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NW Games Roundup

By Sam Machkovech February 24, 2010

[caption id="attachment_28615" align="alignnone" width="420" caption="Super Mario Galaxy 2, coming May 23"][/caption]

•  This morning, Nintendo announced its American summer schedule. Nowhere to be found: A single game for the Wii Fit or Wii Sports crowd.

Instead, it's full of the kind of stuff you'd expect in an especially nerdy issue of GamePro. Think lengthy, dragon-filled quests, classic Nintendo franchises, and experimental, arty titles. Some of the games look quite good—and a few even look innovative.

On the surface, the news looks like an about-face from the snooze-fest that was Nintendo's past few years of output. But the company is notorious for spreading its schedules too thin—and then annoying fans with surprise delays—so it's hard to read a carefully crafted news blast as a renaissance.

Worse, Nintendo's old fans probably aren't coming back to buy this new stuff, mostly because other game makers have already abandoned the Wii, having lost tons of money trying to sell "gamers' games" on it.

And what about the non-gamer crowd? Rather than prep another hit game like Wii Sports, Nintendo has gone the supply/demand route, reducing its output of Wiis to create artificial demand. You don't need the Wii because it's fun; you need it because it's sold out! Nintendo, I still say you're doomed.

•  That doom will ramp up as Microsoft's motion-sensing add-on, currently (and unfortunately) dubbed "Project Natal," nears its fall 2010 release. Quotes like this, from a hands-on demo in London last night, get to the point:
[With Natal,] you can run, kick or head the ball as you would in real life. It’s probably not 100% there yet, but in a very short space of time users could find themselves perfecting real-world skills in their home. Need help with a golf swing? Want to learn a martial art or a dance routine to perfection? These are genuine possibilities that reduce the motion-sensing Nunchuck of the Wii to the status of cutesy gimmick.

In the meantime, Microsoft kicks off a month-long "Block Party" promotion of downloadable Xbox 360 games on Tuesday, starting with the locally produced Toy Soldiers. I'll post my take on that next week.

•  Yet another version of Nintendo's portable juggernaut, the DS, will hit stores on March 28. For the most part, the DSi XL is the same system ... only bigger and $20 more expensive. It's meant for older players who like Nintendo's Brain Age and e-book releases but hate to squint at the DS's small screens. I look forward to thousands of e-mails from Nintendo the week before Mother's Day with "DSi XL" in the subject line.

•  Bellevue's Valve has announced a welcome update to its Steam online gaming platform. The service hasn't seen a major overhaul since its debut in 2004, and blocks of big text and a sharp new interface now put Steam's social aspects at the forefront. Looks great, guys. Expect Valve to devote even more energy to its online platform this year as its astonishing numbers continue to climb.
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