There is something so uniquely and intimately satisfying about creating a character in the hit Nintendo series ‘Animal Crossing’ before spending hours shaking trees, fishing and talking to animal-people. Nintendo’s quirky series has been one of the staples in their massive library of IP and now it is going mobile. ‘Animal Cross: Pocket Camp’ hit mobile application stores last week and it ascended quickly to 15 million downloads, making it the second largest mobile game launch in Nintendo’s history — right behind Super Mario Run.
Nintendo has made a habit of giving fans a new ‘Animal Crossing’ title with each generation of their console release, dating all the way back to the Nintendo 64. Fans were notably worried that nothing had been announced in 2017, up until about two months ago when news of ‘Pocket Camp’ first hit the internet. Fans were initially put off by the idea of a mobilization of such a deep and unique game, but those fears have turned out to be unfounded as critical and commercial success has followed the title.
In ‘Pocket Camp’, gamers create a character like they traditionally do in other ‘Animal Crossing’ titles. Afterwards, each player is given a special RV Camper that they can decorate and expand, much like their home. The big twist here is that your character does not live in a village. Instead, you have your own ‘campsite’ that can be completely and uniquely decorated. You can invite other animals to come hang out at your campsite while you perform tasks for them in order to build your friendship. Of course, there is plenty of exploration too. An overworld map allows your character to travel to a handful of different areas, including beaches, parks, and forests, in order to catch bugs, go fishing, and meet new animals and players.
Nintendo has taken a relatively hands-off approach in terms of monetization for ‘Pocket Camp’ which is likely why the title has been so popular, so far. You don’t need to pay a cent to enjoy the game unless you would like to speed up certain tasks or buy specialty aesthetic items to decorate your camp.
If there is one thing that Nintendo has mastered, with almost no competition from other major brands, it is the platformer. With Mario setting the tone and every iconic character after to follow, Nintendo has cornered the style of gameplay almost entirely. Now it looks like the Nintendo Switch is picking up its next great piece of IP in the retro platformer genre, “Yooka-Laylee”. Ignoring the obvious play on words, there looks to be a lot of depth in this title and fans of the style should be eager to get their hands on it when it drops on December 14th, 2017.
Yooka-Laylee was originally supposed to release on the PS4, XB1, and Wii U this past April but a slew of technical issues changed the ramping up of the release. Instead, the developers at Playtonic Games decided to hold back and refine their product with a new release window during the Holiday Season for the Nintendo Switch. Over the past several months the team at Playtonic have been focused on technically optimizing the quirky, colorful platformer in order to make it a homerun for Nintendo Switch owners around the world.
For fans of the Yooka-Laylee that have already played the title on the PS4 or XB1, there will be new content and additional gameplay elements that come with the Nintendo Switch. What we do know is that Playtonic Games focused on incorporating the impressive Joy-Con controls as much as possible during their optimization process. You can now play all eight mini-games with just one of the Joy-Con controllers. You can also enjoy a brand new camera system, refined controls, and even a dialogue skip button for the truly impatient gamers.
The Nintendo Switch has turned into one of the biggest console surprises of the past decade. The Switch has completely flipped the Wii U’s relative failure on its head, becoming one of Nintendo’s hottest selling systems of all time. With titles like Yooka-Layle in the fold, gamers are only going to keep coming back for more.
It has not been a great launch period for Star Wars Battlefront 2. Electronic Arts’ (EA) much awaited continuation to the Battlefront franchise was almost immediately panned by fans and critics as “pay to win”, where players could pay money for items that improved their performance in-game. To that end EA pulled the system, but such actions did not appease the Belgian Gaming Commission from launching an investigation into the practice. EA attempted to shift the blame to the Star Wars license, but their pleas seem to have fallen of deaf ears.
Which is when the bad news for EA keeps getting worse, as France may begin to take a closer look at the loot-crate practice. French senator Jérôme Durain reached out to several consumer advocacy groups recently, expressing concern that the boxes may be harmful to children. A translation reads: “Quite aside from the acceptance of the practice, some observers point to a convergence of the video game world and practices specific to gambling.” He highlights several avenues of resolution, including perhaps adopting Chinese models which include transparency win chances. Fortunately for EA, he also says that he is not at a point where he believes legislation is strictly necessary.
Charles Coppolani of ARJEL, the regulatory oversight board in France which monitors all gambling within the country, replied the practice poses, “risks for our fellow citizens and in particular for the youngest. These risks are very close to those that characterise gambling addiction money; it is necessary to be very vigilant.” He further stressed consumer protection may indeed become a necessity before long.
Elsewhere, Hawaii state representative Chris Lee voiced similar concerns last week. It would seem EA’s loot box policy was only a straw that finally broke this particular camel’s back.
We are currently living in a pop-culture world that is completely dominated by the teams at Disney and Marvel. With fans clamoring for the trailer to the anticipated ‘Infinity Wars’ Marvel film, it seems like everything is in the palm of Marvel’s hands. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite extend to the gaming world. Marvel Heroes was released in 2013 as a sort of Diablo-like take on the dungeon-crawling genre. Fans played with their favorite heroes from throughout the MCU. The title recently expanded to the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 after being first launched on the PC. Despite the recent expansion, it turns out that Marvel Heroes is being shut down and fans everywhere are absolutely devastated.
Marvel Heroes was one of Disney’s first big F2P games that focused more on a freemium experience rather than a massive investment up front. As a result, the game instantly became a fan-favorite for followers of the Marvel Universe. The game was developed by Gazillion Entertainment and it was through them that the closure was announced. Gazillion Entertainment took to Twitter to say, “It is with great sadness that we announce the close of Gazillion Entertainment.” The tweet went on to say, “As a result, we are no longer able to operate Marvel Heroes Omega until December 31 as originally planned.” This tweet, of course, meant that Marvel Heroes was to be shut down essentially immediately.
Earlier this month it was revealed that Marvel Heroes was likely heading for the dumps but that the company would hold on until the end of the year to allow gamers to enjoy some time with the product before shutting it down. Instead, the sunset period began immediately. Microtransactions were immediately pulled from the title, and nearly every employee on the company’s roster was let go from their job. The studio finally revealed that there was no way that they could continue supporting the title and as a result, it was gone. At least we still have ‘Infinity War’, right?
If you were like us, then you spent the summer of 2016 outside with your eyes locked on your phone as you captured as many Pokemon as possible in Pokemon Go. Developed by Niantic, Pokemon Go became a resounding success and a true game-changer for the mobile market. Augmented reality has begun to showcase itself as a viable platform for major IPs to take their product on the road. Now, it looks like Harry Potter is getting its own Pokemon Go styled augmented reality experience, and the investment money is truly rolling in.
Niantic Labs announced their new Harry Potter augmented reality title just over a week ago and since then the title has been gaining massive attention from investors everywhere. Through the Wall Street Journal, it was announced that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite had already found nearly $200 million in Series B venture capital funding. Niantic will be utilizing this money in order to further the world of augmented reality. Fans of Pokemon Go and Harry Potter should be ecstatic that Niantic isn’t willfully sticking to their wheelhouse. Instead, it appears that the company is intent on pushing technology forward in order to change the platform forever.
Niantic Labs used to be owned by Google but now the company is standing alone and rising as a result. Niantic Labs saw several major investors come to the table during their Series B investing, including Spark Capital, Meritech, and Javelin Venture Capital. With more companies working alongside Niantic Labs, it appears that Niantic CEO John Hanke has more in mind than just launching another piece of IP. Niantic Labs has a very real chance to fundamentally change the world of mobile gaming forever, and if they are successful then this could mean that there will be a complete proprietary change to the way we use our phones. We’re rooting for Niantic to bring some magic out with Wizards Unite. The question begs to be asked, will they succeed or enter a sophomore slump?
Although the game has waned from being popular among mainstream news cycles, “Pokémon Go” will be offering its players the chance to capture another legendary Pokémon. The blazing phoenix-like Ho-Oh will now make appearance during raid battles., Niantic’s go-to method for bringing players in touch with legendary Pokémon like Mewtwo and the trio of birds that serve as mascots for the game’s three teams.
While raid battles are group encounters that have up to 20 players teaming up to tackle one super-powerful Pokémon, the mention of a Ho-Oh raid seems relatively unforeseen. Those unfamiliar with Niantic’s social media presence or who fail to keep up with the screen dedicated to sensing raids would easily miss this news. As befits a creature of its majesty and scarcity, raid encounters with the blazing bird of legend will not be around for very long. To be specific, Ho-Oh raids will only be operable from now until the 12th day of December this year.
Any player seeking to capture Ho-Oh during a raid must first obtain a Raid Pass item within the game. This item can be acquired either from going to a gym or by purchasing a Premium Raid Pass from the in-app store. Once a raid battle begins, all participating players must defeat a “Raid Boss” within a 5 minute time limit. Upon defeating the Raid Boss players can see a Pokémon egg that will hatch once the 5 minute counter reaches 0:00. In addition to the chance to get rare and unique pokemon, players can also receive free items like Potions, Berries and “Technical Machines.” Raid battles were one feature added to the game during a massive update in June 2017.
Pokémon Go’s inception can be traced back to a partnership April Fools’ Day joke in 2014 between Nintendo, The Pokémon Company and Google Earth. After several test runs in limited regions, the first build of the complete game was released in July of 2016.
GameStop has seen their stock drastically drop over the last few years as digital video games become increasing more popular. A large set of video game fans are simply unwilling to go to a physical store to buy a game when they can download it directly to their console without ever leaving their home. GameStop is looking to combat the rise of digital downloads by offering a new subscription rental service later this year.
The new service offered by GameStop is called Power Pass, and it will allow subscribers to rent an unlimited amount of pre-owned games from their local GameStop store for a period of six months. Sign ups for the GameStop Power Pass program will begin on November 19, and it will cost everyone an upfront fee of $60. You must sign up before the end of January 2018 if you want to take part in the new rental service. A GameStop PowerUp Rewards account is also needed in order to sign up.
Everyone that signs up for Power Pass will get to take home one pre-owned video game from their local GameStop store when the program begins. You can then exchange that game for another pre-owned game at any time. There are no restrictions on exchanges, so you can get a new game every day if you desired. There are also no restrictions on the games that can be rented with Power Pass. If the pre-owned game is sitting on the store shelves, then you can take it home with your Power Pass subscription. It does not matter if it is a new release for the PS4 or a classic game from the original Xbox. Once the six-month program is over, you will get to keep the last game you rented.
GameStop ran a similar program for three months this summer in select cities, and it looks like it was a success. This is a great deal for both parties involved. Video game fans get to enjoy six months of endless games for a low price, and GameStop is finding a way to monetize their large used game inventory.
While Destiny 2 released with quite a bit of excitement, that hubbub has died down a bit this fall. It appears developer Bungie is trying it’s best to make sure it resurrects that excitement. It also wants to make sure as many people as possible can get their hands on the game, or at least a version of the game. Bungie has long talked about releasing a trial version of Destiny 2 and now that trial version is officially live.
The trial launched on November 28 on the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One and PC. Players who want to check out the Destiny 2 trail can download it through one of those consoles, or they can get it through their Battle.net downloader. This is one of the interesting things about how Bungie has brought the game to the market. Both the trial and the full game have gone through Blizzard’s PC service. It is one of the only games on the market these days that you can get through Blizzard’s software that isn’t a Blizzard product.
This is especially interesting considering Blizzard has at least a bit of competition with Destiny 2 when it comes to its First-Person shooter, Overwatch. While Overwatch and Destiny 2 are not totally the same kind of game, it’s interesting to see the handshake agreement that is going on between the two developers.
As you might expect, this trail version isn’t going to give you the full Destiny 2 experience. There is one campaign mission you can try out on the European Dead Zone map. You can also run around the Dead Zone and Titan maps and just get into skirmishes around the world like you might if you have completed the campaign in the main game. The game also allows for players to try out the multiplayer options such as the Crucible. You may also join a clan and try out a fireteam. You can also progress your character up to level seven.
There has been a bad power-creep over the years relating to the increase in price and reduction in ‘finished product’ quality regarding the video game industry. This has largely been due to the rise of DLC and the prominence of ‘pay to win’ style schemes. EA has been one of the most notable offenders and they’ve come under particular scrutiny for their work on the ‘Star Wars: Battlefront II’ beta release. The problem, fans argued, was that EA was putting too much emphasis on the Loot Crate concept and it was turning off fans who didn’t want to effectively pay for a game every time that they played it. EA finally went public, addressing those concerns.
It was EA CEO Andrew Wilson that took to the public forum in order to comment on the rise of loot crates, paying to win, and how fans are reacting to the concepts. Wilson said in a conference call, “We are engaged in that conversation, engaging with our player son a daily basis as we think about that.” Wilson’s words weren’t particularly strong and they definitely won’t tide the anger that has been building up in the hearts, and wallets, of gamers around the globe. Wilson went on to highlight the ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ sequel as an example of how they are engaging in more fair practice with consumers. He pointed out that all DLC in ‘Battlefront II’ will be released for free instead of hiding behind a ‘season pass’ style offering.
EA has consistently come out to say the right things regarding the problem surrounding pay to win gaming. Their goal, ostensibly and according to Wilson, is to create “Balance and fairness inside of gameplay”. Whether this is lip-service or a genuine gesture remains to be seen, but you can rest assured that gamers will be paying close attention.
For as long as we have been following the video game industry, the character Mario has been prevalent and sitting at center stage. Mario is a larger-than-life video game icon despite his humble origins as a platforming plumber. Nintendo has made sure to continually bring their mega-character into every iteration of their newest consoles and in doing so they’ve kept us feeling young at heart. Most recently we saw Mario take center stage once again on the Nintendo Switch in what is, perhaps, the most hyped game of the year: ‘Super Mario Odyssey’
Returning to the gaming world with Mario is as graceful and enjoyable as it ever was. There is something intrinsically pleasing about the bright colors, excited and unique music, and the simple task of saving Princess Peach. Even though so much is familiar in ‘Odyssey’ there is still so much that feels different, new and exciting. In ‘Odyssey’ your goal is ultimately to rescue Princess Peach from the evil grasp of Bowser but it is being done by way of your hunt for the elusive Power Moons. These Power Moons are a riff off of the traditional star system that past Mario titles have pursued. As you hunt for these Power Moons you will travel across a wide variety of different levels, exploring every conceivable landscape that you can imagine. Along the way, you’ll utilize new transformations, fight larger than life opponents, and collect a number of different items.
The power in ‘Odyssey’ isn’t that it is, perhaps, the best ‘Mario’ title released in the past decade. The power in ‘Odyssey’ is that it is a potent blend of nostalgia that you can uncork and imbibe at any point in time, supposing you own the title and a Nintendo Switch. So long as Nintendo keeps doing our favorite plumber justice, we’ll keep lining up.