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PlayStation (Games)

Report: PS4 Is Selling Twice As Well As Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 125

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) 52

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) 165

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.
Bug

Nintendo Offers Up To $20,000 To Hack the 3DS (silicon.co.uk) 45

Mickeycaskill writes: Nintendo will pay up to $20,000 for system and software vulnerabilities in the Nintendo 3DS family of handheld gaming consoles. The company is looking to prevent activities such as piracy, cheating and the circulation of inappropriate content to children. The stated goal is to "provide a secure environment for our customers so that they can enjoy our games and services. In order to achieve this goal, Nintendo is interested in receiving vulnerability information that researchers may discover regarding Nintendo's platforms." Silicon.co.uk reports: "Rewards will range from $100 to $20,000, with one given per 'qualifying piece of vulnerability information.' Hackers looking to claim a reward will have to provide Nintendo with either a proof-of-concept or a piece of functional exploit code in order to qualify."
NES (Games)

Doyodo RetroEngine Sigma Is a Linux-Powered Classic Video Game Emulation Console (betanews.com) 91

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: The Nintendo NES Classic is quite an amazing console. True, it is not as powerful as modern game systems like Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but it comes pre-loaded with many classic NES titles. Unfortunately, its strength is also its weakness -- those pre-loaded titles are the only games you can play. You cannot load other games, so you are stuck with what you got. As an alternative, some folks use software emulation and ROMs on their computers to play countless video game titles. Of course, there are moral concerns here, as you are often downloading the games illegally -- unless you own the physical copy, that is. Even then, it is a gray area. Today, a company called Doyodo launched a new Linux-powered emulation console on Indiegogo. The device not only plays NES games, but Atari, Game Boy, PlayStation 1, Genesis, and more. You play using USB controllers. In addition, it can serve as a media player (with Kodi) or a full-fledged Linux desktop. Some other features include 4K video playback, Wi-Fi networking built in, and a compact and portable design. There's even a deluxe version that ships with Bluetooth, an extra controller and 32GB of storage; the basic configuration includes just one controller and 16GB of storage. You can view the Indiegogo page here.
Businesses

Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases (cmo.com) 66

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.)

The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17.

The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."
Classic Games (Games)

The NES Classic is a $60 Single Board Computer Running Linux 121

"Nintendo's accurate NES emulator apparently needs no less than a quad-core CPU," joked Ars Technica. "The next step, of course, is unscrewing of the nostalgic little box to see how it ticks -- and whether its limited functionality might ever be expanded, either officially or by hackers." Slashdot reader romiz summarizes what's inside Nintendo's new miniature emulator for classic games: With a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7, 256 MB of RAM, and 512 MB of NAND Flash, it is typical of the hardware found in Linux single board computers, like the Raspberry Pi 2. Surprisingly for Nintendo, there does not seem to be any custom components in it, and it looks like it even does run Linux. [YouTube video] The GPL license for the kernel and many other open source components is visible in the legal information screen. The source, however, is not yet available on Nintendo's open source page.

But it is the re-edition a 1980s video console: there is no network access, no hardware expansion port, and the 30 games cannot be changed. Changing the system running on it will probably be difficult.
Google

Google Moves To Upgrade App Store, Aims To Help Developers Bolster Revenue (reuters.com) 25

Google plans to double down on its efforts to help developers of Android apps build their businesses as concerns mount that the app economy has reached saturation. The company is sharpening Google Play store recommendations with AI and expanding support for various payment platforms, among other initiatives, reports Reuters, citing company's top executive. From the article:Many smartphone users, meanwhile, appear to have tired of downloading apps altogether, especially as messaging services like Snapchat perform more of the functions that once required a separate app. Games remain a focus of the Google Play store, and Nintendo is building a version of its popular Super Mario Run game for Android, said Sameer Samat, who leads product management for the Google Play store. The store is also expanding to new platforms, including wearable devices, virtual reality headsets and Google's Chromebook laptops. "What we are excited about is giving developers that single entry point for more and more of the computing ecosystem," said Samat. Google has eased the once-complicated process of developing apps for the Play store, said James Knight, a former Google employee who launched Pembroke, a consultancy that helps developers convert Apple-compatible iOS apps to Android. A big part of Google's new effort involves emerging markets, where Android is stronger relative to the iPhone. To improve app recommendations for users, the Play store has also made extensive use of machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that gleans insights from vast troves of data.

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