TIME Viral Videos

Teens React to the Nintendo Entertainment System in Hilarious Video

Starring Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams

Grab your controllers, because the latest installment of The Fine Bros. web series, “Teens React” introduces the raised-on-Wii kids of today what the past generation had to use to play Legend of Zelda.

The games themselves stumped some of the new players. While the tech-savvy teens had all heard of Super Mario Bros., thanks to the fact that it had been released for the Nintendo DS, Dragon Warrior 3 elicited confusion across the board, from “No, but it sounds rad!” to “No, I don’t LARP.”

The players were left to their own devices to figure out how to insert the seemingly giant cartridge into the console, but when trouble struck, the film makers instructed them on the fine art of blowing on the game cartridge. The teens were then allowed to play the first round of Super Mario Bros. and they all struggled to use the controller (“This is the least comfortable controller ever!”) while trying to collect coins and being chased by evil mushrooms (“I literally died the first time”) and gawking at the old-school graphics (“I feel like I’m in Wreck-It Ralph!”)

After getting versed in the history of the NES, the teens did take a moment to offer their respect to the classic console, thanking the little gray box for introducing the world at large to the joys of at-home gaming.

While the teens may have found the exercise slightly humiliating, the more insightful ones knew that it was pure karma. “I always make fun of my dad for not knowing how to use stuff,” noted one dejected teen. “Now he’s going to be watching this.”

MORE: Little By Little, Violent Video Games Make Us More Aggressive

MORE: Watch Kids React in Utter Bemusement at the Sight of an Old Computer

TIME Video Games

Destiny’s Game Servers Are Now Live

The launch servers are go -- a day before the game's formal launch date, as promised.

There’s no embargo on telling you this: Destiny‘s game servers are accessible right now. It happened just a few minutes ago, a trifle earlier than the anticipated 8am ET launch threshold by perhaps five minutes. I’m looking at the “Choose Your Class” profession screen with Titan, Hunter and Warlock emblems as I type this.

Playing Destiny today may prove a little trickier. I only have a copy because Activision sent one over last week (where it lay in a drawer untouched until this morning because the servers were offline). The game technically isn’t available until tomorrow, September 9.

If you bought the digital-only version and preloaded it, Sony and Microsoft have said they won’t unlock access until 3:01am ET tomorrow morning. The only way to play until then is to lay hands on a physical copy, something Bungie’s said it’s leaving up to retailers, who may or may not have copies in hand now.

I’ll be back soon with something to say about the game itself. Activision’s given us permission to say whatever we like, starting now, but Destiny is presumably a prodigious thing, and its worlds won’t really start to sing until tomorrow.

While you’re waiting, if you’re waiting, here’s our 16 Facts to Get You Ready for the Game launch guide, and the official launch trailer.

TIME Video Games

Sexism, Lies and Video Games: The Culture War Nobody Is Winning

Sergio Pecanha color illustration of Sony Playstation vs Nintendo Wii, set up as paddles in a game of Pong.
Dallas Morning News/MCT Graphics/Getty Images

Video games and the way we write and talk about them are growing up. Their old-school fans are kicking and screaming.

The 21st century’s defining medium—video games—is experiencing sharp growing pains. Over the last few weeks, identity tensions have divided fans online in strange, ugly episodes rooted in how writers discuss games and who is allowed to participate. At the root of all this is a fascinating question: Are games technology product, or cultural experience?

In the 1980s, video games were classy distractions: the condition of being installed at an arcade cabinet, chasing a high score, seemed to fit the era’s naive ideas of capitalism-as-culture. In the 1990s, games took on the decade’s rebellious, “edgy” tone, grasping toward the definitions of maturity set by MTV, action flicks and whatever else it took to sell high-end hardware to young men.

By the turn of the millennium, the medium had become America’s favorite scapegoat for moral panic — Luddites worried about games’ increasing realism and the fact that ‘shoot’ seemed to the favored verb of the most popular titles. To hear Fox News tell it, “gamers” were all anti-social escapists living in Mom’s basement, sticky with Mountain Dew, murder fantasies and hyper-realistic sex simulators stripped right off the shelves from in front of children.

Sadly, the broader public image of video games has been slow to improve, thanks largely to the iron fist marketers have maintained over their narrative. The games that have historically enjoyed the biggest budgets and the highest returns are Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo and their ilk. Aimed largely at that young male demographic, your average person on the street probably still imagines that the act of play in the digital world still mostly involves staring down the barrel of a gun.

While as a pastime those projects are slightly juvenile, so are summer superhero blockbusters featuring talking raccoons, and few would begrudge fans those, nor hand-wring about their supposed “effect”. Games’ poor public image has long been a source of discouragement to everyone who creates and plays within a rapidly maturing, surprisingly diverse medium.

The advent of the smartphone means that your average consumer now has access to a platform to play games on. Many of these, like Capy’s Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing or Adam Atomic’s Canabalt, combine simple, friendly mechanics with lovely modern art and stylish music. Tablets and e-readers present enormous opportunities for rich, touchable experiences: Inkle’s 80Days is a lush pop-art interactive experience based on Jules Verne’s world travelers, and Devine Lu Linvega’s dark comic toy Ledoliel lets players enjoy oddly intimate interactions with alien diplomats.

It used to be that to make video games you needed some kind of computer degree and a career track at the sort of game production mega-corporation that would go on to fame for their brutal working practices and high turnover. But even game creation tools are becoming more accessible, welcoming an entirely new community of creators, voices and formats to the fan community.

Amid rising costs and economic constraints, traditional blockbusters and shiny new home consoles face more profitability challenges than they once did — but new digital business models help game companies endure, with the happy side effect that they can build longer-term relationships with fans.

There’s something for everyone in the modern gaming landscape, and the way games journalists parse all this for their readers is beginning to change, too. You’d think this would make people happy, but recently this culture shift would appear to have broken out into full-on culture war online.

Prominent feminist critique — present in every other relevant medium, but new to games — has elicited massive backlash and threats to women working in the field. A female developer who created a text game about depression has been in the midst of weeks of online attacks over a salacious blog post published by a jilted ex who alleges she slept with a game journalist in exchange for a favorable review.

Despite the fact the journalist in question did not ‘review’ the game and wasn’t found to have allocated it any particular special treatment, the misogynistic “scandal” — and fans’ fear of women “censoring” their medium by seeking more positive and diverse portrayals — has launched an ‘ethical inquiry’ by fans campaigning to unearth evidence of corruption and collusion among people who they feel are too close to the games and developers they write about.

Their inquiry, passed around Twitter under the deeply sincere hashtag “#GamerGate”, alleges that writing op-eds about colleagues and peers is unethical, that a list of people who attended an academic conference together is proof of a conspiracy, and that any critic who pursues creators and projects that interest them is cynically promoting their friends. Some of them admit they’re afraid that “social justice warriors” will ruin video games.

Others still seem alarmed to see the games writing community so defensive about the inquest — unaware that writers on games have endured the frustration of labor within a product-driven system for years, and that subjectivity is their solution, something L. Rhodes aimed to explain to petitioners who don’t seem to realize that the “standards” they expect are somewhat at odds with the actual environment they wish for.

To the outside world it must look silly. Surely these campaigners understand that no meaningful reporting on anything takes place without the trust—and often friendship—of people on the inside. Stranger still is that beyond the fact this all looks suspiciously like an excuse to hound women’s voices out of the growing game industry, fans are calling for a wholly “objective”, product-oriented approach to a medium that’s clearly shifted into the domain of meaningful, subjective experiences and as such requires the addition of cultural critique, not solely “reporting” as the tech industry understands it.

Previous modes of writing on games generally involved “scoring” them, applying a supposedly neutral quality rating. Often these scores were handed down by magazines who’d received ad revenue from the very companies whose products they claimed to be neutrally evaluating, and those companies could (and did) threaten to pull advertising, or access to press events and review materials, if they didn’t like the score they got.

Happily, modern games have far fewer barriers. Independent writers frequently publish personal pieces about the indie games that have inspired them—there’s very little money to be made in either writing about or creating these things, which is liberating for people who’ve always wanted to approach games as objects of human, rather than corporate interest. Dialogue about games is more frequently considered by mainstream publications, and all this accessibility and diversity allows curators of game culture far more latitude to shape conversation about an exciting medium that’s finally blowing off the must and dust of a prior age.

It’s odd to see how firmly internet fans resist this, how infuriated they are that they may no longer be a defined “demographic” who must be catered to explicitly, that they are participants in a variegated culture instead of strictly delineated recipients of a “product or service.” Their response is to feel their very identity is under threat (and to levy Martin Luther King quotes, even).

The bizarre conspiracy theories circulating online (I occasionally consult on game designs and disclose those relationships, but there is an image circulating which inaccurately claims that I run a ‘PR firm’ where people pay me to cover things) feel something like a video game in and of itself. The GamerGate crusaders leap to employ legal terminology like fancy weapons they are clearly confused about how to wield. To them, this revolution of new voices, new platforms and new players appears to feel like the same sort of persecution games once experienced at the hands of Fox News and anti-violent game crusaders — it’s unfortunate their behavior has been so often in-step with those negative stereotypes of late.

One has to wonder if this is down to game fans being systems thinkers, who see the world as an ecosystem of curiosities to discover and solve. Everyone wants to feel they’re part of something bigger, after all, that they might be a hero of an underground society that no one else knows about. And Twitter exposes us all to the vocabulary of extremes, an intense world where even minorities can feel very loud (a good thing for #Ferguson, not so for video games).

As video games unshackle from old constraints, traditional fans double down on keeping the treehouse sacrosanct. The tension between “games as product” and “games as culture” is visible within these online controversies as everyone invested in the industry watches to see which will “win”. Someone should tell the internet conspiracy theorists they can relax — we’ll absolutely, definitely have both.

Leigh Alexander writes about the art, business and culture of games. She is editor at large of industry site Gamasutra, a columnist at Vice UK, and has contributed to major specialist press outlets like Kotaku, Edge and Polygon. Her work has appeared at Boing Boing, Slate, The Atlantic, The New Statesman, the Guardian and the Columbia Journalism Review, and she is the author of two ebooks, Breathing Machine and Clipping Through, about technology and identity.

TIME Video Games

See How Kevin Spacey Helped Rewrite Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Kevin Spacey was Sledgehammer Games' pick to play PMC autocrat Jonathan Irons, but the House of Cards actor helped the studio retool the character's story, too.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is Kevin Spacey’s first video game, though not the first time he’s played an imperious political-minded villain with designs on power that radically impact American democracy (as far as we can tell from the game’s trailers, anyway).

Spacey’s involvement with the game wasn’t an afterthought: Sledgehammer Games co-founders Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey had him in mind for the role of private military company lead Jonathan Irons before he’d so much as heard of the project.

In the game, Irons leads Atlas, the world’s most powerful PMC by the mid-21st-century. After a global terrorist attack cripples the world’s nations, Irons sours on the U.S.’s ability to promulgate democracy, and, Caesar-like, takes matters into his own hands. You play as Jack Mitchell, an ex-Marine working for Atlas, eventually (we’re assuming) having to grapple with the implications of Irons’ turn toward despotism.

In TIME’s video interview with Sledgehammers’ Schofield and Condrey (above), the studio heads explain how Spacey became much more than just their dream pick to play Irons, and how he helped them retool the character to “really [elevate] the story.”

TIME Video Games

Watch Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s Weapons Compared With Today’s

Sledgehammer Games' upcoming take on Activision's bestselling military-themed shooter franchise isn't science fiction, say its creators.

Swarms of insectile drones swirling like a black river through the sky. Soldiers who can leap dozens of feet in the air and thunder down unharmed. Lobbed grenades that pause at the apex of their arcs like giant hornets before diving to discharge their deadly payloads.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare looks like a blockbuster science fiction movie–Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers without the aliens–but its creators say the game’s pedigree is grounded decidedly in science fact.

Call it speculative fiction then, a semantic distinction that writers like Margaret Atwood find helpful to distinguish between improbable tales of galaxy-gallivanting starships or time-traveling police boxes, and other more speculative stories, parables or potboilers that deal with near-future scenarios extrapolated from existing cultural or technological developments.

That’s not Lost‘s smoke monster you’re seeing in one of the more arresting video touts for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare; it’s weaponry “based on designs that we can see or know is going to happen very shortly,” says Sledgehammer Games’ CEO Glen Schofield.

TIME spoke with Schofield and studio co-founder Michael Condrey recently about the technology employed in the studio’s upcoming military-themed shooter. See for yourself in the video interview above just how close we are today to the sort of tricked-out weaponry you’ll get to play with when the game ships for PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles on November 4.

TIME Video Games

Xbox One to Launch in 29 New Markets: Why It Matters

Until now, the Xbox One has been available in a fraction as many markets as Sony's PlayStation 4.

Today, Microsoft’s Xbox One lives in 13 markets worldwide, whereas you can officially buy Sony’s PlayStation 4 in 72.

That’s neither as vast a difference as simple subtraction makes it look, nor one as trivial as some seem to believe. It’s also a divide that’s about to get significantly smaller for the first time since the Xbox One debuted a little over nine months ago.

Xbox group honcho Phil Spencer said in an Xbox Wire brief that Microsoft will bring the Xbox One to 28 new countries (totaling 29 markets: Taiwan’s on the list) in September, with a 29th country — Argentina — in the offing near-term. When September goes, that’ll bring the Xbox One’s tally to 41 countries.

Sony moved much faster than Microsoft off both consoles’ November 2013 launches, deploying PlayStation 4s across the planet starting in Canada and the U.S. on November 15, then sweeping through Europe, the U.K., Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Central America, South America, the Middle East, South Africa, several Asian countries and Japan by February 2014. Microsoft’s 13, by contrast, include the U.S. and Canada, the U.K., a smattering of European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain), Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Brazil.

The PlayStation 4 lays claim to over 10 million units sold worldwide, according to Sony. When last we heard from Microsoft way back in April, the Xbox One had shipped (as opposed to sold) 5 million units worldwide, the latter still a perfectly respectable figure: significantly higher than Xbox 360 sales for the same period, and contrasted against a runaway-popular system even Sony admits is selling way above its own wildest best-case estimates.

Since then, Microsoft has said Xbox One sales “doubled” off the console’s $100 price drop in early June, but we’re still in the dark on units shipped worldwide, suggesting Microsoft is unhappy enough with the Xbox One’s sales performance to play dumb (remember when it couldn’t help but brag monthly and precisely for years about Xbox 360 sales?), making direct sales comparisons impossible.

A word about unit sales comparisons, for those who find them tedious or silly: Console sales matter for the same reasons anything to do with volume matters in a market economy. Publishers and studios, indie to mega-corporate, are each and every one gambling with demographics each time they heap piles of cash into whatever company’s developmental framework. What we’re able to play and where thus depends heavily, if not exclusively, on publisher-studio projections about platform adoption and investment return.

The sales-crippled Wii U’s dearth of third-party games exemplifies what happens when you have a perfectly interesting and logistically competent piece of technology, but can’t secure publisher commitments to assure potential buyers they’ll be able to play multi-platform, mega-popular games like Tomb Raider, Borderlands 2, Grand Theft Auto V and the latest Battlefield or Call of Duty. Contrast with the inverse content deluge for the Wii during its halcyon years (and it had plenty of those before it fizzled), a system significantly less powerful than either the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, putting the lie to arguments that these things boil down to raw calculative potential.

The Xbox One’s 29-market expansion stands to shore up at least some of Microsoft’s sales disparity with Sony, putting Microsoft’s console in two more South American countries, Chile and Columbia (September 2), Japan (September 4), a slew of European and Middle Eastern countries (September 5), Israel (September 15), several Asian countries, China and South Africa (September 23), and Russia (September 26). The console will still be short of Sony’s total by several dozen markets, but for the first time in its lifecycle, it’ll be in places the PlayStation 4 isn’t yet, specifically Israel and China.

Israel accounts for a fraction of global gaming revenue (crazily, the Xbox 360, which launched worldwide in 2005, debuted in Israel just two years ago). But China is a behemoth, currently on the verge of surpassing the U.S. as the greatest source of annual gaming revenue in the world, according to a report published by researcher Newzoo in early June.

Predicting precisely how much money one new market or another’s going to add to Microsoft’s coffers is a fool’s errand, of course. Unless you’re pouring buckets of cash into statistical models fueled by troves of sufficiently accurate longitudinal per-market data, you might as well pull out a bow and lob arrows at the moon. Even the public version of Newzoo’s report is problematically diffuse for predictive purposes: a macro-level aggregation of game revenue that pulls everything into all-encompassing figures, without differentiation between platforms.

Newzoo says its figures tap “consumer revenues generated by companies in the global games industry and excludes hardware sales, tax, business-to-business services and online gambling and betting revenues.” So at least we’re not muddying the waters with online gambling and betting, which by itself has been estimated to draw in the tens of billions revenue-wise annually. But Newzoo’s figures also exclude “hardware sales,” thus physical platforms — including video game consoles — are off the books. We’re left with a general sense of overall game activity in these countries.

Considering other sources narrows the focus slightly: According to this GameSummit infographic culled from a global gaming report by research firm IDATE, in 2013 console sales, North America accounted for about 10 million units; Europe, the Middle East and Africa accounted for between 8 and 9 million units; the Asia-Pacific region tallied between 4 and 5 million units; and Latin America was somewhere between 1 and 2 million units.

Of all the Xbox One’s new markets, China’s is the most intriguing, mostly because it’s terra incognito, console-wise. China banned foreign console sales 14 years ago, claiming (ridiculously) that they were impacting the mental health of players (it lifted the ban in January). And so today, PC and mobile games are dominant in the country. Game consoles have been available through China’s gray market, but we don’t know what that slice of the pie amounts to, nor where demand for consoles versus PC games and mobile games is today, nor what impact the gray market may (or may not) have rolling forward with regard to demand for state-legitimized systems.

Price sounds like it’ll be a factor in the latter case, because what Microsoft’s asking for the Xbox One without Kinect in China sounds exorbitant: 3,699 yuan, or just over $600 (the Kinect-less Xbox One currently goes for $400 in the U.S.), though some of that’s down to China’s 17% tax on imported goods. But it stands to reason — given estimates that the average annual Chinese private-sector worker salary amounts to 28,752 yuan a year (about $4,682) — that a lot of would-be Chinese Xbox One buyers are going to balk, even with Microsoft’s pledge to sell games for less, from 99 yuan to 249 yuan ($16 to $41).

According to an online poll of more than 5,000 respondents conducted by Chinese news site Sina Tech (via Wall Street Journal) at the end of July, 59% said they wouldn’t buy a Chinese Xbox One, while just 22% indicated they would. If you’re making just 28,752 a yuan a year, would you spend roughly 13% of your annual take-home on a game system? If you could buy the same system for significantly less through back channels?

Sony plans to sell the PlayStation 4 in China as well, and announced a manufacturing partnership with a Shanghai-based company to do so back in May. But as of today, we have no idea when the console will launch, or where it’ll clock in price-wise.

The other market of interest is Japan, which has roughly one-third the population of the U.S., but relatively high per-capita console sales. Historically, Microsoft’s Xbox consoles have fared very poorly in Japan: a mere 1.6 million, compared with over 10 million PlayStation 3 units (and surpassed last February by Nintendo’s Wii U). The original Xbox, launched in 2001, couldn’t even muster half a million.

At least the Japan launch price for the Kinect-free Xbox One isn’t out of the ballpark: 39,980 yen, or about $381. That, and Sony’s had a tough time moving PS4s in Japan, totaling (as of mid-July) about 620,000 units since the console’s February launch. Sony chalks that up to poor Japanese developer support pre-launch (no one expected the PS4 to be so successful, says Sony, which actually sounds plausible given Sony’s own sales underestimates).

Assuming Sony’s claims are correct, the corollary, of course, is: Does Microsoft have Japanese developers lined up for the Xbox One? The company wants us to think so. In April it laid out 48 “regional” companies signed up to develop for the system (“regional” meaning a mix of native Japanese as well as Western developers with Japanese branches), then expanded that list by several dozen in June. But the 29 launch titles are decidedly Western-biased (Polygon has the full list here), and it’s hard to see any of those games — many of them already availably on the PS4 in the country — driving the system to stratospheric heights.

Microsoft’s greatest challenge selling Xbox Ones at this point is psychological. There’s the narrative about the Xbox One’s horsepower, given its inability early on to match the PS4’s output in multi-platform games pixel for pixel. There are presumptions about the console’s lackluster unit sales (fueled by Microsoft’s sudden reluctance to provide specifics). There’s the confusing Kinect-as-initially-pivotal-but-now-peripheral boondoggle, the system’s imposing physical footprint (it’s ginormous compared to the PS4, as big as an old-school desktop computer), and there’s the lingering miasma from a cavalcade of walked-back “features,” ranging from hypothetically intrusive Kinect-related activities to truly awkward, customer-unfriendly DRM policies.

At least two of those issues are behind the system at this point. The Xbox One has been at price parity with Sony’s PS4 since June, and the removal of Kinect ostensibly freed up horsepower to help developers wring a little more from the system. But the system’s biggest hurdle at this point is perceived momentum. And while the mainstream’s going to focus (not wrongly) on the system-sales-bolstering impact of exclusives like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Forza Horizon 2 and maybe (make that an emphatic maybe) Sunset Overdrive in all the established markets this fall, it’ll be interesting to see the launch returns in the coming months.

Some of these new markets have enormous sales potential. The question is whether Microsoft in 2014 has the marketing savvy and catalog appeal to drive those sales home.

TIME Video Games

Destiny Launch Guide: 16 Facts to Get You Ready for the Game


If Bungie’s Destiny demos and beta are representative of the final game, then Halo may have spawned a new sub-genre. Call it “Halo-like.”

And Destiny seems like a card-carrying subscriber. A few months ago at E3 when I asked Bungie COO Pete Parsons why Destiny felt so much like playing Halo, I expected him to challenge the premise. Instead, he surprised me by embracing it.

While Destiny is clearly its own game with divergent gameplay ideas, Parsons spoke of a Bungie DNA that flows through all of its games (back to the company’s Mac-exclusive Marathon days, in fact). If you played the Destiny beta and you’re familiar with Halo‘s conventions, those strands — coiling through the game’s control scheme and user interface — are pretty much unmissable.

So is the game itself, if you’re paying even casual attention to the mega-marketing campaign. Over the weekend, running FXX’s The Simpsons as background noise in a vacation hotel room, the lofty-sounding Destiny trailer seemed to crop up every other commercial break. Publisher Activision, doubtless hoping Destiny has even longer legs than Halo, is clearly sparing the game no expense.

Here’s a rundown of everything (salient) that we know about the game in the run-up to its worldwide launch next week.

What is Destiny?

For the uninitiated: a first-person shooter that’s neither a single-player adventure nor a massively multiplayer online game, though it combines elements of both.

Imagine, to use Bungie’s terminology, a science fiction universe that’s “alive,” and which you can access while playing alone or with drop-in multiplayer companions. By “alive,” Bungie intends the game to be open-ended enough that unplanned events may occur, though whether that means the final version apes Guild Wars 2‘s player-driven events model, or something we’ve not yet seen, is still unclear.

Plot-wise, the game takes place several hundred years from now in a post-utopian period, after an event that leads to the near-extinction of humanity. You play as one of an elite group of “Guardians,” a band of super-soldier warriors, defending humanity from various hostile alien races.

When will it be available?

September 9 for PlayStation 3 and 4 as well as the Xbox One and Xbox 360.

Is there a launch trailer?

Of course:

There’s also a competitive multiplayer trailer, an “E3 Gameplay Experience” trailer and a bunch of locale-specific trailers that highlight the game’s various planetary battlegrounds.

How many versions are there?

The standard version is $60, whether you’re grabbing the retail or digital version, though GameStop’s offering in-game exclusives like an upgrade for the Sparrow (think Return of the Jedi‘s speeder bikes) if you order through them. And if you preorder the standard retail edition (by 2:00 p.m. PT on September 5) through the Microsoft Store, Microsoft will send along a $10 Xbox gift card and ensure your copy arrives by September 9.

Let’s step through the special editions, from most expensive to least.

  • If you’re in the market for a PlayStation 4, Sony’s selling a white PS4 bundled with the game and various PlayStation-exclusive in-game bonuses for $450.
  • On the retail side, Microsoft’s selling a Destiny “Ghost Edition” with the usual trinkets and geegaws for $150.
  • The “Limited Edition” for both the PS4 and Xbox One as well as the Xbox 360 (but not the PS3) includes upgraded packaging, a guide, a star chart and a few in-game items for $100.
  • On the digital end, the “Guardian Edition” for both PS4 and Xbox One as well as PS3 (but not the Xbox 360) includes a slew of in-game starter content.

The special editions each include the “Destiny Expansion Pass,” which goes for $35 by itself and unlocks “new story missions, cooperative and competitive multiplayer arenas, and a wealth of all new weapons, armor, and gear to earn,” as well as the game’s first two expansion packs: “Destiny Expansion I: The Dark Below” and “Destiny Expansion II: House of Wolves.”

What’s this I’ve seen about mobile versions?

Bungie’s released free companion apps for iOS and Android that let you keep tabs on your Guardian, analyze your stats, compare your scores and access the game’s forums.

Will the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions both run at 1080p?

Yes. The beta Xbox One version ran at a slightly lower resolution, but the ship-time PS4 and Xbox One versions will share the same 1920-by-1080 resolution. (If you want to quibble over subtle differences in frame rates or screen tearing or rendering techniques, you’ll have to wait for the inexorable Digital Foundry breakdown.)

Are the PlayStation versions really getting exclusive content?

Yes: a cooperative mission, a multiplayer map, class-specific gear, two weapons and three ships. You’ll find all the details here.

Can I preload the game?

If you buy the digital version, yes. The game is available for preload on PlayStation and Xbox stores now. If you preload, you’ll be able to play as soon as the servers go live on September 9.

When specifically on September 9 do the servers go live?

This one’s a little confusing. Here’s Bungie’s official word on the matter via Twitter:

Assuming no launch snafus (and to be fair, that’s a bold assumption), the game’s servers should be accessible in the United States as early as 8 a.m. ET on September 8. That’s no typo: according to that tweet, Destiny, according to the temporal logistics of the International Date Line (which passes through the Pacific Ocean), should be playable in the U.S. by early Monday, September 8.

That’s assuming you have a playable copy of the game, of course. It sounds like you’ll need a retail copy for the privilege: Both Sony and Microsoft list their respective digital versions of Destiny as being playable “starting midnight PST,” or at 3:01 a.m. ET on September 9.

How do you secure a retail copy prior to your local retailer’s midnight launch party on September 9 (in whatever time zone you live)? You’ll have to make your own inquiries: As Bungie says, it’s “between you and your retailer.”

How much disk space will Destiny take up?

The digital versions for PS4 and Xbox One list the game’s footprint as 18.6GB and 18GB, respectively, but that’s just the preload size. After unpacking and the game pulling down any additional launch timeframe data, the game’s footprint will be much larger.

On Sony’s official storefront for the game, it writes “40 GB hard drive storage (or its equivalent) is required.” That’s apparently the case for the Xbox One version, too, assuming this photo of the game’s retail packaging is authentic.

Will the PlayStation and Xbox versions be cross-platform playable?

Nope, nor will PS3 players be able to play with PS4 ones, or Xbox One players with Xbox 360 ones. Each platform is a universe unto itself.

Do I have to pay a monthly fee?

Not to Bungie, no, but after you’ve purchased the game, it requires Xbox Live ($60 a year) to play either of the Xbox versions. And while you can play parts of the PlayStation versions without a $50 PlayStation Plus subscription, the latter is required for “some activities” (certain game modes, though it’s not clear at this point which ones).

Can I play it offline?

No. While Destiny includes the option to play solo, it requires an Internet connection.

What about local split-screen?

I get this question from a surprising number of people about all sorts of online games: but no, alas, local split-screen isn’t supported.

Will there be a PC version?

Bungie co-founder Jason Jones may or may not have said no way back in early 2013, but design lead Lars Bakken told Eurogamer earlier this year that designing a PC version would be “pretty complicated,” but that it “doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future, it just means it won’t happen right now.”

So not yet, but maybe.

Is there anything else I should know?

Bungie just announced something called “Destiny Planet View,” which uses Google technology to let you poke around the game-verse’s versions of Mars, Venus and the Moon right now.

Says Bungie:

While the experience only reveals a small slice of Destiny’s massive worlds, users will be able to step through each area and discover useful lore, gameplay tips and even a few hidden real-world and in-game incentives along the way.

And here’s the “Destiny Planet View” trailer:

TIME Video Games

Firewatch Is One of the Most Gorgeous Games You’ll See All Year

Looks like 2015 can't come around fast enough

Firewatch, the first, much-anticipated game from Camp Santo, unveiled its first trailer this week. The video the plight of the game’s main character as well as his companion, a voice on the distant end of a radio. Campo Santo is a new studio that includes designers Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, both of Telltale Games’ acclaimed Walking Dead series. The group also includes Nels Anderson who worked on Mark of the Ninja and graphic designer Olly Moss. The game is planned for release on Linux, Mac and Windows sometime in 2015. You can watch the entire trailer here, or check out some of the most beautiful bits below.

[Campo Santo]

Campo Santo Productions
Campo Santo Productions
Campo Santo Productions
Campo Santo Productions
Campo Santo Productions
TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 29

1. We must confront the vast gulf between white and black America if we want to secure racial justice after Ferguson.

By the Editors of the Nation

2. As ISIS recruits more western acolytes, it’s clear military might alone can’t defeat it. We must overcome radical Islam on the battleground of ideas.

By Maajid Nawaz in the Catholic Herald

3. Kids spend hours playing the game Minecraft. Now they can learn to code while doing it.

By Klint Finley in Wired

4. One powerful way to raise the quality of America’s workforce: Make community colleges free.

By the Editors of Scientific American

5. Restrictions on where sex offenders can live after prison is pure politics. They do nothing to prevent future offenses.

By Jesse Singal in New York Magazine’s Science of Us

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Video Games

The Head of the Company Behind Angry Birds Is Flying the Coop

Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images A visitor walks through Shanghai's first Angry Birds Activity Park at Tongji University in Shanghai on October 31, 2012.

The CEO of Rovio, the video game developer behind the mobile megahit Angry Birds, will step down at the end of the year, the company announced Friday. Mikael Hed, who has led the Finland-based Rovio since Angry Birds first hooked millions of smartphone users in 2009, will hand the reins over to Pekka Rantala, currently the CEO of Finnish beverage maker Hartwall.

Rantala will take over a company in the midst of a tough transition in the mobile environment: Freemium games like Candy Crush Saga, wherein users are pushed to make lots of in-game purchases, have come to dominate the mobile landscape, and Rovio has yet to develop another hit with anything close to the impact of Angry Birds. The company’s profit dipped by more than 50% last year to around $35 million, and its overall revenue in 2013 increased only slightly from the previous year, to around $206 million. About half the company’s revenue now comes from merchandise licensing rather than games.

Despite its challenges, Rovio is continuing to get a lot of mileage out of the Angry Birds brand. The games in the series have racked up more than 2 billion downloads collectively, and the characters are featured in a currently-running animated series and a feature film planned for a 2016 release.

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