Last week I fully intended to turn in my weekly gaming column, but I was still in Minsk, Belarus and I underestimated the demands on my time. Plus, I lived in constant fear that someone would jump out from behind a corner and attack me with dill, an herb that manages to sneak its way like a ninja into every dish served in the former Soviet state and make it taste like regret. And then there was the lone shopping cart on the third story balcony near the elevators. It was the only shopping cart I saw the entire trip, anywhere. I spent hours puzzling over it, and still I have no explanation.
For more on my adventures in Belarus, check back next week. It’s a daring story that involved drones, drunk Russians, and a global terror alert. Good times were had in a fascinating and beautiful country still trying to shake off the past while simultaneously honoring it. Consider yourselves teased. There is one little story to pass on right now, however. Consider it more of an anecdote about the state of gaming internationally than a news piece.
There is spotty Internet access in Belarus. Information is also regulated; only a few years ago, the government attempted to block any website without .by as its top-level domain. The global censorship watchdog group “Reporters Without Border” even named Belarus an “Internet Enemy.” And still, word of Nintendo’s belly flop into the next-gen pool was everywhere. I even had someone who found out what I do for a living ask me in a thick Russian accent, “So Nintendo. It no good, yeah?”
If somehow, someway you missed it, Nintendo announced that it sold just 160,000 Wii Us in three months. Throughout the world. Your odds of dying this year from drinking sugar-filled drinks is significantly higher than meeting someone that bought a Wii U in the last three months.
So what does this mean? It means that Nintendo’s problems may be exactly as dire as they seem. When a country that doesn’t have enough metal to mint their own coins thinks you are in trouble, then you are in fact in trouble. There is sure to be plenty of PR talk about how things are fine, and there is the chance of a comeback for the Wii U – Nintendo has repeatedly proven that you can’t count it out. Just look at the success of the Wii following you GameCube. Just like there is still a chance that Anthony Wiener, aka Carlos Danger, will be president one day.
Nintendo will survive this disaster. The company is in no real danger, and the 3DS is selling really, really well. But sweet gods, when the people of Belarus are worried for you, then you are in serious trouble.
Hot Coffee and News
The Xbox One opens up
You know it’s a hardware year when videos like the one below – Microsoft’s Larry Hryb (aka Major Nelson) unboxing an Xbox One – gets over a million views in a day. Maybe next week 5 million people can tune in as if he actually turns it on and films the opening animation; that would be sexy. Be careful watching that one if you have a heart condition. The video did show that the Xbox One will ship with a headset though, which – stop me if you’ve heard this before – contradicts earlier statements. If you were to make a drinking game out of all the flip-flops Microsoft has had over the Xbox One, you may die of alcohol poisoning.
Begone, foul MS Points!
“You told us you want to be able to buy things using money instead of points, and we listened.” With that facepalm-worthy line that is at least seven years late, Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer Marc Whitten finally confirmed that it will be doing away with the reviled MS Points for good when the next, not-yet-dated Xbox 360 update drops. All your current points will be converted, as will any point cards bought after the switch “until further notice.” It’s going to be tough to find a single person that will miss them.
Oculus scores another id-er. Id-ite? Id-ian?
Following the news that John Carmack was joining Oculus VR as its new CTO, the Oculus Rift maker confirmed that former id creative director Matt Hooper also joined the company as the new director of development. If Hooper was hoping to make news by joining Oculus, he probably should have announced it on Monday. Regardless, this is another major signing for the upstart peripheral maker. Id Software better lock down its cafeteria crew to a multi-year deal fast.
Any stories we should be covering but aren’t? Questions you want to ask? Are you an id employee that needs help finding the Oculus VR employment page? Leave a comment below, and follow me on Twitter at @RyanFlemingPDX.