An anonymous reader writes "For over a decade, GameSpy has provided and hosted multiplayer services for a variety of video games. GameSpy was purchased in 2012, and there were some worrying shutdowns of older servers, which disabled multiplayer capabilities for a number of games. Now, the whole service is going offline on May 31. Some publishers are scrambling to move to other platforms, while others are simply giving up on those games. Nintendo's recent abandonment of Wi-Fi games was a result of their reliance on GameSpy's servers. Bohemia Interactive, developers of the Arma series, said the GameSpy closure will affect matchmaking and CD-key authentication."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Nerval's Lobster writes "A more prominent role in video-game development could prove the latest territory on Amazon's 'attempt to conquer' list. Yes, there's already Amazon Game Studios, which produces smaller games such as Air Patriots (a tower-defense title), but that evidently wasn't enough — Amazon has acquired Double Helix, most notably the developer behind Killer Instinct and other big-action games for PCs and consoles. Amazon confirmed the deal to multiple media outlets, suggesting that it would use Double Helix's developers and intellectual property 'as part of our ongoing commitment to build innovative games for customers.' Why would Amazon want to bulk out its game-creation abilities? Rumors have floated for the past couple weeks (hat tip to Gamespot) that the company is hard at work on an Android-based gaming console that will retail for below $300. Over the past year, it's also hired gaming luminaries such as Halo author Eric Nylund, which it probably wouldn't have done without something big — or at least interesting — in the works. Amazon would doubtlessly position such a device (if it actually becomes a reality) as the low-cost alternative to Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4. But even the cheapest console won't sell without some killer games to attract customers — and that's where Double Helix might come in. ... With Nintendo flagging, there's potentially an opening for a third console ecosystem to take hold."
Nerval's Lobster writes: "It's no secret that Nintendo faces significant challenges: revenues are down, rival platforms such as Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 are attracting a lot of buzz, and iOS and Android have made significant inroads into mobile gaming. Rather than double down on its core business, however, Nintendo reportedly sees its salvation in new, nongaming segments such as... monitoring your health? 'We have now redefined entertainment to mean making it fun for people to improve the quality of their lives,' Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata told a company strategy meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal. But he refused to part with more detail about Nintendo's plans, except to claim that whatever's in the works isn't a wearable device along the lines of Nike's FuelBand or the FitBit, and it isn't an iteration of the Wii Balance Board, an accessory that measures the user's weight and center of balance while playing games."
eggboard writes "Henk Rogers was a Dutchman who arrived in Japan in the 1980s following a girlfriend (later, his wife). An inveterate D&D player, he became enthralled with the NEC-8801, and nearly killed himself trying to create a D&D-like world that he released as The Black Onyx. No one initially knew what to make of it, and the game sold slowly at first. Through savvy pricing, packaging, and press attention, sales grew, and the game jumpstarted RPGs in Japan. Rogers got left behind, though, as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy hit a local nerve better than his efforts. 'I also realized that I didn't quite understand the Japanese aesthetic and way. These games were quite different to mine, and just struck a more effective cultural chord.' Rogers went on to license Tetris to Nintendo, though, so he did just fine."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Nintendo's revenue and profits are tumbling faster than Mario into a bottomless pit. Company executives recently suggested the next-generation Wii U console would sell 2.8 million units between April 2013 and March 2014 — significantly below the 9 million units predicted in previous estimates. Contrast that with Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, which sold 4.2 million and 3 million units, respectively, in their first six weeks of release. In lowering its hardware and software estimates, Nintendo also expects to take a loss by the end of its fiscal year in March. Nintendo's attempt to carve a niche for itself as an ecosystem for casual gamers has also run into a massive obstacle in the form of smartphones and tablets, which quickly developed into popular gaming platforms. Nintendo is reportedly considering a 'new business model,' according to Bloomberg, with its CEO telling a gathering of reporters in Osaka: 'Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business. It's not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.' While Nintendo could probably made some good money off legacy gamers by bringing its (much loved) portfolio of older titles to iOS, Android, and other platforms, that move to mobile might further weaken its hardware sales. So what do you think? If you were in charge of Nintendo, how would you turn it around?"
Sockatume writes "Digital Foundry has published an article from an anonymous but trusted developer outlining the challenges of developing for the Nintendo Wii U. The piece confirms some common perceptions of Nintendo, such as their attitude to third party developers, and presents a few surprises, like networking code not being made available to outside developers until the console was almost on sale."
the simurgh sends this news from Gamespot: "Nintendo has acquired the entire patent portfolio of now-defunct IA Labs following its victory in court, the Japanese gaming giant has announced. Nintendo obtained the patents during a sheriff's sale in Montgomery County, Maryland on Tuesday. IA Labs originally sued Nintendo for patent infringement in 2010, claiming the Mario maker's Wii controller and Wii Fit technology infringed on two separate IA Labs patents. Nintendo successfully defended itself as part of a court battle in 2012, also winning various fees related to the case. IA Labs appealed the ruling, but an appellate court sided with Nintendo in June 2013. At this point, IA Labs was ordered to pay Nintendo additional fees, and when the company failed to do so, a sheriff's sale was commenced."
hypnosec writes "China has lifted the 13-year-old foreign gaming console ban, which it imposed back in 2000 as a way to protect the nation's youth from unhealthy content that may adversely affect their mental health. The temporary lift of the ban, which was announced Monday by the State Council of PCR (Google Translation into English), will make way for international console vendors including Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to setup production facilities in the newly created Shanghai Free Trade Zone and sell their consoles throughout the country. The vendors will still have to go through local checks, including the ones from the Cultural authorities to ensure that they don't violate any of those rules."
An anonymous reader writes "The decades-old Rambus litigation against Micron for RDRAM tech finally reached a settlement. RDRAM tech has already been licensed by NVidia and Broadcom and has been used in game consoles such as the Nintendo 64. The preliminary deal is to last 7 years and net $280M for Rambus and Micro to gain access to patent licenses defining the technology."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Will Xbox One and PS4 emulators hit your favorite download Websites within the next few years? Emulators have long been popular among gamers looking to relive the classic titles they enjoyed in their youth. Instead of playing Super Mario Bros. on a Nintendo console, one can go through the legally questionable yet widespread route of downloading a copy of the game and loading it with PC software that emulates the Nintendo Entertainment System. Emulation is typically limited to older games, as developing an emulator is hard work and must usually be run on hardware that's more powerful than the original console. Consoles from the NES and Super NES era have working emulators, as do newer systems such as Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii, and the first two PlayStations. While emulator development hit a dead end with the Xbox 360 and PS3, that may change with the Xbox One and PS4, which developers are already exploring as fertile ground for emulation. The Xbox 360 and PS4 feature x86 chips, for starters, and hardware-assisted virtualization can help solve some acceleration issues. But several significant obstacles stand in the way of developers already taking a crack at it, including console builders' absolute refusal to see emulation as even remotely legal."
Zothecula writes "Nintendo recently announced that it was ceasing all production of its original Wii video game console. It seemed as if it had run its course, and Nintendo was shifting 100 percent of its focus to the floundering Wii U. Turns out, the Japanese company had other plans, announcing that its previously Canada-exclusive $99 Wii Mini is making its way to the U.S. 'The $99 price has been neglected in this product generation, but in the past, it has been a very successful price for game consoles. More than half of the volume of machines in the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 generations sold at the $99 or under price."
An anonymous reader writes "River City Ransom: Underground is the latest high profile game campaign on Kickstarter but as an interview with the title's creators this week highlights, it's not exactly a new game. Rather, it's an official sequel to a Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom classic, belt-scroller River City Ransom. Remarkably, getting the license and the help of original River City creator Yoshihisa Kishimoto proved easy for the team, indie developers who were submitting game designs to Atari in crayon, aged six. 'I asked for the license and I asked Kishimoto-san if he had an interest in helping us make a better Kunio-kun game,' producer Daniel Crenna says. 'It's not particularly dramatic to say that, but I asked.' As the author points out, it's interesting to imagine what other games could be resurrected with a little bit of polite curiosity.""
Nerval's Lobster writes "Jon Brodkin talked to indie developers (including the creator of Super Mario Bros. Crossover), former Nintendo employees, and a number of others about where exactly Nintendo went wrong over the past few years. Their conclusions? Nintendo made a number of mistakes, including a lack of an indie-developer ecosystem, a refusal to license out core properties such as Super Mario to other gaming platforms (or even iOS and Android), and platforms that don't appeal to hardcore gamers. While the developers suggest Nintendo is taking steps to broaden its horizons, such as by reaching out to smaller studios, it's questionable whether such efforts will succeed in a world where the PS4 and Xbox One are about to enter the market, and iOS and Android are swallowing up mobile gamers' time and dollars. What do you think?"
barlevg writes "A college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute spent nine months meticulously remaking Super Mario Bros. based on the latest web standards. His project is open source and the code freely available through Github. The site recently gained widespread media attention, which unfortunately brought it to the attention of Nintendo, which has requested that the site be taken down. In a column on the Washington Post website, tech blogger Timothy Lee makes the case for how this is a prime example of copyrights hindering innovation and why copyright lengths should be shortened. Among his arguments: copyrights hinder innovation by game designers seeking to build upon such games, and shortening copyright would breathe new life into games who have long since passed into obsolescence."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Valve has announced SteamOS, Steam Machines, and a Steam controller — the components necessary for it to create a viable living-room gaming experience. Valve's strategy with these releases seems pretty clear: create a platform based on openness (SteamOS is a Linux-based operating system), in contrast to the closed systems pushed by console rivals such as Sony and Microsoft. If Valve chooses to release Half-Life 3 in conjunction with its Steam Machines' rollout, it could help create further buzz for the system, given the years' worth of pent-up demand for the next chapter in the popular FPS saga. But can Valve's moves allow it to actually compete against Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony on equal terms? What do you think?"
Now that we have the full picture of Valve's efforts to bring PC gaming to the living room (SteamOS, dedicated hardware, and a fresh controller design), people are starting to analyze what those efforts will mean for gaming, and what Valve must do to be successful. Eurogamer's Oli Welsh points out that even if Steam Machines aren't able to take the market away from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, they put us a step closer to the final console generation. "Valve has hopefully sidestepped the most depressing aspect of console gaming: the enforced obsolescence that makes you consign your entire games collection to a dusty cupboard every five years." GamesRadar notes that Valve's approach is fundamentally different from that of the current console manufacturers because it's about putting more power into the hands of the users. "The takeaway from SteamOS, then, is that openness breeds innovation. Valve's putting the very source code of its operating system in the hands of everyone who wants it just to see what happens. Comparatively, Microsoft is pushing its Windows Store, turning Windows into an increasingly closed platform (i.e. one that charges costly development licensing fees and restricts access to certain content providers)." Everyone's curious to see how the controller will perform, so Gamasutra and Kotaku reached out to a number of game developers who have experimented with prototypes already. "[Dan Tabar of indie studio Data Realms] said the configuration map for the controller allows you to do 'pretty much anything.' For example, developers can slice up a pad into quarters, each one representing a different input, or even into eight radial sections, again, each section representing whatever you want, mapping to key combinations, or to the mouse." Tommy Refenes, co-creator of Super Meat Boy, wrote an in-depth description of his experience with the device. He summed up his reaction by saying, "Great Start, needs some improvements, but I could play any game I wanted with it just fine."
First time accepted submitter trickstyhobbit writes "Former Nintendo president and majority stockholder Hiroshi Yamauchi has died. He was president of the company for over 50 years and saw the development of the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, and GameCube among other devices." His career at Nintendo is worth reading about.
jfruh writes "When Sony announced the PS Vita TV yesterday, most observers saw it as competition for the Apple TV and Roku, or maybe the Ouya. But gaming writer Peter Smith views it differently; he thinks that remote play, including the ability to stream games from the upcoming PlayStation 4 console, will be the Vita TV's killer-app. In that sense, it isn't so much a low-cost replacement for casual gamers as an add-on to the high-end PS4. '[W]hen you're in the middle of a game and someone wants to watch TV, you can just grab a Vita and keep on playing. (This is similar to the popular "tablet play" feature of Nintendo's Wii U, without the Wii U's limitation of having to stay in close proximity to the base console.) ... For any Playstation 4 household with more than one TV I think the PS Vita TV will become a 'must-have' accessory; it's almost like getting a second PS4 for $100.'"
Today Nintendo announced a new handheld gaming console called the 2DS. It will play all games from the DS and the 3DS, but games from the latter will be shown in 2-D (essentially as if the 3DS's depth slider was turned all the way down). The 2DS abandons the clamshell design of the earlier handhelds; instead, the device is a slightly wedge-shaped tablet with two small LCD screens — thicker at the top and thinner at the bottom. "It's a design that seems calculated to reduce manufacturing costs and durability issues, but it also seems fated to make the system nearly impossible to fit inside most pants pockets. The buttons and controls that were on the bottom half of previous DS and 3DS systems are now shifted toward the top, so you can reach the shoulder buttons that now rest above the top screen. This means you grip the 2DS from the sides rather than supporting it from the bottom with the corners resting in palm of your hand, like previous DS models." Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said the new console is target at younger children, as the 3DS is recommended for players age 7 and up. It's also cheaper than the other models at $130.