TIME Video Games

Here’s Why Everybody Loves This Bizarre New Soccer Game

It's the weirdest, wildest demolition-derby you can imagine

It’s like soccer with race cars. That’s the elevator pitch for San Diego studio Psyonix’s Rocket League, a zany ball-punching demolition derby for PC and PlayStation 4. The game arrived without ceremony two weeks ago, but it’s already clinched over 5,000 “overwhelmingly positive” reviews on Steam. It’s now pretty much what everyone’s talking about.

Imagine Hot Wheels with something like Moon-gravity physics: swarms of splashy, customizable rocket-propelled dragsters that can leap into the air like tumbling ultralights. Players scoot or soar over futuristic astroturf fields honeycombed in weird symbology and enclosed within translucent hexagonal domes. The goal: to chase down a gargantuan ball (bigger than the vehicles themselves) and send it careening into soccer-style goal posts. And like soccer, it’s all about finessing assists and saves, but with a kind of outré elegance that’s like watching four-wheeled ballet dancers glide, plummet and pirouette.

MORE: Here’s Why Valve’s Virtual Reality Controllers Are So Vital

It’s weird, no doubt about it, and at first tends to play as bizarrely as it sounds. Figuring out how to best avail yourself of subtle variations in vehicle mass and momentum becomes as essential as sussing the statistical differences between top footballers in FIFA 15. But once you get the hang of the controls—and you will, it’s just a matter of your brain doing that thing brains do when recalibrating to alt-gravity physics—it becomes second nature. Stunts that look impossible in clips, say leaping into the air, rebounding off the dome and arrowing across the field, then flipping your hind end around at the last minute to smack the ball as it crosscuts your trajectory and score a goal, become eminently possible.

Rocket League, it’s worth mentioning, is a kind of sequel to a 2008 game clumsily titled Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. But the latter was only available for PlayStation 3, and didn’t generate the critical buzz Rocket League‘s been getting. What’s more, Rocket League supports cross-platform play, allowing PlayStation 4 and Windows players to square off across ecosystems.

Think of it as football unbound, and another example of the power of games to bring totally ridiculous ideas (that turn out to be pretty darned good ones) to life.

TIME Video Games

5 Reasons to Buy the Xbox One Right Now

US-ENTERTAINMENT-IT-INTERNET-VIDEOGAMES-MICROSOFT-XBOX
AFP—AFP/Getty Images A member of the Microsoft security team watches over the newly unveiled Xbox One videogame console at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, on May 21, 2013.

You love Halo, don't you?

It’s axiomatic to the game console wars that a vocal minority will forever turn the “which to buy” debate into a fracas over technical exotica. Microsoft’s Xbox One has suffered more than Sony’s PlayStation 4 in this regard, struggling to hit today’s high-def sweet spot (1o80p) in faceoffs with its more popular rival. It hasn’t helped that the Xbox One looks like a kludgy 1980s desktop computer, a throwback to boxy “kitchen sink” power design.

But on balance, the Xbox One remains a fine choice in 2015, flush with outstanding exclusives, a lower price tag and increasingly close integration with Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows ecosystem. And those first-gen disparities between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have dwindled as development’s matured, proving both systems are well-matched powerhouses in the hands of experts.

Here’s a roundup of reasons to consider the Xbox One, mid-2015 edition.

Halo 5: Guardians

The only place to play the fifth installment in Microsoft’s storied sci-fi Halo series is the Xbox One. Halo 5: Guardians arrives October 27—a week earlier for Limited Collector’s Edition buyers. And if you want to replay the first four games remastered for Xbox One, the Halo Master Chief Collection, whose online features were still in triage through the early part of this year, looks to finally be in solid shape.

Beyond Halo? Formidable Xbox One exclusives out now or coming this year include Sunset Overdrive, Ori and the Blind Forest, Cuphead, Titanfall, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Forza Motorsport 6.

Your friends play on Xbox Live

Social networks are the future of any online-focused platform. No one save Sony and Microsoft have the hard statistical data accounting for who played what, where and how often on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but if your friends mostly live on Xbox Live, abandoning your pals to play with strangers may be out of the question. (Note that Xbox Live runs $60 a year, and it’s mandatory if you want to play games or do much of anything else with the Xbox One online.)

You can stream Xbox One games to a Windows 10 PC

You’ll need a Windows 10 computer, of course, but if you already have a prerelease version of the operating system (or plan to get one when the public version of Windows 10 arrives on July 29) and you like the idea of cordless platform interoperability, this slick little bonus feature just emerged from beta.

Sidebar: Microsoft plans to reintroduce cross-platform gaming (Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs) with Fable Legends later this year. And Windows 10 will itself soon replace the Xbox One’s native operating system as part of Microsoft’s ongoing OS unification strategy.

It’s cheaper than Sony’s PlayStation 4

By only $50 ($350 versus $400), sure. But that’s more than the price of a used game and nearly the price of a new one. If you want the least expensive game console, that’s technically Nintendo’s Wii U. But if you want the least expensive (upfront) platform that plays third-party games like Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight, the Xbox One wins the price tag war — for now.

Backward compatibility

Console-makers are under no obligation to retrofit their flagship systems with prior-gen titles, but when they do, no one’s going to complain. The Xbox 360 has a powerful back library well worth preserving. The initial list of backward compatible games (in beta, as part of the Xbox One preview program) may look small, but expect it to grow, and anything that made piles of cash to appear on it eventually.

TIME Video Games

5 Reasons to Buy Nintendo’s Wii U Right Now

Wii U
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Nintendo's Wii U console, above, and touch-pad controller sit on display during an interview with Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America Inc., in New York, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012.

The case for Nintendo's flagship console mid-2015.

To be clear, if you’re looking for a video game system that plays stuff like Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3 or Batman: Arkham Knight, the Wii U isn’t for you. For one reason or another, Nintendo’s quirky, quasi-portable, dual-screen, trend-bucking system failed to clinch crucial third-party support, and thus lacks many of the current generation’s third-party blockbusters.

But likewise, if you want a system that plays games made by Nintendo, including those starring icons like Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby or Zelda’s Link, the Wii U is pretty much a slam dunk, sluggish sales or no.

Here’s a roundup of reasons to consider the Wii U, mid-2015 edition.

The games it already plays

The Wii U harbors some of the most acclaimed first-party games of any system, bar none. It’s a formidable list that includes Super Mario 3D World (a clever hybrid 2D/3D platformer in the mold of Super Mario 64), Super Smash Bros. (a mammoth fighting game starring Nintendo’s beloved characters), Bayonetta 2 (a sublime, totally gonzo action game), The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (a remastered version of director Eiji Aonuma’s nautical masterpiece), Mario Kart 8 (the apotheosis of the Mario Kart racing series), Pikmin 3 (an ingenious exploration-driven puzzler), New Super Mario Bros. U (old-school Super Mario Bros. sidescrolling with contemporary twists), Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (evolutionary Donkey Kong Country gameplay by Metroid Prime-maker Retro Studios), Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (an intricate monster-hunting, slaying and capturing simulation) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (rotate 3D micro-levels to find collectibles and solve progression puzzles) and Splatoon (think high octane paintball, only with squids).

The games coming this year

We lost The Legend of Zelda—originally due this year—to 2016, but the Wii U’s fall and holiday lineup still has its share of titans, including Super Mario Maker (a toolset that lets you create and share 2D Super Mario Bros. levels in retro 8-bit or contemporary 3D styles), Yoshi’s Woolly World (a sidescrolling platformer staged in levels made entirely of yarn and cloth), Star Fox Zero (the sixth installment in Nintendo’s sci-fi shooter series, and the first in nine years), Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (the most cathartic tennis series on the planet) and Xenoblade Chronicles X (a sci-fi roleplaying game and spiritual sequel to the superlative Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii that could more than make up for Zelda‘s absence).

It has Amiibo, the Virtual Console and Wii backward-compatibility

The Wii U plays Wii U games, but also the entire Wii library (over 1,000 and counting), as well as NES and Super NES classics via the Virtual Console, from Super Metroid to F-Zero and Earthbound to Super Mario Bros. 3. And it shares Nintendo’s programmable Amiibo figurines with the Nintendo 3DS and uses them in ways no other toy-game vendor does, with uniquely tailored inbuilt support across multiple Nintendo titles instead of a single franchise.

You have children old enough to play games

Sony and Microsoft’s systems aren’t totally bereft of games both thematically and creatively aimed at younger players, but they’re pretty wanting. The Wii U is basically the inverse of that, though one of Nintendo’s hallmarks is crafting experiences that transcend demographic boundaries, meaning the system’s age-related floor is much lower, but its ceiling no less high.

It’s still less expensive than Sony or Microsoft’s systems

And it may wind up cheaper still if we see a late 2015 price drop (I’d argue it’s long overdue). But even without one, the Wii U remains the cheapest current-gen console on the block. You can grab a 32 GB model with various bundle options for $300$50 less than Microsoft’s Xbox One and $100 less than Sony’s PlayStation 4.

TIME Video Games

Read Satoru Iwata’s Unpublished Quotes From TIME’s Interview

The rest of Satoru Iwata's answers to questions posed in a broad-ranging March 2015 interview, and his last with a Western media outlet.

At just 55—a year younger than Apple’s Steve Jobs when he passed in 2011—Nintendo CEO and president Satoru Iwata has left us too soon. With his passing, the world of and beyond the games industry has lost a visionary leader and creative giant.

“Mr. Iwata is gone, but it will be years before his impact on both Nintendo and the full video game industry will be fully appreciated,” said Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aimé in a statement Monday morning. “He was a strong leader for our company, and his attributes were clear to most everyone: Intelligence, creativity, curiosity and sense of humor. But for those of us fortunate enough to work closely with him, what will be remembered most were his mentorship and, especially, his friendship. He was a wonderful man. He always challenged us to push forward…to try the new…to upset paradigms—and most of all, to engage, excite and endear our fans. That work will continue uninterrupted.”

Read more: Why Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Mattered

I spoke with Mr. Iwata in March for a TIME story about Nintendo’s plans to reinvent itself amid struggling sales, but I had to leave much of the interview out. Here are the rest of Iwata’s answers to my questions, in a dialogue that included his reflections on the evolution of digital content, the importance of multigenerational design and his thoughts on the responsibilities of a company obsessed with surprising (without alienating) consumers.

Note: A few of these answers were previously published in shorter form. I believe the complete versions offer broader insight into Iwata’s philosophies and personal style, and so I’ve included the full versions here.

On his desire to engage with Nintendo fans in unique ways

“I think a typical president of a company does not do things like Iwata Asks or Nintendo Direct, so some people might view me as a slightly strange president. But I do think that there is a tremendous amount of meaning for me to be able to do and continue to do things that only I can do, and so I’ll continue to look for new and unique things that I can contribute.”

On the value of content in a rapidly digitizing world

“We’ve seen dramatic changes to things like music and videos in terms of how they are shared over the last 10 years. And I think certainly we’ve seen it become much more convenient. But as a content industry, I think there are questions as to whether or not they’ve managed to sustain and maintain the value of that content. For example, an artist who once used to be able to sell millions of copies of CDs in the previous model, now they are not selling as many copies of their albums digitally, and the questions is if, as a content creator, they’ve been able to sustain that level of income and revenue in the new model, and I think that there’s questions as to whether or not the content creators have been able to.”

“The digital world is one that has sort of a unique characteristic, where it’s a place in which it’s very easy for the value of content to fall. In the music industry, for the artists who are not able to gather as large of an audience for live performance, they’re finding that they’re not able to achieve as rewarding of an outcome for their content creation. Similarly if you were to speak with movie producers they would have said in the past that DVDs were a very important revenue stream for their business model, but now what we’re seeing is that DVD sales are to achieving sales at the levels they once did and primarily that’s because now there are so many different video streaming services where you’re paying just a few dollars a month and you have access to tens of thousands of different movies that you can stream on demand.”

“And so what we have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking deeply about is, how do we as a content creator who is making games that we are spending tremendous amounts of resources to craft into these experiences that consumers can enjoy and find value in, how can we continue to deliver those experiences to consumers in a way that ensures that we can recoup that investment and achieve an appropriate level of revenue by maintaining the value of the content, while ensuring that the content we’re delivering is of value to the consumer.”

On Nintendo’s drive to create multigenerational, socially conscious experiences

“I guess one thing that I would say is that we have personally experienced of course that even though entertainment is a thing that one can enjoy on their own, it becomes much more fun when you are enjoying it together with others, friends or family. And that it becomes easier for that entertainment to reach a broader audience when it’s designed to do that, and we’ve got a lot of evidence that suggests this. One of the reasons that we put such a focus on things like StreetPass and local play is because we’ve felt that it adds a tremendous amount of value to our entertainment, and we’ve seen this time and again.”

“One thing that we have found over the years is that video games themselves are a thing that have a tendency to be difficult for them to break out of a particular segment, or a particular group, or a particular group of people with particular interests. But what we have found with some of our most successful products, is that they tend to be ones where people are playing them together and the communication is spreading much more broadly and more easily than standard word of mouth communication. And what you start to see is people of different generations playing together and talking with each other, and sometimes you even see grandchildren talking with their grandparents about a video game. And when the game itself is one that reaches across those different age groups, then you see situations where different people are talking about it together and learning from one another different things about the game. And we feel that these types of properties in games that we’ve created have brought many new people into the industry and been a great contribution to the video game industry as a whole.”

“And so even for example with the plans for our smart device efforts, that will also take on this theme of giving people opportunities to learn from one another about games, and giving games an opportunity to spread across different generations of people, and give people more opportunity to communicate with one another about games.”

On the inception of Super Smash Bros. during Iwata’s tenure at HAL Laboratories, and the original idea for Amiibo

“If you recall, I used to work at HAL Laboratories, and I was there at the time that they were working on the original Super Smash Bros. for the N64. And the individual who was responsible for localization of that Smash Bros. games is the individual who is translating for me now, which is Bill Trinen. But what’s interesting about the Smash Bros. games, is that the Smash Bros. games do not represent the Nintendo characters fighting against one another, they actually represent toys of Nintendo characters getting into an imaginary battle amongst themselves. And frankly that has to do with a very serious debate that we had within the company back then, which was, ‘Is it really okay for Nintendo characters to be hitting other Nintendo characters? Is it okay for Mario to be hitting Pikachu?'”

“Of course now Smash Bros. is such an obvious thing to be in existence than most people forget that that type of a debate was something that had to happen when the original game was created. And so the idea at that time was that, we already knew that there were going to be 50 characters playable in the new Smash Bros. game, which is now just released. At the time, the idea was that if we were to create a toy or a figure for each one of those characters, and if you could tap that toy to the system and have that toy interact with not just Smash Bros. but with a lot of different games, you would see very quickly that people would want to collect the toys and they would want to get the benefit of having the toys and using the toys in many different games, and that together all of that would make the overall value of the platform increase greatly for the consumers, and the value of owning the toys and the games would also increase. So that was the original idea around amiibo.”

On the Nintendo Wii and taking risks

“In the time period before Wii was called Wii and we still referred to it as Revolution, no one thought it was going to succeed. But it produced the results that it did, and it was able to do that on the back of Wii Sports, on a single software title, which changed the fate of the system. And so I think the entertainment industry is one where continually we’ve seen how a single product can determine the future of a product or company, and that’s where I think us being able to devote all of our Kyoto craftsmanship to creating our products is where people can look forward to what’s coming from us in the future.”

On Nintendo’s iconic IP and wooing third parties

“Nintendo is a company that’s in a very unique position, in that we are both a platform holder, a console manufacturer and we are a strong content provider with very strong IP. The basic underlying principle is that when we are able to showcase the value and the appeal of our software titles, then people see the value and appeal of our hardware. And that’s how we build momentum and we sustain that momentum, and it’s when we’ve built that momentum then that the third-party publishers are excited to join in and support us.”

“But when we have a situation like we have with Wii U, when the hardware is not reaching a suitable level of sales, then it’s harder for the third parties to come and support the platform, and that is when we have to rely more heavily on our first-party production, and we’ve experienced this at times in the past as well. So one approach that we take with that is an approach similar to Hyrule Warriors, where what we’ve done is we’ve taken one of our very strong IP and we’ve combined it with a strong gameplay system from an outside publisher and provided that on our platform as a way to continue to provide additional offerings to our consumers.”

“By leveraging our first-party studios to drive the appeal of both our software and our hardware, we’re then able to lay the foundation for the third parties to be able to do a meaningful business on our platforms. So as we go forward, going forward with the intent of trying to achieve that momentum and that foundation sooner. We achieved it with both Wii and DS, but it wasn’t there at the beginning. The third-party support for both of those systems came, but they weren’t there right at the beginning. And so we need to have the mentality of quickly establishing the appeal and that initial install base to make it easier for the third parties to come and support our systems earlier.”

On designing resonant, easily grasped entertainment experiences

“We’re constantly creating prototypes, many of which never see the light of day, but those prototypes, they come in a very wide variety, and they represent varying forms and varying systems and varying structures, so anything is possible. Ideally what I would like to see us do is, choose an approach that doesn’t require a lot of explanation, and is something that people can understand quickly at first glance. Ultimately we’re an entertainment company and we make entertainment products, but if it takes a lot of explanation for people to understand your entertainment product, you’re doing something wrong. So I don’t know when we’ll be able to show you something, but I hope that when we do Matt, you’ll reflect on our conversation today and you’ll say ‘A-ha, I got it!'”

TIME Video Games

Why Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Mattered

He was one of the few gaming execs with hands-on experience

Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata has died at only 55 years old after battling cancer for over a year. His unexpected passing marks the end of a wildly inventive and broadly celebrated 13-year stretch helming the iconic Kyoto video games company.

Iwata, born in Sapporo, Japan in 1959, was only the fourth person to lead Nintendo since its inception as a playing card company in 1889, and the first president unrelated to the founding Yamauchi family. His ascent to the topmost Nintendo position in 2002 was unusual as it followed a career in software engineering, making him one of the industry’s only corporate luminaries with substantial hands-on game creation experience.

In an exclusive interview with TIME this spring — Iwata’s last with a Western media outlet — he talked about how personally involved he remained in helping drive and evaluate the company’s hallmark unorthodox inventions. He called Nintendo “a company of Kyoto craftsman” and joked “this is where my background in technology is quite helpful, because it means that the engineers can’t trick me.”

At Tokyo-based Nintendo affiliate HAL Laboratory during the 1980s and 90s, Iwata helped develop some of Nintendo’s most memorable games. That list includes Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, the opening salvo in a critically lauded and financially lucrative fighting series starring Nintendo characters like Mario and Donkey Kong that’s since sold in the tens of millions for the company. After he was promoted to president of HAL Laboratory in 1993, he continued to work personally on the company’s products, including several titles in Nintendo’s wildly popular Pokémon series.

Iwata’s move to Nintendo came in 2000, when he assumed management of the company’s corporate planning division. Just two years later, then-Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi, who had helmed the company since 1949, decided to retire, allowing Iwata to step in and steer Nintendo through its most inventive period yet.

It was under Iwata that Nintendo ushered in the Nintendo DS, a dual-screen gaming handheld that succeeded the popular Game Boy, eventually going on to challenge Sony for the title of “bestselling games platform of all time.” Nintendo’s wildly successful Wii, now arguably the most recognizable video game system in the industry’s history, arrived in 2006, another Iwata-led gamble that paid incredible dividends following the company’s lackluster GameCube, which launched in 2001. And while Iwata’s critics often accused the company of reacting too slowly to industry trends, Iwata wasn’t afraid to enact radical change: after years of financial downturns (exacerbated by the company’s poorly received Wii U game console), he unveiled plans this March to develop games for smartphones and tablets. The world will now remember Iwata as the Nintendo leader who tore down the wall between the company’s heavily guarded iconic IP and non-Nintendo platforms.

But it was Iwata’s playful, almost mischievous and refreshingly candid personal style that so endeared him to the company’s fans. In 2011, he helped launch a video series dubbed Nintendo Direct, personally emceeing the company’s biggest surprises, often with quirky framing twists, like an effects-laden mock kung-fu brawl with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé for E3 2014. At Nintendo’s E3 2015 presentation last month, he appeared as a Muppet designed by The Jim Henson Company.

Iwata’s other significant public relations innovation was “Iwata Asks,” a remarkable series in which Iwata interviewed members of Nintendo’s many development teams, delving into the anecdotal history of some of the company’s best loved projects. It was a Nintendophile’s dream come true.

Above all, Iwata established and maintained a decorous tone often at odds with his competitors. In lieu of visually splashy, clamorous stage-led events at annual game shows, Iwata chose charmingly simple, almost dignified presentational vignettes. When fans responded negatively to a new Nintendo idea, Iwata’s reaction was often swift and direct: after an upcoming Nintendo DS game built on a hallowed Nintendo franchise was waved off by fans at E3 last month, Iwata tweeted his thanks to fans for their feedback and promised to meet their expectations.

Read more Nintendo CEO reveals plans for smartphones

Iwata’s health problems were first aired just before E3 in June 2014, when Iwata, who had been planning to attend the show (I was scheduled to meet with him), mysteriously backed out. At the time, Nintendo said Iwata’s doctors had warned him against travel, but didn’t say why. A few weeks later, the company disclosed Iwata was battling cancer, specifically a tumor in his bile duct. At that point he’d had surgery, and his prospects sounded hopeful because the doctors had apparently found the tumor early. When he resumed appearing in Nintendo Direct videos following E3, he was clearly thinner, but seemed otherwise unfazed. Though he again missed this year’s E3, he remained publicly active to the end, participating in Nintendo’s last shareholder meeting just a few weeks ago.

When I spoke with Mr. Iwata by phone for TIME’s story on the company this spring, he sounded his normal, puckish self, answering my questions with upbeat and insightful remarks. He laughed often, and had the rest of us chuckling as well. Iwata had a knack for making interviewers feel at ease, mostly because he knew how to answer even the questions he wasn’t allowed to with an apologetic sincerity lost on most corporate leaders. And he always had something interesting to add, usually an amusing or revealing anecdote. He’ll be rightly remembered for all the triumphs listed above and more, but it was his warmth and affability when engaging with strangers that I’ll remember most.

Read next: Nintendo Allows Same-Sex Marriage in Role-Playing Game

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TIME Video Games

The One Radical New iPhone Feature I Wasn’t Expecting

Matt Peckham for TIME

Should games be categorized as technology or entertainment? Apple's iOS 9 News app has a surprising answer.

Go look for book, film or music news, and you’ll probably wind up scouring Google’s aggregation tool. There, filed neatly under “Entertainment,” you’ll find stories about George R.R. Martin’s Winds of Winter, the first chapter of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, and teasers for the upcoming Ghostbusters film reboot or the Sherlock TV series’ 2015 Christmas special.

But news about Bethesda’s sprawling new post-apocalyptic roleplaying opus Fallout 4? “Zombies” mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3? The latest scuttlebutt about Nintendo’s upcoming “NX” console? You’ll have to swing over to “Technology.”

Sure, “Entertainment’s” also thronged with gossip about donut-licking pop music idols and tawdry celebrity shenanigans—hardly distinguished company. But the message is implicit: books, movies and music are “Arts,” while games are…something else.

Indeed, games are something else. Print books are migrating to e-readers and films plus music are now artifacts we can summon magically from our phones. But shifts in gaming are comparably tectonic. Game design is fueled by reality control fantasies, and interface recalibration over time is in its DNA. Think arcade cabinets, home computers, devoted consoles and handhelds, and now smartphones and tablets. Think about Nintendo and the Wii. Think about Oculus and its wraparound VR headset. Think about the point at which true virtual reality arrives.

Games are lashed to technological momentum’s mast, in other words, driven as much by revolutions in the semiconductor industry as revelatory design ideas. Books and movies don’t undergo motion control upheavals, or have elaborate Early Access programs whereby players can significantly influence development. Scanning music tracks (play, skip ahead, skip behind) in today’s streaming apps still works basically the same as punching buttons on boomboxes and Sony Walkmans did decades ago. Games, by contrast, occupy the space between those older, staid categories.

Sticking games in “Technology” has consequences. The filter reinforces stereotypes of technology as cold, clinical, sterile—ultimately apart from the artful or sublime. It frustrates gaming’s slouch toward basic validation as a legitimate art form (beyond its ivory tower acolytes).

So it’s with surprise and pleasure that I’m discovering Apple’s new “News” app, found in its just released iOS 9 beta, files game stories under “Entertainment” and not “Technology.” That, given how long games have labored under Google and Yahoo’s domineering framework, feels huge.

Apple News, in case you’re just hearing about it, brings Cupertino’s graceful form-and-function balancing act to story curation on the iPhone and iPad. Launch it, and it’ll ask that you select preferred media outlets before folding your choices into a stream with elegantly feng shui’d headlines and body text. Tap on “Explore,” and you can alternately browse by categories like “Food,” “Politics,” “Science” and so on. It’s all pretty standard fare.

But click “Entertainment,” and you’ll find channels for Vanity Fair, Billboard, Complex, Vulture…and Polygon. The latter is a games-slash-gaming-culture site. In the historical echelons of news curators like Google, Yahoo and now Apple, Polygon’s divorce from “Technology” (the sites stories still appear in the latter category on Google News) is kind of groundbreaking.

That said, the move feels tentative. There’s a “Browse Topics” section below “Browse Channels,” for instance, that includes categories like “Performing arts,” “Books and literature,” and “Pop music,” but nothing generalist for games, say an “Interactive entertainment” search. And Polygon, as far as I can tell, is all there is for game channels at this point. Where’s Kill Screen? Offworld? Quarter to Three?

Assuming Polygon’s filing under “Entertainment” was intentional, my hat’s off to Apple for boldly leading here. I just hope we’re seeing the tip of an iceberg, as opposed to an errant ice cube.

Apple’s iOS 9 is still in beta, of course, so everything could change. Call it a metaphor for where we’re at culturally, weighing gaming as a technology-driven or technology-transcendent medium, and still, clearly, in beta mode.

TIME Video Games

Microsoft’s New Halo 5 App Is Finally on iPhone and Android

343 Industries / Microsoft

The Halo franchise's news and video portal is finally available for iOS and Android devices.

The Halo Channel app is Microsoft’s portal to all things Halo, from news and community activities to video vignettes like The Sprint and The Bulletin. It’s been available since last year, but only on Xbox One, Windows PCs and Windows tablets, which in today’s app-verse means it’s been living on something like a backwater planet.

That changes now: Microsoft just rolled out iOS and Android versions of its Halo-filled portal, and says a Windows Phone version should be available by the time Windows 10 arrives on July 29.

What’s more, if you download the app and watch a video–any will suffice–you’ll unlock a “unique Promotional REQ pack,” which includes an emblem for use in Halo 5: Guardians when the game ships on October 27.

The app’s not showing up in Apple App Store searches yet, so I haven’t been able to fiddle with it, but here’s hoping these new versions fare better than the Xbox One implementation, afflicted with bouts of hair-tearing sluggishness.

TIME Video Games

The New Destiny PlayStation 4 Bundle Is What We Deserved Last Year

Activision

Now that's one gorgeous PlayStation 4

The original Destiny “glacier white” PlayStation 4 bundle was a trifle bland. White in that case indicated “builder white,” or white-white. Actual glaciers are nearer turquoise, like the crystal meth Walter White cooked in Breaking Bad. Imagine how much cooler that would have been!

The new Destiny: The Taken King 500GB PlayStation 4 bundle, just unveiled to celebrate the eponymous third expansion’s release on September 15, is by contrast delightfully ornate. The still-white console (with matching controller) now sports a lovely looking silver etching of the game’s cosmic map, with a large gold Guardian’s crest smack in the middle. And the bundle includes a physical copy of the “legendary edition” of the game, including all expansions through The Taken King, plus several “digital collector’s edition” upgrades (exotic Guardian items, emotes, armor shaders and an early access weapon pack).

In short, it’s the PlayStation 4 whoever’s responsible for pulling the trigger on these things should have green-lit a year ago.

Activision

The Taken King, chock full of new stuff to do (including a brand new campaign), is apparently developer Bungie’s plan to shore up the game’s dearth of content. Not that said dearth has dulled Destiny’s luster. Destiny has done very well for publisher Activision, with around 16 million registered users to date.

And it’s probably done very well for Sony’s PlayStation 4, too, what with Sony shrewdly securing enviable timed-exclusive content from day one. In The Taken King‘s case, that includes: a co-op Strike, a PvP multiplayer map, three legendary gear sets and an exotic scout rifle.

No word on a price yet, but last year’s Destiny PlayStation 4 bundle, which included a standard $60 copy of the original game, went for $450 (a 500GB PlayStation 4 currently goes for $400). The legendary edition of The Taken King runs $60 by its lonesome, while the collector’s edition goes for $80. The “limited” and “ghost” editions of the original game, by contrast, went for $100 and $150 respectively.

Wherever the new bundle’s price lands, you’ll probably need a loan to finance whatever eBay scalpers wind up asking, assuming this thing sells after it rolls out on September 15.

TIME Video Games

Watch the First Trailer for the New Minecraft: Story Mode

The adventure game's all-star cast reunites two former Goonies, among others

When Minecraft developer Mojang weirdly joined hands with Telltale Games to metamorphose the sandbox blockbuster into a choose-your-own-adventure in December 2014, I wasn’t sure what to think. Okay, I suppose “Is nothing sacred?” probably went through my head once or twice. Minecraft is about our stories after all, the ones we make up as we play. Foisting a narrative structure on a sprawling toy box makes as much sense as putting Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgård on a Navy boat fighting aliens and calling it Battleship.

That’s if you’re a cynic, anyway. Better things can and do happen — like The Lego Movie, or most of Telltales Games’ oeuvre to date, notably its takes on The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Back to the Future.

So here’s our first trailer for Minecraft: Story Mode, unveiled this weekend at Minecon in London. Make of it what you will; the voice list’s pretty A-caliber. That’s Patton Oswalt playing Jesse, the game’s de facto blockhead savior, joined by Ashley Johnson (Ellie in The Last of Us). The game also stars Corey Feldman, Dave Fennoy, Martha Plimpton, Scott Porter, Brian Posehn, Paul Reubens and Billy West.

The choice-driven Minecraft yarn will unfurl over five episodes and includes locations familiar to Minecraft buffs, like the Nether, Farlands and the End. The first episode should be out later this year for PC and Mac, current and last-gen consoles (excluding Nintendo), iOS and Android.

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