PIXEL BURN – Wii Nu, MewWho and more death threats

In which Matt ponders a new Nintendo console while despairing at more death threats.
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Hello my name’s Matt and this is Pixel Burn, where I look at some of the more important, interesting or irritating things that happened in gaming this week. Because somebody has to so it might as well be me.

One of the more interesting rumours this week arose from a job advert posted by Nintendo on the recruitment website Taleo, asking for a Senior Software engineer to work at Nintendo Technology Development in Redmond, Washington. Specifically someone to lead “Design and implementation of video encoding and decoding software” and “Design and implementation of ISP driver and camera middleware stack.”

Among other requirements that, to the average person, make about as much sense as a bunch of heiroglyphs carved into a monolith on the surface of Mars. It basically means Nintendo are looking for someone special to work on some new hardware, which immediately raises the question “are Nintendo developing a new console?”

One job posting does not a potential new console make however. So it’s a good thing we have this other job advert Nintendo posted on LinkedIn, back in August, to bolster such wild speculation. The August job posting was for a Lead Graphics Architect with experience in “working directly in a GPU architecture and design team”, as well as “good architectural insights and the ability to apply that for setting future graphics direction for Nintendo.”

Given how poorly, to put it charitably, the Wii U has sold it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Nintendo might have at least one eye fixed on a new console. As of June 30th this year Nintendo is confirmed to have sold 6.68 million Wii U’s since the console was launched in 2012. Which seems like a lot until you compare that to the 5 million Xbox One and 10 million PS4 units shifted since November 2013. Even with big, heavy-hitting Wii U exclusives like Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2 and the upcoming Smash Brothers, Nintendo have failed to capitalise on the Wii U’s head start in meaningful way

Now before you panic and set your Wii U on fire, this doesn’t at all mean you can expect to buy a new Nintendo console this Christmas, next Christmas or even the one after that. Nintendo started developing the Wii U in 2008, two years after the original Wii came out. Sony meanwhile started work on the PS4 a year after the PS3 launched. Starting work on a new console less than two years after you shipped your current one isn’t at all out of the ordinary.

Nintendo certainly wouldn’t publicly admit to it of course, not with the new Smash Bros looming on the horizon, and their response to all enquiries about these job adverts from various news sites has been a firm “No comment,” or words to that effect. So if they are working on new hardware – which they probably are – then all you’re going to hear about it between now and an official announcement is speculation and rumour.

If I had to speculate, which is all anyone who doesn’t have an uncle working for Nintendo can do, the next generation of Nintendo consoles and handhelds will all run on the same unified architecture. So developers will only have to design one version of a game that can then be scaled down for handhelds, rather than develop two entirely seperate versions like they do now. Except it’s not really speculating when Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata basically confirmed as much back in February, at a shareholder Q&A session. To quote Mr Iwata:

“Each time we developed a new platform, we always ended up developing a system that was completely different from its predecessor. The only exception was when we went from Nintendo GameCube to Wii.”

“In this perspective, while we are only going to be able to start this with the next system, it will become important for us to accurately take advantage of what we have done with the Wii U architecture. It of course does not mean that we are going to use exactly the same architecture as Wii U, but we are going to create a system that can absorb the Wii U architecture adequately. When this happens, home consoles and handheld devices will no longer be completely different, and they will become like brothers in a family of systems.”

Now that line about absorbing the Wii U architecture is an interesting one since to me at least it suggests some sort of possible backwards compatibility. Which subsequently leads me to think we could see a new Nintendo console sooner rather than later. Let me explain.

Consider for a moment the new and improved 3DS recently released in Japan, sporting a faster processor than previous models.four shoulder buttons instead of two, and the addition of a second analogue “stick” in the form of a laptop-style nub. As well as the standard D-pad and four face buttons. Now compare it to the Wii U gamepad which also has two analogue sticks, four face buttons a D-pad and four shoulder buttons.

So we now pretty much have full parity in controls between handheld and home console. Architecturally however the 3DS and Wii U are like apples and oranges. In the words of Mr Iwata again:

“Currently it requires a huge amount of effort to port Wii software to Nintendo 3DS because not only their resolutions but also the methods of software development are entirely different. The same thing happens when we try to port Nintendo 3DS software to Wii U. If the transition of software from platform to platform can be made simpler, this will help solve the problem of game shortages in the launch periods of new platforms.”

Whereas if both a handheld and a home console are running on the exact same architecture you only have to develop one version of a game instead of two, in theory, and make it scaleable to the hardware. Kinda like an iOS app that works on both iPhone and iPad.

Basically what I’m predicting is a unified hardware architecture running the same Nintendo OS, or NintenDOS for want of a better name. Developers only have to make one version of a game and it’ll work on both your new Nintendo home console and new Nintendo handheld, scaling up or down accordingly. So you could be playing a game on your console at home, then take that exact same game – only with fuzzier graphics – on a train using your handheld. You might think this sounds a lot like the way the PS4 and PS Vita can interact, with Remote Play and Cross Buy, and you’re sort of correct. Except you can’t play native PS Vita games on your PS4 and the Remote Play is a one-way street, from PS4 to Vita. I’m imagining a more unified system with true parity working as a two-way street, with one single version of a game playable on both systems.

I also believe Nintendo still has enough consumer goodwill saved-up that they could bring out a new console much sooner than Microsoft or Sony ever could, without facing too much backlash. Especially if they throw in backwards compatibility with existing Wii U titles.

Or maybe Nintendo will be getting out of the console market to build space stations or something. Who knows? All we can do for now is speculate and you’re more than welcome to in the comments section below, particularly if you’re a Nintendo fan. I’m genuinely keen to know what you folks make of of all this.

Assuming you haven’t all fallen into a dehydration-induced coma from drooling over all the Smash Bros news that hit the internet recently. The biggest being that Smash Bros will support up to 8 players simultaneously, albeit only on some stages and with gameplay split between four teams of two. So no octagonal all-versus-all last-person-standing shenanigans, sadly.

As well as being able to play with your old Gamecube controllers, for which you’ll need two adaptors if you want to play with eight players, you can also use up to 7 Wiimote or Wiimote Plus controllers and 7 Wii U Pro Controllers. Additionally you can also use up to eight 3DS’, each with a copy of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, as controllers.

Oh, and they also announced that MewTwo from Pokemon is one of the new playable characters. Which means nothing whatsoever to me since any interest I might have had in Pokemon starts and ends at “it gave kids seizures.”

MewTwo? Pfft, more like Mew…Poo. Wake me up when they announce Bayonetta as a playable character.

Onto other news fans of Dark Souls on the PC had reason to rejoice after the game suddenly went and sprouted Steam achievements. All part of preparations for the game migrating to Steamworks from Microsoft’s godawful and thankfully soon-to-be-forever-dead, no-respawns-at-a-bonfire Games for Windows Live service. Praise the Sun.

If you originally bought Dark Souls through the Games For Windows Live Marketplace then firstly…why? Secondly, you’ll be able to transfer it over to a Steam account sometime in November with your saves and achievements intact. The same goes for people who brought it on disc. People who bought their copy on Steam won’t have to worry about saves, though they should still be able to transfer their achievements.

Assuming they want to of course. Any excuse to replay Dark Souls, right?

Don’t start an achievement run just yet however. While the Steam achievements might be visible they currently will not unlock for anyone until the transfer from Games For Windows Live is complete. Namco Bandai have still yet to confirm how the transfer will affect things like multiplayer matchmaking and other matters, but they promise to reveal more in the days to come. Frankly I’m just glad to be shot of Games For Windows Live.

And staying on the topic of Steam, the blocky indie FPS rougelike Paranautical Activity by Code Avarice games has been withdrawn from the service, after one of its co-developers, Mike Maulbeck, made a death threat towards Valve head honcho Gabe Newell on Twitter.

Aside from being colossally fucking stupid in and of itself, it becomes even more colossally fucking stupid when you consider Steam is practically The Magic Indie Gaming Money Fountain. The toll booth on the road to Indie El Dorado, city of gaming gold.

It also becomes hilariously stupid when you remember Gabe Newell has a truly prodigious collection of knives, including this nightmarish hell-spider with knives for legs. Gabe Newell also sleeps on a bed of knives beneath a blanket of knives woven together into the shape of a big knife, and his office chair resembles the Iron Throne of Westeros in miniature.

I may have made some of that up but my point still stands. You don’t make death threats, you certainly don’t make death threats towards someone who can help you make a lot of money, and it’s probably not a great idea to make death threats against someone known for owning a lot of knives.

But then indie developers aren’t always known for being sensible. Maulbeck’s reason for issuing said death threat all boils down to how Paranautical Activity was displayed on Steam, which is a long and complicated story in and of itself.

Paranautical Activity was originally submitted to Steam as part of the Greenlight process, and during this process Adult Swim offered to help Code Avarice bypass it by publishing the game directly: a deal Maulbeck naturally accepted. Valve refused to allow Paranautical Activity through however, as they felt allowing an indie developer to get around the Greenlight process by simply finding a publisher would set a bad example. The Adult Swim deal eventually fell through but Paranautical Activity got through Greenlight anyway and was officially released.

Now here’s where we get to the meat of the drama. Thanks to a snafu on Steam’s end Paranautical Activity was erroneously advertised as an Early Access game, even though it had been officially released a couple of weeks prior. Maulbeck was understandably annoyed at this and contacted Valve to fix it, but it was the weekend so nobody was at the office.

After a subsequent and quite understandable venting-fest on twitter expressing his frustration, Maulbeck then went for the nuclear-stupid option by threatening to kill Gabe Newell himself.

When Monday finally rolled around Maulbeck received a polite retort to his threat from Valve via email, informing him their business relationship was terminated and that Paranautical Activity was no longer on Steam. Maulbeck was thus left with the profound Sophie’s Choice of either getting a job at Radio Shack or killing himself.

Whoa! Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many options there bucko!

Maulberk has since announced his resignation from Code Avarice and has sold all his shares in the developer to co-founder Travis Pfenning. Paranautical Activity is still available to purchase directly from the developer’s website and other online outlets but has yet to reappear on Steam, assuming it ever will.

Had this situation been somewhat different we could’ve had a really good discussion about Steam’s dominance of the PC digital download market, and its ramificationst. But we can’t because this entire situation rests entirely on the head of an indie developer with poor impulse control. So I guess the moral of this story is…don’t make death threats?

Hardly fucking rocket science I know, although I guess it is to some people.

That’s all for this episode of Pixel Burn. If you liked it then please do let me know, and let your friends, family and The Time Lords of Gallifrey know as well. At the very least I hope you found it tolerable. And if you didn’t like it then I admire your dedication in making it this far. You can go now.


About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.