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Gaming News

Chinese Phone Company Boasts Their New Phone Is Better Than The Switch

October 17, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

The Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei debuted three new products at a launch event yesterday. The Mate 20 is a slick flagship phone that checks all the existing boxes and then some. Then there’s the Mate 20 Pro, a slightly bigger and even more powerful version of the base phone. And finally, the Mate 20 X, gaming focused phone which Huawei ridiculously positioned as a superior competitor to Nintendo’s Switch. They even showed side-by-side comparisons on stage to prove it.

When Richard Yu. the Huawei executive in charge of its smartphone, PC, and tablet business showed a slide comparing the two, people in the audience laughed. Yu also chuckled.

He hyped the Mate 20 X on stage not just for its apparent superior cooling technology (gaming makes smartphones get notoriously hot) but also for all the ways it’s apparently better than the Switch.

For instance, he pointed out that the Mate 20 X has a 7.2 inch screen as opposed to the Switch’s 6.2 inch one. The Mate 20 X is 1080p whereas the Switch is only 720p in handheld mode. According to Yu, the Mate 20 X’s battery life is also twice that of the Switch’s. But that’s not all!

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What really makes the Mate 20 X a Switch-killer is apparently it’s gamepad add-on which includes an analog stick and d-pad and attaches onto the left side of the phone.

Screenshot: Huawei (YouTube)

Look familiar?

Image: Nintendo

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Yea, it’s basically a glorified version of the 3DS’s circle pad pro attachment. Yu was generous not to mention that Switch still only has access to one app, Hulu, and you can’t even make calls on it.

Of course, there are two differences between the devices that matter more than anything else: the Mate 20 X costs about $1,000 (the Switch sells for $300) and doesn’t play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.

As far as its competition among other gaming smartphones, however, it’s harder to say. Razer recently launched the Razer Phone 2 which includes its own vapor cooling chamber and comes in at $800. Razer’s also selling a seperate controller attachment for the device, but it’s basically an Xbox controller with a spot to mount the phone than a Joy-Con-lite.

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Screenshot: Asus

And then there’s Asus’ ROG Phone, which is the most ridiculous looking of them all. It comes in with 8GB of RAM and a price tag of approximately $1,160. It’s controller attachments are the most like the Switch’s though, just smaller and boxier than the Joy-Con. Asus pitched it as the best phone to play PUBG on, and they may be right, even if it does cost as much as a very nice PC gaming rig.

As easy as it is to laugh at all of these smartphone manufacturers trying to ape the Switch’s success, however, it doesn’t seem entirely foolish. With Google, Microsoft, and other companies all pushing forward into the brave new world of video gaming streaming, smartphone gaming feels poised for an evolution. An expensive smartphone with all the bells and whistles might seem like overkill for Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition or even Fortnite, but being able to stream Forza Horizon 4 or the next Halo game to it in the future makes it a lot more tempting.

Gaming News

Epic Will Keep Fortnite Off Google’s Store To Make More Money

August 3, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Image: Epic Games (Fortnite)

Epic Games has confirmed that when Fortnite Battle Royale releases on Android phones it won’t be sold through the Google Play store. In an email to The Verge, CEO Tim Sweeney said this was in part to avoid the 30% cut Google takes on in-app purchases for games sold through its storefront.

“The 30 percent store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers’ 70 percent must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games,” Sweeney told The Verge. The CEO went on to say that he thinks this amount is disproportionate to the services Google provides on open platforms like Android where the company that maintains the operating system is separate from the hardware manufacturer.

Sweeney said the other reason for distributing Fortnite on Android using its own installer program was to “maintain its direct relationship with consumers.” This is similar to PC, where players have to open Epic’s proprietary launcher to play the game.

The news confirms rumors that began circulating earlier in the week, but it remains to be seen how much of an encumbrance this direct distribution model will be for Android users. Running software on an Android device that bypasses the Google Play store also means forgoing certain security and privacy protections, through Sweeney downplayed these concerns in his statements to The Verge, comparing how its installer will work to services like Blizzard’s Battle.net. On smartphones, however, Blizzard distributes its card game Hearthstone through the Google Play and Apple stores just like any other app.

Fortnite is already available on the Apple store after launching in April. There’s still no set date for when the game will launch on Android. 

Gaming News

Apple's New Policy Hurts Mobile Game Review Sites

August 2, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Screenshot: ustwo (Monument Valley 2)

Apple is ending its affiliate program for apps which could mean the end of review sites like TouchArcade that have relied on a cut from Apple to keep their mobile game review sites afloat. The tech giant made the announcement in its August newsletter saying that members of the program will stop receiving commissions starting October 1, a move the editor of TouchArcade, Eli Hodapp, called a “big middle finger” to his site and others like it.

“Moments ago, Apple announced that they’re killing the affiliate program, citing the improved discovery offered by the new App Store,” he wrote in a post that went up on the site late yesterday. “It’s hard to read this in any other way than ‘We went from seeing a microscopic amount of value in third party editorial to, we now see no value.’”

TouchArcade has been around since 2008, offering reviews and news about new mobile games worth paying attention to. Mobile gaming is huge, and Hodapp says a respectable couple million readers pass through TouchArcade each month. That traffic, however, doesn’t result in much money from ads. To keep the lights on, the site has long used affiliate links. Basically, every time you click through a TouchArcade link to a game on the App Store and buy it the site receives a small commission. “Each individual purchase was almost inconsequential, but when you put them all together it’s sort of in line with the plot of movies like Superman III or Office Space,” Hodapp wrote citing cinematic examples of small amounts of money adding up to huge sums. TouchArcade and other outlets covering iOS games and apps rely on the revenue brought in through the affiliate links to stay alive, but in May of 2017 Apple cut the commission rate from 7% to just 2.5%.

Hodapp told Kotaku in an email that revenue from affiliate links had also fallen due to the shift toward free-to-play games filled with microtransactions and supported by in-game ads. He said that because TouchArcade focuses mostly on premium games that people have to pay upfront to play, the affiliate links were still an important. “I’m not super sure just how big of a dent this is going to make in our bottom line, but it’s going to be significant,” he said.

In 2015 the site launched a Patreon to try and help with funding following drop-offs in ad buys. “Without financial support from developers buying advertising, some sites have closed,” Hodapp wrote at the time. “TouchArcade, being the largest site, is the farthest up the proverbial river, but the drought has reached us too and even our continued existence is in question.” Crowdfunding from Patreon currently brings in $4,045 of a $10,000 monthly goal, with other funding coming largely through Amazon and App Store affiliate links.

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Apple’s relationship to gaming has been fraught ever since it launched the iOS App Store back in 2008. Apple’s desire to have tight control over its technology and platforms was a problem cited by Doom developer John Carmack in a Facebook post in May. “Apple has made this move because if you watch Apple as a company, everything they do is to gain more control over a market they’re in,” said Hodapp. This is just another step forward in that plan, as they clearly want the App Store to be the sole source of curation of iOS content.” Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Last year’s App Store redesign included a more visible editorial team devoted to in-house curation of games on the platform as well as changes to how they were featured. In my experience the App Store is still incredibly hard to navigate, even when searching for popular games like Fortnite Battle Royale. With more obscure games, it can be even harder.

One of the most notable changes was the addition of the spotlight feature, a way for Apple to highlight a different game every day whether or not it was the most popular. Think stuff like Florence, the innovative romance game inspired partly by earlier mobile successes like Monument Valley. However, Hodapp argues that publicizing a few games off the beaten path doesn’t make up for the general state of the rest of the App Store’s gaming section.

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“Third-party sites have always done a better job of highlighting great apps and deals,” tweeted Marianne Schultz, editor of AppShoper, another site that relies heavily on affiliate links. “I’d rather have a trusted third party recommend apps to me over Apple, who has a vested interest in selling you every single app in the App Store, regardless of quality or usefulness.”

Tech News

YouTube's dark mode reaches Android users

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Engadget/Steve Dent

YouTube has taken its sweet time bringing its “dark theme” to Android (iOS users got the option in March), but it’s finally here. The streaming video giant has started rolling out the option to at least some Google-powered devices. If you have it on your phone, you’ll find it your Settings’ General section. It’s not certain how soon everyone will get the feature (we’ve asked Google for comment), but it may take some days to arrive. Don’t despair if you’re looking at the familiar white backdrop for a while.

As on iOS and the web, this flips the main interface background to a dark gray with white text on top. It’s mostly helpful for sparing your eyes during late night video marathons (so long as the videos themselves aren’t blinding, of course). For that matter, it’s also appealing if you have one of the growing number of notched Android phones on the market — if you’re perturbed by that missing chunk of screen, it’ll be somewhat less conspicuous while you’re browsing videos.

Tech News

Amazon may have another smartphone in the works (update: no)

July 29, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Amazon’s Fire Phone was a disaster by most accounts, but that might not stop Bezos and crew from giving handsets another try. In a speech at the Television Critics Association press tour (where Amazon has been very busy), studio head Jennifer Salke said she has the prototype of a future Amazon phone that would reportedly have a better interface for Prime Video. Salke didn’t delve into specifics, to no one’s surprise, but she claimed it was “much more intuitive” and that you could even see it in her office. Just let us know when you’re ready to give a product demo, Jennifer.

The executive didn’t know when the device would ship. Don’t get your hopes up for an imminent launch, then. You might not want to treat this as definitive proof that a new phone is coming, either. As powerful as Salke is, she’s an entertainment exec with little involvement in Amazon’s hardware strategy. We’ve asked Amazon if it can comment.

If there’s a handset on the way, it’s likely to reflect more than a few lessons learned in the past four years. The Fire Phone’s camera-based 3D effects and object detection amounted to little more than gimmicks, and its interface was focused more on selling Amazon products than helping users. Combine that with the high price, mediocre performance and one-carrier exclusivity and there was little reason to buy one unless you were a diehard Amazon fan. Hopefully, any new device would focus more on practical features and competitive hardware.

It’s not farfetched to envision Amazon getting back into the smartphone business, though. Prime Video would be just one of the potential hooks — a smartphone could be the key to putting Alexa in your pocket. You can already buy third-party phones with Alexa, but this could integrate the voice assistant on a deeper level. Not that Amazon would have an easy time of it. If this device ran on Amazon’s in-house Android variant, you could forget about YouTube, other Google apps and much of what’s in the Play Store. Amazon would either have to use a Google-approved Android variant with relatively little customization (such as what you see on Prime Exclusive phones) or accept that its phone came with significant software limitations.

Update: We’ve since learned that Salke was referring to the Prime Video app, not a phone. If you’ve been hoping for a Fire Phone revival, you’ll have to keep waiting.

Tech News

Samsung's 'unbreakable' display survives UL scrutiny

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Samsung

Phone makers have promised unbreakable phone screens for years, but they tend to involve awkward compromises like soft, scratchable surfaces. Samsung Display might just fulfill that promise, though. Underwriters Laboratories has certified an “unbreakable” Samsung panel (not yet pictured) as capable of surviving military-grade durability tests without damage. This included dropping it 26 times from a height of four feet and subjecting it to extreme temperatures. It even survived a drop test at 6 feet without any battle scars.

The key to its endurance is a flexible design with an unbreakable substrate and an overlay window that adheres “securely” to the panel. There have been flexible displays on the market for years (the Apple Watch uses one, for example), but they tend to use glass covers that partly defeat the point — what good is an intact display if there’s cracked glass on top? Theoretically, this could lead to truly shatter-resistant phones.

And then there’s the matter of when Samsung or its display customers will actually use the technology. Samsung will offer its panel for use in devices like phones, cars, game consoles, tablets and “mobile military devices,” but that’s contingent on both Samsung itself and partners lining up. Don’t bet on the Galaxy Note 9 definitely having an extra-tough screen, then. This may be a long-term play rather than a hint at Samsung’s near future.

Tech News

Qualcomm: Apple's next iPhones won't use our wireless chips

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Chris Velazco/Engadget

You might see the practical impact of the Apple-Qualcomm royalty feud in the very near future. As part of an earnings call, Qualcomm financial chief George Davis told investors that his company believed Apple would “solely use our competitor’s modems” (read: Intel’s) in the next iPhones. Given that Qualcomm would know whether or not Apple was a customer this close to an iPhone launch (new models usually appear in September), it’s safe to say that the chip maker has been shut out this time around.

It’s not shocking that Apple would drop Qualcomm like a hot potato. There was word that Apple was designing Qualcomm-free iPhones back in October 2017, and relations haven’t exactly warmed up since then with more lawsuits on both sides in addition to antitrust measures. It wouldn’t be surprising for Apple to go Intel-only for wireless chipsets in the near future, for that matter. Intel is the only other company to have provided those chipsets to Apple in recent memory, and a wholesale switch to someone else’s technology wouldn’t happen overnight.

Whether or not Apple sticks to Intel is another story. Calcalists sources recently claimed that Apple had turned down Intel’s Bluetooth and WiFi parts for 2020 mobile devices. That doesn’t preclude use of Intel-made cellular modems, but it also shows that Intel’s involvement isn’t guaranteed to last long.

Tech News

'PUBG Mobile' adds fast-paced War Mode and clans

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Sparktour, Wikimedia Commons

PUBG Mobile just got some spicier gameplay, whether you’re just looking for a quick fix or striving for glory. Both Android and iOS versions of the game now include War Mode, which ditches the familiar battle royale in favor of a deathmatch-style experience where respawns are available and kill counts are the key to victory. At the same time, competitive players are getting their fill with clan support (including insignia, missions and a Clan Shop).

There are plenty of other additions. There’s a new team chat channel for finding partners, and a community system to find relevant topics. You can send players likes (similar to Overwatch‘s Endorsements) when you appreciate their gameplay, complete achievements to win titles and apparel, and navigate through redesigned interfaces that help you jump into the action that much sooner.

The updates won’t necessarily have Epic worrying about Fortnite‘s, competitiveness, but they do reflect PUBG Mobile‘s importance in mobile gaming. It has over 10 million active players — that’s huge for any mobile game, and additions like this are crucial to both keeping those players engaged and expanding the base — including PC and Xbox One players who might might avoid PUBG Mobile when their favorite modes aren’t included.

Tech News

Android P's final test release is here

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Android P just edged one step closer to completion — Google has released the final preview version of its upcoming mobile OS. The beta includes the system behavior you can expect in the completed version on top of the usual bug fixes. There are bound to be small tweaks after this, but it’s otherwise full steam ahead for the finished software’s launch sometime later in the summer.

Android P is one of the more conspicuous updates in recent memory, including a new gesture-based navigation interface, revamped multitasking and a refreshed app launcher. You’ll also get new digital health tools that include app usage tracking, a Do Not Disturb mode to reduce distractions and a Wind Down option that helps you get to sleep. You can also expect improved battery life through smarter app and screen brightness management. And like usual, there’s a plethora of smaller tweaks to functionality.

The big question is when the polished release will reach your specific devices. Google phones are the most likely to get first dibs, but things are a bit different this time around. Android P previews have been available on third-party devices from the outset — you might see it reach a wide range of hardware relatively quickly.

Gaming News

The Shin Megami Tensei Mobile Game Embraces The Hell World Of Social Media

July 24, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Screenshot: Sega (Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2)

“This is the world of the downloaders,” says one of the characters early on in Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2, Sega’s mobile adaptation of the Atlas JRPG series. That was the moment I started to like this game, despite the fact that it’s free-to-play, chuck full of microtransactions, and limited to Android and iOS. Where some other smartphone adaptations of beloved games have gotten mired in the grindy frustration of Gacha-style gambling, Dx2 does a good job of keeping that stuff separate. The game uses its well-written story to keep you hooked, not cheap tricks.

Your character is a “Liberator,” someone capable of downloading demons with their phone and ordering them around in battle to combat the dark forces bent on destroying humanity. It’s all part of an apocalyptic end times-style reset set in modern-day Tokyo. You operate out of a hideout where you can manage an overwhelming array of options for powering up your demons. You’re someone who spends all their time on their phone participating in paranormal events no one else can see, so like if social media were a turn-based role-playing game. When you hear about suspicious activity in various parts of the city, you investigate.

Screenshot: Sega (Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2)

Arriving at these locations sets a short conversation in motion followed by a battle that happens in three waves, occasionally culminating in a boss fight. It’s the same thing over and over but between the witty banter and polished recreation of the classic Shin Megami Tensei battle system seen in the rest of the series, it stays fresh. It might not be able to compete narratively with Persona 5, but the premise and delivery are still way better than anything you’ll find in Fire Emblem Heroes or Star Ocean: Anamnesis.

I spent the first chapter of the game rummaging around the Akihabara district trying to find who was responsible for kidnapping and killing local passersby. This meant listening to my partner Rika tell me about her life-long love of firearms in between fighting all the weird monsters one would expect from a SMT game, ranging from a medieval knight on horseback, to a floating dog’s head with a giant tapeworm for a body. As in other SMT games, as well as Atlus’ Persona series, hitting an enemy with an attack they’re weak against grants an extra turn, while missing takes one turn away. You want to take out as many enemies as quickly as possible while conserving resources, but in this game, that goal is secondary., Previous SMT games leaned heavily on this resource management aspect during long dungeon crawls, but the real focus of Dx2 is talking to the demons you’re fighting and trying to get them to join your side.

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Screenshot: Sega (Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2)

Like in Pokemon, the goal is to collect them all, but you’re not going to be kind to these monsters once you’ve grabbed them. You will feed them to one another or fuse them in order to create stronger, more elite versions. These negotiations with monsters almost always end with a sacrifice on your part, either a special item or some of your health. Occasionally while clicking through these conversations, I accidentally sacrificed the life of one of the demons in my party, making the rest of the fight a lot more difficult. The early parts of Dx2 aren’t too challenging, but you still have to pay attention to what you’re being asked, especially if you want to grow your team in time for the difficulty to ramp up in Chapter 2 and beyond.

The game includes some eerie world-building, as characters talk about the rise of social media and how some kid got killed while making a “Let’s Dance” video out in the park, interspersed with a traditional JRPG progression system that I could see myself setting aside time to complete. Dx2 does still have another side, though—the micro-transactions.

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Screenshot: Sega (Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2)

The game’s gem currency seems ignorable, at least early on, but the exchange rate looks harsh The minimum $3 buy nets you only 90 gems— 10 shy of the 100 you need to buy a random new demon. The game can sometimes be aggressive in trying to get you to spend money. At least two times while navigating from my hideout to the menu to manage my party, I got interrupted by a menu showing me discounted stuff I could buy for a limited time only. The first page of item bundles you can purchase isn’t cheap, either, with prices ranging from $20 to $50 inside a game which would be a hard sell itself for that price. So far, it doesn’t seem like you need this stuff in order to advance in the game; I’ve been able to use the game’s systems to upgrade demons with the items and currencies allotted to me from completing the main game’s missions. There’s a player-vs-player mode, and options for loaning out characters to friends to help them in battle, so perhaps the add-ons will feel necessary for more competitive players. Personally, I can’t see myself feeling the need to grind beyond the pace set by the normal game.

Producer Yamada Riichiro, best known for his involvement in the Panzer Dragoon series, said in recent interview with Destructoid that the developers’ priority was finding a way to balance the free-to-play elements with the conventional kind of JRPG expected by SMT fans. “The key concept was to ‘offer a console gameplay experience on smartphones,’” he said. “I personally think that a console game must be a piece of art.” In the few hours I’ve spent with the game so far, Dx2 has accomplished that, offering a streamlined and satisfactory SMT game that also has the flare of 1995’s Hackers, the anime.