Category Archives: Games

Video Games You Should Play Before You Die

1.) Super Mario 64 (1996)
Why: Mario is one of the most known titles, but anyone can tell you this might be the best game in the franchise. The game is not like any of its predecessors because this was the first 3D platform game in the series. It is a bigger world than the ones before and the additional moves and jumps Mario can do makes the game fast-paced and more exciting. There are a total of 120 stars and the game has a ton of replay value. Mario platformers are still being made today and none of them still cannot come close to how good this game was.

2.) Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Why: Everyone has their favorite Zelda game, but Ocarina of Time encompasses the best features from the glorified series. There is a huge world that you have the freedom to explore, a magnificent score, and a truly remarkable origin story. The dungeons are not too challenging, but intricate enough to not get too mad when you can’t figure a puzzle out.

3.) Pokémon X and Y (2013)
Why: Whether you are a kid or an adult, with this franchise that never seemed to matter. Pokémon revolutionized what it meant to make characters like Pikachu come alive. They modernized the handheld multiplayer gaming and made it what it is today. X and Y is one of the newer titles, which is great because the game never stops using the old characters the adults grew up on.

4.) Minecraft (2011)
Why: Minecraft is one of the best-selling video games of all time, so you would have to be living under a rock as a gamer to have never come across it. You get to create your own world basically and do whatever you want. If you think it, then you can create it. The nice thing about Minecraft is it is offered on almost every platform, including smartphones. This game is good for letting your mind wander and become an artist.

Futile Hunt for Pokémon Go Profits

Nintendo last week made it painfully clear that The Pokémon Co. and Niantic — the developer of the popular mobile app that takes players off the couch and into the real world — were far better positioned than it was to reap financial rewards.

Niantic, which is a spin-off of Google parent Alphabet, now has a net worth around US$3.65 billion, and is estimated to generate more than a million dollars a day from the game, according to Citibank analysts.

Much of that revenue potential lies in a wealth of in-app purchases designed to heighten excitement for Pokémon Go gamers.

“Unfortunately for Nintendo, this won’t move the needle much,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Nintendo’s stock price shooting up [following the launch] was in part an overdue market correction, and the Pokémon Go craze merely inflated the numbers.

Given Pokémon Go‘s revenue potential, it would seem that Nintendo, which long has developed Pokémon-themed video games, should be reaping the rewards — and passing them on to its investors. However, it’s far more complicated than that.

“Niantic and The Pokémon Co. are the driving force behind this game, not Nintendo” said Lewis Ward, research gaming director at IDC.

“Investors didn’t do the basic due diligence to see where Nintendo stood in the supply chain — and in fact, it was a junior partner,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Nintendo currently has just a one-third stake in The Pokémon Co., which in turn controls what happens around Pokémon, including plush toys, action figures and card games.

“Where it may have gotten confusing is that on past handheld versions, such as on the Nintendo DS, Nintendo was the developer and investors may have thought that was what was going on this time around,” Ward suggested. “Only about 10 percent of the revenue actually reaches Nintendo. The rest goes to Apple [and] Google and is then split between Niantic and the Pokémon Co.”

With so many hands out, it should be no surprise that Nintendo’s cut from Pokémon Go is smaller than expected. Even the valuation of Niantic might be optimistic, given that the developer has just this one app — which may or may not sustain its popularity as cooler weather sets in and younger players head back to school.

“This $3 billion valuation of Niantic is just plain wrong. That puts it at roughly a third of the valuation of Supercell, which Tencent recently acquired for $8.9 billion,” said Super Data Research’s van Dreunen.

“Supercell has had not one but four top-10 mobile games in the last few years, and generates $150-$200 million a month off its titles,” he observed.

Even Nintendo’s response to the game’s success has been unexpected.

“Frankly speaking, Nintendo already sits on a mountain of money, and this sudden craze around Pokémon is great for headlines, but Nintendo has never acted on a whim,” van Dreunen maintained. “You’d expect any other firm to jump on top of this, but instead Nintendo has now also delayed the Pokémon Go Plus, and that might in fact just be the right strategy for them.”

Pokémon Go Plus, which Nintendo plans to launch next month, represents just one possible profit generator related to the game’s release.

“Nintendo will capitalize on Pokemon’s popularity in a number of ways,” predicted Steve Bailey, senior analyst for games at IHS Technology.

In addition to the release of the Pokémon Go Plus, “there’s the knock-on effect on the whole of the franchise itself, which has strong association with Nintendo platforms — hence explaining the market’s perception that Pokémon Go was a game wholly created and owned by Nintendo,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“The Pokémon Go [Plus] will also retail for around $35,” noted IDC’s Ward. “That will be a bit of money, even if only a few Pokémon Go players want it, but this is Nintendo’s kettle of fish and they own everything associated with it.”

The Last Guardian Down of Game

Much of the coverage of this Sony PlayStation 4 game, first announced at E3 in 2007, has focused on its long development process and delays.

The Last Guardian originally was to be a follow-up to Fumito Ueda’s Shadow of the Colossus, but after years of development twists and turns that resulted in nothing more than vaporware, it seemed possible the title never would be released. The creators slipped into silent mode about five years ago but reignited hope with an appearance at this year’s E3.

Although Sony once again pushed back the release of The Last Guardian — this time to Dec. 6 in North America and Japan, and Dec. 7 in Europe — it did offer a new trailer as a way to maintain buzz over the title.

In addition, SIE finally allowed a handful of reviewers to have some hands-on time with a 45-minute demo that highlights the gameplay in what could be one of the most ambitious video game titles to date.

The Waiting Game

Delays in video games are commonplace, but rarely do development setbacks wear on for as long as a decade. One notable exception is Duke Nukem Forever, which was announced in 1997 and released in 2011. It then proved to a critical disappointment — and that is a portent that SIE may have a hard time avoiding.

“I’ve felt a growing sense of exhaustion toward The Last Guardian from the gaming public,” wrote Philip Kollar for Polygon.

“It’s not that there aren’t fans eagerly awaiting the game,” he added. “But on the other hand, The Last Guardian’s absurdly drawn-out development cycle is difficult to ignore.

Early Reactions

Those who have had a chance for some hands-on play found The Last Guardian a mixed bag — innovative but lacking polish. The latter point could be telling, given the time that has gone into this title’s development.

On the plus side, “the game looks beautiful, its environments are stunning, and its puzzles are clever and satisfying, often with multiple layers to figure out,” wrote Polygon’s Kollar.

Because of its beauty and depth “The Last Guardian could well be a worthy successor to Shadow of the Colossusand Ico before it,” added Sam Byford, writing for The Verge.

Yet, problems do remain. The single-player, action-adventure game tells the story of a young boy and his giant feathered friend, who aids him throughout the journey. Much of the overall story still remains a secret, but puzzle-solving is a key component. The lack of polish could cause this ambitious title to crash and burn.

“This feeling of uncertainty is amplified by the puzzle design and control system, both of which are a lot looser than you’d find in a game like this,” noted Byford

Too Ambitious?

It does seem that The Last Guardian may have fallen into the trap of being more ambitious than the technology can deliver. Worse still is the fact that gamers may expect something truly revolutionary, given its 16-year development cycle.

“It’s been overhyped, and this is a serious problem for any product. It may have overset expectations, making even a decent effort unacceptable,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“Initial game play is reported to be difficult and frustrating, and that too is not a good sign of success for a game — and likely one of the reasons why it is being delayed,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“While it is certainly an ambitious project, it would be a tremendous letdown to meet current anticipation with a mediocre or buggy game,” warned Joost van Dreunen, principal analyst at SuperData Research.

“We’ve seen what it did to Ubisoft when it started to release Assassin’s Creedon a yearly schedule,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Eventually they had to pull back. The right approach to The Last Guardian is to take the extra time, even if fans start to get impatient.”

Patience on the part of gamers also could result in setting the bar too high.

“Products like this often have to be scaled back to meet release dates or contain budget, but if the expectations are set on what initially was intended, the result is the game looks crippled — and people don’t buy crippled products,” warned Enderle.

“The Last Guardian was initially revealed for the PS3 several years ago but has since seen multiple delays pushing it onto the PS4,” noted Bailey.

The Game Battlefield

In other words, those seeking a game that approximates such films as All Quiet on the Western Front or Paths of Glory aren’t likely to find it in Battlefield 1, which is closer to what an Expendables film might look like if the characters had to rely on antiquated technology. This isn’t to say that it makes for a bad game.

Far from it in fact, because Battlefield 1 does everything the series has done since it first stormed onto the PC with Battlefield 1942 15 years ago. It is big, bombastic, chaotic — and for gamers who prefer action-packed intensity over historical accuracy, this one delivers many times over.

Campaign for One

As with many first-person shooters, this is really two games in one — or one game with two very distinct modes. Battlefield 1 includes a single-player campaign that allows the player to take part in key engagements around Europe and the Middle East.

Unlike such titles as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty — which originally were set in World War II — the campaign isn’t presented in a linear order. Nor should players expect absolute victory.

World War I didn’t culminate with the defeat of one side, of course, but rather ended suddenly with an armistice that came as something of a surprise to both sides.

Players can jump into five unique “War Stories” after a brief introduction that serves as the game’s tutorial.

This lends to the game an experience similar to that of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, exposing players to different facets of the war. It should be stressed that each of these is told via a different persona, rather than through a single character’s experiences.

In total, there are 15 individual missions that offer real variety in settings — from the mud-soaked trenches of the Western Front in France to the Alpine passes in Italy, to the Arabian Deserts with a fictionalized T.E. Lawrence.

This being a Battlefield game, players won’t take part in combat entirely on foot. The game allows players to command a British MkV tank in France, pilot a Sopwith Camel biplane, and even ride a horse in the desert.

There are a number of twists thrown in — notably that in the desert campaign, the player controls not Lawrence or another British advisor, but rather a Bedouin fighter who happens to be a young woman. Such a thing would have been unlikely in the real conflict.

However, since this part of the story is told by Lawrence — who in real life made up as much as he actually accomplished — it is a narrative liberty that works on some level.

A bigger issue with this game is that rarely do the campaigns feel much like anything out of World War I, a conflict remembered largely for static trench lines and often futile attacks across no man’s land.

The missions lack any “going over the top” style attacks and instead play out in the same linear manner as most shooters. This is where perhaps the biggest opportunity is lost with Battlefield 1, and why it only bares a passing resemblance to the historical conflict.

Another problem with the campaign is that the developers felt the need to try to honor those who fought — something no game that is so cinematic in nature can pull off. In the introductory tutorial, it is noted that millions of soldiers on all sides were killed, and players are reminded “you are not expected to survive.”

Though heavy-handed, this should serve to remind players of how futile the war was — but the message is kind of lost, given that one can respawn at the last checkpoint. In other words, the developers tried to show some respect for the conflict but really missed the point, considering that the millions who actually fell didn’t get another chance.

One of Millions

The other game mode is the online multiplayer experience, which is actually even less like the actual combat of World War I than the single player mode. The game developers strived to include every possible weapon available to the soldiers, but instead of bolt-action rifles — which were the primary weapon for the vast majority of soldiers in the conflict in real life — automatic weapons, including the rarely used sub-machine guns, are readily available.

Just as with the single-player campaign, the multiplayer version of Battlefield 1feels less like a World War I simulation and more like the latest really bombastic shooter.

It is very much a game for fans of the series who favor the “run and gun” approach, and those for whom realism always has given way to gameplay mechanics. One does wonder why the designers didn’t opt for an alternative history steampunk setting instead. That certainly could have allowed for the grandiloquent combat and yet captured the look and visuals of the war.

Battlefield 1 allows up to 64 players to take part in the squad-based combat that has been a staple of the series. It includes locations around the world in its nine maps and six modes. These include the usual conquest, domination, operations, rush and team death match, along with a new mode called “war pigeons” that requires players to secure pigeons to use in artillery strikes.

In multiplayer mode, players can participate both as the Allied and Central Powers, whereas the single player campaign is playable only as the Allied forces. There are eight distinct classes that include the usual assault team and medic, but add pilots and tankers that have specific vehicle advantages.

There is also a cavalry option, that allows players to spawn directly on a horse. Each class has unique advantages and weapons — which does allow for more variety in the gameplay.

The Scenes of War

Where Battlefield 1 really shines is in its use of the Frostbite graphics engine, which makes the war look as close to hell on earth as anyone would ever want to get. At times it is a little too much in terms of explosions and fires — but again, this is where the comparison to a Michael Bay film is most apt.

The developers went all out to capture the look of the period vehicles and small arms, which are highly detailed. The same is true of their sounds. These features really do add to the experience, which is why a few nitpicks must be mentioned.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps the biggest disappointment isn’t Battlefield 1‘s lack of World War I authenticity, but rather that it hasn’t really brought anything new to the series. The first title, Battlefield 1942, introduced controllable vehicles and large-scale multiplayer gaming. Since then, the developers have added squad-based play, destructible environments and new multiplayer options.

Although it looks fantastic, Battlefield 1, really hasn’t advanced the genre. Still, there should be enough for fans of the series who want something different while keeping more of the same.

Linux Gamers at The Final Station

The indie game, which Do My Best Games and TinyBuild launched for PC, Mac, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this summer, became available for Linux last week.

Although the post-civilization genre is fairly crowded space, the zombie-killing horror ride has earned generally positive reviews from veteran games critics, who appreciated its narrative and level of detail.

There was no grand scheme to expand the title to Linux.

“Honestly, there wasn’t some specific reason for that — we just want to give access to our game [to] as many players as possible,” said Oleg Sergeev, game designer of The Final Station.

The ability to create a Linux port pretty easily on the Unity platform led the company to make the decision, he told LinuxInsider.

Open Source Demand

The Final Station is the first Linux port for the company, but it appears that the launch so far has been a successful one, with relatively few glitches, based on feedback on the site.

“You don’t typically see much priority on major gaming titles released for Linux, but there are some exceptions, and this is changing to some degree with software such as SteamOS,” noted Jay Lyman, senior research analyst at 451 Research.

“While Linux still isn’t usually treated as a first class platform, a growing number of titles are adding Linux support without requiring workarounds or additional compatible software,” he told LinuxInsider.

Other major titles that recently moved to Linux include Mad MaxDying Light, and American Truck Simulator.

Linux has become the operating system of choice in almost every segment of computing except for the desktop, noted Kevin O’Brien, a project manager and Linux enthusiast.

That’s partly due to the fact that so many games are written for Windows only, he told LinuxInsider. “The increasing availability of games on the Linux platform removes that obstacle and makes it more likely that Linux can be the default OS for average computer users.”

SteamOS Platform

Much of the drive to develop games for Linux began in 2013 when Valve Software launched its Linux-based SteamOS system for entertainment use. At the time, enthusiasts began to see greater demand for Linux-compatible gaming titles, but an additional problem over the years has been getting the related hardware necessary to take full advantage of those capabilities.

Currently, there are only about 400 titles that are Linux-plus-SteamOS compatible out of nearly 25,000 game entries in the Steam store, said Lewis Ward, research director for gaming and VR/AR at IDC.

That is indicative of the relative popularity of Linux compared to other operating systems, he told LinuxInsider.

Graphical Chip

Power to the Gamer

With a price point of nearly $700, the GTX 1080 Ti is clearly aimed at the power gamer, and it will give those who invest in this hardware serious gaming power, according to the reviews.

“Nvidia’s new card offers over a thousand more CUDA cores than its cousin — 3,584 versus 2,560 — as well as 24 additional ROPs and 40 percent more texture units,” wrote Brad Chacos for PCWorld.

“The vanilla GTX 1080 was the most badass graphics card ever created when it launched less than a year ago and the GTX 1080 Ti blows it away on paper,” he added.

The card also delivers — mostly — in actual performance, but doesn’t quite meet the hype of the specs, reported GameSpot’s Jimmy Thang.

“The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performs 30 percent better than the GTX 1080 in this synthetic DirectX 11 test,” Thang noted in his review.

“While this represents the largest lead that the Ti has over the GTX 1080 at 1080p, it falls short of Nvidia’s 35 percent improvement claim,” he pointed out.

The Gee-Whiz Factor

The reviews generally seem positive, but early testers discovered a few issues.

“In all but memory capacity, which sits at an odd 11GB, the GTX 1080 Ti is a carbon copy of the Titan XP with a slightly higher clock speed,” wrote reviewer Mark Walton for Ars Technica.

While the card is indeed faster and more powerful, it hasn’t advanced graphics power by leaps or bounds, game testing also revealed — and the testing did include games in which characters do plenty of leaping.

“In the Tomb Raider benchmark at 1080p, the Ti outperforms the GTX 1080 by three percent, which is underwhelming,” wrote Gamespot’s Thang.

However, Nvidia could emerge as the winner of the graphics war with rival AMD — at least, for now — and this card actually is less expensive, so it could benefit gamers who want to take graphics to the next level.

“With competition at this end of the market some months away — AMD has pencilled in a Q2 2017 release for Vega — there’s little to stop Nvidia continuing to charge a premium for its top-of-the-range graphics cards,” added Ars‘ Walton

The Fast and the Affordable

What could be a bigger factor for the success of the GTX 1080 Ti than its slight improvement in performance is the fact that it is a lot more affordable — and thus potentially accessible to a larger market than the previous flagship card.

“These days, when you have virtually unlimited choice in graphic cards, aggressive prices can be a key differentiator as customers are increasingly value-minded,” said Scott Steinberg, principal analyst at TechSavvy Global.

“There is a segment of the gaming market that will always step up to pay premium, but far and away the trend is getting the best value for the dollar,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The really good thing about the GTX 1080 Ti is that it improves on the Titan X performance and yet is a fraction of the cost,” noted Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

“This moves the price point down significantly — and while it is not yet a mainstream product, it’s positioning top end cards to be more accessible,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“It makes everyone who paid a premium for the Titan X to look silly, as now [GTX 1080 Ti users] have more capability and at less money,” Entner explained. “The pace of advances and falling price point is accelerating and is actually becoming staggering.”

Power to the Gamer

With a price point of nearly $700, the GTX 1080 Ti is clearly aimed at the power gamer, and it will give those who invest in this hardware serious gaming power, according to the reviews.

“Nvidia’s new card offers over a thousand more CUDA cores than its cousin — 3,584 versus 2,560 — as well as 24 additional ROPs and 40 percent more texture units,” wrote Brad Chacos for PCWorld.

“The vanilla GTX 1080 was the most badass graphics card ever created when it launched less than a year ago and the GTX 1080 Ti blows it away on paper,” he added.

The card also delivers — mostly — in actual performance, but doesn’t quite meet the hype of the specs, reported GameSpot’s Jimmy Thang.

“The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performs 30 percent better than the GTX 1080 in this synthetic DirectX 11 test,” Thang noted in his review.

“While this represents the largest lead that the Ti has over the GTX 1080 at 1080p, it falls short of Nvidia’s 35 percent improvement claim,” he pointed out.

The Gee-Whiz Factor

The reviews generally seem positive, but early testers discovered a few issues.

“In all but memory capacity, which sits at an odd 11GB, the GTX 1080 Ti is a carbon copy of the Titan XP with a slightly higher clock speed,” wrote reviewer Mark Walton for Ars Technica.

While the card is indeed faster and more powerful, it hasn’t advanced graphics power by leaps or bounds, game testing also revealed — and the testing did include games in which characters do plenty of leaping.

“In the Tomb Raider benchmark at 1080p, the Ti outperforms the GTX 1080 by three percent, which is underwhelming,” wrote Gamespot’s Thang.

However, Nvidia could emerge as the winner of the graphics war with rival AMD — at least, for now — and this card actually is less expensive, so it could benefit gamers who want to take graphics to the next level.

“With competition at this end of the market some months away — AMD has pencilled in a Q2 2017 release for Vega — there’s little to stop Nvidia continuing to charge a premium for its top-of-the-range graphics cards,” added Ars‘ Walton.

The Fast and the Affordable

What could be a bigger factor for the success of the GTX 1080 Ti than its slight improvement in performance is the fact that it is a lot more affordable — and thus potentially accessible to a larger market than the previous flagship card.

“These days, when you have virtually unlimited choice in graphic cards, aggressive prices can be a key differentiator as customers are increasingly value-minded,” said Scott Steinberg, principal analyst at TechSavvy Global.

“There is a segment of the gaming market that will always step up to pay premium, but far and away the trend is getting the best value for the dollar,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The really good thing about the GTX 1080 Ti is that it improves on the Titan X performance and yet is a fraction of the cost,” noted Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

“This moves the price point down significantly — and while it is not yet a mainstream product, it’s positioning top end cards to be more accessible,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“It makes everyone who paid a premium for the Titan X to look silly, as now [GTX 1080 Ti users] have more capability and at less money,” Entner explained. “The pace of advances and falling price point is accelerating and is actually becoming staggering.”

 

Getting Real With a Virtual Do-Good Game

MarySue Hansell: We saw that there was a lack of kindness, a lack of empathy, and negative thinking, and we thought it would be nice if we could use technology to do something about it.

We thought Facebook offered a wonderful opportunity to use a large technical platform to create a virtual world that would have a big impact, with a game that emphasizes positive thinking and good habits.

Basically, we wanted to combine the popularity of video games and the Facebook platform, and we were all avid followers of positive psychology, which is a science that shows that you can increase your well-being by doing things like altruism and expressing gratitude. We wanted to use those basic scientific principles.

The activities in A Better World increase happiness and improve well-being. You might ask, why gaming? Studies show that games form habits, and they influence behavior. Unfortunately, a lot of the game offerings are negative, but games can support positive values — especially when they’re fun.

We wanted to put good habits — expressing gratitude, being charitable, saying positive things — at the center of our game. We wanted to harness gaming for good

What are some of the activities in A Better World?

Hansell: In the game, you do good to feel good and have fun. There are many different venues. You can post what you’re grateful for today, and you can see what your friends are grateful for. You can post a photo, or put a personal message in the Gratitude Grotto. All the different do-good venues earn you positive energy.

To do some of the jobs in the virtual world, you earn do-good gold, and with the do-good gold you can purchase items in our stores. We have many stores in our game. In those stores, there are also things that cost real-world dollars. You can have fun, and have a positive impact.

To date, we’ve had great traction. We’ve had 4 million players do 40 million good deeds, and they’re not only virtual. There are also real-world good deeds that people are posting. They can send letters to sick kids.

We have an API with CURE International with hospitals all around the world. Our players can actually send children notes and get-well wishes, and they can be presented to the children in their beds via an iPad.

Every month we assign a do-good goal for the player population, and every month we have a charity of the month, and when the players meet those goals, A Better World donates to that charity. We have about 24 charities that we partner with to date.

Who is playing A Better World? What are the demographics?

There are players in over 100 countries. We’re mainly on Facebook, but we are raising funds to expand, and we want to internationalize.

The lower limit of the age range is 13, and it goes up to 65-plus. Grandparents enjoy playing with their grandchildren. We, as mothers and grandmothers, want to promote it because there is no violence — these are good habits that you want your children and grandchildren to have.

 

The CES Spectacular Edition

CES is over for another year, and with so much to discuss from the event, I’ll get right to it.

As always, these are not reviews. The ratings reflect only how much I’d like to try each product, just as soon as I stop rolling around giggling at some of the more ridiculous items from this year’s show floor.

Razer Sharp

Trust Razer to come up with something completely ridiculous that I need in my life immediately. Trust Razer to bring along two such concepts in the same year.

The first is Project Ariana, a projector that incorporates Razer’s full-spectrum lighting system, Chroma (pictured above).

It uses a wide-angle lens to project images, but it seems there’s no lengthy setup process required here.

Ariana uses 3D depth-sensing cameras to detect objects in a room and adjusts for them accordingly so that it still projects a flat image.

You can use Ariana as a regular 4K projector when you’re not playing games.

It looks incredible, and as someone looking to make the switch from a hulking TV to a projector down the line, particularly for gaming, its feature set is impressive.

I love that it can connect with the Phillips Hue system to paint your entire room to match the onscreen colors.

The other product to escape from Razer’s weird science laboratory is a laptop that goes big when it comes to screen real estate. The wonderfully absurd Project Valerie packs in three (yes, three) 17.3-inch 4K displays that automatically slide out to create a 180-degree viewing area.

It’s packed with power, too, and should have no problems running Oculus Rift and HTC Vive content. The machine weighs 12 pounds. While a far cry from modern ultralight laptops, that’s mighty impressive, all things considered. Razer somehow has managed to pack all of this into a 1.5-inch thick casing.

While there’s not much detail on the specs or pricing of Ariana or Valerie, it’s safe to say that each will make more than a little dent in your wallet. I’ve got a kidney I don’t really need. Just need to find out where my local black market is operating and I’m all set.

Super Speaker

I don’t have a great deal to say about Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay M5 speaker other than it’s another thing I need to have in my life immediately. It’s gorgeous, assuredly sounds great, and has all the connectivity you’d expect from a modern wireless speaker.

Controlling the music is a matter of pressing down on the top to play or pause, and rotating it to adjust the volume. It’s already available to purchase and costs US$599. I’m sure I can find a mechanical heart to replace mine once I sell it to pay for this lovely noise machine.

Ways to Waste

There’s a local composting program where I’ve lived for the last six months and I’ve yet to take part. I am a terrible person, I know. But hey, CES offered up a device to make composting easy, so there’s hope I’ll have lots of top-notch fertilizer by the time planting season rolls around.

After making sure the Whirlpool Zera Food Recycler has a carbon filter installed and a plant-based additive to help the breakdown process, dump your food scraps (other than bones and pits) down the chute. In around a week, you’ll have some fertilizer. Of course, it’s Web-connected so you can monitor and operate it remotely.

The device will retail for $1,199, though crowdfunding backers can still grab one for $899. That seems like a lot for a composter, even a smart one, so as much as I appreciate the idea and want to be more environmentally conscious, I’m not quite sure I’m prepared to sell an arm and a leg for it.

Vibration Station

I make regular trips to the movies and yet have never tried one of the 4D seats. I don’t much see the point in paying an extra $5 to feel some vibrations in my seat at the theater.

It seems odd then, that I’d welcome Immersit’s Vibes into my home. It’s a pair of pads you place under your couch and connect to your TV or other audio source. When those bass tones and high frequencies hit, you’ll feel them as the pads vibrate.

The Nintendo Switch handheld gaming

 On Thursday announced the Nintendo Switch handheld gaming console, its long-awaited successor to the poorly received Wii 2.

The US$300 Switch will hit the streets March 3. Purchasers will get the console, two Joy-Con controllers, a Joy-Con Grip, a set of Joy-Con wrist straps, a Nintendo Switch dock, an HDMI cable and an AC adapter.

The Switch has a 6.2-inch capacitive multitouch screen and a kickstand.

The Switch can be used as an independent handheld player. Battery life ranges from 2.5 to 6 hours.

Up to eight Switches can be connected over a local WiFi network for multiplayer games.

However, Nintendo will need to sell a lot of Switches for this feature to be useful, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Ready to Rumble

Both Joy-Con controllers include advanced HD Rumble technology, which gives players haptic feedback for increased realism.

The controllers can be used separately — one in each hand — or together as one game controller attached to the Joy-Con grip. Players can attach them to the main console for use in handheld mode, or share them with friends for use in two-player games.

Each Joy-Con has an accelerometer and gyro-sensor, giving players independent left and right motion control, and each can act as a standalone controller.

The left controller has a Capture Button for taking screenshots to share on social media; the right one includes an NFC touchpoint for interaction with Amiibo figures, and an infrared motion camera that can detect the distance, shape and motion of nearby objects in specially designed games.

“The Joy-Con controllers seem to be [the Switch’s] best feature,” said Christine Arrington, senior analyst for games at IHS Markit.

“The demonstration of in-person, face to face competition brings back that paradigm that was so compelling to users with the original Wii,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Games Lineup

Among the games slated for the Nintendo Switch:

  • MarioKart Deluxe 8 — available April 28;
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and 1-2-Switch — available March 3;
  • Just Dance 2017 and Has Been Heroes — March 2017;
  • NBA 2K18 — September 2017;
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — fall 2017; and
  • MinecraftFIFAUltra Street Fighter II: The Final ChallengersDisgaea 5 CompleteDragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and Puyo Puyo Tetris — to be determined.

Nintendo Switch software won’t be region locked, so it will be available pretty much anywhere.

New Online Service

Nintendo also announced a new online subscription service available for free trial March 3. It’s full rollout is slated for the fall.

The service includes a smart device application that will let users invite friends to play online, set play appointments, and chat with each other.

How the Switch Stacks Up

The Switch is available now for preorder, but “sadly, I’m not tempted,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

The Switch’s best feature is that it’s “a tablet designed for games, so it has a really decent gaming interface,” he said. “This is likely what the Wii U should have been but wasn’t.”

However, it lacks content and is “the only consumer tablet that doesn’t support key services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, severely limiting its overall utility,” Enderle pointed out.

Still, the Switch “is an important evolution of Nintendo’s vision with the Wii U of making a console that can transition from TV gaming to tablet-style gaming,” observed IHS Markit’s Arrington.

The Wii U “did not take it far enough. There wasn’t really a compelling argument to spend more on the Wii U when consumers had a Wii and a tablet,” she added.

Nintendo likely will sell 4 million Switch units this year, based on current estimates.

Gaming’s New Virtual Reality Frontier

We’re looking at some of the gadgets that perhaps got a little lost in the noise after CES in January but caught our eye, for better or worse. Among them are a 4-D arcade machine and a robot designed to carry all the things you don’t want to.

As ever, dear readers, this is not a review column, in part because these products have yet to reach the public sphere, but mostly because the chances of my actually ever using said products are slim. The ratings relate only to how much I’d like to try them, should the stars align.

Regular readers will know that I’ve played games my entire life. I hold deep reverence for the care and attention that go into creating these experiences, and I’ve rarely met a game I didn’t want to conquer.

Yet I am nervous about virtual reality. I’ve tried it and found those disorientating worlds difficult to handle, though I suspect that over time I could grow more accustomed to it. I doubt I could say the same for an arcade machine that both locks me into a VR world and pelts me with physical stimuli.

Koei Tecmo Wave’s VR Sense machine is a virtual reality arcade cabinet that houses you and subjects you to what I can only imagine is sheer torture. It has what Koei Tecmo Wave calls a “3D seat,” which attempts to draw players further into the games through touch, movement, aroma, wind, and temperature and precipitation changes. It’s not completely clear as yet whether you have to wear a headset for the full VR effect.

It’s launching with three games: a horse-riding simulator, a version of Koei Tecno Wave’s Dynasty Warrior franchise (with a stab at replicating in-game flames while you swelter in your moving chair), and a horror game.

I enjoy horror titles. However, I’d be less likely to welcome a VR horror game, as I’d probably come close to having a heart attack or three. There’s next to no chance I’d ever try Horror Sense.

That’s in large part due to the game apparently mimicking bugs falling from the ceiling and critters scuttling along the floor. I have a lot of questions about this, but ultimately, I’d tear off a VR headset in a second if I thought there were bugs falling on me while playing. No thank you, ma’am.

I’m happy to transport myself into different times and landscapes mentally if not physically. I may yet become a virtual reality convert — but for now I’m more than happy with a flat screen and a controller.

Rolling Repository

There is little I detest more, outside the realm of what certain parties are doing to the planet, than the act of carrying things. I truly despise it. I suppose in my heart of hearts I am a minimalist, and things get in the way constantly. It doesn’t help that I don’t have a car to dump purchases into on a shopping trip, or to hold my bag on the passenger seat.

Praise be to Piaggio Fast Forward, then, for its personal cargo robot, Gita. The machine can cart around up to 40 pounds of your things. It can follow you as you trudge home wearing a special belt that connects to Gita over WiFi and houses cameras to help Gita see where it’s headed.

Gita can move autonomously if has an area mapped out — though I suspect I would not be likely to let a Gita trundle around by itself lest someone smash it open to steal my water bottle or something.

There’s good news if you’re a cyclist, since Gita can travel at up to 22 miles per hour and has a zero turning radius. I’d love to have this little gizmo even to carry my wallet around instead of stuffing it in my pocket, though I admit I’d feel a little silly having a moving shopping dolly following me around.

For people who aren’t as carrying-averse as I am, there are some broader, practical benefits — like transporting groceries and having only the intended recipient able to open it, or moving goods around a hospital.

Postal workers might find it useful as well, especially since Piaggio is developing a bigger version, the Kilo, which can transport up to 200 pounds of goods.

Mostly, I’m just glad I may never again have to contend with twine bag handles tearing into my hands as I desperately speed home to unload my frightful burden.