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United States

The Videogame Industry Is Fighting 'Right To Repair' Laws (vice.com) 264

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: The video game industry is lobbying against legislation that would make it easier for gamers to repair their consoles and for consumers to repair all electronics more generally. The Entertainment Software Association, a trade organization that includes Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, as well as dozens of video game developers and publishers, is opposing a "right to repair" bill in Nebraska, which would give hardware manufacturers fewer rights to control the end-of-life of electronics that they have sold to their customers...

Bills making their way through the Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Illinois statehouses will require manufacturers to sell replacement parts and repair tools to independent repair companies and consumers at the same price they are sold to authorized repair centers. The bill also requires that manufacturers make diagnostic manuals public and requires them to offer software tools or firmware to revert an electronic device to its original functioning state in the case that software locks that prevent independent repair are built into a device. The bills are a huge threat to the repair monopolies these companies have enjoyed, and so just about every major manufacturer has brought lobbyists to Nebraska, where the legislation is currently furthest along... This setup has allowed companies like Apple to monopolize iPhone repair, John Deere to monopolize tractor repair, and Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to monopolize console repair...

Motherboard's reporter was unable to get a comment from Microsoft, Apple, and Sony, and adds that "In two years of covering this issue, no manufacturer has ever spoken to me about it either on or off the record."
Nintendo

$10K Package Of Super Nintendo Games Finally Found By Post Office (eurogamer.net) 155

A project to preserve (and validate) every Super Nintendo game ROM had been derailed when the post office lost a package containing 100 games from the PAL region. But now Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, reports that the package has been found. An anonymous reader writes: Thursday Byuu finally posted photos of the unboxing for the package that was shipped to him January 5th. "I'd like to offer my sincerest apologies to the USPS for assuming the worst in that these games were stolen. I should not have been so hasty to assume malicious intent." At the same time, Byuu writes that "My package was sitting in Atlanta, GA for well over a month with my address clearly visible right on the box. Had this case not been escalated to the media, it likely would have gone up for auction in a bin with other electronics sometime in March."

Byuu is now refunding donations he'd received to replace the missing games, and says he can now also resume work on the SNES Preservation Project. And going forward, according to Eurogamer, "Byuu has said he will be more cautious with shipping games in the future -- only using smaller shipments, or buying individual games to scan and archive then selling them on to get some money back."

NES (Games)

Lost Package Derails Project To Preserve Super Nintendo Games (eurogamer.net) 171

A developer's quest to preserve (and validate) every game ROM for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System has hit a glitch -- thanks to the U.S. postal service. Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, had been expecting a package with 100 games from the PAL region (covering most of Europe, Africa, South America, and Oceania). wertigon writes: As it turns out, someone at the USPS thought it was a good idea to lose the package, thereby robbing the project of roughly $5000 and the sad hopes of ever seeing a full indexing, like the one done to the U.S set. Byuu writes... "I do still want to dump and scan the Japanese games I already purchased. But we will never have a complete PAL set. Kotaku reports the games were worth up to £8,000, and though Byuu says the sender never requested reimbursement, it's going to happen "because I can't live with myself if it doesn't." He's asking for donations on Patreon, adding "If the package ultimately arrives, I will be refunding all donations." In that Thursday update, Byuu writes that the post office had finally shipped him the label from the package "and nothing else, claiming the machine ate it." They've launched an investigation, reports Byuu, adding "It's still an incredibly long shot that they'll find anything, but we'll see. I really, really hope that they do."
Nintendo

Nintendo's Engineers Have Embraced Unreal Engine (engadget.com) 40

Tom Regan, writing for Engadget: If there's one thing that Nintendo has struggled with, it's enticing third-party developers to create games for its consoles. But according to VentureBeat, the company is looking to change that with the advent of the new Switch. At an investor Q&A session, Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that Nintendo engineers have been learning how to use third-party development tools like the Unreal Engine. It's not much of a surprise, given that the Switch, like the Wii U before it, supports the Unreal Engine. But the fact that Miyamoto has opened up on the subject shows that Nintendo may be softening its sometimes frosty stance on third-party developers. That relationship has never been too friendly, with former president Hiroshi Yamauchi saying in 2000 that third-parties are "not helping the industry at all."
Nintendo

Nintendo Halts Wii U Production In Anticipation of Switch Launch (theguardian.com) 59

New submitter Shane_Optima writes: The Guardian reports that Nintendo has ceased production of the Wii U after a little more than four years. From the report: "In late January it was announced that Nintendo had ceased production of the Wii U console. The follow-up machine to the hugely successful Wii had sold fewer than 15 million units worldwide since its launch in 2012. PlayStation 4 sold more in a year. Wii sold more than 100m in its lifetime. What happened? How did Nintendo, one of the oldest and most respected companies in the video game industry, get it so wrong? And did anything good come out of the Wii U era? How will the machine be remembered, if at all?" Perhaps it could have something to do with the fact that the Wii U bundle didn't include a Wii remote-type controller, and the much-hyped secondary screen was most commonly used for solo gaming -- the exact opposite of the Wii's emphasis on a social experience and is an area where they have to compete with cell phones, tablets and their very own DS line. Nintendo still seems hellbent on selling a console-tablet hybrid, but at least this time it sounds like an interesting controller will be included.
PlayStation (Games)

Report: PS4 Is Selling Twice As Well As Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 136

The latest numbers released by analysts suggest that the Sony PlayStation 4 is selling twice as many units worldwide as the Xbox One since both systems launched in late 2013. The data comes from a new SuperData report on the Nintendo Switch, which is backed up by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad. SuperData mentions an installed base of 26 million Xbox One units and 55 million PS4 units. Ars Technica reports: Ahmad's chart suggests that Microsoft may have sold slightly more than half of the 53.4 million PS4 units that Sony recently announced it had sold through January 1. Specific numbers aside, though, it's clear Microsoft has done little to close its console sales gap with Sony over the past year -- and may have actually lost ground in that time. The last time we did our own estimate of worldwide console sales, through the end of 2015, we showed the Xbox One with about 57 percent as many systems sold as the PS4 (21.49 million vs. 37.7 million). That lines up broadly with numbers leaked by EA at the time, which suggest the Xbox One had sold about 52.9 percent as well as the PS4 (19 million vs. 35.9 million). One year later, that ratio has dipped to just above or even a bit below 50 percent, according to these reports. The relative sales performance of the Xbox One and PS4 doesn't say anything direct about the health or quality of those platforms, of course. Microsoft doesn't seem to be in any danger of abandoning the Xbox One platform any time soon and has, in fact, recently committed to upgrading it via Project Scorpio later this year. The gap between PS4 and Xbox One sales becomes important only if it becomes so big that publishers start to consider the Xbox One market as a minor afterthought that can be safely ignored for everything but niche games.
Nintendo

Don't Call Switch a Tablet, Also It's Not Here To Oust the 3DS, Says Nintendo (cnet.com) 116

An anonymous reader shares a report on CNET: Don't call the new Nintendo Switch a tablet. And don't assume the shape-shifting device for gamers will replace the company's popular 3DS handheld, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in an interview with CNET. With its latest gadget, Nintendo is playing to win the same game it has for decades: the one that takes place in your living room. "The form factor may be that it looks like [a tablet]," he said. "But...it's a home console that you can take with you and play anywhere with anyone." [...] "With Zelda, with Kart, with Xenoblade, I think the initial consumer for Switch will be more young adults with disposable incomes, given the price points and the large library," Fils-Aime said. That doesn't mean Nintendo is ditching its core audience. The company will continue to skew toward a younger crowd with the 3DS. "In the end, we want people of all ages engaging with Mario and Zelda and the content that's available across both platforms," Fils-Aime said.
Facebook

Facebook No Longer Clearly Labels Edited Posts (mashable.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Have you ever made a cringeworthy mistake in a Facebook post? Don't lie, the answer is yes. If you have a sense of shame, Facebook at least allows you to go back and correct your gaffe by editing the post, a feature that certain other social media networks still haven't added. But evidence of your slip-up lived on with the tiny "Edited" label on the bottom of the post, signaling to your followers that you cared just enough to correct yourself on the internet. Sad. Apparently, however, that's no longer the case. It seems that Facebook has removed the on-post edited label, making it much more difficult to know when someone actually took the time to fix their mistake. In order to actually know whether or not your eyes were playing tricks on you when a friend's rant no longer has 15 spelling errors the second time you see it, you'll need to do some digging. Here's how the new editing looks, courtesy of my colleague Raymond Wong and his doubts about how cool the upcoming Nintendo Switch actually is. I noticed that he added a comment about the Switch, so I checked out the post information, via the drop-down menu. To see what happened, I have to view the edit history. When I look at his edit history, I can see all the changes that were made. In most cases, this type of editing isn't a big deal, but the move to hide post edit labels takes away one of the few features that provided any transparency for our online behavior.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Will Launch On March 3rd For $299, Won't Feature Region-Locking Software (cnet.com) 167

Nintendo has released more details about its upcoming Nintendo Switch gaming console. We have learned that the console will be launching on March 3rd worldwide, and in North America the console will be available for $299.99. What's more is that it won't feature region-locking for software, meaning you can play games from any region no matter where you buy your console. CNET reports: There will also be a Nintendo Switch online service that will be a paid service. It will launch as a trial with pricing to be announced later in 2017. For fans of imports of Japanese exclusives, it was announced the new system will have no region locking -- a big break from tradition for Nintendo. The Switch itself is said to have battery life from 2.5 to 6 hours and can be charged over USB-C. Nintendo says it will have portable battery accessories also available to charge on the go. The Joy-con is the name for new controller, usable in a combined controller style or separated into two halves to let two players play together. It will also be available in a range of colors for people who want to mix things up. The Joy-con has a whole bunch of clever tricks -- motion control, IR sensor, haptic feedback -- and a series of 'versus' game ideas called "1, 2, Switch" that let you play games (like a quick draw shooting game) without needing to look at the screen, just face each other down with the Joy-con controllers. Other games announced that need you to keep the full Joy-con all to yourself include 'Arms', a robotic boxing battle game, and Splatoon 2. Plus the new Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey, which aims to deliver a 'sandbox' experience across many realms outside the Mushroom kingdom, including the real world. And this time his cap has come to life. For the more serious RPG fans, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was also announced for the Nintendo Switch. Followed by a very small tease for Fire Emblem Warriors. All up, Nintendo says there are over 80 games in development for the Nintendo Switch. If you live in New York, "a limited quantity of pre-orders for the #NintendoSwitch will begin on 1/13 at 9AM while supplies last," Nintendo NY tweeted.
NES (Games)

Hackers Unlock NES Classic, Upload New Games Via USB Cable (arstechnica.com) 86

Just because Nintendo doesn't officially let their tiny replica NES receive new games doesn't mean hackers won't find a way to add their own. This week, hackers in Japan and Russia figured out soft-mod solutions to adding new games to the NES Classic, meaning you don't need to grab a screwdriver or a soldering iron to mod your own console. Ars Technica reports: According to the whiz kids at Reddit's NESClassicMods community, the solution won't work until you've created a save file in Super Mario Bros' first slot. (Chances are, you've already done this just by playing the game, since creating game saves is so easy with this system.) Once you've done that, connect your NES Classic Edition to a computer via a micro-USB cable, then boot the NES in "FEL" mode. This is done by holding down the system's reset button while pushing down the power button from a powered-off state. While you're booting, you should also run a "sunxi-FEL" interface on your computer. (An open-source version of compatible "USBBoot" software can be found here.) The rest of the steps land firmly in "operate at your own risk" territory, as they require copying your NES Classic's internal data to your computer, then modifying and adding files via an application made by hackers. Doing so, by the way, includes the dubious step of supplying your own ROM files, which you may have either dumped from your own cartridges or downloaded from other Internet users. One tool linked from that Reddit community, however, comes with two open-source NES ROMs that are in the legal free-and-clear to upload to your hardware. Once you've added your own game files, which should also include custom JPGs that will appear in the NES Classic's "box art" GUI, you'll have to repack the hardware's kernel, then fully flash the hardware yourself. Do all of those steps correctly, and you'll see every single game you've added appear in the slick, default interface.
Android

Fake Malware-Filled Super Mario Run Apps Take Advantage of Android Absence (silicon.co.uk) 34

Mickeycaskill writes: Nintendo's Super Mario Run was downloaded more than 40 million times in the first four days it was available. But an Android version has yet to materialize. An official release is on the way, but cybercriminals are taking advantage of this vacuum by spreading malicious apps masquerading as the real thing. The "Android Marcher trojan" appears as a fake landing page advertising the release of the game, where it can be downloaded onto users' devices. It then targets financial and banking apps and can modify your settings and read your contacts. The popularity of Pokemon GO last year saw similar scams emerge as users waited for the game.
Android

Nintendo's Super Mario Run For Android is Coming Soon (venturebeat.com) 44

Following its huge launch on iOS this month, Nintendo's Mario auto-runner, Super Mario Run, comes to Android in 2017. We still don't have a specific release date, but Nintendo has now announced that Android users can now pre-register to learn precisely when the game will be available. From a report: Super Mario Run is up for pre-registration on the Google Play Store. To ensure that that you get a notification when Nintendo launches the mobile platformer, you can sign up for alerts on the game's market page. Once Super Mario Run launches on Android, you can grab it immediately as a free download, but then you will need to pay $10 to unlock the rest of its content after the third stage. Nintendo has already seen huge success with Super Mario Run on iOS. The publisher confirmed that iPhone and iPad owners downloaded it more than 50 million times in a matter of days, which makes it the fastest downloaded app ever in the $36.6 billion mobile gaming industry.
Nintendo

Nintendo Plans To Release 2 or 3 Mobile Games a Year After Super Mario Run's Success (macworld.com) 46

In an interview with Japan-based Kyoto NP, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima revealed that Super Mario Run is just the start of a new strategy for mobile gaming. From an article on MacWorld: The company plans to release two or three new games next year, and continue that pattern beyond 2017, he said. Previously it was reported that popular titles Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing were on tap for a mobile release. Kimishima offered no information on whether future games will release simultaneously in the App Store and Play Store, but Nintendo has already said it is working on bringing Super Mario Run to Android phones. The iPhone-exclusive side-runner has amassed some 50 million downloads in its first week, making it the fastest-downloaded app in Apple's history. However, the game's $10 price tag and relatively simple formula has riled some users, and despite its popularity, it only has a 2-star rating in the App Store.
Nintendo

Nintendo's Mobile Mario Game Sets Download Record But Pricing Proves Sticking Point (reuters.com) 92

Nintendo's first Mario smartphone game has set a download record but gamers baulked at the one-time cost of unlocking content, prompting investors to push the Japanese game makers' stock to a one-month low. From a report on Reuters: Super Mario Run hit 25 million downloads just four days after its Dec. 15 release in 151 countries on Apple's App Store, earning gross sales of about $21 million, showed data from app analyst Sensor Tower. But Nintendo shares have lost 11 percent since the launch as the latest game to feature Nintendo's princess-rescuing Italian plumber received negative reviews from users mainly complaining about its $9.99 one-time cost, rather than the usual model of paying small amounts for special features. "Mario is arguably the most popular gaming franchise in the world, yet we see only about 8 percent of those who try the game actually purchasing it," said Sensor Tower analyst Spencer Gabriel. Super Mario Run is free to download on the App Store where, in Japan, it is rated 2.5 stars out of 5 based on 1,095 reviews.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Uses Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC, Clock Speeds Outed (arstechnica.com) 105

The Nintendo Switch -- the hybrid portable games console/tablet due for release in March 2017 -- will be powered by Nvidia's older Tegra X1 SoC and not its upcoming Tegra X2 "Parker" SoC as initially rumored. From a report on ArsTechnica: The use of Tegra X1, which also powers the Nvidia Shield Android TV, means the graphics hardware inside the Switch is based on Nvidia's older second-generation Maxwell architecture, rather than the latest Pascal architecture. While the two architectures share a very similar design, the Switch will miss out on some of the smaller performance improvements made in Pascal. When docked, the Switch's GPU runs at a 768MHz, already lower than the 1GHz of the Shield Android TV. When used as a portable, the Switch downclocks the GPU to 307.2MHz -- just 40 percent of the clock speed when docked. Given the Switch is highly likely to use a 720p screen rather than 1080p -- this is currently assumed to be a 6.2-inch IPS LCD with 10-point multi-touch support -- there is some overhead to run games at 1080p when docked. However, it's questionable how many developers will go to the effort of creating games that make use of the extra horsepower when docked, rather than simply opting to program for the slower overall GPU clock speed. While GPU performance is variable, the rest of the Switch's specs remain static. Its four ARM A57 CPU cores are purported to run at 1020MHz regardless of whether the console is docked or undocked, while the memory controller can run at either 1600MHz or 1331MHz in either mode.
Nintendo

Bad Reviews For Super Mario Run Are Sending Nintendo's Stock Tumbling (fortune.com) 221

People aren't loving Nintendo's newly released Super Mario Run. Nintendo's stock plunged 7.1% Monday, bringing its total drop since the game's release last week to more than 11%, Bloomberg reports. The game's mediocre reviews had a similar impact on DeNA, the Nintendo partner that helped with the game's development: Since the game's introduction, its stock has fallen 14%. From a report: Reviews in Apple's App Store (so far, the game is only available on iPhone) show an average rating of two and half stars out of five. Overall, there have been nearly 50,000 reviews. Its reviews make it among the lowest rated app among those at the top of the download rankings, according to Bloomberg.
Nintendo

Nintendo Sells Nearly 200,000 Units Of Its Mini Retro Console (cnbc.com) 78

Strong sales for Nintendo's NES Classic Edition, a miniature version of its video game console from the 80s, could point to a new revenue stream for the Japanese games maker. From a report on CNBC: The NES Classic Edition sold 196,000 units in November in the U.S. since its launch on November 11, according to industry tracker NPD Group. Demand for the console far outstripped supply, with many retailers selling out of the product. The NES Classic Edition is a miniature version of the original console, which was released in North America in 1985 and has sold 61 million units worldwide. The Classic Edition is a "plug-and-play" device, meaning it just needs to be plugged into a television and comes bundled with 30 retro games. In Japan, a similar product called the Nintendo Classic Famicom sold 261,381 units in its first week of sales, according to data from Media Create.
Security

Zero-Days Hitting Fedora and Ubuntu Open Desktops To a World of Hurt (arstechnica.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: It's the year of the Linux desktop getting pwned. Chris Evans (not the red white and blue one) has released a number of linux zero day exploits, the most recent of which employs specially crafted audio files to compromise linux desktop machines. Ars Technica reports: "'I like to prove that vulnerabilities are not just theoretical -- that they are actually exploitable to cause real problems,' Evans told Ars when explaining why he developed -- and released -- an exploit for fully patched systems. 'Unfortunately, there's still the occasional vulnerability disclosure that is met with skepticism about exploitability. I'm helping to stamp that out.' Like Evans' previous Linux zero-day, the proof-of-concept attacks released Tuesday exploit a memory-corruption vulnerability closely tied to GStreamer, a media framework that by default ships with many mainstream Linux distributions. This time, the exploit takes aim at a flaw in a software library alternately known as Game Music Emu and libgme, which is used to emulate music from game consoles. The two audio files are encoded in the SPC music format used in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System console from the 1990s. Both take aim at a heap overflow bug contained in code that emulates the console's Sony SPC700 processor. By changing the .spc extension to .flac and .mp3, GSteamer and Game Music Emu automatically open them."
Nintendo

Super Mario Run Is Now Available (independent.co.uk) 70

Nintendo's first smartphone game "Super Mario Run" is now available in the App Store across the world. The game follows the success of Pokemon Go, which launched earlier this year. Nintendo owns a third of the Pokemon Company, but the game itself was developed by Niantic. The Independent reports: But just like Pokemon Go, the game requires that anyone playing it has a connection to the internet. That's intended as a way of stopping pirates getting around the game's relatively expensive $10 price -- not required to download the game, but to unlock it -- but has already drawn some complaints. In the case of Pokemon Go, which also required that people were online, the huge popularity of the game meant that its servers regularly crashed and were sometimes intentionally taken offline. That in turn meant that the game was impossible to play for large amounts of time, since it required that same connection, as Super Mario Run will. The restriction will also mean that fans won't be able to play the game underground or on flights, or anywhere else with restricted Wi-Fi. But for the most part, the game has been hailed as a signal that Nintendo are finally bringing their nostalgia-inducing characters to a broader range of platforms and consoles. The company unveiled the game at the launch event for the iPhone 7, drawing praise for having liberated Mario and his friends and enemies from Nintendo's own consoles for the first time. You can download Super Mario Run here.
Nintendo

Nintendo Legend Miyamoto: Mario Needs To Evolve To Survive (cnet.com) 88

Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's legendary game designer, and his fellow developers were tinkering with a "one-button control scheme" for Mario, where all a player can do is make Mario jump. This dead simple idea became the crux of the company's new Super Mario Run, one of the most anticipated mobile-app games of the year. CNET adds: "We found a great way to make an accessible Mario game and bring it to iPhone and reach a lot of people," Miyamoto said Thursday through his translator. "That's when we decided to make Super Mario Run." Super Mario Run may become a critical next step for Nintendo, which has struggled for years to maintain its relevance in gaming against Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox, as well as a surge of mobile gaming apps. This year, it garnered some attention from Pokemon Go, though it's only partly involved in that game. Now, two more Nintendo mobile gaming apps -- Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem -- are on the way, which could provide the Japanese company with a big boost.

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