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    January 21, 2016
    Xbox 360 Emulation Via Xbox One: Some Better, Some Worse

    One of the things I’ve come to realize is that I don’t like a lot of clutter in my entertainment center.  There’s a big difference between some stray wires and having dozens of video game systems sitting in my living room.  That’s why, if I end up getting an Xbox One, I’m going to try to retire my original Xbox 360 and give the emulation a try.  Turns out that might be a mixed bag.  Some Xbox 360 games run better on the XBone, but some run worse and others don’t run at all.

    Of course, the emulator powering the backwards compatibility is changing every time Microsoft issues an update, and new games are being added all the time while older games are being improved, but Digital Foundry has a great line-up of games that they’ve been tinkering with to see how they’ll work on the new system.  The results are really interesting, especially when you see what games play better versus worse, and what games have improved cut scenes but degraded play.  A lot of it probably has to do with how video is processed, but the more they work on the emulators, the better they will become.

    Fingers crossed for perfect emulation in the future.


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    December 5, 2015
    Mattel’s Hackable Barbie

    I just bought a new thermostat for my house.  I’m getting a new furnace installed this week, and with a new furnace comes a need for a new thermostat.  I noticed a common thread among the top of the line thermostats–they were all online or needed WiFi to function.  If that wasn’t bad enough, pretty much all of your child’s new favorite toys are going to be connecting to the Wifi, too.  For example, Barbie now needs wireless Internet, and not just to go car-shopping for a new pink Corvette.   Mattel’s Hello Barbie is vulnerable to hackers.

    Hello Barbie is an online-connected Barbie developed by ToyTalk and Mattel, which basically allows kids to talk to Barbie and to use the doll as something like a digital assistant.  The doll uses WiFi to connect to servers that listen to child speech and formulate responses.  Hackers can apparently access the doll and listen in on those conversations, thanks to a digital ID connected to the doll, and the Hello Barbie app can be used to force phones to connect to any server with Barbie in the name, which sounds pretty dangerous.

    “We have been working with Bluebox and appreciate their Responsible Disclosure of several issues with respect to Hello Barbie,” wrote ToyTalk cofounder and CTO Martin Reddy in an email to Fortune.  He added that the company is working on several vulnerabilities related to the toy.

    If your child has one of the VTech tablets, then there’s already been a hacking incident involving them, with tens of millions of people having their data accessed by hackers.  As technology grows and WiFi becomes more universal, I have no doubt that this kind of toy hacking is going to become routine.  I’m not sure what information you can get out of a child’s toy, but clearly there’s something.

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    November 21, 2015
    Microsoft’s Black Friday Deals Start At 10 Cents!

    If you need anything, Black Friday is usually the best time to get it.  There are better deals, but there are seldom that many great deals happening at once, which explains the shopping frenzy that overtakes the United States every Friday after Thanksgiving.  However, online retailers aren’t waiting until Friday, choosing instead to roll deals out slowly on the week leading up to Black Friday’s main event.  Microsoft is having some great deals on music, movies, video games, and everything else for Black Friday!

    Movies, songs, and apps can be available for as low as 10 cents!  Whole albums can be bought for $1!  Xbox One bundles will be dropping down to $299!  There are tablets and computers with hundreds of dollars slashes off the price!  Xbox Live memberships for $1 a month! And, best of all, you don’t have to wait for it to show up on Black Friday; all of Microsoft’s deals are available online right now!

    For more information, check out Microsoft’s blog post about the very deal.

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    November 12, 2015
    Final Fantasy’s Cloud Joins Smash Brothers

    Final Fantasy is one of the most highly-regarded series of video games that’s ever been released.  The series started out on Nintendo, then moved to PlayStation, and now they’re everywhere.  MMORPGs, video games, and all kinds of other things are now featuring Final Fantasy characters, and now one of the series’ most beloved characters is joining the most beloved fighting game around.  Final Fantasy 7’s Cloud Strife is joining Super Smash Brothers Wii U.

    The weird thing is that Cloud has never really been on a Nintendo platform, aside from an appearance on Kingdom Hearts for Game Boy Advanced and a couple of 3DS music games.  However, Cloud comes with a whole lot of fun extras, like Chocobo outfits for Mii Fighter, a Midgard-themed stage, some very cool fighting moves, and an alternate Advent Children costume.  He’ll also become an Amiibo figure at some point.

    It’s a sign of new cooperation between Square and Nintendo.  It’s also probably a really good move for both parties, sparking interest in both Smash Brothers and Final Fantasy.  After all, lots of sites, including this one, are writing about it.

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    November 11, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: Fallout Diner

    Via NeoGAF

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    September 18, 2015
    GameStop Refuses To Sell Digital-Game Console Bundles

    GameStop is taking a stand, and considering their industry, it is a corporate stand that makes a whole lot of sense.  These days, a lot of console bundles come with digital copies of games, rather than actual games on discs.  You buy a new system, go home, set it up, and boom, wait a few hours while you download 40GBs of video game files.  Well, GameStop says no more!  GameStop is refusing to sell console bundles with digital games.  Instead, GameStop is pressuring publishers to allow them to sell physical copies in lieu of the downloads.

    “We expect that if a game is provided as a promotional item in a hardware bundle, GameStop will see more of these physical offers than digital pack-ins on upcoming third-party releases,” said GameStop COO Tony Bartell.

    Of course, there’s a good reason GameStop is refusing to tow the digital line.  GameStop’s biggest business is used games, and you can’t sell a used digital copy of a game, so it’s only natural that GameStop would want to get actual games into the hands of actual customers.  The amazing thing is that it also benefits the consumer, because you don’t (or shouldn’t) need to spent time downloading a game you just bought when a guy can give you that same information burned on a disc that could last for years.

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    September 15, 2015
    Japan’s Cool PS4 Controllers

    Japan just seems to have all the luck when it comes to cool video game accessories.  I’m not sure if it’s because they’re where all the video game companies are located or if it’s because they’re mad about video games in a way that the rest of the world isn’t, but Japan gets the cool stuff first, and America’s lucky to get it at all.  Japan is getting four awesome PS4 controllers for the holiday season, and they’re looking awesome.

    The four colors are as follows:  gold, silver, steel black, and clear.  The four controllers were announced at Sony’s Tokyo Game Show, and they’re being accompanied by nine different faceplates to dress up the PS4.  The nine color options are black, white, aqua blue, yellow, pink, red, purple, gold, and silver.  None of these things have a release date in the US, but in Japan, they’ll be rolling out on November 6 (the crystal clear controller will be out December 3).

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    August 12, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: Apple

    Image:  Time

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    August 6, 2015
    Legion: World Of Warcraft Expands Again

    World of Warcraft, once upon a time, had 12 million subscribers.  That number has halved, then dropped even lower, but just because the game is down doesn’t mean it’s out.  World of Warcraft has 5.6 million subscribers, making it by far the most popular subscription game in the world, even if it’s not the cultural touchpoint it once was.  Activision hopes that they can resurrect that Blizzard magic a little bit with their newest expansion.  Blizzard is bringing back the Burning Legion in World of Warcraft: Legion.  Here’s the trailer!

    YouTube Preview Image

    Of course, long timers like myself remember fighting the Burning Legion already, but they remain a popular enemy and Blizzard is apparently bringing the Legion to Azeroth proper this time.  They’re also raising the level cap to 110 (letting players boost one character to 100) and adding legacy artifact weapons that resemble the most famous weapon models in the game, like the famous sword Ashbringer.  They’re also revamping the PVP system and adding a new hero class, the Demon Hunter, which is a motion-based attack class.

    Will that be enough to bring back long-retired players like myself?  Eh, probably not.  I think my day is over; I can barely finish single-player games.  Still, I have to admit it’s tempting…

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    August 5, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: 3-D Pokemon

    Via Reddit.

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