horizon zero dawn

Nominees Revealed for the 18th Game Developers Choice Awards

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The 18th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards will take place on March 21 during the Game Developers Conference. The list of nominees for all ten categories have been announced, including Game of the Year, Best Narrative, and the Innovation Award.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn both lead with six nominations each, including Game of the Year. Nier: Automata, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Cuphead follow with three nominations each. Super Mario Odyssey received two nominations.

The nominees are selected by the International Choice Awards Network, which is comprised of game creators.

The other big annual gaming award show, The Game Awards, took place last month. Nominees and winners were selected by both game creators and journalists. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild took home Game of the Year, winning three categories total. Horizon Zero Dawn was nominated six times but didn’t win any categories.

Here is the full list of nominees for the 18th Game Developers Choice Awards.

BEST AUDIO
Cuphead (StudioMDHR)
Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

BEST DEBUT
Team Cherry (Hollow Knight)
Sidebar Games (Golf Story)
StudioMDHR (Cuphead)
Infinite Fall (Night in the Woods)
Jason Roberts / Buried Signal (Gorogoa)

BEST DESIGN
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corporation)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix)

BEST MOBILE GAME
Reigns: Her Majesty (Nerial / Devolver Digital)
Hidden Folks (Adriaan de Jongh and Sylvain Tegroeg)
Monument Valley 2 (ustwo games)
Gorogoa (Jason Roberts / Buried Signal / Annapurna Interactive)
Bury Me, My Love (The Pixel Hunt / Figs / ARTE France / Playdius)

INNOVATION AWARD
Gorogoa (Jason Roberts / Buried Signal / Annapurna Interactive)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive)
Everything (David OReilly / Double Fine Productions)
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corporation)

BEST NARRATIVE
Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall / Finji)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive)
Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames / Bethesda Softworks)

BEST TECHNOLOGY
Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft)
Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

BEST VISUAL ART
Persona 5 (P-Studio / Atlus)
Cuphead (StudioMDHR)
Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall / Finji)

BEST VR/AR GAME
Superhot VR (SUPERHOT Team)
Star Trek: Bridge Crew (Red Storm Entertainment / Ubisoft)
Lone Echo (Ready at Dawn / Oculus Studios)
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR (Bethesda Game Studios / Bethesda Softworks)

GAME OF THE YEAR
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corporation)
Nier: Automata (PlatinumGames / Square Enix)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

 

super gamepad

Super Gamepad is a Wireless Controller for the SNES Classic

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My Arcade has revealed a new wireless controller, built specifically for the SNES Classic Edition. It’s called the Super Gamepad, and it’s available now through Amazon and the My Arcade website for $24.99.

“The Super Gamepad is the best of both worlds – it features the nostalgic look and feel of the classic controller retro fans love while also updating it for the modern world with wireless functionality and improved ergonomics,” said Crystal Dugan, My Arcade’s Marketing Manager. “We’ve even added an intuitive TURBO feature that is easy to program during play, and a convenient HOME button feature that allows you to switch games and access the main menu directly from your controller. Now you can enjoy the games you loved without the wires.”

The Super Gamepad seemingly fixes two of the SNES Classic Edition’s biggest problems: wire length on the included controllers, and having to physically hit the reset button on the console to switch games. It’s designed with the look and aesthetic of the original SNES controller, but with a more ergonomic design.

As a bonus, the Super Gamepad is also compatible with the NES Classic Edition, as well as Virtual Console titles on the Nintendo Wii and Wii U. It features 75 hours of battery life on two AAA batteries. The wireless function works up to 25 feet away.

My Arcade is gaming accessories manufacturer that specializes in retro gaming. They previously developed a similar wireless controller for the NES Classic Edition.

game of the year

Pixelkin’s 2017 Game of the Year

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Sometimes our favorite game of the year comes as a complete surprise. Not this year. We proudly declare The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as Pixelkin’s 2017 Game of the Year.

Breath of the Wild was one of the most anticipated games of the year. Not only was it the first 3D Zelda since 2011’s Skyward Sword on the Wii, but it was also a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, which has become a huge success for Nintendo.

The story reinforces themes of failure and redemption. Link wakes up to a bleak Hyrule where he was defeated a century ago, guided by the spirits and voices of the past. Monsters roam free, and a malevolent force, Ganon, swirls ominously around the ruins of Hyrule Castle. You could head there right after acquiring the glider and completing the wonderfully crafted opening hours atop the plateau, or strike off in any direction and explore.

Most open world games feature post-apocalyptic hellscapes, mature writing, and violent action. But this is Nintendo. Breath of the Wild features tropical beaches, staggering cliffs, dense jungles, and dangerous volcanoes. The world still feels like Hyrule, yet it reaches that perfect compromise between expansive and densely packed with hidden secrets and treasures.

Breath of the Wild boldly breaks many of the standard Zelda conventions, most notably the dungeon design. Instead of a steady progression of marquee dungeon crawls, Link can find over 100 shrines scattered around the world. These shrines cleverly employ challenging physics-based puzzles akin to levels in Portal using the several excellent tools you have at your disposal, such as magnetizing blocks and freezing water.

Completing shrines unlocks additional health and stamina, making it an important and fun side activity and a great excuse to explore a world stuffed with things to do. Shield surf down cliffs, hunt gigantic dragons, search for ingredients to upgrade your gear, discover hundreds (!) of Korok seeds to expand your inventory, take selfies in front of shooting stars, and tackle the mini-dungeons within the four Divine Beasts to weaken Ganon’s hold.

Nintendo Switch

Breath of the Wild was the vanguard for one of Nintendo’s best years in recent memory. It’s not every year we get a new Nintendo console, new Mario, and new Zelda, not to mention well-received sequels for Splatoon and Xenoblade Chronicles.

After some very lackluster console cycles in the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo has come roaring back, and that’s good for gaming, and especially gaming families. Breath of the Wild is single-player only, but remains a wonderfully enjoyable game for the family to gather around, between the cartoony art and creature designs, the physical combat system, and the story of courage and perseverance. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is destined to enter the pantheon of all-time greatest games, and easily warrants our Game of the Year for 2017.

black friday

All the Biggest Black Friday Digital Game Sales

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You know what’s great about digital game shopping on Black Friday? You don’t even have to put on pants. It’s time to reap the benefits of patiently waiting for that game you’ve been wanting to go on sale. We’ve compiled all the biggest digital gaming deals of the season right here, from PC to Xbox. Note that every Black Friday Sale save Nintendo’s ends on Tuesday, November 28.

Steam

Steam blows everyone out of the water as usual. In addition to the usual 50% discounts for big, older titles like Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4, and The Witcher 3, you can also get more recent games like Wolfensetin 2, Civilization VI, and ARK: Survival Evolved. The Steam Link, that little device that lets you stream games from your PC to your TV, has been discounted 90%, down to $4.99.

Sale ends November 28.

  • Steam Link $4.99 (90% off)
  • Asssassin’s Creed Origins $49.79 (17% off)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus $29.99 (50% off)
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands $29.99 (50% off)
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization VI $29.99 (50% off)
  • ARK: Survival Evolved $29.99 (50% off)
  • South Park: The Fractured But Whole $44.99 (25% off)
  • XCOM 2: War of the Chosen $29.99 (25% off)
  • Dishonored: Death of the Outsider $14.99 (50% off)
  • Dishonored 2 $19.99 (50% off)
  • Prey $19.99 (50% off)
  • Fallout 4: Game of the Year Edition $29.99 (50% off)
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided $8.99 (85% off)

GOG

If you like a little more control and ownership over your own digital PC gaming library, GOG is your jam. You’ll find pretty much the exact same deals as Steam, but with an emphasis on older classic PC titles and bundle deals. If you spend at least $15, you’ll get Starcrawlers for free.

Sale ends November 28.

  • Heroes of Might and Magic V: Bundle $4.99 (75% off)
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera $22.49 (50% off)
  • Tyranny – Commander Edition $17.99 (60% off)
  • Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition $13.59 (66% off)
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2 $40.49 (10% off)

Origin

If you want to play most EA games on the PC, you’ll need to go through Origin. Black Friday deals are up to 75% off, though these are mostly older titles. Highlights include Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, and The Sims 4 for $9.99 each.

Sale ends November 28.

  • Titanfall 2 $9.99 (50% off)
  • The Sims 4 $9.99 (50% off)
  • Battlefield 1 $19.99 (50% off)
  • Mass Effect Andromeda $19.99 (50% off)
  • Star Wars Battlefront Ultimate Edition $14.99 (50% off)
  • Unravel $9.99 (50% off)

Nintendo eShop

Don’t get too excited. There are some good deals here but you won’t exactly find Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on sale. This is the first holiday season with the Switch, and Nintendo isn’t about to put any of its new stuff on sale. There are some solid 3DS deals here, however. Note that if you are a My Nintendo member (which you should be) you can earn Gold Points on purchases.

Sale ends December 11.

Switch

  • 1-2-Switch $39.99 (20% off)
  • Super Bomberman R $39.99 (20% off)
  • LEGO NINJAGO Movie Video Game $41.99 (30% off)

3DS

  • Bravely Default $27.99 (30% off)
  • Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove $19.99 (20% off)
  • Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call $19.99 (50% off)
  • Paper Mario: Sticker Star $27.99 (30% off)
  • Story of Seasons $14.99 (50% off)

Wii U

  • Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove $19.99 (20% off)
  • Axiom Verge $9.99 (50% off)
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens $9.99 (50% off)

PlayStation Store

The PlayStation Black Friday sale has deals up to 50% off. If you’re a PS Plus subscriber, you get an additional 10% discount. You can find big releases from this year already down to 50%, such as Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

Sale ends November 28.

  • EA Family Bundle (Need for Speed, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Unravel) $15.99 (60% off)
  • Need for Speed Payback $35.99 (40% off)
  • Assassin’s Creed Origins $41.99 (30% off)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus $29.99 (50% off)
  • South Park: The Fractured But Whole $41.99 (30% off)
  • Dishonored: Death of the Outsider $14.99 (50% off)
  • Fallout 4: Game of the Year Edition $29.99 (50% off)
  • Destiny 2 $41.99 (30% off)
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy $19.99 (50% off)
  • Overwatch $29.99 (50% off)
  • Injustice 2 $19.99 (60% off)
  • Persona 5 $24.99 (50% off)
  • The Disney Afternoon Collection $9.99 (50% off)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn $19.99 (50% off)

Xbox

If you don’t already own an Xbox One, Microsoft has lots of bundled deals available, including with Minecraft and Assassin’s Creed Origins. Digital games are on sale up to 65% off. Like PlayStation, if you’re a subscriber to Xbox Live Gold you’ll get an additional 10% off.

Sale ends November 28.

  • Destiny 2 $44.99 (25% off)
  • Madden NFL 18 $35.99 (40% off)
  • Need for Speed Payback $41.99 (30% off)
  • Forza Motorsport 7 $38.99 (35% off)
  • Halo Wars 2 $23.99 (40% off)
  • Overwatch Game of the Year Edition $35.99 (40% off)
skylanders: imaginators

Opinion: We’re Witnessing the Death of the Toys-to-Life Genre

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Last year Disney abruptly announced they were ending Disney Infinity after three years. Earlier this year Activision gave the foreboding announcement that they would not release a new Skylanders game this year – for the first time in six years. This week Warner Bros. confirmed that they’re ceasing development on LEGO Dimensions (though online support will remain).

At this point there are more discontinued (or on hiatus) toys-to-life games than ongoing. In the span of a year we went from most major game publishers wanting a piece of the surging toys-to-life pie, to suddenly being left with a grim outlook for the future of the genre.

The concept of “toys-to-life,” that is, physical figures with built-in Near Field Communication (NFC), began with a little known toy series called U.B. Funkeys in 2007. U.B. Funkeys was a PC game with cutesy figures designed by Mattel.

I’d never even heard of it, and it looks more like a toy with a gimmicky toys-to-life mode rather than a full-blown video game. Being PC-only appeared to cause lots of technical headaches and vastly limited sales, and it was discontinued in 2010.

The House That Spyro Built

Meanwhile Activision took a chance with developer Toys for Bob (who ironically originally pitched their toys-to-life concept to Nintendo). They used a similar concept as U.B. Funkeys, using well-made physical action figures armed with NFC readers along with a “Portal of Power” that digitally transported the figures into a vibrant game world. The entire concept was still commercially uncertain, so Activision slapped a semi-recognizable brand and character on top of it. Skylanders: Spyo’s Adventure was born.

Skylanders’ immediate success was at least partially due to the exciting novelty of the toys-to-life technology. But its staying power is owed to the quality of the figures as well as the solid, kid-friendly, cooperative gameplay. Skylanders included funny characters, simple puzzles, fast-paced action, and a light-hearted Saturday Morning Cartoon story.

toys-to-life

Every year begat a pricey new Skylanders starter pack along with several waves of figures and bonus levels. Each game introduced new types of figures or concepts (you couldn’t even jump in the first two games).

The third game, Skylanders: Swap Force, was particularly noteworthy by adding swappable figures with interchangeable top and bottom halves. In many ways Swap Force represents the peak of both physical innovation and brilliant game design. Trap Team added Pokémon-style monster catching, while the most recent game, Imaginators, let you create your own digital custom Skylanders with multiple unlockable body parts and weapons.

Activision was able to leverage the series into a full-on kid franchise, saturating the Skylanders brand from everything to paper plates to an animated series on Netflix. Skylanders became the World of Warcraft of the genre, the one game that dominated its space and dared anyone else to compete with it.

To Infinity…

Disney answered the call in 2013 with Disney Infinity, an unabashed Skylanders-like game that also used NFC figures along with a portal and 3D platformer-like gameplay. Anticipation was huge; this was basically a Skylanders game but coupled with the immense backing and popularity of Disney characters and series.

Avalanche Software produced three games in three years, each modeled after a major Disney property: Disney movies, Marvel, and Star Wars. Figures ranged from superheroes to princesses to obscure Tron characters, though there was some criticism for conforming such a wide variety of characters into a uniform art style.

toys-to-life

Unlike Skylanders, Disney Infinity’s gameplay pushed more toward a Minecraft model. Players could build their own levels and content and share them online. The community that sprang up was impressive and some of the content and level designs were amazing and creative. Unfortunately official gameplay was limited almost exclusively to the playsets. Disney made the odd decision that only characters from that franchise can play in their own playset.

Between the two game series I vastly preferred Skylanders. Skylanders’ gameplay was much more RPG-like and the combat more fun and interesting. The level designs also felt more like an actual game.

Disney Infinity’s figures all controlled too similarly and simplistically, with only major differences coming with figures like Tinkerbell who could fly, or Star Wars characters with Force powers. The user-generated content was a really neat idea, but Activision wasn’t making money off of it, they needed to sell playsets and figures. If Minecraft + Disney couldn’t end up successful, what chance does anyone have?

Enter Nintendo

We may joke that Nintendo is always a step behind the times, but when they enter a new market it’s almost always hugely successful (see mobile development, and Wii sales). Nintendo introduced amiibo figures in 2014 to immediate success. Unlike all other toys-to-life games, there wasn’t an actual game to go with the figures. Instead Nintendo uses its figures to unlock goodies in other games, such as costumes or extra levels or power ups in games like Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and Super Mario Maker.

This simple concept proved so effective that a New Nintendo 3DS was built with an NFC reader to accommodate amiibo scanning. Both the Wii U and Switch came with built-in NFC readers.

While not having a centralized game is bizarre, it’s proven effective in lowering the cost of buy-in. There’s no pricey $70 starter pack required; all you need is the appropriate Nintendo console. Nintendo’s recognizable roster of characters have proven extremely popular for collectors, despite their limited gameplay use.

toys-to-life

Yet even Nintendo’s toys-to-life beacon is beginning to dim. Nearly 25 million figures were sold in the 2015-16 fiscal year, taking full advantage of then-popular game Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U. Super Smash Bros. used amiibo figures as RPG-like fighters you could level up.

But the first three quarters of the next fiscal year (ending March 2017) saw only 6.5 million amiibo units sold. No game since Super Smash Bros. has been able to effectively use amiibo figures beyond simply unlocking a costume or perk.

Many complaints have surrounded amiibo as little more than physical DLC you can buy for Nintendo games. There’s also the sadly typical Nintendo frustrations regarding limited supply. Amiibo figures are still popular (millions of units sold is nothing to scoff at), but without better game tie-ins like Smash Bros., the future doesn’t look good.

Everything Isn’t Awesome

LEGO Dimensions’ cancellation is equally upsetting, though probably the least surprising. Warner Bros. and Traveler’s Tales (TT Games) have been successful making fun, cooperative, family-friendly LEGO video games for over a decade. Creating a toys-to-life version, with actual LEGO toys, feels like a natural evolution.

LEGO Dimensions was released in 2015. It launched with a starter pack that took advantage of the popular LEGO Movie along with Warner Bros’ access to various movie franchises, everything from Lord of the Rings to The Goonies. They planned on a three-year cycle of expansion pack content. That’s a long time for an increasingly aging game that still supported last-gen hardware.

They would make it to the end of year two before the announcement hit this week. Figures and sets weren’t selling as well as they’d hoped, and any parent is all too familiar with how expensive LEGO sets run.

toys-to-life

They banked heavily on blockbuster movie tie-ins, which didn’t quite pan out with big sets like Ghostbusters. I also question the target audience for LEGO Dimensions. Their tie-in franchises ran the gamut from The Simpsons to 80s stuff (The A-Team, really?) to modern kiddie cartoons. I can see kids being interested in Batman and Harry Potter, but Knight Rider and Gremlins?

LEGO Dimensions’ wide-net approach has proven unsustainable, and TT Games will return to making regular LEGO games, such as the upcoming LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2.

Toys-to-Death

The future of the genre looks bleak. The only new AAA toys-to-life game on the horizon is Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which was announced during Ubisoft’s E3 press conference. It will feature buildable spaceships that will spring to digital life by attaching directly to the controller. It has a tentative Fall 2018 release date, but Ubisoft is very aware of the current market of toys-to-life games, and there’s a chance this game won’t even see the light of day.

Not all is lost. For a more indie option you have Lightseekers, which was successfully Kickstarted last year and launched earlier this year on iOS and Android.

Lightseekers uses bluetooth technology instead of requiring a portal. It has a very Skylanders aesthetic but with fully articulated figures and AR cards that can be scanned in game or played physically. Both cards and figures are actually optional, and the mobile game is completely free to play. Only the two initial launch figures are available, however, and there’s no telling whether Lightseekers can ever reach the sales numbers of the once titans of the genre.

Amiibo figures are still being produced and selling millions, and Skylanders technically hasn’t been canceled yet. It’s entirely possible Skylanders will pull an Assassin’s Creed and shift way from an annual release schedule. Meanwhile season two of Skylanders Academy just hit Netflix, and a third season is in development for next year.

Toys-to-life games are an intriguing blend of toy and game and can be a lot of fun, particularly for families. I’ve enjoyed playing both Skylanders and Disney Infinity with my young daughter (she’s only recently discovering LEGOs). I particularly enjoy the progression of leveling up Skylanders figures over years of games.

The toys-to-life genre offers the rare kind of game that both of us can enjoy equally and excel at, despite our vastly different gameplay levels and experiences.

I’m very saddened and worried to see all these death notices pile up. It reminds me of another genre that was mined, exploited, and died all too quickly just a few years ago – rhythm games with physical instruments. Like that genre, toys-to-life requires pricey initial buy-ins and upkeep, and physical goods are not exactly cheap for companies to produce. I was hoping game publishers learned their lesson about over saturating a lucrative, but expensive market. Time will whether toys-to-life games will meet a similar wistful end, or find the right balance to remain a welcoming avenue for family-friendly gaming.