Microsoft wants a “smooth transition” to the full September 15th launch.

by Steve Dent via Engadget

Microsoft is releasing its Android xCloud game streaming service in beta today at 9AM, with just over a month remaining until the full launch. It’s currently only available in preview form for Xbox Insiders, but all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will be able to access the beta version today from Google’s Play Store.

“As we approach the launch of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on September 15, we’re entering a limited beta period to ensure a smooth transition of the cloud gaming experience to the Xbox Game Pass app on Android,” a company spokesperson told Engadget. “Existing Xbox Game Pass (Beta) app users will get the opportunity to test a subset of the available titles as we ready the experience for broader availability next month.”

This limited beta is critical to providing the best possible experience for members at launch and should not be considered indicative of the final experience or library.

If you’re an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber in one of the 22 xCloud launch countries, you’ll receive a notification that it’s is available to test. There should be about 30 of the 100 launch games available, though you might experience some typical beta bugs. “This limited beta is critical to providing the best possible experience for members at launch and should not be considered indicative of the final experience or library,” Microsoft said.

The program is still on schedule, with the preview being discontinued on September 11th and the full launch happening on September 15th. The Game Pass Ultimate beta app rolls out today at 9AM ET on the Google Play Store, but you’ll need a $15 per month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription to use it.

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But can you lose a console war you’re not fighting in?

by Aaron Souppouris via Engadget

Microsoft has, since the launch of the Xbox One X in 2017, been able to claim that it sells “the most powerful console.” It’s a claim that will extend into the next generation, as the Xbox Series X’s CPU and GPU are, in terms of raw compute, stronger than the PlayStation 5’s.

For the Xbox One X, this has meant that cross-platform games almost always look or run better than they do on the PlayStation 4 Pro. You’ll often find a game that runs at 1800p on Xbox One X only hits 1440p on PS4 Pro. In other titles, the Xbox One may better stick to its target of 30 or 60 frames per second than Sony’s machine.

The gap between the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 for cross-platform titles will likely be real, though it’s not going to be as severe as the XB1X/PS4 Pro divide. Despite this, though, during the all-important launch window, it’s likely that we’ll see PlayStation 5 exclusive titles that simply look better than Xbox Series X exclusive titles.

You can see this in Halo Infinite, which looks like a 4K remaster of a Xbox One launch game. Now, some of that comes down to art direction and wanting to produce a game that recalls the Halo series’ legacy. There are also promises that it’ll “get better,” but the game looks like an upscaled Xbox One game because it is, in fact, built to run on an Xbox One. Microsoft can’t afford to release a first-party game that struggles to run on its own hardware, which means that the ambition of Infinite has to take a hit.

This might seem nonsensical, but it all comes down to a shift in strategy, and a promise.

The promise

As outlined fastidiously by Sean Hollister at The Verge, Microsoft has, since the Series X announcement last December, been promising Xbox owners that they’ll be able to play all of the company’s AAA titles on their current hardware for the foreseeable future. What the term “foreseeable future” means exactly has varied depending on which executive is speaking, but Phil Spencer, with whom the Xbox buck stops, is on record as saying two years. This means, for example, that Halo Infinite, Microsoft’s big holiday title, will play on a 2013 Xbox One as well as a 2020 Xbox Series X. Unless Microsoft goes back on its word, that should hold true for other titles to come.

Hollister’s article, however, points out that the majority of titles shown at yesterday’s Xbox Games Showcase have not been confirmed for Xbox One. If any of these games come out before late 2022, that would mean a broken promise. In responding to this controversy, Aaron Greenberg, who oversees the marketing for Xbox games, said that the company hasn’t ruled out an Xbox One launch for any title, and instead said on Twitter “we are leading with Series X & each studio will decide what’s best for their game/community when they launch.”

I’d venture a guess that Microsoft knows a fair number of these titles aren’t going to hit before that timeframe; we saw a lot of cinematics and not very much gameplay yesterday, after all. But it seems very unlikely that, for example, no Forza game will launch before Holiday 2022. (And if that is the case, that’s perhaps an even bigger issue for Microsoft than lying to some users.)

The Xbox model

Microsoft has been pushing away from the idea of console generations for years now. It started with the notion that gamers have one, singular library that works across generations. Over 600 Xbox 360 and original Xbox games work just fine on Xbox One, and will also be playable on Xbox Series X. Every Xbox One game will work on Series X too. 

More recently, though, Microsoft has been moving away from the idea of game ownership; it’s all about Game Pass, its subscription service that gives you access to every first- and second- party game on day one, and plenty of third-party titles too. 

Let’s ignore the weighty discussions about ownership versus subscriptions, and whether this strategy is actually good for gaming in the long-run. Right now, Game Pass is a compelling option for Xbox players, and a fantastic strategy for Microsoft. In a market where most of your potential customers already own a PS4 and its major exclusives, what better way to bring people into your ecosystem than offering all of your exclusives they’ve missed for a single monthly subscription? Recurring, guaranteed revenues are hugely valuable, and with over 10 million subscribers, Game Pass alone could be a billion-dollar business already. (10 million subscribers at full rate would be well over $1 billion, but Microsoft has been discounting the service massively over the past year, so it’s not clear exactly how much the service is pulling in right now.)

When your business strategy is selling subscriptions, though, the importance of games and hardware is lessened, replaced by the need to increase retention and reduce churn — terms more commonly found in the earnings reports of cable operators and wireless carriers. Games and hardware are just ends to that mean. Look at the whole Xbox business from that perspective, and its decision-making starts to make (a bit) more sense.

The problem 

There are a few reasons why we have console generations; why every new console has to have better processors, more RAM, more storage. On the “creative” side, toward the end of the six-to-seven year console life cycle, developers have more or less used every trick in the book to make the “best” games that they can for the hardware (in scope and fidelity, at least). This then feeds into the business side, where games are typically sold on the promise of being longer, bigger, better than those that came before them. 

A new console rarely makes a lot of money for a company on its own, and in some cases is sold at a loss on the understanding that money lost will be recouped on games and lucrative accessories. (Rumors suggest that this “loss-leader” approach may be in effect this generation, although neither company has yet announced a price for its console.)

What new hardware does, then, is restart the cycle. It gives developers more power to attract gamers to their games, and lets Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo attempt to win over customers from the other side. With the Xbox Series X, developers have more power, but right now, the most important studios can’t make full use of it, thanks to the cross-generation promise. 

There are four key upgrade areas for this next generation, which are largely mirrored across Sony and Microsoft’s consoles: CPU, GPU, RAM and SSD.

When developing a cross-platform game, “scaling” is easier in some areas than others. The hardware differences between the Xbox One S and Xbox One X haven’t been an issue, because these changes were essentially “the same part, but more,” or, “the same part, but faster.” When it comes to rendering a game at a higher fidelity, or the same fidelity but at a higher frame rate, that’s all you need. 

With Xbox Series X and PS5, we’re seeing a huge improvement in CPU and SSD, though, and, if you want to truly take advantage of these parts, scaling your game is nigh-on impossible. Both Microsoft and Sony have talked about using the SSD as RAM to load highly detailed objects and textures on the fly, and about rich open worlds with instantaneous fast travel. A solid example of all these elements in action would be the new Ratchet & Clank title for PlayStation 5, where the core gameplay loop revolves around jumping between highly detailed environments with no loading. How can Microsoft build experiences like that when it also has to support a seven-year-old laptop hard drive in the 2013 Xbox One? It can’t. Or rather, if it is achievable, making it happen would involve a torturous amount of work.

There’s also the matter of the CPU, which is tasked with telling the GPU what to write. The more powerful CPU in new consoles will allow for richer simulations. That could mean more cars on a racetrack, more NPCs in an open-world crowd, or just a level of AI complexity that we’ve yet to see in a console game. While NPCs and cars are largely scalable, it’s these new levels of simulation quality that can lead to unseen “next-gen” experiences.

It’s worth noting that one of Sony’s major launch-window titles, Spider-Man: Miles Morales,like Halo Infinite, looks like a “scaled” version of a current-gen title, as it’s built on the back of the 2018 PS4 game. Many early cross-platform titles, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla or Hitman III, are not going to look meaningfully “next-gen” for the same reason. It’s only when developers can leave behind the last gen that we see that leap in fidelity. Just look at 2013’s Xbox 360-supporting Call of Duty: Ghosts versus last year’s Modern Warfare reboot to see what a difference the lowest common denominator can make. Backward compatibility is fairly simple; forward compatibility is a headache.

With its first-party PS5 titles, such as Horizon Forbidden West, Sony is free from those past-gen shackles as soon as it wants to be, and can use its 2021 lineup of games to attract gamers over to its new console. Microsoft, assuming it wants to keep its promise, can’t.

When you’re selling subscriptions, that maybe isn’t the greatest problem, especially when, as mentioned, huge cross-platform games like Call of Duty, Destiny or Far Cry will run just as well or better on Xbox Series X. But we’re at that period in the console lifecycle when people are picking sides, at least for a few years, and gamers are willing to jump ship. Banking on the lure of Game Pass alone to keep your users on side is a risky move. The fact that Microsoft is starting to muddy the waters so quickly suggests it knows it has a problem; that if it wants to build next-gen experiences that keep its existing customers and attract new ones, it needs to cut the Xbox One loose.

The solutions

Nothing I’ve written so far will be news to Microsoft. Its engineers, developers, marketers and community managers know exactly what the issue is with this promise. The question is: What to do now?

There are essentially three ways to fix this problem. One: Bite the bullet and actually produce functional last-gen versions of all of your games until Holiday 2022. Two: Ensure that the vast majority of your users (or, at least, Game Pass subscribers) are using a next-gen console by the time you abandon the Xbox One and Xbox One X. Three: Worm your way out of the promise on a technicality. 

The first option is self-explanatory, if costly, for all the reasons outlined already. The second option, though, is more complicated and the key could arrive in Lockhart, the Xbox Series S, or whatever you want to call Microsoft’s long-rumored cheap next-gen console. It’s widely assumed that this console will come in at sub-$300, possibly as low as $250. But when you consider the Xbox business as a subscription play, and pay attention to what Microsoft has been doing with hardware recently, “price” could be the wrong way to look at the Series S.

Microsoft has been piloting hardware-as-a-subscription over the past couple of years, in the form of its “Xbox All Access” program. For $20 a month (over 24 months), you could pick up an Xbox One S, and a subscription to Game Pass Ultimate (normally $15 a month anyway). It’s not hard to imagine the exact same deal being put in place for the “Series S,” offering a $20- or $25-per-month subscription that nets you a next-gen console and every game you want. This offers a fairly painless upgrade, and would likely pick up many of the stragglers that don’t want to buy expensive consoles outright. With the long-term benefits of retaining and attracting subscribers, Microsoft could even afford to “give away” the Series S with, say, a 36-month Game Pass subscription, thus disarming anyone complaining about the broken promise.

For option three, Microsoft can point to the cloud. Specifically, xCloud, the streaming service that’s coming to Game Pass this fall. The company could easily support every Xbox Series X game on the Xbox One S and Xbox One X for years and years to come — once they upgrade their servers. This is an elegant and cheap way of keeping the promise, if a slightly shifty one.

This is all speculation, but I think we’ll end with a solution that involves elements of all three. I believe that Microsoft will release its first- and second-party games on the Xbox One S and X through 2021. I also believe that it’ll be offering subsidized consoles through a program similar to Xbox All Access, and that the Xbox One S will be supported as (and maybe even sold primarily as) a streaming box for xCloud.

None of these solutions end in disaster for Microsoft. But similarly, none of them are likely to give the company much chance to close the gap on Sony or even Nintendo, whose Switch console has outsold the Xbox One despite the latter’s three-and-a-half year head start. That’s a huge problem for a console seller. But for a subscription provider? No churn, no problem.

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Neil Druckmann sent an email to his team after the positive review scores came in, and he ended it with “f**k the haters.”

by Eddie Makuch via GameSpot

After the review scores for The Last of Us Part II came in–and they were very good–writer-director Neil Druckmann sent an email to his team to thank them for their hard work. Druckmann has now shared some insight on what he said in the email, including his response to the haters.

Speaking to actor Troy Baker, who plays Joel in the game, Druckmann said he originally wanted to send thank-you texts to every developer, one by one. However, the team’s sheer size made that impossible. Instead, he decided to send a message on a larger scale. He ended up using email rather than text.

Druckmann said he was writing a text to art director John Sweeney, with whom he clashed often throughout development, and he began to cry. His reason for crying still isn’t clear to him.

“When the reviews hit, he was one of the first people I thought of to text personally. I’m starting to write this text to him, ‘Dude, I know we didn’t always see eye to eye…’ As I’m writing this text, I’m starting to cry, and I couldn’t even understand why I’m crying. I realize I can’t text everybody on the team–there’s just too many people on the team. I just have to write the whole team an email, and I’m not very good at that stuff.”

Druckmann said he doesn’t remember exactly what he wrote to his team, but it touched on how he was getting too much personal praise when people should understand that making The Last of Us 2 was a team effort. He also told his team that he’s never been prouder of any game he’s worked on.

He also had a message for the haters. As it turns out, he isn’t a big fan of them!

“I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I’m writing about my fears like I’m getting too much praise and it’s not being seen enough as a team project–but this is a Naughty Dog game, in every sense of the word,” Druckmann said. “I forget how I ended it, but it was something to the effect of, ‘Review scores are cool, but seeing your guys’ pride is what I live for.'”

“The reviews were awesome, and it’s great to hear people love the game and how much it resonates with them, but nothing comes close to hearing you, or Laura, or John, or any member of the team that has sent me an email since the game has come out to say this is the best game I’ve ever worked on. F**k the haters. Nothing makes me prouder that I’ve worked on in my life than this game.”

Also in the interview, Druckmann spoke about how he does not focus too much on sales. He only hopes his games can make enough money to convince Sony to allow Naughty Dog to keep doing what it does.

“Our job is not to maximize profits or sales,” he said. “The game is selling well, and I don’t care. Just to talk about sales for a second, I just want to sell enough so we can do it again. So Sony will keep trusting us and giving us the creative freedom to do whatever we need to do. And anything beyond that is just gravy.”

For what it’s worth, The Last of Us Part II is a gigantic sales success. The game sold more than 4 million copies in its first three days, setting new PlayStation records.

Naughty Dog is now working on The Last of Us Part II’s new multiplayer/online mode, while the company is also thinking about what might come next like The Last of Us III or something else.

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The Xbox One S will continue to be manufactured

by Tom Warren via The Verge

Microsoft is officially halting production of its Xbox One X and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition consoles. “As we ramp into the future with Xbox Series X, we’re taking the natural step of stopping production on Xbox One X and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “Xbox One S will continue to be manufactured and sold globally.”

Reports of Xbox One X and Xbox One S shortages have surfaced in recent weeks, and there has been an increased demand in Microsoft and Sony’s current-gen consoles during the pandemic. While production is ending on the Xbox One X and the Xbox One S digital edition, it’s likely that stock for some retailers will still be available in the coming months. “Gamers can check with their local retailers for more details on Xbox One hardware availability,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft first introduced the Xbox One X back in November 2017. Designed as “the world’s most powerful console” at the time, Microsoft focused on power and hardware for its 6 teraflop Xbox One X.

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition was only launched in April last year, as a disc-less version of the Xbox One S. Reports have suggested sales were strong for this particular console, and Microsoft even bundled it as part of the $19.99 monthly Xbox All Access subscription that includes Xbox Game Pass Ultimate access.

Microsoft is planning to continue its Xbox All Access subscriptions for the Xbox Series X launch later this year, offering subscribers an opportunity to upgrade to the new console. The software maker is also expected to launch a cheaper, less powerful next-gen Xbox. Codenamed “Lockhart,” this second Xbox is likely to form a big part of Microsoft’s pricing approach for its next-gen Xbox plans.

Microsoft is rumored to be preparing to unveil this second Xbox next month, after reports suggested the company originally planned to reveal its existence in June. This second console may also be called Xbox Series S and is expected to target 1080p / 1440p gaming.

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Gamers who lost income because of the pandemic actually spent more money on games, Comparecards survey found

by Samson Amore via The Wrap

Video game enthusiasts spent roughly $400 on games and accessories since March, according to new data from LendingTree subsidiary Comparecards.

That’s about one-third of value of the $1,200 stimulus check that the government issued to some Americans in April to offset wage losses brought on by the coronavirus.

Comparecards surveyed roughly 1,000 Americans in June and found that 25% of gamers have upped their spending on gaming since the pandemic began. “Nearly 1 in 4 consumers are spending more on gaming now than they were prior to March 2020, when varied levels of stay-at-home orders were implemented across the country,” Comparecards reported.

28% of those surveyed spent money on boxed or digital video games within the last year. 25% of gamers said they spent money on in-app purchases — which includes expansion packs within a game, or in-game currency.

LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz told TheWrap a combination of in-home boredom and extra pandemic benefits is leading consumers of games to up their spending.

“It makes a lot of sense that people are spending more on gaming. People have a lot more spare time and some of them even have a little more money in their pockets than normal because of government stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits,” said Schulz. “More spare time plus more money on hand equals a lot more gaming for a lot of folks.”

“It can be totally OK to spend a bit more than usual on your passions during these crazy times,” Schulz said. “Gaming is a major stress reliever for many, many people, and that’s a really important thing during the pandemic. When that spending gets dangerous is when you do it without any thought to your budget or to your debt.”

About 17% of people surveyed said they’d bought a game console in the last year, while 10% reported spending on gaming headsets. Roughly half the Americans surveyed said they didn’t spend any money on games or gaming hardware last year.

The report also found that gamers facing a loss of income because of the coronavirus pandemic actually tended to spend more money on games, despite the lack of disposable income. “The average gamer whose income was impacted spent about $424 on gaming since the pandemic started, while gamers whose income wasn’t impacted spent just under $360,” Comparecards said.

Comparecards broke down the spending by age and gender, finding that 37% of men versus 10% of women reported increasing their gaming spend in the last 90 days. Baby Boomers are the least interested in video games, and their spending only increased 2% — compared to a 37% increase in spending by Millenials.

“While video games are a beloved pastime for many gamers, consumers who don’t typically play games have begun to see the appeal while social distancing, as half of all consumers made at least one gaming-related purchase within the past year,” Comparecards noted. “Men in particular, as well as millennials and members of Gen Z, are more likely than others to have spent money on gaming.”

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by Tim Baysinger via The Wrap

Mark Hamill had a secret role in “The Mandalorian,” that nobody knew about until Friday.

On the final episode of the behind-the-scenes docuseries “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian,” it was revealed that Hamill lent his voice to a character in the Disney+ series. And who he voiced is an Easter Egg hunter’s dream: The droid EV-9D9.

Disney+ last aired a new episode of “The Mandalorian” in December.

Don’t know who that is? “Star Wars” die-hards will tell you EV-9D9 is the same droid in “Return of the Jedi” that was responsible for registering new droid acquisitions in Jabba the Hutt’s palace. Even more, the episode in which he turns up — the fifth of the season — takes place on Tatooine, which just so happens to be Luke Skywalker’s home planet.

It’s not the first time Hamill, an accomplished voice actor, has played someone other than his famous Jedi Knight in the galaxy far, far away. He’s voiced alien creatures in both “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker,” as well as the Sith Lord Darth Bane in the TV series “The Clone Wars.”

Hamill, of course, is also well known for lending his voice to The Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

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You don’t need a 25-character code to access bundled games and DLC.

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by Ann Smajstrla via Engadget

A new Xbox feature makes it easier to claim games that come with the console, doing away with the 25-digit codes that were required before. Digital Direct, pointed out by Polygon, embeds games and other DLC directly to the console that you can redeem during the setup process. For those who are post-setup, the feature can be found in the “Accounts” and “My Library” sections.

When setting up a console, you will now see a page giving you the option to redeem content and service offers that come with it, according to the Xbox website. Redeeming is as simple as clicking “Claim It.” Anything that’s redeemed will be attached to the Microsoft account that claimed it.

Alternatively, you can navigate to “Settings,” then “Account,” then “Included with this Xbox,” to find the Digital Direct content available for your console and its redemption status. This information is also viewable in “My Library.”

Digital Direct appears to be the “digital attach” feature dubbed Project Roma, according to Thurrott. The Xbox team gives codenames to various features that were under development for its console — Anaconda was revealed as Series X and Maverick turned out to be Xbox All Digital, among others.

The feature is shipping first on the just-released Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox One XCyberpunk 2077 won’t be available to play until September, but gamers can take advantage of Digital Direct on the new console while they wait.

Microsoft has previously tried to address the hassle of download codes by making them scannable via QR codes and the Kinect camera. Digital Direct eliminates the tedious typing, however it could make it difficult to share or sell a bundled game you don’t want.

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by Ben Gilbert via Business Insider

Do you have a Nintendo Switch? Did you also have a Nintendo 3DS or Wii U?

If you answered yes to both of those questions, there’s a possibility your Nintendo Switch account was one of about 300,000 that was breached by hackers.

Nintendo announced the breach in April, but it doubled the number of affected accounts in an update this week “as a result of continuing the investigation.”

The issue applies specifically to anyone who connected their old Nintendo 3DS and Wii U “Nintendo Network ID,” or NNID, to the Switch. Nintendo now uses a system called Nintendo Account, but the company allowed people with existing NNIDs to connect those to their new Nintendo Account.

Nintendo said it no longer allows NNID logins on the Switch.

If your account was breached, you’ll likely know soon by receiving an email like this:

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Beyond sending an email to the account associated with your Nintendo Account, Nintendo is alerting affected users by forcing a password reset.

“As a further precaution,” the company said, “we will soon contact users about resetting passwords for Nintendo Network IDs and Nintendo Accounts that we have reason to believe were accessed without authorization.”

Going forward, the company suggests doing two things to make your accounts more secure.

First, you should change the passwords associated with both your Nintendo Account and your Nintendo Network ID. Second, you should set up two-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of security on top of a password.

For more information, check out Nintendo’s support page here.

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by Shingo ITO via AFP

Tokyo (AFP) – Every day, 90-year-old Japanese grandma Hamako Mori flexes her fingers to keep them nimble. Not for knitting or needlepoint, but to keep them in shape for playing video games.

The pensioner known as “Gamer Grandma” spends three or more hours a day battling monsters and going on missions in the virtual worlds of her favourite games, and even has a popular YouTube channel for her fans.

“I’m passionate about playing games every day,” the white-haired widow told AFP in an interview conducted by videochat.

“Every day is an enjoyable day,” she said, describing eviscerating on-screen foes as a fantastic stress reliever.

Mori cuts an elegant, mild-mannered figure, with her hair pulled back into a ponytail and a pair of large glasses perched on her nose.

She begins the videos she posts on her YouTube channel with a friendly “Konnichiwa” and a bow.

But her grandmotherly demeanour disappears when she plays, transformed into a gun-toting character in Call of Duty or a sword-wielding android in NieR: Automata.

Mori, who lives in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo with her family, holds a Guinness World Record certifying her as the world’s oldest gaming YouTuber.

“She always gets into the games,” her only grandchild, 43-year-old Keisuke Nagao, told AFP.

“I think she is slightly different. Ordinary old people are not so enthusiastic about video games as she is.”

– 300,000 YouTube fans –

Mori isn’t new to the gaming world, and has played some 200 titles since she took up the hobby some four decades ago.

Her first console was a Cassette Vision, which she bought in 1981 after being intrigued by her children’s obsession with gaming.

“I discovered that there was this fascinating thing that existed in the world,” she said.

She has played most of the gaming world’s smash hits including “Super Mario Brothers”, “Dragon Quest”, “Final Fantasy” and “Call of Duty”, and admits to sometimes staying up until 2am when she is sucked into a session.

Her favorite games include action-adventure series “Grand Theft Auto” and popular fantasy role-playing game “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”.

“You can do whatever you want to” in a game, she said, describing them as a “motivation in life.”

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Mori usually plays alone at home, but launched a YouTube channel in 2014 to connect with other gamers.

She posts new videos filmed by her grandson three or four times a month and has attracted 300,000 subscribers and millions of views with content featuring her gaming but also showing her daily life.

“It’s fun being watched by a lot of people, rather than playing alone,” she said of her “Gamer Grandma” channel.

Among her videos is one showing her blowing out candles on a cake to celebrate her 90th birthday with her family. Another features her “unboxing” a brand-new PlayStation console.

At 90, Mori is fighting fit, but she says some state-of-the-art games require agile hand motions that can prove challenging.

“It’s getting hard. It really is,” she said, describing exercises she does with her fingers and hands every day to keep herself game-ready.

– ‘Better than doing nothing!’ –

But she has no intention of giving up gaming.

“I won’t put it down just because it’s difficult… It’s better than doing nothing!”

And she hopes with practice she can improve further.

“I want to play well no matter how old I am,” she said. “I want to continue as long as possible.”

Mori is something of an evangelist for video games, and encourages other older people to get into gaming, or find other hobbies that keep them going.

“It doesn’t have to be video games necessarily. But it’s good to do something,” said Mori, who swam regularly until the age of 80 and still knits.

And while Mori said she understands concerns about video game addiction, particularly among young people, she pointed out that gaming may have helped many survive lockdowns over the coronavirus.

“It’s safer to play at home, rather than going out,” she said.

For now, Mori is eagerly awaiting the release of the PlayStation 5, due to hit shops later this year.

“It’s seriously preoccupying me,” she said. “I want one. I really do.”

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by Rich Duprey via The Motley Fool

GameStop (NYSE:GME) business was hurting even before the COVID-19 outbreak, so a pandemic bursting on the scene that closed all nonessential retail should have brought it to its knees, if not killed it off.

While the conventional wisdom says the migration of video game play to digital and downloads has the retailer biding its time until the console upgrade cycle kicks in, a new report suggests that not only has the coronavirus not done in GameStop, it may have actually taught it how to thrive in this new economy.

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Nothing to do but kick back and play

With schools closed, businesses shuttered, and everyone on lockdown and in self-isolation, video game sales and gameplay are soaring.

Spending on hardware, software, and accessories had been in decline as people waited for the newest consoles and the games to go with them: Sales fell 26% and 29%, respectively, in January and February. But NPD Group says they reversed course in March.

As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and people practiced social distancing, hardware sales surged 63% for the month compared to a year ago while software jumped 34%. Accessories rose 12% year over year.

The report said it was “the highest reported spend for a March month since the $1.8 billion achieved in March 2008.”

Switching up expectations

All three console makers saw strong growth in the first quarter, with hardware sales exploding to $461 million in March alone and the Nintendo (OTC:NTDOY) Switch, a hybrid portable game console, being the biggest winner, setting a record for hardware unit sales that more than doubled from a year ago.

Even Microsoft‘s Xbox One and Sony‘s Playstation 4 grew by 25%.

GameStop became the big beneficiary, particularly because the Switch was not readily available on other platforms, though even it ran into supply problems.

And the hottest game was Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was available only on the Switch, beating out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which is available on multiple platforms.

The destination location online

While GameStop initially tried to say its stores were essential and kept them open, it needn’t have risked the ire of its employees, the public, or politicians, as online sales through the video game retailer’s website soared 1,500% between March 1 and April 10, according to data from Earnest Research.

So strong were GameStop’s sales that it was able to handily surpass all other electronics retailers, including AppleBest Buy, and Newegg.

It turns out that GameStop’s history as the go-to retail store for hardware and video games still translates well with consumers when they’re forced to look online.

GameStop needs to build on that reputation in the future, and the coronavirus pandemic may have provided the blueprint for it to do so.

Building on the momentum

It’s probably too soon to say GameStop is out of the woods and that after the upgrade cycle completes it won’t just revert to form.

Yet the video game retailer is under pressure from activist investors who are pushing a comprehensive series of changes that could help move GameStop away from being primarily a physical retailer and more toward digital game sales.

Such sales will only continue to grow, so GameStop needs to go where its business is heading. It got a major assist from a terrible illness and it would be a shame to waste the chance it has been given. Now GameStop needs to show it has learned this important lesson.

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