Go is the New Poker?

And so it ends, with Google’s AI winning 4 out of 5 Go games against a top Korean player.

A few days ago, this part of an article after the third game caught my eye:

The machine plays like no human ever would—quite literally. […] The result is a machine that often makes the most inhuman of moves.


This happened in Game Two—in a very big way. With its 19th move, AlphaGo made a play that shocked just about everyone, including both the commentators and Lee Sedol, who needed nearly fifteen minutes to choose a response. The commentators couldn’t even begin to evaluate AlphaGo’s move, but it proved effective. Three hours later, AlphaGo had won the match.  

Remember when the amateur players flooded the poker playing community about 15 years ago? Just after Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker?  Many long time professionals were baffled.  The new kids were playing a completely different game, often informed by playing thousands of hands of poker — often four or more at a time — at home on their computers.

The game changed and everyone had to adapt.

Many professional poker players adapted by taking on endorsement deals, hitching their stars to shady on-line poker sites, and teaching the game.

Isn’t that always the way, though?  The first to make money wind up teaching it to the throngs who want to follow in their footsteps. And 99% of them won’t, but they’ll splash some money around, anyway.

Why Apple Should Buy Nintendo

While I still fundamentally disagree with the concept that the Nintendo Wii was “just a fad,” MG Siegler still makes the best case I’ve read so far of why Apple might want to buy Nintento:

Nintendo’s Hardware Problem | ParisLemon.

I’m worried that instead they’ll go down the Sega road and just pump out cheap versions of their great old franchises to anyone who will take them. That’s why I’d love to see Apple step in and buy Nintendo, and let them operate as the independent iOS gaming wing of the company. If Apple wants to move hardware, it’s hard to imagine a better way than having exclusives on all of the Nintendo titles going forward (as well as the back catalog).

Nintendo Wii, the “Fad”

Marco Arment presents a bleak outlook on Nintendo:

Nintendo needs the profits of the high end, but they can’t compete there anymore. All of the growth is happening at the low end, which is mostly games that they can’t or won’t make. And even if they succeeded in casual gaming, it probably wouldn’t bring the kind of profit that they need.

He makes a lot of great points in the piece, though I do vehemently disagree with his calling the Wii a “fad.” If it was a fad, it wouldn’t have inspired the Kinect. Or Sony’s wand. Or any of the other motion-controllers that every other gaming company has jumped on and incorporated into their systems ever since.

Or are Mini-Games a fad? Because that’s what so much of iOS games are, too.

The Wii wasn’t a fad. It was more ahead of its time, or, perhaps, the system that pointed out the future of video games. Nintendo just got caught up in a spiral of bad market positioning that might doom it, despite all of that Wii success.

Wii U: Next Gen Console Wars Start Now!

Obviously, it’s far too early to predict anything from initial numbers like these, but Nintendo has to be happy that it’s selling out of the new Wii U:

According to (Nintendo of America President Reggie) Fils-Aime, Nintendo sold over 700,000 consoles during the last week. The Wii U topped the Wii with 400,000 units sold. The Wii, which Nintendo launched all the way back in 2006, was able to muster 300,000 Wii sales during the last week.

It’s great that Nintendo sold 400,000 units in less than a week. But the fact that the last-gen Wii sold 300,000 units is remarkable. Were there big Black Friday sales on the Wii that boosted its sale? Fils-Aime credits those sales with the strong sales of the DS over the 3DS:

Nintendo sold more than 500,000 hardware units, including 250,000 3DS and 275,000 DS devices. Fils-Aime explained to CNET that the DS outsold the 3DS because of the “significant” deals retailers were offering on Black Friday.

There’s still some life left in Mario, and that’s a good thing.

Not everyone is so sure, of course. Nolan Bushnell expressed his doubts to the New York Times today:

“I actually am baffled by it,” Nolan K. Bushnell, the founder of Atari and the godfather of the games business, says of the Wii U. “I don’t think it’s going to be a big success.”

As the cliche goes in news reporting, only time will tell. . .

And here’s a little nugget from the NYT article for all the Nintendo Haters:

Nintendo has shipped close to 100 million Wiis, while Sony and Microsoft have each shipped about 70 million of their latest consoles.

Mario still beats First Person Shooters.

Nintendo’s Next Next Gen: The Wii U

Nintendo launched its next generation system, the Wii U, yesterday. The Verge has its review here. (Though I’d disagree with their use of the word gimmick to describe the differentiator. The Wii’s control was a “gimmick” until everyone else tried to copy it, I guess. We wouldn’t have Kinect today if it weren’t for the Wiimote. Do people call the Kinect a gimmick, too?)

That just made me wistful and nostalgic for the glory days of the release of the Nintendo Wii, 6 years ago now. It was impossible to find on launch day with that release, but I exploited an archaic local law to easily pick mine up on a cold November Monday morning. Heck, I bought two and sold the second to a friend. Spread the love, I say.

My Wii is still connected to my TV to this day. I’m anxious for the time my daughter is old enough to be able to play Wii Sports with me. We’re not too far off.

No, I’m not buying the Wii U. It’s not that I don’t find it a fascinating device — though I do wonder if Nintendo isn’t trying to be All Things to All People and doomed to fail — but that I don’t have the time to play many games these days. I won’t be buying a next gen XBox or PlayStation, either. All my gaming gets done on my iPhone these days, and I don’t think I’m alone on that.

Here are my first thoughts on the Wii, too. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still a lot of fun.

I first started tracking the Nintendo “Revolution” in May of 2005. Time certainly does fly.

Return of The Wii (U)

Nintendo announced the Wii U for November 18th. It’ll be hitting store shelves for $299. That timing is just like the original Wii, which so clearly won the console wars for that generation.

I won’t be getting the Wii U. Unlike when the Wii came out, I have a mortgage, a kid, and no free time. It’s an interesting beast of a system, though completely scattershot.

It’s an attempt to being the iPad to the TV, which Apple is already working on and will inevitably do. It just seems to me that the device needs more focus. I already have multiple systems competing to be my home theater controller, Nintendo. All I’d want is a solid game machine, if I was in the market for such things.

As it is, my daughter will soon be of the age to play Wii games with Daddy, and I’ll be picking them up off eBay cheap. ;)

Wii HD at E3?

The day after I post my “Farewell to Wii,” this short story pops up:

…a successor to the Nintendo Wii capable of displaying games in high resolution. Will Nintendo finally make it happen? Multiple totally anonymous sources say yes: they told Game InformerIGN andKotaku that just such a system will debut at E3 2011…

Things just got interesting.  I’m not sure how “backwards compatibility” would work.  You can’t just reconfigure the games for widescreen. I suppose they could make 4:3 higher def, but it would still feel like a waste of screen real estate.  It’s almost better to start from scratch at that point. Maybe we’ll know better this summer…

The Wii Revolution Fades?

It was almost six years ago now that I first mentioned the Nintendo “Revolution” game console. It promised such amazing things as wireless connections straight out of the box and a wireless controller.

The die-hard gamers started complaining right away, but even IGN knew why a gaming console that promised easy playability was so important.

And there was the first look at the controller.

The hype built quickly, the “Wii” name change was a point of major initial controversy (I admit that I hated the change from “Revolution,” too), and the rumor mill suggested — in 2006, no less — that perhaps the Wii would be a 3D projector. Or a built-in camera to put your face on a Mii.

When it finally came time to buy one, Amazon’s sale was not unlike a lottery. I didn’t win that, either. I missed it the first day. But then I took advantage of the Blue Laws, went into work late one Monday, and grabbed one for myself. And had some initial happy impressions. (I never got used to Super Monkey Ball and sold it off later. It wasn’t my kind of game. “Rayman Raving Rabbids” was a big hit for me, though.)

That all was four and a half years ago. Things have changed since then. Wireless internet is everywhere, and everything in the house will be wireless soon, including your toaster. High Def TV is the new standard. And the Wii controls have finally been copied by Microsoft with the Kinect and Sony with something so embarrassing that I can’t even remember its name right now.

Lately, the 360 has pulled ahead, leaving the Wii as a strong second best seller from month to month. And, seriously, the difference between #1 and #2 isn’t that great here. Furthermore, the Wii will go down as the top selling video game console of all time. That’s pointed out by Chris Kohler in this article that explains why the Wii’s days may finally be numbered. With a rumored price drop coming next month, it looks like Nintendo is ready to set the old girl out to sea and move on to the next console for next year sometime. Such is life.

More from Kohler:

But if Nintendo’s plan to woo third-party gamemakers does revolve around a new machine, that leaves only Nintendo to keep Wii interesting. And even Nintendo seems to be washing its hands of Wii these days. The company is largely focusing on games for its recently launched Nintendo 3DS. To be fair, this is the more important task at hand, but the effort seems to be coming at the expense of Wii.

Yes, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will be released for Wii at the end of the year. I do believe that the excellent Japanese role-playing games Xenoblade and The Last Story will make it to America. And Square Enix says we’ll hear about Dragon Quest X for Wii later this year, which will be a very big deal … in Japan. Not in the United States.

The Wii was a great console for its time, and it did great things. It expanded the video game industry in a way much of the industry still doesn’t want to acknowledge, even as it’s spent the last five years trying to copy its every move, from wireless motion controllers to the stripped down family-friendly game console package. And it’s still very playable, with many years’ worth of addictive and group-friendly games. I’m not tired of my Wii; I just wish I had more time to do gaming. I still pick it up for the occasional game of Rock Band or Guitar Hero, and I wish I had the time to get back into both Wii Sports games.

But, yeah, at the same rate I really do with it was in HD, as I’ve become a complete snob about that. Other than that, no complaints here. I’m not giving mine up anytime soon, but maybe it’s time to acknowledge the passing of the torch to — of all people — Microsoft.

New Release Excitement

We live in exciting times.

Why, just yesterday, the following things see release:

We are truly cursed to live in interesting times, yet with never enough time to absorb and enjoy it all.

On Sale Now: Wii Sports Resort

Wii Sports Resort I haven’t been able to pass this purchase by the Various and Sundry Finance Committee, but I hope one of you did.  What do you think? How’s the new controller add-on working for you?  And how tempted are you to now go out and buy the Tiger Woods game to use with it?

Nintendo Corporate Strategy

In Japan, Nintendo is releasing an all-black Wii. They have no plans to do so in North America, however.  That brings us to our quote of the week:

“Once — if — Wii sales ever drop off, we expect a freakin’ deluge of Wii colors that’ll make a gay Pride parade look like a drab, colorless scene out of Killzone 2.”

iPhone Apps

Today, some apps that I’ve downloaded and find myself using the most:

Erica Sadun’s To Do app is barebones and featureless and a bit ugly, but it does the job I need it to do.  I don’t need anything fancier than this, thanks.  I probably could just use 37 Signals’ TaDaLlist.com, instead, but this is good enough for a few things at a time.  It’s also free.

I love looking up “To Do” in the App Store, because all the icons are identical.  They’re all checks over a box, with various color schemes.

TweetDeck is, no doubt, the most used. It’s the only way I ever want to use Twitter now, thanks.  Someday, I’ll get it linked up to my desktop client, but not just yet.  I don’t need it to be.  I don’t follow so many people that I get lost in the noise.

The USA Today app is good for a quick breeze through the news.  And once it’s done updating itself, the stories load instantly, which is nice.

Flight Control. Addicting little game.  My high score is 19.  Not the game that I’ll kill the most time with, but I like the interface, where you’re drawing landing paths for all the planes flying around, without letting them crash.  Games aren’t terribly long, either. Tiki Golf 3D.  Fun mini-golf game.  The opening levels are challenging without being impossible.  I’m trying “Let’s Golf” next for a more serious golfing game.

iHandy Level.  I don’t know when I might use it, but I like having a bubble spirit level thing in my pocket. Amazon.com. I’ve used the feature where you take a picture of something and they email you back with what it is a few times with great success.  Impressive, and very handy.

PhotoGen.  THE photo editing app for the iPhone.  Just adjusting the levels is enough for most pictures, but this also handles cropping, color adjustments, and all the standard stuff you could ask for.

Fieldrunners.  Desktop Tower Defense for the iPhone. The single biggest time sink on the iPhone for me right now.  I’ve played this kind of game before, but it still hooks me.  I screamed when I lost on level 99 the other day.  The game only has 100 levels. Ugh!

Then and Now – PlayStation

April 20, 2006 on this blog:

It’s official now, but it’s not enough: Sony lowers price of PlayStation 2 to $129.99 – Joystiq

This week at the PlayStation Blog:

For the first time ever, PlayStation 2 will be offered at a price point under $100 (that’s $99.99 MSRP, to be exact), starting April 1!

It’s almost THREE YEARS too late.  Did I link to the story yet about how the Wii’s Balance Board has sold almost as many units as Sony has sold PS3s?