Capture A Moment In Time

Using 130 Snapdragon-powered HTC One smartphones, Qualcomm has created “The Ultimate Smartphone Photobooth.” Check out the various stunts performed in the ring, from break-dancing to dog tricks, and yes Hadoukening.


Game Delays Affect PS4 Preorders

The PlayStation 4 is headed to store shelves next month, and those who’ve preordered can’t wait to get their hands on the new system. Unfortunately, Target may have shut out a few anxious gamers over a pre-order snafu.

With the delays of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs and Sony’s own DriveClub into 2014, the company has cancelled any pre-purchased bundles that contained the two games, rather than offering alternative discounts like GameStop and Amazon have done. Customers have taken to Twitter and Reddit to voice their displeasure with the company’s tactics, leaving them high and dry without being able to pick up their systems, even without the delayed games.

A Reddit user has also noted that Target will reopen pre-orders for the system, but they won’t be to customers who ordered them before. They’re merely being placed on a “first come, first served basis,” according to the user.

Target has yet to respond on the matter, but this issue will certainly have a slight effect on their business this holiday season, and perhaps a larger effect on their reputation among gamers.

Source: Polygon

Wii Not Discontinued In U.S.

Though Nintendo of Japan has officially closed the books on the original Nintendo Wii with a shutdown in production, that doesn’t mean its story is necessarily over.

Nintendo of America stated that it would continue to stock the original Wii system on store shelves well through this holiday season. “The announcement that the Wii console has been discontinued is specific to Japan,” said a representative for Nintendo of America. “There is no change in the status of Wii in the United States, and it is available to purchase this holiday season.”

Though its games have dwindled a little bit, the Wii continues to see new releases from third-party publishers. In fact, Activision is currently releasing a trifecta of new titles for the system, including a new Spongebob Squarepants game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Angry Birds: Star Wars.

The Wii has been on the market since 2006, and has sold over 100 million units in that time. It currently lists for $129.99 on the market, with Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort included in the package.

Source: Gamespot

Microsoft Testing Connected Glasses

Google Glass certainly has gotten some attention following its release, but now Microsoft is looking to get a piece of the high-tech eyewear market. Microsoft’s version would no doubt look different than Google Glasses (pictured), and the functionality will no doubt be different as well.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the company is looking into creating its own Internet-connected eyewear. Though a final model isn’t likely to be released anytime soon, Microsoft is currently working on various models of hardware from suppliers, putting together potential prototypes.

“Fortaleza Glasses” were previously hinted at in a leaked Microsoft document from last year, with possible connectivity to the new Xbox One system and its Kinect device. However, nothing is official at this time.

We’ll keep you informed once this eyewear becomes a reality. In the meantime, the Xbox One arrives in several markets, including the U.S., on November 22.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Wii U Bundles Mario And Luigi

Earlier this month, Nintendo of Europe announced a set of new bundles for gamers to pick up for the holiday season, including one that includes a two-pack of Mario adventures. Good news – the U.S. will be getting a similar bundle next month.

A new 32 GB package will include a Wii U system, along with two games – New Super Mario Bros. U and its much tougher spin-off New Super Luigi U, both of which will be on one disc. Unfortunately, Nintendo Land, which was the previous pack-in game for the system, will not be included. However, interested buyers can get it digitally or in retail form for just $29.99.

“Mario and Luigi are two of the biggest heroes in video games,” said executive VP of sales and marketing Scott Moffitt. “This new Wii U configuration gives people instant access to not one, but two of the most well-received Wii U games. It’s another example of the tremendous value and variety that Nintendo is offering consumers this holiday season.”

The bundle will arrive in stores November 1.

Source: IGN {link no longer active}

4K 12-Inch Tablets On The Way

4K-based televisions are certainly on the rise, but if Japan Display can get the job done, it’s looking to bring the tech to tablets as well.

The team, consisting of Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi among others, has announced that it’s managed to put 4K technology, based upon 3840 x 2160 resolution, into a 12.1 inch TFFT module. The device uses an impressive 365 pixels per inch, and is also power-efficient and remarkably thin – a huge feat considering the heavy technology involved.

No word yet on when tablets using that screen will hit market, but maybe we’ll see more of it in action come January, when the Consumer Electronics Show takes place in Las Vegas.

Source: Engadget

Virtual Sword Prompts Real Lawsuit

Some people take virtual lives very seriously – even if, in the end of things, they don’t really get much general worth out of them. For one particular woman, however, a loss of a particular sword is devastating enough to file a lawsuit over.

A report from Inven states that a 64-year old woman filed a lawsuit against game publisher NCsoft over a lost item in the game Lineage. She had gotten hold of an incredibly rare Jin Myung Hwang’s Conduct Sword, which apparently goes for 30 million won (or $28,000 in U.S. funds).

Apparently, she attempted to enchant the sword by accident, causing its destruction. She claimed she would never do that, and asked NCsoft to restore it. When the company refused, she filed the suit.

The court, however, felt that the lady also tried to enchant other items after doing so to the sword, with records indicating she also purchased an in-game scroll to increase certain abilities. “Other items were enchanted with the item in question so it is hard to rule out that losing the item was an isolated case,” said the court.

Furthermore, the court stated that even though it might have been a mistake, it’s not the responsibility for NCsoft to restore it.

Guess it goes to show that not everything needs to be enchanted.

Source: Kotaku

The Game Industry’s ‘Battle Royal’

The themes for GamesBeat conferences seem to be all about taking challenges in the game industry head on. This year is no exception, with organizers dubbing their event taking place next week in the San Francisco Bay Area as the “Battle Royal.”  They’re setting a fight-to-the-death mood that’s not only befitting GamesBeat’s entrepreneurial audience but something the game industry needs.  That’s because the industry’s in one of its cyclical fluxes again, with all sorts of game-capable hardware coming at consumers, and game makers struggling to keep up with where their most valuable audiences are now lurking.  At the same time, some of the tumult of recent years has arguably settled. For one, the “death of consoles” movement has been put to bed, at least for now. That’s thanks to a string of console hits this past year that included new IP such as Sony’s The Last of Us and Bethesda’s Dishonored, and led up to last month’s record-setting debut for GTA V. And console naysayers can’t deny that there’s real buzz around next generation systems. Mobile and social games have also moved past their bubbles, and thankfully without entirely deflating. They’re showing to be real opportunities to build global game brands around. Testament to that is last week’s $1.5 billion investment by Softbank in Finnish mobile game maker Supercell.

Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat’s Dean Takahashi, one of the masterminds behind the conferences, talked with us about this year’s show and how it reflects the state of the industry.  He said that since he and organizers sat down nine months ago to come up with this year’s theme and agenda, the industry has seen a turnaround.

“The health of the industry has improved,” Takahashi told us. “I think the traditional companies in the industry have stepped up and showed some very good product, and sort of put that notion to rest that there wouldn’t be a new generation of consoles that would be interesting to consumers.  So they brought some more stability back to the industry.”

That’s not to say the battles have ended and the victors defined. One look at the GamesBeat agenda and it is glaringly apparent just how many different opportunities — call them battle fronts — there are for game companies to take on.  The micro-consoles are coming, and don’t shoot any of them dead yet.  On that note, Ouya founder and CEO Julie Uhrman is on the show slate, talking about how micro-consoles’ success will lie in liberating indie game makers and their innovative game ideas. Social casino games continue to rise in popularity, and they’re represented at the conference.  And since there’s talk of eSports rivaling anything in the realm of fandom the game industry has ever seen, it’s only natural that GamesBeat dedicate a panel to its rise, gathering major players such as Wargaming and Major League Gaming.

To Takahashi, the biggest challenge ahead lies in something much more straightforward from a business standpoint, that of creating truly global game companies and game brands born from new categories like mobile. It’s something the game industry successfully did with consoles. It now needs to reinvent the model for the mobile and digital side of the business, where there are far fewer barriers when it comes getting products out, but also where ways to effectively reach and generate audiences are still being defined.

“The gauntlet has been sort of thrown down, in terms of the challenge for all these mobile game companies, in terms of, sure you can get to a billion dollars, but are you going to be gone next year,” Takahashi said.

He pointed to how former EA boss John Riccitiello addressed a key barometer for success for up-and-coming game companies. Riccitiello is giving a fireside chat at the conference on the potential for mobile and free-to-play to unseat console gaming’s prominence.

“They all have this whole interesting challenge that John Riccitiello has pointed out.  He says that what you see missing in mobile right now is major brands.  You see games that are billion-dollar games, but to him that’s a small number, coming from EA. He wants to see brands that will be more than $10 billion over a decade, that are in the top 10 or top five games every single year.  He’s not sure that the mobile games that we have right now are going to be around either a year from now or five years from now among the top grossers.”

Supercell and GungHo combined IP powers, activate!

Takahashi sees Softbank’s stake in mobile as a big bet on this front. Outside of its investment in Supercell, where it acquired a 51 percent stake in the Finnish developer, the bank owns a chunk of Japan-based mobile game maker GungHo Entertainment. The two game companies have put out this year’s biggest mobile game hits, and Softbank is banking on turning them into enduring global game franchises.

“I think [Softbank] are betting that the billion-dollar properties that they own a large chunk of now, like Puzzles & Dragons and Clash of Clans and HayDay, are going to be global properties that are not just sort of here and gone next year.  They’re going to be brands that stick around for years and eventually become $10 billion properties, much like traditional game brands have become like Mario or FIFA.”

Soft bank’s move is indicative of another trend. Based on recent data, investments in the game industry are being led primarily by Asian companies, followed by Europe.  The U.S. is trailing behind, and Takahashi cited how part of what’s responsible for it is that U.S. companies have been burned by their big investments in mobile and social.  Still, a good sign for the industry as a whole is that investments overall are back on the rise after dipping last year.

Takahashi looked at investment trends based on a recent report from Tim Merel at DigiCapital: “There are a couple of ways to slice it, but the growth is there this year. Game acquisitions, which is what is included with the Supercell transaction, are at $5 billion already. That’s year-to-date — and all of last year was just $4 billion.  So that’s growing quite a bit, and [correctly] based on the prediction that a lot of the Asian game companies would drive this acquisition binge.  Then you also have something like a 35 percent increase in dollars in game investment year-to-date compared to the same year-to-date last year. So game investments are up, and so are game acquisitions. The kinds of players doing the deals that are very sort of different this year. You have a lot less activity from American companies, say Zynga or Electronic Arts.”

If U.S. companies are playing scared because of a few bad bets, should we expect that retreat to continue and leave the way open for Asian or European domination?

“I think there are winners and losers with the deals [U.S. companies] did, but that’s par for the course for the entertainment business,” said Takahashi.  “I wouldn’t say count them out. There’s a big opportunity now, and you get the feeling there’s a land rush going on among the different larger players in the business who are trying to build global gaming brands and global gaming companies.  If you sit on the sidelines because you had some bad acquisitions or investments that happened before, you run the risk of falling farther behind.”

Looking at next-gen consoles, it didn’t seem right to put Takahashi on the spot with a prediction on how they’ll fare. Analysts and pundits relish the opportunity to rub a crystal ball and toss out forecasts, but with it comes a certain comfort level with being wrong. Reporters of facts are less enthusiastic about it. So instead we asked him to share his thoughts on lessons learned from this last generation.

“I think we saw the blockbusters get bigger and better and more spectacular, just the way we’ve seen movies go,” Takahashi said. “But we also saw a lot of those games lose a lot of innovation.  You can brag about the success of Grand Theft Auto hitting $1 billion in sales in three days, but you can also lament the fact that the game that’s doing that and reaching new heights is Grand Theft Auto and not what one of our speakers calls the ‘feel-focused’ games like Journey, or games where there are ethical choices or interesting subject matters that makes them more like art forms. I think that the game industry is almost a little embarrassed at the games that have brought back their fortune, which are objectionable to a lot of people.  The industry is going to continue to wrestle with this kind of problem.”

GamesBeat 2013 takes place October 29-30 in Redwood City, California.  You can check out the full agenda and registration details at the conference web site {link no longer active}. To take advantage of a 15 percent discount offered to [a]list daily, use the code “alist” and register here.

Apple Tablets Supercharge Gaming

The big Apple event yesterday contained a lot of news, and as usual Apple took the opportunity to update the state of the App Store. There are over one million apps that have been downloaded 60 billion times collectively, and developers have been paid over $13 billion. The iPad has now reached a cumulative total of 170 million units sold, which by comparison is more than twice the installed base of the Xbox 360 or the PS3.

Apple’s new products in a nutshell:

The new iPad Mini with 7.9″ 2048×1536 Retina display, A7 processor, M7 coprocessor, and a 5MP camera starting at $399 for the 16GB WiFi version (you can add LTE and memory up to 128 GB). The device is slightly heavier than before at 0.73 pounds, but the same dimensions, and still boasts a 10 hour battery life.

The new iPad Air has 9.7″ 2048×1536 Retina display, A7 processor, M7 coprocessor, and a 5MP camera starting at $499 for the 16GB WiFi version (you can add LTE and memory up to 128 GB). The iPad Air is remarkably smaller, thinner and lighter than the previous iPad. It’s only 6.6″ across, 0.29 inches thick and weighs only a pound, down from a 7.3″ width, a thickness of 0.34 inches and a weight of 1.33 pounds.

The MacBook Pro line was refreshed with Intel’s Haswell CPUs (offering greater power and longer battery life) and dropped their starting prices $200, at only $1299 for the 13 inch MacBook Pro and $1999 for the 15 inch MacBook Pro.

The reinvented Mac Pro workstations feature Intel Xeon E5 processors and AMD FirePro graphics in an astonishingly compact cylinder, with impressive expandability, at a starting price of $2999.

On the software side, Apple introduced its OS X Mavericks as a free update, and announced that the new versions of the iLife suite (iMovie, iPhoto, and Garage Band) and the iWorks suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) for both iOS and Mac OS X will be free to new purchasers of Mac and iOS devices.

Apple’s product intros are timed for the holiday season, and will certainly have an impact on holiday hardware buys. The most important new devices are going to be very important to gamers: The iPad Mini with Retina display and the new iPad Air. Aside from all their other uses, these two new iPads are far and away the best tablets for gaming because of the 64-bit A7 chip. Apple didn’t reveal the clock speed or the amount of RAM, but if past practice is followed these A7 chips will be even more powerful than the one included in the iPhone 5s, which set new benchmarks for mobile devices.

The iPad Mini now has the highest resolution screen of any small tablet, and it’s in a very compact package. For $100 more you can get a larger 9.7†screen with the iPad Air, and it’s going to be the best big-screen tablet gaming rig you can find. Kudos, by the way, to Peter Warman of Newzoo for predicting the name of the new iPad a year ago, though he thought it would apply to the iPad Mini. Both of these devices will push the boundaries of what game developers can do with tablets by providing power equivalent to or exceeding an Xbox 360. We will see more impressive games by developers looking to make a strong visual impact on the market.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of Apple’s event was that there was no big surprise — most of the information had leaked out ahead of time or was easily guessed. Really, how many people were surprised that Apple introduced an iPad Mini with a Retina display Or, if you stop and think about what you’d logically expect in a new iPad given Apple’s track record, it would probably be slimmer, lighter, and faster than the current model. That’s exactly what Apple delivered.

What wasn’t announced at the Apple event is perhaps more interesting than what was announced. No iWatch, but then that was a long shot knowing how Apple likes to refine its vision before release. Surprisingly, there was no new Apple TV, and many observers at least expected a a refresh using the new A7 chip. Perhaps this signals that a more comprehensive Apple TV release will occur at some future point, with greater power under the hood, some key deals with content providers, and opening up the device to the full power of the App Store.

While the iPads generally met or exceeded expectations, one missing feature some expected was the new touch sensor that debuted on the iPhone 5s. That feature will probably wait for the next generation of iPads, but for a while people will be enjoying the lighter, thinner, faster iPad Air, or the iPad Mini with the Retina display. One important thing to note is that Apple priced the new iPad Mini with Retina display at $399, bumping it up from $329. It’s a reasonable upgrade given that Apple put in the new A7 chip, the M7 motion coprocessor, and upgraded the cameras as well. The iPad Mini with Retina now has all the same features as the iPad Air, but with a smaller form factor and a $100 lower price.

Once you get past the magical aura of Apple’s events, the competitive situation versus the new range of Android tablets is mostly unchanged. Apple’s upgraded the specs on the iPad, as Google and Amazon (and soon, every other manufacturer) has done for the Android tablets. Apple’s at the high end of the pricing, but the 64-bit A7 chip seems to have a strong performance edge over anything Android tablets can muster so far. The combination of strong new features (faster, thinner, lighter, better) should slow the market share erosion of Apple’s tablets. Remember, though, that Apple really doesn’t care about market share so much, preferring to maximize profits and maintain its brand position as the premium device maker. These new computers and tablets will certainly accomplish those goals.

One important new feature for Apple is adding the iLife and iWork software to all new iOS and OSX devices. This provides a strong added feature for both the casual and the work oriented tablet user. It’s aimed squarely at Microsoft’s Surface, and at laptops in general. If Apple can get you to compare the price of an iPad to a laptop, the iPad looks pretty reasonably priced. Another direct shot at Microsoft is making the OS X software Mavericks a free upgrade, when you consider that Microsoft has made billions from selling operating system upgrades. Microsoft’s revenue from OS sales has been in decline, and Apple’s move will probably hasten that.

The new MacBook Pro line will certainly do well, especially with the new lower price tag. Apple also introduced the new Mac Pro line, in an astonishingly small package crammed with power and capability starting at $2,999. It’s not a consumer product by any means, but professionals in audio, video and imagery will be putting this on their wish list. Video producers will love the idea of up to three 4K screens on one workstations, with the power to process video in record time. As an added bonus, the Mac Pro has a beautiful design that will look great sitting on a creative professional’s work station.

Overall, Apple has introduced a solid array of new products that will continue to drive sales for the company. Yet people are still waiting for Apple to strike out into new product categories, such as the long-rumored iWatch or the iTV/Apple TV product possibilities. We will probably see something in one of those areas at least in 2014. Until then, we’ll just have to aspire to an iPad Air as the latest in sexy Apple hardware.

Drops of Water Form The Beat

Sony uses pure groundwater from their Kumamoto Technology Center to create image sensors and also look to return pure water to the earth. They celebrate this point in this video of water droplets playing a “rock version” of Pachelbel’s Canon.

{video link no longer active}