Nintendo Switch Online Just Got Two Of The Best Zeldas Ever

What a treat! It’s not the Link’s Awakening Remake-style makeover some (read: me) were hoping for, but Nintendo just threw two all-time great Zelda games up on its Switch Online subscription service. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages are available to play starting July 27, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

The Nintendo handheld hybrid’s Game Boy library was a bit barebones when it got added earlier this year. Thanks to the arrival of these 2001 companion pieces, its finally starting to take shape. Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages mix the best of old school top-down Zelda adventuring with clever gimmicks that lead to some excellent puzzles and beautiful pixel art gameplay.

Game Boy – July 2023 Game Updates – Nintendo Switch Online

In the first, Link can use the Rod of Seasons to change the time of year, while in the second, the Harp of Ages lets him travel through time. Both transform parts of the world in the process, with Ages being the more puzzle-focused of the two games. Most importantly, finishing one gives you a secret code to change up the gameplay and story in the second, and vice-a-versa. Completing both then lets you take on the final secret boss.

Read More: The Game Boy Color Zeldas Are Still Two Of The Best Games Around

Buy Nintendo Switch Online: Amazon | GameStop

But the thing that makes the games so special and beloved is that their overworlds are simply packed with monters to fight, items to collect, and secrets to uncover. They arrived shortly after Ocarina of Time, and mark the end of the series’ classic 2D structure of exploring an dense map and fighting through individually themed dungeons—the very things some still miss in modern Zeldas like Tears of the Kingdom.

For some, Oracle of Seasons and Ages are two of the best handheld Zeldas Nintendo ever made. For others, they’re two of the best games in the series, period. It’s gonna be hot as hell out this summer (and every one after it). I can’t think of a better time to take a break from life and jump back into their charming, surreal, and nostalgia-fueled worlds.

GTA Online Publisher Execs Get $72M Thanks To Player Spending

According to new documents, GTA, Borderlands, and NBA 2K publisher Take-Two Interactive is paying two of its top execs over $70 million this year, over twice what it paid the same executives last year. And that number could increase next year, as players continue to spend more and more on in-game purchases.

It’s no secret that some video game publishers pay their top executives a lot of money. But in the horrible world of corporate capitalism, numbers can always go up. For example, Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick and President Karl Slatoff were paid a combined $30,040,000 last year. A very large number, sure! But as previously reported, their new contracts were designed to reward them for how well the company performed. A large chunk of that performance-based payout is directly connected to how much money the company is bringing in from “recurrent consumer spending,” aka microtransactions and battle passes. And it turns out, over the last year, a lot of people have spent a lot of money buying shit in various Take-Two-owned video games.

The revelation came about as Take-Two Interactive just released its annual proxy filing to stock owners. And disclosed in the publicly accessible SEC filing (h/t Axios) was the confirmation that over the past year Zelnick and Slatoff were paid a combined (and hard-to-fathom) $72,350,718 via a mix of cash and stock. The top execs are part of their own management company, ZMC. Take-Two pays ZMC that large sum of money and it is split between the two in a contract that Axios points out gives Slatoff no more than 40 percent.

Dig a bit deeper into that massive number and you’ll see that a sizable piece of ZMC’s payday, around $44 million, is directly influenced by Take-Two’s performance. Specifically, nearly 25 percent of that is based on Take-Two expecting an increase in people buying up microtransactions in popular games like NBA 2K23 and GTA Online, as well as Take-Two’s mobile games.

What does this mean? Well, if the two execs lead the company in a way that sees MTX spending increase, their next payday could skyrocket beyond a combined $70 million. But if in-app purchases decrease or fail to grow, they could see a decrease in compensation.

So, with all that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that practically every Take-Two published game and franchise is filled to the brim with extra ways to buy digital stuff. The people in charge can’t buy more fancy cars and big yachts otherwise, which might explain the slot machines in NBA 2K.


Payday 3 CEO Apologizes For Nightmare ‘Always Online’ Launch

By many accounts, Payday 3 appears to be a disappointing half-step forward for the longrunning co-op bank robbery series. Unlike its predecessor, it also requires players to always be online, a seemingly grave misjudgement given Payday 3’s first-week launch woes. The problems with crashes, slow matchmaking, and disconnected servers were so bad the CEO of creator Starbreeze Studios began apologizing for the state of the game almost immediately.

“We are so sorry that the infrastructure didn’t hold up as expected, and although it’s impossible to prepare for every scenario—we should be able to do better,” Tobias Sjögren tweeted on September 22, just a day after Payday 3’s debut. “We work tirelessly until we have restored all services and our players can get back to heisting again without issues!”

“Early access” for Payday 3 began on September 18, but the massive influx of new players didn’t begin until its full release on September 21. In addition to PC and PlayStation 5, the multiplayer heist sim also hit Game Pass, where paying subscribers on Xbox Series X/S could download it for free. PC players complained about the game being stuck in “searching” mode when trying to find a match. Some Xbox players also appear to have faced unstable servers and crashes.

“No matter what you choose, public, friends only, invite only, it will just matchmaker forever,” wrote one player in a post that blew up on Reddit. “Release day is usually tough for studios. This…This is embarrassing.”

Players on PS5, meanwhile, began the week with an apparent wrong build of the game. Lead producer Andreas Häll-Penninger blamed Sony for pushing out an incorrect patch. “PS5 players: For reasons out of our control you are currently playing an older version of the game,” he tweeted. “Sony is working on rolling out the proper patch.” The right version arrived a day later, but it was still a bad omen for fans on PS5 who paid $30 extra for the Silver Edition to play the game before others.

Naturally, the outages have once again spurred calls for companies to move away from always-online requirements. Payday 2’s offline mode lets players run through missions with AI-controlled characters. While the allure of the series remains its real time online multiplayer antics, being able to still enjoy the game without an internet connection was a nice feature. An offline mod for the game is apparently already in the works.

A three-act play on the Payday 3 Twitter account (sorry, I mean “X” account) perfectly captured the mood of the launch. “HEISTERS! We’re number one on Steam!” the account tweeted on September 21. “Heisters, we’re currently experiencing slow matchmaking,” read its very next tweet. “We’re investigating and working on a solution.” While matchmaking was unavailable for many throughout the afternoon and evening, the studio reported that things were improving by early in the morning on September 22, only for outages to creep back in as the day went on.

The ongoing mess is another reminder of why so many people take a wait-and-see approach to new game launches, especially on PC, especially when they have stringent online requirements. “Payday 3 feels like the kind of game that is not meant for day-one purchase,” wrote one observer on Reddit. “But rather wait until they have a bunch of content released.”

This is effectively what IGN wrote in the very first paragraph of its Payday 3 review. “The usual horrible Payday bugs, a dinky pool of jobs to tackle, and a predictably weak story mean it’s not exactly the giant leap forward I was hoping for,” it reads. “Still, if Payday 2’s post-launch support is any indication, this is at least a very promising start for what could become another decade of happily pistol whipping cashiers and fixing drills.”

A promising start indeed!


Nintendo To Stop Supporting 3DS And Wii U Online In April 2024

A person tests the Nintendo 3DS in 2010.

Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP (Getty Images)

Nintendo will discontinue online service for 3DS and Wii U consoles in April 2024, the company announced in a recent blog. After this point, the 3DS Pokémon storage app Pokémon Bank will be the only software accessible online.

Otherwise, owners of the 12-year-old 3DS and 11-year-old Wii U will no longer be able to engage in online co-op, rankings, or “data distribution,” Nintendo writes in its blog. As part of this, the Nintendo Badge Arcade, which lets you customize your 3DS home menu, will be completely lights out. The 3DS will save your badge data, but if you experience an SD malfunction, you won’t be able to restore it, Nintendo indicates in a different post.

Nintendo has not yet released a specific date or time for discontinuing online capabilities, but it notes that “if an event occurs that would make it difficult to continue online services for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U software, we may have to discontinue services earlier than planned.” Kotaku reached out for comment.

Earlier this year, Nintendo discontinued the 3DS and Wii U eShops as “part of the natural lifecycle for any product line as it becomes less used by consumers over time,” it wrote on its website. It’s possible that the Super Mario developer is clearing out its console cobwebs to make more space for the fabled Nintendo Switch successor, which seems to be scheduled for a 2024 release. During Gamescom 2023, Nintendo reportedly demoed Switch 2 hardware behind closed doors for a certain number of developers.

While Nintendo plots its official line of succession, the open-source project Pretendo is working to preserve and replace the Nintendo Network.

“We have been made aware of Nintendo’s plans to shut down Nintendo Network in April,” Pretendo wrote on Twitter. “We have begun discussing our development road map internally to accommodate this.” The service is not currently available for public use.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder Leaks Online, Raise Spoiler Shields

Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the latest 2D platformer from the masters of the form at Nintendo, is due out this week, on October 20. So it’s unfortunate news for both the Japanese gaming giant, and everyone who wants to avoid spoilers, that it’s already leaked online.

In what is unquestionably now a routine pattern, the first-party Switch title has found its way to the darker corners of the internet days before its official release. Beginning as early in the Switch’s lifetime as 2018, when Super Smash Bros. Ultimate appeared online two weeks before its release, and now regularly occurring with games like Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, Metroid Dread, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, and Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, this is a perennial issue for the publisher. As it happens—although it’ll be little consolation to Nintendo—this Wonder leak comes somewhat later compared to the two weeks early that most of their titles have appeared.

Pre-order Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

This could be in part due to Nintendo’s shock-and-awe response after TotK’s leak. This six-day-early leak most likely comes from that far more old-fashioned method, where stock arriving into stores ahead of sale gets filched by a member of staff, then ripped and uploaded.

What makes the Switch’s predicament so unique is that it’s a present-day console that’s already being emulated on PC. This is an unusual situation, with console emulation usually operating a good couple of generations behind, meaning the pursuit rarely impinges on current software sales. (It’s also why PC gaming has been embroiled in the misery of DRM (digital rights management) far longer than console games, as it’s always been easy to copy and run PC games, with no emulation required.)

Right now, emulators are just about managing to replicate the PS3 and are making headway on Xbox 360. There are early, mostly non-working PS4 emulators, and nothing at all for the Xbox One. So while it’s a minefield of unestablished copyright issues, it’s also not something that demonstrably harms sales for developers or publishers (it’s as likely that it helps boost interest in official re-issues and remakes, although the copyright holders would vociferously disagree).

That’s clearly not the case when it comes to Nintendo’s situation, where its latest games are routinely appearing online ahead of release, for emulators that already out-perform the console itself. Switch emulators can run games in 4K, for instance.

It also makes life pretty miserable for those who are looking forward to a game’s release, as the internet quickly fills up with significant spoilers. For Tears of the Kingdom, it became a case of unplugging your router for a couple of weeks, in order not to find out every detail of the game ahead of launch. And now for those looking forward to all the surprises Super Mario Bros. Wonder has to offer, you might want to drop your phone in a well until Friday.

Pre-order Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

Ubisoft Shutting Down Online Service For 10 Old Games

An image shows an assassin in a white hood holding a dead body and a hidden dagger.

Image: Ubisoft

Ubisoft has announced plans to shut down online services for nearly a dozen video games, including Assassin’s Creed 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction. The games will lose online functionally on January 25, 2024.

As we’ve seen over the last year, plenty of video game publishers and developers have already pulled online services and shutdown servers for a plethora of games across all platforms. The reasons vary, from low player counts to expiring licenses, but the reality is the same: More games become harder or impossible to play once the plug has been pulled. Now we can add even more titles to the growing list of “Dead Games.” This time around it’s Ubisoft announcing more shutdowns.

In a new post on Ubisoft’s support site, the publisher confirmed plans for “decommissioning” online services for 10 “older” games. Ubisoft further added that shutting down servers for old games is a choice it doesn’t make “lightly,” however it also added that it is “a necessity as the technology behind these services becomes outdated.”

Kotaku has contacted Ubisoft about the shutdowns.

Here is the full list of games losing online service on January 25, 2024, as well as which platforms are affected:

  • Assassin’s Creed II — Xbox 360
  • Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood — Mac
  • Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD — PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Assassin’s Creed Revelations — PC
  • Ghost Recon Future Soldier — PC
  • Heroes of Might and Magic VI — PC
  • NCIS — PC
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction — Xbox 360
  • R.U.S.E. — PC
  • Trials Evolution — PC

According to a chart from Ubisoft, once online features are shut off for these 10 games, users will no longer be able to play online multiplier, link accounts, or collect Ubisoft Connect rewards for the affected titles.

If it seems odd that some of these older games are only being shut down on certain platforms and not others, it should be noted that over the last few years Ubisoft has killed online services for some of these titles already on different platforms.

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