums Kat Bailey and Bob Mackey are now full-time contributors and the site itself will be moving more toward features and reviews and away from news and previews. In short, they’ll be doing less of what everyone else is doing, and offering more in-depth coverage and discussion of games and gaming.

This makes me very happy. And let’s be clear, USgamer has been proving great games coverage since launching a year ago. But now they are focusing even more on the good stuff. I’ve written here before about my love for the way 1UP covered games, as well as the efforts to get back to that kind of coverage that Jeremy Parish made when he became the EIC over there. The spirit of in-depth games coverage and discussion is alive and well at USgamer, and it’s great to see the staff there getting the support from Gamer Network to focus on more feature-based content.

Here are just a few examples of the kind of coverage I’m talking about:

What I Like Most About Tropico by Kat Bailey

Super TIME Force Xbox One Review by Jeremy Parish

Kat’s Quest: Child of Light as the Quiet Successor to Grandia by Kat Bailey

Exploring Game Boy’s True Successor, Bandai WonderSwan by Jeremy Parish

As I have mentioned before, one of the reasons I started Co-Op Critics was a desire to have longer-form discussions on games than most gaming news sites are producing these days. 1UP was a huge influence on my decision to get into podcasting as well as my desire to write about games. I started the Secret Identity podcast in 2006 in part because of my love of the 1UP podcasts. I covered games for Comic Book Resources from 2008-2010, and tired to shape a good deal of that coverage to focus more on creator interviews than news and reviews, because that’s the kind of content I was enjoying from 1UP.

And while there are 1UP alumni scattered throughout the games industry and various gaming news sites, I have always appreciated the approach that Jeremy Parish has taken to games discussion, as well as the people he surrounds himself with whenever he gets the chance. I am very much looking forward to seeing what the future holds for USgamer, and I encourage you to support what they’re doing if you want to see more of it.

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A Kinect-less Xbox One Is a Bad Move for Microsoft

Microsoft completed the circle of back-pedaling on their original Xbox One vision today, as they announced a Kinect-less version of the console would be arriving in June, at a PS4-matching price of $399. And while many will see this as a smart move, and one that has the potential to increase sales, I think it’s very short-sighted.

Let’s forget that you can get the Titanfall or Forza 5 bundles of the Xbox One for $499 right now, which effectively means that you’re paying $440 for the console with Kinect. Or the fact that many retail outlets recently dropped the price of the Titanfall bundle to $450, which made the price differential with PS4 essentially nothing.

Let’s focus instead on the notion that a great deal of the console’s functionality runs through the Kinect, and that the Xbox One was designed around it. From the very beginning, Microsoft emphasized the Kinect to both consumers and game developers. On the consumer side, you’ve got the voice commands, the video chat, the game streaming, the facial recognition, voice-chatting through Kinect, menu navigation, motion controls and more. On the developer side, you’ve got the fact that all developers can count on the Kinect being a part of every Xbox One, so they can include Kinect features in the design from the start.

Now, a mere six months into the life of the Xbox One, Microsoft is essentially abandoning the Kinect to try and close the sales gap with PS4. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, understand that the second the Kinect is not a part of every console, developers are basically going to walk away from it completely. Why would they fracture their audience?

This move affects exclusives more than third-party games of course, because third-party games are not putting a ton of effort into designing for features that don’t exist on all consoles (see the WiiU and its GamePad).

The sad thing is, there are surely plenty of games in development that are designed with Kinect functionality, and those games just got the legs cut out from under them. And now that future games will shy away from Kinect features, we’ll likely never see the potential of the Kinect fulfilled. I honestly don’t care about most of the Kinect functionality right now, but I was certainly hopeful about what it could be in the future.

Most concerning in all of this though, is how quick Microsoft is to change their strategy on a console that has been out for a little over six months. Having to give up their “always on” strategy nullified their plans for leveraging the cloud to improve performance, and now abandoning the Kinect will kill their other differentiating feature. Polygon actually has a great article detailing the changing message of Microsoft regarding Kinect over the past several months. It’s sad.

And what of the early adopters? Word on the street is they can expect no Nintendo-like reward program for their customer loyalty. I know I’m kind of wishing I’d held off and waited for a PS4 instead.

Dropping Kinect is a risky strategy, that’s for sure. If this doesn’t close the sales gap (and I don’t believe it will), then Microsoft will have completely compromised their original Xbox One design for nothing. And where does that leave them?

On a related note, say what you will about how badly the WiiU is failing, but I applaud Nintendo’s response around the GamePad. Rather than ditch it, they’ve re-committed to showing people why it’s an integral part of the WiiU.

At the first sign of trouble, Microsoft cut bait on the Kinect. But I think their missing the larger issue–that consumers are losing confidence in them due to fact that it seems they have no idea what they’re doing with this console.

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Dark Souls II’s Informal Quest System

One of the many things I love about the Souls games is the organic way that quests emerge during a playthrough. There’s no quest system per se, but as you figure out your character build and playstyle, you will find yourself questing for items, spells and upgrades to complement how you are approaching a particular playthrough. This will lead to gaming session where you are not trying to complete a particular level, but rather find an item, or battle an enemy over and over in hopes of getting an item drop.

I have been playing a Hex build for my first time through Dark Souls II, and it’s been an interesting challenge. Because of the hybrid nature of the build (Faith/Int), you don’t really start to become powerful until later on in the game. Hexes require either a certain Faith score or a certain Int score, and certain hexes require different catalysts to cast. These factors are what led to the quest I was on last night–to get a Black Witch’s Staff from the Leydia Witches in Undead Crypt. The Black Witch’s Staff allows you to cast miracles, sorceries and hexes, meaning I would no longer need to switch between spell casting items during combat, and I would only need one equip slot for spell casting.

And so, I ventured back into the Undead Crypt, a very difficult area of the game that I’d completed recently, but needed to revisit, as it is the home of the Leydia Witches. The Leydia Witches are very cool from a lore standpoint. They worship the god of disease, and they can cast multiple forms of magic. They were once good, but abused their power and were killed, their spirits now forced to serve as guardians of the Crypt. From a gameplay standpoint, the witches are very powerful, casting spells that can make quick work of you if they land. When you kill them, there is a chance they will drop a Black witch’s Staff, but no guarantee.

So, my quest was to battle the witches in hopes of getting a staff. Luckily, there is a room not far from the first bonfire in the undead Crypt that houses three Leydia Witches. It also contains four Undead Prisoners, and is an absolute deathtrap if you don’t approach it carefully.

And this is what’s so great about Dark Souls II. This one room became a 45-minute quest for me. Because my character is a spellcaster, running into the room, dodging attacks and meleeing everyone was not an option. The witches are all lined across the far end of the room, and they begin casting Affinity (like homing magic missiles of death) as soon as you enter. Each time I battled them, I had to first lure out the four Undead prisoners and kill them so it was just me and the witches. I then actually had to run past them, dodging attacks along the way, and get to the room behind them to get better position. From there, I used Lightning Bolts and Soul Spears to take them out one by one.

Each run through that room took me about ten minutes, and it wasn’t until my fourth try that I finally got one of them to drop the staff I needed. It was worth it, though.

That’s just one example of the informal quest system that emerges while you play through a Souls game. There will be times where you make suicide runs into areas that are way to difficult, just to grab an item or weapon before dying. The hunt for items, weeapons and upgrades brings you back to areas you’ve already completed. And the type of items or weapons will depend on your build and style, so each playthrough will involve different quests.

This is just another aspect of the brilliant design of the Souls games, and the reason they are so replayable. Over seventy hours in, I’m still questing for odds and ends to perfect my build.

I love this game.

In the video below, you’ll see someone play through the room containing the three withches. This eprson had a much stronger bow than i do, and they smartly used a ranged approach with the witches. The Affinity spell they are casting is awesome, and the reason this person is not taking a lot more damage is beacuse they never take a full hit from one of an entire group of projectiles.

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It’s That Time Again–This Week’s Anti-Nintendo Nonsense

*Sigh*

Well, the Nintendo gloom and doom story of the week arrived today as word dropped that Nintendo suffered an almost $230 million net loss. At the end of Nintendo’s fiscal year (March 31st), WiiU sales sit at a grand total of 6.17 million. By contrast, the XBox One (5 million units) and the PS4 (7 million units) have vastly outpaced the WiiU in the roughly six months since their releases.

Nintendo promised a return to profitability this coming year, but predicted a modest 3.6 million in WiiU sales, and 3DS sales of 12 million, which is just below what it sold this past year.

I’ve blogged about this before, but it really bothers me to see the vulture-like mentality of the mainstream gaming media when it comes to Nintendo’s woes.** They revel in every piece of negative news, producing condescending op ed-pieces and endless roundtable discussions about how much trouble Nintendo is in, and calling for them to abandon the WiiU, put all of their games on mobile or stop making hardware altogether.

Can everyone just take a deep breath, please? The WiiU has been out for just shy of 18 months.

I mean, are we really suggesting that Nintendo pull a SEGA here and give the WiiU the Dreamcast treatment? Even that console was given two and a half years from its launch before SEGA pulled the plug (capping lifetime sales at 10.6 million).

If we’re going to be comparing WiiU sales to anything, it shouldn’t be the XBox One or PS4–it should be Nintendo’s previous consoles. It’s safe to assume the Wii’s numbers will never be duplicated by Nintendo At this point, I think a reasonable comparison would be the GameCube. In its five-plus year lifespan, the GameCube sold just under 22 million units. For the WiiU to hit that number in a similar timeframe, it should be averaging 4.4 million units per year. So, if the WiiU gets to 8.8 million by November of 2014, which is very likely, it will be on pace with GameCube numbers.

Mario Kart 8 is going to sell WiiU consoles, there is no doubt about that. How many? Probably not as much as Nintendo would like, and not as few as the gaming media and anti-Nintendo fans will predict. Personally, I think we’ll see sales of WiiU hit 9+ million by the end of 2014, bolstered by Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2 and (hopefully) Super Smash Bros.

I will be putting a separate post together about the WiiU and the Dreamcast, because I think it merits more discussion. The Dreamcast was a sales failure, but is among the most beloved consoles of all time and was home to some fan-favorite games. The same can be said of the WiiU, although that point is drowned out by all the negativity being shouted about.

**SIDE NOTE: I know it’s not just Nintendo that gets the tabloid treatment. XBox One has been dealing with it as of late because sales are lagging behind the PS4. Last gen it was the Sony and the PS3’s early struggles. Clearly the negative tone that permeates mainstream gaming media is not limited to any one console, but it’s unfortunate and inappropriate nonetheless. We had a decent discussion about this on the gaming culture episode of Co-Op Critics if you’d like to hear more about it.

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Why I’m Excited About Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

The trailer for the next Call of Duty game (Advanced Warfare) was released on May 2nd, and I found it very interesting for a number of reasons. Of course, the fact that Kevin Spacey seems to be a prominent character, as well as the fact that it appears to be a more futuristic game are the biggest takeaways from the trailer. But, it was some of the design choices and mechanics that got me thinking about the potential of this new CoD entry.

In one scene for example, a character puts on a pair of gloves that let him scamper up walls. Maybe it’s just because I’m playing Amazing Spider-Man 2 right now, but I immediately thought about the fact that the Spidey games are also under Activision’s umbrella. Could the wall-crawling tech in the new CoD be pulling from what Beenox has refined over the past several years? I hope so.

Activision also owns High Moon Studios, the developer of the Transformers games. So when I saw the mech/battle armor portion of the new CoD trailer, I was thinking about that connection as well. I mean, this dude looks just like Megatron, doesn’t he?

And those hover bikes could function like the Cybertronian Decepticons, couldn’t they? Not to mention, it’s rumored that High Moon Studios is actually working on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Advanced Warfare. Maybe they’re doing more than just porting to last-gen.

I know this is probably wishful thinking, but Activision has all of these studios and a library of action games to pull from when they set out to create each new iteration of Call of Duty. I’d like to see them leverage some of those resources more, and maybe we’ll see some of that in Advanced Warfare. And yes, I know there are different gameplay engines at work here, but even from a design standpoint, it would be cool if some of those other studios are consulting with Sledgehammer.

Finally, let’s not forget that Sledgehammer is a studio formed by two of the creators of Dead Space. I found the story in the initial trailer to be very interesting, and I am a huge fan of the original Dead Space. I’m hoping some of that DNA makes its way into the Call of Duty franchise. Those exosuits did look a little Dead Space-y (no pun intended), didn’t they?