The moment my iPad or iPad Touch's screen illuminates my finger hones in on the blue icon with the pencil, ruler and paintbrush formed into a stylized 'A', no matter what my previous plans for the device might have been. I know the shop lurking behind the icon is only updated at certain times, but I have to look anyway. It's the refrigerator I compulsively open each time I enter the kitchen, just in case new food has magically appeared in the minutes following my last inspection.
I think I have a problem.
There was a time, not so long ago, when every Tuesday evening I would make my weekly pilgrimage to my local video game store. As most of you are aware, Tuesday is new game day in North America, the day that—if you get to the shop early enough—you can get the latest titles handed to you right out of the shipping box. It was like getting to the Krispy Kreme as the doughnuts are coming out of the oven, only these doughnuts were flat and silver and wouldn't make you vomit if you ate more than four of them (you'd just die of internal bleeding).
It didn't matter that I wrote for one of the world's biggest gaming websites and was fully aware of every game that was coming out at any particular time. I also know that Krispy Kreme currently has dark chocolate strawberry doughnuts, but that doesn't stop me from calling my wife and having her stop by Krispy Kreme on the way home this morning.
Where was I? Oh yes—I'd go to the game store even if there wasn't a game I wanted to buy that week, just to wander around looking at cover art or peek in the bargain bin for hidden gems or amusing trash. Now my game store is virtual, and it's always just a fingertip away.
The iTunes game store has supplanted the traditional brick-and-mortar video game retailer in the obsession-center of my brain. I could say it's a direct result of my position as Kotaku's mobile editor, but this started way before that position had been conceived. The idea of fresh new games appearing as if by magic; the anxiety that maybe something amazing popped up while I wasn't looking; the fear that the game I want might be sold out. Yes, it's completely irrational, but my fears are too tenacious to be killed by technological advances.
They can, however, be distracted by food.
If anything, my new position has made the addiction even more ridiculous. Once more I am in a position to know most of what's arriving late tonight / early tomorrow ahead of time. I've got nearly a dozen emails in my inbox detailing tomorrow's new releases, as well as next week's and the week after's. I am well-informed, but there's always a slim chance something slipped between the cracks.
It's not even about buying apps anymore. It's about seeing those fresh colorful icons, all in a row. It's about seeing what crazy lists the iTunes staff can come up with. It's about going to New and Noteworthy, sorting by release date and scanning the lines. I am truly an iTunes game store addict.
Here's hoping Google Play never gets its shit together and adds a new release section. My USB power adapters can only charge so fast.
Spied at the end of the announcement trailer yesterday, two new Pokémon in the upcoming Pokémon X and Y have been confirmed as the game's Legendary Pokémon and named. The Pokémon company has included a handy pronunciation guide.
The one at left above is Xerneas. Say its name like this: "ZURR-nee-us."
The one at right? That is Yveltal, pronounced "ee-VELL-tall."
Catch them both at full-size below.
Guess it was only a matter of time, huh, Tera? En Masse Entertainment's online fantasy game joins Star Wars: The Old Republic and DC Universe Online on the roster of big-deal MMO titles that are ditching subscriptions. Starting in February, subscriptions will no longer be required to play Tera.
New players who join after the free-to-play switch—which is being called Tera: Rising—will be getting the full game, but paying users will be granted elite status. Rather than restricting free players and giving paid players the full game, everyone gets the full game and paid players get extra goodies. Here's a breakdown from today's press release:
Standard players will have full access to TERA's wealth of in-game content with two free characters per server. They are not subject to level caps and will experience no restrictions to content, time, or level. In recognition of their early adoption to the game, players who purchased TERA will gain founder benefits, including eight character slots, four bank tabs, a "Founder" title, the exclusive Terminus mount, and much more.
Available in 30-day increments for $14.99, elite status grants players extra dungeon rewards, 10 bonus quests per day, a daily delivery of items and boosts, an elite mount, in-game store discounts, waived brokerage registration taxes, and more. Elite players will find that their status pays for itself through free items and discounts, let alone in-game perks.
While non-elite players will not benefit from the same perks as their Elite counterparts, they will experience game content, character growth, holding political office, and other in-game determinations of status and power exactly the same way all players have since the game launched. They can also choose to buy most items available to elite status players on an a la carte basis from the in-game store or trade broker.
The exact date of the changeover hasn't been revealed yet but Tera players interested in more details can learn more here.
Over the past week, I've been in touch with two former Xbox support staff. Both people, who asked that we not use their names, say they were fired for writing comments about their jobs on Kotaku. One was let go last week, the other around a month ago.
In other words, be careful what you write on the Internet.
By now the stories are familiar: teens getting suspended for writing dumb things on Twitter; employees scolded for Facebook albums filled with bongs and whiskey. But how often does someone get let go for posting a comment on an Internet news article?
Last Friday, a person who we'll call Bob was told to call his manager at Alpine Access, the work-from-home company that employed him. (Alpine handles tech support for the Xbox 360.) His manager asked if he had ever heard of a website called Kotaku. Yes, Bob said—he had.
"[The manager] then continued on about how someone that was higher up at Microsoft found the comment I left on the news article," Bob said in an e-mail to me. "I was then reminded that we aren't allowed to speak about the company, or anything related to it on social media sites or any related sorts... I ended up apologizing for leaving the comment."
I reached out to Alpine Access for comment and was directed to a spokeswoman for Sykes, the company that owns Alpine.
"We do have confidentiality agreements with our clients," the spokeswoman said, noting that she couldn't comment on the specifics of this situation. "And so we do expect our employees to abide by those confidentiality agreements."
Bob's manager said he would be suspended from work until Monday as they investigated the issue. On Monday, Bob got another call. He was fired.
Here's the comment Bob made on Kotaku, in response to an article about Xbox support pranksters. (His comment has since been deleted.)
"I believe this entire thing was taken a little too far," Bob told me. "I understand that it can make Microsoft look bad with an employee talking bad about their customers. But what I was saying wasn't as bad as they are making it seem."
The second former Xbox support staff, who we'll call Frank, has a similar, but completely separate story. Frank also worked for Alpine Access. A couple of months ago, he was asked to get on a conference call with three Alpine executives, who accused him of stealing from Microsoft by generating codes that give out free time on Xbox Live's premium Gold Membership.
But Frank says he didn't steal a thing.
"They told me they were going to find proof and press charges against me," Frank said in an e-mail to me. So he asked: if they found no proof, would he get his job back?
"Another person who was on the phone spoke up and said that's not the reason I was being fired," Frank said. "And that regardless of whether I'm innocent or not, they will never rehire me again because of the comments I made on Kotaku. They claimed the reason they're firing me is because I broke the non-disclosure agreement I signed when they hired me. This agreement stated that I'm not allowed to tell anyone I work for Microsoft or Xbox."
Here's the comment Frank was fired for:
"In all honesty, if I was an employer and my employee wrote something like that about a product I was trying to sell, I could see myself firing them too," Frank said. "I'm upset about losing my job, but I understand where they're coming from."
While I've blacked out both Bob and Frank's usernames here (at their request), neither ex-Alpine employee used a Kotaku handle that was connected to their real names. We don't know how Microsoft connected their Kotaku comments with their identities. Yet another compelling reason to be very, very paranoid about what you do and say online.
"Finally a beautiful, fun, frustratingly rewarding trampoline game for the iOS!" began the email from developer Joel Blanco Berg, at which point I stopped and thought about how the use of finally suggests someone was desperately waiting for a trampoline game to come out. Then I watched the trailer for Bouncy!, and realized that maybe I was and just never knew it.
Bouncy!, due out tomorrow for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, is destined for greatness. It's the sort of simple, addictive little mobile game that gets under your skin. Is it the responsive touch or slide-based controls? The single screen gameplay? The fluid animation? The blood of a cartoon rabbit spattering across the nylon surface of the trampoline with a satisfying "splut" noise? The primal joy of bouncing?
It is all of these things. It's an exercise in compressed entertainment, the distillation of everything fun into one single mechanic, contained within the crisp lines of Scandinavian style. It's the Ikea of rabbit trampoline games. My only regret is that it doesn't hit the app store until tomorrow, so you'll have to wait to experience its greatness.
I feel horrible for ever doubting Joel Blanco Berg and Johan Sjöberg of MonoGames. I just hope they take solace in the fact that many of the greatest inventions in human history were laughed about to wives by jaded writers over breakfast.
If it feels like we've been writing about ThreeA's Metal Gear Rex figure for years, that's because we have been.
Over three years later and the thing is finally shipping to customers who paid around $500 for the pleasure. It's also shown up on toy site Rad Toy Review, whose pictures make it look like something that wouldn't just crush your house, but your wallet as well.
*REVIEW* 3A'S METAL GEAR SOLID REX [Rad Toy Review]
2K Sports' MLB 2K series, long a money-loser and critical underperformer, was widely expected to be retired after 2K Sports' semi-exclusive pact with Major League Baseball expired at the end of this year. In a statement, Jason Argent, the 2K Sports vice president of marketing, thanked "our league partners for their support in helping us reach an agreement to bring back MLB 2K."
The language suggests that the deal was renewed at terms much more favorable to 2K Sports, and likely not under any kind of exclusive arrangement. 2K Sports, since 2006, had been the only third-party publisher of Major League Baseball video games—a deal that allowed for Sony to publish its own title, MLB the Show, plus a PC management simulation published by Sega.
The news release said MLB 2K13 would be published on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Previous editions were published for every platform imaginable, from PC to the Nintendo DS and Wii.
The game will be developed by in-house studio Visual Concepts of Novato, Calif., responsible for MLB 2K9 to present.
Strauss Zelnick, the chief executive of 2K Sports parent Take-Two Interactive, had long called the deal a money-loser and for years it was widely speculated that 2K Sports' MLB line of products resulted in a $30 million annual loss, which was overcome by the immense profitability of its popular and award-winning NBA 2K series.
In May, a Take-Two quarterly earnings report to investors did not show any Major League Baseball title releasing for 2013 in its traditional March window. Advice to investors at the time also said the company would be avoiding, by 50 percent, the losses associated with the game, strongly indicating that it was closing down the series.
"Our legacy Major League Baseball agreement will sunset in fiscal 2013. MLB 2K12 is our last offering under that agreement," a Take-Two spokesman said at the time.. Until today's news, it was the only comment on Major League Baseball 2K's fate. Every analyst and publication covering the product said it would be junked.
But Major League Baseball appeared to come to the realization that it would have zero presence on North America's dominant console without a new deal with 2K Sports. EA Sports, whose popular MVP Baseball series was closed down in 2005 by the league's deal with 2K, showed no desire to return to baseball publishing.
In June, the label took over the exclusive license the UFC mixed-martial arts series had with beleaguered publisher THQ. At the time, EA Sports boss Andrew Wilson said the company's sole new project for consoles in 2013 would be its MMA game.
No one has developed a simulation quality baseball video game on this console generation other than 2K Sports and Sony. The timing of 2K's exclusive deal with MLB, which apparently ended on Dec. 31, left practically no window long enough for any other publisher with the requisite development muscle to get a product ready for release in 2013.
Other developments pointed to MLB 2K's retirement, not the least of which was 2K Sports' total silence on any new baseball product during December, which is traditionally when cover stars and new features are announced. The title suffered from poor post release support as well, and though its roster was updated through to the end of the postseason, the game received only one title update, three months after release.
No new features of MLB 2K were mentioned in the release. The product's "Million Dollar Challenge," a very successful promotion until it broke down last year amid accusations of cheating, also returns. The "Million Dollar Challenge," is a contest predicated on throwing a perfect game within the MLB 2K series, and has been held annually since 2010.
Last summer, a Japanese animator was taken into police custody after remote-controlled threats of a killing spree were sent from his computer. Other remote-controlled threats followed, including one to blow up Nintendo's Kyoto headquarters. In total, four individuals were arrested, all seeming to be victims of this remote-controlled virus.
During the fall, the alleged hacker apparently sent a photo of anime character Madoka Kaname from Puella Magi Madoka Magica and threatened suicide.
This week, after solving a series of email riddles, the Tokyo police were led to a cat living on an island near Tokyo, Japan Today reports. The cat's pink collar contained a Micro SD card.
Japanese media, for example FNN, are now reporting that a security camera filmed a man who wears glasses and who is in his 20s or 30s taking photographs of the cat in question. The security camera footage, however, doesn't show the man putting a collar on the cat.
On the collar, however, there was the source code for the remote controlled virus. Jiji Press adds (via ChannelNewsAsia) that there was also a message apparently from the alleged hacker in which the culprit wrote that "a past experience in a criminal case" supposedly set off this string of attacks.
Even though the hacker claimed innocence, NHK reports, the ordeal was life changing.
Last November, along with the anime character photo, the alleged hacker sent an email saying, "I made a mistake. It seems to be me who lost in this game." On the SD Card, the alleged hacker apparently wrote, "That email in which I said I made a mistake was a lie."
Continuing, the alleged hacker added, "Because I've canceled my email address, there won't be any more messages after this."
Police grudge behind Japan hacker campaign: reports [ChannelNewsAsia]
According to Kotaku reader Justin, who teaches English in Seoul, South Korea, his kindergarten students are bananas for Pocket Monsters. Writes Justin: "I hyped them up with the announcement. I showed them the video today with the pictures of the starters. They were in awe. Afterwards, we did this assignment."
"Pardon my awful handwriting," continues Justin, "but it was pure chaos and I was rushing to get them started! After about an hour they finally calmed down from all of the excitement."
Not only are the children delightful artists, but for kindergarteners, their English is pretty darn good.
This one is Justin's favorite. According to him, the little girl said, "Mr. Justin, it's singing." Love it.
"Everyone adores Fenniken, of course," adds Justin. "It's definitely the crowd favorite." No doubt everyone also adores these kids' schoolwork.