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Insert Quarter: Is Uber’s CEO the Second-Best Wii Sports: Tennis Player in the World?

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Whether they’re disrupting the marketplace or reinventing the workflow, Silicon Valley executives love to brag. And Uber CEO Travis Kalanick might be the biggest braggart of them all. Kalanick loves to say that his glorified taxi company is changing the way we think about transportation, but did you know that he also dominates the competition on the tennis court in Wii Sports? To hear him tell it, he even holds the second-best ranking on the game’s worldwide leaderboard.

But wait a minute, you say, I don’t think there is a worldwide leaderboard in Wii Sports. And you would be correct. Such a ranking is completely fictional. So what is Kalanick talking about? Kyle Orland, of Ars Technica, decided to find out.

Orland talked to Kalanick’s business partners to learn the history of the anecdote, and studied the scoring algorithm in Wii Sports to determine if its even possible to be the “second-best” Wii Sports tennis player:

I’ve spent an admittedly ridiculous amount of time looking into this one sentence over the past few days. As it turns out, getting to the bottom of Kalanick’s Wii Sports skill requires delving into the vagaries of human memory, reverse engineered asymptotic leveling systems, and the semantic meaning of video game achievement itself.

Cannily quoting The Simpsons, Orland decrees that Kalanick’s claim is true (“Short answer: ‘Yes, with an if…’ “), but only if you filter out all the gibberish and then completely misidentify the scoring system used in Wii Sports (” Long answer: ‘No, with a but…’ “). But Orland turns it all into a compelling narrative, and it’s a great way to spend part of your Saturday.

You can read the full explanation at Ars Technica.

Posted in Insert Quarter, Wii | Tagged

Insert Quarter: Why Are Indie Developers Embracing the Boxed Retail Release?

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Steam has completely taken over the game-buying experience on the PC, and digital storefronts from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are threatening to do the same thing to console players. So why have so many indie developers decided to work with publishers and distributors to launch their games as boxed retail releases?

GamesIndustry.biz’s Christopher Dring has several theories. For starters, he believes there’s still a lot of money to be made with physical game discs. But many developers also love the idea of seeing their small labor of love sharing shelf space with the big boys.

Last week, Stardew Valley was released in a box, as was Yooka-Laylee. In the coming weeks, Tequila Works is preparing two boxed products for Rime and The Sexy Brutale. There are several businesses that are set up to help indie studios release their games in places like GameStop and GAME, such as U&I, 505 Games, Sold Out and Badland Games. Other publishers include physical distribution as part of their key selling points, such as Bandai Namco, Koch Media, GameTrust (GameStop’s publishing arm) and a stream of others.

Yet it’s a risky area to invest in. Boxed products are costly and lack the flexibility of the digital marketplace. Going through retail also loses some of that direct contact with the customer. So why bother?

Dring spoke to indie developers like Psyonix (Rocket League) and Sold Out (Overcooked) to learn about their experiences with launching a boxed retail release, and he makes his case that more indie developers should explore the practice at GamesIndustry.biz.

Posted in Insert Quarter, PS4, Switch, Xbox One | Tagged , , ,

Insert Quarter: What Makes the Final Fantasy Franchise Tick?

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

After more than a decade in development, Final Fantasy XV will finally make its PS4 and Xbox One debut this September. But how did we get to this point? More specifically, how did the Final Fantasy franchise grow from its humble beginnings on the NES to become the juggernaut that it is today?

Kotaku’s Jason Schreier wants to answer those questions too, so between now and September, he has vowed to replay and reexamine every mainline entry in the Final Fantasy franchise. Is there a certain “feel” to a Final Fantasy game? And do these RPGs still hold up today? Schreier is sure going to find out:

To prepare for FFXV, I’m starting a new project here at Kotaku. For the next five months, I’ll be digging into every mainline Final Fantasy game, in order, and taking a look at how the series has evolved over the past 30 years. Why has Final Fantasy resonated with so many people? What makes it so special? What exactly does it mean for a game to feel like a Final Fantasy?

The full article is available for your perusal at Kotaku.

Posted in Insert Quarter, Retro |

Insert Quarter: What Does the Return of Nintendo’s Red Logo Mean?

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

During the Wii’s heyday, Nintendo dropped the iconic red coloring from their logo and switched to a sleek silver shade. Combined with the smooth white of the Wii chassis, the rebranding gave Nintendo an air of cool that is typically reserved for the design-obsessed Apple. But after a while, many fans began to feel that draining the color out of the logo drained some of the fun out of Nintendo.

Nintendo Enthusiast’s A.K. Rahming is one of those fans and he argues that Nintendo’s red resurrection might be a signal that the company is getting ready to bring back that fun-loving spirit with the upcoming launch of the NX:

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Nintendo is known for dropping major surprises, but the company’s latest surprise has a lot of folks in the gaming community quite pleased. Nintendo of America has recently done a full re-branding of their logo back to the classic red and white. The whole company transformed to the minimalist gray-white color scheme with the dawn of the Wii and DS era, and this branding went on to continue for the current Wii U and 3DS era (albeit with a little hint of color provided from the logos of both systems).

The full article is available for your perusal at Nintendo Enthusiast.

Posted in 3DS, DS, Insert Quarter, Retro, Wii, Wii U |


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Insert Quarter: Inside the (Probable) Failure of Apple TV

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Frustration gripped stock market analysts and game journalists alike as Apple seemed to be uninterested in producing an Apple TV set-top box that could play console-style games. For years, members from each group argued that a gaming-capable microconsole from Apple would be a massive hit. Some went so far as to claim it could possibly topple the console market served by Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.

These same predictions were spread far and wide when Apple released their revamped Apple TV microconsole last year. With full controller support and a wide array of console-quality titles, the new Apple TV seemed destined for big sales and wide acceptance. But along the way, something happened that made the Apple TV more irrelevant than ever.

With developers dropping support for the device in droves (including Disney Infinity 3.0, the biggest game available at the Apple TV’s launch), Ars Technica’s Kyle Orland thinks the microconsole may never find an audience:

But momentum certainly isn’t on Apple’s side as far as that argument goes. Back in September, in an overall bearish analysis of Apple TV’s gaming potential, I gamely offered that “for a parent with a young child begging to get into the Disney Infinity universe… an Apple TV with its intuitive remote, its suite of easy-to-use media apps, its relatively low $150 price, and its familiar Apple name could look more appealing than the likes of the Xbox One or the PS4.” So far, it seems that even that limited use case has failed to make much of an impact in the marketplace.

The full article is available for your perusal at Ars Technica.

Posted in Insert Quarter, Mobile |

Insert Quarter: Building the Perfect Oculus Rift Headset

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Early adopters of the Oculus Rift will be able to sync their eye holes with the virtual reality headset for the first time this week, but did you ever wonder how a small startup got to this point? Sure, there was a massively successful Kickstarter campaign and the Facebook acquisition, but how did the engineers at Oculus actually build the Rift? Peter Rubin of Wired wanted to find out, so he met with Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and found out what makes the Rift tick:

WHEN YOU SET out to create a virtual reality headset, you soon realize that the idea of form following function is bullshit. It’s a reductive canard. Yes, both of those things matter, and the Oculus Rift does need to be both beautiful and powerful, but it’s not something you hold in your hand—it’s something you put on your face. That’s a daunting prospect: Not only are you blind to the world around you, but there’s the whole I-look-nuts thing.

That’s only part of it, though; once you put it on your face, it needs to disappear. It needs to be not just comfortable but light—or at least feel light. After all, it’s less of a window than it is a wormhole; the more you remember it’s there, the less you’re able to lose yourself in everything happening inside it.

The full article is available for your perusal at Wired.

Posted in Insert Quarter, PC |

Insert Quarter: Should Microsoft Have Gotten Rid of Retail Discs on the Xbox One?

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

We’re three years into the latest console generation, and retail game discs seem to be becoming less and less important every day. While it was a nice surprise to learn that No Man’s Sky would receive a retail release, something like The Witness is still trapped within the walled garden of the PlayStation Store. But maybe that’s not so bad?

Paul Tassi of Forbes argues that Microsoft was wrong to give up their original plan for the Xbox One, which would rendered a game disc as little more than a shiny coaster that proved you owned the rights to an otherwise completely digital title. Microsoft eventually flip-flopped on this position, but should they have?

Yesterday, I got my hard copy of The Division. Two and a half hours after putting the disc in, I was playing the game.

With discs taking almost as long to install as digital downloads, taking up just as much hard drive space, and being much more inconvenient to acquire, I just don’t see the point anymore. In short, I’m Microsoft in 2013.

The full article is available for your perusal at Forbes.

Posted in Insert Quarter, Xbox One |

Insert Quarter: A Brief History of Platinum Games

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Platinum Games plans to release Star Fox Zero, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, and Nier: Automata in 2016. That’s a lot of games for one studio to handle, but after celebrating their tenth anniversary this year, they’ve clearly earned our trust.

Eurogamer’s Rich Stanton goes a step further and makes the case that Platinum Games might be the best Japanese developer working today. He believes the company’s unbroken string of classics (including MadWorld, Vanquish, Bayonetta, and The Wonderful 101) is nearly unmatched and that their fierce independent streak will always produce interesting results. You gotta admit, it’s kind of hard to argue with him:

[I]n recent years, Platinum Games has positioned itself as a standard-bearer for the Japanese industry, adopting the slogan: “Taking on the World as the Representative of Japan.” President and CEO Tatsuya Minami unpacked this, in a post to celebrate 10 years of Platinum Games. “Japan used to lead the worldwide video game industry, but we can’t help but feel that it has lost some of its vitality in recent years. Yet we are using this state of affairs to motivate and inspire ourselves […] We will keep up our fighting stance.”

The full article is available for your perusal at Eurogamer.

Posted in DS, Insert Quarter, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One |