Here’s the full lineup of Lego Super Mario sets, due out August 1

Posted by | Gaming, lego, Nintendo, super mario | No Comments

Back in March, Nintendo and Lego teamed up to reveal one of the most delightful bits of colorful ephemera in an otherwise overwhelmingly bleak time. Lego Super Mario continues to be one thing worth looking forward to through it all, for the young and nostalgia-inclined old alike. And thankfully you only have to hang tight a couple more months to get it.

Image credits: Nintendo

Today, the childhood staples revealed the full rundown of sets. The list includes the already announced Starter Course, along with 10 expansion sets. Four Power-Up Packs and a variety of Character packs. The Starter Course is currently up for pre-order on Lego’s site, and all will be made available on August 1, online and through select retailers that happen to be open for business.

The Expansion sets include a range of familiar levels from the Nintendo series and a few other riffs on the Mushroom Kingdom, including Bowser’s Castle Boss Battle, Mario’s House and Yoshi, King Boo and the Haunted Yard and Toad’s Treasure Hunt. Those range in price from $20 to $100. The Power-Ups will all run $10 and the blind bag Character Packs are $5. Nothing too crazy in Lego terms, but any fan will tell you these things add up quickly. All of the sets are designed to be used together, and each features clever articulation designed to mimic gameplay. 

Image credits: Nintendo

The Starter Course, meanwhile is $60. Of the figures, Mario continues to be the most advanced, with four built-in LEDs (two eyes, a mouth and a chest), a speaker for sound and color sensors on his feet, so the figure can track where it jumps. Understandably, he’s the centerpiece of all the play sets. 

There’s also some more information on the included app, which offers build guidance, keeps track of scores and presses young players to build and rebuild the levels. There’s a sharing function, as well, along with a kid-safe forum for discussing build ideas.

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In spite of an uncertain economy, US video game sales remain strong

Posted by | Animal Crossing, coronavirus, covid-10, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, npd, playstation, Sony, Switch, xbox | No Comments

May marked another extremely strong month for gaming sales, according to the latest figures from NPD. Between software, hardware, accessories and game cards, Americans spent around $977 million. That’s a 57% jump since the year prior and the highest it’s been for the month since 2008, when the country was feeling the strain of the Great Recession.

All of this is made more remarkable by the fact that the United States has been struggling with COVID-19-related pains for months now. This week, another 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the total number to 44.2 million since the beginning of shutdowns. But as countless other venues for non-essential spending have suffered, gaming has thrived.

It’s clear that games are how Americans are choosing to spend whatever sort of disposable income they might have, as they’re stuck at home, away from other humans. And that spending has continued for a few months now, even after Microsoft and Sony have begun hyping their next-generation consoles — both due at at the end of the year.

That, perhaps, is part of why Nintendo continued to dominate console sales with the Switch, in spite of hardware shortages. Animal Crossing: New Horizons remained the top-selling title for the console (and third over all), owing to the online cult it has amassed through social-first gameplay. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Grand Theft Auto V took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Nintendo now says 300,000 accounts breached by hackers

Posted by | Gaming, Nintendo, Security, security breaches | No Comments

Nintendo has almost doubled the number of user accounts compromised by hackers in the past few months.

The Japanese gaming giant originally said that 160,000 Nintendo accounts were compromised, exposing personal information like the account owner’s name, email address, date-of-birth and their country of residence. In an updated statement, the company said another 140,000 Nintendo accounts had been compromised.

Nintendo said the number increased as a result of its continuing investigation.

The company said it reset those passwords and contacted customers. The statement reiterated that fewer than 1% of all accounts were impacted by the breach.

News of account compromises came as early as March when users complained that their accounts were charged for digital items without their permission. Nintendo said in a tweet in April that users should enable two-factor authentication on their accounts but without saying why.

It took another two weeks before Nintendo admitted that accounts had been improperly accessed.

But Nintendo still hasn’t said how the accounts were accessed, beyond claiming that hackers got access to accounts by obtaining account passwords “by some means other than our company’s service.” Its implication is that users may have used weak passwords that hackers cracked, or reused passwords that were breached from other services and used by hackers to break into their Nintendo accounts.

If you haven’t enabled two-factor authentication on your Nintendo account yet, now would probably be a good time.

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US video game sales have record quarter as consumers stay at home

Posted by | Animal Crossing, Companies, coronavirus, COVID-19, driver, Electronic Arts, entertainment software association, Gaming, Microsoft, new horizons, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, npd, Sony, United States, video game, Virtual reality | No Comments

New numbers from NPD confirm what we’ve known for a while: The first quarter of 2020 was a very good one for gaming companies. The new report notes that sales hit a record $10.86 billion in the States between January and March of this year, marking a 9% increase over a year prior; $9.58 billion of that figure was from video game content.

The primary driver is, you guessed it, COVID-19. As stay at home orders have been enacted on the federal and state levels, people are coping with the ongoing daily horror that is life in 2020 by playing video games. Lots and lots of video games.

Here’s NPD’s Mat Piscatella further confirming our suspicions: “Video Games have brought comfort and connection to millions during this challenging time. As people have stayed at home more, they’ve utilized gaming not only as a diversion and an escape, but also as a means of staying connected with family and friends. Whether it was on console or mobile, PC or virtual reality, gaming experienced play and sales growth during the first quarter.”

According to NPD’s Q1 2020 Games Market Dynamics: U.S. report, overall total industry consumer spending on #videogaming in the U.S. reached a record $10.86 billion in the first quarter of 2020 (Jan. – Mar.), an increase of 9 percent compared to the same time period last year.

— NPD Games (@npdgames) May 15, 2020

That last bit is, in part, key to many consumers’ choice of game titles. As already noted by the firm, Animal Crossing: New Horizons had its own record-setting first quarter. That, in turn, helped drive Switch sales, in spite of Nintendo’s well-documented supply issues. The title arrived just in the nick of time for stay at home orders in the U.S., delivering a kind of front-facing social experience that much of the competition lacks. Also, turnips.

Matter of fact, the Switch’s success actually helped supplement losses of other platforms. Microsoft and Sony will no doubt make up gains at the end of the year with their next-gen consoles. For now, however, many consumers are likely holding out until their holiday arrives to invest in Xbox or PlayStation hardware, in spite of the pandemic. The U.S.’s soaring unemployment rate no doubt also had an impact on the industry’s bottom line.

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Nintendo sells a lot more Switches, as people stay at home playing Animal Crossing

Posted by | Animal Crossing, Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

A couple of weeks ago, we noted some new NPD numbers pointing to a very good March for the Switch. Nintendo’s financials this week bear out the predicted surge in popularity for the three-year-old console.

The company has sold 21 million Switch units in the past year, handily beating a 19.5 million forecast; 6.2 million of those systems were the newer, cheaper Switch Lite, which hit the market in September. All of this comes as the company has run up against shortages through a combination of increased popularity and a global supply chain knocked off balance from COVID-19.

In spite of the increased difficulty in procuring a device at retail, the pandemic looks to have had a positive impact on Switch sales, as stay at home orders have increased interest. The arrival of Animal Crossing: New Horizons couldn’t have been better timed, either. The title fulfills both the increased demand for stationary entertainment as well as virtual socialization.

No surprise, then, that the game has become the console’s fastest selling. As of the end of March, 11.77 million copies have been sold. The figures make New Horizons the seventh best-selling Switch title of all time — between Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!/Eevee! And Splatoon 2 — in spite of having only been on sale for just over a month.

The year ahead may look at bit rockier for the company, however, with the arrival of next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony arriving this holiday season. 

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Daily Crunch: AT&T CEO steps down

Posted by | Apple, apple inc, AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway, ceo, Companies, coo, Daily Crunch, Google, Media, Mobile, Nintendo, president, Randall stephenson, TechCrunch, thierry-breton, Tim Cook, trump, WarnerMedia | No Comments

AT&T is getting a new boss, the first piece of Apple and Google’s COVID-19 contact tracing program should be available soon and Snap is looking to raise more debt.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for April 24, 2020.

1. Randall Stephenson to step down as AT&T chief, succeeded by COO John Stankey

A big changing of the guard is underway at one of the world’s biggest names in telecoms and media. The change is effective on June 1, and while Stephenson is retiring, he will stay on as executive chairman of AT&T until January 2021.

Stankey has held other roles at AT&T, including CEO of WarnerMedia and CEO of the AT&T Entertainment Group. His promotion suggests a continuing emphasis on the media side of the business.

2. First version of Apple and Google’s contact tracing API should be available to developers next week

The first version of Apple and Google’s jointly developed, cross-platform contact tracing API should be available to developers as of next week, according to a conversation between Apple CEO Tim Cook and European Commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton.

3. Snap looks to load up on cash in sizable debt offering

Snap’s Q1 earnings impressed investors but the company is still losing plenty of cash and it’s clear that the full impact of the digital ad market’s downturn won’t be seen until the company’s Q2 earnings. The company is now looking to raise looking to raise $750 million.

4. Google ditched tipping feature for donating money to sites

Leaked images obtained by TechCrunch reveal that Google considered and designed a feature that would let people donate money to websites to help support news publishers, bloggers and musicians. But the company ultimately scrapped the idea.

5. Seven VCs look into the future of fintech

Although it looks like the COVID-19 pandemic has clipped the tails of many unicorns, this era won’t last forever. Investors expect the domestic and global economy to recover, perhaps as soon as late 2020 or early 2021. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. House passes COVID-19 relief package to replenish PPP loan funding

The interim legislation will allocate $310 billion to replenish the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing. President Trump previously expressed his approval of the bill, as well as his intention to sign it and make the funds available as quickly as possible.

7. After 160,000 accounts are compromised, Nintendo shuts down NNID logins

Nintendo confirmed earlier reports of account breaches dating back over the past few weeks. The gaming giant issued an update (via Nintendo Japan) noting that around 160,000 Nintendo Accounts were impacted, with accounts being used to purchase digital items without the owner’s consent.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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After 160,000 accounts are compromised, Nintendo shuts down NNID logins

Posted by | Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Security | No Comments

Nintendo today confirmed earlier reports of account breaches dating back over the past few weeks. The gaming giant issued an update (via Nintendo Japan) noting that around 160,000 Nintendo Accounts were impacted, which found multiple being used to purchase digital items without the owner’s consent. Along with the purchasing powers, the offending parties may have also gained access to personal information, including D.O.B. and email addresses.

The issue appears frequency of account access appears to have increased in recent weeks. To address the matter, the company is shutting down log-ins via NNID (Nintendo Network ID), an older account system that dates back to the 3DS/Wii U. Nintendo is resetting passwords for those impacted and recommending that everyone (impacted or not) enable two-factor authentication for their systems.

It will also be sending out notifications for the 160,000 or so users who were targeted during the month of April. The company noted earlier this week that it was investigating the issue, which found many users seeing unexpected purchases of items, including Fortnite V-Bucks, using a connected PayPal account.

Nintendo appears to still be trying to get to the bottom of how the parties gained access to the NNID info beyond “by some means other than our service.” It has been asking for users to submit feedback in an attempt to locate the source of the breach.

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The Nintendo Switch had a very good March

Posted by | Animal Crossing, Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, npd, Switch | No Comments

Nintendo is selling a lot of Switches. The convertible console has been a lifesaver for people sheltering in place around the world. COVID-19-induced travel restrictions and the long-awaited arrival of Animal Crossing: New Horizons have proven to be a perfect storm for the three-year-old platform.

New numbers out from NPD this morning shed some light on just how good last month was for Nintendo. Switch sales more than doubled their numbers from March 2019, per the analyst firm. It was a March record for the console, which launched in March 2017. It was also the best first-quarter unit sales for any gaming console since the company’s DS system, way back in 2010.

US NPD HW – Nintendo Switch set a new all-time record for hardware unit sales in a March month, besting the previous high set by Nintendo Switch in its March 2017 launch month.

— Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) April 21, 2020

The arrival of Animal Crossing: New Horizons was no doubt a bit part of the sales bump. The latest addition to the popular sim series was both the best-selling game on any platform for March and had the third-best-selling launch month of any title in Nintendo’s history since NPD started tracking. Only Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2018 and 2008, respectively) sold more physical units in their first month.

New Horizons is already the best selling title in Animal Crossing’s history, according to the firm. Both the timing of the title and its focus on social gaming play have been a huge boost to the game. It’s also been a hit with critics, currently sporting a 91% on Metacritic.

Stores have struggled to keep Switch units in stock amid a sharp bump in sales. Nintendo is reportedly boosting production of the system up by 10% in order to keep up with demand.

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Game downloads will be throttled to manage internet congestion

Posted by | Akamai, cloud gaming, content delivery network, coronavirus, COVID-19, games, Gaming, Microsoft, Netflix, Nintendo, software downloads, Sony, Steam | No Comments

For the billions stuck at home during the global effort to flatten the curve, gaming is a welcome escape. But it’s also a bandwidth-heavy one, and Microsoft, Sony and others are working to make sure that millions of people downloading enormous games don’t suck up all the bandwidth. Don’t worry, though, it won’t affect your ping.

A blog post by content delivery network Akamai explained a few things it is doing to help mitigate the tidal wave of traffic that the internet’s infrastructure is experiencing. Although streaming video is of course a major contributor, games are a huge, if more intermittent, burden on the network.

Akamai is “working with leading distributors of software, particularly for the gaming industry, including Microsoft and Sony, to help manage congestion during peak usage periods. This is very important for gaming software downloads, which account for large amounts of internet traffic when an update is released,” the post reads.

Take the new “Call of Duty: Warzone” battle royale game, released last week for free and seeing major engagement. If you didn’t already own the latest CoD title, Warzone was a more than 80-gigabyte download, equivalent to dozens of movies on Netflix . And what’s more, that 80 gigs was likely downloaded at the maximum bandwidth home connections provided; streaming video is limited to a handful of megabits over the duration of the media, nowhere close to saturating your connection.

And Warzone isn’t alone — there are tons of high-profile games being released at a time when many people have nothing to do but sit at home and play games — PC game platform Steam posted a record 20 million concurrent players the other day, and one analysis saw a 400% increase in gaming traffic. So gaming is bigger than ever, while games are bigger than ever themselves.

As a result, gaming downloads will be throttled for the foreseeable future, at least in some markets. “Players may experience somewhat slower or delayed game downloads,” wrote Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan in a brief blog post. I’ve asked Microsoft, Nintendo and Valve for comment on their approach as well.

It’s important to note that this should not apply to the rest of the gaming experience. Unlike downloading games, playing games is a remarkably low-bandwidth task — it’s important for packets to be traded quickly so players are in sync, but there aren’t a lot of them compared with even a low-resolution streaming video.

The best thing to do is to set your games to be downloaded overnight, as local infrastructure will be less taxed while everyone in your region is asleep. If you have downloads or updates coming during the day, don’t be surprised if they take longer than usual or are queued elsewhere.

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Nintendo’s online Switch services are experiencing an outage when we need them most

Posted by | coronavirus, COVID-19, Gaming, Nintendo, Switch | No Comments

The era of social distancing is going to put a lot of existing systems to the test. Nintendo’s online services for the Switch have been experiencing outages in the U.S. and parts of Europe. The company noted the issues on social media, adding that it’s “looking to rectify the situation as soon as possible.”

The official Network Maintenance Information page noted that it is currently “Unable to connect to the network service.”

Surely not the most dire of situations, though many are no doubt relying on such services to help pass the time, as more and more cities enact bans on gatherings and closures of schools and restaurants to encourage social distance in order to curb COVID-19’s spread. Microsoft’s Xbox Live also experienced a multiple-hour outage over the weekend.

Nintendo is currently readying the system for the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The latest entry in the series looks perfectly positioned to help eat away some hours when it’s released March 20. 

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