Since it looks like the fall school semester is happening whether we're ready for it or not, you'll finally have dibs on "next game" on that console your kids have been bogarting for the past quarantined four months. Lucky for you, there are plenty of upcoming titles -- and some solid streaming selections -- to help you fill the day while your kids hit the books. Used to be that if you wanted to reassign the gender of your World of Warcraft's character, you'd need to shell out $15 -- that's in real cash money, not in-game currency. But with the forthcoming release of WoW's'Shadowlands' expansion, players will be able to change is as the see fit. In case Epic Games' year wasn't already going swimmingly, the team behind battle royale juggernaut Fortnite just received a quarter-billion dollar financial infusion from Sony.
It has already been more than 60 years since the first video game was invented, and thanks to tremendous improvements in hardware capacity and innovations in game design, today's players have countless excellent options across countless game categories. The video game industry was worth US$139 billion in 2018, with a projected annual growth rate of 12 percent through 2025. As visual quality and gameplay becomes increasingly rich and sophisticated, leading video game companies are accelerating their investments in machine learning to take their games to the next level. Advanced computer vision technology is supercharging virtual and augmented reality, one of the latest milestones in video game design. Other AI technologies are enabling powerful enhancements not only in the development processes, for example with animation generation and intelligence enhancement of non-player characters (NPC), but also to implement breakthrough features such as infinite maps and character customizations.
Time to check your attic for sealed old video games. An unopened Super Mario Bros. video game released in 1985 for Nintendo's NES console broke the world record for the most ever paid for any video game, according to Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. A bidder, who wished to remain anonymous, snapped up the game for $114,000 during an auction conducted by Heritage Friday during its Comics & Comic Art event, which continues through Sunday. The previous record was set in early 2019 when an unopened copy of the same game sold for $100,150. "The demand for this game was extremely high, and if any lot in the sale could hit a number like that, it was going to be this one," Valarie McLeckie, Heritage video games director, said in a news release.
One of the big joys of "Umurangi Generation" is the sensation of seeing a scene in the game, and having the mirage of a perfect picture appear in your mind, if only for a second. It's impossible (at least for a photographer of my caliber) to visualize and capture it as-imagined, which opens up a second game within the game: one of curation. A no-less-enjoyable part of my "Umurangi" experience was scouring my file folder (the game saves all of your shots) after completing a level and being both repulsed and pleasantly surprised by what I'd created. The game reveals certain things about your aesthetic priorities. I preferred vertical images to horizontal ones, and I leaned toward overexposure and a blue tint in many of my photos, mirroring a sort of mid-2010s Bloomberg Businessweek aesthetic.
World of Warcraft's eighth expansion, Shadowlands, sits on the edge of reality, throwing high-level players into the realm of the dead after one of the game's most iconic characters, Sylvanas, tore open the fabric that separated the land of the living and the Shadowlands. A live-streamed developer update on Wednesday detailed some of the experiences players will see in Shadowlands. There are the four Covenants that rule over the disparate realms of the Shadowlands that players will ultimately have to pick between, the deadly Maw zone where players can test their skills against deadly creatures to rescue lost souls, and a newly revealed end-game dungeon called the Theater of Pain that looks metal as hell. Experienced players will jump right into that content with its new zones in the afterlife, new dungeons, new raids, and new stories to level up through. But outside of that core content, Shadowlands is an opportunity for the developers behind this 16-year-old game to look back and create a more welcoming experience to new players and returning players alike.
With two daughters starring as the lead protagonists, you'd think The Last of Us Part II would be a game about daughters. Instead, it only purports to be about Ellie and Abby, all while reducing both women's lives to revolving entirely around their fathers. Far from revolutionary, Last of Us II reads more like a veiled retread of the dad game -- an old trend from 2013 that often stripped its daughter characters of their agency and personhood. You have not created fully fleshed out human beings. You've created projections of the paternal gaze. At the time several aging game designers (often experiencing new fatherhood) started trying to tell more mature stories, leading to a slew of titles about dads and their daughters that released to near-unanimous praise. But unlike BioShock Infinite, Walking Dead Season 1, or Dishonored, the original Last of Us was different, subverting expectations by actually giving its daughter some autonomy. Ellie wasn't just a non-playable mechanic used to make her father's decisions more narratively interesting.
Epic Games, creator of the popular video game Fortnite and the mobile app Houseparty, said Thursday it had received a $250 million (¥27 billion) investment from Sony Corp for a minority stake in the company. Sony, maker of the PlayStation, didn't disclose the price it paid for stock in the privately held company. Last month, it was reported that Epic was close to raising a $750 million round of funding, from investors including T. Rowe Price Group Inc and Baillie Gifford, at a valuation of about $17 billion. Epic, which also develops the game engine Unreal, received $1.25 billion in funding in 2018 from investors including KKR & Co Inc. Fortnite has been an influential force in games and culture over recent years. The game had more than 350 million players as of April, benefiting from the influx of people spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
When World of Warcraft: Shadowlands comes out later this year, Blizzard plans to stop charging players a $15 fee to change the gender of one of their characters. Much like how you can tweak your character's appearance at an in-game barbershop, you'll be able to do the same with their gender once the expansion comes out. In an interview with Eurogamer, Shadowlands executive producer John Hight said Blizzard felt the fee was "not the right message." He went to add the company can't implement the change through a hotfix, which is why it's not dropping the fee earlier. Hight shared the tidbit after Blizzard put out a statement about a new character named Pelagos that will appear in Shadowlands. It's believed he is the first transgender character in WoW.
Nintendo has added another batch of retro games to its Switch Online service, and one of them may have been a childhood favorite. Donkey Kong Country, the 1994 Super NES reboot of the Donkey Kong franchise, will be available to play for subscribers starting on July 15th. The side-scroller features Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy Kong as they explore jungles and snowcapped mountains to retrieve their stolen bananas from King K. Rool and his crocodilian minions call the Kremlings. Aside from Donkey Kong Country, Switch Online is also adding Japanese game Natsume Championship Wrestling and NES action RPG The Immortal on July 15th. The wrestling game has 12 wrestlers to choose from and lets you play against an AI or a friend.
Exploring history through the medium of games can be a perilous venture for many reasons. These include the potential for historical revisionism, the risk of attributing simple formulas for success to complex or traumatic events from history, and the persistent association of video games in the mainstream as an object of fun above all else. But it's an area the Czech studio Charles Games actively pursues -- both in their debut "Attentat 1942," an exploration of one family's history following Heydrich's assassination through the lens of the arrest mentioned above, and in their upcoming follow-up, "Svoboda 1945," a game about a small town in the Czech-German borderlands that saw a tremendous rise in violence during the expulsion of ethnic-Germans from Czechoslovakia.