28 years later, Super Punch-Out!!’s 2-player mode has been discovered

Up until today, Nintendo had never announced a two-player mode in a <em>Punch-Out!!</em> video game. As it turns out, one has hidden in plain sight for nearly 30 years.

Enlarge / Up until today, Nintendo had never announced a two-player mode in a Punch-Out!! video game. As it turns out, one has hidden in plain sight for nearly 30 years. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Nintendo)

While Punch-Out!! has been one of Nintendo’s most beloved “fighting” series since its 1984 debut in arcades, it has rarely featured something common in the genre: a two-player mode.

On Monday, however, that changed. The resulting discovery has been hiding in plain sight on the series’ Super Nintendo edition for nearly 30 years.

Should you own 1994’s Super Punch-Out!! in any capacity—an original SNES cartridge, a dumped ROM parsed by an emulator, on the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, or even as part of the paid Nintendo Switch Online collection of retro games—you can immediately access the feature, no hacking or ROM editing required. All you need is a pair of gamepads.

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#cheat-codes, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #punch-out, #super-nintendo, #super-punch-out

It’s getting too hot to play the Steam Deck or Switch outside, makers warn

Even the shade may not be enough to save your Nintendo Switch in extreme temperatures.

Enlarge / Even the shade may not be enough to save your Nintendo Switch in extreme temperatures. (credit: Nintendo UK / YouTube)

One of the main perks of portable consoles is the ability to play them outside the house, a use we’ve seen emphasized in multiple marketing campaigns over the years. But as countries around the world have suffered through record-breaking heat waves in recent weeks, two major portable console makers are warning players that their products don’t function well in ambient temperatures in excess of 35° C (95° F).

Nintendo of Japan led off the warnings last week, tweeting that “if you use the Nintendo Switch in a hot place, the temperature of the main unit may become high,” according to a machine translation. “If the temperature of the main unit becomes too high, it may sleep automatically to protect the main unit.” The company also urged players to make sure the vents on the console and docking unit are not blocked by dust or debris, and to install that dock “in a location that does not retain heat.”

Valve joined in with a public heat warning yesterday, tweeting a reminder that the Steam Deck “may start to throttle performance to protect itself” in high ambient temperatures. The Steam Deck’s internal APU starts scaling back performance when the chip itself hits a temperature of 100° C (212° F), and will shut down if it tops 105° C (221° F), Valve said. After that, the system can limit battery charging rates, download speeds, and even SSD speeds to keep the GPU running as steadily as possible.

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#gaming-culture, #global-warming, #heat, #nintendo, #steam-deck, #switch, #temperature, #valve, #warning

Bayonetta 3 on Switch will include an optional “put on more clothes” mode

"My blood runs cold/My memory has just been sold..."

Enlarge / “My blood runs cold/My memory has just been sold…” (credit: Platinum Games / Twitter)

Most fans of the Bayonetta franchise will no doubt be happy to hear that the upcoming Bayonetta 3—which is now planned for an October 28 release exclusively on the Switch—will feature a title character that’s “sexier than ever,” according to developer Platinum Games. But for players who have young children in the house and still want to “play right in the living room without having to worry about what’s on screen,” Platinum says it will include a mode that covers up some of the partial nudity the series is known for.

In a tweeted video, Platinum shows how “Naive Angel Mode” will add additional covering to Bayonetta and other characters that might be showing a little too much skin for sensitive players. That includes extra skin covering during some of Bayonetta’s dramatic special attacks, where her flowing hair stops serving as her clothing (yes, really) and starts serving as a weapon.

While this new family-friendly mode will tone down the nudity, it’s unclear if it will also limit the over-the-top violent “torture attacks” that will be making a return in the upcoming sequel. For Bayonetta 2, the ESRB described those in part as “exaggerated and intense acts of violence [with] enemies thrown into spinning spiked wheels; characters decapitated by a guillotine; a dragon ripping characters apart [and] large blood-splatter effects and gore can be seen frequently.” Not exactly content you might want a child seeing over your shoulder during living room play.

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#bayonetta, #filter, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #nudity, #platinum-games, #switch

Excerpt: How the designers of GoldenEye 007 made use of “Anti-Game Design”

In this excerpt from her upcoming book, writer and historian Alyse Knorr talks about some of the design decisions that made Goldeneye 007 stand out from other ’90s first-person shooters, and why that design endures to this day. The book is currently looking for backers on Kickstarter.

When [game designer David] Doak first joined the team at the end of 1995, GoldenEye’s levels were just barebones architecture—no objectives, enemies, or plot. After designing the watch menu, he and [game designer Duncan] Botwood started creating a single-player campaign that followed and expanded upon GoldenEye the movie’s narrative—a difficult task, considering the fact that the film’s dialogue about Lienz Cossack traitors and Kyrgyz missile tests went over the heads of quite a few 12-year-olds. Doak and Botwood’s job was to tell this complicated story using rudimentary pre- and post-mission cutscenes, pre-mission briefing paperwork, in-game conversations with NPCs, and mission objectives, which proved the most powerful way to allow players to experience the story themselves.

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#gaming-culture, #goldeneye, #n64, #nintendo, #rare

PSA: Fund your 3DS and Wii U digital wallets today before it’s too late

The end is coming for two of Nintendo's digital storefronts.

Enlarge / The end is coming for two of Nintendo’s digital storefronts.

Back in February, Nintendo announced plans to shut down the digital eShops on the 3DS and Wii U, two consoles that it said have “become less used by consumers over time.” After today, the first phase of that plan will go into effect, and players will no longer be able to use a credit card to add new funds to their eShop wallets.

Physical eShop gift cards, which can still be purchased at major retailers, will be redeemable until August 29. But today marks the last chance to add eShop funds directly without going through an outside retailer.

Players who add funds today (or who use funds in a linked “Nintendo Account wallet” as used on the Switch) will still be able to make purchases until “late March 2023,” Nintendo said. Purchases made before that cutoff will still be available to redownload “for the foreseeable future” as well, though demos and “free-to-start” games will no longer be downloadable after that date.

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#3ds, #eshop, #fomo, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #wii-u

Leaked Game Boy emulators for Switch were made by Nintendo, experts suggest

Are we looking at an official Game Boy Advance emulator made by Nintendo?

Enlarge / Are we looking at an official Game Boy Advance emulator made by Nintendo? (credit: @TrashBandatcoot / Twitter)

In most cases, the release of yet another classic console emulator for the Switch wouldn’t be all that noteworthy. But experts tell Ars that a pair of Game Boy and Game Boy Advance emulators for the Switch that leaked online yesterday show signs of being official products of Nintendo’s European Research & Development division (NERD). That has some industry watchers hopeful that Nintendo may be planning official support for some emulated classic portable games through the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service in the future.

What’s in the leak?

The two leaked emulators—code-named Hiroko for Game Boy and Sloop for Game Boy Advance—first hit the Internet as fully compiled NSP files and encrypted NCA files linked from a 4chan thread posted to the Pokemon board Monday afternoon. Later in that thread, the original poster suggested that these emulators “are official in-house development versions of Game Boy Color/Advance emulators for Nintendo Switch Online, which have not been announced or released.”

In short order, dataminers examining the package found a .git folder in the ROM. That folder includes commit logs that reference supposed development work circa August 2020 from a NERD employee and, strangely enough, a developer at Panasonic Vietnam.

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#emulator, #game-boy, #gaming-culture, #leak, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch, #prototype, #switch

Kirby and the Forgotten Land review: Easy to swallow

Don't let this image fool you—<em>Kirby</em>'s 3D adventure is far from an open-world game.

Enlarge / Don’t let this image fool you—Kirby‘s 3D adventure is far from an open-world game.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land was the first game I played for review after sinking dozens of hours into Elden Ring. That’s a bit like jumping from an ice bath straight into a pool heated precisely to your body temperature.

Like a warm pool, Kirby‘s first fully 3D adventure is so inviting that you barely notice you’re engaging with a game in the first place. In true franchise tradition, the game offers little resistance and loads of guidance through a veritable theme park filled to the brim with a wide variety of pleasant distractions and secrets to uncover.

In a sense, it’s the anti-Elden Ring, a perfect palate cleanser for those who have overdosed on video game punishment lately.

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#gaming-culture, #kirby, #nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s new expansion is good so far—but is it worth $25?

Coconut Mall, it's good to have you back in modern <em>Mario Kart</em>. But how about the rest of this week's new racetracks? Do they bode well for the total, $25, 48-track DLC pack?

Enlarge / Coconut Mall, it’s good to have you back in modern Mario Kart. But how about the rest of this week’s new racetracks? Do they bode well for the total, $25, 48-track DLC pack? (credit: Nintendo)

Despite Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launching as a retread of its original Wii U version, we still strongly recommended its second coming on Switch—and so far, over 40 million Switch owners have agreed with us. Hence, we weren’t surprised to see the game get a massive expansion pack announcement last month. Why would Nintendo launch a sequel when millions of people are still buying the latest one at close to full price?

The expansion pack will eventually add 48 more racetracks to MK8D, thus doubling the game’s total selection. Nintendo is breaking this down into six dumps of eight tracks each, and the first wave lands on Nintendo Switch consoles today. Based on what we’re seeing so far, the DLC initiative meets our medium-high expectations. These perfectly fine tracks come with karting ideas both old and new, and they’re a great perk as part of the $50/year Switch Online Expansion Pack tier, but they don’t make us confident about the whole package as a $25 standalone purchase.

Ninja Hideaway might be reason enough to buy

As previously announced, the Booster Course Pass (timely word choice, Nintendo) will revolve around the existing Mario Kart pantheon, as opposed to brand-new tracks. That could mean anything from the Super Nintendo original to the 2018 rollout of Mario Kart Tour on smartphones. (Also, we don’t know if any of these will turn out to be exclusive to, say, the series’ battle mode; so far, that’s not the case.) Outside of this week’s content update, Nintendo is keeping the rest of the racetrack selection hidden for the time being, and Nintendo says the remaining packs will finish launching by the end of 2023.

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#ars-shopping, #gaming-culture, #mario-kart, #mario-kart-8-deluxe, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch

RIP Virtual Console: Nintendo will shut off Wii U, 3DS game downloads

The Wii U eShop as it looked just after launch in 2013.

The Wii U eShop as it looked just after launch in 2013.

Nintendo has announced plans to sunset the sale of downloadable games and paid DLC on the Wii U and 3DS platforms early next year.

Players will have until “late March 2023” to purchase any of the hundreds of games available on those eShops. But customers will have to add funds to their shop accounts well before that full shutdown—by May 23 for credit card funding and August 29 for redeeming physical eShop cards. A shared balance with a Nintendo Account wallet (as used on the Switch) will also work on the older platforms up through the March 2023 shutdown.

While new purchases will be cut off, Nintendo writes that players will be able to redownload previous purchases on these platforms “for the foreseeable future.” Online services and software updates will still be supported as well, but free demos and “free-to-start” games will no longer be downloadable on either platform. Switch services will not be affected.

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#3ds, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #wii-u

This Nintendo “insider” fooled thousands of followers with fake predictions

This Nintendo “insider” fooled thousands of followers with fake predictions

(credit: Matteo Ianeselli )

The adorable "insider" avatar that fooled thousands.

The adorable “insider” avatar that fooled thousands. (credit: Jon Cartwright / Twitter)

Last week, shortly after the latest Nintendo Direct presentation, fans around the web started stumbling upon a seemingly prescient Twitter account called WaddleDeeKnows (named after the ever-present and adorable Kirby enemy). In a series of tweets with an authentic February 7 timestamp, the self-described “industry insider working deep within Nintendo” showed an apparently deep foreknowledge of details that Nintendo wouldn’t officially reveal until the evening of February 9, two days later.

Somehow, WaddleDeeKnows seemed to know just about everything about a new Wii Sports and a Super Mario Strikers sequel, as well as specific details about Xenoblade 3 and even “Valve games coming to Switch,” all days before the games’ official public announcements.

That short track record was enough to get over 2,000 new followers (and countless other watchers) buzzing when WaddleDeeKnows started tweeting about “a few more leaks for the rest of the year” on the morning of Thursday, February 10. That second round of tweets included exciting predictions about coming Switch ports for Goldeneye 007 and Half-Life 2, more Legend of Zelda HD remakes to come, and even “an Encanto game developed by Bandai Namco” that no one had seen coming.

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#fake, #gaming-culture, #hoax, #insider, #nintendo, #prediction, #twitter

Prosecutors want admitted Team Xecuter pirate jailed for five years

It's-a me, the long arm of the law.

Enlarge / It’s-a me, the long arm of the law. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Nintendo / Getty Images)

Federal prosecutors say a prominent member of the notorious Team Xecuter hacking group—known for the “SX OS” line of Switch hacking devices—should serve 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to piracy-related charges in November.

The significant sentence for Gary “GaryOPA” Bowser “would send a message that there are consequences for participating in a sustained effort to undermine the video game industry,” according to prosecutors. But Bowser’s defense is arguing for a shorter 19-month sentence that reflects the fact that he “was not the leader, was not in control of the [TeamXecuter] enterprise, and was not the manufacturer of the devices.”

Team Deterrence-ecuter

Bowser—a 52-year-old Canadian citizen who was arrested in the Dominican Republic and deported to the US in 2020—was the “public voice and principal salesperson” for Team Xecuter, according to federal prosecutors, promoting Switch hacking devices through sites such as maxconsole.com and illegal ROM downloads through sites like rom-bank.com. While Team Xecuter “attempted to hide its illegal activity under the homebrew enthusiast umbrella,” Bowser admitted in his November plea that the “predominant and primary design of the enterprise’s products was to allow purchasers to play pirated ROMs.”

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#gaming-culture, #nintendo, #piracy, #team-xecuter

100 million and counting: Nintendo affirms that Switch is still mid-cycle

Video game characters Mario and Luigi make bank.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Nintendo)

Nintendo’s latest financial report to investors, issued as an overview of its fiscal year’s third quarter, came with a momentous announcement for the veteran video game and console producer: Switch has joined the 100 million-worldwide-sales club.

What’s more, Switch’s current tally of 103.5 million means the device has leapfrogged over both the PlayStation 1 and Nintendo Wii in terms of sales. The count makes the Switch Nintendo’s highest-selling home console of all time. While Sony’s PS4 and PS2 console families continue to hold higher sales counts, neither got to the 100 million mark as quickly as Switch, which only needed 57 months to do so (March 2017 to December 2021).

The only console family to get to the 100 million-global-sales mark faster is Nintendo’s own portable DS platform, which needed only 51 months. The DS, which came out in 2004, launched at a lower $149 price point and went lower from there, while Switch has never sold for less than $199.

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#gaming-culture, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch, #nintendo-wii

The NES: How it began, worked, and saved an industry

Nintendo's Family Computer, or Famicom, turns 30 today!

Nintendo’s Family Computer, or Famicom, turns 30 today! (credit: Evan-Amos)

Update, December 9, 2021: Masayuki Uemura, the lead architect for both the Famicom and Super Famicom, passed away on December 6th at the age of 78. Uemura worked at Nintendo from 1971 to 2004 and oversaw notable accessories like the Famicom Disk System and the Super Famicom’s Satellaview modem accessory.

In honor of Uemmura’s career and his lasting impact on the game industry, we’re republishing this 2013 piece we ran on the Famicom’s 30th birthday, diving deep into the technical details of the system and exploring its history and legacy.

We’re right on the cusp of another generation of game consoles, and whether you’re an Xbox One fanperson or a PlayStation 4 zealot, you probably know what’s coming if you’ve been through a few of these cycles. The systems will launch in time for the holidays, each will have one or two decent launch titles, there will be perhaps a year or two when the new console and the old console coexist on store shelves, and then the “next generation” becomes the current generation—until we do it all again a few years from now. For gamers born in or after the 1980s, this cycle has remained familiar even as old console makers have bowed out (Sega, Atari) and new ones have taken their place (Sony, Microsoft).

It wasn’t always this way.

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#gaming-culture, #nes, #nintendo, #tech

The best Mario games ever made

Mario loves us. We love Mario.

Enlarge / Mario loves us. We love Mario. (credit: BEHROUZ MEHRI / Getty Images)

Ars Technica Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher has a rule: If you have a dumb, fun conversation in the Ars Slack that lasts for more than 10 minutes, it’s probably worth turning that conversation into some kind of article. And that’s how a weekday water-cooler-style discussion about Platonic idealism and Mario became what you’re reading now!

For people of a certain age—which, dear readers, most of us are—”video games” and “Nintendo” meant practically the same thing. (There are even a few of us who are older than a certain age, who came from the Great Long Long Ago time when “video games” meant “Atari,” and even those few acknowledge Nintendo’s culture-changing dominance in the mid-to-late 1980s.) So all of us have played at least a few different games featuring the world’s most famous plumber, Mario Mario. (Yeah, his last name is also Mario. Which means his brother’s name is Luigi Mario. Which means that calling Luigi “Green Mario” is actually correct! Vindication!)

A few Ars staffers volunteered to brave the inevitable slings and arrows of the comments section to put down their thoughts on a simple question: out of every video game in which Mario made an appearance, which one is your absolute top-shelf favorite, and why?

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#ars-shopping, #feature, #features, #gaming-culture, #mario, #mario-64, #nintendo, #staffsource, #super-mario-galaxy, #super-mario-galaxy-2, #super-mario-world, #yoshis-island

Modder pleads guilty to piracy charges, will pay Nintendo $4.5 million

Gary Bowser will plead guilty to two federal felony charges related to his work with Team Xecuter, the maker of the “SX” line of Switch modding devices and other tools Bowser now admits were “predominant[ly] and primar[ily] design[ed]… to allow purchasers to play pirated ROMs.”

Bowser, a 51-year-old Canadian national who went by the handle GaryOPA online, was arrested last year in the Dominican Republic before being extradited to the United States. The government is still seeking the extradition of French national Max Louarn, who was arrested in Tanzania at the same time as Bowser.

Bowser pleaded guilty to two of the 11 felony counts against him relating to trafficking in circumvention devices and conspiracy to do the same. Combined, the two charges come with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. In exchange, prosecutors have agreed to drop the other nine charges.

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#bowser, #gaming-culture, #hacking, #legal, #nintendo, #piracy, #team-xecuter

Can Pikmin Bloom recapture the magic of Pokémon Go?

...and you'll neeeeeveeeeerrrr waaaaaaalk allooooooooooone.

Enlarge / …and you’ll neeeeeveeeeerrrr waaaaaaalk allooooooooooone.

The first and last time Nintendo collaborated with location-based AR company Niantic, the result was the worldwide mega-phenomenon Pokémon Go. Five years later, the companies are working together once again to see if they can recapture the magic with a new augmented reality game based on the much more niche Pikmin franchise.

After testing an early version of the Pikmin Bloom app over the last week, I can say that the game serves as an effective, super-cute pedometer, providing some nice, gentle motivation for reluctant walkers to get up and get their daily steps in. But while this gamified Fitbit requires less fuss and direct hassle than Pokémon Go, the game’s basic “watch the numbers go up” loops also don’t have the same compulsive collect-them-all appeal as Niantic’s previous hit.

Watching numbers go up

For the uninitiated, Pikmin are tiny, colorful, slightly humanoid creatures with blooming flowers on their heads. In the original console games, your character grows and manages an expanding team of Pikmin with varying abilities to help a marooned spaceman escape a planet. In Bloom, the Pikmin who follow you on your daily walks are more concerned with planting petals and growing normal flowers, which show up permanently on the game’s map.

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#ar, #augmented-reality, #gaming-culture, #niantic, #nintendo, #pikmin, #pokemon

N64 collection goes live on Nintendo Switch, and it’s-a me, disappointment

Videogame character Mario's face on a handheld gaming system.

Enlarge / We wish we had better news to report about Nintendo’s first easy-to-access N64 collection in a long time. Alas. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Nintendo)

On Monday, Nintendo released its latest collection of emulated N64 games—and its first since the Wii U’s Virtual Console—as a package of games exclusively available on its Switch consoles. Unfortunately, the result isn’t exactly the Super Mario 64-styled “wa-hoo!” we’d been hoping for.

After years of “N64 mini” rumors (which have yet to come to fruition), Nintendo announced plans to honor its first fully 3D gaming system late last month in the form of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. Pay a bit extra, the company said, and you’d get a select library of N64 classics, emulated by the company that made them, on Switch consoles as part of an active NSO subscription.

One month later, however, Nintendo’s sales proposition grew more sour. That “bit extra” ballooned to $30 more per year, on top of the existing $20/year fee—a 150 percent jump in annual price. Never mind that the price also included an Animal Crossing expansion pack (which retro gaming fans may not want) and Sega Genesis games (which have been mostly released ad nauseam on every gaming system of the past decade). For many interested fans, that price jump was about the N64 collection.

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#gaming-culture, #n64, #nintendo, #nintendo-64, #nintendo-switch

Metroid Dread developer leaves names out of credits, ex-staffers say

Promotional image for video game Metroid Dread.

Enlarge (credit: Nintendo)

Metroid Dread developer Mercury Steam has been criticized by multiple former members of the company whose names were left out of the credits, the ex-staffers say.

Speaking to the Spanish outlet Vandal, several former employees who contributed to Dread‘s development—which was handled primarily by the Madrid-based studio with nominal oversight from Nintendo EPD in Japan—said they were not acknowledged for their efforts despite working on the game for months. The outlet also confirmed a company policy at Mercury Steam that stipulates any employee must work on at least 25 percent of a project’s total development to be included in its credits.

“The policy of the studio requires that anyone must work on the project at least 25% of the time, of the total development of the game, to appear in the final credits,” a studio representative said in an email to Vandal (via our google translated-script). “Of course, exceptions are sometimes made when making exceptional contributions.” Sources in the story put the game’s total development time at between three to four years.

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#gaming-culture, #mercurysteam, #metroid, #metroid-dread, #metroid-samus-returns, #nintendo

How to transfer save data from one Nintendo Switch to another

Side-by-side comparison for two handheld video gaming devices.

Enlarge / The new OLED Switch above its predecessor. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

Your Nintendo Switch is loaded up with precious game save data, not to mention your prized screenshots and gripping gameplay recordings. You don’t need to upgrade to the new Switch OLED, but if you are—or you just need to swap from one console to another—you’ll need to transfer all of this data over. There are a couple of ways to do it.

Transferring save game data and your screengrabs involve different processes, and for the latter, you’ll need a separate MicroSD card. Things are also very different (in a good way) if you pay for Nintendo Switch Online. Here, we break down all the details so you can follow the process that best applies to you. Here’s how to transfer your Switch data.

How to transfer save data and user profiles

Your most precious data—all the save data and progress you’ve made in your games—is tied to the user profile you created when you first set up your Switch. It’s the profile you pick each time you start a game, with a name and an avatar. All of that associated data is stored on your Switch and needs to be copied over to your new console.

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#consoles, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #oled, #portable-gaming, #switch

Nintendo wraps Smash Bros. roster with Kingdom Hearts’ Sora

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out with a bang Tuesday, with Nintendo revealing that Kingdom Hearts‘ Sora will be the final addition to the game’s substantial roster of fighters—and that the fan-favorite Square Enix-Disney action RPG mashup is coming to the Switch via cloud gaming.

Announced in a final showcase hosted by director Masahiro Sakurai, Ultimate‘s Challenger Pack 11 DLC will feature Kingdom Hearts‘ hero, the twelfth new DLC fighter since Super Mario’s Piranha Plant was added in January 2019. Sora employs his signature weapon, the Keyblade, as well as elemental magic attacks and will be available for download later this month.

Disney world(s)

If you’re unfamiliar with Kingdom Hearts, picture a Ready Player One-style crossover between Final Fantasy and Disney characters—who come from their own individual “worlds” themed around their respective movies or cartoons, like Toy StoryNightmare Before Christmas, and Pirates of the Caribbean—which Sora and his friends visit. (2002’s original Kingdom Hearts launched a year before the company, then known as Squaresoft, merged with Enix, so the latter’s Dragon Quest series has never been added to the universe.)

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#final-fantasy, #gaming-culture, #kingdom-hearts, #nintendo, #smash-bros, #square-enix, #super-smash-bros-ultimate, #uncategorized

Nintendo Direct highlights: N64 Online in October, Super Mario 2022 film cast

Nintendo’s “winter 2021” direct-video presentation exploded on Thursday with reveals of serious fan service coming to not only Switch consoles but also movie theaters by the end of next year.

The event’s biggest pop-culture announcement was the upcoming Super Mario CGI animation movie, now confirmed to launch in the United States on December 21, 2022. This film, helmed by CG animation house Illumination (Despicable Me), still doesn’t have a title or any preview footage. But it does have an English-language cast:

  • Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) as Mario
  • Anna Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) as Peach
  • Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as Luigi
  • Jack Black (Jumanji) as Bowser
  • Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele) as Toad
  • Kevin-Michael Richardson (Teen Titans) as Kamek
  • Fred Armisen (SNL) as Cranky Kong
  • Sebastian Maniscalco (The Irishman) as Foreman Spike (from the Wrecking Crew series)

None of Nintendo’s other YouTube channels, particularly the Japanese feed, confirmed any voice cast members for the film’s likely additional languages. Nintendo did confirm that Charles Martinet (who has voiced Super Mario in games since 1996) will participate in the film, though in exactly what capacity remains to be seen (er, heard). My money’s on Waluigi.

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#gaming-culture, #n64, #nintendo, #nintendo-64, #nintendo-direct, #nintendo-switch

Nintendo’s “thing after the Switch”: How an overheard convo sent me reeling

Today's very brief hint of the gaming future comes wrapped in a Nintendo bow.

Enlarge / Today’s very brief hint of the gaming future comes wrapped in a Nintendo bow. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

SEATTLE—It’s not every day I hear about unannounced Nintendo products over guac.

Thanks to a chance encounter last month, I’ve been sitting on one of the weirder scoops in my 25-year writing career—one that will simultaneously set many gamer tongues wagging and bore other gamers to death. It’s about Nintendo, and I should start by making abundantly clear that I didn’t get the information double-checked or verified by anyone who has particular access or insight into the gaming company’s plans (neither did I ask my uncle who—promise, swear—works as Mario’s personal driver).

But I have been turning over this minuscule scrap of information in my mind ever since. What I heard is both simultaneously a resounding “duh” for a company like Nintendo and yet also possibly illuminating about the industry giant’s near-future plans. So I invite you to sit with me, grab a chip, and pick at this bowl of game-industry-news guacamole.

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#gaming-culture, #nachos, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch

This rare Nintendo Game & Watch just broke an auction record

Before Nintendo released the Game Boy, the company sold simplistic, LCD-based Game & Watch units—and lots of them. When sales broke 20 million units, creator Gunpei Yokoi commissioned special edition Donkey Kong Game & Watch pieces to commemorate the achievement. One of those units, which came on the market for the first time, recently sold in an online auction for $9,000—the most paid for a single Game & Watch to date.

The device features work by artist Makoto Kano, programmer Hiroshi Momose, and sound engineer Naoto Ishida. It’s unknown how many Yokoi produced. John Hardie, director at the National Video Game Museum in Frisco, Texas, speculated with Ars, saying, “Were there just three made (one for each of them) or [was] it a limited thing Nintendo made and sold/gave away? Maybe there’s 50 of them? Maybe Nintendo has a pallet in their warehouse. It’s just hard to know since there’s very little information. If I had to guess, I would say there were more than three made, but again, just a guess.”

Even if 50 were made, $9,000 for such a rare piece of Nintendo memorabilia, especially given the recent million-dollar Zelda and Super Mario 64 video game auctions, remains cheap. Hardie wasn’t surprised by the price given the current state of the collector’s market, but he did note, “We at the museum would have paid that,” and sadly, the NVM does not have one in their otherwise sizable collection.

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#gaming-culture, #nintendo, #retro-games, #retro-gaming

This Week in Apps: OnlyFans bans sexual content, SharePlay delayed, TikTok questioned over biometric data collection

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content

OnlyFans logo displayed on a phone screen and a website

(Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Creator platform OnlyFans is getting out of the porn business. The company announced this week it will begin to prohibit any “sexually explicit” content starting on October 1, 2021 — a decision it claimed would ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform. The news angered a number of impacted creators who weren’t notified ahead of time and who’ve come to rely on OnlyFans as their main source of income.

However, word is that OnlyFans was struggling to find outside investors, despite its sizable user base, due to the adult content it hosts. Some VC firms are prohibited from investing in adult content businesses, while others may be concerned over other matters — like how NSFW content could have limited interest from advertisers and brand partners. They may have also worried about OnlyFans’ ability to successfully restrict minors from using the app, in light of what appears to be soon-to-come increased regulations for online businesses. Plus, porn companies face a number of other issues, too. They have to continually ensure they’re not hosting illegal content like child sex abuse material, revenge porn or content from sex trafficking victims — the latter which has led to lawsuits at other large porn companies.

The news followed a big marketing push for OnlyFans’ porn-free (SFW) app, OFTV, which circulated alongside reports that the company was looking to raise funds at a $1 billion+ valuation. OnlyFans may not have technically needed the funding to operate its current business — it handled more than $2 billion in sales in 2020 and keeps 20%. Rather, the company may have seen there’s more opportunity to cater to the “SFW” creator community, now that it has big names like Bella Thorne, Cardi B, Tyga, Tyler Posey, Blac Chyna, Bhad Bhabie and others on board.

U.S. lawmakers demand info on TikTok’s plans for biometric data collection

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max. Image Credits: Nur Photo/Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers are challenging TikTok on its plans to collect biometric data from its users. TechCrunch first reported on TikTok’s updated privacy policy in June, where the company gave itself permission to collect biometric data in the U.S., including users’ “faceprints and voiceprints.” When reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it would ask for consent in the case such data collection practices began.

Earlier this month, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) sent a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, which said they were “alarmed” by the change, and demanded to know what information TikTok will be collecting and what it plans to do with the data. This wouldn’t be the first time TikTok got in trouble for excessive data collection. Earlier this year, the company paid out $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed TikTok had unlawfully collected users’ biometric data and shared it with third parties.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Image Credits: Apple

  • ⭐ Apple told developers that some of the features it announced as coming in iOS 15 won’t be available at launch. This includes one of the highlights of the new OS, SharePlay, a feature that lets people share music, videos and their screen over FaceTime calls. Other features that will come in later releases include Wallet’s support for ID cards, the App Privacy report and others that have yet to make it to beta releases.
  • Apple walked back its controversial Safari changes with the iOS 15 beta 6 update. Apple’s original redesign had shown the address bar at the bottom of the screen, floating atop the page’s content. Now the tab bar will appear below the page’s content, offering access to its usual set of buttons as when it was at the top. Users can also turn off the bottom tab bar now and revert to the old, Single Tab option that puts the address bar back at the top as before.
  • In response to criticism over its new CSAM detection technology, Apple said the version of NeuralHash that was reverse-engineered by a developer, Asuhariet Ygvar, was a generic version, and not the complete version that will roll out later this year.
  • The Verge dug through over 800 documents from the Apple-Epic trial to find the best emails, which included dirt on a number of other companies like Netflix, Hulu, Sony, Google, Nintendo, Valve, Microsoft, Amazon and more. These offered details on things like Netflix’s secret arrangement to pay only 15% of revenue, how Microsoft also quietly offers a way for some companies to bypass its full cut, how Apple initially saw the Amazon Appstore as a threat and more.

Platforms: Google

  • A beta version of the Android Accessibility Suite app (12.0.0) which rolled out with the fourth Android beta release added something called “Camera Switches” to Switch Access, a toolset that lets you interact with your device without using the touchscreen. Camera Switches allows users to navigate their phone and use its features by making face gestures, like a smile, open mouth, raised eyebrows and more.
  • Google announced its Pixel 5a with 5G, the latest A-series Pixel phone, will arrive on August 27, offering IP67 water resistance, long-lasting Adaptive Battery, Pixel’s dual-camera system and more, for $449. The phone makes Google’s default Android experience available at a lower price point than the soon to arrive Pixel 6.
  • An unredacted complaint from the Apple-Epic trial revealed that Google had quietly paid developers hundreds of millions of dollars via a program known as “Project Hug,” (later “Apps and Games Velocity Program”) to keep their games on the Play Store. Epic alleges Google launched the program to keep developers from following its lead by moving their games outside the store.

Augmented Reality

  • Snap on Thursday announced it hired its first VP of Platform Partnerships to lead AR, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis (“KP”). The new exec will lead Snap’s efforts to onboard partners, including individual AR creators building via Lens Studio as well as large companies that incorporate Snapchat’s camera and AR technology (Camera Kit) into their apps. KP will join in September, and report to Ben Schwerin, SVP of Content and Partnerships.

Fintech

  • Crypto exchange Coinbase will enter the Japanese market through a new partnership with Japanese financial giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). The company said it plans to launch other localized versions of its existing global services in the future.

Social

Image Credits: Facebook

  • Facebook launched a “test” of Facebook Reels in the U.S. on iOS and Android. The new feature brings the Reels experience to Facebook, allowing users to create and share short-form video content directly within the News Feed or within Facebook Groups. Instagram Reels creators can also now opt in to have their Reels featured on users’ News Feed. The company is heavily investing its its battle with TikTok, even pledging that some portion of its $1 billion creator fund will go toward Facebook Reels.
  • Twitter’s redesign of its website and app was met with a lot of backlash from users and accessibility experts alike. The company choices add more visual contrast between various elements and may have helped those with low vision. But for others, the contrast is causing strain and headaches. Experts believe accessibility isn’t a one-size fits all situation, and Twitter should have introduced tools that allowed people to adjust their settings to their own needs.
  • The pro-Trump Twitter alternative Gettr’s lack of moderation has allowed users to share child exploitation images, according to research from the Stanford Internet Observatory’s Cyber Policy Center.
  • Pinterest rolled out a new set of more inclusive search filters that allow people to find styles for different types of hair textures — like coily, curly, wavy, straight, as well as shaved or bald and protective styles. 

Photos

  • Photoshop for iPad gained new image correction tools, including the Healing Brush and Magic Wand, and added support for connecting an iPad to external monitors via HDMI or USB-C. The company also launched a Photoshop Beta program on the desktop.

Messaging

  • WhatsApp is being adopted by the Taliban to spread its message across Afghanistan, despite being on Facebook’s list of banned organizations. The company says it’s proactively removing Taliban content — but that may be difficult to do since WhatsApp’s E2E encryption means it can’t read people’s texts. This week, Facebook shut down a Taliban helpline in Kabul, which allowed civilians to report violence and looting, but some critics said this wasn’t actually helping local Afghans, as the group was now in effect governing the region.
  • WhatsApp is also testing a new feature that will show a large preview when sharing links, which some suspect may launch around the time when the app adds the ability to have the same account running on multiple devices.

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Netflix announced it’s adding spatial audio support on iPhone and iPad on iOS 14, joining other streamers like HBO Max, Disney+ and Peacock that have already pledged to support the new technology. The feature will be available to toggle on and off in the Control Center, when it arrives.
  • Blockchain-powered streaming music service Audius partnered with TikTok to allow artists to upload their songs using TikTok’s new SoundKit in just one click.
  • YouTube’s mobile app added new functionality that allows users to browse a video’s chapters, and jump into the chapter they want directly from the search page.
  • Spotify’s Anchor app now allows users in global markets to record “Music + Talk” podcasts, where users can combine spoken word recordings with any track from Spotify’s library of 70 million songs for a radio DJ-like experience.
  • Podcasters are complaining that Apple’s revamped Podcasts platform is not working well, reports The Verge. Podcasts Connect has been buggy, and sports a confusing interface that has led to serious user errors (like entire shows being archived). And listeners have complained about syncing problems and podcasts they already heard flooding their libraries.

Dating

  • Tinder announced a new feature that will allow users to voluntarily verify their identity on the platform, which will allow the company to cross-reference sex offender registry data. Previously, Tinder would only check this database when a user signed up for a paid subscription with a credit card.

Gaming

Image Source: The Pokémon Company

  • Pokémon Unite will come to iOS and Android on September 22, The Pokémon Company announced during a livestream this week. The strategic battle game first launched on Nintendo Switch in late July.
  • Developer Konami announced a new game, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, which will come exclusively to Apple Arcade. The game is described as a “full-fledged side-scrolling action game,” featuring a roster of iconic characters from the classic game series. The company last year released another version of Castelvania on the App Store and Google Play.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle has now surpassed $3 billion in player spending since its 2015 debut, reported Sensor Tower. The game from Bandai Namco took 20 months to reach the figure after hitting the $2 billion milestone in 2019. The new landmark sees the game joining other top-grossers, including Clash Royale, Lineage M and others.
  • Sensor Tower’s mobile gaming advertising report revealed data on top ad networks in the mobile gaming market, and their market share. It also found puzzle games were among the top advertisers on gaming-focused networks like Chartboost, Unity, IronSource and Vungle. On less game-focused networks, mid-core games were top titles, like Call of Duty: Mobile and Top War. 

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Health & Fitness

  • Apple is reportedly scaling back HealthHabit, an internal app for Apple employees that allowed them to track fitness goals, talk to clinicians and coaches at AC Wellness (a doctors’ group Apple works with) and manage hypertension. According to Insider, 50 employees had been tasked to work on the project.
  • Samsung launched a new product for Galaxy smartphones in partnership with healthcare nonprofit The Commons Project, that allows U.S. users to save a verifiable copy of their vaccination card in the Samsung Pay digital wallet.

Image Credits: Samsung

Adtech

Government & Policy

  • China cited 43 apps, including Tencent’s WeChat and an e-reader from Alibaba, for illegally transferring user data. The regulator said the apps had transferred users location data and contact list and harassed them with pop-up windows. The apps have until August 25 to make changes before being punished.

Security & Privacy

  • A VICE report reveals a fascinating story about a jailbreaking community member who had served as a double agent by spying for Apple’s security team. Andrey Shumeyko, whose online handles included JVHResearch and YRH04E, would advertise leaked apps, manuals and stolen devices on Twitter and Discord. He would then tell Apple things like which Apple employees were leaking confidential info, which reporters would talk to leakers, who sold stolen iPhone prototypes and more. Shumeyko decided to share his story because he felt Apple took advantage of him and didn’t compensate him for the work.

Funding and M&A

? South Korea’s GS Retail Co. Ltd will buy Delivery Hero’s food delivery app Yogiyo in a deal valued at 800 billion won ($685 million USD). Yogiyo is the second-largest food delivery app in South Korea, with a 25% market share.

? Gaming platform Roblox acquired a Discord rival, Guilded, which allows users to have text and voice conversations, organize communities around events and calendars and more. Deal terms were not disclosed. Guilded raised $10.2 million in venture funding. Roblox’s stock fell by 7% after the company reported earnings this week, after failing to meet Wall Street expectations.

? Travel app Hopper raised $175 million in a Series G round of funding led by GPI Capital, valuing the business at over $3.5 billion. The company raised a similar amount just last year, but is now benefiting from renewed growth in travel following COVID-19 vaccinations and lifting restrictions.

? Indian quiz app maker Zupee raised $30 million in a Series B round of funding led by Silicon Valley-based WestCap Group and Tomales Bay Capital. The round values the company at $500 million, up 5x from last year.

? Danggeun Market, the publisher of South Korea’s hyperlocal community app Karrot, raised $162 million in a Series D round of funding led by DST Global. The round values the business at $2.7 billion and will be used to help the company launch its own payments platform, Karrot Pay.

? Bangalore-based fintech app Smallcase raised $40 million in Series C funding round led by Faering Capital and Premji Invest, with participation from existing investors, as well as Amazon. The Robinhood-like app has over 3 million users who are transacting about $2.5 billion per year.

? Social listening app Earbuds raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Ecliptic Capital. Founded by NFL star Jason Fox, the app lets anyone share their favorite playlists, livestream music like a DJ or comment on others’ music picks.

? U.S. neobank app One raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Progressive Investment Company (the insurance giant’s investment arm), bringing its total raise to date to $66 million. The app offers all-in-one banking services and budgeting tools aimed at middle-income households who manage their finances on a weekly basis.

Public Markets

?Indian travel booking app ixigo is looking to raise Rs 1,600 crore in its initial public offering, The Economic Times reported this week.

?Trading app Robinhood disappointed in its first quarterly earnings as a publicly traded company, when it posted a net loss of $502 million, or $2.16 per share, larger than Wall Street forecasts. This overshadowed its beat on revenue ($565 million versus $521.8 million expected) and its more than doubling of MAUs to 21.3 million in Q2.  Also of note, the company said dogecoin made up 62% of its crypto revenue in Q2.

Downloads

Polycam (update)

Image Credits: Polycam

3D scanning software maker Polycam launched a new 3D capture tool, Photo Mode, that allows iPhone and iPad users to capture professional-quality 3D models with just an iPhone. While the app’s scanner before had required the use of the lidar sensor built into newer devices like the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models, the new Photo Mode feature uses just an iPhone’s camera. The resulting 3D assets are ready to use in a variety of applications, including 3D art, gaming, AR/VR and e-commerce. Data export is available in over a dozen file formats, including .obj, .gtlf, .usdz and others. The app is a free download on the App Store, with in-app purchases available.

Jiobit (update)

Jiobit, the tracking dongle acquired by family safety and communication app Life360, this week partnered with emergency response service Noonlight to offer Jiobit Protect, a premium add-on that offers Jiobit users access to an SOS Mode and Alert Button that work with the Jiobit mobile app. SOS Mode can be triggered by a child’s caregiver when they detect — through notifications from the Jiobit app — that a loved one may be in danger. They can then reach Noonlight’s dispatcher who can facilitate a call to 911 and provide the exact location of the person wearing the Jiobit device, as well as share other details, like allergies or special needs, for example.

Tweets

When your app redesign goes wrong…

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Prominent App Store critic Kosta Eleftheriou shut down his FlickType iOS app this week after too many frustrations with App Review. He cited rejections that incorrectly argued that his app required more access than it did — something he had successfully appealed and overturned years ago. Attempted follow-ups with Apple were ignored, he said. 

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Anyone have app ideas?

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Pokémon Unite is coming to iOS and Android on September 22

During today’s Pokémon Presents livestream, The Pokémon Company announced that Pokémon Unite will become available for iOS and Android on September 22. The strategic battle game came out for Nintendo Switch in late July, but its arrival on mobile devices will expand the game’s potential user base.

For users already playing on Nintendo Switch, fear not — the game allows cross-platform play, which means you can play on your Switch, then pick up where you left off on mobile. All users can play together regardless of what device they’re using, and it’s not necessary to have a Switch to get the mobile game. Pokémon Unite is free-to-start with microtransactions — you can purchase in-game currency to get certain items or Pokémon.

The presentation also unveiled new gameplay footage and feature news for upcoming Nintendo Switch releases: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (November 19, 2021), remakes of the Nintendo DS games from 2006, and Pokémon Legends: Arceus (January 28, 2022), the first open world RPG in the Pokémon universe.

Image Credits: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Like previous main series game remakes, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will expand upon the original games’ foundation and introduce features that appeared in later games, like Following Pokémon, Secret Bases, and — very importantly — changing your trainer’s outfit. The game will also include re-designed features from its original release, like designing Poké Ball capsules and competing in Pokémon Contests. But for the first time in a Pokémon Game, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will introduce a new aspect of gameplay called the Sinnoh Underground. Players can collect statues of Pokémon for their Secret Base, and depending on what statues are on display, different Pokémon will appear in Pokémon Hideaways within the Sinnoh Underground. To commemorate the fifteen-year-old games’ remakes, on November 5, 2021, Nintendo will release a “Dialga and Palkia Edition” of the Nintendo Switch Lite, which features the legendary Pokémon in gold and silver on a grey console.

Then, the Pokémon Company shared more information about Pokémon Legends Arceus, a first-of-its-kind release for the iconic franchise. Fans have compared its open world design to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is the fourth best-selling Nintendo Switch game with 23.2 million copies sold, but others say it’s more similar to Monster Hunter. The new game introduces the Hisui Region (an ancient version of the Sinnoh Region), along with new Pokémon like a grandpa-esque Growlithe, and an evolution of Basculin called Basculegion, which can evolve when “possessed by the souls of other Basculin from their school that could not withstand the harsh journey upstream”… Yes, this is a children’s franchise.

Nightmare-inducing new Pokémon aside, the livestream revealed more information about how exactly this new type of Pokémon game will work.

Like standard Pokémon games, players will set out on a mission to complete a Pokédex, but rather than training to become “the best like no one ever was,” they will be part of an expedition team, conducting survey work to learn more about the nature of Pokémon and the secrets they hold. In between field assignments, players can heal their party, craft items, and buy supplies at outposts (ancient Pokémon Centers?). Pokémon Legends: Arceus will also introduce a new battle style — like Pokémon Unite, it won’t simply repurpose the turn-based gameplay we’ve been accustomed to since the first Pokémon games were released in 1998.

Anyway, these games seem promising, but just try your best not to think about Basculegion.

#android, #gaming, #mobile-devices, #nintendo, #nintendo-ds, #pokemon, #pokemon-company, #rpg, #switch, #video-games

Putting the PS5’s 10 million sales in context

When Sony announced Monday that it had sold 10 million PlayStation 5 consoles to consumers, it trumpeted the system as “the fastest-selling console in Sony Interactive Entertainment history.” That statement certainly sounds impressive, but it lacks the specificity we need to judge just how impressive the PS5’s sales have been so far (despite component shortages that could make the system hard to find into next year).

To add more context to Sony’s announcement, we looked at how quickly some other recent consoles took to sell their first 10 million systems worldwide. While different launch dates and staggered international launches skew some of these comparisons, the data overall shows that the PS5 is selling as fast or faster than some of the most popular consoles of the recent past.

We also looked at newly revealed sales data for PS5 exclusives Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and compared their sales rates to similar early system-sellers on the Switch.

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#gaming-culture, #microsoft, #nintendo, #ps5, #sales, #sony, #switch, #xbox

Collectors are as confused as you are about that $1.56M Super Mario 64 sale

Collectors say bare cartridges in "sous vide" condition can command a premium at auction.

Enlarge / Collectors say bare cartridges in “sous vide” condition can command a premium at auction. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

If you aren’t immersed in the world of high-end video game collecting, it’s probably hard to understand why someone paid in excess of $1.5 million for a single, shrinkwrap-sealed boxed copy of Super Mario 64 last Sunday. But if you talk to people who have been collecting games and following this insular world for decades, you’ll find… well, they also think it’s hard to understand.

The confusing part isn’t even the sheer amount of money being spent on a video game box that no one will ever open, much less play. Ever since an early sealed printing of Super Mario Bros. sold for over $100,000 in 2019, the general consensus in the world of high-end game collecting was that an eventual seven-figure game sale was inevitable. But even after a $660,000 Super Mario Bros. sale two months ago, many didn’t think the flashy million-dollar barrier would be broken so quickly. “I honestly thought that this was a milestone that we wouldn’t pass until years from now,” Heritage Auctions Video Game Consignment Director Valarie McLeckie told Ars.

More than the timing, though, game collectors that spoke to Ars expressed near-universal shock that this was the first game to command such a high price. In the past, the small handful of games that have sold for $100,000 or more have all been extremely rare and notable in some way. The Legend of Zelda that temporarily set an $870,000 sales record earlier in Heritage’s recent weekend auction, for instance, was described in the listing as “the only copy from one of the earliest production runs that we’ve ever had the opportunity to offer” for an iconic game.

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#chris-kohler, #collecting, #features, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #retro-games, #super-mario-64, #value

Nintendo’s OLED Switch goes up for preorder today—here’s where to get one

Promotional images for upgraded handheld video game system.

Enlarge / White is the new black with the new Nintendo Switch OLED Model. (credit: Nintendo)

After an initial unveiling last week, Nintendo’s Switch OLED model will be available to preorder through various retailers in the US starting on Thursday. In a tweet, the company said that orders for the new console variant will begin at 12pm PT/3pm ET.

If you’re hoping to grab one, here are the retail listings that are up as of this writing. We’ll add more as we see them, but given the intense demand for recent gaming hardware like the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards, we don’t expect stock to be available for long:

The new OLED Switch costs $350 and will ship from October 8. That’s compared to $300 for the base Switch model and $200 for the handheld-only Nintendo Switch Lite.

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#gaming-culture, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch, #nintendo-switch-oled, #preorder

Nintendo’s “OLED Model” Switch estimated to cost just $10 more to produce

The recently announced “OLED Model” of the Nintendo Switch will retail for $50 more than the $300 standard model when the upgrade goes on sale on October 1. But the new model is estimated to cost Nintendo only about $10 more to produce, increasing the company’s profit margins on the high end of its still-hot gaming hardware.

That cost estimate comes from Bloomberg News’ Takashi Mochizuki, who breaks down the estimated production cost increase like this:

  • 7-inch Samsung OLED screen: $3 to $5 more per unit (according to Yoshio Tamura, co-founder of industry research firm DSCC)
  • 32GB of additional internal storage: $3.50 per unit (according to Omdia’s Akira Minamikawa)
  • New dock w/ LAN port and other improvements: “a few dollars more” per unit

Loss leaders and profit centers

Historically, many console-makers have sold their hardware at cost or at a loss in order to attract a bigger audience of potential customers for software (and the console-maker licensing fees that come with it). But while Nintendo initially sold the Wii U at a loss, it has made a profit on every Switch hardware sale since its launch, with estimates at the time suggesting that the $300 system cost about $260 to produce (per unit) in 2017.

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#gaming-culture, #nintendo, #oled, #price-drop, #pricing, #switch

Museum obtains rare demo of id Software’s Super Mario Bros. 3 PC port

The Strong National Museum of Play has obtained a rare demo of Super Mario Bros. 3 that a pre-Doom id Software coded for MS-DOS PCs back in 1990. The acquisition will ensure the historical curiosity will be preserved and accessible to researchers well into the future.

Students of video game history have long been aware of the existence of the demo, which was described in detail in David Kushner’s excellent 2003 book Masters of Doom. id Software—then known as Ideas from the Deep (IFD)—coded the game in under a week and sent a copy to Nintendo in the hopes of getting a contract to develop an official PC port of the NES classic, which had launched in the US earlier in 1990.

Part of what made the demo special was a John Carmack-coded scrolling algorithm that went way beyond the stuttering background movements and full-screen wipes you’d usually see in late ’80s DOS games. “When looking at PC games of the era, there really weren’t titles with the smooth scrolling seen in Nintendo’s hits,” Museum of Play Digital Games Curator Andrew Borman told Ars via email. And though Nintendo would never entertain the idea of a PC port for SMB3, id Software was “not deterred by the rejection [and] the technology was reused for Commander Keen, which is still one of my favorite series of that era,” Borman said.

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#gaming-culture, #id-software, #mario, #museum, #nintendo, #strong

This limited-edition Super Mario smartwatch will run you $2,150

Those who’ve followed Nintendo with any sort of frequency over the years know the gaming giant has a tendency to be extremely protective with its IP. Ultimately, it’s probably for the best that the market wasn’t flooded with cheap Mario knickknacks the way it easily could have been.

In recent years, however, the company has seemingly loosened its approach, more readily embracing brand partnerships in ways it has shunned in the past. Heck, we’ve even gotten a bunch of mobile games and a theme park out of the deal.

Today, it takes the wraps off of one of the more surprising brand partnerships in recent memory, in a deal with Swiss watch company TAG Heuer, which makes very nice — and extremely expensive — timepieces. The “long-term collaboration” is kicking off with a limited-edition (2,000 units) Mario smartwatch that will set you back $2,150.

Image Credits: TAG Heuer/Nintendo

Clearly there’s a bit of a disconnect between the pricing on the TAG Heuer Connected and the sort of accessibility the company offers with hardware like the Switch. In fact, you can buy six of the high-end new OLED Switches for the price of a single Mario-branded smartwatch — or, for that matter, five Apple Watch Series 6s.

I will give it this — it’s a pretty sweet-looking watch. And, given the barrier of entry, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be the only person you know who owns one (forget for a moment that, unlike expensive analog watches, smartwatches aren’t designed to last forever). The hook here are little Mario animations that pop up throughout the day as you hit your step count and meet other goals. It’s fun and something that would play really well on a fitness watch for kids (for, one imagines, a fraction of the price).

Image Credits: TAG Heuer/Nintendo

The watch is, effectively, a redesigned version of the TAG Heuer Connected, a $2,000 Wear OS device that launched last April. The timepiece got high marks for design quality — as one would expect from the company. This version adds touches like a Mario “M” on the dial, red accents throughout and a matching red rubber strap (along with a black leather version).

Image Credits: TAG Heuer/Nintendo

The case measures 45mm in diameter and the watch sports a 430 mAh battery the company says should get you between six and 20 hours of life, depending on usage. That’s due in part to the inclusion of GPS and a heart rate monitor.

It’s available starting July 15.

#gaming, #google, #mario, #nintendo, #smartwatch, #tag-heuer, #wearables, #wearos

What the “OLED Model” means for the future of Nintendo Switch

Where is my 4K “Switch Pro” upgrade?

The most surprising thing about the Switch’s newly announced “OLED Model” might just be what it’s missing. Namely, it’s missing a new chipset that bumps up the processing power above what’s available on existing Switch hardware.

That lack of improved internals is surprising mainly because of a number of reports that promised the next Switch would support a bump to “4K graphics when paired with TVs,” as Bloomberg phrased it is as recently as March. Bloomberg’s reporters tend to be reliable when it comes to this kind of insider Nintendo reporting, including an early 2019 report that predicted a “lower-priced” Nintendo Switch Lite months ahead of its announcement. Bloomberg also got the other details right about the OLED Model, including the 7″ OLED screen that maintains the original Switch’s 720p resolution and the general timing of when manufacturing would begin.

Maybe Bloomberg’s reporters just got ahead of themselves on this one detail and assumed 4K support that was never really in the cards. More likely, though, is that Nintendo just changed its plans for a processing-power boost at some point after Bloomberg’s sources first leaked the information.

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#gaming-culture, #new-model, #nintendo, #oled, #switch

Nintendo’s OLED Switch arrives October 8, priced at $350

So much for the big E3 reveal. Weeks after the big gaming show, Nintendo has finally taking the wraps off the latest iteration of its wildly popular hybrid gaming console. The Nintendo Switch (OLED model) [parentheses theirs] will arrive on October 8, priced at $350. That is, the company’s quick to note, the same day it launches Metroid Dread, the long-awaited latest side scrolling entry in the long-standing franchise.

The system sports a 7-inch OLED, improved audio and 64 GB of internal storage. The hybrid dock sports a wired LAN port, and the system ships with an adjustable port for playing in tabletop mode. The company will also be offering a separate carrying case, because you don’t want to get the fancy screen on your new $350 system scratched.

 

From the sound of it, the two existing Switch models are sticking around, as lower cost alternatives. Those models run $299 and $199, respectively, though it seems reasonable to expect there may be some price drops as the new model arrives, ahead of the holidays.

“The new Nintendo Switch (OLED model) is a great option for players who want to experience the new vibrant screen when playing in handheld and tabletop mode,” Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser said in a press release. “With the addition of this new model to the Nintendo Switch family of systems, people have an additional choice of a system that best fits the gaming experience they desire – whether it’s Nintendo Switch (OLED model), Nintendo Switch or Nintendo Switch Lite.”

An upgraded version of the four-year-old system has been rumored for some time, carrying the decidedly less clunky name, Switch Pro. With both Sony and Microsoft releasing next-gen versions of their consoles last year, the time certainly seemed right for big refresh from Nintendo. A refreshed version of the standard Switch arrived in July 2019, addressing the original’s poor battery life — far and away the largest complaint of an otherwise well-received system.

Of course, in spite of growing a bit long in the tooth, the Switch continued to dominate the sales charts ahead of the arrival of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X. Nintendo utterly dominated sales during the pandemic, after some initial supply chain shortages. That success was due in no small part to the arrival of a new Animal Crossing title that provided some much-needed social gaming during the pandemic.

In spite of the lack of new hardware, last month’s E3 did see some big game news from Nintendo, before just a new Metroid. Far and away, the most eagerly anticipated is 2022’s sequel to Breath of the Wild, one of the most beloved entries in the Zelda series and easy one of the Switch’s best titles.

#gaming, #hardware, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch, #switch

Despite $2.1M ruling, RomUniverse owner considers bringing back ROM site

RomUniverse has been down for months, but owner Matt Storman may be considering bringing it back despite a court judgment.

Enlarge / RomUniverse has been down for months, but owner Matt Storman may be considering bringing it back despite a court judgment.

In May, a US District Court ordered former RomUniverse.com owner Matthew Storman to pay $2.1 million in damages to Nintendo for copyright and trademark infringement. Now, Nintendo is seeking an additional permanent injunction against Storman, who it says is considering bringing the ROM site back without “Nintendo content” and who has failed to make a $50-per-month payment toward those damages.

Storman—who said in court documents that his post-RomUniverse income was derived primarily from “unemployment and food stamps”—seems unlikely to ever pay even a small chunk of the $2.1 million judgment against him. Paying a token $50 a month, an amount Nintendo says Storman “proposed and agreed to,” would mean that fully covering the damages would take Storman 3,500 years, and that’s without accounting for interest.

Still, Nintendo is using the damages to its advantage, arguing that Storman’s failure to make his first $50 monthly payment “demonstrates that Nintendo has no adequate remedy at law for Defendant’s past or future infringement and underscores the need for a permanent injunction.”

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#gaming-culture, #injunction, #legal, #nintendo, #rom-site, #romuniverse, #ruling

Everything Nintendo announced in its E3 2021 “Direct” presentation

Nintendo rolled out dozens of game and feature announcements over the course of a nearly 40-minute Direct presentation today. If you don’t have the time or inclination to watch the entire video, we’ve gathered all of the relevant news in a convenient quick-access format below.

Upcoming Switch exclusives

  • Metroid Dread is the first completely new 2D Metroid game in about 19 years and focuses on “a new feel, showcasing a variety of threats.” It’s coming to Switch on October 8 as Nintendo continues work on Metroid Prime 4. Read more in our separate write-up.

 

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#e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #nintendo

Nintendo teases 2022 release for Breath of the Wild sequel and releases Zelda Game & Watch to tide us over

Nintendo defied expectations today with an E3-timed Direct showing off not the hoped-for new Switch hardware but a dozen or so new games — as well as a general release window for the much-anticipated next Zelda game. And to celebrate the original’s 35th anniversary, it will sell a new Game & Watch featuring the first three games in the series.

Among other things, Nintendo showed off remasters or remakes of titles from the “Monkey Ball,” “Mario Party,” “Advance Wars, “Wario Ware” and other series, and announced new entries in the “Mario + Rabbids” and “Shin Megami Tensei” worlds. Other newly announced or teased games will be making it to Switch as well, like the new “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Perhaps most surprising was the inclusion of a new side-scrolling Metroid game, the first in nearly 20 years — and in fact, it has been in and out of development for half that time. “Metroid Dread,” the fifth in the mainline series that began on the NES, will release October 8, and we’ll see if Nintendo has managed to keep pace in a genre it pioneered but others have refined.

Samus steps out of a chamber in a screenshot from Metroid Dread.

Image Credits: Nintendo

Everyone was hoping for Zelda news, however, and Nintendo… only slightly disappointed us. As the announcers noted, it’s the 35th anniversary of the NES original, and the perfect time to announce something truly special, but they have “no campaigns or other Nintendo Switch games planned.”

Instead, they offered an admittedly tempting Game & Watch in the style of the one we saw released last year for the Mario series. I had lots of good things to say about that device, and the new one will no doubt be just as fun. The ability to pause the game and pick it up later (but not rewind or save states) should make for a fun, authentic playthrough of the first three games in the Zelda series: “The Legend of Zelda” and “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” for NES, and “Link’s Awakening” for Game Boy (recently remade).

A handheld gaming machine with Zelda games on it.

Image Credits: Nintendo

The last item on the list was a new look at the follow-up to Breath of the Wild, which years after its debut still shines as one of the, if not the, best game on the Switch. Its sequel has a lot to live up to!

While the first trailer was all cinematic, this one showed gameplay and the overworld, including a new level of verticality that brings flying fortresses and castles in the air into play. It certainly looks impressive, but one wonders how much further the company can push its Switch hardware. After all, “Breath of the Wild” pushed the system to its limits at its debut, and even then it was not as powerful as its rivals from Microsoft and Sony — both now replaced by a new generation.

One hopes that Nintendo is simply being weird and has a trick up its sleeve, as it has many times before. The Switch was announced out of nowhere, and previous hardware updates have also dropped with little or no warning and seemingly arbitrary timing. What’s expected is an updated Switch that’s physically the same dimensions but considerably updated inside and using a larger, better display. Perfect backwards compatibility, like with the 3DS series of handhelds, also seems only logical. But Nintendo has always done its own thing and its fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

#e3-2021, #gadgets, #gaming, #hardware, #metroid, #nintendo, #zelda

New trailer shows first gameplay footage for Breath of the Wild sequel

Nintendo has revealed the first gameplay footage from the highly anticipated sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild today, two years after the game was first revealed in a story-teasing trailer at E3 2019.

Zelda Producer Eiji Aonuma said that “development has been steadily progressing” on the game, which is now targeting a 2022 release window. This time around, the “setting has been expanded to include the skies above Hyrule,” a move highlighted by Link falling through the clouds to an island below at the trailer’s introduction (in a scene that brings Skyward Sword to mind a bit).

The brief trailer teases a few new and upgraded abilities, including a scene of Link phasing through solid rock to rise up through the bottom of a floating island and freezing a giant spiked cement ball to roll it back at the enemies that sent it. The trailer concludes with scenes of a castle being violently ripped from the ground and suspended mid-air in a field of wispy red miasma.

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#breath-of-the-qild, #e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #sequel, #zelda

Metroid Dread brings Nintendo’s classic back as a 2D sequel on October 8

This year, Nintendo’s long-running Metroid series is getting an entirely new sequel—and not the previously announced Metroid Prime 4 first-person shooter.

Instead, we’re getting Metroid Dread, apparently dubbed Metroid 5 in its debut trailer, launching October 8 exclusively for Nintendo Switch. The funky game title has been hinted to in prior 2D games, and years later, Nintendo itself confirmed it was the name of an in-development 2D game that was eventually canceled. Thus, Dread‘s return today as an official game name makes it a particularly juicy Easter egg for anyone who’s been following the lore of space bounty hunter Samus Aran in her journey to eradicate the Metroid scourge.

As a fully 2D Metroid game, Metroid Dread resembles 2017’s Metroid: Samus Returns, a modern 2D remake of the Game Boy classic Return of Samus. Not just in perspective or aesthetics, either: This year’s new Metroid sequel includes that 2017 game’s melee-swipe ability—and in kind, Nintendo has confirmed that the 2017 game’s developers at MercurySteam are involved this time, as well. Unsurprisingly, as a Metroid series sequel, it also includes new and trippy abilities like a cloak shield—and a few entirely new alien foes.

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#e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #metroid, #metroid-dread, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch