Category Archives: Geekdom

Star Wars video game maker apologizes after uproar from fans

The company behind the new Star Wars video game has turned off a money-spinning part of it after an outcry from angry fans and scrutiny from regulators.

Gamers had complained in recent days that it takes huge amounts of time — or money — to unlock features in Star Wars Battlefront II. Regulators in Belgium, meanwhile, are looking at whether the game constitutes a form of gambling.

Some Star Wars fans who paid roughly $60 to buy Battlefront II were upset to find that optional charges built into the game can cost them hundreds more.

“We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases,” said Oskar Gabrielson, the general manager of the unit of gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA, Tech30) that developed Battlefront II. “We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning.”

Fans were angry because Battlefront II essentially gave players a choice. They could spend a huge number of hours collecting in-game credits to unlock new features and cooler characters, or pay real money to get them instantly.

In the gaming world, this is called “pay to win.” It’s not unusual, but the format has typically been used in mobile games that are free to download.

Some gamers calculated that it would take six years of playing two hours a day to unlock all the features in Battlefront II without handing over any real money. Paying for everything, meanwhile, would cost over $2,000.

“It’s a complete ripoff and the multiplayer is rigged for whoever is willing to spend more money,” one gamer said on Twitter last week. “It is designed to make you spend more money after buying.”

“We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages,” Gabrielson said. “And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right.”

Previously, the game developers had tried to placate fans by reducing the cost of unlocking “hero” characters by 75%.

The in-game purchases aren’t gone forever, though.

Gabrielson said they would return “at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game.”

His statement didn’t directly address the concerns of the Belgian Gaming Commission, which is investigating how players in Battlefront II and similar games are rewarded by unlocking “loot boxes.”

The idea is that players pay real money to unlock a virtual “loot box” without knowing what kind of reward is inside. They also don’t know how many boxes they might need to unlock in order to finish the game.

Peter Naessens, general director of the Belgian Gaming Commission, said the regulator is examining whether the rewards are allocated by chance, and whether this might constitute a form of gambling.

In Belgium, companies involved in gambling are required to have a license. Minors and people with gambling addiction problems are not allowed to play.

 

Electronic Arts has dismissed the idea that its game falls into that category, saying that the “mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling.”

“A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing [loot boxes],” it said in a statement. “Players can also earn [loot boxes] through playing the game and not spending any money at all.”

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Pokémon Go update brings a little Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon into the game

Pokémon Go players can dress their avatars up like the trainers from Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, thanks to a giveaway that’s now live in the mobile game.

Ahead of this Friday’s release of the Nintendo 3DS titles, Pokémon Go players can pick up free outfits that are directly inspired by the stars of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. For girls, there’s a sun hat, sandals, shorts and a nice, flowery tank top to pick up; guys have new sneakers, shorts, a bucket hat, a tank and, for some reason, leggings to throw on.
pokemon go outfits Niantic/The Pokémon Company

This is the first time that Niantic and The Pokémon Company have used Pokémon Go to promote an upcoming Pokémon game. Even when Pokémon’s popularity was at a fever pitch last fall between Pokémon Go’s release and the launch of Pokémon Sun and Moon, the companies kept the games separate. But ever since a Mimikyu-styled hat appeared in Pokémon Go over Halloween, it’s clear that Niantic is willing to reference the current generation of games — even if we can’t catch any of the Alola region’s monsters yet.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are out Nov. 17.

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Sega Genesis Flashback Review !!!

Sega Genesis Flashback is an attempt to capture a seemingly new, or at least reinvigorated, market while also not being too ambitious. At $80, the same price as the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, the Genesis Flashback struggles to approximate the user experience of Nintendo’s throwback. Instead, it tries to best it with back-of-the-box bullet points that, while impressive sounding, do little to cement its superiority.

Last year’s NES Classic Edition upended the low-end plug ‘n play console market, long dominated by a company called AtGames, which is responsible for the Atari and Genesis consoles littering checkout aisles everywhere. AtGames has been at this for a long time, but the low price is about the only thing easy to recommend on one of its consoles.

Still, the company doesn’t have trouble moving units over the holidays. But when the NES Classic Edition happened, AtGames needed a response.

HARDWARE
The hardware is where the Sega Genesis Flashback gets a few things very right, but each checkmark in the positives column comes with a companion check mark in the negatives column. The Genesis Flashback comes with two 2.4 Ghz wireless controllers, an improvement over the SNES Classic’s short wires … but, while also a step above AtGames’ previous infrared wireless implementation, the wireless latency still isn’t great, and the controllers feel cheap, hardly like exact replicas of classic Genesis controllers.

Some other minor gripes: The battery tray is secured with an obnoxious tiny screw, and the package doesn’t include the controller’s necessary AAA batteries.

 

But the Genesis Flashback also wisely includes the standard DB9 port that the original Genesis had, meaning your old (or eBay-acquired!) controllers will work just fine on the Flashback, a major improvement from the SNES Classic’s bizarre choice to use a Wiimote expansion port. The negative on that one? AtGames throws in not bad, but not excellent, wireless controllers instead of taking the opportunity to offer excellent wired controllers. Another negative: You will have to use the six-button Genesis controller, even though many of the included games don’t require it. No three-button pads allowed.

The wireless controllers do include two notable enhancements on the original Genesis controllers (and the SNES Classic controllers, for that matter): a Menu button, giving players access to the system’s UI from the couch, and a Rewind button, letting them quickly access what is essentially an undo function for video games. If you opt for the six-button Genesis controller, its Mode button serves as the Menu button here, and you can invoke the Rewind feature by pressing Back + Start. This is a thoughtful solution that, strangely, Nintendo still fails to adopt in its offerings.

 

While Nintendo has wisely opted to use USB power for its miniature consoles, AtGames includes a barrel-plug power supply, removing any opportunity to power the console off your HDTV, or easily replace a missing plug. It’s a minor complaint, but it seems indicative of AtGames’ failure to recognize some of the more clever simplifications its competition has introduced and how audience expectations may have shifted.

In the positive column, the Genesis Flashback actually looks like a Genesis. While AtGames’ previous Genesis consoles were generic plastic boxes, the Flashback is barely “mini” in the Nintendo sense, but a scaled-down Genesis. Here it is next to my classic “High Definition” model 1 Genesis:

SOFTWARE

The games run badly. In fact, they ran so badly on the first unit AtGames sent me — the same unit that other outlets reviewed back in July (!) — that the company told me it had an issue with the emulation software and asked me to not review it, in order to give them a chance to send me an updated unit. A reasonable request, considering the product wouldn’t be released until late October, albeit curious why a subpar product was sent to reviewers that far in advance of release in the first place.

Nevertheless, I waited … and waited … and waited. I sent emails. Finally, the new unit was shipped and, curiously, it had a new embargo, a strange request given it was for a review of the same product they shipped to myself and other reviewers months ago. Even more curious: While some other issues were corrected in this updated unit, as best I can tell it similarly suffers from framerate issues, just like the July unit. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now, let’s talk about the user interface because … well, it’s something else. While Nintendo pairs its Classic consoles with a charming — and fast! — UI that makes navigating your library a charm, AtGames has created what is arguably the world’s least-intuitive interface.

 

CONCLUSION

The sad thing about the Sega Genesis Flashback is that, while it may be enough to satisfy the under-the-tree urge in the absence of alternatives, every unit purchased represents a lost future customer for a good Genesis throwback console. AtGames has been selling the composite video variant — the so-called Firecore — since 2009, blanketing the impulse-buy aisles at Bed Bath & Beyond stores nationwide. Each one of those is a bulwark against a future good Genesis release.

Sega has done meaningful, arguably irreparable harm to the consumer proposition of purchasing its classic games, while Nintendo has elevated 30-year-old products to must-have status. As a one-time Genesis kid whose nostalgic sweet spot is a Sega Genesis, I feel qualified to say that the Genesis deserves better from its owner. But as long as Sega is willing to license out its platform instead of making its own hardware, it seems unlikely to get better than this, the most declarative console war victory imaginable.

In my opinion, the Genesis was the best console of the 16-bit era. But if you want to purchase the best 16-bit plug ‘n play system this holiday, get the SNES Classic Edition.

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Ataribox : Everything YOU Need To Know About Atari’s Comeback Console !!!

The Atari name still carries a lot of cachet with video game fans, given the company’s role in creating the home console market – but its last piece of new hardware, the 1993’s Jaguar, was a massive flop.

Since then, the Atari brand has changed hands multiple times, emerged from bankruptcy, and been used to market social games and online gambling.

It’s been a rough couple of decades for Atari. But that could all change if the Ataribox ends up being a huge hit.

What is the Ataribox? It is Atari’s hopeful comeback in the console world, promising both access to original Atari games along with new experiences, pairing the classic with the modern.

But beyond that, there aren’t a ton of concrete details: as of now, Atari is gradually teasing out images and information, claiming that they’re trying to respond to feedback before fully revealing the device.

Will this be an NES Classic-style smash that successfully mines nostalgia, or should we expect another Ouya-esque microconsole bomb that falls well short of expectations? We can’t say for sure at this point, but here’s everything we know so far.

Atari first teased the Ataribox back in June with a pretty lightweight website and a brief YouTube clip, and then finally spilled the beans back at E3. Atari CEO Fred Chesnais, who bought the company following its 2013 bankruptcy, told VentureBeat, “We’re back in the hardware business.” The article also claimed that the device would be “based on PC technology.”

In July, we got a better sense of what to expect via an email blast to fans who subscribed to Atari’s newsletter. The Ataribox will be available in two models—one with a classic wood grain front, and another that’s black and red—with a very slim, streamlined aesthetic that looks a bit like a cable box or streaming set-top box. Both versions share the same, smooth overall design, with ribbed lines and a raised back.

Based on the photos, we can see that the Ataribox will have several modern ports in the back, including an HDMI output, four USB ports, and an Ethernet cable port for wired Internet access. It’s also planned to support SD cards, as well. That could make it easy to bring games, media, and other content to your Ataribox, or perhaps help sustain a homebrew community. Or maybe it’ll just provide expandable storage so that users can buy as much or as little as they need, rather than Atari packing the box itself with it.

“Our objective is to create a new product that stays true to our heritage while appealing to both old and new fans of Atari,” read the email.

Unfortunately, Atari hasn’t announced anything about what kind of hardware will actually be inside the box, outside of that “PC technology” hint from earlier in the summer and the promise of “modern internal specs” in the email. And that’s a critical detail, of course. It won’t take much horsepower at all to run Atari games, certainly, but more modern experiences will need at least a modest bit of muscle.

We also don’t know what kinds of controllers will be used for the Ataribox. Classic Atari 2600 games typically used a joystick or paddle, but anything more current would probably need a gamepad or maybe even some kind of touch device. For now, though, we’re left waiting for details.

Atari says that the Ataribox will run classic games – digitally, that is, whether they’re built-in or downloadable (or both) –which makes a ton of sense. After all, the NES Classic was a big hit, selling out every time it hit stores and leaving a lot of fans desperate and wanting when Nintendo opted to stop producing the box.  The upcoming SNES Classic seems like it’ll be another smash, given how impossible it has been to secure a pre-order for the 16-bit throwback device.

Atari owns the rights to more than 200 different video game properties, including PongMissile CommandAsteroids, and Centipede. For a better hint at what to expect from the company, just check out the Atari’s Greatest Hits app for iOS and Android: it offers 100 classic Atari 2600 games that you can buy in small bundles, or you can unlock the entire library for $10.

We hate to sound like a broken record here, but truly, we don’t know when it will release or how much it will cost. It’s all on Atari at this point, and it seems like the company is content to just take its time feeding out small details and teases until they’re ready to share everything.

“We know you are hungry for more details; on specs, games, features, pricing, timing etc,” read the company’s July 2017 email to subscribers. “We’re not teasing you intentionally; we want to get this right, so we’ve opted to share things step by step as we bring Ataribox to life, and to listen closely to Atari community feedback as we do so.”

But we do know one critical detail: the Ataribox will be crowdfunded. Atari doesn’t seem to be quite as flush with cash it was back in its early glory days, plus the Ataribox is a huge risk and will require ample investment.

Eurogamer discovered a note to investors in June that read, “To limit risk taking, this product will initially be launched within the framework of a crowdfunding campaign.”

But if Atari can successfully trade on its classic brand, deliver an authentic old-school 2600 experience, and offer enough compelling modern content to justify the price, then maybe the Ataribox can succeed where other microconsoles have failed. As with most of the hard details here, we’ll just have to wait and see – and we’ll keep you updated

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Nintendo Announces Mario No Longer A Plumber!

 

After 34 years of cleaning out the Mushroom Kingdom’s pipes, Mario is turning in his wrench.

Nintendo has changed the biography of its most famous character, saying he is no longer a plumber. What he is doing for a living these days, though, is a lot less clear.

“All around sporty, whether it’s tennis or baseball, soccer or car racing, [Mario] does everything cool,” says the profile on Nintendo of Japan’s page (as translated by Kotaku). “As a matter of fact, he also seems to have worked as a plumber a long time ago…”

It’s unclear if Mario’s brother Luigi is carrying on the plumbing business on his own.

While Mario, whose fondness for his blue overalls is legendary, has been known as a plumber for years, he actually started out as a carpenter in Donkey Kong (when he was known simply as “Jumpman”). He has also been cast as a baseball player, a golfer, an Olympian and a doctor in other games.

Clearly, the elective classes at Nintendo’s trade school are a bit more thorough than your local community college.

Mario returns to gaming consoles in October in Super Mario Odyssey, where he’ll travel to several worlds to (once again) save Princess Peach from Bowser.

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SNES Pre-order Problems !!!

If you tried to pre-order an SNES Classic today you were only assured of one thing, and it wasn’t an SNES Classic Edition. Chaos was the order of the day, starting early in the morning and continuing through until the afternoon as websites threw up pre-orders at difficult-to-predict times, selling out instantaneously to whoever happened to be on their computers or manning a robot designed to buy immediately. We were promised more consoles would be coming our way than did with the NES Classic Edition, and it’s possible, if not likely, that more consoles did in fact come. But it would seem that, as usual, Nintendo either badly misunderestimated demand, made a calculated move toward scarcity, or did a little of both. Few seem surprised.

The first sign that things were amiss was when pre-orders went mysteriously live at Walmart long ahead of any other retailer. A little while later the big box started quietly canceling orders, later just getting rid of them altogether and chalking things up to a technical error. Not Nintendo’s fault in any way, of course, but a bad omen, generally speaking. And an especially bad omen considering the history of this “classic” line. Nintendo found itself woefully understocked for massive demand last year for the NES Classic, and we can only assume that a mere fraction of the people who wanted to buy one managed to do so. That experience left everyone who wanted to try their luck at acquiring an SNES Classic a little on edge.

Then came a long silence. Pre-orders had gone live in other territories shortly after launch, but the US was curiously left waiting with virtually no information to go on. Eventually, Nintendo made a single, vague announcement: the SNES Classic Edition would be available for pre-order towards the end of the month. It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to be cagey about this sort of thing, but again: precedent. Without a big event or something that could logically serve as launch, anyone who wanted a machine just had to be on notice after the middle of the month.

The day that turned out to be pre-order day started in the dead of night at around 1:00 AM EST, when Best Buy and Amazon both unleashed their stock to the general surprise of the gaming public. It was a boon for anyone who happened to be around and looking at an internet-connected device at the time, but as usual, they sold out within moments. Another round of pre-orders was rumored to hit around 1:00 PM, but only Walmart seemed to pull this off without a snag. Target struggled for a little while before removing the SNES Classic Edition from mine and others carts, GameStop crashed, and despite being listed as an available retailer by Nintendo, Toys R’ Us did not appear to even have an SNES landing page. (Update: Toys R’ Us has announced that it will not be pre-selling the SNES Classic Edtion).

Some of these things clearly don’t rest on Nintendo’s shoulders. Nintendo has no responsibility for the technical operations of either GameStop or Target. But the fact that we’ve seen so many better-coordinated pre-order or product launches certainly speaks to the fact that other manufacturers are keeping tighter controls on their retailers. Witness the Xbox One X, which went on pre-order two days before largely according to schedule and sold out like they were supposed to. Sure, I’ll venture to guess that there were far fewer people going after the Xbox One X, but the basic principles remain the same: a coordinated launch across retailers is in fact possible.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter very much for those on the supply side, which is likely why it happened in the first place. From Nintendo’s perspective, it’s selling all of these units regardless and it would be a mostly unnecessary headache to coordinate some sort of worldwide release. And it may be more or less impossible to meet the colossal demand, even if the SNES Classic Edition seems to be a pretty simple thing to manufacture. From the retailer’s perspective, this is just one of many things it sells on a day-to-day basis, and it may or may not be worth upgrading their server capacity in exchange for the occasional burst in traffic. Target was up and running a few moments later, though GameStop’s website is still down. But for all these parties the end result is the same whether the event is coordinated or not: they sell a bunch of SNES Classic Editions.

Sellouts were bound to happen, if maybe they did not have to happen quite so quickly. We can’t quite know just how limited stock was without poking under the hoods of Walmart and Target. But it would seem that there’s little incentive for this sort of situation not to be a mess. After all, it does little besides drive more hype. But as retailers, Nintendo and scalpers come away happy, it’s a shame that the only people that really lose are the consumers.

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Pictures And Video From Coleco Expo !!!!!

Coleco the 80s competitor to Atari, for Americ’a video game love is BACK and in a big way. Coleco held its first Coleo Expo in Edison New Jersey this past weekend. Coleco Expo was fun for all ages, as it had lots of retrogames, toys , cosplay , virtual reality and more!!!… Coleco did a good job at putting this convention together, as it brought many great memories of Colecovision and other great games from the 80’s and 90’s back to life. We are looking forward to going back to Coleco Expo  in 2018. Here are some pictures and videos from the event. 

 

 

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