Blog Archives

5th Cell’s Hybrid is “Marketable Innovation” at Work

The makers behind the quirky title Scribblenauts have revealed their philosophy behind balancing innovation and marketability. “We call it ‘marketable innovation’ here. Commercial viability is extremely important to us. When we do something, we don’t just throw it at a wall and hope it sticks. We look at market data, what people are interested in playing, and offer our own take on that” states Jeremiah Slaczka, creative director at 5th cell.

Take, for example, how Scribblenauts came to be. “When I was designing the base concept, I looked at Nintendogs,” he explains. “I asked, ‘Why is that a market leader?’ And I broke it down scientifically, looking at things — the art style, how the input works. The core theme is puppies, and you know, nobody hates puppies.” In an earlier interview with Game Informer, 5th Cell expounded on the rationale used to design Scribblenauts. “With the DS, we said, “what is the DS and who is the market?” Thus, using the same line of inquiry he came to decide that ‘surprise’ and ‘imagination’ fit the bill and Scribblenauts was born.

Hybrid, on the other hand, markets to a totally different audience than Scribblenauts did. After all, Hybrid is as cover based post-apocalyptic shooter that will release as an XBLA title. The market for the DS and the 360 are different enough that 5th Cell didn’t feel comfortable continuing their signature quirky/cutesy games on the platform.  “Porting over Drawn to Life to the Xbox is a bad idea because no one is going to buy it. That’s fine. We’re all hardcore gamers. So Hybrid has guns and its post apocalyptic.” Unsurprisingly, 5th cell is taking cues from games like Call of Duty and Gears of War. “To try to be successful, we look at the market leaders and say, ‘What are they doing right, and what should we take from that?’ Then we ask, ‘How should we be different than that?'”

Despite going in with surgical precision, Slaczka assures that they’re not in it for making a big hit. “If we fail, we fail. If we succeed, we succeed. We actually don’t care that much [about making it a big hit], but we want to be successful.”


Will the 3DS be relevant?

I wrote, quite negatively, about the Nintendo 3DS a couple months ago, when its lack of launch titles and low battery life were announced. Now that it’s out, we’re hearing that demand isn’t quite as strong as Nintendo would hope. This would be a shame if I didn’t despise the idea of 3D technology. Can’t say I’m not a little gleeful.

We got a chance to play the thing, and…is the 3D important? Will it be relevent? That’s why you go under the cut!
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The Great Sucking Sound

That noise you hear? That is the wind being violently ripped from the 3DS’ sails.

It sounds a lot like three to five hour battery life, which, supposedly, is only when the backlight is turned down. We in the trade call this the “Non-Nintendo handheld” trap, because it’s what has doomed every handheld going against Nintendo since day one: no one wants a handheld console with no battery life. We want Nintendo’s weaker toys, because we can take them places and not be tethered to the wall.

No one expected Nintendo to fall into a trap with its name on it. Really. How fucking ludicrous is that? You’re a company who have made billions of dollars off of doing things one way, and then you decide, whoops, not good enough, let’s change it.

Of course, that’s big news, but coupled with the other news of the week, it’s a clear sign of something big: that Nintendo is punting on the 3DS for the year. No other way about it.
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To be the very best

Hello there! Welcome to the world of Pokemon!

My first memories of Pokemon came with an issue of Nintendo Power. Back in 1998, when Pokemon was just another Japanese thing destined to not reach American shores, Nintendo Power made inserts, half walkthrough and half comic, to insure us that yes, Pokemon was coming, and it would be good.

These inserts were a thing of beauty. Not like pictures you frame and put on your wall, but they were honest to god beautiful. They showed us a world, where you were able to go on the adventure of a lifetime. There was no story besides the story that you created, the path that you forged through friendship with Pokemon. Pure escapism, glued and stapled inside a magazine.

And, eventually, Pokemon came out, unlike all the other Japanese games we saw images of in gaming magazines, and we could play it. It was a physical thing, in our hands. This was the most confusing thing about it. We were used to seeing hordes of Japanese games, only to have the best, the brightest, not release for years, if at all. And here was this game, the most brilliant of the brilliant, getting a physical, stateside release. It was baffling. It was unheard of. It was fantastic. The only games I was more excited about when they came out were Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VII, and they were franchises with years of history behind them.
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New Okamiden trailer looks like Okami, all right

I don’t know how to feel about Okamiden. On one hand, Okami is one of my all time favorite games, one that I’m destined to replay in the near future. On the other, it was a very self-contained thing, and I don’t know how I feel about it getting a chibified sequel.

But that’s what we’re getting, and I’ll just have to live with it. This new trailer is pretty much more of the old trailers, but with J Pop over it! Personally, it doesn’t have me especially excited, though I’m sure that will change by its release day. I mean, it hits all the buttons, but I don’t quite understand why Okami needs a sequel. Especially since it’s not really a franchised game or anything.

What do you think, internet?

“No, YOU Suck!”

A feature at Nightmare Mode in which two brave warriors are pitted against each other in a battle to the death: this is point/counterpoint! Today’s subject: the ability to toggle permadeath in the newest Fire Emblem game. Contestants: Graham and Fernando!


One of the most charming features of the long-running Fire Emblem series is that, when your guys die, they, uh, die. They’re done. There is no magical “life” spell to revive your fallen comrade, no mystical life potions and no auto-life rings or gizmos to help you ward death.

So when you finally build up your army to lay waste to villages and lowly peasants, you don’t want any of them to die. Keeping your guys alive is a very active part of your strategy. You can’t send your mage in to the front lines, for if he dies, he’s dead for good and forever. If someone does die, well, you don’t even blink before you hit that reset button.

Well then THIS should come at a surprise. Developer Intelligent Systems  went at each other pretty hard over the possible elimination of this FE staple.

What?! How COULD THEY?!

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3DS, Seriously

The Wii? Nintendo is okay with you not taking it seriously. I mean, your grandma might be playing that thing. Her idea of a crazy day is getting a 300 in Wii bowling. And the DS? Your little sister probably plays that thing. She probably puts a Hannah Montana sticker on her hot pink DS–mine does. None of these things paint a serious picture at all.

But the 3DS? Now that is a system that Nintendo wants you to take seriously. Speaking to Nikkei, Saturo Iwata said that Nintendo is working closely with third parties to enable the 3DS to “expand into elaborate games targeting serious gamers.” Succesful or not, it’s commendable for them to be so aggressive with third parties…we might buy Nintendo consoles for the Nintendo franchises, but it’s nice to have a something new every once in a while. Like maybe Persona 5.

So, then, things start to get confusing when Gamespot says “Iwata went on to suggest that the current DS and its software only caters to those who do not play games; something that he hoped to rectify with the 3DS in terms of advances in graphics and gameplay.”

How many times has Nintendo gone on record saying that they are not ignoring the hardcore/gamers with the Wii? No one’s playing that thing for the graphics, but not it seems as if they are saying that graphics are necessary. So is this Nintendo admitting something, that their current approach in the gaming market isn’t actually all-inclusive, that their approach has to be different for us “real gamers”? If so, it’s probably a good realization, and it makes me a little more faithful in what the Wii 2 might look like.

Ni no Kuni Announced for PS3

You know what game looks fantastic? Ni no Kuni, the collaboration between Level-5 Studios (you may remember them from games such as Dragon Quest VIII and IX, saviors of Square Enix, Rogue Galaxy, and the Dark Cloud series. Oh, and Professor Layton, one of the most popular “casual” series of games) and Studio Ghibli (who you’ve heard of. If not, you have some movies to watch). It looks fantastic. It’s beautiful, beyond what the DS should be able to produce.

But you know what’s more beautiful? The PS3 version. The trailer is one of the more beautiful things I’ve seen recently, and while some of it is animation, an almost absurd amount is gameplay. So yes, it’s pretty.

Hit the jump for the DS trailer, in case you need to be excited about a game that may or may not come to the US. Personally, I worry about both of them, even if Square Enix and Disney are bffs, because Disney might not see the profit here. Heck, Square Enix might not see the profit here.
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A Sign of Things To Come

“What people want are simpler, more accessible games that are easier to play and solve”–Iwata, 2003

You probably had no idea of what Iwata meant at the time. None of us could. Who could predict the DS, the Wii–who could tell that Nintendo would shift their core values so dramatically from one generation to the next? After all, most of us consider ourselves ‘gamers,’ and why do we care if our entertainment of choice is grandma-friendly? And even now, I know that it is a common sentiment amongst the gaming community to resent the new approach that companies like Nintendo are taking. Why should development time be devoted to titles like Nintendogs and Wii Sports resort when we can have ‘core’ titles like Kid Icarus and Golden Sun?

Still, this accessibility approach that Nintendo products uphold isn’t a random phenomena. Not at all. In fact, let me put my marketing glasses on right now and say that this is a paradigm shift that is taking place across all technological mediums.

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Brief Thoughts on Hardware Design

I travel around a lot. And by ‘a lot’ I mean a few times a year, it just that I happen to hate air travel. I probably make everything worse on myself by refusing to put any of my electronics in my checked luggage, meaning that I end up carrying all the electronics that I own. I don’t have a million gadgets, but when you have cables to factor in as well as boat anchors like my 360, it really starts to add up.

I haven’t fully unpacked, and I when looking for the PS2, Graham remarked that it was one sexy piece of hardware. This observation was probably highlighted when we looked upon our floor, where a PS3, 360, and an old record player were scattered about.

I had always appreciated the PS2 slim, particularly because its small size allowed me to stuff more of my precious, precious gadgets onto my carry-on luggage. But it’s more than that: it’s a marvel to look at this tiny thing and know what its capable of doing. The PS2 original, man, that thing looks like goliath in comparison. It’s not as well designed, either–people who are newbies to the system often had trouble figuring out just how the heck it is that you turn it off. Then again, even the PS3 original has this problem. Thankfully the new slim doesn’t present me with a rubik’s cube when I just want to shut it off, and it also got rid of the dust-hog black finish.
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