Notice: Cubed3 are no longer accepting new reader blogs (as of 17th January 2015). Existing blog entries will be available to read, archived below.

The Perils of Running a Video Game Website - Untrue Allegations Against Cubed3

Running and writing for a website or blog is one of the most rewarding things being part of the video game scene. Not satisfied with just playing, the increasing number of sites, blogs and video channels out there do it for one common reason: to share, inform and critique - most of which is free and in our own time.

With the traditional console industry being increasingly overshadowed by the looming mobile gaming market and print media on the decline, Nintendo and publishers need video game websites more than ever.

Writers spend hours playing through the latest games to air their thoughts in comprehensive reviews and articles. It's a passion and a never-ending desire to support the industry we believe in and it's great to see more new sites coming about every year.

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But why the sudden gush of emotion?

Behind the scenes Cubed3 has been in the spotlight this week for the wrong reasons. An anonymous tipster has been contacting certain publishers claiming that we have been selling review copies of games unplayed. As a result of these ridiculous allegations, it's of course caused concerns as to why we, as a website, should receive advanced previews of upcoming games.

It's incredibly damaging and hurtful to hear that these untrue allegations have come about; especially towards publishers we consider the top tier of the industry and have had a longstanding trust with.

Unfortunately it has caused some element of friction - with unsupported rumours unfortunately outweighing our reputation in some cases.

Because of this and the potential to spiral into an even bigger situation, I wanted to publicly acknowledge that Cubed3 has not sold unplayed new review games or hardware, period. The very thought is more off-putting than a night in Boo's mansion.

By looking deep into the review archives, I hope that it's clear that we aim to give the most through feedback as possible. A lot of funding also comes from our own pocket and not the income from Cubed3, which goes directly to maintaining the website.

There's nothing better than receiving a review copy of game to tear open the plastic, open the case and know that you're one of the first to play and that your feedback can help shape the promotion and even influence sales.

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Regardless of this we will still continue with our review coverage and I would like to personally thank our team for the hours put into testing and writing games both new and old.

I hope that fellow websites, blogs and of course readers can help support Cubed3 with this issue, and our decade of coverage will highlight to publishers that we're certainly not doing anything underhanded.

Nintendo Wii U: Every System has a Learning Curve - It's Not the End of an Era

Every system has a learning curve; I feel that there are some concerns but its early and very much solid days for Nintendo Wii U.

The Wii U came under fire this week with studios [url=http://www.gonintendo.com/?mode=viewstory&id=191181]homing in on certain areas of the system's infrastructure that might not perform up to scratch. The founder of Atari, Nolan K. Bushnell even feels that it might be the "end of an era" for the Japanese game maker.

Some of the initial launch selection available might be plagued with issues that take down the experience a notch, namely Mass Effect 3 or reports of slowdown in areas of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, but these niggles are expected from debut games.

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It's amusing to read through forums and video commentary across the internet proclaiming the Wii U's downfall in such a short space of time that it really goes to show how much more of an open community we are in this day and age. If there's one thing that Nintendo have proven in their illustrious history, it's the company's sustainability and how developers are pushed to get the best results.

The Nintendo Wii was, without a doubt, the weakest of the past generation. It lacked high-definition output, the GPU was fast becoming outdated, but studios persevered and Nintendo enthusiasts were treated some stellar games: Xenoblade, Pandora's Tower, Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword, Red Steel 2 and of course the sublime Super Mario Galaxy duo. These could have easily been on par with high definition brothers if cleaned up a little, with textures brought up to the right HD resolutions. We're not talking games that were just "good enough" for Wii and Nintendo players, but just fantastic experiences irrespective of platform.

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With the Wii U, the system may not be light-years ahead in its components, but there has been better thought this time round for future proofing and getting the most out of those teeny components efficiently.

Image for With more graphical memory on the Wii U, console developers are able to offload certain functions and share demanding tasks across both the CPU and GPU; however the speed of the CPU itself - core to the running and performance of the Wii U - has been questioned. But I still feel the despair in the air is very much premature.

People need to remember that some studios are just more capable, or perhaps better manned, than others - a poor looking title shouldn't necessarily reflect on the capabilities of a system, especially at launch.

On the flipside however, there hasn't been a worthy first-party benchmark for studios to aspire to on the Nintendo Wii U. Nintendo have been hesitant to show early cards - no public unveiling of a first-party title that makes the most out of the hardware just yet. New Super Mario Bros U. does look sublime in HD, as does the utterly charming Nintendo Land, but we've yet to see something ground-up from Nintendo themselves that one could say: "but what about this game?"

From third parties, Ubisoft's ZombiU and Rayman Legends are two ground-up Wii U games that highlight the console's early capabilities well. As a publisher with a good deal of resources and time spent on building the games, granted still within launch constraints, it shows what potential is there for more focused Wii U development.

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PC players inevitably get the best end of the stick though, coated in sticky candied ice-cream. Depending on your rig, games crafted for PC are bound to work and with higher end specs, produce the best and most visually effective result hands down.

Dealing with the Wii U surely isn't like fumbling around alien technology, or engaging in some far out particle physics whilst gagged and blindfolded. The Wii U is a pure gaming rig with components that developers have a principle understanding with. But between the PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and now Wii U, there are structural differences in how you go about optimising assets, working with game engines and balancing the load to make the most out of what you've got.

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When seeing a cross-platform title, regardless of system, there are always various factors to consider:

  • Priority:  Which system is the lead platform to develop on? Usually, but not always, there's a sole console that a studio might be better acquainted with. The other formats would be adapted versions and may not get as much refinement.

  • Engines: Certain developers may have engines/procedures that are more geared towards a certain system, especially with stellar franchises like Call of Duty where the core functionality is already fine-tuned for the Xbox 360, for example.

  • Time: How long has the studio had a system's development kit? PS3 and Xbox 360 tools have been worked on, refined and changed over years, whilst the Wii U is quite literally fresh on the scene. It may not be alien tech, but there's still time and experience needed to fully utilise the hardware and understand how to port projects across effectively.

  • Virgins: Is it the studio's first time working on a particular platform? There are bound to be stumbling blocks.

  • Human skill and resources: We're all human afterall, or so they say. Some work better with different system architectures; some may cope better with new hardware. One studio may employ 100 people that can be allocated across platforms; another might only have 10 that work on three or four.
Nintendo Wii U has been out for a week now and has already seen poked, prodded and jabbed on the internet. To have released a dev. kit, continually update it and come up with over twenty games from small and renowned studios is nothing to brush aside.

These titles have their fair share of criticisms from players and tech-heads already, but for a short scale development, trying to finish and port a game to Nintendo Wii U, it's a testament to studios on getting these key names ready to help the system establish a good start.

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I have some concerns, but given what studios have done with Nintendo hardware in the past, there is a lot of potential with the Wii U especially given the transition into high definition.

What do you feel about the Wii U's graphical situation?

Be sure to post your thoughts and join the discussion on "Anyone else disappointed with the Wii U graphics?" topic in the forums.

Why the Wii U Price is Justified - Welcome to a New Nintendo Generation

The Wii U is out in a matter of days and I must admit that I'm ridiculously excited. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword got the loins going, but the impending launch of a new Nintendo home console and the new multiplayer frenzy of New Super Mario Bros U is in a league of its own.
 
I'll admit that I was in two states of mind when Nintendo confirmed launch plans at E3 and in the subsequent Nintendo Direct presentations. It looks sleek, the games are varied and well put together, but I was still uncertain. Then the E3 after party came, where hordes of UK Press swept down to London to sample the delights of the GamePad. I was convinced, but still curious about the system's capabilities outside of simply running games.

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Rest assured, with Miiverse, Wii U chat and the abolishment of Friend Codes in favour of the Nintendo Network, I'm a now happy bunny indeed.
 
However, then comes the concerns about price -- people I've surveyed, discussed Wii U with, raised uncertainty about whether the price tag justifies buying a whole new video games console. With tough financial times and Christmas looming, it can be easy to overlook the Nintendo Wii U -- but even at over £200, there are a solid list of reasons why the system is worth pursuing -- and here's why it's more than justified:
 

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1) Another World in My Hands

It's the no brainer. The controller is one powerful and conceptually intricate beast that may not have you swinging arms about like it's 2006, but invokes a similar sense of "new" and innovation. Even with it turned off, from a production angle it's been crafted with that usual Nintendo love and care, moulding into your palms -- light enough to play comfortably, but with enough weight and refinement to justify the cost.
 
The screen alone -- coupled with touch capabilities, a microphone and speakers -- is up there with fellow handheld devices. It looks sharp, vivid and scales well in the flesh -- it may not be retina, but it does a fine job as a second window to the game world.


 

 

2) A Multiplayer Haven

I feel old. Remember the days when playing games with friends meant sitting around, working in teams and being as potty-mouthed as John McEnroe? Granted there are still a vast number of games to play locally with friends, but the Wii U is hoping to bring living room fun back to the forefront and with the second screen and asymmetric gameplay, it simply works. Nintendo Land, whilst it may look like this generation's Wii Play, carves new concepts with familiar settings -- it's more than the "pew pew pew" that you see in the recent UK adverts.
 
Once you grab hold of a few friends and try the Wii U in person, these ideas start to make sense. We were sceptical, but that "revelation" moment upon playing New Super Mario Bros U. or Game and Wario is a testament to Nintendo's simple, yet spot-on innovation.
 
We can only anticipate what full-on RPG games would be like or how first-person shooters can become a truly immersive experience with the GamePad's screen used in tandem with standard controls. An end to the old "screen watching" argument?
 
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3) A Complete Package

I'm not the biggest fan of doing things in halves and neither is Nintendo. The original Wii was branded as "two GameCubes stuck together" and in some sense it may have felt like a rushed launch, especially with not having full MotionPlus from the off or releasing the Wii Controller Pro at the start. However, with the Wii U it certainly seems to be a case of lessons learned.
 
No other hardware setup at the moment has the complete and unified controller and console that's been built ground up with tablet controller to TV in mind. Throw in Wii Remotes and there's an almost limitless canvas to interact with games.

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With PCs there's differing specs, and likewise with tablets -- one maybe able to run an app, another may not. The Wii U has the advantage here in that every owner will have the same controller and console configuration that games designed for it will work without hardware diversity issues. It's next generation without having to attempt to bolt together a separate handheld to console, for example, as Sony is trying with the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita at the moment.
 
The GamePad is ridiculously responsive -- a swipe, slight tilt, poke and press are all represented on the screen within microseconds. It may sound simple on paper, but it's a very refined gaming tool from our hands-on sessions.
 

4) The Mario and Zelda Tea Party

We all know glorious, high definition Nintendo games are coming. Pikmin 3 will crash land in early 2013 and the Wii U already has its sharp 2D platforming in New Super Mario Bros. U. There's certainly no need to continue to gush over how much potential there is for these key franchises, it's Nintendo after all -- enough said.
 
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5) Strictly Social

Whilst the Wii U lures players in like Wario to gold coins, there's also a wide world out there to interact and play with. Enter Miiverse. Until now it's been a little hush-hush, but a recent unveiling by Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata has put the service into the spotlight. Exchange messages, screenshots and web cam all from the GamePad. There's still a lot of work to do, and it's an area that Nintendo are looking to improve, but with the system rolling out from day one, the Wii U will fully embrace online without hefty subscription fees.


 

6) Sustainability

With any new gadget there will be a lingering thought as to how long it will last before the next one. Nintendo may have made a mistake not jumping on the HD train early enough with the original Wii, but with Wii U's GamePad and capabilities of the console itself there is the capacity to grow for a good few years.
 
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There have been many comparisons drawn between the Wii U's graphical capability and Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, but it should be remembered that studios are still getting used to the new architecture. Both consoles have been in the market for over five years and if the Wii U can match titles at the end of their respective lifespans who knows what the Wii U's games will look like by 2015?
 
Some studios are already being accused of recycling past games as the market becomes a little dry. Enter the Wii U to try and do something that bit different.

There we have it, just a small handful of reasons why I feel the Wii U price makes sense. There are aspects of other systems that Nintendo can learn from and consider adding to the Wii U -- achievements, media playback, storage -- but these are small toppings in the grand scheme of things.

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The Nintendo Wii U is a culmination of lessons the Japanese game maker has learned over the years -- instead of countless add-ons, the console is a sole package that's been brewed with the whole gaming experience and history in mind.
 
I had my reservations, but am now far more confident that Nintendo can replicate the success of the Wii and DS with the Wii U.

Welcome to the new generation!

Buy Wii U

The Wii U can be still be ordered from Amazon - £248 for the Wii U 8GB bundle and £299 for the 32GB bundle.

There's Still Love in Boxed Retail Nintendo Games

Namco Bandai announced a cheaper price for the download edition of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on the Wii U today, which might just lead the way for cheaper digital distribution for retail games.

As well as covering the Nintendo scene, I work in the retail industry and one of the key words that come up time after time in our meetings is "value" - what is offered to the consumer, you and me, and would we pay for it?

As we shift towards a truly digital age, where downloadable film, books and movies is the norm, where does it leave gaming?

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Digitally distributed gaming is hardly anything new, but for Nintendo fans being able to download the latest full New Super Mario Bros game in a matter of minutes sounds better than a triple chocolate cake dipped in warm custard. Should a downloadable copy of, say, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D be the same price, if not more, than the exact same game from a shop?

When initially discussing downloadable retail games, the president of all things Mario, Satoru Iwata noted how pricing is determined by "value" and that the same experience is offered from both ways of buying. Whether it's Mario Kart 7 downloading whilst you're having a nap or delivered by the Postman, distribution aside, it's the value should be identical.

But I still find there to be more value in the physical boxed copy of a game.

There's still something special about video game boxes in particular compared to DVDs or music CDs - it's like with books. I've tried to skim through long chunks of text on an eReader screen and it's just not the same as being able to hold, read and physically skim through. Whilst books are analogue in nature and games require a screen to play, having the plastic case and booklet evokes a similar feeling; there is a collector's value.

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That's where the additional value comes into play - a full colour booklet, the added experience of having a physical box, being able to share a game with friends and that unmistakable feeling of opening it all up for the first time.

The value comes with ownership and distribution.

The added and still relevant nature of boxed games should give it more value, a slightly more expensive price and therefore keep the download version at the "base" value, and cheaper.

On the flip side, Nintendo wouldn't want to undercut retailers by dropping the price below the recommended RRP, but I would like to see retailers taking initiative in pricing when it comes to eShop cards and being able to purchase credit towards a downloadable retail game.

As an idea, digital games could close in on the value of retail by potentially linking to an online "ownership" database - so in theory a player could lend a digital copy to a friend, but then would be unable to play until access is returned. Likewise if selling on digital copy, ownership could be transferred and payment made with digital credit towards a future purchase. Could this approach lure more players into the digital domain?

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I still can't imagine paying a full £39.99 for Super Mario 3D Land when the only added value is having the title installed and always available. Though I was ever so tempted, I must admit!

What happens if (or when) download pricing starts to fall in line with what retailers are offering, or even t dips below? Could more and more gamers opt for digital to save a few pennies?

Pew, Pew, Pew - Just What is Nintendo Wii U?

Now Playing: Pokémon White 2
Now Listening to: Muse - The 2nd Law
Now Watching: Playthroughs of Mario Party. Weird like that!

There's no doubt about it, I'm excited about the Wii U.  Beyond the ambiguous launch plans and titles from E3 this year, there's a growing buzz around the gaming community for Nintendo's next console - it is new hardware from the Japanese game maker, after all, but what about the general public?

Part of the Wii's success initially was motion controls. The simple premise that whipping a remote-shaped plastic to hit balls about, point and shoot, caused many to flock to the system just like hackers to a Sony PlayStation. The console grew to become almost synonymous to the term "video games" in the home, virtually replacing the karaoke machine at a party and filling in potentially awkward moments with a group understanding of just how to play.

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Now Nintendo are trying to advance that with the nifty new window into the game world in the form of the Wii U GamePad. Here's where the worry sets in:  months on from E3 there's already a solid launch line-up and two hardware configurations, but how Nintendo's initial steps, or lack of, into marketing this new beast has caused some concern.

Of course I might be jumping the gun somewhat, but after the fairly bizarre debut Wii U advert the other night I'm curious and slightly weary about how the Wii U will be presented to the public.


 

The "Pew, pew, pew" sound-byte for the Nintendo Land mini-game continually resonates through my head, but for all the wrong reasons. The advert did do something right in starting off that it is a "brand new console and controller", but would certainly leave a lot of questions to an uninformed audience.

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"Is it a tablet for the existing Wii?" I've had a fair few ask, and my response as to just what is Wii U is difficult to convey in just a few words, but it's something Nintendo need to do.

Trying to look at what we've seen so far from a blind perspective, all I get is a zombie game and flicking tacky looking shurikens. The bulleted, numbered list of what it can do was a clever idea to get across as much as possible in 60 seconds; however the concept has been diluted by a tacky mish mash of facts.

The immediate message should revolve around completeness - in its essence, the Wii U is the complete gaming experience. Touch play, motion, dual-screen, online and all these contemporary gaming conventions have been moulded into one holistic setup.

Yes, Blu-ray and DVD playback are a topic for another day, but with the Wii U you get the complete experience out of the box.

Marketing has to convey that the TV and GamePad are one. Granted the controller is the most vital piece of kit, but Nintendo need to differentiate it from the iPads out there, showing just how it works, the social, online aspects and why I can't just download Angry Birds and go wild on my fancy Apple touch-screen.

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Nintendo could take-over YouTube and video sites with an overlay that better shows how the controller and TV can work in tandem - the video acting as the TV screen, and second overlayed video within a picture of the GamePad itself to illustrate how it works, responsiveness and innovation.

Likewise mentioning a handful of tour dates in TV and magazine advertising would be beneficial to getting consumers interested to give it a whirl - so far there's no demo stations setup in the UK, a handful of Expo tours and just a single advert in the middle of a post-watershed show on a Sunday night.

I've watched a fair bit of prime-time television over the last few days, yet the ad breaks are still flooded with Wii advertising and this has to simmer in place of Wii U, or else there'd certainly be far too many messages. Why not state that the Wii U plays all existing Wii software and move on?

There's a long way to go and Nintendo have to be clearer and less gimmicky to avoid a repeat situation with confusion on what made the 3DS different to a console everyone already had.

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