Nick Diamon

Nintendo unveils the Switch-killer

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That’s the soon-to-be-released 2DS XL handheld. It’s Nintendo’s simultaneous clamshell upgrade to the 2DS, and 3-D less downgrade to the New 3DS XL. The 2DS XL has the New 3DS XL’s snappier processor and second analogue nub, but drops the seldom used glasses-free 3-D display. It will sell for $150, and will be available starting July 28th.

The 2DS XL is likely the DS hardware’s swan song. Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime told Wired in January that the DS line has a “long life in front of it” but with resources being poured into Switch and no refresh of the 3DS planned, it’s not likely we’ll see anything new in Nintendo’s portable space after the 2DS XL until we get the Switch XL.

Planet Coaster encourages cheaters to cheat their cheating little hearts out

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Remember when cheats were free? A hidden developer mode or Easter Egg that you didn’t have to purchase in a season pass or unlock in a loot chest? The infamous Konami Code, IDKFA, or “cheese steak jimmy’s” come to mind along with “show me the money” and dncornholio. Infinite money, invulnerability, and dog rocket attacks all without buying a 99 cent coin pack. For a good while, (before achievements and always online persistent stat tracking) cheats were an expected part of a game. Making good cheats is almost a lost art.

What kind of cheats could you want in a sandbox theme park game? Money isn’t really much of a concern, and neither is there a need for a God Mode, so you’ll probably value cheats that just make things go nuts. Frontier Developments has declared today as Cheat Day and unleashed a pack of cheats on its Planet Coaster fans. Rename a go-kart ride as “BOLLARD” and you can control a go-kart in first-person view with the WASD keys. Rename a shop to “MCLINTHE” and every guest will start vomiting. There are ten largely pointless cheats in all and they’re free to use from now on.

Forza Horizon 3 finally gives Hot Wheels fans what they’ve always wanted

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Nope. It’s too late for April Fools’ Day. That’s an actual chunk of DLC coming to Forza Horizon 3. The Hot Wheels expansion brings the tiny collectible toys and circuits to life in the photorealistic style of Forza Horizon. Players will go to six new islands off the coast of virtual Australia and race ten Hot Wheels cars on the plastic loop and curve tracks they used as kids to whack each other around. Why did it take this long for something like this to happen, and when will we get the Matchbox competition DLC?

Forza Horizon 3 Hot Wheels arrives on May 9th on Xbox One and Windows 10. It will be included as part of the Expansion Pass, but it will also be available as separate DLC for $19.99.

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Night Trap is back!

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Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition is coming to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You’re not dreaming. It’s been close to 25 years since Night Trap dropped onto the Sega CD system with all the flourish that full motion video could muster. Dana Plato! Grainy video! Screaming Villains, the latest in a long line of studios that have ported the game from system to system, says a PC release is not out of the question.

The race to register Jenny’s number in Dota 2 begins now

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Ranked match eligibility in Dota 2 will require a valid phone number beginning in May. Valve has pushed out a matchmaking update for Dota 2 that will soon require an unique phone number registered to the Steam account if the player wants to be included in ranked match queues. According to Valve, the change is being made to cut down on people using multiple Dota 2 accounts and cheating. A similar policy was instituted in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive last year, however the Prime Matchmaking rules there still allow players without a phone number to play in ranked matches. CS:GO Prime players are given priority in queues, while non-Prime players are stuck with longer wait times.

The phone number registration for Dota 2 ranked matchmaking will be mandatory starting on May 4th.

When will we investigate StarCraft for influencing a presidential election?

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Imagine you’re a candidate campaigning to be the next president of South Korea. You’d know that eSports is kind of a big deal there, and you might think getting your name out in front of gamers is a good way to scoop up the coveted youth vote. The kids love StarCraft, and everyone likes free stuff, so why not use that to your advantage? Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea has published two free multiplayer maps for Blizzard’s 1998 real-time strategy game. The maps are meant to remind South Korean gamers to cast their votes for Moon Jae-in on May 9th for the presidential election.

Nice timing, Moon Jae-in! StarCraft just became completely free-to-own with the latest patch. It’s political synergy!

GTA Online steps ever closer to becoming a gravitational singularity

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That trailer is for the latest game mode coming to Rockstar’s GTA Online. Tiny Racers takes the stunt racing gameplay and moves the camera to a top-down view, turning Grand Theft Auto V’s online circuits into a throwback facsimile of Death Rally or Micro Machines. At this point, why not? GTA Online has changed so much from its initial 2013 incarnation that adding retro arcade racing modes makes sense. It has a Tron mode. There’s werewolf hunting. It won’t be long before GTA Online adds passable Choplifter or Hello Kitty Island Adventure games.

Someone is going to bring home a gold medal for FIFA in 2022

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The 2022 Asian Games will officially feature eSports competition. The Olympic Council of Asia is partnering with Alisports, the competitive subsidiary of online retailer Alibaba, to bring FIFA, MOBA games, and other videogames to the 2022 Asian Games hosted in Hangzhou, China. The Asian Games are recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and it’s largely believed this is a test run for Alibaba’s desire to bring professional gaming to the Olympics. This means we are one step closer to seeing YouTube and Twitch streaming gamers on the front of a Wheaties box.

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition comes to Steam as the last hurrah for Ensemble Studios

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Halo Wars: Definitive Edition is coming to Steam on April 20th. It’s been available for Xbox One and Windows 10 players as a bundled incentive for Halo Wars 2, but Ensemble Studios’ swan song will finally be playable on the platform of choice for the vast majority of PC gamers. The Steam version will not have cross-platform multiplayer with the other builds, but this likely doesn’t matter since real-time strategy fans seem to prefer Steam to consoles or the Windows 10 Store.

If you really want Halo Wars: Definitive Edition on Xbox One or Windows 10, but don’t want to buy Halo Wars 2, then Microsoft has good news for you too. They will begin selling a standalone version of Halo Wars: Definitive Edition on April 20th as well.

Star Wars Battlefront 2’s truth depends on a certain point of view

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That’s Inferno Squad member and fighter pilot Iden Versio. Inferno Squad is an Imperial special forces outfit, stuck on the forest moon of Endor, when the second Death Star explodes. According to DICE and Electronic Arts, Iden doesn’t take this news well. Instead of bursting into celebratory “Yub yub!” she does what all baddies do – plot revenge. It’s from that perspective that you’ll experience the campaign story in Star Wars Battlefront 2. It’s a surprising move when the last game couldn’t be bothered to give players any story beyond 15-second snippets in front of some of the levels. Then again, the Star Wars videogame license has always given fans a touch of the dark side. From Star Wars: TIE Fighter to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, developers have been keen to let fans work under the auspices of Vader and company.

Speaking of evil, Electronic Arts flubbed their game announcement when Bernd Dierner, creative director for the game, told Mashable that “We don’t have a season pass.” Exciting news from a company that seems to love making gamers pay just as much for map packs as they do the base game. With that comment, people expected the Titanfall 2 model of selling cosmetic items to fund live support for Star Wars Battlefront 2. Mere hours later, Electonic Arts walked back that season pass statement.

While we’re not ready to confirm any live service plans just yet, what we can say is this we heard the feedback from our Battlefront community loud and clear. We know they want more depth, more progression, and more content. So we’re focused on delivering that in every dimension of Star Wars Battlefront II. We’ll have more to share about our plans soon.

It could be that the marketing folks really weren’t ready for that reveal so early in the project’s life, or it could be that they really don’t have the plan nailed down just yet. Either way, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is coming for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC on November 17th.

Microsoft will soon offer refunds on digital games, and not all developers are happy

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Currently, there’s not much you can do about getting a refund on a digital purchase of an Xbox or Windows 10 game. Microsoft’s policy as it stands now is a simple “no” on returns. But that may soon change. Selected Xbox and Windows 10 Insider members have access to a self-service refund pilot program, with parameters that are similar to the Steam return policy. Games eligible for a full refund must have been purchased within the last 14 days, and can only have less than two hours of play time recorded across all accounts. DLC and other digital add-ons are not allowed.

While the refund policy being tested seems like a great idea for customers, not everyone is pleased. The Chinese Room, the studio behind Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, has been firing off on Twitter about the impending policy change, mostly taking issue with the two-hour play window.

It’s REALLY simple. Refunds should operate off a percentage of game completed. Simple, fair, representative.

A common complaint of Steam’s refund policy by some independent developers follows in the same vein. Critics say the two-hour refund turnaround is unfair to smaller, more “artsy” projects. Games that can be finished or have a majority of their content experienced within the time limit can then be returned for a full refund because there is no difference in the policy between a two-hour linear videogame story and a limitless open world sandbox. Essentially, Steam customers can consume the whole product, get their money back, then leave the developers in the lurch.

Microsoft hasn’t officially commented on their refund policy yet, but it’s possible we may get more news at E3 in June. Also, it will be interesting to see if Sony follows suit.

Gears of War 4 may finally end the mouse and keyboard versus controller debate

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Ranked Crossplay matches between Windows 10 and Xbox One players are coming to Gears of War 4 multiplayer. While Crossplay multiplayer has been available in Gears of War 4 since the beginning, it’s been stuck in the ghetto of social playlists, meaning it got about as much play as Marcus Fenix had with anyone not named Dom. With the upcoming change, mouse and keyboard warriors will face off against controller beasts in competitive ranked matches. It will be a welcome change for the PC players of the game for whom it’s been “increasingly difficult to find matches” likely due to a low population. According to The Coalition, the Ranked Crossplay feature will be largely controlled by console players, who will have access to a toggle to allow PC players into matches. Don’t be cowards, controller users! Let your system rivals in and settle the question once and for all!

In related news, the April Update for Gears of War 4 includes the pictured monstrosity.

How many games will you lose when your iPad updates to iOS 11?

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There’s almost nothing more terrible than seeing the notification for an iOS version update. What does this one do? Is it important? Will it break my stuff? Inevitably, some apps will work differently after the update. Others may just stop working entirely. It’s Darwinism by software. The next big Apple iOS update is a doozy that threatens to render hundreds of games inoperative. It’s the meteor coming to strike down the dinosaurs of legacy apps.

The iOS 11 update will reportedly push iPhones and iPads to a 64-bit system, leaving the 32-bit architecture behind. Good news for people that want more speed and stability in their Apple products. Bad news for people that want their old games to continue working. Despite warnings from Apple for years, many games are just not ready for the change. According to one estimate, over 187,000 apps are in danger of being made obsolete with iOS 11. Many of those on-the-edge apps are games, and unfortunately, some of them have been largely abandoned by the developers. Some are victims of neglect. Some are orphans whose developer went out of business. Apple mobile owners will have to make the painful decision to update their iOS to keep up with technology, while killing their outdated apps.

You can check this out yourself in the current version of iOS. Go to your General menu under Settings, then select About, and choose Applications. You should get a list of apps that will “slow down” your hardware and “will not work with future versions of iOS if they are not updated.” You’ll also see a helpful warning to “contact the app developer” for more information.

Minecraft finally creates its own money

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It was only a matter of time before Microsoft engaged the community and let them create the paid content for Minecraft. Mojang and Microsoft have announced the Minecraft Marketplace. It’s the paid mods model that everyone was so keen on when Valve and Bethesda tried it with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Your one stop shop for other people’s Minecraft work. There’s a new currency to go with the in-game shop, of course. Minecraft Coins ($9.99 for 1,720 Coins! Best Value!) are now available for all your shopping needs. Microsoft takes a 30% cut of the marketplace purchases, but the community creators get more, which the publisher hopes will encourage budding entrepreneurs.

The Minecraft Marketplace is available now in the mobile and Windows 10 versions of Minecraft.

Microsoft’s Project Scorpio brings new meaning to vaporware

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Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry has the exclusive tech analysis of Microsoft’s next iteration of the Xbox One. Buried in all the teraflops, gigawatts, numbers, (so many numbers) CPU and GPU talk, there is the intriguing revelation that Project Scorpio uses a vapor chamber heat sink to cool its chips. That’s a first for a console. Rather than being a millennial way to ingest tobacco products, advanced PC gamers will recognize the technique from higher-end graphics cards. Friction heats the 4K graphics, so Scorpio sprays a fine mist on them as they pass by to keep the textures cool. It’s like a Slip ‘N Slide for the graphics.

We still don’t know what the final product will look like, nor do we have any pricing information, but Microsoft will undoubtedly have more to share at E3. In the meanwhile, eager consumers should enjoy reading comparison charts and discussing ad nauseam which company is winning the console war.