Nintendo has revealed new details about games in its line-up for 2015 and beyond, along with news about major updates to current games and all things amiibo.
Later this year Animal Crossing players will be able to put their home-design skills to the test in the newly announced Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. Meanwhile, a totally new form of amiibo, “amiibo cards”, will also launch later this year, with the first set of cards featuring Animal Crossing characters. By using the first set of amiibo cards in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, players can enjoy a whole new Animal Crossing gameplay experience.
Nintendo also confirmed its commitment to provide premium content updates to players of games already released. A free update available to every Mario Kart 8 owner brings the brand new 200cc racing class to all courses. The fastest class ever in the history of Mario Kart adds a new challenge to the game, even for the most seasoned series veterans. Major add-on content and updates were also announced for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS and StreetPass Mii Plaza.
Nintendo also confirmed release dates for Splatoon and Yoshi’s Woolly World, more on Mario Maker and the next Fire Emblem game. New games announced include BOXBOY!, a charming puzzle-platform game from the creators of Kirby that is available now from Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS, and a new instalment in the chilling and supernatural Project Zero series for Wii U.
Some of the key announcements, as supplied by Nintendo, include:
- amiibo cards: A totally new form of amiibo is coming later this year! The first set of amiibo cards will feature Animal Crossing characters and will be compatible with the new Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer game. The NFC reader/writer accessory for Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 3DS XL and Nintendo 2DS that can read amiibo figures and amiibo cards will also launch at the same time.
- The next waves of Super Smash Bros. amiibo: In May, two new amiibo in the Super Smash Bros. Collection will launch: Greninja and Jigglypuff. June brings Palutena, Dark Pit, Zero Suit Samus and Ganondorf, and in July Olimar, Dr. Mario and Bowser Jr. will join the amiibo family.
- Play classic Nintendo games using amiibo: amiibo Touch & Play: Nintendo Classics Highlights is coming in May as a free download from Nintendo eShop for Wii U. With this title, Wii U users can unlock a variety of three-minute gameplay highlights from select NES and Super NES games, simply by tapping an amiibo to the GamePad.
- Yarn Yoshi amiibo: A new set of Yoshi amiibo figures, made out of a knitted material, will launch alongside Yoshi’s Woolly World. Among other uses, tapping one of these yarn amiibo to the GamePad while playing Yoshi’s Woolly World will make another Yoshi appear, allowing players to control Double Yoshi. The Yarn Yoshi amiibo will be available in three colours: green, pink and light blue.
- Splatoon amiibo: Launching simultaneously with Splatoon on 29th May are Inkling Girl and Inkling Boy amiibo figures, as well as a special edition including the game and the Inkling Squid amiibo. By tapping one of these amiibo to the GamePad, players in Splatoon can receive special missions to unlock weapons and gear.
- More Mario Kart 8 Mii racing suits: On 23rd April, a free downloadable update to Mario Kart 8 will add support for nine more amiibo characters: Wario, PAC-MAN, Olimar, Bowser, Sonic, Toad, Villager, Rosalina and Mega Man. Players can tap these amiibo to outfit their Mii characters in Mii racing suits themed to those amiibo characters.
- Mario Maker: Mario Maker launches exclusively for Wii U in September and enables users to easily create their own Mario courses and share them online with people all over the world! Various activities related to the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. are also planned throughout the year.
- Splatoon: In addition to previously detailed single-player and online “Turf War” modes, action shooter Splatoon will feature a competitive “Ranked Battle” mode, which ranks and matches players based on their wins in 4-on-4 multiplayer games. The game will also feature a “Battle Dojo”. In this mode, players can enjoy local 1-on-1 battles with friends. One player uses the GamePad, while the other plays on the TV screen, competing to see who can pop the most balloons. Splatoon will launch exclusively for Wii U on 29th May.
- Yoshi’s Woolly World: The lovingly crafted new Wii U game launches on 26th June and overflows with challenges and hidden secrets. In addition to the challenging Classic Mode, Yoshi’s Woolly World adds Mellow Mode, which lets players of all skill levels play as Winged Yoshi. From launch, a bundle comprising a copy of the game and a Green Yarn Yoshi amiibo will also be available.
- 200cc in Mario Kart 8: For the first time in the Mario Kart series, a 200cc racing class is coming to Mario Kart 8. Even faster than 150cc, the new high-speed class will be applied to all tracks in the game and makes braking an important consideration during a race! The new 200cc class will be offered as a free downloadable update to all Mario Kart 8 players on 23rd April. On this same day, the purchasable Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 – themed after Animal Crossing – featuring three new characters, four new vehicles and eight new tracks will also be released.
- Nintendo 64 and Nintendo DS games hit Wii U Virtual Console: Releasing at 01:00am today (2nd April), classic Nintendo 64 and Nintendo DS games are coming to Virtual Console on Wii U. Today brings Mario Kart DS and WarioWare Touched! for Nintendo DS and Super Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64 for Nintendo 64. While playing Nintendo DS games, the TV and GamePad combination will provide various options for dual-screen layouts, while all Nintendo 64 games that supported the Rumble Pak will continue rumbling away on the Wii U GamePad. As a special offer, purchase any three of these games before 16th April and receive the fourth one for free on the same Wii U. Games scheduled for future release include Paper Mario for Nintendo 64 and Yoshi’s Island DS for Nintendo DS in May.
- More downloadable Wii games on Wii U: Adding to the growing list of Wii games available to download from Nintendo eShop on Wii U, critically acclaimed titles Pandora’s Tower and Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies will arrive on 16th April and 30th April respectively. Both games will also be 25% off for one week after their launch.
- Shin Megami Tensei & Fire Emblem Crossover Project: The role-playing masters at ATLUS are developing a truly modern RPG, where everyday life exists alongside a secret world of fantasy, including characters from the Fire Emblem series.
- New Project Zero game coming to Europe: Fans who have been clamouring for a chance to play the latest game in the unnerving Project Zero series will have their chance when it launches later this year for Wii U. Players will play as one of three different characters, each with their own storyline as they explore the cursed tourist destination, Mount Hikami. The Wii U GamePad is used as a camera to investigate the environments and soak in the supernatural atmosphere, as well as a means to fend off hostile spirits during quick bursts of chilling action.
- Affordable Space Adventures: The Wii U GamePad transforms into the cockpit display of a stealth spacecraft in this Wii U exclusive. On a hostile planet, players need to carefully manage all of the ship’s systems to avoid danger and slip by monsters unnoticed. Players can fly solo or work together in local multiplayer as a crew of two or three players, each with their own specific responsibilities. Affordable Space Adventures is available from Nintendo eShop for Wii U from 9th April.
- Swords & Soldiers 2: Coming exclusively to Nintendo eShop for Wii U on 21st May, this side-scrolling strategy and action game is the sequel to the award-winning WiiWare title. Build structures and create an army to overpower the enemy on a 2D battleground. With touch screen controls it only takes a quick tap to heal your units, cast lightning bolts and unleash meteor strikes!
- Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer: This new spin-off title in the Animal Crossing series focuses on the decorating and home-designing aspects of the Animal Crossing games. Animals will ask players to design houses for them, and it’s up to designers-in-the-making to meet the animals’ requests by furnishing and decorating their homes. By scanning a new Animal Crossing series amiibo card to a New Nintendo 3DS system or NFC reader/writer accessory, players can design a room for that specific character on the card and scan additional character cards to invite those characters to visit. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer will launch this autumn.
- Fire Emblem (working title): For the first time in the series, the main playable character is not only a customisable avatar, but also the main hero or heroine of the game. Players must choose to take one of two major paths, resulting in two different experiences: the “Hoshido” side for a more traditional experience, or the “Nohr” side, which makes the story more complex and the difficulty level more challenging. The new Fire Emblem title will launch for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems in 2016.
- Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition: This two-games-in-one package releases on 8th May. Puzzle & Dragons Z combines the key elements of a deep and strategic puzzle game, a dungeon-crawling RPG and a monster-collecting adventure. Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition offers the same deep puzzle gameplay, presented in the Super Mario Bros. universe. For players who can’t wait until launch day to play, a free demo for Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition will be coming soon to Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS.
- Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.: Launching on 15th May, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a turn-based strategy shooter featuring extensive single-player and multiplayer content. Multiplayer supports both local and online play across various modes such as Death Match – where each turn only lasts 60 seconds, Medal Battle – where teams battle to collect the most medals with limited turns in a limited time, and “A.B.E. Battle” – where players fight using a giant robot inspired by Abraham Lincoln himself. Players will be able to enter tournaments against players from all over the world and even host their own private tournaments.
- New StreetPass Games: On 16th April, two new StreetPass Mii Plaza games will be available to purchase. In StreetPass Fishing, players visit islands to try to catch more than 150 types of fish and legendary monsters with bait received from Mii characters via StreetPass. In StreetPass Zombies, players receive items based on the hobbies of their Mii Plaza StreetPass characters to defeat a horde of zombies. Fans will also get the option to purchase StreetPass Mii Plaza Premium, which adds features like StreetPass Birthdays and the new VIP Room.
- BOXBOY!: From the celebrated developer HAL Laboratory, Inc., creators of the Kirby series, comes BOXBOY!. This monochrome platform-puzzle game tasks players with creating, casting and hooking blocks to navigate more than 150 challenging stages. BOXBOY! is available from midnight tonight, releasing exclusively on Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS.
- Pokémon Rumble World: The latest game in the Pokémon Rumble series is free-to-start (with paid content) and features over 700 Pokémon, all the way from the original Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue to the recent Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. Pokémon Rumble World will launch on Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS on 8th April.
- Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains: Based on the popular anime, Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains features four-player local and online co-op gameplay and leaderboards as players work together to defend the outer walls from the giant Titans. Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains will launch on Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS in May. For some early inspiration, the first two episodes of the Attack on Titan anime series are available for free on Nintendo eShop from 01:00am today, 2nd April, until 1st July.
- Azure Striker Gunvolt & Mighty Gunvolt: Experience thrilling fast-paced action in these two separate but related titles from acclaimed developer Keiji Inafune. Play as a powerful hero who can control lightning. Blast through stages, conquer intimidating bosses and challenge yourself to set new high scores. Both titles are available from 2nd April on Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS and until 1st July, purchasers of Azure Striker Gunvolt will receive Mighty Gunvolt for free.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS
- New (AOC) challengers approaching!: The previously announced Mewtwo will join the roster of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS as a downloadable character on 28th April. Players who have purchased and registered both versions of the game by 31st March will receive free download codes for Mewtwo on 15th April. In addition, fan-favourite character Lucas from MOTHER3, the sequel to EarthBound released only in Japan, is planned to join the all-star Super Smash Bros. cast in June as purchasable DLC. After a software update on 15th April, Super Smash Bros. players can also purchase more costumes for their Mii fighters, including outfits inspired by major game series, such as The Legend of Zelda, Xenoblade Chronicles and Capcom’s Mega Man series.
- Vote for your own Super Smash Bros. fighter: Starting today, Super Smash Bros. fans can visit http://www.smashbros.com to participate in a “Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot.” Fans can use this ballot to vote for which character they would like to see added to Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U as a playable character.
* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA
Online retail gets real
After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.
Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.
The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.
This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping.
But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.
On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.
He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.
According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.
In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature.
Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.
A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand.
In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.
Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.
It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time.
It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.
Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.
The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.
Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.
Reliable satellite Internet?
MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company.
“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.
The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.
The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022.
The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data.
C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.
MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity. Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.
Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.
Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online.
“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”