Checkpoint #8: Switch Lite, Now with 99% Less Fat (and Features)

Steam Labs launches, Nintendo Switch Lite announced, Lord of the Rings MMO redux, Dr. Mario World, a lost $60k Pokécard, and more

Welcome back to Checkpoint!

There’s a new Nintendo Switch coming to town, Valve has remembered it owns Steam and started tinkering with it again, Cuphead is coming to Netflix, and poker just became the pastime of choice for our robot overlords.

Let's get into it.

Release the Valve

PC gaming and cross-platform titles

Valve launched Steam Labs this week, a website that showcases a number of experimental Steam features — this is the kind of long-overdue action we can expect with Epic holding Valve’s feet to the fire. These features include:

  • Micro-trailers — auto-generated six-second videos generated from full trailers

  • Automatic Show — a 30 minute auto-generated video rounding up new game releases and other news

  • Interactive Recommender — generates a list of games you might like to try, using machine learning and your play time on already-owned titles.

Interactive Recommender is reportedly a very good start, and the most exciting feature of the bunch. Debate over Epic’s tactics aside, they’re the first contender that has managed to shake the space up in well over a decade.

Amazon Game Studios is publishing a free-to-play Lord of the Rings MMO for PC and consoles, which is still in development and as yet has no release date. Amazon Game Studios has partnered with Leyou Technologies to build it — Leyou announced the game last year, but we’re just now finding out who the publisher is. This is particularly interesting because Amazon is working on a Lord of the Rings original TV series. The game isn’t a tie-in, but perhaps a rising tides mentality is what motivated Amazon to pick the game up.

Instead of betting the farm on the Battle Royale craze, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will play to the franchise’s fast-paced, run and gun strengths with a fresh new mode called Gunfight. Two teams of two go up against each other in small maps, with mirrored loadouts that are determined by the game, reminiscent of the play that made Nuketown so popular. 

Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto has unveiled Disintegration, the new shooter IP he’s building with his studio, V1 Interactive. There’s a vague teaser video that shows some kind of mechanical contraption, and few other details for now.

Overwatch’s Jeff Kaplan posted a new developer update, letting fans know that Hero 31 will be released later than planned in order to release it in the best possible state. We’ll also see the Summer Games event arrive earlier than usual. More interestingly, a new system is coming that’ll shut down matches as soon as cheating is detected. Nobody except the cheater will receive penalties, including SR penalties, which makes this a pretty welcome development.

This is very 2019: Zombie Army 4’s developers recently said they’d need “a bloody good reason” to make the game an Epic exclusive, and you already know where this is going. Epic ponied up an amount of cash that evidently equates to one good reason, and now the game will indeed be an exclusive.

Finally, because I love a good strategy god game: Abbey Games has launched Godhood into early access on Steam and GOG. Build your holy site, battle competing gods, and convert nearby tribes — sounds like a blast (let me know how it is if you try it).

The Buried Lede

Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch news

Nintendo has announced a Nintendo Switch Lite that’ll arrive in September. It’s meant to be portable-only — no docking to your TV — and will cost US$200. Reactions are mixed. The lack of docking is almost definitely a product differentiation decision, not a technical one. The unreliable JoyCons are built-in on this model as well, so we hope Nintendo is better at improving problematic hardware designs than Apple has been with its butterfly keyboards. There will be a modest battery life increase.

I think you’d have to be in a very specific market segment to want this (having a disposable US$200, but not US$300), but I’m often wrong. There will also be a Pokémon Sword and Shield special edition if you’re into that.

Meanwhile, Nintendo plans to upgrade the original Switch with a new CPU/GPU chip and flash memory — though we only know this from an FCC filing, so we’ll need to wait for more details. There’s probably no Switch Pro on the horizon this year.

We all had massive backlogs before Game Pass came along, and now we’re all screwed. Microsoft has recognized this, and built the equivalent of Netflix’s My List into the service. You can now add Game Pass games to your Play Later list, to help you plan what you want to tackle when you’re finished with your current slate.

The Cuphead Show

Gaming culture, industry, and miscellanea

Cuphead is getting an animated Netflix series, aptly titled The Cuphead Show. Netflix has been going ham with game-to-screen adaptations lately, and we really hope it’s the first to crack that particular nut, because the hype has gotten quite real after decades of disappointment.

Imagine losing a $60,000 Pokémon card in the mail. There would be tears. Many, many tears.

Someone has remade Azeroth in Unreal Engine 4, to give us a taste of what World of Warcraft might look like were it remade today. It loses some of its cartoony charm, but it does look gorgeous.

Hold ‘Em Down

VR, AR, streaming, and other emerging tech

Facebook’s Pluribus AI has beaten top poker professionals in 6-player Texas Hold ’em. Previously, AIs only did well against human poker players in two-player matches, but Pluribus developed some interesting betting techniques to take out this win.

Could Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell be coming to the Oculus Rift? Reports suggest Facebook has signed a deal with Ubisoft to do just that, which is exciting — those IPs seem like great immersive VR fodder. Or they would, if I could get my Rift to stop fogging up.

Cash Doctor

Mobile gaming news

Dr. Mario World is now available on iOS and Android. The game hit a day early, and is getting great reviews as a clever puzzle game. It hit 2 million installs and $100,000 in revenue within 72 hours, which is a payday I’d gladly accept. Call me.

There’s a long way to go before Doc Mario can touch Pokémon Go, though, because that game has now made $2.65 billion in revenue since it launched three years ago. Yeah, I know. It hurts. You can put your head on my shoulder.

That’s it for this edition.

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- Flob

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