Nintendo

Nintendo's Newest Switch Accessories Are DIY Cardboard Toys (theverge.com) 42

sqorbit writes: Nintendo has announced a new experience for its popular Switch game console, called Nintendo Labo. Nintendo Labo lets you interact with the Switch and its Joy-Con controllers by building things with cardboard. Launching on April 20th, Labo will allow you to build things such as a piano and a fishing pole out of cardboard pieces that, once attached to the Switch, provide the user new ways to interact with the device. Nintendo of America's President, Reggie Fils-Aime, states that "Labo is unlike anything we've done before." Nintendo has a history of non-traditional ideas in gaming, sometimes working and sometimes not. Cardboard cuts may attract non-traditional gamers back to the Nintendo platform. While Microsoft and Sony appear to be focused on 4K, graphics and computing power, Nintendo appears focused on producing "fun" gaming experiences, regardless of how cheesy or technologically outdated they me be. Would you buy a Nintendo Labo kit for $69.99 or $79.99? "The 'Variety Kit' features five different games and Toy-Con -- including the RC car, fishing, and piano -- for $69.99," The Verge notes. "The 'Robot Kit,' meanwhile, will be sold separately for $79.99."
Nintendo

Hackers Seem Close To Publicly Unlocking the Nintendo Switch (arstechnica.com) 91

Ars Technica reports that "hackers have been finding partial vulnerabilities in early versions of the [Nintendo] Switch firmware throughout 2017." They have discovered a Webkit flaw that allows for basic "user level" access to some portions of the underlying system and a service-level initialization flaw that gives hackers slightly more control over the Switch OS. "But the potential for running arbitary homebrew code on the Switch really started looking promising late last month, with a talk at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress (34C3) in Leipzig Germany," reports Ars. "In that talk, hackers Plutoo, Derrek, and Naehrwert outlined an intricate method for gaining kernel-level access and nearly full control of the Switch hardware." From the report: The full 45-minute talk is worth a watch for the technically inclined, it describes using the basic exploits discussed above as a wedge to dig deep into how the Switch works at the most basic level. At one point, the hackers sniff data coming through the Switch's memory bus to figure out the timing for an important security check. At another, they solder an FPGA onto the Switch's ARM chip and bit-bang their way to decoding the secret key that unlocks all of the Switch's encrypted system binaries. The team of Switch hackers even got an unexpected assist in its hacking efforts from chipmaker Nvidia. The "custom chip" inside the Switch is apparently so similar to an off-the-shelf Nvidia Tegra X1 that a $700 Jetson TX1 development kit let the hackers get significant insight into the Switch's innards. More than that, amid the thousand of pages of Nvidia's public documentation for the X1 is a section on how to "bypass the SMMU" (the System Memory Management Unit), which gave the hackers a viable method to copy and write a modified kernel to the Switch's system RAM. As Plutoo put it in the talk, "Nvidia backdoored themselves."
Japan

Japanese Console Market Grows For the First Time In 11 Years (kotaku.com) 34

According to Famitsu, hardware sales in Japan experienced a huge spike in 2017 compared to the previous year. In 2016, Japanese hardware sales were 117.05 billion yen ($1.05 billion), while in 2017, they jumped to 202.37 billion yen ($1.81 billion). Kotaku reports: Software sales also increased: in 2016, they were 182.4 billion yen ($1.63 billion) and the following year, they were 189.3 billion yen ($1.69 billion). A big part of this increase is due to the Nintendo Switch's brisk hardware sales. The PS4 has also continued to churn out steady numbers. The last time the Japanese gaming market saw an uptick was in 2006, when the Nintendo DS Lite, the Nintendo Wii, the PS3 launched.
Iphone

Apple's iPhones Were the Best-Selling Tech Product of 2017 (usatoday.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: Once again, the iPhone was the best-selling tech product of 2017, selling more units than the No. 2 through No. 5 products combined. According to Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, who compiled the chart for USA TODAY, Apple will sell 223 million iPhones in 2017, up from 211 million phones the previous year... Apple took a risk in introducing three new iPhones for 2017...but all in all, Apple sold more iPhones total, although fewer than the peak year of 2015, when it moved 230 million units. (That was the year of the iPhone 6...)

The global market share for smartphones is dominated by Google's Android system, which owns 85%, compared to 15% for Apple's iOS, according to researcher IDC. But the iPhone is the most popular smartphone brand, having opened a huge gap compared to No. 2 Samsung's Galaxy phones at 33 million. However Samsung, which has a broader portfolio of phones, sells more overall. Indeed, in 2016, Samsung shipped over 320 million phones, most lower-priced phones sold outside the United States, like the J3, On8 and A9 lines.

Apple's strong performance through September earned CEO Tim Cook a $9.3 million bonus on top of his $3.06 million salary -- plus vesting of $89.2 million more in Apple stock. Here's the complete list of the five best-selling tech products of 2017:
  • Apple iPhones: 223 million
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 smartphones: 33 million
  • Amazon Echo Dot connected speakers: 24 million
  • Apple Watch: 20 million
  • Nintendo Switch video game console: 15 million

Data Storage

Nintendo Delaying 64GB Game Cards For Switch Until 2019, Says Report (kotaku.com) 54

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is pushing back the introduction of larger 64GB game cards for the Switch. Nintendo had planned to make them available during the second half of 2018, but has reportedly told developers that they would have to wait. The reason is reportedly due to technical issues. Kotaku reports: As Kotaku previously reported, Nintendo's Switch games keep their size slim, with downloads for Super Mario Odyssey, Arms and Splatoon 2 ranging from 2-6GB. However, third party developers have been releasing bigger, data-heavy games, outpacing the Switch's 24GB of usable onboard memory. The Journal notes that Nintendo has already sold over 10 million Switch consoles, meaning developers could continue to flock to the platform, regardless.
Google

Google Reveals the Most-Trending Searches of 2017 (google.com) 49

"Google's annual list of the most popular searches is here, offering a peek into what people are really thinking about," writes CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: This year, you wanted to know more about one of the most powerful storms on record, the devastating Hurricane Irma. But you were also curious about [hip hop artist] Cardi B. and Unicorn Frappuccinos... Like 2017 itself, this year's top searches skew a little darker than usual, but are punctuated with some whimsy and positive moments. The top trending searches in the U.S. were Irma, Matt Lauer, Tom Petty, the Super Bowl and the Las Vegas shooting.

To determine the most popular trending searches, Google looked at its trillions of queries, filtered out spam and repeats, and identified searches that had the highest uptick in traffic compared with the previous year. It breaks them into categories like news, memes, and recipes (beef stroganoff was a hit).

Surprisingly there were more searches for 'iPhone 8" than for 'iPhone X," though those were the top two most-searched consumer technology products. (Followed by Nintendo Switch, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Xbox One X.) Other top searches this year included "What is net neutrality?" as well as questions about what bitcoin is, how to buy it, and the latest bitcoin prices. And one of the 10 most-searched phrases of the year was "fidget spinner."

Google uploaded an inspiring video to YouTube stating "This year more than ever we asked how." To dramatic music, the examples it gives include "How to calm a dog during a storm," "How to help Puerto Rico," "How to make a protest sign" -- and "How to move forward."
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Sales Hit 10 Million Units, Could Outdo the Wii (fastcompany.com) 80

Nintendo's big bet on a hybrid portable and home game system is paying off, with 10 million Nintendo Switch units sold in nine months. From a report: Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told Variety that the Switch could even top first-year sales of the Wii, the company's best-selling console yet -- if momentum holds up through the holidays. Strong sales will be important for Nintendo as it tries to convince game publishers to invest in the platform, whose less powerful hardware can't always handle the same games as Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PlayStation consoles.
Botnet

How 'Grinch Bots' Are Ruining Online Christmas Shopping (nypost.com) 283

Yes, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer actually called them "Grinch bots." From the New York Post: The senator said as soon as a retailer puts a hard-to-get toy -- like Barbie's Dreamhouse or Nintendo game systems -- for sale on a website, a bot can snatch it up even before a kid's parents finish entering their credit card information... "Bots come in and buy up all the toys and then charge ludicrous prices amidst the holiday shopping bustle," the New York Democrat said on Sunday... For example, Schumer said, the popular Fingerlings -- a set of interactive baby monkey figurines that usually sell for around $15 -- are being snagged by the scalping software and resold on secondary websites for as much as $1,000 a pop...

In December 2016, Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, which Schumer sponsored, to crack down on their use to buy concert tickets, but the measure doesn't apply to other consumer products. He wants that law expanded but knows that won't happen in time for this holiday season. In the meantime, Schumer wants the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association to block the bots and lead the effort to stop them from buying toys at fair retail prices and then reselling them at outrageous markups.

Nintendo

Nintendo Is Making An Animated Super Mario Bros. Movie, Says Report (gizmodo.com) 71

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo has made a deal with Illumination Entertainment -- the animation studio that makes the Despicable Me movies -- to make an animated Super Mario Bros. movie. The film is currently in "early development," but the report comes as a surprise given how protective Nintendo is of their intellectual properties. Gizmodo reports: According to the report, the companies have been in negotiations for a year and the fact Universal (which finances and distributes Illumination's movie) has partnered with Nintendo for several theme parks was helpful. Right now, the deal is one for one movie, but there is potential for more. Of course, Nintendo is almost laughably protective of their intellectual properties, especially after the disastrous 1993 live action Super Mario Bros. movie. They've made Pokemon movies but, beyond that, rumors of movies based on Mario and The Legend of Zelda have been around for years. This is the vide game company's first big move forward in a long time, and the implications are extremely significant.
Nintendo

Nintendo Reportedly Plans To Double Switch Production In 2018 (engadget.com) 42

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The Switch, Nintendo's latest hybrid console is doing pretty well for the company, which expects it to outdo the Wii U's lifetime sales within a year. The company obviously thinks so, too, according to a new report at The Wall Street Journal, which says that Nintendo plans to ramp up production of the hardware itself, beginning in April 2018. The report claims that Nintendo is planning to make 25 million to 30 million more units of its successful Switch console over the next fiscal year. Further, Nintendo may plan for even more if this year's holiday sales are strong, according to the WSJ's sources. The company has already built almost 8 million Switches, total, as of its latest earnings report.
NES (Games)

Third 'Nintendo World Championship' Ends With Three Unreleased Switch Game Levels (kotaku.com) 14

An anonymous reader writes: The Nintendo World Championships wrapped up in Manhattan Saturday with two finalists competing on three as-yet-unreleased levels from the upcoming Nintendo Switch game Super Mario Odyssey. 16 contenders had been selected from Mario Kart 7 qualifying rounds at Best Buy stores in eight U.S. cities, and Thomas G. "surged up through the 'underground,' the loser's bracket," reports Kotaku, "after overcoming opponents in games like Mario Party 2 and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe."

Thomas G. found himself in the final round against defending champion John Number, and Kotaku has embedded video clips from Twitch of their climactic final showdown on the three unreleased levels. "The first level forced the two to do a little timing-based puzzle solving, hitting buttons with their caps to create platforms on walls, which they could then hop across to the moon. Level two was a vertical platforming stage using Mario's new cap abilities to fling and fly up the side of a tower. The final boss fight from above closed out the race, with Thomas G. landing the final punch to the boss' face and taking home the trophy."

Nintendo

This Guy Is Digitizing the VHS History of Video Games (vice.com) 87

An anonymous reader shares a report: UK-based gaming journalist and blogger Chris Scullion is on a mission to preserve his collection -- and maybe your collection, too -- of these old video game VHS tapes. In the 80s and 90s, video game companies and trade magazines made these tapes to accompany popular titles or new issues with bonus material or promotional footage, giving a glimpse into how marketing for games was done in the industry's early days. Scullion has 18 tapes to upload so far, and plans to provide accompanying commentary as well as the raw video as they go up on his YouTube channel. Scullion's first upload is a promotional tape for Super Mario All-Stars, given away by Nintendo UK in 1993. It's hosted by Craig Charles, who played Lister in the British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. Digitizing his collection keeps that sweet nostalgia content safe from degradation of the magnetic tape, which starts to go downhill within 10 to 25 years. He's capturing them in HD using a 1080p upscaler, at a full 50fps frame rate by converting to HDMI before grabbing -- a higher frame rate than many standard commercial digitizing devices that capture at 30fps -- so that no frames are missed. Some of the tapes he's planning to digitize have already been converted and uploaded to YouTube by other people, he says, but most are either poor quality or captured with less-advanced grabbing devices.
Games

PC Gaming Is Back in Focus at Tokyo Game Show (bloomberg.com) 156

After taking a back seat to consoles for the past few years, personal computers are enjoying a resurgence in gaming, thanks to the popularity of e-sports, customizable machines and faster software releases. From a report: This week's Tokyo Game Show will feature a main-stage tournament for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, a hit online survival PC game that's been downloaded more than 10 million times since March. Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One consoles are heading into their fifth years, while Nintendo's Switch is in a bit of a lull before new titles are released for the year-end holiday shopping season. Spending on gaming-ready PC rigs are on track to climb an average of 6.6 percent per year through 2020, while the market as a whole is projected to decline 3.8 percent annually, according to Gartner. Revenue from PC titles will grow by 3 to 4 percent over the coming years, while console-game sales are seen flat, according to DFC Intelligence. Written off years ago for being too expensive, complex and bulky for mass appeal, gaming PCs are seeing a resurgence that could even threaten consoles, according to Kazunori Takahashi, Japan gaming head at Nvidia. "The abundance of titles and the popularity of e-sports is bringing a lot of excitement to PC gaming," said Takahashi, whose employer supplies graphic chips to PC and console makers. Even in Japan, "it's not unreasonable to think that PCs can eventually become a presence that threatens console gaming."
Wii

Jury Finds Nintendo Wii Infringes Dallas Inventor's Patent, Awards $10 Million (arstechnica.com) 113

A jury has ruled that Nintendo must pay $10.1 million because its Wii and Wii U systems infringe a patent belonging to a Dallas medical motion-detection company. Ars Technica reports: iLife sued Nintendo (PDF) in 2013 after filing lawsuits against four other companies in 2012. The case went to a jury trial in Dallas, and yesterday the jury returned its verdict (PDF). They found that Nintendo infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,864,796, first filed in 1999, which describes "systems and methods for evaluating movement of a body relative to an environment." The patent drawings show a body-mounted motion detector that could detect falls in the elderly, which is the market that iLife was targeting, according to its now defunct website. The $10.1 million was less than 10 percent of what iLife's attorneys had been asking for. When the trial began in Dallas on August 21, Law360 reported that iLife lawyers asked the jury for a $144 million payout. That damage demand was based on a royalty of $4 per Wii unit, multiplied by 36 million systems sold in the six years before the lawsuit was filed.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Open Invitation To Valve, Nintendo and Others To Join Xbox One and PC Crossplay (vg247.com) 175

Microsoft has said it's ready to have a "conversation" with any development team that wants to feature crossplay support on consoles and PC. From a report: Mike Ybarra, vice president of Xbox, told VG247 that it's happy to talk to the likes of Valve and Nintendo when it comes to getting multiplayer games working across multiple platforms, not just between Xbox One and Windows. "It's more about gamer choice, more about making an IP on our platform last longer. I don't care about where they play, I just want people to have fun playing games because that's just better for the industry," said Ybarra. "The demands of consumers and developers have changed," he continued. "People are like, 'we want all of our gamers in one multiplayer pool together, playing.' "We totally agree with that. If any developer wants to have that conversation... Valve is right down the street from us, Nintendo is too -- they're like a block from us. We're having these discussions as developers come up, and we're completely open to that."
Nintendo

Nintendo Faces Supply Issues Ahead of Holiday Season 100

Takashi Mochizuki and Sarah E. Needleman report via The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Nintendo's latest videogame machine, the Nintendo Switch, is winning fans for both its lineup of popular games and its flexibility -- it works as both a living-room console and a hand-held device. But the real challenge for gamers has been actually getting their hands on it. Production isn't keeping up with demand in Japan, resulting in blockbuster queues and lotteries there. Over weekends in July and early August, tens of thousands of fans lined up at stores for a one-in-10 chance to buy the $300 console at events that have become a form of entertainment. Nintendo's official target is to ship 10 million Switch units in its current fiscal year ending in March 2018. People involved in the supply chain say they have been told to prepare for 18 million units. One executive in the supply chain said his company was ready to pick up the pace of production if asked. One delicate balance for Nintendo: The more it tries to boost output quickly, the more it has to bow to the terms of parts makers, some of whom are also busy with orders for Apple Inc.'s next iPhone. "We're doing everything we can to make sure everyone who wants to buy a Nintendo Switch system can do so," Nintendo said in a statement. "We will ramp up production for the holiday period, which has been factored into our forecast."
PlayStation (Games)

The Asterisk on Madden's Annual Release Legacy (polygon.com) 23

Madden '96 for PlayStation never shipped, yet it changed the history of football video games -- and sports games in general -- for decades in its wake. Polygon has the behind-the-scene story. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt: The story starts back in 1992, when EA Canada (formerly Distinctive Software) began working on Super Nintendo versions of the NFL series. Over its first two entries -- John Madden Football and John Madden Football '93 -- the studio struggled to match the quality of Blue Sky Productions' Sega Genesis work. EA Canada's developers faced a coding challenge: The slower processor speed of Nintendo's 16-bit console limited what they could do. The games hovered around 15-20 frames of animation per second, making the games feel sluggish despite looking nice in stills. As the studio moved on to its third try, Madden NFL '94, it seemed like the performance issues would continue. Enter Visual Concepts, then a 6-year-old upstart known for parody fighting game ClayFighter and platformer Lester the Unlikely. The team had been working on isometric helicopter sim Desert Strike for EA, and had been getting a lot out of the SNES hardware.
Sony

Sony Blocks Yet Another Game From Cross-Console Play With Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 151

"Back in June, Sony told Eurogamer that the company did not have 'a profound philosophical stance' against letting PS4 users play games with those on other platforms," reports Ars Technica. "That said, the company's continued refusal to allow for cross-console play between PS4 and Xbox One players has become an absolute and unmistakable trend in recent months." The latest game to be denied by Sony for cross-console play is Ark: Survival Evolved, which comes out of a two-year early access period next week on Windows, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One. From the report: In a Twitter response posted over the weekend, Ark lead designer and programmer Jeremy Stieglitz said that cross-platform play between PS4 and Xbox One is "working internally, but currently Sony won't allow it." This isn't a huge surprise, considering that the developers of Rocket League, Minecraft, and Gwent have made similar statements in recent months. Since Microsoft very publicly opened Xbox Live to easy cross-platform play back in March, Sony has said that it's "happy to have a conversation" about the issue, but it has failed to follow through by allowing any linkage between the two competing consoles (cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC has been available in certain games since the PS4's launch, though).

The question continues to be why, exactly, Sony seems so reluctant to allow any games to work between its own PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live. Speaking with Eurogamer in June, Sony's Jim Ryan suggested that, in the case of Minecraft, Sony was wary to expose that game's young players to "external influences we have no ability to manage or look after." Ryan also told Eurogamer that cross-platform decisions were "a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders." That suggests there may be some financial issues between the parties involved that are preventing cross-console play from moving forward. Perhaps Sony wants someone else to pay for the work required to get its network talking to Microsoft's? The bottom line, though, might be that Sony just doesn't want to partially give away its sizable advantage in console sales by letting Microsoft hook into that vast network of players.

Businesses

Atari Is Back In the Hardware Business, Unveils Ataribox (hothardware.com) 110

Reader MojoKid writes: Atari CEO Fred Chesnais confirmed the company was working on a brand new console back in June this year at E3, but today the company has officially unveiled the product. The new Ataribox console draws on some of the classic styling of the original Atari 2600 console but with a modernized flare, though still sporting that tasty wood grain front panel. Atari is also looking to make the Ataribox a bit more user-friendly and expandable than its Nintendo rivals through the addition of an SD card slot and four USB ports (in addition the requisite HDMI port). The new console will be based on PC component technologies but will be available with a number of classic games to let you bask in the early days of console gaming. However, Atari will also be bringing what is being billed as "current content" to the console as well. So, we can expect to see brand new licensed games for the Ataribox, although it's hard to say, given just its size to go on, what sort of horsepower is lurking under the Ataribox's hood. "We know you are hungry for more details; on specs, games, pricing, timing," said Atari in a statement sent via email. "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 this to life, and to listen closely to the Atari community feedback as we do so."
Nintendo

Super Nintendo Classic Coming in September (hollywoodreporter.com) 127

Rumors are true. Nintendo is gearing up to launch the SNES Classic, a miniaturized version of the glorious original Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The console will include 21 games when it launches September 29. A report adds: Among the big surprises: a never-before released Star Fox 2 is in the mix. Here's the full list of games: Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, F-Zero, Super Metroid, Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Punch Out, Super Castlevania IV, Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man X, Kirby Super Star, Final Fantasy III, Kirby's Dream Course, Star Fox, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Contra III: The Alien Wars, Secret of Mana, EarthBound, and Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. It will retail at a price point of $80.

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