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Main article: Nintendo

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Tencent to grow gaming empire with $148M acquisition of Conan publisher Funcom in Norway

15:23 | 22 January

Tencent, one of the world’s biggest videogaming companies by revenue, today made another move to help cement that position. The Chinese firm has made an offer to fully acquire Funcom, the games developer behind Conan Exiles (and others in the Conan franchise), Dune and some 28 other titles. The deal, when approved, would value the Oslo-based company at $148 million (NOK 1.33 billion) and give the company a much-needed cash injection to follow through on longer-term strategy around its next generation of games.

Funcom is traded publicly on the Oslo Stock Exchange, and the board has already recommended the offer, which is being made at NOK 17 per share, or around 27% higher than its closing share price the day before (Tuesday).

The news is being made with some interesting timing. Today, Tencent competes against the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo in terms of mass-market, gaming revenues. But just earlier this week, it was reported that ByteDance — the publisher behind breakout social media app TikTok — was readying its own foray into the world of gaming.

That would set up another level of rivalry between the two companies, since Tencent also has a massive interest in the social media space, specifically by way of its messaging app WeChat . While many consumers will have multiple apps, when it comes down to it, spending money in one represents a constraint on spending money in another.

Today, Tencent is one of the world’s biggest video game companies: in its last reported quarter (Q3 in November), Tencent said that it make RMB28.6 billion ($4.1 billion) in online gaming revenue, with smartphone games accounting for RMB24.3 billion of that.

Acquisitions and controlling stakes form a key part of the company’s growth strategy in gaming. Among its very biggest deals, Tencent paid $8.6 billion for a majority stake in Finland’s Supercell back in 2016. It also has a range of controlling stakes in Riot Games, Epic, Ubisoft, Paradox, Frontier and Miniclip. These companies, in turn, also are making deals: just earlier this month it was reported (and sources have also told us) that Miniclip acquired Israel’s Ilyon Games (of Bubble Shooter fame) for $100 million.

Turning back to Funcom, Tencent was already an investor in the company: it took a 29% stake in it in September 2019 in a secondary deal, buying out KGJ Capital (which had previously been the biggest shareholder).

“Tencent has a reputation for being a responsible long-term investor, and for its renowned operational capabilities in online games,” said Funcom CEO Rui Casais at the time. “The insight, experience, and knowledge that Tencent will bring is of great value to us and we look forward to working closely with them as we continue to develop great games and build a successful future for Funcom.”

In retrospect, this was laying the groundwork and relationships for a bigger deal just months down the line. 

“We have a great relationship with Tencent as our largest shareholder and we are very excited to be part of the Tencent team,” Casais said in a statement today. “We will continue to develop great games that people all over the world will play, and believe that the support of Tencent will take Funcom to the next level. Tencent will provide Funcom with operational leverage and insights from its vast knowledge as the leading company in the game space.”

The rationale for Funcom is that the company had already determined that it needed further investment in order to follow through on its longer-term strategy.

According to a statement issued before it recommended the offer, the company is continuing to build out the “Open World Survival segment” using the Games-as-a-Service business model (where you pay to fuel up with more credits); and is building an ambitious Dune project set to launch in two years.

“Such increased focus would require a redirection of resources from other initiatives, the most significant being the co-op shooter game, initially scheduled for release during 2020 that has been impacted by scope changes due to external/market pressures with increasingly strong competition and internal delays,” the board writes, and if it goes ahead with its strategy, “It is likely that the Company will need additional financing to supplement the revenue generated from current operations.”

 


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China Roundup: WeChat’s new focus on monetization

19:00 | 12 January

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world. At the beginning of each year, a large crowd of developers, content creators and digitally-savvy business owners gather in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou for the WeChat conference, the messaging giant’s premier annual gathering. The event is meant to give clues to WeChat’s future and the rare occasion where its secretive founder Allen Zhang emerges in public view. But this year, much to the audience’s disappointment, Zhang was absent.

WeChat’s new era of money-making

The boss’s absence was not outright unexpected, an industry analyst told me, as WeChat shifts to focus more on monetization. With 1.1 billion active users, the app has been incredibly conservative with selling ads and pursuing other money-making strategies, an admirable decision from the user’s perspective but arguably frustrating for Tencent’s stakeholders. Part of the restrain is due to Zhang’s user-first design philosophy and minimalistic product aesthetics. When reflecting on why WeChat doesn’t support splash ads — ads that are displayed full-page every time an app is launched — the boss had this to say (in Chinese) at last year’s WeChat conference:

“If WeChat is a person, it must have been your closest friend to deserve so much time you spent on it. So how could I have the heart to plaster an ad on your best friend’s face and ask you to watch the ad before speaking to him?”

The emphasis on user experience now seems overshadowed by Tencent’s need to carve out more revenue streams. The giant’s cash cow — its gaming business — has taken a hit in recent years following a wave of new government policies on the online entertainment industry. Tencent’s imminent rival ByteDance, the creator of TikTok, is getting a larger slice of the digital advertising pie in China.

One way to step up monetization within WeChat is to stimulate more business transactions. The app mapped out at the conference what it has done and what it plans to do on this front.

WeChat founder Allen Zhang addressing the audience of WeChat’s annual conference through a pre-recorded video in January 2020 

Mini programs

The lite apps that skip app store downloads and run inside WeChat have surpassed 300 million daily active users. Practically every internet service in China — with the exception of a few that are at odds with Tencent, such as Alibaba’s ecommerce platforms — have built a WeChat mini program version of their full-fledged app. Without ever leaving WeChat, users can complete tasks from playing casual games, booking movie tickets to getting food delivered.

Consumers and businesses are indeed increasingly embracing WeChat as a platform for transactions, of which the default payment method is WeChat Pay. Users spent more than 800 billion yuan ($115 billion) through mini apps in 2019, up 160% year-over-year driven by the likes of ecommerce and other retail activities.

To further drive that spending momentum, WeChat announced it will make it easier for businesses to monetize through mini programs. For one, these apps will be better integrated into WeChat’s search results, giving businesses more exposure. The messenger will also broaden the variety of ads embedded in mini programs and provide logistics management tools to retail-focused developers.

These efforts signify WeChat’s shift from focusing on mass consumers to businesses, a strategy that goes in tandem with Tencent’s enterprise-driven roadmap for the next few years. It remains to be seen whether these changes will square with Zhang’s user-first philosophy.

Credit scoring

WeChat’s one-year-old “Payments Score” has picked up some 100 million users by far. The program came about amid China’s push to encourage the development of credit scoring across society and industries to both regulate citizen behavior and drive financial inclusion, although Tencent’s private effort should not be conflated with Beijing’s national scheme. Like Alibaba’s Sesame Credit, WeChat Payments Score is better understood as a user loyalty program. Participation is optional and scores factors in the likes of user identities, payment behavior and default history.

Such a trust-building vehicle holds the potential to bring more transactions to WeChat, which previously lacked a full-fledged ecommerce infrastructure a la Alibaba’s Taobao. Users with a high score receive perks like deposit-free hotel booking, while application of the program is not limited to transactions but has also been adapted for rewarding “good” behavior. For instance, those with high points can redeem recyclable trash bags for free.

Tencent’s gaming empire

Tencent snatched up another gaming studio to add to its portfolio after earmarking an undisclosed investment in PlatinumGames, the Japanese developer of the well-received action title Bayonetta said in a blog post.

Over the decade the Chinese gaming behemoth has extended its footprint to a raft of influential gaming studios worldwide, taking stakes in the likes of League of Legends maker Riot Games (full control), Clash of Clans’ Supercell (84%), Fornite developer Epic Games (40%), PlayerUnkonwn’s Battlegrounds’ Bluehold (rumored 10%), and World of Warcraft’s Activation Blizzard. It’s also Nintendo Switch’s publishing partner in China.

PlatinumGames noted that it will continue to operate independently under its existing corporate structure, a setup that’s in line with Tencent’s non-interference investment principle and a major appeal for companies desiring both the giant’s resources and a degree of autonomy. The corpus of cash will help strengthen PlatinumGames’ current business, expand from game developing into self-publishing and add a “wider global perspective.”

Tencent’s hands-off approach has led industry experts to call it an “investment vehicle” relying on external intellectual property but in recent times the company’s in-house development teams have been striving for more visibility. Its Shenzhen-based TiMi studio, for example, is notable for producing the mobile blockbuster Honor of Kings; its Lightspeed and Quantum studio, similarly, rose to fame for developing the popular mobile version of PUBG.

 


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Pokémon Sword and Shield are getting downloadable expansions this year

21:01 | 9 January

If you’ve already completed your Pokédex and battled your way up to become the Champion of Galar, you might’ve figured you were just about done with Pokémon Sword/Shield.

Surprise! More is on the way — for a price, that is.

This morning Nintendo announced that it’s working on not one, but two downloadable expansions for Sword and Shield: the Isle of Armor (arriving June 2020) and The Crown Tundra (coming sometime “in the fall of 2020”). A $30 “Expansion Pass” that’s up for pre-order today gets you both downloads when they arrive.

While this definitely isn’t the first time Nintendo has dabbled with DLC, it is the first time they’ve done so with a main series Pokémon title. Considering that Sword/Shield is one of the best selling Switch games of all time, it makes sense that Nintendo isn’t quite ready to be done with it.

So what’s new in the expansions?

Each pack will bring new areas to explore, along with new characters, storylines, and, of course, Pokémon. Nintendo and GameFreak aren’t getting too specific about how many new Pokémon we’ll see, but do note that the expansions will include brand new monsters, Gigantamax and Galarian forms of existing ‘mon, plus support for an unspecified number of past Pokémon transferrable from previous Pokémon titles.

While the expansions won’t ship for a few months, the companies are releasing what they call “a small slice” of the new stuff today via a free update.

 


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Nintendo’s Switch just had its best sales week in the US

21:39 | 4 December

Nintendo today noted that the Switch just had its best-ever week of sales week in the States. Over the course of Thanksgiving week, the three-year-old console moved more than 830,000 units. That brings the system up to a combine 17.5 million units in the U.S., by Nintendo’s count. It’s pretty impressive momentum for a mature console.

Back in late October, the Switch hit the 15 million mark in the States. It continues to sit atop the console sales charts posted by analytics firms like NPD. The numbers, of course, were juiced by both the upcoming holidays, the addition of the the new, lower-price Switch Lite and various Black Friday offers that bundle in things like a free copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

The system is expected to get another major boost outside of the U.S., which a forthcoming launch in China. Nintendo is teaming up with Tencent to deliver the system to a potentially massive market at around $300 a pop. Preorders in the country opened today, with sales starting on December 10, along with a trio of Mario titles.

As of late-September, the system has sold in excess of 40 million units globally — a healthy upgrade from its lukewarmly received predecessor, the Wii U, which only managed to move 13.5 million in its lifetime. The Switch still has some catching up to do with the eight-year-old 3DS, which has sold 75.5 million copies, globally. 

 


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Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure is a silly, gentle way to shape up

19:33 | 2 November

Nintendo has a long history when it comes to exercise-driven games. I’m dating myself, but I can say I remember playing Track & Field on NES with the Power Pad. How far we’ve come! Ring Fit Adventure is a full-body workout for grown-ups, but fun, gentle, and ridiculous enough to forget it’s exercise.

The game and accessories were announced in September, coming as a complete surprise even considering Nintendo’s constant but hit-and-miss attempts at keeping its players healthy. What really threw people off was that this game actually looked like… a game. And so it is!

Ring Fit Adventure has you, the unnamed and (naturally) mute protagonist, journeying through a series of worlds and levels chasing after Dragaux, a swole dragon who’s infecting the land with… something. Maybe he’s not wiping down the equipment afterwards. Come on, man.

Playing with these virtual versions of the controllers gives you a real feel for how solid the motion detection is.

Anyway, you do this by using the Joy-Cons in a new and strange form: the Ring-Con and leg strap. The latter is pretty self-explanatory, but the ring must be explained. It’s a thick plastic resistance ring that you squeeze from the edges or pull apart. It detects how hard you’re squeezing it through the other Joy-Con, which slots into the top. (The strap and ring grips are washable, by the way.)

The two controllers combined can detect all kinds of movements, from squats and leg lifts to rotations, presses, balancing, and yoga poses. You’ll need them all if you’re going to progress in the game.

Each level is a path that you travel down by actually jogging in real life (or high stepping if you’re in goo), while using the Ring-Con to interact with the environment. Aim and squeeze to send out a puff of air that opens a door or propels you over an obstacle, or pull it apart to suck in distant coins. Press it against your abs to crush rocks, do squats to open chests — you get the idea.

ringfit1

I haven’t gotten this one yet, but it looks handy. I could use a stronger arm-based multi-monster attack.

Of course you encounter enemies as well, which you dispatch with a variety of exercises targeting different muscle groups. Do a few arm presses over your head for some basic damage, or hit multiple enemies with some hip rotations. Each exercise has you do a number of reps, which turn into damage, before defending against enemy attacks with an “Ab Guard.”

The ring and leg strap seem almost magical in their ability to track your motion in all kinds of ways, though some are no doubt only inferred or fudged (as when you lift the leg without the strap). A missed motion happened so rarely over thousands of them that I ceased to think at all about it, which is about the highest compliment you can give a control method like this. Yet it’s also forgiving enough that you won’t feel the need to get everything right down the millimeter. You can even check your pulse by putting your thumb on the IR sensor of the right Joy-Con. Who knew?

As you progress, you unlock new exercises with different uses or colors — and you soon are able to fight more strategically by matching muscle group coloring (red is arms, purple legs, etc) with enemies of the same type. It’s hardly Fire Emblem, but it’s also a lot more than anyone has every really expected from a fitness game.

The red guys are like, “yeah… do him first.”

In fact, so much care and polish has clearly gone into this whole operation that’s it’s frequently surprising; there are so many things that could have been phoned in an not a single one is. The exercises are thoughtfully selected and explained in a friendly manner; the monsters and environments show great attention to detail. There’s no punishment for failure except restarting a level — the first time I “died,” I expected a little sass from my chatty companion, Ring, but it just popped me back to the map with nary a word.

Throughout is a feeling of acceptance and opportunity rather than pressure to perform. You can quit at any time and it doesn’t chide you for abandoning your quest or not burning enough calories. If you decide not to do the warm-up stretch, Tabb just says “OK!” and moves on. When you perform a move, it’s either “good” or “great,” or it reminds you of the form and you can try again. Whenever you start, you can change the difficulty, which I believe is reps, damage, and other soft counts, since it can’t increase the resistance of the Ring-Con.

dragaux

Seems familiar…

There’s no pressure to change your body and no gendered expectations; Your exercise demonstration model/avatar, Tabb, is conspicuously androgynous. Your character is a pretty cut specimen of your preferred gender, to be sure. And Dragaux himself is a sort of parody of oblivious, musclebound gym bunnies (“He’s working out while planning his next workout,” the game announced one time as he skipped an attack to do some bicep curls). But even he, Ring mentions at one point, used to be very insecure about his body. Importantly, there’s nothing about the game that feels targeted to getting a certain type of person a certain type of fit.

I’m not a trainer or fitness expert, but so far the variety of exercises also feels solid. It’s all very low-impact stuff, and because it’s resistance ring and body weight only, there’s a sort of core-strengthening yoga style to it all. This isn’t about getting ripped, but you’ll be surprised how sore you are after taking down a few enemies with a proper-form chair pose.

If you don’t want to play the adventure mode, there are minigames to collect and short workouts you can customize. Honestly some of these would make better party games than half the stuff on 1-2-Switch.

As I’ve been playing the game and discussing it with friends, I found myself wanting more out of the game side. I’m hoping Ring Fit Adventure will be a success so that Nintendo will green light a new, deeper version with more complex RPG elements. Sure, you can change your outfit here for a little extra defense or whatnot, but I want to take this concept further — I know the fundamentals are sound, so I’d like to see them built on.

[gallery ids="1907223,1907228,1907230,1907231,1907227,1907232,1907234"]

It feels like until now there have been few ways to really gamify fitness, except the most elementary, like step tracking. The two separate motion controllers and the smart ways they’re used to track a variety of exercises really feel like an opportunity to do something bigger. Plus once people have bought the accessories, they’re much more likely to buy matching software.

My main criticisms would be that it’s a bit limiting at the beginning. There’s no choice to, for example, prioritize or deprioritize a certain type of exercise. I could probably stand to jog more and do arm stuff less, and I dreaded having to resort to squats for the first few worlds. And the constant instruction on how and when to do everything can be wearing — it would be nice to be able to set some things to “expert mode” and skip the tutorials.

The game and accessories will set you back $80. If you consider it simply as buying a game, it’s an expensive gimmick. But I don’t think that’s the way to think about it. The target audience here is people who likely don’t have a gym membership, something that can cost $50-$100 a month. As a fun and effective fitness tool that does what it sets out to do and does so in a praiseworthy way, I think $80 is a very reasonable asking price.

 


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Mario Kart Tour will test real-time multiplayer in December

22:55 | 1 November

The mobile version of Nintendo’s iconic racing franchise, Mario Kart Tour, will soon support multiplayer races, bringing the game closer to its competitive roots. A limited multiplayer beta test is planned for December, just in time for holiday laziness, but only for paying subscribers — the rest of us will have to wait.

Mario Kart has had a focus on multiplayer since its first (and best, in my opinion) appearance on the SNES, with multiple modes available pitting players together in real time. So despite Mario Kart Tour’s general excellence as far as gameplay and variety, players have been disappointed by the lack of that core aspect of the game.

Sure, you can post high scores and best times, but that’s nothing compared with the feeling of coming from behind in a hard-fought race and beating out half a dozen tough competitors.

mario kart tour ios

Well, players will soon have that opportunity — if they happen to be Gold Pass subscribers. That’s the subscription tier that gives access to extra content in the “free to start” game, and will be a requirement to join the beta

Naturally this will provoke ire among players who feel they are owed not just a free game, but a free game that gives them everything they want for free. And in fact they may eventually get that, but it’s probably smart for Nintendo to limit this experience at first to paying customers so they can stress-test, balance gameplay, and so on. A subpar multiplayer experience is a good way to turn off otherwise interested players.

Still, this feeds into a larger dissatisfaction among gamers with Nintendo’s online and multiplayer strategy. The subscription service required for many popular games on the Switch comes with a selection of Nintendo and Super Nintendo Games, but beyond that the benefits are minimal and features standard on other platforms for years — voice chat, for instance — are absent or long in coming.

At only $20 a year it’s hardly a big investment, but subscription fatigue is growing among tech-savvy consumers and they are cutting things out where they can. Hopefully Nintendo’s offering will solidify and survive.

 


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Here’s where top gaming VCs are looking for startup opportunities

20:37 | 25 October

With cross-platform experiences like Fortnite and PUBG, in-game socializing environments, and subscription-based cloud gaming services from Playstation, Google, Amazon, and others, the gaming industry is entering a new era beyond mobile.

These days, the industry is at the center of social media and entertainment trends; gaming is expected to earn $152 billion in global revenue this year, up 9.6% year over year. 

Given my recent writing on Unity, the most-used game engine, and ongoing research into interactive media trends, I wanted to find out how top gaming-focused VCs are assessing the market right now. I asked ten of them to share which trends they are most excited about when it comes to finding investment opportunities:

  • David Gardner, Partner at London Venture Partners
  • Henric Suuronen, Partner at Play Ventures
  • Samuli Syvähuoko, Partner at Sisu Game Ventures
  • Jay Chi, Partner at Makers Fund
  • Peter Levin, Managing Director at Griffin Gaming Partners
  • Gigi Levy-Weiss, Partner at NFX
  • Ethan Kurzweil, Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners
  • Jonathan Lai, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
  • Blake Robbins, Partner at Ludlow Ventures
  • Jon Goldman, General Partner at GC Tracker & Board Partner at Greycroft Partners

Amid the mix of predictions, there were several common threads, such as optimism about the rise of games as broader social platforms, opportunities to invest directly in new studios, and skepticism about near-term investments in augmented or virtual reality and blockchain.

Here are their responses.

David Gardner, Partner at London Venture Partners

“PC Games are back. Great place to start new IP to then migrate a success to multiple platforms. There is more innovation in business models and more open distribution on PC to facilitate audience growth without the punishment of mobile CPIs.

VR & AR remain out. We stood away from VR in the beginning and extend that to AR while the user experience for games remains a disappointment. Let’s hope those new Apple glasses do the trick!

Crypto remain a theological war zone, but honestly everything on offer has been available in the cloud world, but the real consumer benefit isn’t showing up.

We love games that are expanding audience demographics and are sensitive to less hardcore audiences.  For example, women players are estimated to account for 1 billion gamers.”

Henric Suuronen, Partner at Play Ventures

“At Play Ventures, we believe we have just entered the golden era of mobile gaming. Who would have believed 10 years ago that Nintendo and games like Fortnite and Call of Duty would all be on mobile. Mobile is not just a games platform anymore, it is THE games platform of choice for casual and core players alike. Consequently, in the next 2-3 years we will invest in 30-40 mobile games studios across the globe.”

Samuli Syvähuoko, Partner at Sisu Game Ventures

“We at Sisu Game Ventures have been investing in many sectors since 2015 including free-to-play mobile games (especially big here in Finland), VR, AR, PC, console, instant messenger, hypercasual, audio and most recently cloud-native games as well. In addition to game studios, around a third of our investments are into games related tech/infrastructure. 

We’ve so far not dipped our toes into blockchain or eSports and our appetite for doing more investments in VR and AR is nil. To me, the most interesting mega trends lie with the promise of cloud gaming when utilized to its full potential. Another term that encapsulates my excitement is games-as-a-social-hobby. Put this and the extreme accessibility of the cloud together and you’ll have a game with revolutionary potential.”

Jay Chi, Partner at Makers Fund

“We are looking closely at ‘Gaming as Media’ related content and platforms — the emergence of new interactive experience centered on ‘viewers as participants.’ Gaming as social media falls under this thesis. We are also looking for MMO and Metaverse enablers given increased demand for specialized, scalable and affordable technologies that empower lean startup teams to create and operate large-scale worlds and novel gameplays. 

We also see potential for new start-ups to emerge in hypercasual games with midcore/social meta — no one has truly cracked this genre yet.”

 


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Nintendo Switch hits another sales milestone

02:07 | 18 October

Nintendo’s North American Switch unit sales have already surpassed the lifetime worldwide unit sales of the Wii U.

The company announced Thursday that they had sold 15 million units of the popular handheld console in North America, further noting that the Switch had been the most popular console in the US for 10 months in a row, according to the NPD Group.

This number brings NA-specific sales well past the 13.56 million units sold of the company’s previous-generation console, the Wii U.

While the Switch lags far behind the PS4 and Xbox One in lifetime sales, it’s important to realize how old those other systems are — hardware refreshes aside. The Xbox One and PS4 were released in 2013 and the Switch was introduced in 2017.

The Switch is likely still early in its life cycle — the company just released the $199 Switch Lite which cuts down on some functionality and focuses wholly on portable gameplay.

A common refrain has been that there are too few titles available on the Switch, while I still that’s definitely true, Nintendo announced that 14 titles had sold more than 1 million copies, with four of its own games (Mario Kart 8 DeluxeThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildSuper Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) selling more than 6 million copies.

As of June 30, 2019, Nintendo has sold nearly 38 million Switch consoles worldwide.

 


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Breaking a sweat with Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure

19:00 | 26 September

On October 18, Nintendo will finally fill a Wii Fit-shaped hole in its product line. The Ring Fit is a kind of spiritual accessor to the numerous fitness titles that helped make the Wii’s motion controls such a massive, demographic spanning success. But the large, round peripheral is perfectly at home on the Switch, taking a page from offerings like Labo, which find clever new ways to leverage existing hardware.

I took the forthcoming peripheral for a brief spin earlier this week, and like Labo was pleasantly surprised with what Nintendo was able to accomplish here, using the Switch’s Joy-Cons as a starting point. Here, each side serves a uniquely different purpose. One slots into the ring and the other into a band that straps on the player’s thigh.

Nintendo Switch Ring Fit

In the case of the former, the controller serves as the brains for the flexible steering wheel controller, measuring movements via built-in sensors, including the accelerometer. Using that set up, you can spin the ring to move selection in the starting menu and squeeze its sides to select. The second controller, meanwhile, serves as a sort of makeshift Fitbit, keeping track of your lower body movement — a pretty central part of the workout.

Adventure is the first title to use the hardware. It almost certainly won’t be the last, though Nintendo, per usual, won’t comment on any future plans. Rather than going the straight sports route, à la Wii Sports, Nintendo’s instead created what amounts to a Final Fantasy-style turn by turn adventure game that makes the player battle bad guys by breaking a sweat.

There are a ton of different games and workout experiences out of the box, but the basic adventure plays out as follows: You move your character by running in place, squeezing the ring to blow up boxes for coins and pulling it apart to suck in power-ups. Jumps are accomplished by pointing the ring downward and pressing in. You will break a sweat.

Your character’s anime-style hair is a big ball of fire, growing or diminishing based on how well you’re keeping up. Every so often along the track, a boss will appear. You’ll then engage in a turn by turn battle using a variety of different ring-based exercises. When it’s the monster’s turn, you’ll squeeze the ring against your torso to defend yourself.

Nintendo’s dreamed up an impressive variety of exercises that utilize the ring’s resistance. Playing an hour a day, it’s easy to actually lose some weight. The game also does a pretty good job encouraging you to mix things up. I’d certainly be interested in doing some extended testing — I like the idea of a fitness regiment one can accomplishment at home or in a hotel room with minimal equipment.

Nintendo Switch Ring Fit

You can also detach the Joy-Cons and take the ring with you to get some reps in away from the system — say, on lunch break at work. The controllers will continue to record your progress and upload them when you get back.

That said, I’m pretty committed to the Switch Lite these days. The Ring Fit will work with the system, assuming you also have a pair of Joy-Cons. You can prop up the Lite and use that screen for the game, but you’ll really want a TV screen for the full effect here. It’s easy to imagine, however, Nintendo combining Labo VR with the exercise kit for a more immersive fitness effect.

 


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Apple’s iOS and iPadOS 13 support multiple PS4 or Xbox One controllers, which could be huge for Arcade

16:56 | 26 September

Apple’s iOS 13 update (and the newly-renamed iPadOS for iPad hardware) both support multiple simultaneous Bluetooth game controller connections. Apple added Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controller support in the updates, and after doing some digging, I can confirm that you can use multiple of either type of controller on one iOS device running the update, with each controlling a different player character.

That’s the good news: The bad news is that not many games take advantage of this right now. I wasn’t able to find a game in Apple’s new Arcade subscription service to try this out, for instance – and even finding a non-Arcade iOS game took a bit of digging. I finally was able to try local multi-controller multiplayer with Horde, a free-to-play 2-player co-op brawler, and found that it worked exactly as you’d expect.

With Arcade, Apple has done more to re-invigorate the App Store, and gaming on iOS in particular, than it has since the original launch of the iPhone. The all-you can game subscription offering, which delivers extremely high-quality gaming experiences without ads or in-app purchases, has already impressed me immensely with the breadth and depth of its launch slate, which includes fantastic titles like Where Cards Fall, Skate, Sayonara: Wild Hearts and What the Golf, to name just a few.

Combine the quality and value of the library with cross-play on iOS, iPadOS, Apple TV and eventually Mac devices, and you have a killer combo that’s well-positioned to eat up a lot of the gaming market currently owned by Nintendo’s Switch and other home consoles.

Local multiplayer, especially on iPads, is another potential killer feature here. Already, iPad owners are likely to be using their tablets both at home and on the road, and providing quality local gaming experiences on that big display, with just the added requirement that you pack a couple of PS4 or Xbox controllers in your suitcase or carry-on, opens up a lot of potential value for device owners.

As I said above, there’s not much in the way of games that support this right now, but it’s refreshing to know that the features are there for when game developers want to take advantage.

 


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