All posts in “Gaming”

Nintendo nabs two-thirds of monthly game hardware sales thanks to Switch

Nintendo has managed to lead the industry in video game hardware sales – by a wide margin – for September, which is a very promising sign going into the holiday shopping season. The Nintendo Switch helped this immensely, leading the industry as the top-selling console for the third straight month, and the fifth month overall since its introduction seven months ago.

Switch’s U.S. sales have now topped 2 million units, which is great considering that the Wii U sold all of 6.23 million units across North America during its entire time on the market. Nintendo Switch’s success was also bolstered by continuing 3DS device family sales, as well as Super NES Classic Edition sales, both of which helped it not only lead, but essentially dominate the video game hardware market.

Nintendo Switch is moving into some high-profile software releases for Switch that should help it gain even more consumer traction, including Super Mario Odyssey, which lands on October 27 and which has been widely praised by early players and critics, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which, despite being a port of a game that’s now nearly six years old, will still no doubt be a popular download.

Nintendo also just released a software update for the Nintendo Switch that allows data transfer between consoles, including saves, and I can confirm that this works as advertised from personal experience. It’s also added the ability to save and share video clips from certain games, which could help raise the hype factor around high-profile releases. Also, and again from personal experience, this console has basically had just a ton of great releases thus far, which makes me very excited about its future.

Facebook Messenger lets games monetize with purchases and ads

Facebook is finally giving developers a reason to build games for Messenger while also opening a new revenue stream for the chat app. After launching HTML5 ‘Instant Games’ inside Messenger like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends Frenzy in November 2016, today Facebook is allowing developers to add in-app purchases as well as interstitial and rewarded video ads. Players get a virtual good or bonus life in exchange for watching rewarded videos.

Facebook will take a cut of the ads shown in Messenger games that are routed from its Facebook Audience Network, and they’ll begin appearing in some games on iOS and Android. In-app purchases will only start testing on Android, with Google Play taking its standard 30% cut.

Facebook was cagey about how much of a cut of in-app purchase revenue it plans to take, repeatedly giving this vague statement when asked: “Our early tests for IAP will follow the standard rev/share policy and transaction fees for Google Play In-App billing.” For now it seems that the remaining 70% goes to the developer, but Facebook will likely opt to take a portion of that when in-app purchases fully roll out.

Developers who want access to the monetization beta program as Facebook rolls it out more widely can sign up here, while advertisers who don’t want their Audience Network ads from appearing in games can opt out. Facebook plans to roll out ad measurement and optimization tools for game developers soon, plus ways to publish games to its directory more easily.

The move should attract higher quality games to the Messenger platform, as until now, devs could only hope to build an audience and monetize down the line. Now with cash able to flow in through the games, it’s worth pouring more development resources into the platform. Previously, the only real way to earn money off these games was indirectly through branding, as with titles like Valerian Space Run, Wonder Woman, and Lego Batman Bat Climb that promote movies.

Facebook seems to be taking Messenger Instant Games quite seriously after its desktop game platform withered and mobile game was dominated by the App Store and Google Play platforms. Facebook sees an opportunity to not only give people something to do between chat conversations and a way to challenge freinds, but also now to start squeezing more cash out of the 1.3 billion Messenger users without interrupting the traditional use cases as its inbox ads do.

This ultra-cute tiny PS4 controller is a great option for children and the small-handed

If you like playing console games with the younger generation, you may have come across the issue of their tiny hands being unable to perform certain combos, reach certain buttons easily, and so on. While this makes them satisfying opponents, it might be better if they had a controller more suited to their physiology. Well, good thing there is one!

This cute little controller is made by Hori but officially licensed by Sony. It’s 40 percent smaller than the original, and features “all essential controls.” If you’re curious, that means you lose the headset jack, speaker, vibration motors, motion sensor and light bar (good riddance, I have electrician’s tape over mine).

The touch bar is obviously somewhat reduced — Sony says “certain touch pad inputs can be simulated via the left or right sticks.” (Just having the buttons is enough for Bloodborne, which means enough for me.)

But on the plus side, it’s small, friendly to little hands, and uses a 10-foot cord, so your dang kids won’t take it into their room and lose it in the toybox. Some people in the comments over at Sony are worried the kids are going to strangle themselves with the cord. Really?! We managed to survive Nintendo, Genesis, Super Nintendo, N64, Playstation, and all the rest until wireless became standard a few years ago, right? I’d be more worried about them swallowing a Switch Joy-Con. (Still, keep an eye on the little dears.)

Anyway, at $30 it’s a cheap way to add a second (or third) controller to your PS4 ecosystem, either for kid purposes or for the occasional couch co-op session. They’ll be available sometime soon, but definitely before the holidays.

The Moto Z gets its very own Alexa smart speaker

It was just a matter of time, really. Motorola’s been teasing Alexa integration since Mobile World Congress in February. Back then, the company previewed a sort of “experimental” Mod for the Moto Z sporting Amazon’s insanely popular smart assistant. The add-on is finally really real and set to start shipping next month.

The AI has already slowly made its way onto a smattering of handsets from companies like Huawei, but the new Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa is different than the standard integration. It’s a full-fledged modular smart speaker add-on that snaps magnetically onto the back of Motorola’s flagship — a sort of mini-Echo.

It’s got four microphones, so it works hands-free. It’s designed to have the speaker face down, propping up the phone so the display full visible. The Moto Z’s screen doubles as an Amazon Show/Spot of sorts, showing off the visual component of Alexa’s results.

The speaker runs $150, which put it on the high end of the Moto Mod spectrum — that’s about double the price of JBL’s speaker add-on. More importantly, it’s about three times the price of the Echo Dot, making it a hard sell for all but the most loyal Moto Z owners. It does have a couple of things going for it though, like 15 hours of battery life and the convenience of being untethered from the home, if the idea of taking your Echo on the go has ever appealed to you.

Still, Alexa has yet to establish itself as a competent mobile assistant along the line what Apple and Google offer, and the need to take a smart speaker with you is probably pretty limited, as well. The company suggests hotel rooms as a possibility — perhaps if you’re looking for the comfort of a home assistant on the road?

Motorola found a surprise hit with the Moto Z, but it’s hard to make the case that any one of the Mods the company has issued so far have been a killer app. The add-on will be available starting next month.

Games developer Supersolid raises $4M Series A round led by Index Ventures

Supersolid, a London-based mobile games developer with more than 50 million downloads under its belt, is best known for the smash hit games like Super Penguins, Adventure Town and Pororo Penguin Run. It was created by a team of highly experienced mobile and social games veterans with backgrounds in EA, Playfish, Glu and Macrospace. That turns out to be a powerful combination, because the company has now raised a $4 million Series A investment round, led by Index Ventures.

Yesterday it also launched Home Street, its new home decoration and life simulation game. Think Sim City with home furnishings meets Shaker (assuming anyone gets that reference!). After being the featured “Best New Game” on the Apple App Store globally, as well as the entering the top spot for “New Games” on the Google Play store globally, the company says it achieved 200,000 installations in the first 24 hours of its launch.

The investment will be used to expand the company’s 30-person team in London, and develop Home Street by signing partnerships with entertainment, retail and lifestyle brands. In the game, players design their dream home down to the last detail. It’s also a social network where players collaborate and chat with each other (hence my Shaker comparison). CEO Ed Chin says the game is a “deep, engaging and interactive world.”

Ben Holmes, Venture Partner at Index Ventures, commented: “This investment underscores our belief in the team and their formula for making fun and distinctive games.”

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