I Finally Played A Link Between Worlds
With all of the excitement around the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I decided to bite the bullet and pick up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for my new 2DS. I was trying to hold off to find a deal on it but, since its widely regarded as one of the best games on Nintendo 3DS, I figured it was worth the full price. The fact that all of the desirable 3DS games are still the price they were released at years down the line is an issue for another day.
Long story short, I loved a Link Between Worlds. It’s an awesome throwback to A Link to the Past for longtime fans while it’s structured completely differently from anything else in the series. Everyone reading this is probably aware, but items in ALBW are rented from a loveable but strict entrepreneur rather than discovered in dungeons. As you’d imagine, access to all of the game’s items from the start allows you to tackle the dungeons in any order that you please. With this innovation being a main feature in the most recent game, I’m pretty excited for what it could mean in the “open world” of Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo Breathing New Life into the Legend
With Nintendo’s message around BoTW being so focused on its open world and parallels to the original Legend of Zelda, the structure presented in a Link Between Worlds becomes even more interesting. The most recent BoTW trailer featured a ton of characters in the game that we’d never seen before and some set pieces that insinuate a more gritty story of the Legend. We’ve seen items in game, but don’t yet know how they’re acquired. I know that a Link Between Worlds didn’t get nearly the support and funding that BoTW has, but in light of all of this, Nintendo even trying something new in the well-worn Zelda formula on a small scale gets me more excited about BoTW.
Games media keeps harping on the fact that Zelda isn’t the system seller that its hardcore fan-base thinks it is, and the number of copies of Link Between Worlds supports that truth. Even though it didn’t set any sales records for Nintendo, it’s widely regarded as one of the best titles on the 3DS, a console known for its stellar library. The critical and fan reception of a Link Between Worlds, including heaps of praise for its departure from the tried and true Zelda formula, hopefully was not overlooked by Nintendo while developing BoTW.
Nintendo is betting big on the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a Launch title for the Switch. Even with more launch titles emerging for the Switch as its launch approaches, Zelda is assuredly a main driver for pre-orders of the system. I love going back to classic Zelda and am looking forward to replaying Ocarina of Time on my new 2DS, but I’m fascinated by the idea of Nintendo swinging for the fences and going in a whole new direction with the latest game in the series. I guess we’ll know how much it harkens back to the origins of the Legend of Zelda soon enough.
Complications with Nintendo Joy-Con
I’m still pretty excited about the Nintendo Switch. I’ve been reading a ton about it, despite there not being too much info to cover. Their presentation may have soured some of the enthusiasm around the launch, but I’m still intrigued and excited about the potential. I haven’t pre-ordered one, although I’ve thought about it. I might have if it wasn’t so damn difficult to do so. I’m just hoping that we won’t have any of the supply chain issues that have plagued the NES classic.
With all of my interest in the system, I do have some concerns. I love Nintendo as a company. I have a lot of nostalgia for them, like so many others, but I never bought a Wii U and when the Wii I have was relevant, I played way more Xbox 360. I still come to Nintendo for some very specific things though. They ignited my passion for gaming, and still produce experiences like few others can. There’s still no other way to scratch that Mario or Legend of Zelda itch without them. I love their games, and I’m fascinated by the potential of the Switch hardware, but I give no shits about HD rumble.
I love the promise of a single console that I can take with me on a trip, or play on my TV at home. The aspect of adaptability is awesome and widely appealing, but one console for everything instead of a home and portable. The Joy-con seem great whether attached to the tablet or the grip, and provide precise and responsive controls for any kind of game. I also appreciate that they have some motion control features so that we can relive the days of Wii sports with friends, in some facet at least. But, the fact that they crammed enough tech into these joy-con that they need to charge $50 for what is essentially half of a traditional controller is concerning.
I want the function and adaptability of being able to slide them onto the tablet, or a grip, so that I can play on the go or in my living room. At this time, that’s where my interest ends. Not only am I not interested in the features beyond those, I have doubts as to how often they’ll actually provide value to players or developers. HD rumble sounds cool, but how will it actually contribute meaningfully to Mario/Zelda/Nindies? I just really can’t see any function that will interest me for more than a few minutes or make a real impression on gamers or developers. Same goes for the incorporated IR blaster, seems like a fun party trick that will never come up again. I know some Nintendo fans are really into Amiibos, but it seems like they rarely, if ever, use NFC to connect them to enable in-game features and are much more likely put them on display. I’ve never heard of a compelling in-game implementation of an Amiibo. I’m open and interested in their use, I just haven’t ever heard of one. It seems like NFC would be a great accessory attachment, but bundling it makes consumers pay for something that they will likely never use.
Flawless Basics, Flawed Extravagance
I love the look and function of Joy-con as controllers, but the functions beyond that seem kind of shit, and it seems remiss that they’re all bundled into those tiny controllers. Maybe the added functions didn’t add much to the cost of the controllers, we’ll probably never know, but they give me doubts. If they had stuck to the initially appealing gimmick of a hybrid console, and not added so many additional quirky gimmicks, could they have shaved a few bucks off the price and made it a no-brainer? Now that they have those features in place, are they going to put most of their effort into finding mass market appeal with motion control games with gimmicks?
I just wanted a new way to play Nintendo games and some indies, and the hybrid console idea got me excited. Virtual console games would sweeten the pot, and local multiplayer games that could support 2 players by splitting the joy-con seem awesome. Everything beyond that shakes my confidence in their focus. The prices of controllers and accessories make me think they’re just trying to pack too much into what could be a simple and streamlined experience. Maybe they’ll reach new customers with those features, but they could easily alienate just as many.
Amazon Prime Pre-Orders on Switch Titles
There’s a huge amount of hype flying around after the less than stellar presentation by Nintendo earlier this week. I haven’t pre-ordered the Nintendo Switch myself yet, although I understand why so many have given Nintendo’s well known supply chain issues. The Switch is set to release in just a few weeks on March 3rd, 2017, and pre-orders are live for not only the Switch, but also for a number of announced titles for the game. Here’s where a certain benefit of Amazon Prime might be even more significant than it is for any other console.
I recently received a Nintendo 2DS for Christmas from my sister, I’m having a great time, but there is a catch. As with any Nintendo system, they don’t annualize games, so there is one version of Smash and one Mario Kart. These titles are great, my system came with Mario Kart 7, but they also never get any cheaper. Games that have been out for years are still $40 on the 2DS, and the system itself was only $80. As a Nintendo fan who skipped the Wii U, and the 3Ds until recently, this can be a hard pill to swallow. Here’s where Amazon Prime comes in to vacuum up even more of your dollars.
20% is a Hefty Discount on Nintendo Titles
Amazon Prime offers 20% off pre-orders of games. Pre-orders are huge in the video game industry, for the business side at least, but not very consumer friendly. There aren’t any bearings for the quality of the games that you’re giving companies a free loan for. Marketing alone often sells pre-orders and then gamers often feel burned by the final product. As such, I’m generally against it unless you personally feel that the game is a sure thing. I pre-ordered Dark Souls 3 so I could pre-load it and had no regrets The last game I pre-ordered prior to that was the original Call of Duty: Black Ops though, and that was just to guarantee a physical copy in the days before easy digital sales.
Here’s where I’m going with all of this
Amazon is offering the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for 20% off if you pre-order it. I’m not alone in saying that this is as close to a sure thing as you can get in gaming quality. This game has been delayed for years and become a launch title for what could be the last Nintendo console if it flops. Nintendo is betting big on the Legend of Zelda, and hopefully, it’s for good reason.
With this in mind, this could be the cheapest you can possibly buy a copy of Breath of the Wild at retail for years. I remember Skyward Sword going for $50 at retail long after the Wii was relevant, and being hard to find on top of that. 5 years later, it’s still $43 and change on Amazon. So, if you pre-order Breath of the Wild, you’re only spending $5 more than a 5 year old game, that’s how Nintendo games work. If you’re excited about the Switch and Zelda, this might be the most appropriate time to pre-order ever.
Resident Evil 7’s demo finally reached the PC and I was stoked to give it a try. I missed out on the first Resident Evil games when I was young and have always wanted to go. I haven’t made the time yet, but this sequel is geared as a return to the original direction of the series. I jumped into Resident Evil games with RE4, as I’m sure many people did. I had an incredible time playing Resident Evil 4, enough to get me interested in the entire rest of the series. Unfortunately, the brilliance and success of RE4 took the series away from its survival horror roots as the developers focused more and more on the cinematic actions scenes in Resident Evil 5 and 6. Resident Evil 7 is positioned as a reboot of sorts to bring the survival horror element back to Biohazard.
I played through the demo for the first time in a brightly lit room, midday with my dog sitting next to me. Despite the relaxed setting around me, I still had a tense and exhilarating experience playing through the short demo. I never had the pleasure of playing P.T., but it seems that both of these demos share similar inspiration. The demo starts with a short video being played that seems to be from the original “Kitchen” VR demo that eventually turned out to be the release trailer of RE7. Your character then wakes up in a dark room with a flashlight and a single directive appears on the screen, “Get out of the house.”
Incredible Atmosphere and Graphics
The literal first impression of the game is that it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m not much into maximizing graphics, but my modest Alienware Alpha PC ran the game smoothly and the visuals were incredible to behold. Every surface is insanely detailed in the creepiest way possible. The biggest departure from the series’ history comes in here, the entire game is in first person. This makes the game feel even more immersive, and will make the announced VR version a one of a kind experience, at least in this stage of VR games.
Without going into exactly how I went through the demo, here’s a quick overview. There’s a bunch of things to interact with throughout the environment, and items to find that solve problems around the Baker house. I loved the video tape you find and watch/play through as found footage that both answers questions and brings more to mind. My first playthrough, I went on the most obvious path possible, which resulted in the “bad ending.” Later I got my wife to watch the game, she hates watching me play things, and went on the same directed path. She said she wasn’t that into it, but then I started a new playthrough and did everything completely differently. Using previous knowledge, I found new items that weren’t present on my last game and explored more of the house. I found more items and puzzles to solve. Long story short, she wound up coaching me and suggesting what I should try next, like what item probably solves which puzzle. I got much further into the experience, trying to get anything but the bad ending, and wound up getting killed. I answered some of my questions though, like “what the fuck was that noise”, and brought up new ones. I’ll use that knowledge in my next time in the Baker house.
All in all, I had a great time with the demo, and I got my wife to actually watch me play something, which is always nice. I’m definitely excited for this game. Since I missed the originals, this is my chance to get into the series for the same reasons that the oldest fans of Resident Evil did.
We’ll see how the rest of the game looks, but this is a great start to reinvigorate the series and capitalize on the gap that P.T. opened and abandoned in the market.
Games, Specs, and Switch Speculation
The Nintendo Switch has been all over news outlets since its unveiling, and for good reason. It’s not that often that a completely new console is released, especially after all of the speculation around its reveal. New console releases could be even more rare in the future as Microsoft and Sony focus on iterative console upgrades. Here’s a wrap up of the most important rumors that have come out since its unveiling and some of my thoughts on Nintendo’s future console.
There were rumors swirling for months about some of the best games on the Wii U being ported to the Switch to give it a ton of must have games in the first few months out of the gate. From the reveal trailer, and some other rumors that have spread since, that seems to be the case. There is hearsay everywhere about the first 6 months of the Nintendo Switch release being loaded with releases, most of which seem to be first party.
Although Nintendo has since confirmed that the video on the trailer is simulated, that could safely be assumed anyway, there’s a decent chance that Nintendo wants all of those titles to be released on the Switch eventually. To make the deal even sweeter, both Mario Kart and Splatoon featured elements in the trailer that are not included in the Wii U versions. It seems that we’re looking at enhanced versions of the best the Wii U had to offer on the Nintendo Switch.
Specifics About the Switch’s Screen and Dock
There’s been a ton of speculation, the biggest being about the screen and the dock. It has been well substantiated that the screen is in fact a touch screen, has 720p resolution, and seems to be the same size as the Wii U gamepad’s at 6.2″. The reveal trailer hints that the company doesn’t want their device to be categorized with other tablets and mobile gaming, as they didn’t show off the touch screen at all. Nintendo has also come out and directly stated that the dock does not house any additional processing power. It remains a mystery as far as the output resolution between the 720p device screen and a likely higher resolution tv screen. It could still upscale the image from the Switch tablet to a more suitable size for a tv screen. This basically eliminates the possibility of true 4K gaming on the Switch, it’s a good thing I don’t give a shit because…
Nintendo has Always Done More with Less
Nintendo has never been about the hardware. Despite the fact that their hardware has been considered underpowered for generations, they still kick out some of the best looking and smoothest running console games because they are so well optimized. I’m not hardcore about resolution or framerates, and it’s unrealistic to expect mind blowing graphics from a mobile device like the Switch, but I’m confident the games will look damn good. There are some serious lookers on the Wii U, and the Switch will almost certainly be a graphical upgrade from that. I’m a PC gamer, but my PC is a small form factor box that barely outpaces the current consoles and I’m more than happy with how my games look and run.
I love it. I got to play it. I will tell you – well, maybe that’s an N.D.A. thing. One of the best demos I’ve ever seen. Probably the best demo I’ve ever seen. At E3.
There is definitely a lot of hype around the console, but there are people who are critical of the idea as well. Can the Switch be great at any one thing if it is trying to do some many drastically different functions? There are obvious concerns about battery life along with the power of a portable console, and there isn’t too much hard evidence on the matter. One thing that just came out is that Bethesda’s Todd Howard is a fan, stating in an interview with Glixel, “I love it. I got to play it. I will tell you – well, maybe that’s an N.D.A. thing. One of the best demos I’ve ever seen. Probably the best demo I’ve ever seen. At E3.”
I think it’s pretty telling that, despite the brief mention of the Switch, it’s still the first topic noted tin the title. Theirs is a lot of excitement brewing and I cannot wait to learn more.
AB InBev Enters the Homebrewing Industry
This past week, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced its plans to purchase one of the largest online homebrew supply companies in the country. AB Inbev is buying the Northern Brewer, which also own Midwest Homebrew Supply, another large force in the homebrewing industry.
The purchase is being made through ZX Ventures, AB InBev’s strategic ventures division which targets new growth and investment opportunities for the brewing giant. ZX Ventures is dubbed as the conglomerate’s “disruptive growth organization,” and is focused on 3 general areas of growth, craft/specialty beverages, e-commerce, and exploration. We’ve seen their impact on the craft space with purchases like Elysian and Goose Island, and now they’re branching out with their first significant step into the e-commerce space.
There are a ton of questions to go along with this announcement, the biggest of which being why is such a huge company even bothering with the relatively niche homebrewing industry.
AB InBev and the Potential of E-Commerce
AB InBev began purchasing craft breweries because they were losing market share to the growing number of small player in the overall beer industry. Through the growth of the craft beer specialty market, more consumers became enthusiasts and stopped purchasing macro-brewery beer in favor of more flavorful craft offerings. AB InBev’s solution has been to buy up some of the most successful entries in the craft space in order to profit off that growth while enabling them to grow even faster.
They probably have the same idea with the homebrewing supply industry, spurning their purchase of Northern Brewer.
The homebrewing market is still growing. Along with losing money to the growth of independent craft breweries, AB InBev probably doesn’t see many sales from consumers who are passionate enough beer to make their own. Seeing the related industry as a potential growth opportunity, AB InBev had enough capital to purchase one of the markets biggest players. Just like with craft breweries, they’re looking to help the supplier reach their potential faster and profit off the industry’s growth.
This acquisition could play out a little differently than brewery purchases though. There has been some backlash against the breweries they own from enthusiasts devoted to a vision of small and independent craft beer, but big marketing budgets have allowed them to profit from less discerning craft beer drinkers.
Homebrewers Vs. the Big Beer Business
The issue that could arise with the Northern Brewer purchase is that homebrewers are some of the most adamant enthusiasts of high quality beer. I listened to a Q&A with Charlie Papazian at this year’s GABF and he said that he likely wouldn’t be a beer drinker today if he hadn’t discover homebrewing, he just couldn’t stand any of the offerings when he was young. That was a while ago, but the main players in the macro-brewing industry are largely unchanged. He’s assuredly not the only one who feels this way, and homebrewers are passionate about the craft of beer if they are anything. There aren’t nearly as many less discerning homebrewers for AB InBev to make a profit off. Homebrewing, as compared to just drinking beer, is obivously much more niche. The American Homebrewers Association already posted a survey on their members’ opinions on supporting small and local homebrewing supply shops versus a mega store with lower prices across the board. I’m curious to see their results.
Therein lies another possible issue for Northern Brewer’s new owners. Not only are homebrewers more likely to be concerned about supporting a small and independent versus the 5th largest consumer goods company in the world, they are also less price conscious consumers. According to a survey taken by the AHA in late 2013, the vast majority of American homebrewers are highly educated and affluent, with over 60% having a household income of over $75,000 annually.
This could spell some problems for AB InBev that purchasing well regarded craft breweries did not. Craft beer is exploding, and there are plenty of excited consumers who don’t care to do the research as to where their dollars are going. I meet people at the brewery all the time who are just trying out craft beer for the first time, it’s an amazing time for the industry. Homebrewers are more historically established, and as shown by that AHA survey, highly educated and less price sensitive. It’s going to be much harder to find a significant number of new homebrewers than it was to find new craft drinkers, it is always a possibility though.
The Northern Brewer hopes that one day homebrewing will be as common in households as cooking, no doubt that AB InBev is getting in early and hoping for the same.