Levi King's Blog
The Smash Bros. Factor

OR: Why I’m Not Worried About Nintendo’s Situation

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Super Smash Bros. on the N64 was not a launch title. It came out closer to the release date of the GameCube than that of the N64, actually. Despite being late to that console cycle, Smash Bros. managed to sell 5 million copies, becoming the 5th most successful game on the system.

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Super Smash Bros. Melee was the best selling game on GameCube and arguably the biggest driver of sales for the console. Nintendo sold 21.74 million GameCubes and 7.09 million copies of Melee. That means one third of everyone who bought a GameCube also bought Melee. Of course, Melee was released just 2 months after the GameCube in November of 2001, putting them in the same holiday window. Melee is also an anomaly because of its longevity; it could still be found on store shelves even after the release of Brawl in 2008, and is still considered the high point of the series, consistently hitting the top 10 most-viewed games on Twitch.TV even today.

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Super Smash Bros. Brawl. is the best-selling title in the series so far, with 11.49 million copies sold to date. It’s only the 9th best-selling Wii game, but that’s saying a lot, considering the absurd sales numbers of some other Wii titles. It’s important to note that Brawl came out late in early 2008, not during the holiday season window like Melee, so even though it was the fastest-selling game in Nintendo of America’s history, the majority of its sales didn’t come until the following fiscal year. Nintendo’s 2009 fiscal year was the best ever year for the Wii by a margin of over 5 million sales.

Do you get what I’m saying here?

Super Smash Bros. games are system sellers. If the release of Smash Bros. for Wii U gives it even half of the sales bump the Wii saw when Brawl came out, 2014 will probably be the best year for Wii U sales by a wide margin.

Nintendo has made many mistakes with the Wii U, but they’re managing their big name series as well as ever. Don’t take one bad year as a sign of the end. After all, they survived the video game crash of 1983. (I could write a whole other post about parallels between that event and their current situation, but it would be better tackled by someone else.)

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The games must go on.

Ender’s Game

Going into the theater I had resigned myself to seeing another flop along the lines of the Alex Rider or Eragon movies, or even a disaster like Percy Jackson. I was pretty sure they’d given everything away in the trailer and it was going to be a bunch of action with none of the moments that defined the book. My best case scenario was something close to what The Hunger Games achieved, a fun adaptation with most of the plot intact if you squint.

I was definitely not expecting it to be better than some Harry Potter movies.

It started out rushed. It continued to be rushed. The whole movie felt like a rush, and that’s OK, because if they had slowed things down to match the pace of the book it wouldn’t have worked. The trailer was deceptively action-packed because I suppose that’s what sells tickets, but in reality the action scenes are all shorter than I expected, and it always works fine. Ender’s Game was not a book about action and fights, it was a book about the struggles of a boy under pressure to become humanity’s savior. Thankfully, that made it through to the movie script. Ender’s relationships with other characters are the only things that suffer noticeably from the rushed approach, but I found it forgivable, and friends of mine who hadn’t read the book didn’t seem to mind. They don’t know how much they missed not reading about Peter and Valentine’s plans back on Earth.

Simply put, Ender’s Game has raised the bar. It’s not the best movie I’ve seen this year (that honor still goes to Pacific Rim), but it’s clear they took their time polishing it to a fantastic CGI shine and cast some pretty fantastic choices for most every role. It was everything I could have asked for as a fan, and more than I expected to get.

Good game. Thanks.

We had a guest speaker in freelance writing class today. His name was Max Ross, and when a classmate asked him what he felt like when The New York Times was editing his op-ed, he came up with a really good metaphor:

"A good editor is like a good massage: painful when it’s happening, satisfying when it’s over."

Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
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There is a Wall in the North, a vast and icy structure cutting across the continent, and it was built there for good reason. What lies beyond has threatened the Seven Kingdoms before, and will certainly threaten again, as winter is coming. But will the people of the South be too wrapped up in their game of thrones to heed the warnings from the North?

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Book Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Faced with utter destruction at the hands of the Spackle, Todd must put Mayor Prentiss back into power to mount a defense, even if his betrayal seems inevitable. Unfortunately, a common enemy isn’t enough to keep Mistress Coyle from plotting against the Mayor and his followers. How can Todd and Viola possibly achieve peace between species if the humans are warring among themselves?

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Book Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

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Todd and Viola thought their troubles were finally coming to an end, but it turned out that the city of Haven didn’t live up to its name. Now they have been separated by politics and circumstances, each placed under the control of rival leaders with questionable aims. What will they do to reunite, and will they recognize each other by the time they do?

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Book Review: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

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[You can read my review of the previous book in this series, Ship Breaker, over on my literature class blog.]

In an all-too-plausible future where the world is flooded and war-torn, survival is dependent on either joining a faction or staying out of the way. Mahlia, Mouse, and Tool try to be among the latter group, but it’s hard to avoid conflict when there’s so much to fight over.

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I wrote a lot of book reviews for a class ironically titled Adolescent Literatures this semester. It was ironic because the textbook talked about how “adolescent” is practically a bad word now and “young adult” is much preferred, so the latter went into the blog title. The textbook was very expensive and very poorly edited, but the class was excellent. My to-read list is probably twice as long now that it’s over; there wasn’t nearly enough time to get through everything recommended by classmates.

Please feel free to browse the reviews. I’m particularly proud of the one for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. In terms of importance though, read the one for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It won our class award vote for a reason.

Now that it’s obsolete, I’ll be posting new reviews here instead. Looking forward to any feedback you might have, readers.

Posterous Archive Posts

Posterous, the blogging platform I tried out before Tumblr, got bought by Twitter. Then Twitter apparently decided they didn’t care, so now it’s shutting down. I had a grand total of eight blog posts on there, which have now been migrated into the archives of this blog. That means they’ll show up fine from the blog page, but they’ll look all weird and out of order on the dashboard. Sorry for that.

You can find them in the “archived from Posterous” tag if you’re curious about how I used to write. Let me save you the trouble though: first I tried too hard to sound like Ryan North, then I tried too hard to sound like a professional critic. These are problems I may never overcome, because somewhere between Ryan North and professional critics is Douglas Adams, and his is a writing style I will never stop wishing I could emulate.

"Since December 28, 2009 you have read a total of 88,269 items."

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Yes, the above stat is accurate; I’ve spent a lot of time with Google Reader. It’s been my primary way of keeping up with comics for years. It has brought me updates from sites I care about promptly and reliably for just as long. It is indispensable, not just to me, but to many. Being forced to look elsewhere now that Google is shutting it down is troubling.

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Angela Melick does a great job explaining RSS and why the “sunsetting” of Reader is bad news.)

Last semester I had an instructor tell our whole class to start using Reader (if we weren’t already) so we could keep up with blogs for assigned content. Right now loads of people on Twitter are in panic mode over this announcement. Competitors to Reader are jumping at the chance, but I wonder if they can take up the monumental slack, or if existing users will even take the plunge. Migrating to another RSS reader service is not something I look forward to.

It’s especially worrying how Google appears to have declared war on RSS itself. Google bought FeedBurner for a rumored $100 million, which looked like a clear sign of how valuable they consider RSS feeds. Now they appear to be letting it die a slow death. As that Mashable article notes, RSS “provides a lot of the backend plumbing for many web and mobile apps,” which is no small thing. Without RSS, many web services would fall apart. That’s speculation for another post though.

Point is, this is going to go down as a very unpopular decision. I’m temporarily in denial, hoping for a reversal once they see how much public outcry is being generated. Of course, Google owes us nothing, but do they want to lose such a reliable source of ad revenue?