Why I’m Over Physical Games

Over the years, as technology has progressed, physical media for software has become less and less prevalent. Gone are the days where we need to insert a DVD into our PC’s DVD drive to install software. CDs and Blurays are declining in popularity, due to the popularity of digital downloads and streaming. Even PC gaming has already gone mostly digital, with services like Steam dominating physical copies. Smartphone apps have always been 100% digital. Yet, for many console gamers, physical discs or cartridges for their games still reign superior.

digital_vs_physical_sales_2017

As you can see from the above infographic, most gamers have made the switch to digital now, but there are still many holdouts for physical games.

Let’s delve into why many still prefer physical games, their reasoning, and why I believe digital is still superior.

Reasons Gamers Prefer Physical:

  1. You get to “own” your games. You won’t lose them if the servers go down in 20 years.
  2. Resellability. You get to resell your games once you’re done playing them, thus softening the blow from new game puchases.
  3. The physical cover art is nice. It may fit well into a bookshelf and you like to show off your games.

Now let’s try to address each of these concerns.

Point #1

To address the first point, there is no debate: owning your games is sure nice. The reasoning goes, when you download a game digitally, if the developer/publisher decides to pull the game from the digital storefront, then the game is lost forever. Thus, you don’t truly “own” your games, like you do when you have a physical copy.

However, there are some problems with this philosophy. First of all, you don’t own the game any more than with a digital copy. No individuals who buy a copy of a game own the game: they simply purchase a copy of the software and a license to play it. While it is concerning that a game could be pulled down in 10 or 20 years, what are the chances you will actually care about playing that game again that many years later? Games come out all the time, and I personally am not going to want to go back to a 20-year-old game, when I’ve already played it, and there are so many other great games to play. Also, with games increasingly traveling to new systems through backward compatibility and games no longer being so tightly locked to system generations, it’s likely that games will be available for years after launch. Gamers don’t havbe a problem with how Steam, the all-digital PC game platform, works, so why have a double standard with console games?

Also, physical games aren’t impervious either. After 20 years, a physical game is likely to begin deteriorating, whereas a digital game would not. And if you truly desire a physical copy in case a game goes down, you can actually make multiple “physical” copies of every game you have by just loading them all onto multiple hard drives or SD cards! If you were to buy two copies of a physical game, you would be spending double the money. Going digital and copying the game files to another SD card or hard drive, you can now own more copies for less money.

Point #2

Resellability is also nice. I sold many of my Wii U physical games to save up for the Nintendo Switch, and that saved me some good money on it. However, the way I currently play games now, I don’t like getting rid of them. I’ve regretted selling games many times, because it was a good way to make extra money at the time, but I ended up wanting to play them again later, thus ending up rebuying them. That made me spend more money in the long run. Going digital now, I prefer to just have a library of games now, and just buy ones I know I’ll want to keep for a long time.

Point #3

Don’t get me wrong: mI like cover art too. One of my friends has a really nice physical media collection of games and movies that is really cool to look at in his book case. However, I don’t think it’s necessary. For me, the reason you buy a game is to enjoy it. If you were to count the amount of time playing a game versus looking at it on your shelf, it would probably be a 9:1 ratio. Additionally, I think the quality of the game is what’s important, right? Also, when you buy a lot of games, they add up, and they end up using a lot of space. I prefer to keep my room as minimal as possible now, and having all of my games digitally means I don’t have to worry about where to put game cases now. For me, since I spend most of my time playing the game, I’m happy to go without the burden of the physical copy.

Point #4

While it is true that physical games can be cheaper, as digital games become more popular, many more sales are starting to happen for digital games. Plus, you get all the benefits of going digital.

Benefits of Digital Over Physical:

While there are a few benefits to going physical, I believe there are more for going digital.

  1. You don’t need to rebuy a game if you lose it. With a digital copy of a game, the game is tied to your account, so if you ever delete a game, or even buy a new system, the game can be redownloaded an unlimited number of times without any cost. With physical copies, if you lose yours, you are out the money – twice.
  2. Digital gaming is much more convenient. If you have 50 Nintendo Switch games, you have to take every game you might want to play on a trip. Yes, you can plan this out, but then you have to plan it out. Having every game digitally means you can have them all on one SD card, and never need to think again about which games to take. You won’t lose digital games on the go, either.
  3. You can get to your games faster. Imagine if on your smartphone, every time you wanted to switch between an app, you would have to take out an SD card and put a new one in. That would be horrible, wouldn’t it? But that’s how physical consle games still are today. If you go digital, you don’t have to worry about swapping discs or cartyrirdges every time you want to switch to a different game. It’s all there at once, waiting for you to tap it once and start playing.
  4. You can start playing faster. You don’t need to wait for a physical game tyo ship to you, or go to a store to buy one. You can buy the game directly from your console, and start downloading it instantly.
  5. You don’t even save on storage space. On Xbox and Playstation, you have to install your games anyway. On these systems, even if you buy a physical copy of a game, you must still install it tyo your hard drive, just like if you downloaded it. Spinning discs don’t actually have enough data throghput to run the latest games smoothly. The fact is, hard drives are the only way modern games can run now, so buying a physical copy doesn’t even save you storage space, and just adds the extra hassle of needing to insert the disc for each game.
  6. More rewards. With Nintendo’s systems, when you buy a game digitally, you get reward points that can be used towards discounts on new games. While you can obtain some points with physical versions, it is a fraction of the amount you get for the digital version. Going digital saves money in this regard too.
  7. It’s better for the environment. Companies have to print, ship, and use paper and ink to get a physical game to your doorstep. Buying a game digitally means you are going green, and is better for the environment. Buy a game digital, save a tree.

Final Thoughts:

In today’s current online age, I find it odd that the very same people who are satisfied with digital apps and services like Google Drive, MS Office, and Creative Cloud, still cling onto physical console games. I realize that phyiscal games have been around since the verey first home games consoles, and there is a sense of nostalgia tied to them and fear of moving beyond the physical. However, I hope this article has helped dispel the misconceptions about going digital, and provided help in your decision process going forward.

While some will hold onto physical media until it goes extinct, I believe the future of gaming is digital, and for the better. It’s still debated, but personally, it’s a future that I’m okay with.

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E3 is Changing: But is it for the Better?

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has long been held as the mecca of gaming events around the world each year. Since the very first E3 back in 1995, it has been the place for game developers to show off what they have been working on the past year, meet other developers, and invite the media to cover all the biggest gaming news the industry has to offer. While E3 was never the only outlet for companies to share their news, since its inception, E3 has grown to become the largest event, becoming the time for the biggest names to show off and make the biggest announcements while everyone is gathered together. Taking place each June, E3 takes place right in the middle of the year, also making it a good time to promote products coming out for the Fall, but also to tease new products or services which may come out beyond this time.

E3 has long been the place for companies to share their biggest announcements, but in the past few years, this has started to wane. There are several reasons for this. The first reason is the changing landscape of technology and how the ways of communicating have changed. In the past, before the internet became mainstream, the way news was disseminated was different. Exhibitors would come to trade shows such as E3 to share their new announcements and products, and they would then rely on professional press to record, review, and disseminate the information to consumers through traditional media channels such as magazines, newspapers, and television broadcast. Now, with the advent of the internet, companies can directly disseminate their own messages through online channels such as their own websites, social media, and through media such as press releases, social media posts, and video broadcasts. With the advent of online influencers taking prominence over and becoming just as important as professional press, consumers have stopped listening to just the media for information, but their favorite influencers as well. YouTube stars like iJustine, Lamarr Wilson and Pewdiepie, Twitch streamers such as Dr. Disrespect, have all become go-to channels for gaming fans to discover new games through their gameplay, and also to make informed decisions. The general gaming public is also more likely to trust some of these influencers more than professional gaming publications, since they appear more personal and personable than the lesser known writers at publications like IGN, Polygon, and GameSpot. This has not directly affected media coverage or attendance to E3, but it has affected how consumers have come to expect to get their media and when. With more and more influencers reviewing games more and more throughout the year, there has been less of a reason to invite as many professional journalists and have them come to a central event in person.

Another central reason E3 has become less prominent recently, is companies starting to host separate events to dissemninate information to target audiences. Since 2011, E3 exhibitors have realized that E3 is no onger the end all, be all event for gaming. In 2011, Nintendo started this trend by hosting its first digital media event, titled Nintendo Direct. In the Nintendo DIrect, hosted online to viewers around the world separately from E3, Nintendo proudly claimed that they were going to use the platform to communicate with fans, “Directly!” By utilizing Nintendo’s website and YouTube to stream presentations, Nintendo was utilizing a new platform to dissemninate information directly to its fans, completrly bypassing initial media review, and allowing Nintendo to completely cntrol the message and presentation. In the Nintendo DIrect, Nintendo announces exciting new products, games, and services, and also uses it to announce more information about upcoming projects, such as release dates and availability. E3 and a handful of other trade shows used to be the best place to share information with consumers, but now Nintendo has realized it is no longer necessary. Nintendo has now given itself the capability to announce new information to consumers at any time of year, multiple times of year, at the time that works best for the company, and can control the message in doing so, letting fans have the privilege of being the first to know when new products come out. Nintendo still values E3, saving some of its biggest announcements of the year, and reserving a large amiunt of floor space for the event. However, it is no longer the only place to share all of its biggest announcements. Now it can do so, and share other smaller announcements, together at other times during the year, in a way that works best for the company.

Other companies have stafrted to realize the same, and have also started to host their own separate events outside of E3. One barrier that companies have realized they wre facing was that E3, being a closed event, meaning the public is not able to attend. In the past, gamers used to dream of coming to E3 to play all of the latest games and try out new products, but only media were allowed, thus making it a prestigious event in the minds of consumers. Electronic Arts saw the opportunity to share the excitement with the gamiung public, and decided to bypass E3 and host its own separate event outside of E3, called EA Play. With this event, EA decided to follow Nintendo’s lead, and host their own public event, where gamers could attend and interact with the new products at the same time as the media, thus eliminating the need for information to be shared by the media, and simultaneously allowing EA to control its message more, as well. EA Play has been a huge success, with the event being largely overbooked each year, and has shown the effectiveness of brands hosting their own events in today’s climate. SInce hosting EA Play outside of E3, although EA plans its event to cooincide with the special week of E3, EA no longer has an actual presence on the E3 show floor. Other companies such as Ubisoft and Activision have also followed suit, hosting their own presentations and events for fans at E3, and bypassing the media to directly target these consumers.

WIth the success of events such as EA Play leading large companies to abandon the restrictions of the E3 event itself, E3 has been left with less and less attendance. This has become a large problem for the organizers, as less attendance to the event means less funding to host the event each year. So the organizers of E3, in a move seen by some as desparate, but many as exciting, have decided to open E3 to the public. In a convention center already crowded with over 10,000 unique professional individuals registered each year, the expo halls were already very crowded. However, in an effort to retain its prominence as the premiere event for gaming, and to reinforce in gamers minds that it is also the premiere event for gamers, E3 has decided to open its doors to 15,000 members f the public. The beginning of this push to shift its image from media-centric to gamer-centric, came in the form of E3 Live, a new public event that aimed to give gamers a taste of what E3 offered in the LA Live square. I personally attended this event, and was somewhat disappointed. The event only offered a handful of companies, with a few notable experiences, like a new LEGO videogame and VR experiences, but I was still left missing what I really wanted out of E3. The reason gamers envy E3 is to experience the exciting new game and products offered only behind closed doors, and it felt as though E3 Live played it much too safe, offering no experience as important or exciting as what was still behind closed doors. I would have been just fine staying home, and that is not what you want to hear as the host of an event.

Thankfully, next year they opened the doors to the public for the first time. Of course, with 15,000 extra attendees, it was very crowded. I attended, which you can read about here. However, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. There was some disorganization because of media and fans mixing too much. So in 2018, E3 has learned and created a new approach, further evolving the rules. Whereas previously, the show ran from 10am to 5pm all 3 days, with fans being able to attend at the same time as media, in 2018, likely in response to complaints, E3 has taken a new approach and changed the schedule. Now, at E3 in 2018, the show will run from 10am-7pm all 3 days, and will host the first two hours for media only. This allows media the time without extra fans before the show, which will be much appreciated by them, with less crowds and fans taking up their deserved spots for demos. However, some exhibitors have taken issue with the extra two hours being added. Presumably, the extra two hours are added so the public doesn’t lose any time compared to before, which is good for the public, but according to a Nintendo employee who regularly runs the shows, it will add extra logistical issues and stress to 3 days that are already the longest days of the year.

One way to improve this is to just keep the schedule the same as last year, but lessen the time the public gets at the show. However, it is likely there are many factors which influenced this decision.

Overall, the fact that E3 has changed over the past few years is undeniable. It makes sense that the Entertainment Software Organization who runs the show is accommodating the public more to keep the show relevant, and it is definitely a win for fans. However, with ticket prices for a 3 day pass at $250, it begs the question of the shows worth. Surely the show will still sell out, as the amount of gaming fans is enormous and the show still offers good value, and maybe it will cause more companies to come back now that E3 is open to the public. but I foresee that more and more companies, may also see the value in the benefits of hosting heir own show and leave the exhibiting table itself. Now make no mistake: I believe the week of E3 will remain a mainstay for a long time, as will the name referring to it. The k E3 is cognized by gamers as holiday of sorts, and gamers have come to expect the great announcements from all companies we see each year. It’s too much good marketing and press to give up. But as more companies leave the show floor and host their own exhibits and presentations elsewhere, I do believe when we talk about E3 in the future, it may become more about the week of events, and not the show itself.

What do you think? Is the E3 show here to stay? Or do you agree that the industry is ever so gradually moving away from the show for more freedom? Leave us a comment below.

Goodbye Surface, Hello Pixelbook: How I Finally Settled on the Best Long-Term Portable

Ah , Windows. The operating system everyone knows, and many love. I grew up in a family who used Windows as their daily drivers. As early as I can remember, maybe 10 years old, I remember my dad had a huge white computer tower. It was there that I’d forge some of my first memories of using a computer. Besides in school, of course. After I’d learned computer basics in elementary school like using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel (ehh…), I came home and began using the internet. I discovered fun online games like RuneScape and AdventureQuest (though they ran pretty slow on that budget PC for the time). And always a musical one, it was where I made my first foray into music production by trying out programs like VirtualDJ to make my first remixes and mashups of my favorite artists. Ever since then, I’ve always been interested in PC’s, their applications, and how tech can be used to push them forward. I’ve come a long way since then, and so has technology.

That was in the late 2000’s. Skip to 2017, and the landscape for personal computing is totally different today. Now we have smartphones, devices we can now realistically do everything on (though not so conveniently), and tablets thrown into the equation. PC’s and laptops have, in proportion, begun to plateau and now decline in terms of sales, as more buy tablets and attach a keyboard to it, effectively making it their main PC. Still, though, many buy a laptop or PC to have a roomier experience – you get a more comfortable full-size screen and keyboard. And there are still certain applications one can only use best on a PC – niche audio or programming applications, serious video editing, hardcore gaming, etc. But the key word there is that it’s a niche – as much as you may like your use cases for a powerful PC or laptop, the general public doesn’t need it for more than general web-browsing, social media, video-streaming, and word-processing.

Chrome OS was introduced by Google just a few years ago in 2011. And it has surprisingly already taken over Macbooks in terms of laptop sales. At the same time, Android tablet sales have gone down, and so has the motivation to create them by manufacturers. The fact is, lkess people are using tablets now, unless they get an iPad. Even then, they probably also have Macbook and a phone. And maybe even a desktop PC. That’s a lot of devices.

Since the late 2000’s, I have had my own PC’s, and upgraded every few years. Each time has given me a good upgrade in power, allowing me to get more from my desktop programs, for music, video-editing, and just browsing the web. My first PC was a cheap eMachines Intel Celeron-based PC. Even then, it was apparent it was a budget PC. But it was what my family gave me, and it worked for me. Later on, I upgraded to my first laptop, an HP Windows 7 machine. It was a true upgrade. It had a dual-core processor. Later on, about half-way through high school, I was involved in the school’s broadcasting club. I needed more horsepower, as a one-hour long video with multiple camera angles and video effects took nearly an entire week to render. So I got a new laptop. Yet another upgrade, yet still budget. At this point, laptops worked for me and seemed more logical than a desktop. I’m getting a power increase every time I upgrade, and why have a desktop if a laptop is more portable and cohesive, right? My last laptop had an Intel Core i3 and a 17-inch screen. Yep. I think the premium we paid for it was for the screen. I used this until my first year of college, until it wasn’t enough for my uses (and when one of my professors asked me why I got such a big screen.)

So I got something new, this time for college. I got a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Seeing all of the flashy commercials and rave reviews got me excited for the device. I was excited about the portability, the pixel-dense screen, the pen, and the ability to use it as a tablet. As well as Microsoft promising it would make my student life easier. I shelled out over $1K on the device, as it was the first time I was truly investing in a PC for myself. The difference in speed was great. A video that took a few days to render on my old HP laptop took no more than a few hours on the new Surface Pro i5. I loved the Surface for the same reasons everyone else did: its color-calibrated display, its portability and transportability, and its upgrade in power ver other similar devices. The Surface served me well for 2 years. Last year, needing more power once again, and seeing the improved screen, I got the Surface Pro 4. It was the Surface I knew, but even better. The i7 version I got was even faster for video and music production, and I got good use out of it for a couple more semesters.

Alas, that brings us to today. I sold my Surface. I came to realize I bought the new version mainly for the upgrade in power once again. But at this point, I realized that portable power just wouldn’t cut it for me anymore. So I spent about three entire weeks researching what best to do about my situation, and I came out of the other end – happily. I built a gaming desktop. Being the creator of this website, it is obvious I love gaming. I had always dreamed of having a nice gaming rig, and now that 4K is in its primetime, and I have a nice 4K TV as my display, it made perfect sense to build a gaming PC for 4K, but also to finally have the power to edit video and produce music that even my Surface Pro 4 had begun limiting me to do. I thought about getting the new Surface Pro (5?) but I knew the upgrade would be incremental again, and that is why I decided to finally come back to where I started – in the desktop form factor. Only this time, the reason I built a desktop was to get the best power I could reasonably get, and be able to upgrade later on. Buying a killer laptop not only would have been more expensive (due to its portability, form factor, and engineering), but also because nearly all gaming laptops today cannot be easily upgraded. So when it’s time to upgrade, you need to buy a whole new expensive system (and the upgrade won’t be superb in terms of power, either.) So that is why the desktop PC was the best option for me to invest into for my main computer – maximum power, and the option for easier and more cost-effective upgradability. The PC was definitely a big investment,  but it’s good to know I have all the power I need now, and when it’s time to upgrade again, it will cost much less than buying a whole new system (like I did in the past with my laptops).

So since then, I kept my Surface, but wondered why I needed such a powerful laptop anymore with my killer desktop now. For this reason, I sold the Surface and invested in something I’ve needed for a long time – accurate headphones for doing audio mixing on (I ended up getting an HD600 and O2 + ODAC combo, by the way.) I used my extra cash to shell out on a cheap $200 Lenovo Y580 laptop. I ended up not liking it, as it was way too heavy, and I had gotten used to the Surface’s small, but beautiful and sharp screen. The 2012 Y580 was so much of a downgrade (the screen’s backlight grotesquely changes as you move the screen up and down, and the color balance is washed-out) that I immediately said, “Oh no.” The screen seemed too big too, even though just a few years ago, I thought I couldn’t go smaller than a 17-inch! At this moment, I realized that the size of the screen really doesn’t matter. It matters how close you are to it. This is why we can reasonably look at both a 65-inch TV, and a 5-inch phone screen – we just sit further away from the TV and put the phone screen much closer to our face (it’s also why 1080p or higher is equally as important on a phone as on a TV – we are seeing the same amount of pixels for the distances we’re viewing the screens at.)

I was enticed to my “new” used laptop because it had Nvidia graphics and a bigger screen. But it was heavy as hell (6 lbs in 2017!) and therefore not portable at all. I need to take it to school along with other things I carry in my backpack (a Nintendo Switch, battery pack, headphones, cables, notebooks, pens and pencils, snacks, etc.) so adding this laptop makes it too heavy for me and renders it useless. I simply won’t use my laptop at home, since I have my desktop PC there. So the quest was on to find a new laptop.

I actually didn’t want to go back to the Surface. I didn’t really need all the extra power, I realized. What I really needed was a decent screen, keyboard, and I needed it to be light. The Surface Pro had a downside in that it tried to be a tablet and a laptop, but failed on the tablet side compared to any other tablet (unless you really wanted to play one of the two Windows-exclusive tablet games on Windows Store). In all fairness, in terms of its hardware, though a compromise, it executed the 2-in-1 concept very well. The detachable TypeCover allowed the laptop to be a pure tablet when you wanted it to, and by reattaching the TypeCover, it could be a laptop again. However, this design compromised the Surface Pro being a true laptop in order to make it a better tablet. For example, using it as a “laptop” was a worse experience than any other laptop with a traditonal laptop design. The thin TypeCover and kickstand combo could easily fall off of your lap, compared to a much more stable traditional laptop would on your lap. Additonally, the TypeCover chose thinness over comfort, with keyboard keys that just were a bit harder to type on and thinner than most laptop keyboards.

Microsoft recognized the problem and came out with the Surface Book – it had more power, and a true laptop bottom base that replaced the TypeCover. However, it became too heavy to carry in a typical student’s backpack, and the tablet still wasn’t very useful. In other words, the design was still a compromise. Jump to 2016, and Microsoft unveils its (final?) attempt at fixing the problem – they drop the tablet gimmick entirely, and make a traditonal laptop. Dubbed the Surface Laptop, Microsoft created a normal laptop design, with no compromises other than doing away with the tablet portion entirely. It retains the Surface line’s sense of elegance and beautiful pixel-dense screen, while doing away with pen support and tablet mode support. In earnest, I did enjoy the fact that the Surface Line had the Surface Pen, and all of its possible uses in being a student with it. But the problem is, I just never ended up using these features. And the Windows Store’s lack of compelling apps other than OneNote made the tablet portion useless too. Alas, Windows is still better as a traditional laptop than a tablet, and maybe it should stay this way.

I was thinking of just getting one of these Surface Laptops, then. But I then ran into the same problem that I had before. Why would I invest in this, when I now have a powerful PC? Well, it was light, thin, and fast. I thought, “It might as well be the perfect one to get now, right?” But it cost too much for what I needed it for. At this point, I just wanted a cheap computer that could do what I needed it to on the go (simple things like web-browsing and working on Word documents), but still be light, thin, and fast.

So I considered a Chromebook. I actually considered getting a Chromebook at the same time I got my Lenovo laptop. My priorities for the device were out of whack, then, as I valued graphics over portability. That was until reality hit, and I realized I wouldn’t really be making use of those graphics much, and I wouldn’t be using it at all, since it was too heavy. So I was back to considering the HP Stream laptops and Chromebooks. Before I could ponder too much, in came the Pixelbook.

The Pixelbook, announced at Google’s Made By Google event on October 4, has finally made me truly consider the Chrome OS, not only as my main laptop/tablet, but as the laptop and tablet of the future. Before the Pixelbook’s announcment, I thought of Chromebooks as cheap devices that could mostly just browse the web and use a few proprietary apps. That was true a few years ago, but now with the addition of Android tablet and phone apps, as well as the new 2-in-1 designs of the hardware, I believe the Chromebook can now be the best OS for most people in the future.

Now that I have my desktop PC to run any PC apps or games I want, the only thing I want out of my laptop is the ability to more easily work on documents while at school, browse the web, and be fast, portable, and light. A Surface laptop would solve all of these things, but it took away the ability to use it as a tablet, and I felt I wasn’t sure it was worth its monetary value to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great Macbook competitor and its design is very high-quality, but it’s taking away the tablet portion of the Surface (not an objection to me, as I already said it wasn’t useful with WIndows 10 on it), with the exchange of a better design – the standard laptop design. But now that the Pixelbook can do all of that – having a premium, portable design and performing all of the tasks I now demand from my computer away from home, the Pixelbook has trumped the Surface Laptop, and every other Surface for me, as well.

The Pixelbook’s 2-in-1 design, the Pixelbook Pen that’s even more responsive than the Surface Pen and the Apple Pencil, and the addition of access to the full library of Google Play Store apps designed for phones and tablets, as well as the seamless companionship it makes with Google’s Pixel Phone, makes the Pixelbook the best laptop, and tablet, on the market now. Adding Google Play Store app support means that the Chromebook, a great web-browsing device with an otherwise similar app-availability problem as Windows Store, is now many times better, and a true competitor to the Surface, Macbook, and iPad line. With all of the apps we now use to do everything we want to on our phones, like social media, web-browsing, document editing, gaming, music production, and even video editing now accessible through the Google Play Store and the Chrome web browser, in addition to processing increasingly moving from the local device to the cloud, the Pixelbook is truly primed to be able to do everything you would want it to do, and makes it a true competitor to every other operating system you would shell out $1K for. Its advantage and beauty lies in the fact that we can now fulfill the perfect dream of transitioning between every phone and tablet app we now use to do most of our work on the go, upgraded to one device with a desktop-like experience –  a device that due in good part to its design, can truly be both your laptop, and your tablet.

The Google Pixelbook, with its beautiful screen, its powerful Intel Core processors, its advanced pen, its seamless 2-in-1 design, and its now-vibrant app-store, fulfills the concept of a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet, better that the Surface Pro ever could. By focusing on being a laptop first, and a tablet second, and adding access to an app store much more developed than Windows Store’s, the Pixelbook allows itself to be a fully-featured laptop and tablet without compromise, and thus knocks the Surface Pro out of the park. For more niche usage cases like advanced video-editing, programming, and hardcore gaming, Windows may still be desired. But for most people’s uses, or for those like me who already have a Windows desktop to do more of the grunt-work, the forward-thinking Chrome OS with Android apps, paired with truly useful 2-in-1 designs like the Pixelbook, is now the most useful portable one can have.

For further reading:

4 crazy Chromebook myths, debunked

Time to call it: The Chromebook is the new Android tablet

My Experience at The Game Awards and PSX 2016!

Hey all!

What a week it’s been for gaming! This past week, I attended both The Game Awards 2016 and PlayStation Experience 2016. I had great fun at both!

It was really fun to experience a celebration of gaming this past year, and where it is going next. I was very excited to see a new trailer for Death Stranding, as well as see Hideo Kojima receive his long-awaited and well-deserved award for industry icon. Unfortunately, I got inside the show right after he had received it, but it was a joy to watch it on the stream. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s trailer and gameplay video were even more amazing to me. I am in love with the music in the trailer, and in the new game. It was also really cool to see the main theme from the E3 trailer appear in the game during the Let’s Play video. I was also excited to see some towns and NPCs, and possibly Zelda, and Impa. This game keeps looking better and better, and I can not wait to finally play it next year!

I thought it was great to attend The Game Awards in person for the first time. The sound was not as good as I expected, as it was a bit quiet. Although I could clearly hear everything, so that’s all that counts. But it was just very cool to get a glimpse of the production and what’s going on off the screen, while everything is happening. As a media producer, it was very cool to see everything come together in person, as well as see all of the presenters in person, as well. My friend also got to sit near Bill Trinen and Kit Ellis from Nintendo, so not too shabby!

The awards ended spectacularly, and I would like to go again next year, hopefully at a closer seat! The Game Awards never disappoint.

 

After the awards show, I was treated to PlayStation goodness on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, I stayed home and watched the conference and Death Stranding panel, and they were both glorious. Though I don’t currently own a PlayStation system, it was very cool to see all the new games. The presentation made me even more excited to own a PS4, with games like Resident EVII: Biohazard, Ni No Kuni, and the return of Crash Bandicoot! I owned a PlayStation 1 as a kid, so I played the originals, and I’m excited to return to these worlds! Additionally, games like Ace Combat 7, The Last of Us Part II, and Uncharted 4 looked amazing, as well. The trailer for Uncharted made want to actually get that right away! So did Horizon: Zero Dawn, which looked great in 4K and HDR. Overall, the conference was great, and I loved seeing so much content in one presentation!

On Sunday, I went for about 4 hours, and had a blast! I got a ton of pictures and videos, and am making a montage. I got to walk around and get great pictures and footage of everything, as well as play a few great games! I played Gravity Rush 2, which has great anime graphics, and I really liked the battle mechanics. It felt better than it initially looked once I played it! I also got to play Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy, and man was that great! The remastered graphics look even better than they do from a video, and the teams did a really good job reviving Crash for modern consoles. The game looks, feels, and plays great! It brings back nostalgia for sure, with remastered HD goodness.

Here’s a video we took of the first stage from the demo:

We also got to write our names on the awesome PlayStation writing wall:

Indeed, it was a fun day, and I am now really looking to own a PlayStation even more now!

Here’s a gallery with all my cool pics (and GIFs) from PSX!

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-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

NES Classic Edition – I Should’ve Camped Out

I should’ve known.  The Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, was widely marketed, not only by Nintendo, but by TV and online news media. For the first time in a long time, Nintendo has made a product that, by design, appeals to its old fanbase: adults who used to play Nintendo but not anymore. It appealed to nostalgia.

Thus, when Nintendo and retailers said they would have limited quantities available, I knew it would be a familiar situation.

The Thrill of the Hunt

Remember amiibo hunting? Ah, yes, the days of the hunt. When amiibos were a hot new product, they were selling out far more than Nintendo was anticipating and producing. If you wanted the latest batch of amiibo, you better have camped out. Pre-orders online, if to be found, would sell out in minutes. Camping out was your best bet.

But indeed, it was fun. Through Nintendo retail events around my area, and camping out with like-minded individuals hungering for the latest figurine, I aquired many new friends along the way. Groups were founded on social media, and dedicated tracking sites and Twitter accounts were set up, for the sole purpose of alerting people when the product was in stock so you could race down to the store or website and order it or pick it up. Indeed, it was a frustrating, yet thrilling experience. The feeling of finally getting what you sought out to get, after trial and adventure, was a feeling like no other – a feeling not only of gratification, but of accomplishment.

It took Nintendo over a year to get the situation under control, and finally, buying new amiibos was a simple, non-valiant task, just like buying any other product. The thrill of the hunt was gone, but you could get what you wanted relatively easily. No more camping out.

A similar situation unfolded with other limited edition items, such as the Gold Majora’s Mask edition of the New Nintendo 3DS XL. There was an initial limited stock, and then the price shot up to hundreds of dollars, even over $1000, on eBay. It was near impossible to get one of these systems, as well as the game’s limited edition with the Skull Kid figure. Finally, a month later, after nearly everyone had given up on them, they became commonplace in stores like Best Buy. Of course, until the stock finally ran out. But they did become available.

The Thrill of the Hunt – Returns?

Luckily, we have not had a situation like this with Nintendo products since then (it may help that Nintendo has not had any super hot products this year). But along comes the NES Classic Edition.

With retailers stating there would be limited initial quantities, and no pre-orders, I had a feeling that this would be like amiibo hunting all over again. Since over a week before release, I had decided I wanted to camp out at a retailer like GameStop or Target, and I had even planned to the day before its release.

However, then Amazon announced that it would have the product available at 2pm PT, the next day. It was getting late, and my bed was comfy, so I had decided that I would just be ready at Amazon by 2PM the next day!

So I waited, and I came.

Then This Happened.

 

In short, there was so much traffic on the page that the page crashed, and then Amazon’s entire site briefly crashed for a few minutes. Though I was optimistic, I wasn’t able to get one. I tried for about an hour, then gave up.

Then, of course, it started being scalped on eBay for thousands of dollars, for a $60 system.

AlphaOmegaSin sums the situation up nicely.

 

Wrapping Up

Indeed, this has become like amiibos all over again. Thankfully, Nintendo said that they will continue sending out a steady supply of stock into the new year. But if history tells me anything, it is that it may be like the amiibo situation all over again. When stock is available, it will be limited, and sell out right away. We need a new alert system. A MiNES alert system, so that when it’s in stock, we’ll know right away.

Maybe this is part of Nintendo’s hype machine, to give an initially limited supply, and then they’ll send out a ton before Christmas. Maybe we’ll all be able to get one before then, hopefully not from eBay. I will remain optimistic. But we don’t know yet for sure.

All I know, is that if I wanted to get one day one, I should have camped out.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

Nintendo Switch: The Tablet That Can Replace Your Console

The NX Is The Switch

The Nintendo NX was announced over a year and a half ago, in March 2015. Nintendo, ever-cryptic about the device, kept silent about it for 17 months, only saying the device was “a new concept different from Wii and Wii U.” Nintendo’s Wii U not doing so well, and intense interest in what Nintendo would do next, sparked endless rumor and speculation by journalists and fans alike. During the course of time, naturally, multiple “parties” formed, with one side arguing the NX would be a hybrid device, and another side claiming the NX would be a dedicated home console.

Strong evidence and logic showed that the NX would be a home console and a portable, separately. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was even quoted as saying he “wasn’t sure if the form factor would be integrated or not,” and Shigeru Miyamoto was quoted as being very interested in developing and playing the same games on multiple devices, making its concept similar to Android or iOS. Nintendo even went as far as to mention a future console and a future portable, as mentioned in our previous articles.

This led many, such as YouTubers like SuperMetalDave64, to lead the charge for one side, with convincing arguments stating that the NX would be more of a traditional console and handheld combo as we’ve always seen from Nintendo, backed up by industry knowledge and speculation on Nintendo’s own words in the past.

Then there was the other camp, the one led by Emily Rogers, a prominent Nintendo leaker (being correct on many things, most recently announcing Paper Mario: Color Splash before Nintendo themselves), as well as respected gaming outlet Eurogamer, saying Nintendo was in fact creating a hybrid sort of device, instead. Many corroborated the story giving her more credit, especially the day before the reveal trailer.

There was also Gamer Splash itself, which published a series of intriguing interviews from a longtime independent Nintendo developer developing for the NX, that revealed a lot about the system, and told us what to expect before its inevitable reveal. Our source’s info matched up with Eurogamer’s story, although he said their articles “left important details out”. Well, it turns out that more or less, the latter team has won out, and, our source was correct.

The Nintendo Switch, revealed in a short trailer this past Thursday at 7AM PT, was a surprise to nearly all, in one way or another. That morning, Nintendo showed us a 3.5 minute clip of what the future of Nintendo gaming will look like. And in the words of Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot, “it is something great, something really new for Nintendo”. And it really is.

The Nintendo Switch takes the idea of a home gaming console, but liberates it, allowing you to take your home games on the go, and play them in fun ways outside of the home, anywhere you want. Not only that, but it also appears that people can link up multiple Switch devices and play together, as one can on Nintendo 3DS systems.

Overall, it’s a very novel concept, and judging by the video’s viewcount on YouTube, it is generating a lot of waves, whether people’s opinions are positive or negative.

The Concept

The concept for the Switch is not something entirely new for gaming, but is definitely new for Nintendo. And that is where the benefit is.

Although devices such as the Morphus X300 and Razer Edge Pro tablet have been made in the past with a similar concept, they had clear limitations to what you could do on them. Game libraries weren’t huge, and the systems weren’t as portable as they could be. Additionally, the quality of the games would suffer a bit, especially when not designed to take advantage of systems like it. The Morphus X300 is only capable of playing Android games, after all, and the Shield wasn’t as comfortable as other systems and did not have great battery life.

I personally believe the handheld/console hybrid is a great concept, but I can see why it hasn’t sold well before in the market place. It hasn’t been implemented perfectly yet, and without enough big games to support the system, the system could never be expected to take off with the general public anyways. A nice concept for tech enthusiasts, but not something your mom would buy. And it’s not the concept that isn’t attractive to consumers, but rather the lack of killer apps for it, major support from developers in the form of content and games, and its concept being used intuitively enough. Many will remember tablets and even smartphones being around for years before they were popular. The devices weren’t bad, and offered cool capabilities, but suffered from a lack of major software support, being intuitive for all instances, and battery life. Not to mention the marketing was not there, either. It took Apple introducing the iPhone and iPad, devices that while intelligently combining multiple devices (phones, computers, MP3 players), entirely killed some of these same markets (the MP3 player or iPod). While Apple was still making great revenue on these products, it decided to take a risk and combine them to form a new future for technology and for consumers – and it paid off in the billions.

With the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo is becoming like Apple. Is it a risky move to go in a new direction – to not release a home console and portable, but instead combine the two? Of course. But like Apple with its iPhone, by sacrificing the concept of being another powerful standalone tethered gaming machine like and Xbox or PlayStation (PC’s by today’s standards), Nintendo may redefine the concept of not only what it means to be a home console, but what it means to be a console in general.

In regards to the hybrid concept seen in previous devices, Nintendo seems to have taken the very concept but added its own unique flair to it, refining the design and making it more appealing to consumers. But more importantly, in the short trailer, it has clearly demonstrated how it works, and proven that the concept can be fun and unique, especially with the fun and charm of Nintendo games and hardcore games from third parties. Where other systems with similar concepts have not sold well in the marketplace, Nintendo taking the concept and improving it, making it appear fun and useful, and having a massive game library on it, with your favorite Nintendo games on it and all the major publishers supporting it, the Switch will be successful. Only one company could do the concept right, and that company is Nintendo.

Why The Switch Will Be Great

1. It’s a Console And a Handheld!

One of the best features of the Wii U was that the GamePad could be used to play full console games off-screen. But it could only be used when near the system itself. The 3DS would have to suffice for your on-the-go gaming needs. Unlike the Wii U, the Switch is a home console that can play full console games, but is for the first time, fully portable, letting you take the system anywhere you go. Some see it as a reversal of the Wii U, but I see it as a great evolution of its GamePad concept, that is finally fully realized.

Tack onto that 3DS-like features, such as local multiplayer with personal devices and the ability to play it anywhere, and you’ve got a great system! Finally, for the first time, one can have just one system to play all of their games on, and not need to have multiple consoles for multiple games.

2. Premiere Software Support

If you read our developer interview series, you would know that Nintendo had previously stated that they wanted to create a platform that supports one way of programming: no matter how many devices, it would have one platform/OS with software that runs across all devices, like Android or iOS. While the Switch didn’t turn out to be exactly this (it’s only one device), it did in fact keep that Nintendo’s development teams would only need to create one piece of software now.

With the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo wasn’t able to supply a steady stream of new software to both devices, due to having to create completely separate games for each system, unable to work on each other. This resulted in the 3DS getting more support while the Wii U lacked.

With one system, the Switch will now get double the games, as Nintendo will only need to make one version of the game, and it will work on the Switch whether it be played as a handheld or a console.

Additionally, the Switch will be receiving major third-party support. Besides having Skyrim and NBA 2K on it, third-parties from EA to Ubisoft to Square to Bethesda will be supporting the system. Nintendo consoles haven’t had this level of major third-party support with core games since the GameCube. If the Switch is successful, it will not only be a great Nintendo console, but a great, and even scary, competitor to Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

3. One Console for All Your Games

I can imagine the Switch possibly even replacing the 3DS, as long as it gets Nintendo’s traditional handheld-first games (like Pokemon), as well. And based on our source’s information, as well as other strong rumors, it will get these, as well as Nintendo’s own smartphone games.

Nintendo has stated that the Switch is the successor to the Wii U, not the 3DS, as it is marketing the system as a home console first. However, having so many portability aspects, one may have to wonder the necessity of having another portable system at all! Regardless, Nintendo did state that a 3DS successor would come “much later”.

I imagine that down the line we could see a Switch portable, running the same games, or only traditional handheld and mobile games, a smaller form factor able to fit in your pocket, and a cheaper price tag. This could be where the “multiple devices on one OS” concept could come to fruition.

For now, though, it appears the Switch may be able to become many people’s one device to game on, which could have massive effects for the gaming industry as a whole.

Similar to Microsoft’s Surface slogan, “the tablet that can replace your laptop,” the Switch could be the tablet to replace your console. And your handheld, too.

The Tablet That Can Replace Your Console

While there’s a lot we still don’t know about the Switch, concerns and excitement aside, one thing is for certain – The Nintendo Switch will switch up how we play. Gone will be the days where we can only play home console games at home, and also gone will be the need to have separate devices for separate games. Instead of competing on power, Nintendo is competing on a concept, and analyzing the concept of a traditional home console versus the Switch, the Switch wins out, offering more ways and places to play than ever before, in line with the modern person’s fast-moving lifestyle.

If the Nintendo Switch is successful, it may revolutionize the way the interactive entertainment industry works. And it should make its competitors very nervous.

Watch the reveal trailer for Nintendo Switch below:

 

What do you think of the Switch? Leave us a comment below.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

I Canceled My iPhone and Ordered a Pixel

Hey all!

You may remember my recent article, stating all the reasons why I’d had enough of Android, and Why I’m Switching To iPhone.

But since then, things have changed. Big time.

You may think, “but they just put out an article about how they’re switching, and now they’re switching back?!”

Well, yes.

“Why?????” you may ask?

Let’s Dive Into It

To begin, most of quandaries with Android were of the issue with the lack of hardware/software integration, leading every Android device to be slightly (or majorly) off from what the Android experience was intended to be. Even Motorola’s later “Moto” devices. In short, each device from a different manufacturer would work with Android, but it would never be Google’s vision, so Android would just never function just as intended, and the hardware would suffer from that, as well, leading to a need for more powerful hardware to offset the inefficiencies created by the lack of optimization.

If you read back to the article, I state, “Unless you buy a … Google Nexus phone (the reference model … for Android), you can be sure the OS you’re running on won’t be fully optimized for your device.”

So I did acknowledge that Google did somewhat accomplish hardware/software integration with the Nexus line of phones. The Nexus phones would always have great cameras and the fastest processors available at the time, and most importantly, run a vanilla version of Android, so you would know the OS was running it as intended.

However, the problem has always been that the Nexus phones (up until last year) have always been hard to get, and aimed at software developers rather than consumers. Additionally, since Google bargained with other manufacturers such as LG, HTC, and Motorola to create the phones, it was never 100% Google’s design, and had some of the other manufacturer’s ideas forced upon it. Also, I was never fond of the design, as I always thought Motorola’s phone offered some useful features and overall design that were just a step ahead the Nexus line.

But today that changes.

Fast forward to October 4, 2016. Google has a new event with a new focus, #madebygoogle.

Google holds an amazing event with great products, including the Pixel phone. But what’s even better than the content shown there? Google’s new focus on all-encompassing design, interactivity between products, and best of all (for phones), hardware-software integration!

While, as stated, Google is “not new to hardware,” it is definitely new to this game. And it’s going to kill it.

The Pixel phone is the first phone fully designed, from top to bottom, inside and out, by Google, and for Android. And for the first time, Google is making their own phone to compete directly with the iPhone. And it is marvelous.

Google is finally taking a stance with Android, and saying, “enough is enough”. Google’s new Pixel phone, like Apple’s iPhone, is the first phone completely designed and optimized for Android, and likewise, Google has optimized and improved Android specifically for the Pixel. Not only has it equipped the phone with a best-in-class camera (even topping out the iPhone 7), a headphone jack, and the speediest processor, but it has engineered all of Android to work specifically for its hardware, and vice-versa.

In regards to its optimization, it’s not just another phone running Android. Google has actually optimized every aspect of the phone to work best with its vision of Android. Besides incorporating the speediest processor yet available in an Android phone, the Snapdragon 821, it has also optimized the touch response of the phone, leading to much less latency between touching the screen and getting a response. Additionally, it has improved the overall speed of the phone and the camera, finally bringing it on par with feeling as good as an iPhone.

Aside from this, users also get the benefit of actually being able to upgrade the phone’s software as soon as an update is available, directly from Google. This has been a feature of previous Nexus phones for a while, but now it’s even better, because updates will download and install in the background, and automatically and quickly be applied the next time you reboot your phone. This is even better than Apple’s iPhone update experience, which will still leave you updating the traditional way, getting in the way of the tasks you’re doing, and taking a lot longer.

On specs, this phone also beats out the iPhone 7, which is nice to have. While the phone appears to lack stereo speakers, it does have a headphone jack built-in. And the camera is even better than the iPhone 7’s, something incredible to say. Did I mention it also comes with unlimited Google Photos storage at original resolution?! Additionally, the phone has a higher-res screen than the iPhone’s, so you can watch content at higher-resolutions. And that screen is better too. Unlike the iPhone’s more-colorful-than-before-but-still-not-so-colorful screen, the Pixel’s screen offers AMOLED, with many times the contrast and colors of the iPhone’s screen. The screen is great on its own, but highly necessary for the phone’s last great innovation: Daydream VR.

The last major thing this phone has going for it is Google’s new VR platform, Daydream VR. The Pixel phone will be the first Daydream Ready phone, the first phone to support the new platform created by Google. In short, Daydream VR is Google’s own VR platform for phones, like Samsung’s Gear VR, except better. Not only will the Daydream platform support Google’s own Pixel phone, but it will support many phones in the future from different manufacturers, allowing the cheapest and highest-quality access to virtual reality to the masses for the first time. Playstation VR is a good starting point (especially for gamers), but Daydream VR will finally be the lowest barrier-to-entry for VR ever seen for consumers, finally allowing VR to come to the masses in meaningful ways. So long as they buy the right phone, and the very affordable $69 Daydream View headset, or one like it.

Daydream VR offers an amazing ecosystem of content, such as YouTube’s full library, which shines in VR with 360 degree videos in which you can look around wearing the headset to see the video all around you. You are transported to that world. Additionally, it is working with many other content providers, including Netflix, Hulu, The New York Times, and many others, to allow you to experience a broad range of content in full, high quality, immersion. That’s not to mention the games coming to the platform too (like games from the makers of EVE and from the mind of J.K. Rowling), as well as the educational and practical apps that are being made available for it, like Star Chart and Relax VR. And you can also, for example, view your Google Photos library in VR. And that’s pretty cool.

This was, to be honest, the swinging point for me. Apple does not have VR on its devices, and appears to have no intention of incorporating it either. If you think about it, Apple has been very stubborn about incorporating new technologies, while companies like Google have been embracing them, and actually making them useful for people in their everyday lives. While it’s expected that Apple will incorporate, better, OLED screens for its next iPhone, and a wall-to-wall screen, if it ever incorporates VR, at the earliest, it will be a year from now.

Oh and one more thing. Google has a better assistant, too. Google Assistant is the new and improved version of Google Now. In short, Google Assistant is even smarter now, and integrates all across the entire OS now, including its Allo and Duo messaging and video apps. You can have a conversation with it anytime, and it can help you out nearly any way you want now. Compared with Siri, Google Assistant is much, much, better, and integrates itself across the OS and its services better than Siri ever could on iPhone.

And guess what? Google Assistant is only available on the Pixel. As very justly stated here, Google is finally offering its own real, unique features for its first fully-designed phone, and other Android manufacturers should be very, very, nervous. Apple should be too.

With the arrival of the Pixel phone, Google is finally matching Apple at the hardware game, achieving the true mastery of hardware-software integration. And it looks like Google is coming out ahead.

Google is finally like Apple in recognizing the importance and benefit of true hardware-software integration. And with the Pixel, it is finally coming out ahead.

Due to all of these reasons, I decided to cancel my iPhone 7 Plus order, and instead order the Pixel XL.

Sure, I won’t be getting a myriad of accessories already available for it, or stereo speakers. I won’t be getting Super Mario Run first, or some of the software apps only available on iPhone.

But what I will get is the best of Android, the best of Google, and Google’s new Daydream VR, including its headset, for free. I’ll also be getting a headphone jack, a much quicker charging experience, a better screen, and a better camera.

More importantly, I’m finally getting the OS I’ve always known and loved, as it was intended. And some delightful extras, as well. With Pixel, I’ll be getting the phone of the future, not the phone of the past.

With Pixel, I’m back with Android, and I am very happy for it.

To see Pixel and Daydream VR for yourself, watch Google’s full conference:

 

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For Nintendo NX news, check out our articles:

Everything We Know About the Nintendo NX So Far

Why Nintendo NX Will Support Unreal Engine and ARM Architecture

Animal Crossing and Miitomo Successor Launch Titles for NX + More – Developer Interview

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash