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Culture Gaming

Tony Hawk Isn’t Done Innovating

Tony Hawk created this Hot Wheels track, Sim City lookin’ “death loop” that he sets up, every couple of years or so, for the new Evel Knievels of the skate world. It’s not designed to kill, per se, but Hawk did break his pelvis once mid-way through the 360-degree trip. He first attempted it in 1995. He first cleared it in 1998. And until this past August, over the give-or-take 40 years that skateboarding has been a popular sport, no woman had ever given it a go. Then Lizzie Armanto, on Hawk’s Birdhouse team, attempted the loop.

Hawk had partnered with NextVR to broadcast this competition to attentive watchers who wanted to experience the full-throttle adrenaline-kick of doing a loop de loop untethered, relying on gravity, from the comfort of their iPhones. It was not only a momentous achievement for women in sports, but also an inventive ollie into the virtual reality space.

Hawk, now 50, isn’t done pioneering. Though fans continue to beg for the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater to be remastered and re-released, Activision—the game’s developer—isn’t budging. So Hawk is developing his own mobile game with an end-of-year release. He also still skateboards whenever he can, whenever he’s not gaming himself or going unacknowledged in TSA lines. But is skateboarding hurtling toward a virtual existence? Hawk doesn’t think so—though he isn’t completely ruling it out. And if it does, he’ll be the first to ride the wave.

I saw some big things happened during your loop challenge back in August. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Tony Hawk: So I have this loop that we used for a tour a while back. It was something that we were doing in the show and less than 20 people have ever actually done it, or done similar ones. Every few years’, I’ll put it up for a new crop of skaters who have requested to try it. This time we put it up in conjunction with NextVR, so people could watch it live. Over the course of an hour, two new skaters were successful.

After NextVR left, Lizzie Armanto—who is one of our skaters on Birdhouse and an exceptional athlete and inspiration to woman in terms of skating and action sports—came back to it as they were leaving and said, “I’d like to try it again.” Even though the event was over. I was fully supportive of that. So a few of us started helping her out and placing the pads in the right places. Less than an hour later, she was the first woman to successfully do it.

It’s crazy to me that in terms of sports, skateboarding is still considered a young sport, but in 20 years time, I’m not sure how many females have attempted the loop.

Hawk: None, really. Up to that point, none had tried it. We had a few that came to try it. The day before [the loop challenge] I put it up and I allowed people to actually test it. And one girl did give it a go and she decided it wasn’t for her. These are girls that I invited based on their abilities. Another girl brought her stuff and refused to even go down the starting ramp, because it’s frightening. I mean, I don’t blame them at all. It’s one of the scariest things. And, and there’s a big price to be paid if you do it wrong. I actually broke my pelvis on one of them a long time ago because it was a different design. It was really slow and I paid the price, so I totally understand how they feel once they see it in real life. Lizzie was one of the ones who tried it that day, but she wasn’t really getting close, so I was surprised to have her come back the next day and then follow through again later on.

Can you explain why incorporating VR so that anyone can technically experience the “death loop” is a momentous thing?

Hawk: I mean [the fact] that we can do live events anywhere online is amazing to me, but the idea that we can do it in VR, you can see it in actual 3D and you can see the scope and the fear that people go through in that moment in real time—I think that’s amazing. When [NextVR] approached me about it, they said, “What kind of event would you like to do live?” There are all kinds of things we could do with skateboarding. But I said no one’s ever really seen this loop in real time. Every time you see someone do it, it’s something that happened over the course of an hour with a lot of practice and a lot of help. And so to see that unfold in real time in full 3D is leaps ahead of anything that we’ve done.

You first did it in 1998.

Hawk: I tried one in 1995, but it was designed poorly so I ended up not successfully coming out of it that time. In 1998, we built a proper one and I finally did it.

How do you see VR’s place in the skateboarding world going forward?

Hawk: I would like to see a game that incorporates VR—something that makes you feel like you’re skating without getting motion sickness. That’s probably the biggest challenge. We have almost every system in our house. In fact, my daughter is playing Rick and Morty right now as I’m talking to you, that’s not a joke. So I love the concept of it. I love the technology of it and incorporating skating is exciting to me, but I gotta find the right fit and doing a live event was a step in the right direction.

Your video game franchise is legendary. I heard that Activision tried to buy your name and likeness when you made the first Tony Hawk Pro Skater, but instead you struck a royalty deal where you earn a percentage of every copy sold. How did that come about?

Hawk: The original deal I signed was a royalty deal; that was established from the get-go. It was more that when the game was about to be released, they offered me a buyout of future royalties and for me, that was a big decision because the money they were offering me was more than I’d ever seen. But luckily, I was in a financial position that I was pretty secure with things that were going on and other sponsorships and competitions and future deals. So I rode it out. I basically told them I’m going to give it a chance and it was the best financial decision in my life. But it’s hard when people offer you big money to buy you out or if you’re running a company for the big exit, that’s when you really have to realize that you either believe in what you’ve been doing or you were only in it for the quick buck.

Based on all of your years being involved in major business decisions, do you have any tips for young entrepreneurs for how to get the better end of a deal?

Hawk: You’ve got to try to keep control of your brand. If you are offered money to take it over, if you can fight for that control, that’s probably your best option. Because when someone else takes your vision and runs with it, they’re going to do things with it that you probably don’t approve of or didn’t want them to ever do. That’s the key—you gotta keep enjoying your brand and don’t try to get the easy quick buck. Get out of it because you’re just going to see it crumble and realize that you could’ve taken it a lot further with your own passion.

You mentioned that the original deal you signed was a royalty-based deal, but did you have any foresight to see how the game would be successful?

Hawk: My only sign that it was going to be successful is that as it was being released, they offered me that buyout. And also a lot of my friends in the skate industry had been playing it. I sort of leaked some copies to people before it got released and they all just started calling it “the game.” Have you played “the game?” And I knew that we had a buzz amongst skaters and people that like video games. [Activision] started talking about what we would do for a sequel before the first game was released. So all of those were signs that there was going to be a success beyond anything that we anticipated.

When it first came out and it was flying off the shelves, how did that feel for you?

Hawk: It was crazy. It changed my life. It changed my life in terms of opportunity, in terms of recognition factor, finances—suddenly my name was synonymous with video games. A lot of people thought that I was new on the scene because they suddenly knew my name and I had been a pro skater for almost 20 years of my life at that point. So it was super exciting. It allowed me to exit competition in a way that I felt good about. And to explore new opportunities like doing arena tours and other endorsements and promoting skating and starting a foundation—all of that was related to having a video game and having that recognition.

I read that by your senior year of high school in the late ’80s, you were making $70,000 a year. Then in the early ’90s, skateboarding fell out of favor with sponsors and you had to sell your car, house and borrow $8,000 from your parents.

Hawk: That’s true. I borrowed money from my parents to buy a video editing system because I knew how to do that. I had worked with computers from an early age, before they were a staple of every home. And so I knew how to edit video but I didn’t have the equipment and I thought my career as a skater was ending and so I borrowed money from my parents to actually buy an editing system.

Back then you weren’t digitizing things to video, you were actually doing it linear on videotape. So I bought this very, even then it was an antiquated video system. It was a three-quarter inch deck, two decks for the source, one deck for the edit, and made it work. I made a few videos for other skate companies. Ironically, I made a video for a video game company, NEC back then. That was before I had a video game deal, obviously. And I learned a lot in the process and then shortly after that the Video Toaster came out and then suddenly a video was nonlinear. It was digitized and I was ahead of the curve when all that happened. So I was able to use those skills and when I started my own company to do all of that stuff behind the scenes.

Courtesy of the artist

So if God at the gates of heaven said, “Before you enter, you have to tell me which version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater is your favorite,” which would you choose?

Hawk: [laughs] Favorite? So curious as to what platform you’d be using. I think if I had to choose one that I think resonates the most in terms of playability and soundtrack and people finding this series was our second Tony Hawk Pro Skater. That one I’m very proud of in terms of the authenticity, the character, the locations and the game play. I feel like that’s the one that put us on the map.

Does it annoy you that people constantly asked for like the old Pro Skater games to be remastered?

Hawk: No, not at all. It doesn’t annoy me. There are so many legal issues with that. That’s the thing I can’t really explain is that I can’t do it on my own. Activision can’t use my name unless we came to a new deal and I don’t think they’re really interested in it. So it doesn’t annoy me. If anything I’m honored that they still have a reverence for it. I wish there was some way to do that. I really do.

What can you tell us about the mobile game you’ve got in the works?

Hawk: I can tell you that there are some somewhat similar controls to previous series that people are used to you, but we’re taking advantage of the mobile platform and I’m excited about it, but that’s all I can really tell you right now.

You don’t have a release date in mind, do you?

Hawk: I believe it will be near the end of the year.

Watch the full #Face2FaceTime with Tony Hawk on ONE37pm’s YouTube channel.

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Culture Gaming

Spider-Man and the Police: Even the Wall-Crawler Can’t Get Over America’s Divide in PS4 Game

Superheroes have remained a surprisingly resilient crossover force in America’s fraying political divide. Marvel and DC properties, for the most part, seem to have been tailored to walk the line between what entertains both blue and red America. Superheroes have remained safe topics to discuss during family gatherings, and they seem like a harmless subject on which to build a video game. Then along came Spider-Man on PlayStation 4.

Insomniac’s recent breakout hit has received near-universal praise for its rich story, its fantastic rendering of New York City and its enormously fun gameplay. However, as enthusiasts swung their way from skyscraper to skyscraper in a bid to clean up the Big Apple, another conversation began. It was one that didn’t have a whole lot to do with the excellent traversal mechanics or the stellar voice acting from Yuri Lowenthal as Peter Parker. Instead it was about how the game treated Spider-Man’s relationship with the New York Police Department.

From the very beginning of the game, it’s made abundantly clear that your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is very much in cahoots with the local PD. His first main overworld contact is the gruff police captain Yuri Watanabe (played by Laura Bailey), who asks Spidey to repair police communication all over Manhattan. Spider-Man gladly obliges and sets off on a number of Watanabe’s requests, happily coordinating with the police to forward their objectives without question or concern about the ultimate goals. There’s an odd bit at the beginning when he even refers to himself multiple times as “Spider-Cop,” much to the chagrin of Watanabe.

If you haven’t noticed (and you probably have), America has been going through a prolonged cultural moment with how its citizens view the police. It should absolutely be noted that for many, this isn’t a “moment” at all, but rather how they’ve lived their entire lives.

Many long-held fears and outrage exploded onto the national scene with the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and since then widespread condemnation of police practices with respect to minority groups has manifested into a number of active movements and overt symbols upon American life. And that sense of anger remains just as palpable today, from the Detroit police officer fired for posting a racist picture on Snapchat this week, to last month’s shooting of an unarmed black man in his own Texas apartment.

That sense of injustice formed the Black Lives Matter movement. That fury inspired Colin Kaepernick to begin lasting NFL protests. That backlash started the Blue Lives Matter campaign in defense of police officers. And the whole conversation is what makes Spider-Man’s treatment of the police so compelling.

It didn’t take long for the first criticism of Spider-Man’s relationship with the police to come out. Just three days after the game’s release, a very unsubtle post by Tom Ley ran on Deadspin titled, “They Turned Spider-Man Into A Damn Cop And It Sucks.” That unambiguous headline raised the first mainstream positions on the, to some, disconcerting nature of Spidey’s police work.

“It’s dumb to expect video games to be responsible reflections of real life, but it is also impossible, for me at least, to not feel some ickiness about the game forcing me into cahoots with even a fictionalized version of the NYPD, an organization that routinely oppresses some of the most vulnerable residents of the city I live in,” the author Tom Ley wrote. “What this new game does is put Spider-Man up on a perch where he doesn’t belong. He’s no longer performing heroic deeds out of just the goodness of his heart, but also for the purpose of solidifying the existing power structure’s grip on the city.”

This was far from the first mention of the tilted perspective of Spider-Man’s latest (and many say greatest) video game outing. A groundswell of people across the social sphere were all too eager to question the Wall-Crawler’s intentions with regards to the police. Though very, very few seemed to have problems with the gameplay, story structure or combat. Many seemed to not understand the exact direction of this game’s subtext.

Of course, this backlash had a backlash. It didn’t take very long after the first wave of criticism for the backlash to rise up and question what exactly was the problem. To many on the other side of the debate, the question was: What’s so wrong with Spidey helping the police?

Forbes was quick to take the other side and declare that Spider-Man doesn’t actually glorify police abuse and that people who saw such subtext were looking too hard for indignation.

“Of course, the cops are on Spider-Man’s side throughout the game. There’s no way around that,” writes Erik Kain. “In this fictional universe, the cops are good guys. The escaped convicts are bad guys as are the armed thugs from Fisk’s organization and the Demons. The cops, or at least the ones working with Yuri and Parker, are heroic and hapless, always in need of help.”

Kain wasn’t alone in defending Parker’s partnership with the police. Many turned out on social media, and in the media itself, to claim that such an outrage was invented, if not overtly coordinated.

The National Review took the far position and claimed that Spider-Man caused “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors, a pejorative against the left) to be “triggered” because the police weren’t the villains of the piece.

“To be clear, in this game, the player, as Spider-Man, helps the police: 1. stop muggings; 2. stop break-ins; 3. rescue people from car accidents; 4. defuse bombs and oppose terrorists; 5. and most importantly, SAVE LIVES,” Chris Pandolfo writes. “But those good things are problematic for the SJWs, who demand that all entertainment media shove SJW propaganda down everyone’s throats. Criminals can’t just be bad guys. The police can’t just be the good guys. And our heroes need to fit into a leftist narrative, or they can’t really be heroes.”

From developer Insomniac’s end, it’s difficult to ascertain their reasoning for depicting Spider-Man’s relationship with the police one way or another. They did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

And it’s not the only curious decision that is included in the game. In researching the evolving conversation, it became clear that many picked up on something I noticed during my play through: There is a prominent black police officer, who plays a pivotal role in the story, named Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis was also the name of the only president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. I don’t mean to presume at all that this character was named after the infamous historical figure. I’m merely pointing out that I’m far from the only one who raised an eyebrow when the character said his name.

It’s interesting to consider whether this game would have had inspired the same conversation had it been released just a few years ago. Video game depictions of police have usually steered relatively clear of criticism. But the past few years have put a megaphone to this country’s opinions about law enforcement. More light has been shed on the perceived abuses of police power and those active in holding law enforcement accountable have made their voices heard.

In a climate like this, there’s no such thing as being apolitical, even in video games. Much was made earlier this year over Far Cry 5 and its depiction of a rural religious cult gone wrong. Before the game came out, it was expected to levy a pointed criticism against the perceived cultural forces that elected Donald Trump. Instead, many, many, many people found the game’s aggressively apolitical nature robbed it of any substance. In trying to cater to everyone, it lost them all.

That seems like a close analog to Spider-Man’s police problem. In ignoring America’s struggle with law enforcement and running with what would possibly have gone unnoticed five or 10 years ago, the game instead gave many people a modern setting that they didn’t recognize. In trying to act like there isn’t a problem, Insomniac underlined it.  

The good folks at Insomniac probably didn’t mean too much by having Spider-Man glorify the police. But in contemporary American pop culture, every artistic decision will only continue to underline this county’s deepening divisions.

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Culture Gaming

15.6 Million U.S. Adults Play Fantasy Sports, Nearly Double the Amount from 5 Years Ago

The often intimidating world of fantasy sports is more accessible than ever as a barrage of sites and apps continue to pop up to assist participants in drafting imaginary teams filled with real-life players and in managing them based on real-world stats.

Yup, there’s now even a voice-controlled app for the Google Home smart speaker that answers your questions about lineups, trades, scores, player analysis and news. “OK, Google! I know nothing about sports, but can you help me win this league?” Probably not, but gradual tech advancements like these have become instrumental in making people more comfortable in joining or staying in this ever-growing fantasy land.

In fact, because of this accessibility, the number of adults playing along has increased from 8.3 million in 2012 to 15.6 million in 2017, according to the latest data from Nielsen Scarborough. That’s nearly double the amount of participants in five years. To put that 15.6 million number in perspective: 6.2 percent of adults in the U.S. now play fantasy sports, primarily fantasy football, as of the end of last year.

Fantasy footballers are more likely to…

Of those 15.6 million people, 12.5 million are fantasy football participants. You may be scratching your head and asking yourself, “Wait, there’s more than fantasy football?” Indeed. While it may not be surprising to learn about fantasy leagues for basketball, baseball, hockey, golf and wrestling, there have also been fantasy leagues created over the years for cricket, Congress and stock simulations. Historians have traced fantasy sports back to the 1950s and 1960s long before the advent of the internet and the modern online-style fantasy leagues we all know now, and over time, fantasy football has come out as the clear frontrunner in the fantasy business.

To no one’s surprise, 42 percent of fantasy footballers are young men between the ages of 18 to 34. Recent Nielsen data gives us a better glimpse of the type of people playing fantasy football. They are:

▶︎ 40 percent more likely than the general public to have eaten frozen pizza in the past seven days

▶︎ 47 percent more likely to have done post-graduate work or earned a master’s degree or higher

▶︎ 57 percent more likely to belong to a health club or gym

▶︎ 67 percent more likely to have a household income of $250,000 or more

▶︎ 195 percent more likely to have visited a sports bar in the past 30 days

Why do you play fantasy sports?

Reasons vary. Just look at what our @137pm Twitter followers said:

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Culture Gaming

The ‘WWE 2k19’ Soundtrack Let Wrestlers Pick Their Favorite Songs

The only thing more exhilarating than (virtual) wrestling is listening to bangers while you do it.

This year’s WWE 2K19 video game has more of the wrestling action you love—just WATCH me do a Swanton Bomb off the top rope). And to match the high-octane kick-assery, the game’s soundtrack consists of songs hand-selected by the featured wrestlers.

The format makes a ton of sense considering that pro wrestlers have long gotten to pick their own entrance music—and some of those tracks have become iconic in their own right. Please, tell me you can hear John Cena’s intro music without getting absolutely pumped up.

The WWE 2K19 soundtrack is a good mix of new and old, featuring current rap and, of course, some terrifying heavy metal. But it all goes hard, and more importantly, serves as a sampler of your favorite wrestlers personalities.

You can check out the whole soundtrack below.

Ric Flair and Charlotte Flair // ‘Ric Flair Drip’ by Metro Boomin & Offset
The New Day // ‘Ungrateful & Thankful’ by Wale
Baron Corbin // ‘Devil’ by Shinedown
Daniel Bryan // ‘Passion’ by Awolnation
The Miz // ‘Skin’ by Bullet For My Valentine
AJ Styles // ‘Survival’ by Eminem
Alexa Bliss // ‘Champion’ by Fall Out Boy
Triple H // ‘Spit Out The Bone’ by Metallica
Samoa Joe // ‘Work Hard’ by Migos
Sami Zayn // ‘The 11th Hour’ by Rancid
Elias // ‘Rockstar’ by Post Malone
Seth Rollins // ‘Override’ by Slipknot
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Culture Gaming

Nintendo Switch Online Launch: Here’s Everything You Get With Your Subscription

Your days of playing Splatoon online for free are over.

Years after the release of Sony’s PlayStation Plus and more than 10 years after Microsoft launched Xbox Live Gold, Nintendo is finally ready to enter the online marketplace with a new subscription service that rolls out September 18.

The service is called Nintendo Switch Online and, besides letting players play online games, it offers a lot of what fans of the Switch have been clamoring for and some of what they haven’t. For $3.99 a month, or $19.99 a year, subscribers will get access to online game functionality, cloud-based saves and a growing library of games from the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

Online Multiplayer

While the Wii and the Wii U came with free access to the few online games that made it onto those platforms, the Nintendo’s Switch wants you to pay for it.

A subscription to this service will get you online, playing the Switch’s multiplayer games, and allow for voice chat over Nintendo’s companion smart phone app.

The timing of the service comes right before the December 5 release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo’s biggest game release of the holiday season. It promises to have a robust online component.

Meet the New Virtual Console

Instead of once again revamping its Virtual Console that sold many games for the big N on the Wii and the Wii U, Nintendo Switch Online is taking the road previously traveled by Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus. Subscribing to the service provides access to a library of NES games that Nintendo promises will grow.

The launch lineup for the service includes 20 titles, including many favorites like Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda, Ghosts’n Goblins and Dr. Mario. Additionally, Nintendo has announced upcoming games for the next three months, with three games becoming available each month. These include Metroid in November and Ninja Gaiden in December.

Not only that, but many of the NES games have been updated to include online multiplayer.

Finally, Cloud Saves, Finally

Ever since the early days of the Switch’s launch in March of 2017, many have found one of the system’s biggest weaknesses to be a lack of online save back up.

Before the launch of Nintendo Switch Online, there was no way to get saves off of one Switch and onto another one. Additionally, there was no one to retrieve saves if your console was lost or stolen. Nintendo was the only console manufacturer not to offer a way to back up data (and it still remains the only console maker not to do it for free). This was a feature that even took hackers a pretty short time to add to the system.

Well, cloud saves are now here with Nintendo Switch Online, but with a few caveats. In the fine print of the service details, Nintendo admits that “Save Data Cloud backup compatibility varies per game. Some titles, including Splatoon 2 and 1-2-Switch, are not compatible.” There’s no comprehensive list of what games are and aren’t compatible, so cross your fingers? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Additionally, as many have reported, Nintendo Switch Online does not guarantee that cloud save data will remain intact if your service lapses.

Special, Special Offers

Along with these other features, the Nintendo Online Service also will provide users with special deals, though only two have been outlined so far. One is a code for in-game Splatoon 2 outfits. And the other one is a pair of Nintendo Entertainment System-style controllers, which Nintendo is selling exclusively to subscribers for $59.99. The controllers slide onto the Switch for charging and will ship in December.

Nintendo has been infamously slow to adopt what many consider to be a modern, fully-featured online service. In many ways, this is a good start. But it still leaves many questions unanswered. Is the Virtual Console really dead? Will Switch owners ever be able to play Nintendo games from systems later than the NES? Will the offered NES games expire? How will we know whether a game is compatible with cloud saves? And why oh why do we still have to use Friend Codes?

Paying for an online service was an inevitability, one that Nintendo put off for a long time. But modern demand of connective features, the success of the Switch and the expanded offering of online compatible games meant the free ride was over. It’s the dawn of a new era. The era of Nintendo Switch Online.

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Culture Gaming

Why Is No One Talking About the UK’s Obsession with Crash Bandicoot?

Up until late August, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy had been at the top of the UK video game software charts for at least eight weeks in a row after releasing on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC on June 29. It’s still holding steady at No. 5 as of Sept. 8. 

The N. Sane Trilogy has also become the fastest-selling Switch game in the UK this year, beating out Mario Tennis Aces, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and surprise hit Octopath Traveller. And it’s not like this summer has seen no other notable game releases. Crash‘s chart dominance overlapped with the release of the newest Madden game and Octopath, which tore up charts in other places like North America and Japan.

The same thing happened last year. The N. Sane Trilogy initially launched on PS4 in June 2017. It sunk its little bandicoot teeth into the No. 1 spot and clung to it for seven weeks. And that was only with the sales from one console. It was not a consecutive run at the top because, reportedly, demand outstripped supply and Amazon UK ran out of physical copies. It sold better than any console-exclusive game since 2016’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, according to UK game sales tracker GfK. N. Sane Trilogy had better first week sales in the UK in 2017 than the PS4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn, which sold more than 2.6 million units in its first two weeks.

It’s tempting to attribute the success of the N. Sane Trilogy on the fact that summer is traditionally a slower time for games. While that might ultimately be the reason, it’s still extremely peculiar that its success is localized to the UK, especially since other territories have had different chart leaders.

The power of nostalgia strikes again

So why does the UK love Crash Bandicoot so damn much? The answer for that might just be the simple power of nostalgia.

Crash Bandicoot originally hit shelves in 1996 as a PlayStation exclusive and became a global success in all territories, including Japan. Eventually that spinning, crate-bashing bandicoot became the mascot for the burgeoning game console that would come to dominate several generations. In fact, Crash was created for just that purpose.

Andy Gavin, the co-creator of Crash Bandicoot, admitted that the inception for the idea was to ape character action games and identifiable icons, like Nintendo’s Mario and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog. And it worked. Sony put the character in commercials (like the one above) not only to sell Crash Bandicoot games, but also to sell PlayStation consoles.

Crash Bandicoot/IGDB

As with other territories, the UK has the prime demographics to get swept up in the nostalgia machine of a remastered game. The average age of a UK gamer is 43, according to a study by the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, while the majority of gamers are at least 40 years old. That means that most of the people who play games in the UK would have been in their teens and twenties when Crash Bandicoot originally came out.

Nostalgia sells. From the variety of rebooted entertainment franchises to the constantly sold out NES Classic/SNES Classic, memory makes a huge impression, especially with culturally impactful properties. If one of gaming’s powerhouse console makers revives one of their most recognizable characters 20 years later, it’s a guaranteed slam dunk.

Octopath Traveller and Madden NFL 2019 have been this summer’s other two big releases. It’s easy to see why a throwback JRPG and a celebration of an American sport might not turn out big numbers in the United Kingdom. Add in the fact that demand had built up from Xbox One and Switch owners after the PS4 success last year and it would certainly lead to a larger bump in sales. Additionally, the runner-up on the UK game charts throughout July and August has been Grand Theft Auto V, so the new games of the summer aren’t really tickling the majority of UK gamers’ fancy.

The stars aligned for the N. Sane Trilogy to dominate the summer UK charts. The only question that remains is how much longer will this run last. Only time will tell.

Keep crashing, UK.

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Culture Gaming

HipHopGamer Reviews ‘NBA 2K19’ Inside ONE37pm’s Gaming Studio

NBA 2K19, the 20th anniversary edition of the best-selling basketball game franchise on the market, is finally here. We teamed up with gaming personality Gerald Williams, a.k.a. HipHopGamer, to get a sneak peek at the latest version inside ONE37pm’s video game studio in New York City.

Watch this video to see what went down when I previewed the much-anticipated 2K Sports game with HipHopGamer.

“The best thing I can say from playing this game is how smart the AI is,” HipHopGamer said. “Whether you’re a star or you’re a bench player, you can literally see the skill gap.”

With LeBron James on the game’s commemorative 20th anniversary cover, King James is simply unstoppable and looks great doing it in his new Los Angeles Lakers uniform. Meanwhile, Milwaukee Bucks player Giannis Antetokounmpo will grace the NBA 2K19’s standard cover.

Some of the fresh features that 2K Sports included are more eye-popping moves, enhanced AI gameplay and flawless player reactions. The makers developed an insane in-game player meter, which indicates when a player is heating up and who is in the position to take over a game.

With chart-topping rapper Travis Scott curating its playlist, NBA 2K19 is giving consumers another reason to stay glued to the game. This is in addition to MyCareer mode, which is a narrative-based feature that lets players earn a spot into the NBA by first playing in other leagues to impress recruiters, as well as the popular The Neighborhood mode, which is the online mode where players can battle in 3-on-3 teams on the street and at the Jordan Rec Center.  

“This joint is fire,” HipHopGamer said. “2k19 is possibly the best one they’ve made. I think it’s crazy. Go buy it right now, man.”

Categories
Culture Gaming

The Future of Fortnite: After a Barn-Burner Year, It Will Only Get Bigger and Weirder

Born out of a wild development cycle that spiraled for years without a concrete identity, Fortnite Battle Royale came hot off the heels of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds last summer. At the time, it seemed like a quick capitalization on PUBG‘s 100-players-fight-to-the-death gaming style. But it didn’t take long before the approachable, free-to-play option overtook Battlegrounds, taking its place atop the throne of competitive gameplay.

As Fortnite smartly expanded to almost every playable platform, its user base has exponentially grown in the year since its inception. At last official tally, more than 40 million people log in each month to play. Hell, it’s transcended the console and entered the culture as a veritable phenomenon. When World Cup players celebrate a goal with a Fortnite dance, you know that this game is something unique.

But how does Fortnite continue to flourish? Gamers are an exceptionally fickle bunch. They can quickly turn on a game, a studio or even a whole genre very quickly. Just look at PUBG as an example of a deflated juggernaut—at any time, Fortnite is only a fortnight away from obscurity.

Developer Epic Games is far from upfront about what the future of Fortnite will hold. Multiple attempts to contact them went unanswered. Still, there are tea leaves that can be read, crystal balls to gaze into, and an extremely vocal fan base that might provide hints at where the game is going. And all signs point to Fortnite’s continual growth.

Definitely bigger, and definitely weirder

Obviously, there will be more seasons. Epic has launched five in the first year, so there’s no reason to suspect it will swerve from this strategy soon. The evolving narrative that has been set up provides not only water cooler moments (“Where were you when the rocket launched?” players asked one another following the game’s first real-time live event), but also a rolling call to action for players to return and see what has changed.

In the future, you can expect a lot more experimentation in game modes. The open, consequence-free Playground Mode that launched this summer was so popular it shut down Epic’s servers. The recent addition of the Steady Storm mode made headlines as well. Epic has always added and removed play modes like 50v50, all explosives, all silenced, etc. But the developer’s recent flair for hyping them, and the media’s interest in covering them, shows that this experimentation will certainly play a part in the path forward.

Over the past few months, Epic has rolled out their Summer Skirmish series, a weekly competition with top players and prize money, which found exceptional engagement, and a lot of room for growth. Developers admitted as much when they posted a mea culpa postmortem after the first week. The message was apologetic, but also openly dedicated to fine-tuning the experience so that there could be many more to come.

Fortnite has demonstrated its own specific type of weird over the past year. Dancing contests, adding an Infinity Gauntlet to the game and leaving a large plastic burger out in the middle of the desert are just a few of the many examples where they’ve kept their demographic guessing. This weirdness has become a part of the game’s identity and its charm to many players. To diminish that in the future would be a poor strategy. And if their booth at LA’s E3 Expo was any example, ostentation seems to be the name of the game.

And the weirdness has worked. The Infinity Gauntlet as a tie-in to the Avengers movie cleverly tapped into the cultural consciousness. It was also well-received as being a fun inclusion rather than a cheap promotional gimmick.

Aside from limited time modes and possible permanent modes, there will likely be changes to how the game plays. A common complaint is that most matches end the same way: two players building complex towers and spamming rockets or shotguns.

“It’s important to support a variety of late game strategies, that don’t boil down to ‘just build lol,’” developers wrote in a June blog post. “We strongly believe that the evolution of Fortnite supports a wide range of play styles and counterplay. Currently, the superiority of shotguns, rockets, and uncapped building are such a dominant play style in the final circle that most other strategies are being drowned out.”

The main theme suggested more people should have a variety of ways to win, not just those good with buildings and shotguns.

“You should be able to find Victory Royales through multiple strategies,” the blog post read. “Shotguns should be strong, but other weapons have room to grow. Not every encounter should have to end in a build-off. We want to empower you to showcase your skill, strategy, and tactics in all variety of ways.”

But what do players want?

Fortnite‘s community, both on Epic’s own forums and on the extremely popular subreddit, are extremely vocal. They constantly offer suggestions for improving the game (like weapon balancing and play mode ideas) and wild theories for what comes next (like season six’s theme being old people).

And what they want is a difficult question to answer. Hundreds, if not thousands, of posts exist with a plethora of ideas for balances, game modes and cosmetics. Since the ones who take the time to be involved with the online community are generally more passionate about Fortnite, the only real consensus is split between people who believe changes are ruining the game and people who celebrate Epic’s dedication to improving it.

Though it may not be the complete secret to the game’s success, Fortnite‘s developer Epic Games has maintained a very close relationship with the community. Epic regularly posts on Reddit and Twitter, and actively responds to suggestions or complaints.

This level of closeness with a community is certainly not a guarantee of continued success. Bungie (developer of Destiny and Destiny 2) has had a very active engagement with its hardcore players, and that has at times been both a blessing and a curse. Many members of Fortnite‘s community have even grown frustrated with the entitlement felt by the community since Epic remains so communicative. They feel that Epic’s quick acceptance of community complaints should be tempered and better vetted.

Fortnite changes a lot. Epic pushes content updates or patches every week. As a service-based, free-to-play game, it is expected to add a continuous flow of new stuff. But that perpetual motion machine has a dark side as well. And for the future of Fortnite, it could be a very dark side indeed.

Fortnite/Epic Games

Fortnite’s biggest challenge

Possibly the most acute challenge that Epic faces with how to maintain Fortnite‘s momentum is one that many popular games have met: how to attract new players while keeping the existing base happy.

If Epic wants to further cultivate the game’s fan base then it might have an uphill climb. The developer announced in June that the player base had grown to 125 million players (if it were a country, it’d be the 12th largest in the world). After all the hype and the free price tag, the game is probably close to a saturation point for growth. In order to attract new players to an already pretty approachable and available game, Epic could include new modes, new features, new tutorials, etc. And that’s precisely what many longtime adherents to the game don’t want.

One of the most popular recent posts on the Fortnite Battle Royale subreddit is a rallying cry to not let Epic ruin the game by nerfing it down for newbies.

“Are we really still having a blast playing this game?” Reddit user Sora26 wrote. “Are you playing this game like you were in Season 3-4? I know I’m not. I know my friends aren’t. This game use to be the jello, now it’s just sugar and water.”

There are many, many posts like this on forums, all saying that Epic’s desire to appeal to more casual fans continues to dumb down the game to an unplayable state.

“When I first started this game, I couldn’t build a wall,” Sora26 continued. “I didn’t ask for devs to change the whole FREAKIN game so that I could get a couple of cheeky kills at the expense of more experienced players. This is seriously such a dumb route to take.”

Players often threaten to quit over any change or stagnation, but it does say something that this is one of the forum’s more popular posts in recent weeks.

Epic might be trying to have its slurp juice and drink it, too.

While it continues to move away from a playing style that many favor, including the previously mentioned scourge of “just build, lol,” it has sunk a lot of money to support and promote its high-level play. In June, Epic announced the launch of a 2018-2019 competitive season, providing $100,000,000 to fund prize pools, which will all culminate in a “Fortnite World Cup” in late 2019.

And that’s not the only weight it’s put behind competitive play. The Summer Skirmish, an E3 event and Solo Showdowns are all examples of how Epic wants Fortnite to be a dominant eSport. It clearly sees a lot of benefit in keeping attention on the game, even when people aren’t playing it. And in order to do that, you need dedicated expert players who aren’t turned off by hat tipping to newcomers.

Whether Epic can successfully walk this line remains to be seen, but the future of Fortnite will likely include more discussions around how possible it is.

Epic doesn’t want to lose the particular lightning that it bottled, but it has to continually shift and add to it to maintain interest. The Fortnite of the future will likely continue to change while trying very hard to stay on the same course. The question that remains is whether players will flock to the next Battle Royale boon or be willing to take one more jump off the Battle Bus.

Categories
Culture Gaming

Gamer AtomicMari On Everyone Wanting to Get into Gaming

The gaming industry is so lit, and professional gamer Mari Takahashi (aka @AtomicMari) of the Smosh Games empire visited ONE37pm’s “Live From The Bar Cart” podcast to tell us it’s “awesome” seeing non-traditional brands and faces entering the fray.

Among the new players getting into the gaming business is Netflix, which recently announced that users can explore the world of Minecraft with a Netflix-tailored Minecraft: Story Mode featuring a “five-episode interactive narrative series.”

Meanwhile, NBA players and entire team franchises are jumping into the eSports gaming scene. Seventeen NBA teams are participating in the inaugural NBA 2K League this year. That’s more than half of the league’s 30 teams.

Watch some of her podcast interview below.