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Nintendo Switch sales are up, even with new models on the way

By Brian Heater

Quarterly sales for the Switch remained brisk for Nintendo’s most recent quarterly earnings. The number made a jump from 1.88 to 2.13 million units year over year. Modest, sure, but still solid for a console that’s getting slightly long in the tooth — especially given the fact that we’ve been aware a new versions are on the way.

Two were confirmed earlier this month, addressing concerns with the product. There’s the Switch Lite, a $200 version of the console ($100 less than the standard price) that swaps convertibility for portability and a unit with longer battery life. The arrival of both will almost certainly boost sales as the company heads into the holiday season.

With the new quarter factored in, Switch sales are now at 36.9 million for the life of the product. Nintendo, meanwhile, expects total unit sales to hit 18 million for the full year. In spite of positivity numbers on the console front, operating profit dropped ~10 percent year over year for the quarter.

The 3DS, meanwhile, while still alive, has unsurprisingly began a death rattle, slowing to 200,000 for the quarter. Still, it was a respectable life, with more than 75 million sold over the life of Nintendo’s previous portable. Farewell, 3DS, it was a good run.

Mobile numbers saw a nice 10 percent bump for the quarter, and Nintendo’s got plenty of solid titles lined up for the back half of the year, so likely most aren’t too concerned by some lackluster financials this time out.

Nintendo Switch Lite’s trade-off of whimsy for practicality is a good one

By Darrell Etherington

Nintendo revealed a new Switch Lite version of its current-generation console today, which attaches the controllers permanently, shrinks the hardware a bit, and adds a touch more battery life – but it also takes away the ‘Switch’ part of the equation, because you can only use it handheld, instead of attached to a TV or as a unique tabletop gaming experience.

The changes mostly seem in service of brining the price down, since it will retail for $199 when it goes on sale in September. That’s $100 less than the original Switch, which is a big price cut and could open up the market for Nintendo to a whole new group of players. But it’s also a change that seems to take away a lot of what made the Switch special, including the ability to plug it into a TV for a big-screen experience, or quickly detach the Joy-Con controllers for motion-control gaming with rumble feedback.

Switch Lite makes some crucial changes that I suspect Nintendo knows are reflective of how a lot of people actually use the Switch, regardless of what the aspirational, idealized Switch customer does in Nintendo’s ads and promo materials. As mentioned, it should bump your battery life during actual gameplay – it could add an extra hour when playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for instance. And the size savings mean it’s much easier to slip in a bag when you head out on a trip.

NSwitchLiteImageWallImg04 image950w

The new redesigned, permanently attached controllers also include a proper D-pad on the left instead of the individual circle buttons used on the Joy-Pad, and the smaller screen still outputs at the same resolution, which means things will look crisper in play.

For me, and probably for a lot of Switch users, the trade-offs made here are actually improvements that reflect 90 percent of my use of the console. I almost never play plugged into a TV, for instance – and could easily do without, since mostly I do that for one-off party game use that isn’t really all that necessary. The controller design with a D-pad is much more practical, and I have never used motion controls with my Switch for any game. Battery life means that you probably don’t need to recharge mid-trip on most short and medium-length trips, and the size savings means that when I’m packing and push comes to shove, I’m that much more likely to take the Switch Lite rather than leave it at home.

Already, some critics are decrying how this model makes the Switch ‘worse’ in almost every way, but actually I think it’s just the opposite – Nintendo may have traded away some of its trademark quirk with this version, but the result is something much more akin to how most people actually want to use a console most of the time.

Gender & compensation at VC-backed startups – Where are we today?

By Arman Tabatabai
Conrad Lee Contributor
Conrad Lee leads the VC Executive Compensation Survey and Option Impact at Shareworks Compensation, formerly Advanced-HR. He has spent the last decade developing and delivering the world’s largest pre-IPO compensation database for startups and their investors.

Compensation is the most intimate way a company can interact with its employees. For far too long, compensation managers and committees have operated behind closed doors, keeping pay guidelines shrouded in mystery. Developers with equal experience, performing at the same level, and huddled around the same table while trying to perfect autonomous ocean to table omakase experiences could receive drastically different pay packages. Those times are over.

Employment sits at historic lows, investors are pouring in money through massive rounds, and companies are stepping on, over, and around each other to attract the best talent. Silicon Valley sits at the epicenter of competitive labor markets, but we’ve heard the same story over and over: Big Company X is coming to town, and we can’t pay like them.

Heads up Seattle, Austin, Boulder, Boston, New York, Chicago, and most recently, Virginia! Recruiters must be aggressive, and it’s only a matter of time before an all-star employee mentions a 25% pay bump available at Company X. A team member hears the news and they’re suddenly browsing job boards as well. The dreaded churn switch is pushed a notch higher.

Today’s workforce is more connected than ever, having grown with technology since the days of Tetris, Shufflepuck, and Oregon Trail. What was once taboo to share with anyone beyond your significant other, is now being posted freely for the masses.

We won’t even start on the impacts of social media! Reviews and ratings began popping up for schools, restaurants, and workplaces. Glassdoor, Salary, and others provide deep insights to pay, work-life balance, and executive leadership approval ratings.

Then, things went a step further by detailing gender alongside compensation, most notably in the employee-led survey at Google in 2017. It was the shot heard round the world. How could a well-known organization which prides itself on diversity, and that some think is the entire internet, find itself with gender pay disparity?

Over the past year, I’ve visited and revisited the gender pay gap with various talent partners at prominent venture firms. Kelly Kinnard of Battery Ventures and Bethany Crystal of USV authored pieces on the topic. One theme was common when discussing pay disparity – What if we had real data? What if we had corporate-sourced data that wasn’t subject to disgruntled employees or selective reporting? Well, we do.

Advanced-HR hosts the world’s largest compensation database specific to venture-backed companies. For the first time, we took a deep dive into compensation and gender at privately held, VC-backed companies and we’re sharing the findings.

Thousands of companies and 10,000+ corporate-sourced employee data points. Nothing inferred. Though we analyzed the entire data set, this article only considers US Company data.

We do not display gender-based compensation data but VC-backed companies can access our database of 2800+ participants for free by completing a quick survey. Venture firms and all others interested in our data, contact us here.

About the data

Each year, we have the privilege of running the industry standard VC Executive Compensation Survey alongside 160+ top venture firms. All sponsoring firms and their participating portfolio companies receive the final report of detailed, aggregate, and anonymous compensation data. Before we review compensation, let’s visit gender representation at VC-backed companies.

The following slide is part of a more comprehensive 11-slide deck viewable at the end of this article, highlighting takeaways and key findings from our data.

6 Seed Stage CEO Compensation 1

Data is great. Now what?

It’s the hot topic and hiring managers are on red alert. Pay fairly or risk a PR nightmare. Here are some steps you may want to consider.

1. Founders need to hire. Owning the hiring process allows founders to gain valuable experience and exposure. By creating job descriptions, founders can be thoughtful and sensitive to the fact that connotations and tone can unintentionally isolate a specific segment of eligible talent.

Nintendo reimagines a Zelda classic with Link’s Awakening for the Switch

By Brian Heater

It’s going to be a while before players can get their hands on the Breath of the Wild sequel teased at the end of Nintendo’s E3 Direct earlier today. The good news, however, is that Nintendo’s got a few other Zelda-related adventures in the pipeline before that. There’s the compelling beat-based Cadence of Hyrule, due out this Thursday, and later this year, the company is releasing a remastered version of the Game Boy classic, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

That one’s due out in September. As is the case with a number of recent titles (see: most of Square’s presser from earlier this week), Link’s Awakening isn’t so much a new game as a revamp of an older one designed to get the most out of the latest technology.

Here that means more than most, however. Released in 1993, the original version of the game was subject to the Game Boy’s 8-bit, monochrome limitations. The title began life as a portable port of the third Zelda game, SNES’s A Link to the Past, but ultimately became a real boy under the direction of long-time Nintendo producer Shigeru Miyamoto.

The Link to the Past connection is very much present. Link’s Awakening feels cut from the same Hyrulian cloth as A Link to the Past. As someone who’s old enough to have played the original title during its first go-round, things came trickling back to me during a gameplay demo at E3. But the graphical advances are pretty substantial. The game is a far cry from the 1998 Game Boy Color reissue, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX.

Link’s Awakening is very much a Zelda title through and through, but the visuals are more than enough to make it feel like a fresh title. A direct line for the character design can be drawn to the GameCube’s The Wind Waker, when Link became decidedly more adorable. That’s coupled with the familiar 3/4 RPG perspective that was a staple of the franchise’s early days.

The backgrounds have been refreshed nicely, with a kind of tilt-shift style art that selectively blurs out set pieces. As someone who plays Switch almost exclusively as a handheld, it was refreshing to see it played out on the big screen.

Gameplay came back in a flash. Though a rep had to walk me through a few pieces of the first mission: finding a magic mushroom for a witch’s potion. It’s all very Macbeth. Or the Scottish video game. Nintendo did a much longer walkthrough on Treehouse this morning, all of which should prove familiar if you’ve played the original.

Nothing quite scratches the itch of a new Zelda title, but a full revamp of a Game Boy game more than a quarter century after the original comes close.

‘Gato Roboto’ and ‘Dig Dog’ put pixelated pets to work in gleeful gaming homages

By Devin Coldewey

Drawing inspiration from games of yore but with dog and cat protagonists that signal light adventures rather than grim, dark ones, Gato Roboto and Dig Dog are easy to recommend to anyone looking to waste a couple hours this weekend. Not only that, but the latter was developed in a fascinating and inspiring way.

Both games share a 1-bit aesthetic that goes back many years but most recently was popularized by the inimitable Downwell and recently used to wonderful effect in both Return of the Obra Dinn and Minit. This is a limitation that frees the developer from certain concerns while also challenging them to present the player with all the information they need with only two colors, or in Dig Dog’s case a couple more (but not a lot).

In the latter game, you play as a dog, digging for bones among a series of procedurally generated landscapes populated by enemies and hazards. Dig Dug is the obvious callback in the name, but gameplay is more bouncy and spontaneous rather than the slower, strategic digging of the arcade classic.

On every stage you’re tasked with collecting a bone that’s somewhere near the bottom, while avoiding various types of enemies and traps or, if you so choose, destroying them and occasionally yielding coins. These coins can be traded with a merchant who appears on some stages, offering various gameplay perks like a longer dash or higher jump.

Get it! Get the bone!

The simple controls let you jump, dig, and do a midair dash that kills enemies — that’s pretty much it. The rest is down to moment-to-moment choices: dig around that enemy or go through them? If I go this way will I trap myself in this hole? Is it worth attacking that bat nest for a coin or will it be too hard to get out alive?

Collected bones contribute towards unlocking new stages with different, more dangerous enemies and devious traps. It gives a sense of progression even when you only get a bone or two, as does your dog rocketing back upwards in a brief but satisfying zoomies celebration every time. So even when you die, and you will die a lot, you feel like you’re working towards something.

It’s a great time-waster and you won’t exhaust its challenges for hours of gameplay; it’s also very easy to pick up and play a few stages of, since a whole life might last less than a minute. At $4 it’s an easy one to recommend.

Interestingly, Dig Dog was developed by its creator with only minimal use of his hands. A repetitive stress condition made it painful and inadvisable for him to code using the keyboard, so he uses a voice-based coding system instead. If I had been told I couldn’t type any more, I’d probably just take up a new career, so I admire Rusty Moyher for his tenacity. He made a video about the process here, if you’re curious:

Gato Roboto, for Switch and PC, is a much more complicated game, though not nearly so much as its inspirations, the NES classics Metroid and Blaster Master. In Gato Roboto, as in those games, you explore a large world filled with monsters and tunnels, fighting bosses and outfitting yourself with new abilities, which in turn let you explore the world further.

This one isn’t as big and open as recent popular “metroidvanias” like Hollow Knight or Ori and the Blind Forest — it’s really much more like a linear action-adventure game in the style of metroidvanias.

The idea is that you’ve crash-landed on a planet after tracking a mysterious signal, but the spaceman aboard the ship is trapped — you play his cat, Kiki, who must explore the planet in his stead.

At first (or shall I say fur-st) you really are just a cat, but you’re soon equipped with a power suit that lets you jump and shoot like any other action game. However, you frequently have to jump out of it to get into a smaller tunnel or enter water, in which the suit can’t operate (and the cat only barely). In this respect it’s a bit like Blaster Master, in which your pilot could dismount and explore caves in top-down fashion — an innovation that made the game one of my favorites for the system. (If you haven’t played the Switch remake, Blaster Master Zero, I implore you to.)

Gato Roboto isn’t as taxing or complex as its predecessors, but it’s not really meant to be. It’s a non-stop romp where you always have a goal or an obstacle to overcome. The 1-bit graphics are so well executed that I stopped noticing them after a minute or two — the pixel art is very clear and only rarely does the lack of color cause any confusion whatever.

Like Dig Dog and Downwell before it, you can pick up color schemes to change the palette, a purely aesthetic choice but a fun collectible (some are quite horrid). The occasional secret and branching path keeps your brain working a little bit, but not too much.

The game is friendly and forgiving, but I will say that the bosses present rather serious difficulty spikes, and you may, as I did, find yourself dying over and over to them because they’re a hundred times more dangerous than ordinary enemies or environmental hazards. Fortunately the game is (kitty) littered with save points and, for the most part, the bosses are not overlong encounters. I still raged pretty hard on a couple of them.

It’s twice the price of Dig Dog, a whopping $8. I can safely say it’s worth the price of two coffees. Don’t hesitate.

These pleasant distractions should while away a few hours, and to me they represent a healthy gaming culture that can look back on its past and find inspiration, then choose to make something new and old at the same time.

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