TIME Gadgets

The Best Small Android Tablet

The Nvidia Shield has a beautiful display, blistering performance, a light, comfortable and good-looking design and a clean interface, making it the best small-screen Android tablet.

Nvidia ShieldShopping for a smaller tablet can be daunting, thanks to the sea of 7- to 8-inch Android devices available. It would be simple if most of the low-cost models were easily dismissed, but Android tablets are getting lighter, slimmer, faster and more powerful while simultaneously getting less expensive.

To find the very best tablets, I looked for four key elements: a bright, vivid, pixel-dense display that looks great at any angle; a lightweight design that’s comfortable to hold in one hand for long stretches; a powerful CPU coupled with a good amount of RAM for smooth, speedy multitasking; and an interface that’s easy to understand and navigate even if you’re not tech-savvy. Price was also a consideration — a great small tablet shouldn’t break the bank.

That narrowed the field down to three standout tablets: the Asus Memo Pad 8 ($129 on Amazon), the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 ($389 on Amazon) and the Nvidia SHIELD Tablet ($299 on Amazon). In the end, the Shield Tablet is my ultimate pick for best small tablet based on its balance of price point and feature set.

Made for Gamers, Great for Everyone

Nvidia designed the Shield Tablet primarily for gamers, so its long list of impressive features includes things like superfast gaming performance and the ability to wirelessly stream PC games from the computer to the tablet. The same elements that make this a great gaming tablet make it a great all-around tablet as well.

The Tegra K1 processor inside isn’t just quad-core; like most tablets, it has 192 graphics cores. That translates into a smooth experience no matter which app or game you’re running, and it ensures the tablet will be able to keep up with Android apps well into the future as they grow more complex and resource-hungry.

The Shield Tablet’s 8-inch, 1920 x 1200 resolution display creates deep colors and crisp details that don’t wash out or distort when you hold the tablet at an angle. Whether you use the Shield to read an e-book or a web page, its high pixel density means that small fonts stay sharp.

The Shield’s display doesn’t pop as much as the display on the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (2560 x 1600 Super AMOLED), and if you look closely, the difference in resolution is noticeable. If you want the very best display, the Tab S has it. But side by side, the Shield Tablet stands up quite well to this competition — especially impressive since it costs about $100 less.

Another notable difference between the two tablets is weight. The Tab S 8.4 is incredibly thin and light for its size, weighing 10.4 ounces versus the Shield’s 13.7 ounces. The Shield is still light enough to hold with one hand during long reading sessions or with two for longer gaming sessions without making your wrists ache.

Bonus: Stylus

On top of its sweet gaming features, the Shield Tablet offers one more extra that makes it enticing: a stylus. Just like the stylus for Nvidia’s last tablet, the Tegra Note 2, the Shield’s stylus is a step above the kind of capacitive styluses that work on any tablet, but it’s not the same technology used in active digitizer pens like those with the Galaxy Note series. Active pens are more desirable because they’re accurate and precise, making it easy to reject input from a palm or finger. They achieve this through wireless communication between the pen and the display, which makes the tablets more expensive.

Coupled with the processing power of the Tegra K1, the Nvidia DirectStylus 2 software emulates this functionality in the Shield’s pen, even though it’s not an active digitizer. You still get a very thin, precise tip, and there’s even some pressure sensitivity and (even more impressive) palm rejection — all without expensive hardware.

Nvidia has included a handful of note-taking and writing apps that take advantage of the pen, including Evernote, Write and a handwriting recognition keyboard. The company also developed a neat drawing app called Dabbler that emulates several different types of drawing and painting environments, including wet watercolors.

Outside of last year’s Galaxy Note 8, this is the best stylus experience available in the 8-inch tablet range.

Android and Interface

Most popular Android tablets come with an interface skin over the base operating system that changes the look and some of the functionality of the operating system. Google Nexus tablets and, now, the Shield tablet are major exceptions to this rule. Although Nvidia did a ton of work on the back end to give the tablet some gaming chops, the company didn’t mess much with how Android 4.4 KitKat operates, preserving the stock look and feel.

I’ve praised well-designed skins on tablets from Samsung, ASUS and other companies in previous reviews, and in truth, I prefer them since they smooth over some of Android’s rough edges and make executing some actions more efficient. However, KitKat is Google’s most polished version of Android to date, and if you prefer to take customization into your own hands, the Shield Tablet offers the same blank canvas that Nexus devices do.

You’ll find a few Shield-specific tweaks, such as the Shield Hub interface/menu for easy navigation while connected to a TV and using the game controller. (More on this later.) There’s also Console Mode for streaming full HD video or games to an HDTV. Otherwise, it’s Android business as usual.

Media

The same hardware that makes the Shield Tablet a gaming beast also makes it a great little machine for watching video, showing off pictures and listening to music. Between the beautiful display and the high-end graphics, you’ll enjoy smooth playback of full HD and 4K movies from the device or via streaming. The latter is possible thanks to a dual-band, 2×2 MIMO wireless antenna that connects to the strongest signal available to receive and send data at super-fast speeds.

The Shield sports a pair of speakers on the front, flanking the display. It’s no surprise, then, that the Shield’s audio quality is well above average — and not just because the sound blasts directly toward you. The sound quality is the best I’ve heard on a tablet, well rounded in the mid-range with actual bass. It bests the Galaxy Tab S 8.4’s sound without trying (although it doesn’t take much to earn that distinction, since most tablet speakers aren’t great). Still, it’s still a nice touch that means that you won’t need headphones to get a good audio experience.

Aside from Shield-optimized games in the Shield Hub, you won’t get any special or exclusive content sources beyond what you can find in the Google Play store.

Cameras

The Shield is singular in that it has 5-megapixel cameras on the back and the front. Both take above-average pictures for tablet cameras and are supported by a robust camera app that makes it possible to tweak settings for better images. The high-quality front camera is a bonus not only for people who love selfies but anyone who likes to video chat.

Gaming

nvidia-shield-controller
Nvidia

As I said at the start, you don’t need to be a gamer to appreciate all the great things about the Shield Tablet. But since it is designed for gamers, you’ll appreciate several features and accessories that only add to this device’s value.

First and foremost is the optional game controller ($60 at Amazon), designed to be just as comfortable and robust as an Xbox or PS4 controller. It communicates with the tablet wirelessly over Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth, managing lag so minuscule you’ll never notice it when playing. All of the games available via Nvidia’s Hub work with the controller out of the virtual box; for others, a mapping app lets you use it with almost any game.

The most impressive software feature is GameStream, a technology that makes it possible to play the high-end games stored on your PC using the tablet. Currently, GameStream only works when the computer and tablet are on the same wireless network — so just in the home — and with specific hardware on the PC side (not to mention some suggested routers). That said, being able to play a game meant for a computer on a tablet is really cool. And when you’re in console mode and connected via HDMI, you can play those same games on a big-screen HDTV without having to move the computer away from your desk.

Gamers love sharing gameplay with friends (bragging rights are important), so Nvidia has built in a sharing option that allows you to record game play for sharing or streaming to gaming video site Twitch.

The only drawback for gamers is that the $299 model only includes 16GB of internal storage. There’s a microSD card slot to hold media and some app data; however, this version of Android severely restricts moving and running apps from SD cards.

Games tend to take up more space than other apps, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on available space.

A 32GB model is available, although it comes with an additional element: LTE. The extra storage and antenna make for a $100 price bump.

Good Reviews Across the Board

At release, the Shield impressed pretty much every reviewer who got their hands on one.

PCMag praised it as “one of the most powerful mobile devices available right now,” calling Nvidia’s success at fitting so much power and flexibility into an 8-inch tablet “genuinely impressive.”

CNET sums it up nicely: “Even if you don’t take advantage of its gaming prowess, the Nvidia Shield Tablet is one of the most versatile — and affordable — high-performance 8-inch Android slates you can buy.”

The Best Small Tablet: Nvidia Shield Tablet

The Shield Tablet has all the elements of a great tablet: a beautiful display, blistering performance, a light, comfortable and good-looking design and a clean interface. It adds some sweet gaming features and a surprisingly excellent stylus on top of that, all for the relatively low price of $299.

Even if you don’t care about gaming, this tablet’s closest competition is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, which costs almost $100 more. While the Galaxy Tab does have a lighter design and a brilliant display, the Shield is more than competitive on both fronts. That’s why it’s my top pick.

Runner-up: ASUS Memo Pad 8

Asus Memo Pad 8The $129 ASUS Memo Pad 8 is the tablet you want if you’re looking for something under $200. It used to be that tablets in this price range were either very limited in functionality or poorly built. That’s no longer true, and the Memo Pad line in particular has exemplified how low cost can be done right.

The 8-inch IPS display has a relatively low resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, but the quality of the screen itself is quite good. No matter what angle you hold it at, the vivid colors stay true and don’t wash out or distort. The screen gets pretty bright too, although it’s a bit reflective even at 100 percent brightness.

The Memo Pad is lightweight yet feels well-built and sturdy, not cheap. It runs on a quad-core Intel Atom processor, a decently powerful and speedy CPU for an Android 4.4 device, able to handle any basic app with ease. However, the Memo Pad’s relatively small amount of RAM (1GB) means that resource-hungry apps may choke. If your needs are simple — email, browsing, a few casual games — then you won’t have problems.

Asus has created a custom UI skin to go over Android called ZenUI. While it does add some functionality and change up the operating system’s menus a bit, this skin is mostly a light touch.

The closest competition in this price range is the Amazon Fire 6 ($99 on Amazon) and Fire 7 ($139 on Amazon) as well as the ASUS Memo Pad 7 ($125 on Amazon), the 7-inch version.

The Fire 6 is the most tempting of the bunch due to its $99 price. However, Amazon’s newest tablets continue to suffer the same challenge as always: a limited Android experience. With the Fire, you can only run apps from Amazon’s store. The company has a vast library, but it’s not as deep as Google Play.

The 7-inch Memo Pad is almost identical to the larger version both inside and out, and it’s the next generation of the very impressive Memo Pad HD 7 from last year.

Unfortunately, this year’s model doesn’t have as nice a display or as good a set of cameras. Unless you really want a 7-inch tablet instead of an 8-inch one, the larger version is worth the extra money.

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Video Games

World of Warcraft Enjoys Over Half a Million Subscriber Bounce

Blizzard's indefatigable fantasy MMO picks up players as both its 10th anniversary and next expansion loom.

World of Warcraft‘s next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, trundles onstage November 13. And so Blizzard’s tireless fantasy MMO, slow-bleeding subscriptions for years, is experiencing a kind of bounce — to the tune of about 600,000 subscriptions. The new worldwide subscriber tally: in the vicinity of 7.4 million.

Blizzard hasn’t announced or confirmed the 600,000 figure; it’s the implicit takeaway subtracting one press release from another.

In early August, Activision Blizzard revealed World of Warcraft‘s subscription base had fallen to 6.8 million, down 800,000 from the prior quarter, when it stood at 7.6 million. The last time the game’s base was that low, the housing bubble hadn’t popped, The Sopranos was still on the air and the Governator was only midway through his California reign.

Yesterday, Blizzard slipped the 7.4 million figure into a press release about a Warlords of Draenor prelaunch patch. That number is current as of September 30, 2014.

At its height, World of Warcraft commanded 12 million subscribers. That was October 2010. Someone’s been plotting all these press release points on a Statista chart if you want to see the broad sweeps. The actual chart probably looks more like one of those chaotically scribbled volume-trading maps, with subscriber activity trending gradually down, marked by periods of noisy, frenetic re-acclimation.

A subscription surge was inevitable. It’s happened every time the company releases an expansion. Warlords of Draenor, which follows Mists of Pandaria‘s release two years ago, is Blizzard’s fifth expansion for the game. Its raises the level cap from 90 to 100, shines up the graphics, plugs in the customary new dungeons and raids, and for its new feature trick, gloms on user-created garrisons whereby players can recruit in-game characters to automate loot-gathering busywork.

World of Warcraft celebrates its 10th anniversary on November 23 (brace for the glut of press paeans). It’s one of the longest-running MMOs of all time, and it’s the most broadly played subscription-based MMO by any measure. Plenty of MMOs have lived longer–I believe Furcadia, which launched in 1996, currently holds the record–but the nearest rivals (like EVE Online, which launched in 2003) have only fractional populations.

TIME Video Games

Video Game Feminist Cancels School Speech Amid Shooting Threat

Anita Sarkeesian pulled out of and event at Utah State after a mass shooting threat

A feminist speaker well known for her videos criticizing the role of female characters in video games canceled a Wednesday speech at a Utah college after learning the school would allow concealed firearms at the event despite an anonymous threat against her life.

Utah State University staff members were notified of a threat to carry out a mass shooting at the school if Anita Sarkeesian, author of video blog “Feminist Frequency,” was allowed to deliver a speech on women’s role in video games, the Associated Press reports. The threat was delivered by someone claiming to be a student in an email claiming they would commit “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if Sarkeesian’s speech continued as planned.

“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” said the email, the Standard Examiner reports.

The university decided Tuesday it was safe to commence with the presentation after consulting with law enforcement. However, the school also said it would allow attendees with a valid concealed firearm permit to attend the presentation, in accordance with state and local law.

Sarkeesian then decided late Tuesday to cancel her speech. A university spokesman said the FBI told officials the threat is akin to similar intimidating messages received ahead of public appearances by Sarkeesian, who has often been the target of Internet harassment from those who disagree with her beliefs.

[AP]

TIME Video Games

Don’t Blink: Assassin’s Creed Rogue Is Coming for PC

Ubisoft confirms its ice-pirate tale of an arctic Assassin gone rogue is coming to Windows PCs early next year.

The best place to play the Assassin’s Creed series remains a Windows PC, if you don’t mind waiting.

This isn’t a subjective thing: If you want the games to run at your monitor’s native resolution, for the older ones to look as good as they’re ever going to, and now to play the highest-fidelity version of Ubisoft’s upcoming ice-thronged conclusion to the Kenway saga, you’ll want a box that runs Windows. The catch: you have to wait for that last perk until next year.

Ubisoft just confirmed Assassin’s Creed Rogue will hit PC in “early 2015.” It did so in a slightly sneaky way, too: at the close of a brand new story trailer.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue lets you play as Shay Patrick Cormac, an Assassin who’s thrown in with the rival Templar faction. You’ll spend much of your time skippering arctic waters in a ship capable of river travel and parkouring across frozen ice-scapes, which is another way of saying “Assassin’s Creed IV with snow.”

The no-longer-exclusive PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game arrive on November 11 this year, the same day Ubisoft’s franchise rethink Assassin’s Creed Unity arrives for PlayStation 4, Windows and Xbox One. But where the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions top out at 720p (1280 by 720), the Windows PC versions of these games have included subtle visual enhancements, and best of all, they run at whatever resolution your system’s capable of.

TIME Video Games

Is This Video Game Collection Worth $164,000?

Forget all that mad money, where the heck do you stash over 5,700 video games?

How do you value over 5,700 video games, more than 50 game systems, complete Nintendo and Sega game sets, and the ever-indefinite extension in such taglines “more”?

I have no idea. I collect rare books and I still haven’t the faintest. But someone has to try, and this Wyoming-based eBay seller’s come up with a round number for his apparently vast and immaculately groomed lot: $164,000.

$164,000 sounds like a figure arrived at carefully. Not $150,000, not $160,000, but $164,000. That has to be the result of an additive calculation, an item-by-item tabulation, not some ballpark figure plucked from the ether in multiples of ten- or fifty-thousand bucks.

More than 4,000 of the games are Nintendo-related, says seller reel.big.fish, with the majority from the 1980s and 1990s (he calls this period “the golden age” of gaming, which, just forget all the problems with such nostalgic labels, identifies the demographic the eBay sale’s targeting). The collection includes “multiple complete sets from Nintendo and Sega,” and “arguably” every retail game Nintendo put out from 1985 to 2000 (in the video below, the seller notes he’s only missing Stadium Events, though he has a reproduction cart). Other systems represented in the software mix include Atari, PlayStation, Sega, TurboGrafx and Xbox.

Want every Nintendo 64 console color variant? Custom hand-built and painted shelves (yes, shelves)? Complete-in-box Mario and Zelda sets? Eighty-one variant carts sorted by the number of screws (I had no idea this was a thing)? All 14 Virtual Boy games plus a 15th “bonus import”? Rare development carts? Dust covers for every single NES game? (I don’t, but maybe you do, and the sale currently has over 3,700 watchers, over 950 views per hour and over 50 inquiries so far.)

If you want to see the complete list, the seller’s put up a Google Doc spreadsheet with everything here (warning: it’s godawful slow to scroll, at least on a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro). The seller says there’s no breaking this thing up, though I’d wager a gazillion people are going to ask for the privilege anyway. And note that $164,000 is just the asking price: he’s taking offers.

And if you want a tour of this fellow’s video game room–over 11 minutes of wall-to-wall game rubbernecking!–your wish is granted.

TIME Video Games

Want to Visit a Slice of Destiny DLC Bungie Hasn’t Unlocked Yet?

A YouTube Destiny player illustrates how to triple-jump your way to an unfinished area and a marginally higher score.

This is what happens when boredom ensues in Destiny: you spy a tantalizing column of light, notice the architectural lattice surrounding it, nose around the framework until you discover a way to leap into that column of light, and presto: Scotty’s beaming you up.

YouTuber Nowise10 just released a video that details how, in Bungie’s sci-fi multiplayer shooter, he (I’m assuming “he” because of the YouTube avatar) was able to force his way into an area called “The Terminus” while exploring Venus. It’s part of an upcoming 2015 DLC release titled “The House of Wolves” that we’ve known about since well before launch (it’s the second of two expansion packs—the first is called “The Dark Below”).

But specifics, like the name “The Terminus” itself, were unearthed more recently when players discovered a glitch in the game that revealed information about the upcoming DLC packs. Bungie acknowledged the glitch in a note explaining, no surprise, that the content packs were unfinished, and that the details might or might not change.

Nowise10’s discovery looks extra-impressive because of how improbable it is. For starters you need to be able to triple-jump and balance like a funambulist. And then you have to be bored enough to wonder whether it’s possible to find your way into an unreachable column of light (that just so happens to really be a gravity lift). And then you have to be patient enough to string guesswork trajectories together, and dexterous enough to land on (without slipping off) all the slender alien trelliswork.

But maybe I’m overstating the difficulty. Watch the video and you’ll see Nowise10 almost casually navigate the precarious route without slips, tumbles or do-overs.

The reward if you make it? A vacant new area with, according to Nowise10, three dead ghosts. Finding ghosts in Destiny is a side-game where you recover little polyhedral robot-things, and those things unlock an achievement and bolster your grimoire card score. There’s thus a score-related incentive for players to pay a visit to The Terminus, which I’d assume means Bungie’s going to have to update the game to remove your ability to do this in short order.

TIME

‘Broad Consensus’ that Media Violence Can Lead to Increased Child Aggression

148163039
Getty Images

In the past, there was a perception that the field was divided about whether violent content leads to increased aggression in children, but this study refutes that notion

The vast majority of parents, pediatricians and media researchers all believe that violent movies, video games and television shows can lead to increased aggression in children, according to a new study published in the journal, Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

In the past, there was a perception that the field was divided about whether children’s behavior could be affected by violent content. This study dispels that notion completely by showing that, in fact, there is broad consensus that violent content can lead to more aggression.

For the study, the researchers — Professor Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, Carlos Cruz, a doctoral student at Ohio State, and Mario Gollwitzer, a professor at Philipps University Marburg in Germany — surveyed 371 media psychologists and communication scientists from three professional organizations; 92 members of the Council on Communication and Media of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and a nationally representative sample of 268 American parents. The study revealed that 66 percent of researchers, 67 percent of parents and a whopping 90 percent of pediatricians agree or strongly agree that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior among children.

Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University believes the journalistic drive for fair and balanced reporting is partially to blame for the view that there is a lack of consensus. “I think there’s a perception partly driven by the mass media that the field is divided,” said Bushman. “When they report on a finding that violent media produces aggression in children, to find a balance, they find someone else who disagrees with it. It leads to the conclusion that scientists don’t know about this topic and that the field is divided. But the field is not divided. There is broad consensus that violent media leads to increased aggression in children.”

He compared the drive for balanced reporting to John Oliver’s piece on climate change, in which the late night host revealed the trouble with showing a one-to-one debate, when in fact 97% of the science community believes climate change is real and happening. To make the debate more representative of reality, Oliver invited three climate change deniers to argue against 97 climate scientists who believe in global warming.

The results in Bushman and his team’s study go hand in hand with a study published last year in the journal of Pediatrics. That study, lead by researchers Lindsay A. Robertson, Helena M. McAnally and Robert J. Hancox showed a link between children and adolescents who watch two or more hours of TV per weekday— in which most of the content contains violence — and antisocial behavior in early adulthood.

But there are other factors besides screen time and violent content that can lead to aggression in children. “Many factors can contribute to increased aggression in children. Things like being male, poverty or having a low IQ are not easy to change, but limiting exposure to violent media can be changed,” said Prof. Bushman.“This is one of the factors that people can do something about.”

Aside from going full-Tipper Gore and founding a media watch group and petitioning Congress to limit violence in the media, what can a parent do? Bushman has a few suggestions: Limit screen time, monitor what your kids are watching or playing online and talk to your kids about it. It’s what Bushman does with his own 14-year old son. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day —[My son] has more than that. But, we carefully screen the content,” said Bushman. “There’s no TV in his room, he has an iPad, but has to use it with the door open and give us the iPad at night. All TV programs with violent content can only be accessed via password. And the internet filters out violent content. There are no video games that are age inappropriate.”

When asked if his two older children — ages 18 and 19—ever show their younger sibling something inappropriate, Bushman laughed. “Their dad has been studying the affects of violent media for over 25 years. They know better.”

TIME Video Games

Super Smash Bros. Wii U and Amiibo Are Going to Make 2014 After All

Nintendo

Super Smash Bros. Wii U arrives on November 21, along with Nintendo's first 12 amiibo toy-game figures.

Was that ever in doubt? It was. I’ve heard more than one forum-goer, podcaster and Nintendophile fret about possible Super Smash Bros. Wii U slippage into 2015 in the wake of E3, where the company’s gaze was fixedly on the 3DS version.

But no, Super Smash Bros. Wii U is coming this year, and you can throw down with the likes of new characters from the Mario series, Punch-Out!!, Pokémon X and Y, Xenoblade Chronicles and more on November 21.

That’s just a few days after the season’s final heavy-hitters make their showings (Dragon Age Inquisition, Far Cry 4, LittleBigPlanet 3 and Grand Theft Auto V are due on November 18). It’s also the final Friday and weekend before everyone hops into planes, trains and automobiles for destination Thanksgiving-ville (and, more crucially for both sales and retailer stocking reasons, it’s a full week prior to Black Friday).

Nintendo’s also revealed that November 21 will be the day it simultaneously rolls out its preliminary amiibo lineup. Amiibo is Nintendo’s characteristically quirky-sounding vamp on the vaunted toy-game. Like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, players buy clusters of figurines (in this case, Nintendo-specific) which are then capable of wirelessly interacting with Nintendo’s 3DS and Wii U, as well as–and here’s one of amiibo’s unique selling points–swapping data between the two platforms.

To make a data transfer happen, you just tap the figures on the Wii U GamePad, and Nintendo says several of the figures work across multiple games. Upcoming games that support amiibo at launch will include Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Mario Party 10 and Yoshi’s Woolly World, as well as Mario Kart 8, but Nintendo’s not saying when the latter will happen, and notes the game “may” require a software update to make it amiibo compatible (why “may” and not “will” is anyone’s guess).

In the initial November amiibo wave, Nintendo’s rolling out Mario, Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Link, Fox, Samus, Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Pikachu, Kirby and Marth (that’s 12 in all). It’ll follow with a second wave in December that’ll include Zelda, Diddy Kong, Luigi, Little Mac, Pit and Captain Falcon (six in all, or 18 all told by 2014’s close).

Checking up on sales of the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros., Nintendo says the beat-em-up’s done quite well, sales-wise, turning out more than 2.8 million copies sold worldwide, counting both retail and digital versions (it launched on October 3 here, and on September 13 in Japan). In fact, Nintendo isn’t doing half bad this year in first party sales, considering the Wii U’s chicken-egg install base problem. Mario Kart 8, its Wii U-buoying force of gonzo-racing nature went on to sell in the vicinity of three million copies after its arrival last May.

Nintendo says Super Smash Bros. Wii U‘s suggested retail price will be $59.99, while its amiibo figures will sell for $12.99 a piece. Nintendo’s special Wii U adapter that’ll let Smash fans use up to four original GameCube or WaveBird controllers with the game will sell for $19.99. If you don’t have a GameCube controller, you can pick up Nintendo’s special (and I assume limited time offer) Super Smash Bros. Wii U one for $29.99. Of if you just want to grab everything in one package (game, controller, adapter) Nintendo’s selling a bundle for $99.99. All three of those SKUs will be available when Super Smash Bros. Wii U launches on November 21.

Last but not least, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Nintendo’s Mario-series-spawned puzzle game starring a character that looks like a mushroom (but isn’t), will launch on December 5 for $39.99. Nintendo says the game will support amiibo figures as well, but sometime in 2015.

That’s Nintendo’s holiday in a nutshell. It’s also IP proving grounds time. With Disney’s and Activision’s respective toy-game updates just out, will Nintendo’s amiibo resonate? Will kids clamor as much for Mario, Peach, Donkey Kong and Zelda as I’m assuming they’ve been for Disney’s formidable stable of Marvel superheroes, or Activision’s reinvigorated originals by studio Toys for Bob?

Nintendo’s strategy, I’m assuming, involves Smash-bashing its way through the holidays, clinching a noteworthy chunk of family gaming sales, then emerging in 2015 with brag-worthy handheld and set-top sales figures. Trouble is, no one knows what’s coming in 2015 or when. Star Fox? Splatoon? Zelda? Xenoblade Chronicles X? Mario Marker? Yoshi’s Wooly World? We’ll see.

But Nintendo’s been lurching from first-party blockbuster to first-party blockbuster. That may be enough to tread water, and at least the company’s finally delivering on its first party promises. But since games take at least a year if not two to develop top to bottom, and given how much more technically advanced (read: not possible on the Wii U) today’s multiplatform superstar games are, it’s hard to imagine third parties falling off their horses in January 2015 and crossing their fingers the Wii U’s going to be able to keep pace with (much less supersede) its rivals through 2016.

TIME Video Games

Sigourney Weaver: Why I Signed On for Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation
Sega

This one was different from other game projects she'd been approached for, the actress tells TIME

In the 35 years since Alien was released, the classic movie has been the source of inspiration for several video games — but Alien: Isolation, out Oct. 7, is the first one that snagged star Sigourney Weaver to voice the part of Ellen Ripley. Though the main game focuses on Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, Weaver’s character shows up in some of the game’s extra downloadable content.

Here, she talks to TIME about why she decided to return to the Alien world, what that was like and whether she’d ever go back to it on the big screen.

TIME: How’d you get involved in the game? Why this one?

Sigourney Weaver: I had been approached to participate in a couple of different Alien games but I felt that this one was very different. First of all, there was a desire to put the player into the world that [director] Ridley Scott created, which is quite a terrifying one, and to let you loose in this situation that was so powerful in the first movie. That’s the experience of the game that I had to do with. The regular game, what touched me about it right away was Ripley’s daughter Amanda, who’s mentioned so briefly in Alien — there’s a whole other life, a story about her and her colleagues in space and the connection between her and her mother. They’d never had that connection because Ripley died or disappeared so long ago. So I was immediately intrigued by the idea that they had chosen to pick up this small but potent detail and turn it into an experience.

How was it pitched to you?

They did have to educate me in what kind of game it was. This was a very passionate homage to Ridley’s work that I think is quite unique, and to recognize that people would love to be in that world, navigating this empty, not really empty, ship, with a flamethrower. I thought it’s pretty juicy.

What’s not to love?

Again, I’ve only seen my part of it. The other part of the game, which has to do with Amanda and a whole other generation, I’m looking forward to seeing.

Are you a gamer yourself?

We have Grand Theft Auto and Crazy Taxi and stuff like that. My husband and daughter are enthusiastic, and I enjoy it. And I’m actually delighted that games are expanding and giving you more substance besides the basic target practice. Now it’s a much more immersive experience for the player, in a sense the player gets to do what we actors do, which is to go into a make-believe world and totally believe that you’re there. Of course, we don’t get killed quite as often. Or, if we do, we don’t get another chance to come back.

That’s a cool way to look at it. When did you first see that similarity with acting?

I think after Avatar, I realized that people really love going into these worlds and having an experience. I totally get that. It’s just going to get bigger and bigger and this is a particularly cool entry into this world.

What was it like to return to the character?

As if I’d never stopped doing it. I opened my mouth and I heard her voice. It was a surprise to me. It was a powerful experience.

It’s been 35 years. What do you think has allowed the movie to have such extreme cultural staying power?

I have to credit Ridley for creating an experience of space which was so much closer probably to what it would be like — a real place where people work, a dirty, gritty real environment with a real company to work for that has other priorities. I thought he brought such a fresh eye to the world of science fiction, which, frankly, was usually pretty sterile, and certainly not haunting and creepy. [Other sci-fi] was sort of fantastical with girls in tiny bathing suits, the ones I’m thinking of. It was a very visceral experience to make the film so it doesn’t surprise me in that sense that it would still be a very visceral experience for an audience member, even today, to watch it. The interesting thing about science fiction is that it’s always relevant. It’s always out ahead of us. And I do think people love to be terrified. Alien terrifies you in a wonderful and eerie and elegant way.

It was one of your first on-screen roles…

Well, you’re very kind to say I’d done anything before. I had a walk-on in Annie Hall and a tiny part in an Israeli film. I didn’t know anything when I started and I remember the first week, Ridley came up and said, ‘Can you try not to look in the camera?’ I said, ‘I am trying not to look in the camera but you keep putting it right in front of me.’ I didn’t know anything! I hadn’t really thought much about film. As an actor, I was pretty fixated on theater and a lot of it was classical theater, so I was just in heaven running around these gorgeous sets. I couldn’t believe they had created this whole world, making it so believable, for me. And I learned everything on that film.

You recently did another Ridley Scott movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, which is coming out soon. What was it like to work with him again?

He hasn’t changed much. He’s a genius with a camera, and all the details of this world were fantastic. I just felt so incredibly thrilled that I got to be an Egyptian queen, something I’ve wanted to do since fourth grade.

It sounds fun.

Get out of the way of the chariots! That’s going to make a great game.

Would you ever do another Alien movie if it became a possibility?

I was loath to do a fifth one — we were supposed to do 4 and 5 together, and I felt that I was very ambivalent about that. At the same time, I’m aware that we never finished the story. Part of me would be very intrigued by doing that with the right director. But beyond that, it’s just an idle thought.

TIME Video Games

Assassin’s Creed Unity Will Only Run at 1080p on PCs

Both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game are locked at 900p and 30 frames per second.

Ubisoft’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity, a sneaking game about two secret societies warring during the French Revolution, will only be capable of 1080p display resolution if you’re rocking a Windows PC.

The 1920-by-1080 club’s doors are officially closed to game consoles, says Ubisoft. What’s more, both consoles will top out at 30 frames per second (enthusiasts tend to prefer games that run at 60).

Speaking with VideoGamer.com, Unity senior producer Vincent Pontbriand said the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One CPUs weren’t up to the job of juggling the game’s massive crowds.

“Technically we’re CPU-bound,” he said. “The GPUs are really powerful, obviously the graphics look pretty good, but it’s the CPU [that] has to process the AI, the number of NPCs we have on screen, all these systems running in parallel.”

Ubisoft

Pontbriand says Ubisoft Montreal’s design team, which had been hoping for a “tenfold improvement” in A.I. performance from the new consoles, was surprised and frustrated by the bottleneck. “It’s not the number of polygons that affect the framerate,” he said. “We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we’re still limited to 30 frames per second.”

Frame rates aside, the pixel difference between 900p and 1080p would in theory be a GPU- and not CPU-related bottleneck, thus locking both consoles at 900p may have been a political decision.

Indeed, Pontbriand told VideoGamer.com that the studio “decided to lock [both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions] at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff.”

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One buffs have been locking horns since the systems launched last November over worries the Xbox One isn’t as powerful as Sony’s system. The concern is premised on the way each system displays graphics, and games released for both consoles have so far run at slightly lower resolutions on the Xbox One, though developers have argued the differences are visually trifling.

Last fall, when Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag arrived, both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions ran at 900p. But Ubisoft quickly released a patch that upgraded the PlayStation 4’s visuals to full 1080p. Given Pontbriand’s statements, it seems unlikely it’ll do something similar with Unity.

The corollary to all of this? The highest fidelity version of the game, assuming you have enough processing gas to cook with, is going to be on Windows PCs.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser