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October 2011

Arkham City Online Pass Guards Single-Player Content

Batman: Arkham CityPublishers have been using online passes to lock multiplayer modes behind a paywall for a while now.  You know the drill: if you don't buy the game new and use the special voucher inside the box, then you have to kick out $10 or so to buy access to the rest of the game that you purchased as a used copy.  Want to play Mortal Kombat or Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit against other people with a used copy?  $10, please.  Now online passes are taking the next step in customer-unfriendly practices as Batman: Arkham City for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 includes an online pass that locks away part of the single-player game.  Game Informer has the details on how playing as Catwoman in a used copy of the game will cost you extra money.

Every new copy of the game will include the pass, but buying used means you'll have to pay publisher Warner Bros. 800 Microsoft Points or $9.99.  "Catwoman is a unique character with her own story, moves, and weapons. Unlock Catwoman by redeeming the 1st purchaser included in the game case or by visiting Xbox Live Marketplace," reads Arkham City's title screen. Warner Bros. insists, however, the Catwoman section "is not required to complete the game," Eurogamer reports.

We've all kind of learned to live with online passes, but locking single-player material behind an online pass paywall is a terrible practice.  What's to stop tomorrow's online passes from guarding, say, the end of the game in God of War or the bonus World 9 in the next New Super Mario Bros?  Worst yet, Batman is so highly anticipated that no matter how much most of us are against the scheme, we're going to shut up and take it anyway because we really, really want to play the game.  At least, that's how it is for me.  It's easy to ignore online pass-enabled games that I have a passing interest in such as Mortal Kombat, but Batman is my most anticipated PS3 game of the season.  I'm buying it new and will get the Catwoman voucher code in the box, but I don't approve of it.  While I like to vote with my wallet, in this instance I'm more compelled to vote for Batman than against online passes.  There should be an option on the voucher redemption screen to indicate that I'm redeeming the online pass under protest.

G4 Was Nearly Dismantled By Ryan Seacrest

G4Say what you will about cable television's G4, but there's always a worse option waiting in the wings.  While G4's brand of programming and coverage doesn't always appeal to the sophisticated video game enthusiast, the channel does at least focus on video games.  That nearly came to an end as Ryan Seacrest (of American Idol, among other things) tried to buy and rebrand the channel to focus on his own productions.  Relax, G4 fans.  Negotiations between Seacrest and G4's owner, Comcast, fell apart not too long ago.  Attack Of The Show will go on.  So what exactly did Seacrest and his people want to put on the channel?  Here's the New York Post with a quick summary:

Seacrest hasn’t given up on is cable ambitions. A source said the group continues to have conversations with other big media and cable companies about its concept. In addition to his “Idol” gig on Fox, Ryan Seacrest Productions is the force behind E!’s “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” He also has a $20 million radio deal with Clear Channel.  AEG wants to find a cable home to air concert footage from its properties, including the Best Buy Theater in Times Square and The Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Even if you're not a G4 fan, we all dodged a bullet here.  There's already more than enough complete junk on television.  Do we really need a channel devoted to more?  G4 isn't perfect, but it's better than brainless reality shows and whatever passes for popular music these days.  I want to see G4 improved, not dismantled by the man who foisted the Kardashian family on us all.

Yes, you can all get off my lawn.

Boom Boom's Back And There's Going To Be Trouble

Boom Boom

Do you need more evidence that Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS is heavily inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3?  If the Tanooki Suit and upgraded Hammer Bros. Suit in the form of the Boomerang Bros. Suit aren't proof enough for you, then consider the return of fortress boss Boom Boom to the fold.  Here's some new official artwork of everyone's favorite recurring boss along with his female counterpart.  He's bigger and meaner than the last time we saw him and packs some new attacks (such as a painful spinning shell maneuver), but at least he drops a ton of coins when defeated.  Super Mario 3D Land's November release date can't get here soon enough. While we wait, here's a video of Boom Boom in action.

(via The Bow On Birdo)

GameCubeless Wii Coming To North America


We heard that Nintendo was working on a new version of the Wii hardware back in August, and now comes word that the next iteration of Wii is headed to North America later this month.  The new $150 bundle includes a black revised Wii, Wii Remote Plus with nunchuk, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and a Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack on CD.  Sounds great, right?  There's a catch though.  The new model of Wii drops support for GameCube games and lacks the GameCube controller ports and memory card slots.  What's strange is that Nintendo will continue offering the existing Wii bundle which includes Mario Kart Wii and a GameCube-capable Wii.  Considering that both bundles are the same price, why would anyone choose the new, less capable Wii over the older model that offers more functionality?

Moreover, a few Wii games will not be playable to their full extent on the new model of console.  Any game that features GameCube controller support will not be able to make use of that particular option, so say farewell to being able to play titles such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii, and a number of Virtual Console games with the older controllers.  It's a shame to see current generation games snipped of features by a hardware revision, but it's not the first time that such a thing has happened.  Sony PlayStation 2 titles that rely on a hard drive (Final Fantasy XI) aren't playable on the slimline PS2, while third model of Sega Genesis removes compatibility with add-ons such as the Sega CD and 32X as well as games including Virtua Racing and Gargoyles.  It's not uncommon for older hardware features to be removed across new designs, but it's always sad to see them go.

(Thanks, Katsujinken)

The Fourth Coming Of Mega Man

MegaMan.EXEWhile Capcom's Mega Man has fallen on hard times this year, there was once a time when the company was willing to experiment and change the character into new incarnations once previous iterations were perceived to have gone stale.  Just as Mega Man gave way to Mega Man X, Mega Man X led to Mega Man Legends which eventually got out of the way in favor of the Mega Man Battle Network series for the Game Boy Advance, GameCube, and Nintendo DS.  Over at 1UP, Jeremy Parish reflects on the Pokémonization of the Mega Man franchise in which traditional action blasting and platforming was replaced by grinding for abilities, trading items with other players, and walking around mazes that sparked RPG battles.

When Nintendo's 32-bit handheld Game Boy Advance was announced a few years later, Capcom producer Keiji Inafune and his team set out to revitalize the series and restore its luster. Unlike Legends, this new game would diverge far enough away from the classic template of gun-driven action that there would be no confusion over its purpose. Instead, this game would reinvent Mega Man for the post-Pokémon age. Debuting Oct. 30, 2001, Mega Man Battle Network -- or "Rockman.EXE" in Japan -- would be a collection-heavy portable role-playing game where the player's avatar wasn't Mega Man himself but rather a young man named Lan Hikari who in turn used Mega Man as his own virtual intermediary into the world of cyber-battling. And to ensure its popularity, the game would offer both an afternoon cartoon tie-in and a heavy emphasis on head-to-head competition with players, including special events where Capcom would distribute exclusive content, Mew-like.

As a Mega Man fan, I tried my best to get into the Battle Network portion of the franchise.  I forced myself to finish the first game in the series and plowed into the second, but lost interest.  Mega Man and Mega Man X are timeless classics for all ages, but something about Battle Network feels pitched to younger players (another similarity to Pokémon no matter how much some would deny the connection).  Kids have all the time in the world to obsess over collecting every single battle chip and trading spares with friends.  All I want to do is spend a few spare minutes shooting robots and jumping on platforms in between the demands of society.

PlayStation Network Almost Hacked Again

PlayStation NetworkThings have been quiet on the Sony PlayStation Network hacking front lately, but now the company has announced that someone out there has attempted a mass break-in of PSN user accounts.  Fortunately, the attempt mostly failed as far as Sony knows.  Here's Sony's Chief Information Officer, Phillip Reitinger, with the details:

We want to let you know that we have detected attempts on Sony Entertainment Network, PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment (“Networks”) services to test a massive set of sign-in IDs and passwords against our network database. These attempts appear to include a large amount of data obtained from one or more compromised lists from other companies, sites or other sources. In this case, given that the data tested against our network consisted of sign-in ID-password pairs, and that the overwhelming majority of the pairs resulted in failed matching attempts, it is likely the data came from another source and not from our Networks. We have taken steps to mitigate the activity.

Less than one tenth of one percent (0.1%) of our PSN, SEN and SOE audience may have been affected. There were approximately 93,000 accounts globally (PSN/SEN: approximately 60,000 accounts; SOE: approximately 33,000) where the attempts succeeded in verifying those accounts’ valid sign-in IDs and passwords, and we have temporarily locked these accounts. Only a small fraction of these 93,000 accounts showed additional activity prior to being locked. We are currently reviewing those accounts for unauthorized access, and will provide more updates as we have them. Please note, if you have a credit card associated with your account, your credit card number is not at risk. We will work with any users whom we confirm have had unauthorized purchases made to restore amounts in the PSN/SEN or SOE wallet.

It seems that Sony learned something from the massive amounts of heat that the company received after this past spring's hack attack.  I'm glad to see that the company has come clean and informed us of this issue.  It would have been very easy to ignore it or try to cover it up.  It also shows that PSN users have learned something, too.  If many of the hack attempts failed due to mismatched passwords, then it must mean that PSN users realized that reusing passwords for more than one service isn't such a good idea.  Chances are that most PSN passwords are totally unique now, meaning that trying to log into accounts with information taken from another service's database won't end in glaring success.  Nobody wants to be hacked, but at least the situation was a learning experience.

Weekly Poll: Rotten Apple

Weekly Poll for 10-06-2011 There's supremely little interest in Microsoft's new IPTV service for its Xbox 360 console.  Lacking an Xbox and services with Microsoft's partners such as Comcast and Verizon, I won't be subscribing to the service and have no interest in it.  However, I can see value in it if you already have access to the services being offered.  That said, if you already subscribe to everything required, the Xbox 360 service just provides another outlet to provide material that you can already access through your cable box.  There's something neat happening here, but on the whole it does seem a little redundant and unnecessary.

Moving on, there's a concern in the Internet community that Apple will lose its way following the death of its creative driving force, Steve Jobs.  Do you believe that post-Jobs Apple will continue to succeed?  Will the company lose its vision with new CEO Tim Cook at the helm?  Let's hear your thoughts.  For more on Steve Jobs's death, be sure to listen to Episode 65 of Power Button.

Netflix Cancels Qwikster, Reconsiders Games-By-Mail Service

QwiksterLess than a month after announcing plans to split its business into streaming Instant Watch services and the traditional DVDs-by-mail offering, Netflix has now announced that it will not be dividing its services into two separate businesses.  Citing customer revolt, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings stated that shunting the DVD side of the business into a new service called Qwikster is no longer in the cards.

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster.

This is for the best.  The Qwikster news struck me as a prime example of a company moving too quickly without thinking things through.  While it's important for companies to move forward and progress, knee-jerk reactions are never the answer.  More from a gaming perspective, however, is the news as reported by the New York Times that the newly reunited company is reconsidering its plans to offer Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii titles by mail.  Adding video games to the disc service is the only good idea to come out of the Qwikster debacle.  As we discussed on Episode 63 of Power Button, there is interest in renting games in addition to movies from Netflix.  Here's hoping the company doesn't compound its mistakes with another missed opportunity.

New Super Mario 3D Land Power-Up Revealed

Boomerang Mario

Nintendo's upcoming Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS is taking plenty of inspiration from the classic Super Mario Bros. 3.  Consider the return of the Tanooki suit power-up, for instance.  Mario's next adventure also includes some new power-ups, although one of them is definitely inspired by the famous Nintendo Entertainment System game.  As Game Informer reports, while Mario once slipped on a Hammer Bros. suit in order to throw hammers around like nobody's business, now Mario will don a suit based on the favored weapon of the Boomerang Bros.  Lookin' good, Mario! 

Nintendo World Report managed to grab an image of the new boomerang suit, which it says was unintentionally leaked. Without Nintendo's official confirmation, we don't know if this is 100 percent real, but the high quality image sure looks that way.

This won't be the first time that Mario has tossed boomerangs around.  Super Mario Advance 4 (the Game Boy Advance remake of Super Mario Bros. 3, coincidentally) featured a grabbable and tossable boomerang item as part of the never-seen e-Reader expansion card set.  Super Mario 3D Land hits stores next month.

Power Button - Episode 65: PS2 Emulation, Microsoft IPTV Domination, Dinosaur Mobs, And The Death Of Steve Jobs

Power ButtonRather than focus on one big topic on this week's episode of Power Button, we decided to cover four smaller topics that all deserve their time in the spotlight.  There's been plenty of news this week from Sony's revelation that it will sell PlayStation 2 games on the PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 3 to Microsoft's big IPTV announcement for the Xbox 360 to Apple's reveal of the iPhone 4S and the sad news of Steve Jobs's passing.  Then, somewhere in there, we highlight existing video games that we'd like to see packed full of dinosaurs.  We have this week's highlights in small bite-friendly sizes.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via  and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 65: PS2 Emulation, Microsoft IPTV Domination, Dinosaur Mobs, And The Death Of Steve Jobs