Our geeks return to talk about a new Hearthstone Expansion, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Super Mario Run and the internet meme that helped fight cancer.
New Hearthstone Expansion: Mean Streets of Gadgetzan
Blizzard is very much a company of many talents and boasts some of the best franchises in gaming history. From their 2016 breakout hit Overwatch, to the game-changing MMORPG World of Warcraft, to the original esport title Starcraft it really does seem like all that glitters is gold for Blizzard Entertainment. So it should come as a surprise to no one that they also have the world’s most popular digital card battler. But how popular is it? Well the most recent tally back in May of this year pushed the game past 50 Million players generating almost $200k a day in revenue. Not bad, right? Hearthstone is a semi-competitive digital card game that is playable on PC and smart phones/tablets. Think of it like Magic the Gathering but for you iPhone. And, just like Magic the Gathering, there are a new expansions to the game twice a year that introduce new cards and shake up the deck archetypes. The Mean Streets of Gadgetzan (so named for a fictional port city from World of Warcraft) was released earlier this month to high praise from the player base. It introduces a whole slew of new mechanics; but the jury is still out on what it means for the competitive scene. In the meantime it certainly delivers on all the stuff Hearthstone players are interested in: wacky card interaction, random blowout moments, and tons of funny one liners and silly card artwork. GG Blizzard.
Mass Effect Andromeda coming in 2017 for PS4 & Xbox One
Mass Effect is set to return in 2017 after a 5 year hiatus following its somewhat controversial 2012 3rd installment. Controversial because many fans felt that Bioware, the game’s developer, failed to deliver on promises made about game’s main storyline; especially the ending. This is not the first time Mass Effect had come under fire. Back in 2008 the first Mass Effect game stirred up quite a controversy when it was reported that the game was “essentially an alien sex simulator and featured lots of full frontal nudity”. Neither of those claims are true of course; but just what IS Mass Effect all about then? Mass Effect is a science fiction action/RPG with heavy emphasis on character development and branching storylines. Unprecedented at the time Mass Effect feels like a story as epic as the Star Wars saga, but one where you get to control the actions and motivations of the protagonist. Mass Effect Andromeda will take place generations after the events of the original trilogy and will the series’ debut on the next gen systems (PS4 & Xbox One). Even beyond the graphical improvements Andromeda will no doubt bring back the strong characters, immersive worlds, and great storytelling of the original. Honestly; I’m already willing to call it as 2017’s Game of the Year.
Super Mario Run for iOS
Perhaps trying to build on the success of Pokemon Go (which was actually more of Niantic’s thing than Nintendo’s – but that’s a whole other biscuit) Nintendo is set to release their first major app exclusively for the iOS and it’s an autorunner called “Super Mario Run”. So, think like temple run except with goombas and coins. This represents a huge strategy shift for Nintendo which has classically relied on their hardware sales and first party software rather than licensing their IPs to other platforms. However, due to the poor performance of the Wii U and the explosion in mobile gaming Nintendo is doing their best to stay relevant in the modern gaming landscape. They’re even in talks to open a Nintendo theme park in the future! It is unclear whether or not this will end up paying off for them; but the outlook so far is good. Nintendo has some of the most recognizable characters in gaming and if they can leverage that into another Pokemon Go level success they should be golden. But is the game any good? It only came out today!
It’s an Internet Meme, but it helped to fight Cancer!
So this isn’t gaming related; but it’s a really nice story to come out of the nerd community in what has sometimes been a difficult year. Stefan Karl is an actor and entertainer by trade and is perhaps best known for his role as “Robbie Rotten” on the Icelandic children’s program “Lazytown”; and earlier this year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He started a gofundme to help pay for his medical expenses to help him and his family during his “year of recovery” where he would be unable to work-and then something very interesting happened. A music video featuring the Robbie Rotten character from 2014 started to go viral in a bizarre way. People would post the video with slight alterations or nonsensical replacements: something like “This song; but every time they say ‘one’ it switches to a different song”. The increased popularity of the song ended up drawing a ton of traffic to Steffan’s gofundme and fans of the meme raised close to $100,000 to help aide in his recovery. Steffan, a long time entertainer and strong advocate for children’s programming, responded with a special live stream cover version of the song with the original actors to thank “all of his new meme friends”. The producers of Lazytown then released the original tracks for the song so that people could continue to use and remix it as a showing of gratitude. In a year fraught with derisive and mean-spirited memes it’s great to finally see one being put to good use. Maybe we are all number one.