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Nintendo DS sales top 18 million July 20, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, games, IT, Japan, Mobile.
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The Sankei Shimbun reports that domestic sales of the Nintendo DS handheld gaming console has topped 18 million units.

That number translates to one DS for every 7 people. Of course, some of these DSes have been shipped overseas, due to the region-free nature of these devices. Global sales exceeded 40 million units in March, and this suggests there is potential for Nintendo to grow sales outside Japan if it can replicate the model of getting users outside the traditional gaming audience to buy the device.

Most of the DS commercials on TV feature titles which are not games in the traditional sense of the word. There is everything from e-books to brain training to language training to interactive cookbooks and more.

More than a year after the launch of the DS lite, many shops sellout as soon as they stock them. (The Wii is even harder to obtain. The PS3 on the otherhand is plentiful)

I can’t help but wonder if the $100 laptop approach is really a better option than getting Nintendo to supply something based on the DS. Better battery life and real portability.

It can also be used to teach people to actually write as well as type.

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Mobile game and SNS site tops 4 million users March 13, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in games, Internet, Japan, Mobile, Shopping.
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mbga.jp, the mobile phone portal offering games, avatars and social networking, has announced that has exceeded 4 million users on March 10th. mbga.jp is run by DeNA,  a rival for Rakuten in the retail e-commerce sector with its virtual shopping mall and on-line auction services, and run by ex-McKinsey consultant (Ms.) Tomoko Nanba.

The portal opened its doors last February, and mbga.jp seems to be the front runner in the games and SNS sector, as far as dedicated services for mobile phones are concerned.
This is reflected in the age of its users, more than half (56%) are aged 19 or below, with another 32% of users in their twenties.  Mobile phones are becoming the major device from which younger users are accessing the internet, according to a Netratings report published last November. Over the last 6 years, the percentage of people in their twenties who access the internet from a home PC has plummeted from 23.6% to 11.9%, which is barely above the percentage of people in their fifties. Interestingly, the percentage of people in their thirties who access the internet from a home PC has also declined (from 27% to 24%), whereas the 40+ age groups all saw an increase. The ~19 age group has increased from 17.3% to 20.9%, but even this growth is lower than that seen by the 40~49 age group, who went from 19.5% to 24%, tying with the 30~39 age group as the most active users of the internet via their home PC. Facta has an interesting article which details the statistics quoted above in graphical form (in Japanese only unfortunately), which notes that younger people, especially once they start working, are less and less exposed to a PC, a trend which may result in another digital divide between users who can use a PC and those who rely more heavily on their mobile phones. But the numbers do bode well for services which target the mobile phone, especially with regards to a younger user group. The current teenagers and twenty-somethings are likely to take their behaviour with them even as they grow older.

The success of mbga.jp and the fact that it has survived competition against players like Rakuten and Yahoo! Japan in the PC web based businesses it runs is reflected in the share price for DeNA, which has steadily risen since the IPO in early 2005, in contrast to many of the hyped internet IPOs. The company is current valued at JPY181B, or a little over $1.5B, which must make Nanba-san the most successful female Japanese internet entrepreneur.

And in contrast to many of the internet entrepreneurs who have hit the jackpot bringing overseas business models and simply localising them for the Japanese market, mbga.jp has the potential to be a model which can be successfully exported elsewhere. Nanba-san is better qualified than most to make DeNA a global leader in mobile content, with her McKinsey and Harvard MBA background.

Some more Wii related thoughts February 28, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in games, technology.
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Gizomodo (via *michael parekh on IT*)

A picture speaks a thousand words, the picture captures the brilliance of the Wii. Blue Ocean Strategy indeed. (And it wasn’t a one off fluke either, the DS’s strong sales performance is built on the same fundamental philosophies)

And on a more business oriented note, Wii Remote + RoR + SAP BW!!!, a demonstration of the Wii Remote as the UI device for a business app. I can certainly think of uses for supporting multiple UI devices on a shared large format screen , complete with tactile feedback of clickable UI rollovers (though most of my ideas don’t involve SAP backends). No more fighting over the mouse, and you can walk around whilst you do things on screen…

Looking at the way the Colgate-Palmolive guys were able to lash up a IR triangulation bar thingy so easily, led me to think that an IR bar + bluetooth dongle set (and a business version of the Wii remote?) with requisite drivers etc would probably be a marketable proposition. I think a standalone (bluetooth or USB) Wii Nunchuk is pretty close to an ideal mouse replacement for portable laptop users who don’t like trackerballs and don’t always have some flat surface to use a mouse on. On that note, JVC/Victor had a device which was probably a little ahead of its time. The Nunchuk probably wouldn’t have sold very well as a mouse replacement on its own, but as many users become used to manipulating the Nunchuk through their exposure to the device on Wii, the learning curve is slashed. I’d like to see one with a retractable cable, and perhaps a slimmer form factor. It is probably mostly just empty space inside anyway. I guess the guys who OEM the Nunchuk for Nintendo can have this idea for free.

I’ve noticed that the IR bar seems to move from its precisely positioned spot on top of my TV. (I’m still lumbered with a 32inch CRT, partly because I am apparently overly fussy about image artefacts which plague LCD and PDP screens (which are becoming very negligible), and HDTV broadcasts in general, which are often butchered somewhere in the production/broadcasting process and exhibit compression alogorithm artefacts which become annoyingly noticeable once your eye and brain notices them, also partly because our TV works fine for now and it has been deemed inappropriate to buy a new toy at this time.)

Yes, I should probably use the included sticky pads, but I’m afraid it will leave a nasty stain when (if) I remove said device from my old TV to a new one (when that will be I don’t know).

I was thinking that getting the bar to sit on the narrow ledge of a LCD/PDP would be even more precarious, and the cable dangling from the IR bar is rather unsightly. So, I suggest that Nintendo offers a co-branding opportunity to the highest bidder to produce a flat panel TV with integrated IR bar. I guess integrating a Wii into the TV is going a bit too far. (But then Sharp does have a TV with a PC integrated into it. Or is it the other way around? The so-called Internet Aquos series)

Wii whipping ass in the US February 22, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, games, technology.
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The January sales numbers for games console sales in the US (courtesy of NPD via Reuters and Yahoo Japan) are being reported, showing Wii as being the clear winner for the month, with 436,000 units.

The 2nd place goes, perhaps surprisingly, to Playstation 2. Yes, two, not three. 299,000 units sold.

3rd up is Xbox360, 294,000 units. I guess having shifted more than 10 million units in 2006 having gotten to market much earlier than its rivals PS3 and Wii, maybe Xbox360 sales are running out of steam having sold to its core customer base and with Wii gaining plaudits for getting non-gamers on board much more effectively than its rivals, it may be a hard slog ahead for MSFT.

At the back of the pack is Playstation3, at 249,000 units. Too expensive and not enough games yet, in my opinion.

Mii, You, Wii January 12, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in games.
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With Santa delivering a Wii chez la maison fukumimi this Christmas past, and having been too ill to venture out during the holidays, much of my time was spent wrapped in a blanket in front of the good old TV. When I wasn’t watching the Emperor’s Cup final, university rugby, high school football, or the Hakone Ekiden roadrace – all staple sporting events of the New Year holiday, I spent too much time playing with my Wii.

Wii [I’ve decided to go with the usage where the plural of both Mii and Wii are the same as the singular, like “sheep”] still apparently in short supply in some parts in Japan, you still can’t be assured of getting your hands on one by walking into your local electronics megastore. On the other hand, PS3 supply issues appear to be pretty much resolved.

With certain games (like Nintendo’s Wii Sports), you can play the game with an avatar (called Mii in Nintendo parlance), which you create in montage fashion. It reminded me of the traditional Japanese New Year game of fukuwarai, which consists of an attempt by a blindfolded player to position facial parts (eyes, nose, mouth, etc) on a facial outline.

Anyway, creating a decent Mii is a challenge in itself, especially for someone lacking in a talent for visual arts like myself, and I spent too much time playing with various types of head shape, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, hairstyle/colour, (sun)glasses, and all the other features available to try to create a likeness. There are a serious number of possible variations possible. (I will attempt to do a calculation of the total number of possible avatars which are possible -even though some are complaining that the choices are too simplistic – I think this list is pretty good for starters)

Getting (finally) to the point of this post, Springwise points us to an enterprising outfit which offers to print likenesses of your Wii on a T-Shirt, by using the “send your Mii to a friend” capability available on any (internet connected) Wii. Very enterprising.

What I wondered was if Nintendo has actually got IP protection on the various facial components and the assembling thereof (and if that was actually possible and defensible – after all the graphics could be argued to be part of the UI which may be defensible property), and alternatively if they intended to get on the act themselves, maybe in alliance with a dropshipping outfit like Cafepress. They already offer a custom (black on white) engraved battery cover for your Wii remote if you are a Club Nintendo Platinum member (but you only qualify if you had enough points for 2006, which puts new-to-Nintendo Wii purchasers out of the loop).

Custom T-shirt printers could also recreate (to the extent that it would not infringe Nintendo’s IP Rights) the Mii creation application (probably Flash based, like this one although this would probably cross the line if it was a commercial effort) as part of the T-shirt customisation UI, this might be the easiest way to recreate a Mii outside of the Wii universe – users just need to configure their Mii using a “similar” interface. (Although you can send your Mii to others, others cannot deconstruct said Mii to easily reverse-engineer your Mii)

Thinking one step further, having spent too much time creating my Mii, here’s another free (niche) business idea –

Assumption: People who want a really nice Mii for themselves and cannot create one for themselves would be willing to pay a reasonable fee (say a few dollars) for a custom Mii to be created. You get them to buy your service and send a photo of themselves, from which an artist will create a Mii or two, and will send a Mii recipe to the user (so they can recreate their Mii and tweak it as necessary). I would certainly shell out a few bucks for a better Mii.

You will need: 1 (one) virtual shopfront with payment reconciliation mechanism (Ebay or similar?), and 1 (one) [or more] visual artist types (cartoonists of the type who sit on the pavement in tourist spots and draw caricatures for a fee would be great, art students and budding manga designers might also be applicable – perhaps even ship out a bunch of Wii to a low cost nation and find the above resources in that country), and probably 1 (one) Wii for each artist (or if you can get them to come into an office and set up a 24/7 shift system you would need only one Wii for each shift slot and get 3 times the throughput! Or you could as easily offer bored artistically talented housewives an opportunity to supplement their income working from home? – Actually, if the Flash Mii creator is accurate, that would work fine…. Although using it or a similar clone for commercial use might be, well, dodgy).

It could be integrated with a dropshipping service with Mii T-Shirts and other Mii goods for supplemental revenue. I think a system could be lashed up pretty quickly and easily, and you could make reasonable pocket money. I see miiforsale.com and miidesigner.com are free right now…..

I think users would be more comfortable working with a professional looking shop which can have a system where the individual designers do not get hold of people’s names and email addresses and the like.

I guess you could drive traffic to the site by creating a bunch of Mii of well known celebrities (and give out recipes for them on-line, so users don’t have to give you their Mii codes although I guess that would work (minus the ability for customisation of the imported Mii)).

Japanese version of Second Life imminent? August 10, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in games, Japan.
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It looks like Second Life is seriously targetting the Japanese market. Their Japanese page is accepting e-mails to notify users when the Japanese version of the virtual world becomes available.

It’ll be interesting to see how they implement the “Japanese version” (they are also German and Korean versions in the works also, it appears). Will it be a separate world (that would be a shame, at least for people who are comfortable in both Japanese and English and wish to take advantage of what the English language based community has to offer there), a separate island/continent, or will Japanese users be thrown into the existing ecosystem, and be surrounded by English speakers (I suspect the last option is unlikely…).

My (albeit totally uneducated) guess is that the foreign language versions are actually just one major double byte/unicode enabled upgrade to the entire system (the assumption being that the game was developed without thought given to I18N issues, as often is the case with English language development projects), with users of particular languages initially being anchored to certain geographical locations by way of providing an environment where a particular language population will naturally cluster.

It transpires that an ex-colleague now works at Linden Labs, I’m going to meet him soon and try to torture some additional info from him…..

Tringo June 1, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in games.
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Tringo, the game which was a big hit in Second Life, can be played here if you don't do Second Life.There's a GBA cartridge on sale too, it seems.

Bram Cohen offers his suggestions for a better scoring scheme.

This kind of simple but addictive game would be perfect for a mobile phone, if the screen has enough resolution. It would be a good mini-game for the DS as well…..

Another distraction from work….

YUI Tetris! May 18, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in games, IT.
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YUI Tetris!

Dustin Diaz, a web developer for Yahoo! has gone out and built Tetris using YUI utilities. As he says, tetris using javascript is not new, but this is the kind of thing which validates rather effectively Yahoo's strategy of releasing code for developers to play with. 

A brilliant bit of free PR for Yahoo. (if you don't count Dustin's time, assuming he did this at work)

Just goes to show how all employees are potential PR and marketing resources. 

Found via Niall Kennedy's blog