Nintendo Can’t Live On Retro Alone

MG Siegler with some ideas for Nintendo:

Here’s what I’m thinking: a $99 box built from the ground up to play retro Nintendo games. Mario. Zelda. Icarus. Donkey Kong. Pokemon. You name it. Have a bunch of titles ready to go at launch to ensure a blow-out. Release more as time goes on. But not in stores, entirely online.

This device would not have any physical media. No cartridges. No optical drives. Only a hard drive and an online store. Games would be $5 to $15 depending on the title. Hundreds of titles would be available within months of launch. Thousands within the year. Stagger them.

Step two of my strategy would involve updating old classics to run with updated HD graphics and new levels. New Mario. New Zelda. New Icarus. New Donkey Kong. New Pokemon. Same idea. Updated graphics. New levels. These games would be $15 to $25 depending on the game. Stagger them.

Strike deals with other “retro” game makers such as Atari and Sega to license their old games and give them the same treatment. Updated graphics, new levels. Sell the games through your online store at $15 to $25 a pop. Watch the money roll in.

Interesting idea from Siegler and similar to past thoughts published here, but a bit flawed. This would be a nice cash influx for Nintendo, but would not probably be a long term income stream. The desire people have for these old games is mostly that of nostalgia. A feeling of being back in their youth playing something that brought them immense joy. Movies work the same way. A kids movie a person saw as a kid is still fun for that person to watch as an adult because it reminds them of their own childhood and the enjoyment it brought. But if someone were to watch The Goonies for the first time as an adult it probably wouldn’t be a super enjoyable experience.

Most of the people who want a system like Siegler described are probably between the ages of 27 and 42. Maybe it extends a bit in each direction, but 90% of the audience for this fits in that demographic. But that doesn’t encompass the largest portion of video game buyers, which one would have to imagine is mostly people under 27. While there would undoubtedly be some attraction to this right out of the chute from some people with disposable income (and probably some free time) the returns would diminish greatly over time as the popular games get used up.

Most gamers under 25 grew up on Playstation 2/Xbox or later. Original Nintendo games, and even Super Nintendo games, would feel like Atari and Intellivision to those 27–42 year olds who would purchase this phantom system. That is why going the mobile route makes far more sense. Nintendo could manufacture controllers (either carbon copies of their past controllers or more hybrid models), then build separate adapters for Android and iOS. These things would be far cheaper to make and support than a full on console with an operating system and lots of hardware. Then it could release either a single mobile app that games are bought and played through, or multiple mobile apps for each game.

This would be far less of a commitment initially, and could allow Nintendo to test the waters a bit before going all in. Their profits would probably be higher with something like this vs. building a dedicated console for it. It could be enough to get Nintendo hooked on making mobile games, a market they could literally own if they did it right. That is where Nintendo should head, not just retro games, but original games on mobile devices. A space that could use a major player to step up the bar.

URC-WR7 Universal Remote Control

For several years the Hippo household was rocking the Logitech Harmony 650 as the universal remote of choice. But over time, some of the buttons had stopped working, and it’s horrible Mac app that requires Java to change buttons and program it was more trouble than it was worth. Outside of Logitech there are not any big name companies that make universal remotes, but it turns out there are quite a few other options.

An aptly named company Universal Remote Control, Inc. makes several different remote models as well as remotes for other devices like home automation and security systems. The URC-WR7 is one of the more basic and doesn’t feel a screen like some of their higher end models. It can support up to 7 devices, and while that’s one less than the Harmony 650, the Harmony gets annoying if more than 3 devices are used independently with any frequency.

Rem1

The WR7 is a simple remote that runs on two AA batteries. Like the Harmony, it seems to last quite a while, as the original batters are going on two months already. The buttons are the typical rubber(y) material of most remotes, and are easy to press. The remote seems easy to hold, and whether a person has to move their hand much depends on what functionality they use the most. The backlight button is all the way at the bottom which is unfortunate because having it on the side or back would have been more convenient.

The remote will be easy to setup for any setups that don’t have duplicates of the same type of device. The AUD, TV and SAT/CABLE buttons were easily programmed with built-in codes. The AUX button worked well for the Microsoft Xbox as well. But when it came time to add the Xbox One, it had to go under a non-obvious button (CD, VCR or DVD). Unfortunately these buttons are only capable of using the codes associated with that type of device. In other words, the CD button can only be auto-programmed with device codes for a CD player. Fortunately the device has an easy-to-use “learning system” (like many universal remotes) that can be programmed by pointing the device’s actual remote at the WR7 and programming buttons one by one. This doesn’t take as long as it sounds and seems to work flawlessly.

Similar to the Harmony, the WR7 can have macros programmed into certain buttons. In other words, the SAT/CABLE button can be programmed to turn on the TV as well when it’s pressed. Now this much not make much sense because that means switching between device inputs would keep triggering the keyboard power. Fortunately the macros can be programmed to only trigger when holding one the device buttons for two seconds. This makes things much more convenient and really create a lot of possibilities. For example, since most setups are always going to require the receiver being on, someone might program holding the receiver button for two seconds to turn off all devices. Also like the Harmony, “pass thru” buttons can be configured. This is basically so that the volume button can be programmed to control the receiver in certain modes, like TV or DVD watching.

Rem2

The only real downside seemed to be with the independent On/Off buttons for devices. It didn’t seem like those functions could be learned by the remote. Some searching around the web seems to indicate this has something to do with memory limitations, but it’s unclear. That means in order to setup independent on/off functionality, someone would either need a device remote with these capabilities or an existing universal remote (like the Harmony) that can be used to teach commands. This really only matters for creating macros, and the average user might not even mind.

Overall the remote is great. It currently only costs about $24 on Amazon and that is an absolute steal. There is some work involved to program it exactly how someone might want, but it’s nothing a technically inclined person can’t handle. For other people, as long as there isn’t a need to stray too far from the default functions of the device buttons, chances are that it will work just fine.

White Sox 2014 Preview: Predictions

Last season went poorly for the White Sox. They finished with their worst record since 1970. They did not lose much this offseason outside of close Addison Reed, but last place teams don’t really need closers. The offense massively underachieved, and despite some deceiving power numbers, there wasn’t much to see. There will be five new faces in the Opening Day lineup that were not here a year ago1. The other four guys (Viciedo/De Aza, Ramirez, Dunn and Flowers) won’t all hopefully be as bad as last season. So where does that leave things?

Best Case Scenario

Unlike last year’s overly optimistic theory that if everything broke right the White Sox could make the playoffs, that doesn’t seem possible this season. Detroit should be just as good, and Cleveland and Kansas City should be better. The White Sox finishing 2nd is probably as good as it could get, and they would need one of those three other teams to really falter.

Individually, Chris Sale would win the Cy Young and Jose Abreu would win Rookie of the Year. Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia would build on what they have done and become good-to-great players. Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez figure out how to get back to what they showed flashes of. Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers become the players everyone thought they would be. Jose Quintana is a legit #2 starter. John Danks improves enough to be a great #3. Nate Jones is the latest out of nowhere closer. And the Sox going into 2015 in serious consideration as possible AL Central Champs.

Worst Case Scenario

The Twins are so bad, that finishing last would take a lot of bad breaks, but finishing with 99 losses again would be tough. Chris Sale would get hurt, or struggle to maintain what he has. The bad Jose Quintana sticks around too long. John Danks is his 2013 model, instead of 2010. The plethora of new arms in the bullpen totally implodes. Jose Abreu is a trainwreck. Adam Eaton can’t stay healthy. Avisail Garcia is a strikeout machine. Gordon Beckham gets sent to the minors. Adam Dunn makes fans long for his abysmal 2011 season. Paul Konerko’s Farewell Tour is the only highlight.

Likely Scenario

Obviously if those are the extremes, the prediction lies somewhere in the middle. The White Sox will finish 3rd or 4th this year depending on which direction Cleveland and Kansas City trend. Chris Sale will continue to be one of the best starters in the AL. Jose Quintana will bounce between great and awful and leaving the end result somewhere in the middle. John Danks will continue to make the Sox regret the huge contract. Nate Jones will be decent as a closer, and one other new guy will emerge as a great reliever.

Jose Abreu will have a good first season, win AL Rookie of the Year and show promise for the future. Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko will not hit well. Adam Eaton struggles in his first full season, but shows just enough at times (likely with some spectacular catches) for Sox fans to keep a positive outlook. Avisail Garcia gets better, but doesn’t take the leap just yet. Neither Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza is starting in LF by August 1st. Matt Davidson gets called up before Memorial Day and never goes back down. Alexei Ramirez gets traded. Gordon Beckham plays some shortstop afterwards, but doesn’t hit better and this is his last season with the team.

The Sox will enter 2015 without Dunn, Konerko, Ramirez or Beckham. Their offensive core of Abreu, Garcia, Eaton, Davidson and someone whose name we haven’t heard yet will

  1. One of those guys is likely Marcus Simien who will be starting the season in place of Gordon Beckham []

White Sox 2014 Preview: Pitching

The White Sox quietly had a much better pitching staff in 2013 than most people gave them credit for. Chris Sale proved that 2012 was no fluke, and Jose Quintana was probably the most underrated starter in the AL last season (realistically he was one of the 15-20 best starters last year). Both of those guys are back and locked into deals that will keep them around for a while.

Sale looks like the real deal. He was 5th in the AL in both FIP and fWAR last season, which for non-stat nerds, is really good1. Sale should continue to be in the Cy Young conversation as long as he stays healthy. Some analysts/scouts think his arm is a time bomb waiting to explode, but every year that goes by is a good sign. He is the first bonafide ace the White Sox have had probably since Jack McDowell.

Quintana was picked off the scrap in 2012 and put together a solid season that year. His numbers were better in 2013, and even when factoring in a bit of good luck (see his BABIP and xFIP), he was very good. It’s unfortunate that like Sale he is left-handed, but he’s only 25 and still has some room to grow. Sale’s track record indicates that if he is healthy, he will be good. Quintana needs to show another solid year, but seasons like last year make him a true No. 2 starter on a good team.

All of the above bodes well for John Danks, who from 2008-2010 looked like the future ace of this team. His 2011 season was actually better than it looks on paper, mostly due to some bad luck along the way. Then an injury ruined his 2012 season, and part of 2013, neither of which was very good when he was pitching. Looking at his pitch data, he relied on his curve and change-up far more in 2013 than any previous season. Overall, his pitch data shows that he has slipped a bit over the years. Danks is no longer a threat to be an ace. But if he can get those home run numbers down, he is still solid enough to contribute as a #3 starter on a team like this.

After trading Hector Santiago for Adam Eaton, and deciding the Dylan Axelrod Experience was over, the Sox are going to add two “new” arms to their rotation. New is a relative term, since Felipe Paulino, the likely #4 starter, will turn 31 before the World Series ends. Paulino has 91 games (63 starts) over 5 seasons dating back to 2007. He did not pitch in the majors last year, and had just 7 appearances in 2012, so there are not a lot of numbers to look at. Despite the small sample size, it appears Paulino is capable of strikeouts, and has had some bad luck over his career based on BABIP. He was actually very good in his 7 starts in 2012, so it’s a surprise he was nowhere last season. Paulino definitely fits the mold of a classic Don Cooper Reclamation Project, and it’s not crazy to think Cooper could turn this guy into much more than a 4th starter. For a team that isn’t ready to compete this season anyway, this is a good gamble.

24-year old Erik Johnson will get first crack at the last starting spot. Johnson has spent plenty of time recently at, or near, the top of White Sox prospect rankings. He looked overmatched at the end of last season in his first 5 starts despite a respectable ERA. Hopefully those starts helped him get his feet wet. Johnson won’t have to do much to keep his 5th starter job on a team that is projected to finish 4th, so hopefully the pressure is low. He is projected long term as a solid #3 starter, so the hope is that he fits in behind Sale and Quintana going forward.

Bullpens are incredibly hard to predict, and are typically very inconsistent year-to-year. When looking at FanGraphs, one could conclude that the Sox had four solid relievers last season. Two of those guys (Addison Reed and Jesse Crain) are gone. Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom are back though, and will likely anchor this bullpen. Jones appears the odds on favorite to be the closer, and he deserves it. His two big league seasons have been underrated, particular by that 4.15 ERA in 2013 that doesn’t jive with his FIP and strikeout numbers. Jones appeared to be unlucky in 2013 more than anything, and has the goods to be a closer. Since closers aren’t that important on 3rd and 4th place teams, it probably doesn’t matter much if he is as good as Addison Reed or not.

Lindstrom is 34, and back for his 2nd (and likely final year) with the White Sox. Somehow Lindstrom’s home run numbers were down despite pitching in a homer friendly park. His stats mostly jived with his career numbers and nothing in his FIP or xFIP seems to indicate that he over/under performed much. He figures to be the primary setup man, and should handle that role just fine.

Donnie Veal seems to move back and forth from the minors more than anyone ever, but he should spend the entire 2014 season on the team. The lefty specialist job is officially his, and while he had a good 2012 season, and just an OK 2013, he has only thrown 58.2 ML innings to this point.

The Sox signed Ronald Belisario from the Dodgers to (presumably) be their other setup man. Belisario had a solid 2012, but less than great 2013 in LA. His numbers have been all over the place in four seasons, and 2012 grades out more to luck than dominance. Moving from the NL to the AL, and a pitcher’s park to a hitter’s one probably won’t bode well here. Relief pitching is hard to predict, but this might not end well.

Like most AL teams, the White Sox will likely carry 12 pitchers, which means there are three more spots available. 23-year old Daniel Webb figures to be one of those guys. Webb pitched in 9 games for the Sox last year, and it’s too early to tell much. Scott Downs on the other hand, has 12 years of experience. Downs has been consistent, but not great for his entire career.He doesn’t have a negative fWAR in the last decade. He should bring some veteran leadership to the bullpen. Lastly, 24-year old Maikel Cieto will likely hold the last spot. Cieto has 13 appearances of three seasons, so there isn’t much to gleam here so far. He is the kind of wildcard that Cooper could mold into gold, or a guy who will be in the minors by Memorial Day.

  1. The Tigers threesome of Verlander, Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez occupy 3 of the spots ahead of Sale []

White Sox 2014 Preview: Offense

The White Sox went into last season with a wide range of possible finishes. If everything broke right for them the playoffs were possible. Instead they lost 99 games and finished with their worst winning percentage since 1970. The good news is that it would take a lot of things going wrong for them to be that bad this season.

Of the 13 guys who got at least 100 PA last season, only 5 registered positive fWAR. When only factoring offense, only three were positive, and one was Alex Rios who didn’t last the season with the team. Paul Konerko had what was easily his worst offensive season ever. Adam Dunn was horrible again.

So now what? Adam Dunn is back for his 4th season with the team, after an atrocious 2011, a pretty good 2012, 2013 was somewhere in between. He has to be better in 2014, and will get most of the at-bats at DH. Most of the projections aren’t very good, but time will tell. Jose Abreu was the White Sox big acquisition of the offseason. He is from Cuba and hasn’t played a game in the Major or Minor leagues yet. The projections put him somewhere around 30 home runs, which is what people are hoping for. The really test will be later in the season after teams have more tape on him. If he works out he should be better than any hitter on the team last year. He is probably the most important offensive piece on the team.

Gordon Beckham’s struggles have been well documented. He hasn’t been a positive offensive player since his rookie season, and his defense wasn’t particularly great in 2013. Still, when all rolled together according to FanGraphs, he was a positive WAR player last year (and every year so far). The White Sox would like to see him take the next step, but even if he doesn’t the probably couldn’t do a ton better. Beckham will start the season injured so Marcus Simien will get a shot. It’s a golden opportunity for him to win the job away from Beckham. Alexei Ramirez has slipped some as an offensive player over his career. He struggled to take walks last season, and seems to lost any power he had, although his 39 doubles are respectable. His defense is also slipping, and last season was the worst it’s been in a while. If both he and Beckham have better seasons it will be a big boost to the offense, but the trends are not moving in the right direction.

Conor Gillaspie had only played 29 major league games before 2013. He came out of nowhere to play 3B for most of the season. His 13 home runs overshadow what was a pretty dismal season. He managed just 17 other extra base hits, and didn’t play good defense. Matt Davidson was acquired for Addison Reed in the offseason, and should be the future, but the White Sox want him to get a bit more seasoning in the minors first. In the meantime Gillaspie needs to hold things together.

The White Sox traded for Avisail Garcia last season and are hoping his 42 games was just a start. He needs to learn to take more walks , and although it’s a small sample size his defense wasn’t great. Like Abreu, his performance is not just important for this season, but the future as well. It’s too early to see what he is, but this season will show a lot. The White Sox added Adam Eaton in a trade, and he started strong before getting hurt last season. Much like Garcia, it’s much too early to see what Eaton is. He is fast, and scrappy, and fits the mold of the kind of guys the White Sox have preferred over the last few years. He is supposed to be their leadoff hitter, and if he, Garcia and Abreu come close to hitting their potential anytime soon the Sox should have a good offense.

Left field will be manned by a combination of Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo. De Aza smacked 17 HRs last season but based on wOBA and fWAR he really didn’t have a very good season offensively. He has never been a great defensive player either, but he has some speed and can be a good part-time player. Dayan Viciedo is the last Cuban player the White Sox signed, and four seasons in he hasn’t much lived up to his potential. He has shown some power, but struggles to draw walks and does strike out a fair amount. Despite having a good arm, he isn’t much of a fielder either. He will only be 25 on Opening Day though, and still has a chance to improve offensively. At the moment there isn’t another option besides De Aza, but Viciedo could get traded if the right offer came around.

Tyler Flowers is entering his 6th season with the White Sox. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, probably because it’s only been 192 games. Flowers, like many guys on this team, is a strikeout machine with immense power. He couldn’t stay healthy enough to hold the job all of last season, but now more than ever the job belongs to him. The expectations have to be low at this point outside of 15 or so home runs.

The odd man out from De Aza or Viciedo will be the primary backup outfielder. De Aza could play all three positions which means he will probably rotate around as needed. Paul Konerko is expecting a much smaller role after an awful season in 2013. It’s unclear exactly how much he will play. It would make sense for him to spell Abreu and Dunn each once a week or so, and he will probably be the first pinch hitter off the bench. Adrian Nieto won the backup catcher job out of the spring. He has shown some hitting ability in the minors, so it’s possible he is a diamond in the rough. Jeff Keppinger will serve as the primary utility player on the bench for now. There isn’t much to say there. The less he sees the field, the better.

Pygmy Movies #37 – Movies

Go (1999)

One Line Description: A night of shady drug dealing told from multiple perspectives

I remember this movie coming out, but I don’t think I have ever heard a soul mention it since. That’s why I was surprised to see it had a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes1. I was even more surprised when it lived up to that rating. This movie had a very Pulp Fiction feel to it. It told the story of a night of drug dealing, scamming, violence and other debouchery from several different perspectives. It was entertaining and the multiple angles kept you interested. Timothy Olyphant and Katie Holmes are the biggest names in the cast. I don’t know how this one escaped me all these years, but it was really good. I would see it again.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

One Line Description: A divorcee trying to win back his wife after being released from a mental hospital befriends a widow with her own problems.

Really no excuse for it taking me this long to see this Oscar winning movie. Jennifer Lawrence absolutely brings it in this one. It’s rare a movie with this much hype lives up to it after this much time, but this movie totally did. Cooper was very good, but Lawrence totally owned this thing. The story was good as well, and while I don’t think Robert DeNiro deserved an Oscar nomination, he was very good. It was also good to know that Julia Stiles isn’t dead. I wish she would make more movies. I was always given the impression that this movie had a lot more to do about football than it did, but it was a small side story that could have been a lot of other things. So much what is great about this movie is awkwardness done right. Often times awkward scenes in movies don’t feel genuine. This felt real. A+. Four stars. Two thumb up. So great. Can’t wait to watch it again.

Broken City (2013)

One Line Description: A former cop is suspiciously hired by the mayor of New York to investigate his wife’s infidelity.

This movie also lived up it’s hype…of being crap. At what point do we start talking about Russell Crowe losing his fastball? Are we there? We are at least close. I always enjoy Mark Wahlberg, but you never know when he is going to be Good Mark Wahlberg (Lone Surivor) or Bad Mark Wahlberg (Contraband). This one squarely falls in the second category. Jeffery Wright is the lone bright spot, but he isn’t around enough to matter. Kyle Chandler is around for an even shorter amount of time so he is no help either. The movie seems pretty predictable, but there at least a couple of curveballs thrown in to make you want to see it through to the end, but afterward you wish you hadn’t. Don’t waste your time.

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

One Line Description: The story of the summer President Franklin Roosevelt carried on an affair with his cousin while also being visited by the King and Queen of England.

This was the opposite of Go. Surprisingly no hype, horrible Rotten Tomatoes score, awful movie. Bill Murray is a hall of famer. He can chase the championship ring (i.e., an Oscar) that he has never gotten. You can see where diving into this character would turn some heads. But this movie is so excruciatingly bad that he deserved to not even be nominated. I generally enjoy Laura Linney, but even she couldn’t help this one. It’s boring, and while not very long, I still couldn’t make it to the end. Replace Murray and Linney, and make it about some random old guy and this movie goes straight to DVD. Just horrible.

Midnight Run (1988)

One Line Description: A bounty hunter tries to collect a huge fee for bringing in an accountant who is wanted by the mafia and the FBI as well.

Although not on my List of Shame, this is a well known ’80s movie that was entertaining. Very much in the same vein as Beverly Hills Cop, or a super toned down 48 Hours, Robert De Niro’s character is trying to bring Charles Grodin’s character from New York to Los Angeles to collect a bond fee since Grodin jumped bail. Dennis Farina, Joe Pantaliano and Josh Ashton (from Beverly Hills Cop 1 and 2) are also involved. The movie has some funny moments mixed with some action moments, and the pairing of De Niro and Grodin is a nice complement. The story is OK, but the number of times De Niro and Grodin get separated is a little ridiculous after a while since you know they will end up together at the end. Ashton is really great in his role as another bounty hunter trying to capture Grodin. This was a good movie that I would see again, but doesn’t probably need to be.

  1. Good luck finding it without that link. Searching for Go doesn’t turn up that movie until the 4th page of results, behind All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 []