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April 2014

Rockstar Games Losing Online Functionality

Red Dead RedemptionThe news that online gaming service GameSpy is shutting down operations on May 31 has already attracted some attention (recall that it's the reason that all Nintendo Wii and DS games with online functions are going dark), but now Rockstar Games has confirmed that some of its releases from the past few years will also lose some online functionality.  Some games will lose more than others.  Polygon has the news about what will be lost.

This includes both Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto 4's Social Club stat tracking, leaderboards and in-game Social Club services. In-game multiplayer leaderboards will also cease to be on the game's PlayStation 3 version.  Max Payne 3's online gameplay, on the other hand, will be removed fully on Mac platforms, while Social Club stat tracking and leaderboards will be unaffected.

Rockstar's older releases won't be as lucky, with these games seeing their online components shut down once GameSpy ceases operation. This includes Midnight Club Los Angeles on PlayStation 3, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on Nintendo DS and PSP, Beaterator and Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition.

Rockstar is working to transition the core online gameplay for Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Max Payne 3 to another service, restoring multiplayer action for those titles.  It's inevitable that older games will start to lose modes and features as online components required to enjoy them shut down, but it still stings.  We're about to see a large chunk of gaming history from the past decade fall down the memory hole.  These games aren't seeing the online activity they did when they were new, but there's still value in keeping them alive.  So what I'm really saying here is that if you haven't yet collected the golden lion statues in Chinatown Wars, you'd better get moving or skip it for all time.

Buy Mario Kart 8, Get A Free Wii U Game

Mario Kart 8Nintendo really wants you to buy its upcoming Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. They want you buy it so much that they're willing to give you a free game if you do. We're talking about an actual worthwhile Wii U game here, not another download of Urban Champion for the Virtual Console. Here's some of the press release:

People who buy Mario Kart 8 and register the game with Club Nintendo before July 31 will receive a free Nintendo eShop download code for an additional Wii U game. Players can grow their Wii U digital game collections by choosing from one of these well-received Wii U games: New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD or Wii Party U. That's a two-for-one deal featuring some of the all-time great Wii U games. This offer also applies to people who get the game in the Mario Kart 8 bundle or digitally in the Nintendo eShop.

That is an amazing deal particularly if you're a latecomer to the Wii U world.  I'd recommend you get New Super Mario Bros. U followed by Wind Waker, Pikmin 3, and finally Wii Party U if you already own the other three games.  We've seen in the past that a scrambling, desperate Nintendo is a surprisingly generous Nintendo.  History repeats itself once again.  Here's the latest Nintendo Direct presentation featuring Mario Kart 8 if you're still on the fence about the game.

Nintendo Outlines E3 2014 Plans

Nintendo ExperienceIt's hard to believe that the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo is just around the corner, but we're just a month and change away from the video game industry outlining its agenda for the next year.  Last year Nintendo chose to forgo the traditional media briefing held in a large theater and instead offered an online presentation to show off its latest products and special demo events at specific Best Buy locations.  The company is doing it again this year with an expanded online presence and more Best Buy events.  Here's some of the press release:

Nintendo Digital Event Every year, Nintendo looks for the best way to show its games and share its news with fans, media and other key audiences. In 2013, Nintendo decided to forgo a traditional press conference and use a video – in that case a Nintendo Direct – to share its news from E3. The company is building on that approach at E3 2014 with the "Nintendo Digital Event," a new kind of video program that will reveal and provide further detail about the gaming experiences on the way for Nintendo platforms in 2014 and beyond. The Nintendo Digital Event will air at 9 a.m. PT on Tuesday, June 10.

Nintendo Treehouse: Live @ E3 This year, Nintendo will offer fans a deeper look at Nintendo's biggest games of E3, with information directly from the source. The "Treehouse," the Product Development department at Nintendo of America, will provide in-depth game demos live and unscripted from Nintendo's booth. This new program will be live streamed during all hours of the E3 show. Fans can get settled in, open their browsers and experience the Nintendo games at E3 like never before.

There will also be a special Super Smash Bros. Wii U tournament in Los Angeles and Smash demos at Best Buy (line up early; I went to last year's event and had to wait a very long time to get a quick shot at Super Mario 3D World).  While the online events do more to reach fans directly, I have to say that I miss the traditional press conference.  There's something about sitting in a large theater and watching Nintendo's development kings hold court for an hour.  Sony and Microsoft know how to put on dynamite shows, but Nintendo's team has a habit of letting their creations speak for themselves without celebrity endorsements or snack food marketing tie-ins taking up time during the briefing.  Sometimes that bites the company when their big announcement just lies flat on stage (the year of Wii Music comes to mind), but usually there's something exciting happening at a Nintendo media briefing that captivates the audience.  There's a shared energy in that room.  That's missing when everyone is watching a streaming event alone on an iPad.  Check out Nintendo's video announcing their E3 plans and mark your calendars. 

Power Button - Episode 126: Let's Get Smashed!

Power ButtonNintendo and Bandai Namco have teamed to prepare two new installments in the popular Super Smash Bros. series of character brawlers and recently spent an entire Nintendo Direct sharing all kinds of new information about the upcoming Wii U and 3DS titles.  On this episode of the Power Button podcast, Blake Grundman take an hour to discuss the latest announcements and reminisce about the series in general.  We cover such topics as our favorite Smash characters, wish list hopes for the new games, long shot third-party inclusions, favorite Smash memories from the previous games in the series, and so much more.  Join us!  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Nintendo For Strings

It's time for music!  Liven up your day with performances by the Videri String Quartet of classic themes from Nintendo's memorable video games.  This Yoshi's Island medley has been making the rounds online this week, but a search of the group's YouTube library reveals a Legend of Zelda medley, the Hyrule Castle theme from A Link to the Past, and greatest hits from Donkey Kong Country.  These are solid performances from some talented people (Aubrey Holmes, violin; Renee Spady, violin; Rosie Samter, viola; and Jeremiah Barcus, cello).  I'd love to hear more from them particularly from the worlds of Super Mario, Kirby, Castlevania, and Mega Man.  Do you think they take requests?

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More PS1 And PSP Games Now Playable On PS Vita

Crash Bandicoot 2UPDATE: Just as suddenly and mysteriously as this functionality appeared, it's gone again.  If you didn't download games like Crash or Spyro before Sony disabled them, then you're out of luck as once again a large chunk of the PS1 and PSP digital library is unavailable to download and play on the Vita.  Any games you did acquire during this period still work, so don't delete them.  I only managed to get the first three Crash games, Spyro 2, and Castlevania Chronicles before the "problem" was "fixed".  Sony giveth and Sony taketh away...

While Sony's PlayStation Vita is able to play classic PlayStation and PlayStation Portable games, some games such as the popular Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon are unable to run on the Vita for a variety of technical and/or licensing issues.  That's changed now as Sony recently (and quietly) made nearly all available PS1 and PSP games playable on the Vita.  Check your download lists!  PlayStation Lifestyle summarizes things:

While there isn’t a complete list of titles that now work with the PS Vita, we do know the Crash and Spyro PS1 titles in the recent Flash Sale are compatible, with reports also showing Jeanne D’Arc, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Brave Story, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, and Phantasy Star Portable 2 now work as well.

While I've had the Crash and Spyro trilogies on my PS3 for a while now, I haven't done much with them.  I'm experiencing the sequels to those properties for the first time on the Vita now and am blown away by how much better they play on the small screen.  I've also gone back and dug some of my dusty digital PSP games from virtual storage to finally play games that were too large for my old PSP memory card such as LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers.  It took long enough for this update to happen, but it's finally great to have so much PlayStation history available on the go.  If only Mega Man: Powered Up was available digitally, I could retire my PSP outright.

Fans Show The Game Boy Some Love

Game BoyNintendo's famous Game Boy celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this week and to mark the occasion the community at USgamer is telling stories and sharing personal histories related to the handheld gaming system.  There's a variety of tales told from many different perspectives and time frames.  My story about my custom Game Boy storage case is even included in case you missed it here the first time around.  Rather than quote my own article here (my ego isn't that out of control!), I'll use Jaz Rignall's comments as an example of the kind of goodness and introspection you'll find in this article.

The first time I saw Game Boy was in a Japanese magazine a few months before its launch. I didn't understand the words, but I didn't have to. I knew exactly what it was, and immediately set about finding the means to import one into the UK, where I was living at the time. After much calling around, I finally found a friendly, English-speaking exporter who said he'd buy one and send it to me. Good to his word, it arrived a few weeks after the system hit the streets in Japan - and was one of the very first in the UK. 

Everything about it just blew me away. Compared to today's svelte hand-helds, the classic Game Boy feels like quite a brick, but back then it was sensational: a machine that finally enabled you to play "real" games without having to sit in front of a TV. I took it absolutely everywhere, but played it the most on my two-hour daily rail commute. I can't tell you how many people asked me what it was I was playing with. Every time I showed it to them, they thought it was absolutely amazing. 

Participate in the gaming community long enough and you'll find many topics come up time and time again.  I'll point you to some of PTB's coverage of the Game Boy's twentieth anniversary back in 2009 that links to some great stories and remembrances of a similar nature.  Perhaps I should re-release that coverage as Game Boy Anniversary Pocket and, later, Game Boy Anniversary Color. 

Amazon Goes Game Crazy Again With Lightning Deals

Buy somethin' will ya!Amazon has thrown open the vault once again to offer a day of Gold Box and Lightning Deals focused on video games and related accessories.  Pick up Titanfall for the Microsoft Xbox One for just $36.99 today all day long.  Other games going on sale throughout the day include Need For Speed: Rivals, Batman: Arkham Origins, Beyond: Two Souls, and plenty of other games that don't feature colons in their titles.  A portion of every purchase you make via the green link above goes to help support Press The Buttons which in this age of DDOS attacks and medical bills is more important than ever.

AOL Instant Messenger App Was Developed For PS2

AOL Instant MessengerYou kids today may be too young to remember a time when America Online's free AOL Instant Messenger program ruled the instant message universe. In the mid-1990s and the early part of the 2000s before Facebook, Google Talk, and, hell, even MySpace, AIM was the way that my friends and I kept in touch after school and away at college. I spent many evenings chatting away with pals while browsing the Internet via a 56K dial-up connection. AIM became so ubiquitous that the developers over at AOL worked to bring the messaging app to as many platforms as possible including, of all things, the Sony PlayStation 2. Mashable has a fascinating article looking back at the history of AIM, how AOL never really wanted it, and how it nearly wound up on a popular video game console.

But with AIM bringing essentially zero revenue and costing money to operate, AOL did little to encourage the exploration of the features and outright blocked others. Numerous ideas never made it past the development phase. The engineers explored ways to broaden AIM's user base, creating versions for set-top boxes and PlayStation 2 that were never released. AOL squashed those, Appelman said.

I can't imagine how useful AIM on a PS2 would have been. It's not like AIM could have run alongside a game like today's modern game console operating systems, so you'd have to launch the app from the PS2's main menu and then leave it running as the only program in memory. The great thing about AIM (and instant messaging in general) was its passive nature; users could do other things on their computer while waiting for a reply. Who wants to sit in front of the TV waiting for replies? If AIM were still a popular platform, I could see demand to integrate it into the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but that's what Facebook and Twitter integration are for now (like it or not). Time marches on and the players change, but the need to reach out and communicate remains the same. I wonder which services will be plugged into the next PlayStation and the next Xbox. Maybe ICQ will make a comeback!

Game Boy Storage For The Ages

Game Boy caseThis article was originally published at on October 22, 2004.

I suppose you could say that I'm a video game fan today thanks to my father. In the late 1980's Nintendo contacted the foam production facility that my father managed in order to create and produce the foam packing inserts that kept the Nintendo Entertainment System safe during shipping to your local store. As a part of the design process the company sent my father a NES unit to work with, a NES that found its way to my bedroom when it wasn't being used at the factory. Although in the end Nintendo decided not to use my father's factory for their foam needs and the NES had to go back to Redmond, the enjoyment of a good video game was instilled within me.

After becoming consumed by the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987 it was only natural that the want - nay, need - for a Game Boy would become a driving force in my mind in 1989. Nintendo Power suitably hyped the new gadget and the thought of taking Mario on the road during family vacations was practically a dream come true. My Game Boy was a holiday gift from my parents in December 1989, providing me with the Game Boy itself, the Battery Pak, pack-in title Tetris, and Super Mario Land. Initially the Game Boy may well have been an extension of my hand; for the first few weeks I had the little gadget, it seemed to always be with me: sitting on the sofa exploring Sarasaland, rotating tetrads by the pool, and eventually blasting Dr. Wily in the car. During the first few months of owning a Game Boy it was relatively easy to keep all the various game paks and accessories together, but as time went on it just wasn't possible for my small nine-year-old hands to carry everything. By this time I'd acquired a Light Boy magnifier light, Nintendo's Game Boy player's guide, and what seemed like a load of various cables. That's when my parents came to the rescue with a unique solution.

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