Nintendo, Google & The Pokémon Company invest $20 million in augmented reality gaming

Niantic, the developer of Ingress and the upcoming Pokémon GO, has announced that it raised its Series A financing round, totaling an initial investment of $20 million and a further $10 million promised upon meeting agreed goals, from Google as well as gaming giant Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. The development studio is known for putting gaming into the real world; Ingress tasks players with physically traveling to locations in order to take control of them. Pokémon GO similarly showed trainers gathering together in New York’s Times Square in its announcement trailer to take part in a massive battle against a legendary Pokémon.

The involvement of Google may come as little surprise, considering that Niantic is headed by John Hanke who was one of the creators of Google Earth. Some may remember 2014’s April Fools joke which added a “Pokémon Challenge” to Google Maps. GO‘s logo bears a striking resemblance to the prank as well.

Fans of the Pokémon franchise should be happy to hear that the company tasked with bringing the monsters to our world seems to be well funded. This will be a drastic departure from the series’ previous games and allow trainers to interact in new ways with beloved characters. It’s clear that corporate knows expectations are high and Nintendo is also committed to develop new technologies, which may even appear in other franchises down the road.

Let us know in the comments what Pokémon you’d like to catch first in GO!

Pokémon fans get a little MOBA lovin’

rayquazaThe 3D MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) SMITE has thrown a bone to fans of the Pokémon franchise in the form of a skin for Kukulkan, one of the playable mythological gods around whose combat the game is based. Of course, the developer Hi-Rez Studios won’t be officially acknowledging the resemblance of its newest store item to the legendary Pokémon Rayquaza, but it is a cute wink-wink nudge-nudge reference that toes the line of homage and copyright infringement. There’s even new audio for the Mayan wind serpent which includes such cheesiness as, “A wild Kukulkan has appeared!” Had Smite really had their head in the game though, they’d have designed it around the awesomely powerful Mega Rayquaza instead!

SMITE is free-to-pay for PC & Xbox One, so there aren’t many excuses not to at least give it a go! We’d also love to hear about what other cross game references you’ve enjoyed in the past!

Dragon Quest Builders looks like Minecraft on RPG-enhancing steroids

Minecraft, the wildly popular world building game by Mojang, is not for everyone. It gives players a wide variety of tools and materials for infinite building possibilities. What it doesn’t have though, is any overarching story driving gameplay or any real goal. Similar to dumping out a bucket of Legos, Minecraft makes players use their imagination to fill in the backstory and give purpose to their creations. For some it is a challenge, but for others it can feel like a real chore.

Square Enix may be able to offer the perfect link between RPG and sandbox with their upcoming game Dragon Quest Builders. Announced earlier this summer, the title returns players to Alefgard, the setting of the original Dragon Quest, and tasks players with rebuilding it after being destroyed by a Dragonlord. Tokyo Game Show has brought a fresh look at the game in the form of a new trailer. The game will be released in January of next year exclusively for Sony’s PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita consoles.

Satoru Iwata, Please Understand, You Will Be Missed

Nintendo has just announced that President & CEO Satoru Iwata, 55, has died from bile duct growth yesterday, July 11.

Above is the official announcement from Nintendo, regarding Mr. Iwata's sudden death.
Above is the official announcement from Nintendo, regarding Mr. Iwata’s sudden death.

Before succeeding Hiroshi Yamauchi as Nintendo’s president and eventually also becoming the CEO, Iwata worked as a programmer for HAL Laboratory Inc. which created the beloved Kirby, the Mother (EarthBound) series and, of course, Super Smash Bros. Iwata was the programming mastermind behind all those projects, as well as the reason Pokémon Gold & Silver included the Kanto region. With Nintendo, Iwata also lended his skill to help develop The Legend of Zelda games and Animal Crossing series. Nintendo Japan Directs were led by Iwata, who initially made the decision to halt large press conferences, like at E3, and instead divide Nintendo’s showcase into smaller events by demographic.

No further information is known on who will be replacing Mr. Iwata as President & CEO, nor how Nintendo Directs will change from now on. All that is known is that he is no longer with us, he will be dearly missed and not forgotten.

“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.”

A cross-dressing Link doesn’t cut it for everyone

triforce-heroes-zelda-dressNintendo’s upcoming cooperative action-adventure game The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes can be played by a single player, but the game’s developers really want it to be enjoyed by three people simultaneously (sorry, 2 players are actually out of luck!). There’s also apparently a lot of clothing collection involved, because fashion is key in the kingdom where the game takes place and what you wear impacts the game. Nintendo even included a dress, the iconic gown worn by Princess Zelda, for fans wanting to express themselves outside of the usual gender norms.

The gaming press was quick to squander any potential for positivity regarding the issue, with IGN quickly digging in on why there was no female character available when given the opportunity to interview game Director Hiromasa Shikata. According to Shikata the story was simply that the heroes were male, which is unsurprising since most Legend of Zelda games focus on a silent, male protagonist usually named Link. Smelling blood in the water, other gaming sites raced to pick up the story. Polygon, Destructoid and GameSpot all lined up pieces about the gender bombshell, which had been dropped on them as if the almost 30 year old series was about controlling a female protagonist named Zelda.

There’s a line between encouraging diversity and respecting the right of artists to tell their own tale. When gaming sites write that the story “requires male heroes” (GameSpot) and infers that blaming gender choices based on how the background of the game has been constructed, there’s no longer a respect for the medium. Why does any game have male or female protagonists? Because that’s how their individual stories were written. It isn’t an excuse, it is simply design.

The games that offer choices to players are usually immersive titles which want the players to put themselves into the game, but Legend of Zelda has traditionally just accepted a player name in terms of customization. There are outfits now! And dresses! But the additions don’t add up to much when the top Google search results are crowing about the lack of female Link clones. Would interest be as high if there were three identical Princess Zeldas working together as the protagonists? Yes, perhaps even even more. Unfortunately, this is not that game.

Not everyone is going to be thrilled that the Nintendo 3DS gets another Zelda title and the cooperative aspect may not please all, but sexism isn’t one of the game’s problems. What are your thoughts?