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May 2013

Weekly Poll: Meet Xbox One

Weekly Poll for 5-09-2013Most of you turn to FAQ websites when you need assistance in a particularly stubborn video game.  I know I do.  GameFAQs continues to be my gold standard of basic help, although it takes a special level of patience ot wade through the parts of the site that aren't vetted for quality.  In an age where there are more games to play than free time in which to play them, it's unlikely that I'm playing the same game as my friends at the same time they are also playing it.  With the exception of must-experience blockbusters that everyone tends to explore on release, play sessions become staggered in this busy time.  Printed strategy guides are the gold standard of information, but their comparative high cost and physical storage requirement are a major drawback.  There's no one right way to ask for help, of course, and it's great to have options.  Just the same, I'll stick to GameFAQs for now.

Moving on, Microsoft has revealed its next generation console at long last.  The Xbox One is coming later this year.  I've already shared my take on the unveiling and initial pass of features and capabilities, but now I want to ask you what you think of the new machine.  Are you interested in the Xbox One?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Microsoft Reveals New Xbox One, Still Has Work To Do

Xbox OneMicrosoft finally raised the curtain on its next generation video game console yesterday, revealing the new Xbox One to the world.  The console boasts much of what you'd expect from the next iteration of the Xbox product line, although it hides some nasty gotchas, restricts activities that we've all taken for granted when it comes to video game ownership, and based on yesterday's hour-long unveiling, is aiming to be more of a general living room entertainment box with an emphasis on watching television.  While Microsoft surely believes it has the next big thing on its hands, reaction in the gaming community has mostly ranged from tepid to sour.  This was probably not the reaction that Microsoft anticipated.  I can't speak for everyone else, but I know that as far as my needs are concerned, the Xbox One is not a console for me.  Nothing that I saw at yesterday's media event convinced me that I need to buy one, and while I hate to sound dismissive, nothing that the Xbox One will be able to do when it launches later this year compels me to buy it over the competition's offerings.

Continue reading "Microsoft Reveals New Xbox One, Still Has Work To Do" »

Doc Brown Explains Xbox One's Potential Scenarios

Doc Brown

And now, a brief thought from my pal and occasional Power Button podcast co-host, Joey Davidson, regarding the Microsoft Xbox One.

Deathstroke DLC Coming To Batman: Arkham Origins

Deathstroke DLCThe more we learn about the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC, the more it seems to be running the same playbook as the previous Arkham games.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  The challenge mode from the other two games in the series is returning for Origins, and like the other Arkham challenge modes, Origins will include different playable characters beyond just Batman.  Polygon reports on the Deathstroke downloadable expansion for challenge mode.

Deathstroke will be playable in Arkham Origins' challenge mode, a game type which, in previous series entries, tasks Batman (or other playable characters like Catwoman and Robin) with completing combat and stealth challenges to earn high scores and compete with their fellow players.

"Deathstroke will come complete with his own unique weapons and special moves, and will be playable in all challenge maps in the game, as well as two additional challenge maps that will be included with the pack," the DLC's press release announcement reads. "The pack will also contain two alternate Deathstroke character skins."

I don't really know that I need all of this.  I've mucked around with the other challenge modes in the series and never did much with them beyond exploring what they involved.  I don't like being told how to take down enemies, and isn't that type of freedom the whole point of the Arkham games?  To become Batman and do things just about however you like within the scope of the game?  Challenge mode restricts what I can accomplish and how I can accomplish it, and the addition of the extra playable characters released for a fee still feels like a needless cash grab to me.  Previous Arkham games allowed players to use Joker and Nightwing in the challenge modes, but not anywhere else, for instance.  Of course, maybe Deathstroke is playable in the game's story; after all, Catwoman was a small part of Arkham City's story and Robin was playable in the DLC epilogue.  Why go through all the trouble to create a playable Deathstroke (with alternate character skins, no less) and lock him into just one minor mode?  I would see what Deathstroke had to offer if I wound up with him (Amazon is giving away the DLC for free with preorders), but I wouldn't spend actual money on the DLC.  My interest is the story mode.  Everything else is just fluff.

New Super Luigi U DLC Gets Release Date, Price, Disc

New Super Luigi UNintendo has been talking about the downloadable expansion for New Super Mario Bros. U starring Luigi in his own adventure for a while now, but it's finally time to get past the talk and focus on a release date and priceNew Super Luigi U will be available as a $19.99 download on June 20.  However, if you don't mind waiting and you're trying to save space on your Wii U's system memory, you can pick up the expansion as a standalone disc at retail for $29.99 on August 25.  The disc even comes in a snappy green case featuring "Year of Luigi" branding. 

Since Mario sits this game out, another character needs to fill his slot in the playable character roster.  Enter Nabbit, one of Mario U's new additions, who cannot power-up with traditional items, but can run into enemies without taking any damage.  So there's a trade-off for you.  Nabbit is meant to be controlled by the less skilled Mario fan in your couch clan, giving him character invulnerability not seen since Player 2 realized that Tails was immune to harm in the traditionally single-player mode of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

I like the idea of a retail release for Luigi U.  Nintendo has been hyping this DLC as a whole new game, so if that's really true, then why not send it out to retail at a budget price?  While Nintendo did announce all of this new information, one item left out of all of this is the file size of the DLC.  With the limited memory available on the Wii U out of the box, it might make more sense to pay the extra $10 and pick up the disc if the downloadable version of the expansion will take up lots of space.  Say, do you know what would be nice for prospective Wii U owners?  A bundle made up of both Mario U and Luigi U sold at a slight discount compared to buying both separately.  I could definitely go for that when the time came to pick up a Wii U.

Remastered iOS/Android Sonic the Hedgehog Is Gorgeous

Sonic the HedgehogAs I said last week, Sega's classic Sonic the Hedgehog has been around the block many times.  However, now that the new remastered version of the 1991 Genesis game is available for iOS and Android devices, I'm sure you'll find that it's never looked better than this.  Available for $2.99 at your local app marketplace (or as a free update on iOS if you already own the previous emulated version of the game), this edition of the game has been reworked to run in true widescreen at sixty frames per second.  Tails and Knuckles have been added as secret (optional!) playable characters.  The soundtrack has been remastered, achievements have been added (and they're creatively challenging — no free rides here), and leaderboards are operational.  There's even a new time attack mode included.  I talked myself into buying the new version yesterday and haven't been disappointed.  Touch controls for platformers are usually a major turn off for me, but the Sonic series is perfect for them since only one button is needed to control the action.  High praise to Sega and game engine developer Christian Whitehead for their work on updating one of the all-time classics of the 16-bit era for the twenty-first century.  Now, bring on Sonic the Hedgehog 2!

Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 22: Sprinkles and Blood Rain From the Sky

Power Button Presents Kombo BreakerClassic episodes of Kombo Breaker are back this week with an extra 13% more me as panelist Joey Davidson skipped out on us to go on his honeymoon with his new wife when this episode was recorded.  Where's the commitment to the program, huh?  The original airdate of this episode is April 4, 2009.  We decided not to invite a guest to fill his seat, so tune in to hear me discuss my thoughts on Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, a tease of the then-embargoed The Godfather II (Electronic Arts sent over an early review copy; I wish I could tell you more, but EA made me an offer I can't refuse), a little about the Toy Cars of Burnout Paradise, Dan's reactions for the latest Call of Duty map pack, Brad's trip to the Game Developers Conference, skepticism of the then-newly announced OnLive service, Nintendo of America's official 2009 statement regarding the non-release of Mother 3 (which may as well be their current statement, too), the unrivaled success of Game Informer magazine, and, for some reason, television talk about Lost and 30 Rock.  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 , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 22: Sprinkles and Blood Rain From the Sky

Amazing PC Gaming Sale At Amazon

Buy somethin' will ya!Amazon must have a ton of spare license keys for the best PC games of the past few years because the online retailer is selling some truly great video games at ridiculously low prices.  We're talking about Ghostbusters: The Video Game for $5, Saints Row: The Third: The Full Package (includes DLC) for $12.50, a Batman: Arkham bundle for $11.50, and a packed Sonic the Hedgehog bundle including twelve games for just $10.  If you're a PC gamer that has lagged behind in recent releases, then this would be the time to stock up.  Some of these even activate through Steam.  Check out the complete list of games on discount through the end of May as part of the Digital Games Mayhem sale to see everything, but here are some of my top choices:

Sonic Action Pack (includes Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episodes 1 and 2, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Adventure DX, Sonic Generations (including DLC), and Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing) - $9.99

Ghostbusters: The Video Game - $4.99

BioShock 1 and BioShock 2 plus Spec-Ops: The Line bundle - $9.99

Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City Game of the Year versions bundle - $11.49

Saints Row: The Third: The Full Package - $12.49

Saints Row 2 - $3.49

Grand Theft Auto IV: Complete - $14.99

Rollercoaster Tycoon 2: Triple Thrill Pack - $4.99

Ultimate Sega Dreamcast Pack (Sonic Adventure DX, Sonic Adventure 2, Jet Set Radio, Crazy Taxi, Space Channel 5 Part 2, Sega Bass Fishing, Nights Into Dreams, and Sonic Generations) - $8.49

There's enough here to keep you busy for a very long time.  Every purchase you make via one of the green links here goes to help support Press The Buttons which, as always, I thank you for doing.

Electronic Arts Ends Its Online Pass Program

Online passElectronic Arts has contributed many business practices to the video game industry, but one of their more unpopular contributions is the online pass.  Once EA's Project Ten Dollar initiative of inspiring players to buy downloadable content molted into the online pass model that locks game modes and other functionality behind a paygate that could be crossed by either inputting a code that comes with new copies of a game or paying a ten dollar penalty fee to open the gate, it seemed that the company was more interested in earning every last dollar it could rather than provide new paid experiences.  We've endured the online pass model for the past three years (check out Episode 10 of the Power Button podcast to hear how we initially felt about it when the practice began), but there's hope on the horizon.  With new leadership at EA comes new attitudes, so it's nice to hear that EA has decided to end its online pass program.  Here's Jason Wilson at VentueBeat with the news.

“Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and  services, many players didn’t respond to the format,” Reseburg said. “We’ve  listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.”

Online Pass is seen by publishers as a bulwark against the second-hand  market, which retailer GameStop dominates. Publishers were worried that  consumers were buying games used instead of new — especially big games with  popular multiplayer modes. So the online pass became a way that publishers  forced consumers to either buy a game new — or pay extra for online.

But from this point forward, you won’t need an Online Pass for any of EA’s  games online.

Let's hope that other publishers who have followed EA's lead with online passes such as Activision and Ubisoft will follow once again and move away from using them.  I can't say that the presence of an online pass requirement in a game ever persuaded me to buy a new copy of a game just to get the pass code and save myself the additional ten dollar fee.  I rent games in which I only have a passing interest, so if a game I would normally rent required an online pass, I just didn't rent the game and skipped playing it entirely.  The same goes for buying used games.  I would rather not play a game than have to pay an additional fee to fully access what it has to offer.  Judging by EA's change of heart, I must not be the only person who behaves that way.

Microsoft Points On The Way Out

Itchy and Scratchy LandIf you want to purchase digital content for Microsoft's Xbox 360, then you'll need to buy some of the company's own currency, Microsoft Points, with your real money.  Those points are then used to buy whatever content you desire.  The conversion rate between Points and actual money isn't a clean 1:1, unfortunately, so keeping track of how much money you're actually spending can be a bit of an issue compared to just pricing content out in dollars, pounds, yen, etc.  Competitor Nintendo ditched its own Points system used for the Wii and DSi with the coming of the Wii U and the 3DS, while Sony started its PlayStation Store with currency-based transactions already in place, so the time to retire Microsoft Points in the name of progress has been upon us for a while.  Now The Verge reports that it may actually happen.  Word has it that the next generation of Xbox will follow the competition's model by charging real money for content rather than Points.

Microsoft is killing off its Points system that's primarily used for its Xbox console. The death of Microsoft Points has been a long time coming, and follows Microsoft's move away from the virtual currency towards cash in Windows 8. Sources familiar with Microsoft's Xbox plans have revealed to The Verge that the software maker plans to replace Points with a new gift card system.

The gift card system will follow the familiar model in use by Apple with its iTunes cards, but customers can also spend money directly at the online marketplace with credit or debit cards.  I'm glad to hear that this change is coming.  While I've never purchased anything with Microsoft Points, it is frustrating to me that a major player in the industry is effectively hiding the true price of its content behind an alternative currency system where 1600 Points equals $20.00.  It's all a mind game; at a glance, a game that costs, say, $19.99 on the PlayStation Store costs 1600 Points on Xbox Live appears to be cheaper on the Xbox platform when they are actually the same price (plus one cent).  I was never happy with Nintendo's Points system either, but at least that ecosystem maintained a 1:1 conversion ratio.  Content should be priced in actual currency rather than points, coins, stars, zennies, or whatever other fake money that a company dreams up.  It's only fair to the customer.