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Nintendo’s Switch Lite puts the company’s console lines at a crossroads

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Apple Arcade: How video game micropublishers can benefit from it
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Before the release of the Nintendo Switch, the company had a hit-and-miss record with game consoles that stretched back to almost a quarter-century, with a hit (Nintendo 64), a miss ( GameCube), another hit (Wii), and another miss (Wii U). Contrast that with the company’s long-standing dominance in portable consoles, a turf it long defended from early competitors like Sega and a late run from Sony before finally acknowledging its need to start developing for smartphones.

The Switch entered both of these timelines. Since it was capable of portable play, Nintendo placed de facto limits on its graphic sophistication compared to rivals. Early ads for the Switch played up its many gaming modes, but its two main configurations were as a gaming tablet and a docked TV console. But its detachable Joy-Con controllers were subpar as home console controllers. And because portable play opened more gaming opportunities to gamers on the go, the Switch quickly gained more attention as a portable console. And the more attention it received as such, the more ardently Nintendo insisted that, no, it wasn’t a portable console since the Nintendo 3DS and its variants served that role.

With the Nintendo Switch Lite, the handheld console that wasn’t a handheld console has become a handheld console. In getting the price of the device below $200, Nintendo has removed TV output as well as integrated the standalone Joy-Cons into the body of the unit, thus axing many of the more novel if fringe play modes  The Switch Lite will be compatible with the overwhelming majority of Switch games, but they must support “Handheld Mode.” Nintendo is also doing more to make the flagship Switch a better mobile gaming platform, with its Japan division announcing an updated version of the screen-equipped console that upgrades its battery life

The Switch Lite’s embrace of its handheld identity has again turned the spotlight on the 2DS/3DS, which represents the latest incarnation of a platform that began 15 years ago with the first DS. For now, Nintendo says it will continue to support the 3DS for as long as there is demand, but the writing is on the wall for the aging platform.

The Switch Lite not only disrupts the company’s traditional handheld platforms, but it also leaves the company’s home console picture murky. Remember that the Switch was the replacement for the Wii U. With a cheaper Switch requiring handheld game modes, developers may be less inclined to support the Switch’s TV console mode. On the other hand, it would be challenging for Nintendo to launch another home console unless it was comfortable with retiring the Switch as a TV device. In that case, the Switch would inherit the Game Boy legacy. That positioning has some appeal as the product is sufficiently different from smartphones — even if the Switch Lite’s display is sized more like a smartphone’s than a tablet’s.

In the living room, Nintendo’s new thing would face the daunting world of ray-tracing 8K consoles armed with the franchises that have accompanied every Nintendo console launch. Faced with that prospect, the Switch becomes less of a particular model and more of Nintendo’s path forward, an ongoing merging of its home and handheld console lines.

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Amazon Games’ New World open world MMO arrives in May 2020

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Amazon Games plans to launch its New World massively multiplayer online PC game in May 2020.

The game is an ambitious title that Amazon hopes will snare a lot of PC fans and use a ton of computing power. It’s a big project that is a kind of flagship title for Amazon Games, which has hired many seasoned game developers and put them to work on titles like this one for several years.

The company announced the details of New World at The Game Awards this evening in Los Angeles. Players can preorder the $40 game (a deluxe version for $50) now on Amazon or Steam, and they will be eligible to play the beta test for the game in April, said Scott Lane, game director for New World, in an interview with GamesBeat.

The launch timing was revealed in a cinematic trailer that introduced players to Aeternum, the Eternal Isle, a vast and diverse land of danger and opportunity. While the New World suggests a full continent like North America, that’s not exactly right. The game is not a historical title, Lane said, as it has some supernatural elements and Aeternum is a fictional island — albeit a big one that will take a long time to traverse.

“New World is an open world MMO, set in the Age of Exploration. It’s the 17th century, and it takes place on the island of Aeternum, a supernatural island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” Lane said. “It features action-RPG combat with massive siege battles and a rich crafting system and character progression. We have solo and player-versus-player experiences.”

Above: New World’s zombies.

Image Credit: Amazon

The world is set in twilight of the Age of Exploration, during the 17th century. In New World, players are pitted against the haunted wilderness. Players seek a sacred resource that is akin to the Fountain of Youth. But they must fight against nonplayer factions on the island such as the zombie-like creatures who have partaken of too much of that resource and have become lost souls. If you find the sacred resource, you can use it to craft magical weapons and other items.

“It’s going to change the properties of an item, and sometimes it’s really cool because that changes the world,” Lane said. “So you’re going to learn when you get to this island. There was an ancient people here thousands of years ago and they’re now gone now. You’re not sure why, but you’ll uncover that over time. You’ll see parts of the world and the inhabitants who are corrupted.”

Since showing a preview of the game earlier this year, the team has added quests, missions, and a lot more density of points of interests in the world. The world is broken into territories, and players who want to help expand the companies that own the territories can do so. Players can buy houses and decorate them. You can kill a wolf in the world, mount it on your wall, and then you can get bonuses in combat with wolves.

“We have physical-based combat,” said Lane. “I can roll, I can block. It’s a more visceral experience.”

Neocolonialism?

Above: The Corrupted in New World

Image Credit: Amazon

Colin Campbell, a writer at Polygon, criticized New World for its seemingly neo-colonialist approach, as the zombies seemed like they were native peoples, and the colonists were more like the conquerors who subjugated North America. Lane said it was one way of interpreting the setting, but an incorrect one. He said that Amazon Games will properly explain the backstory so that there is no confusing New World with historical events or colonization patterns. In fact, the world is more like Atlantis than North America.

“Everyone interprets things differently,” Lane said. “The way I interpret the lore is that people come here and they are corrupted. By greed. That turns you into a different person. The people you’re attacking are full of greed and corruption. We think of it as a pre-apocalypse. They want to spread this corruption back to the whole world. We’re going to explain some of this, starting with our trailer.”

In New World, the players have to tame the environment, which includes the undead legions. But they can also choose to engage in player-versus-player combat. And Lane said that is where the game will shine, as players can participate in massive battles around forts in the world, with 50 players teaming up against 50 others in an environment that looks mesmerizing, he said.

In its unsettled state, Aeternum is open and chaotic, but it’s rich in opportunity for soldiers, explorers, artisans, and empire-builders.

Above: Archers in New World

Image Credit: Amazon

Combat in New World is visceral and skill-based, giving players direct control over their movements and attacks. Players can band together to form powerful companies operating out of fortified strongholds, or play alone and acquire and customize their own homes as they contribute to the growth of the larger community around them. New World provides a wide variety of gameplay, with classless character progression, social systems, and rich crafting mechanics.

“We want our players to feel the depth—and the danger—of New World from the moment they step onto
the shores of Aeternum in May 2020,” said Christoph Hartmann, vice president of Amazon Games, in a statement. “Our team has been working tirelessly to create a deep, immersive world that delivers challenges and surprises at every turn, and we’re so excited to reveal a bit more of it today.”

Lane said inspirations include MMOs like World of Warcraft, “one of the best video games ever created.” Dark Souls, Diablo, Guild Wars, and Black Desert Online were also inspirations.

New World is being developed by Amazon Games’ development studio in Irvine, California, with a team comprised of industry veterans with experience building some of the world’s most beloved multiplayer games, including Destiny, World of Warcraft, and Everquest. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has given these veterans the task of creating “computationally ridiculous games.”

“We’ve checked the computationally ridiculous box,” Lane said. “The visual quality shows you that. It’s stunning. We’re going to make a lot more improvements along the way. Physical-based combat at scale is an achievement. You have density of interactions in the world with beautiful graphics. If you put all of that together, there’s no way this game could have been made 10 years ago.”

To preorder New World visit here. Those who preorder New World will receive Isabella’s amulet, the Fist Bump emote, a guild crest set, and the Expedition One unique title, plus access to closed beta in April 2020.

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