Gamed: Even the people of Belarus know Nintendo is screwed

gamed even the people of belarus know nintendo is screwed larry hryb

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.

I have no explanation
It was just … there.

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

Xbox One headsetYou 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!

MS card“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?

john-carmack-oculus-riftFollowing 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.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe' is 2D platforming wizardry

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is the latest Wii U game to come back from the dead on Switch. And wow, it’s much better than we remembered.

You could spend $1,000 on an iPhone, or buy one of these awesome laptops instead

Finding a decent laptop is easy, but finding one under $1,000 is a bit tricky. Luckily, we've taken some of the guesswork out of picking out a budget laptop. Here are some of our favorites, the best laptops under $1,000.

Still have holiday cash to blow? Grab one of these awesome Xbox One games

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

Dive headfirst into the best experiences available now on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift brought back virtual reality and put a modern twist to it. Grab your Touch Controllers, put on your VR headset, and jump into the fun with some of the best Oculus Rift games available now.

Verizon video game streaming service leaked, currently testing on Nvidia Shield

Verizon is currently testing a video game streaming service that is already running on the Nvidia Shield set-top box, according to The Verge. The platform, named Verizon Gaming, will also eventually launch on Android smartphones.

Dataminers discover SNES games, more emulators for Nintendo Switch Online

Nintendo Switch Online may soon launch SNES games and more emulators, according to data miners. The list of hidden SNES titles include Breath of Fire 2 and Star Fox 2, while the other emulators may be the Nintendo 64 and Nintendo GameCube.

‘RollerCoaster Tycoon 2’ ride takes 12 years to complete

A RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 player has constructed a coaster in the game that will take more than 12 years to complete from beginning to end, and is actually a tiny ride taking up a small portion of the landscape.

‘Battlefield V’ adds Squad Conquest mode in ‘Lightning Strikes’ update

Electronic Arts and DICE have detailed what is included in the Battlefield V update Lightning Strikes. The update includes access to the mode Squad Conquest through the end of January.

Here's everything you need to know to trade in 'Pokémon Go'

After literally years of waiting, Pokémon Go finally gives trainers the option to trade Pokémon with others. It's not easy, though, and the cost is quite high if you try trading with strangers.

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.

Transport your Nintendo Switch in style with these nifty cases

The Nintendo Switch, which boasts both wired and handheld modes, needs a good case to ensure it doesn't get beat up while you're on the go. We scoured through dozens of Switch cases to bring you the best ones.

‘Rocket League’ is the latest game to get full cross-platform play

Psyonix has announced that Rocket League now supports full cross-platform play across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC, joining Fortnite as the only games to do so.

Here's what you need to know about 'World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth'

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is the latest expansion for the now 14-year-old MMORPG. It goes back to the roots of the Alliance vs. Horde conflict. Here's what you need to know.