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Family Gaming for Less Part 3 – More Hardware Concerns!

We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories.

First, we talked about games and how to save money buying them. Then, in part two, we talked about consoles. 

This time we talk about some of the specific hardware options you have.

Video

Table space is an issue when setting up multiple systems at home. Fortunately modern consoles and computers will work with any display with an HDMI port. In space constrained situations a monitor is a great alternative to a television. A small projector and blank wall also works for dark rooms.

Audio

Listening to someone playing games can be distracting. With several people in the same space noise quickly becomes an issue. During gaming sessions this means speakers get turned up and people talk louder. Fortunately, using headphones means speakers are unnecessary.

Windows PCs have separate headphone and microphone physical inputs. Some games have voice chat built-in or Steam has voice chat capabilities. Typically PC games default to “push to talk” mode, where a keyboard key must be held while talking.

Microsoft and PlayStation consoles both use headsets plugged into the controller. When connected the headphones can play game sounds and voice chat. A mix between game and voice is available in the console menus. With everyone wired for sound you are ready for “party chat”. Both the PlayStation and Xbox consoles offer group voice chat which works across games.

The Switch has a headphone jack on the console. Any headphones will work – no microphone required. Nintendo does not offer a system-wide voice chat service on the Switch. A smartphone app is required instead. You may want headphones with a mic however, as individual game developers can add voice chat to their games. Fortnite is one example of this.

Adding an inexpensive gaming headset to any device will cut down on noise. Even if the family isn’t playing the same game everyone can join party chat. It is rewarding to share in the moments of triumph or defeat as a group! And mobile phone headsets work with consoles if you aren’t ready for a dedicated gaming headset.

Bonus Xbox engaged family tip: With the free Xbox smartphone app you can join parties from your phone. No console required! A great way to keep an ear on your kids’ social gaming.

Controllers and Power

PC games will often support Xbox 360, Xbox One, and/or PlayStation 4 controllers. Games even show correct button prompts in game. Steam sells their own controller, which supports advanced customization. This makes it difficult to use for most people though..

PlayStation 4 controllers integrate a rechargeable battery. Controllers use a micro USB cable. The micro USB end can break off if handled roughly. Controllers also include a charging port on the bottom. Look for controller charging stands which use this bottom port.

Xbox One controllers use AA batteries or custom rechargeable battery packs. Using a micro USB cable the controller can charge some battery packs. These cables can break off if not handled with care. Externally charged AA batteries or battery packs are also available.

Switch Joy-Con controllers charge while attached to the Switch itself. Other charging stands are also available. The Switch itself and Switch Pro controller have integrated batteries. They both use the newer USB C standard to charge. Third party chargers have damaged Switch consoles and Nintendo does not cover this under warranty.

Recommendations

Best Console for the Family to Share

If you only buy one video game console for your family consider the Switch. The ability to play multiplayer games with the Joy-Con controllers saves money on accessories. There are many games available for Switch and the library is growing quickly. There are many titles with couch co-op support and innovative experiences such as the cardboard building Labo. Nintendo is also produces excellent family-friendly games exclusive to the Switch. Being able to take the system on the go means family trips can be a little easier too.

Example couch multiplayer family games exclusive to Switch consoles:

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Snipperclips

Best Console for Multiple Gamer Families

The Xbox One is the best console for most families. Xbox Game Pass provides a decent library of titles both new and old. Backward Compatibility plays inexpensive original Xbox and Xbox 360 game discs. The Xbox Store gifting feature makes it easy to manage multiple accounts. Xbox One supports multiple external hard drives. Players can play on any console without worrying about saved game management. Some games even work on both Xbox and Windows 10. The downside of Xbox is the smaller pool of multiplayer opponents. For most families this is unlikely to be an issue.

Example multiplayer family games exclusive to Xbox One consoles:

Sea of Thieves

Subnautica

Forza Horizons 3: Hot Wheels Expansion
Carcassonne

Best Console for Multiplayer Outside the Family

PlayStation 4 is the best choice for a console for those who want to play primarily multiplayer games with people outside the family. The larger player base of PlayStation means more people to play with. And PlayStation Now is moving to compete with Xbox  Game Pass. You must do more work to manage game purchases across multiple accounts however. Commit to each member of the family using a specific console however. Switching between consoles is a frustrating experience.

Example multiplayer family games exclusive to PlayStation 4 consoles:

LittleBigPlanet 3

100ft Robot Golf

MLB The Show 18

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading! Please share this article with anyone who needs help saving money on video games. We’re always happy to hear your feedback..

The video game marketplace is constantly changing. Check back for future updates to this guide.

Stay engaged and happy family gaming!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Family Gaming For Less Part 2 – Hardware Options

We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories. Last time we talked about where to buy your games and how to save money buying them. 

This time it’s all about the hardware!

Windows PC

Maintaining multiple gaming PCs can be time consuming and expensive. This may work for families with a Windows computer technician in house. When planning your gaming budget keep in mind the cost of hardware upgrades.

There are solutions to play your office computer in the family room. The Steam Link and Nvidia Shield both support this feature. There are limitations and network requirements however so investigate further if this sounds useful.

Mac

Both Steam and GOG support Mac computers. Maintaining multiple Mac computers is easier than Windows PCs for most people. Many games are not available on Mac though. Available games often run slower or with fewer graphical features.

Nintendo Switch

The Switch costs US$300 and has a strong selection of games. Many games on the Switch allow you to share its standard “Joy-Con” controllers for couch co-op multiplayer sessions. This can be awkward for large hands because the Joy-Con is physically small. The Switch Joy-Con controllers are the most expensive at US$80 MSRP. Nintendo also offers a “Pro” controller similar in design to the Xbox and PlayStation controllers. The Pro controller retails for US$70.

The Switch uses microSD cards for data storage. Smaller size microSD cards are inexpensive at 64GB for less than US$20. Prices rise significantly for the cards with the most storage. Switch physical cartridges also require microSD storage for patches. Families planning large Switch game libraries should consider the cost of digital game storage versus the convenience.

PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 costs US$300 and has the biggest installed base of modern consoles. It is often the best choice for multiplayer gaming outside the family. There is a limited selection of couch multiplayer games and each player must have their own US$60 MSRP controller. PlayStation 4 owners cannot play online games with players on Xbox One or Switch.

The PlayStation allows you to use a single external USB 3 hard drive to expand the internal storage. This drive can be up to 8TB in size. You cannot use a USB hub to connect the external drive. Once formatted it is only readable by the PlayStation. Moving the drive requires ejecting it from the PlayStation settings menu first. PlayStation supports copying games between the internal console and external hard drive storage.

PlayStation uploads saved games only from the primary console. This is a problem for families using multiple consoles! Accessing saved games requires multiple steps on both consoles. PlayStation limits online storage to 10GB of saved data per user.

The PlayStation 4 supports “remote play” – where a PC, Mac, Vita, or PlayStation TV can access the PlayStation in the same house or over the Internet. The feature requires a PlayStation 4 controller and free software download for PC and Mac. Local and remote players can only play the same game together. Remote Play prevents the PlayStation from playing another game.

Microsoft Xbox

Xbox One S consoles are US$300. There are limited couch multiplayer games on Xbox – similar in quantity to the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One is less popular than the PlayStation 4. This can be a problem when trying to play older multiplayer games online since there are fewer potential players. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers cannot play online games together. Some specific titles do support playing with Switch, Windows PC, and mobile.

Controllers are US$60 MSRP. Microsoft offers a custom controller design option as well for US$70 where you can choose various color options to create a unique controller. This can make a fantastic gift!

Xbox also supports two unique controller options. Copilot allows two controllers to both fully control a single game. This is a great option for a younger player who needs a little help. It is also popular with gamers with disabilities. Even more exciting is the Xbox Adaptive Controller. This uses industry standard assistive devices to connect to a controller base, enabling a range of new options for gamers with disabilities.

Xbox supports attaching two external USB 3 hard drives. Each drive can be up to 8TB in size. Attaching two smaller drives is a cost effective choice as well since they are often inexpensive. Once formatted a drive is only readable by Xboxes. You can move the drive between Xboxes by unplugging the drive.

The Xbox supports moving games between drives on the same system and between Xboxes on the same network. This can save money on metered Internet connections. One Xbox can copy games to other consoles.

The Xbox synchronizes saved games to the cloud so switching between Xbox consoles is painless. Launching a game first time on a new console and it downloads the saved game. Updating saved games occurs in the background while playing. Storage for this saved game syncing is unlimited.

A free Windows 10 Xbox app allows remote play with an Xbox console at home. The Xbox can only play one game at a time however.

Mixed Platforms and Cross Play

Playing together using multiple video game platforms has limitations. Most games rely on the video game console or Steam multiplayer services. Only games with “cross play” features can play together across different systems. A “party” – a group of people like a family – playing together is often a separate consideration; not all cross play games support cross parties.

Fortnite, Rocket League, and Minecraft are the most popular games with crossplay. Rocket League plans to add cross-party play in late 2018. These games support Xbox, Switch, PC, and – excepting Rocket League – even mobile devices. Absent from any cross play is PlayStation. Sony has so far not made cross play possible according to developers.

A more limited version of cross play is Microsoft’s “Xbox Play Anywhere” and “cross platform” programs. Xbox Play Anywhere provides a license for both the Xbox and Windows 10 version of the game with a digital purchase. A single account shares the game with all users on the computer. With an Xbox and Windows 10 PC this can save money! However, the small game selection limits the usefulness of Xbox Play Anywhere.

Not all Xbox Play Anywhere titles support cross platform multiplayer. Look for these features on the game’s store page. Some examples of games with Xbox Play Anywhere and cross-play are: Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizons 3, and Ark: Survival Evolved.


That was a whole lot of info right? And we aren’t even close to done! Come check back for part three soon!!


About the Author

Adrian Luff is a lifelong video gamer with three video game obsessed boys and a very understanding wife. He is fortunate enough to have worked in the video game industry for over 20 years building online services for multiplayer gaming. He worked on servers for Battle.net used by the Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft games. He also designed the launch infrastructure for World of Warcraft. Adrian leads a team of engineers building robust systems, infrastructure, and developer tools for Twitch.tv (a division of Amazon).

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Family Gaming For Less!  Part 1 – Where to Buy Games!

We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories. 

We’ll be paying special attention to saving money when playing on multiple systems in the same house.

That’s because finding enjoyable couch co-op games is challenging. Finding couch co-op games suitable for the entire family is an epic quest! Many games now support multiplayer exclusively online with only one player per system. Families are increasingly purchasing one console per family member. It isn’t uncommon to have a house with several Xboxes anymore.

Video game system prices have dropped in recent years but multiple gaming consoles is still an expensive proposition! Picking the right gaming platform can save thousands over the lifetime of that system.

The Game Stores

The first, and probably most important decision, is where you will by your games. There are several online platforms or “digital stores” selling games online. The games they sell don’t have discs or cartridges. They exist only as files on your computer or console. The online stores use Digital Rights Management (DRM) to control how you can use their downloaded games.

These are small details that might not seem important, but you need to know and understand them in order to stretch your budget.

Windows – Steam

Steam is an online store that sells digital games for PC, Mac, and Linux. Steam provides a guide to enable Family Sharing. This feature enables sharing your game library with up to five family members. Only one person at a time can use the library however.

Logging in to Steam kicks other users out after a few minutes. Multiplayer requires purchasing a copy of each game for each player.

Steam games are often on sale. Many games are 20% off at launch, which is appealing on its own.. There are also several Steam sales throughout the year (a Summer sale in May and a Winter Sale in January for example).

You can also buy digital games for use on the Steam platform on other sites. Websites like Humble Store and GreenManGaming sell “game keys” composed of strings of number and letters. You can use these keys to add the game to your Steam library.

The competitive marketplace keeps prices low, but purchasing 4 copies, even at 20% off, is not the most cost effective option.

Windows – GOG

An alternative to Steam is GOG. This is a service that offers DRM-free PC games. GOG games are downloaded as ZIP files or using an optional client named GOG Galaxy. The client downloads, installs, and updates games. It is possible to purchase games from GOG once and copy them to multiple computers since they are DRM free. This isn’t a perfect solution because some games require GOG Galaxy for multiplayer. If that is the case, then each player must have their own copy of the game.

Games using the Steam multiplayer system can only be sold through the Steam store. GOG has made it easy for game developers to use the GOG multiplayer system instead. Usually playing the GOG version of a game means playing with only other GOG customers. That’s fine – maybe even preferable – for family gaming. It will, however, cause frustration if you try to play with friends who own the Steam version of a game. You won’t be able to see those Steam friends!

Editor’s note: GOG used to be called Good Old Games because they focused on keeping older games playable on modern PC operating systems. They recently changed their name to GOG and I had no idea until Adrian corrected me. Just goes to show… I don’t know EVERYTHING. 😉

Nintendo eShop

The Switch is an appealing platform. The same games can be played on the TV at home or on the go. And Switch has a great library of family friendly couch co-op games. But multiple Switch consoles is a budget buster for many families. Nintendo’s DRM restricts digital games to a single console, even when online. Playing together requires that each family member own a copy of the game.

PlayStation Store and Xbox Store

Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles have similar DRM policies. They allow an account to play a purchased digital game on the “primary” or “home” console. Each account picks a single, specific console as home. This can be the same console for multiple accounts. Sony and Microsoft permit the home console to change only a few times however.

Each account can simultaneously play a purchased game on the home console and any other console while online. Buying two copies of a game allows four family members to play – including multiplayer! This is known as “Game Sharing”. This works with two consoles and even four – with two copies of games. 

Buying Multiple Copies of Games

Rewards

There are easy ways to save money on games for any platform. There are free rewards programs available: Nintendo Gold Points, Sony Rewards, and Microsoft Rewards. Each offers about 1% of purchases back as points. You can then redeem points for gift cards or other rewards. Make sure to check the program details as they each have their own quirks.

For example, you earn points using Bing web search and by completing surveys in the Microsoft program. There are many rewards available, including Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass memberships at discounted prices. Many people find they can pay for a year of both Xbox Live and Game Pass membership just by using Bing search daily.

Sales and Wishlists

Look for the weekly digital game sales on your platform of choice. Savings range from 25% to 75% off. Subscribers to PlayStation Plus often save an additional 10% on sale items. Xbox Live Gold members have a special weekly sale. Patience pays off as most games will go on sale at least once a year.

If you don’t have time to track the weekly sales you can still save. Steam, PlayStation Store, and Nintendo’s eShop for Switch all have wishlist features in their digital game stores. Steam will even email you when something on your wishlist is on sale! There are also many third party sites which offer price tracking like IsThereAnyDeal for Steam, TrueAchievements for Xbox One, and TrueTrophies for PlayStation. Each sites offers multiple notification options. These sites require an account to track your wishlist.

Saving on Digital Games

Using specific payment options can also save money.

Sony offers the Sony Card with 5X points (~5%) on entertainment purchases, including those from the PlayStation Store. The credit card company deposits points in the linked Sony Rewards account each month. This discount stacks with the rewards points earned from purchases via Sony’s digital game store. Redeem points for PlayStation gift cards.

Families may already have a Target Red credit or debit card, offering 5% off purchases at Target. This discount applies to gift cards. Target charges an additional 5% on digital gift cards delivered by email however. Saving requires a trip to the store.

Amazon offers the Amazon Prime Store credit card with 5% back on purchases at Amazon. You must be a paying Amazon Prime member to qualify. Amazon offers Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox digital gift cards delivered by email.

Remember gift cards are not subject to sales tax. And the discounted gift cards “stack” with any game sales for more savings!

Gifting Games

Gifting digital games is available on Steam and the Xbox Store. This is helpful as it allows you to maintain a single account with funds. Use this “primary” account to purchase games for the whole family and gift them to your children’s accounts. This also serves as an anti-fraud measure, because you won’t have to add a payment method to your children’s accounts.

Microsoft rewards points are also in a single account when using this approach with Xbox for faster accumulation. Microsoft parental controls also support “request to purchase” on child accounts. However, you can only gift DLC as “request to purchase” does not work. In-game currency such as Fortnite V-bucks require purchasing from the child account. In this situation you can apply a gift card to your child’s account only for the needed amount. Microsoft has said they are working to improve the process.

PlayStation and Xbox Online Services

PlayStation and Xbox require a paid membership subscription to play games online named Sony PlayStation Plus and Microsoft Xbox Live Gold. Each costs US$60 per year. Alternate subscription lengths are also available. Buying a membership for one account will enable online play for anyone logged into that player’s primary or home console. The paying account can also play online from any console while logged into the Internet.

Subscription Services

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft has a Netflix-style service dubbed Xbox Game Pass for US$10 per month. This offers a library of “over 100” games available for download. Game Pass games are available to anyone on the purchaser’s home console. The paying account can also play these games from any console while logged into the Internet.

With Game Pass for the family you have games everyone can play together. Microsoft has stated games they publish will remain in the library. Microsoft adds or removes other games periodically. Game Pass offers a sliding discount up to 20% to buy games in the library based on the game’s age. Game Pass games don’t include DLC but there is a 10% discount to buy it. The Game Pass discount only applies to full price games and DLC.

It is worth mentioning that not all games in Game Pass are family friendly, nor are they all multiplayer titles. Some are older Xbox 360 games that play on Xbox One but lack the high resolution and performance of newer games. There are multiple games from many genres including multiplayer family favorites Zoo Tycoon, Rocket League, and Lego Star Wars. The complete list is available here.

EA Access for Xbox

EA Access is a subscription specific to game publisher EA. It is available for US$30 per year on Xbox One only. Sports gamers can enjoy last year’s version of EA’s Madden, FIFA, hockey, and basketball games. EA also makes Battlefield, Need for Speed, and Plants vs. Zombies series which all have games included. Overall EA Access offers a smaller and older selection of games compared to Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass includes none of EA’s games.

EA Origin Access Basic and Premiere for PC

EA Origin is the PC counterpart to EA Access on Xbox. There are two levels available: Basic and Premiere. Basic is a separate PC-only subscription also for US$30 per year. The game selection is similar to EA Access on Xbox One but includes games from other publishers.

EA Origin Access Premiere is US$15 per month and adds newly EA published games immediately. This can be appealing for gamers who buy several EA titles for PC each year.

Sony PlayStation Now

PlayStation has the PlayStation Now service for US$30 for three months. This offers a library of games for PlayStation 3 plus a few for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4. The service streams gameplay across the Internet rather than downloading games to the console. For any multiplayer games you will need a great Internet connection to support four or even two players. Instead of streaming games over the Internet it is rumored Sony will add support for downloading Playstation 4 games to a Playstation 4 console. PlayStation families should check back in the coming months for updates.

Xbox Backward Compatibility

One budget-friendly option for families is backward compatibility on Xbox One. Simply insert a supported original Xbox or Xbox 360 game disc into the Xbox One. The console downloads a small update and the games are ready to play. The list of Backward Compatible games is available from Xbox Community Manager Major Nelson’s site.

There are several sources for inexpensive used Xbox 360 game discs. eBay, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon all sell used Xbox 360 games. This can be a cost effective way to expand your family game library. Also, digital copies of almost all backward compatible games are available in the Xbox store.

Game Sharing and Always Online

Game sharing lets you use digital game licenses on two consoles simultaneously. This is key to economical family gaming on both Microsoft and Sony’s consoles. Xbox accounts have a home console. Similarly for PlayStation accounts there is a primary console. Changing the home console is possible only a few times.

The home or primary console can always play games. The second console must be always online and connected to the Internet. If the Internet is not available then the console will not be able to play purchased digital games. If PlayStation Network or Xbox Live are down the second console will also be unable to play. This has ruined Christmas for some people.


That was a whole lot of info right? And we aren’t even close to done! Come check back for part two tomorrow!


About the Author

Adrian Luff is a lifelong video gamer with three video game obsessed boys and a very understanding wife. He is fortunate enough to have worked in the video game industry for over 20 years building online services for multiplayer gaming. He worked on servers for Battle.net used by the Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft games. He also designed the launch infrastructure for World of Warcraft. Adrian leads a team of engineers building robust systems, infrastructure, and developer tools for Twitch.tv (a division of Amazon).

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

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Games for Beginning Readers: Board Game Recommendations For Ages 5 to 7

Finding games that are the right fit for children aged 5 to 7 can be challenging. As they move into school age they can begin handling more in games.  Young children who are just learning to read or are beginning readers are often not ready for games with lots of reading or complex turns.  Attention spans still tend to be short so game duration is a relevant factor.

Some game in this age range are part of a movement in the game industry to make simpler versions of their games.  Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Stone Age have tapped into this age by creating “my first” or “junior” versions of their games.

Gamewright 

Outfoxed!


Outfoxed! is a cooperative game deduction game for players ages 5 and up and for two to four players where the players are…chickens. Chickens chasing clues to catch a fox that has absconded with a prized pot pie.  What family can resist working together to solve such a heinous crime? The game includes a special evidence scanner to rule out the different fox suspects by showing if the thief is wearing a particular object. On each players turn they declare if they will Search for Clues or Reveal Suspects. They then have three chances to roll the dice to get all three dice icons to match their choice. If they success they complete the stated action, but if not the culprit moves closer to escaping with the pie.

Too Many Monkeys


Too Many Monkeys A Totally Bananas Card Game is a playful, lively game is designed to appeal to young gamers and parents alike. It is a fast paced, simple game for ages 6 and up and for two to six players that subtly reinforces math concepts such as number sequencing and probability while still allowing kids to be silly and have fun.

Too Many Monkeys is played in a series of rounds. Players are dealt out 6 cards face down. Players draw from the discard pile or the draw pile and swap it face up with a card in the position that matches the number on the card they drew. The winner of the first round gets dealt one less card at the start of the next round. All other players have the same number as the previous round. Play continues as above with players’ hands getting smaller each round. You continue in rounds until one player is down to just one card and draws the number 1 card (with Primo asleep). When that happens, Primo is back to sleep and the game is over!

Slamwich


Slamwich is a fast-paced, silly, and energetic card flipping game reminiscent of Slapjack, War, Uno, etc. The game is recommended for ages 6 and up for two to six players. Taking turns, each player takes the top card of their deck and flips it onto a center pile. If a set of criteria is met, players race to slap the pile. The combinations are easy to understand. A Double Decker-If the flipped card is identical to the card directly underneath. A Slamwich– If two identical cards have exactly one card in between them (like a sandwich). Special cards like a Thief or a Muncher add unique criteria and help to make winning more random. If a player runs out of cards, they are out of the game. Whoever collects all of the cards wins.

Super Tooth


Super Tooth is, at its core, a matching card game for ages 6 and up for two to four players. Players collect matched sets of plant eating dinosaurs. Each turn includes a “landscape” of three cards on the play area. First, the player resolve event cards, such as the egg that lets the player bring back a card that had previously been discarded. Next, they player feed or chase away meat eaters, and then ultimately choose one type of plant eater from the board.

Super Tooth relies a little on luck, but it is important for players to choose cards carefully to build matched sets and not just random cards. Players cash in matching sets of cards for tooth tokens, and the more matching cards the more tokens they earn.  The first player with 3 tokens in a three or four player game wins, and 5 tokens in a two player game wins.

Flashlights and Fireflies


Flashlights and Fireflies is a board game version of flashlight freeze tag for  two to five players. The game plays in three quick phases per round, and the game ends when one player reaches home.  The board includes three sections; the woods, the firefly field, and the path home. Flashlights and Fireflies plays in rounds, and each round include four phases: hide, catch, shine, and sneak.  Flashlights and Fireflies is a great game for the whole family.  The game moves quickly through each round and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to play.  The age recommended is 6 and up, but since there is no reading in the game it does scale down nicely to slightly younger players.

Education Outdoors

Toasted or Roasted


Toasted or Roasted has you building the campfire and trying to toast marshmallows without them becoming roasted. It is for two to four players and is recommended for ages 6 and up.There are several objectives to complete in Toasted Or Roasted.  First, each player needs light their campfire by playing a Fire Starter card.  Once you play a Fire Starter card you flip your Firewood Disk over to the campfire side.  Then, each player needs to try and toast 3 marshmallows to win.  

Toasted or Roasted is a great light family game.  The game has minimal reading so it can easily scale down to players even younger than the recommended 6 years old. Roasting a competitor’s marshmallows is a light “take that” element.  Young players need to be able to handle it if someone “spoils” their marshmallow.

Monkeybeak Games

Hoagie


Hoagie is a fast paced game for two to five players that is recommended for ages 5 and up.  Each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies (pictured on the spoiled food and special action cards). Hoagie’s gameplay is very easy and takes just minutes to learn.  Each player is dealt a hand if 6 cards to start the game.  On each players turn they play a card from their hand on their sandwich or an opponent’s. Several actions with the cards can occur, but only one can occur per turn. In order to win, a player must begin their turn with a perfect sandwich, which consists of bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, and bread.

Carma Games, LLC.

Tenzi


Tenzi is a super simple dice game for two to four players ages 7 and up that is very fast-paced. This is a great icebreaker, boredom buster, or introduction to kick off a bigger game night. The game is noisy, quick, and simple. The variations within the rules make it something that has a high replay value. It’s also nice the game does a tiny bit of teaching while still being fun. We found that it’s been playable by children as young as five while still being entertaining to adults.

Iello

Tales and Games


Iello games has produced a series of games based on classic children’s stories and fairy tales. The games look like beautiful hardbound storybooks with classically illustrated covers and spines. Each game takes about 20 minutes to play through and they all have different mechanics and designs. They and are designed to be played by players ages 7 and up.

We have included them here because they have sparked interest in the classic stories that they are based on in our household. The stories released so far are:

The Three Little Pigs

Baba Yaga

The Hare and the Tortoise

The Grasshopper and the Ant

Little Red Riding Hood

The Pied Piper

Aladdin and the Magic Lamp

Brain Games

Ice Cool


Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish  and earn points. This is more complicated because each player takes a turn as the hall monitor who’s objective is to catch the other players. Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and the kids love it. The game board designed allows for some really interesting trick shots like flicking your penguin pawn so that you have a decent spin going and having it travel in an arc through multiple doors. You can even try to send your penguin OVER walls if you like.

Thinkfun

Rush-hour Junior


Rush-hour Junior is one player, portable, colorful, and mentally wonderful for ages 5 and up. The board is small and packed with vehicles which have set directions that they can move. The goal is to move the vehicles in a particular order to get the little red car out of the traffic jam. A negative is that every piece is important. Don’t lose them! This game is great for waiting rooms or car trips as it comes with its own board and it small enough to hold in a child’s hand or lap. The junior version has 40 challenges and 15 blocking pieces

Roller Coaster Challenge


Roller Coaster Challenge is a single player STEM game focusing on engineering for ages 6.  It come with 60 challenge card in a range of difficulty.  The player sets up the posts and required pieces on the challenge card.  They then need to design a roller coaster that travels to the bottom successfully using some of the additional posts, 39 tracks.  The roller coaster is successful if the roller coaster car makes it to the end.  This was a Toy of the Year Finalist in 2018.

Laser Maze Jr.


Laser Maze Jr. is a single player logic game designed for ages 6 and up by Thinkfun. This game challenges the player to set up tokens to match a challenge card. The player then adds mirrors to the board. The objective is to reflect a laser beam so it lights up the rocket (or rockets with more difficult cards) light up. The player selects a challenge card. There are four levels of play: easy, medium, hard, super hard. The 40 numbered cards get progressively harder as they move within each level of play.

The player selects a card and inserts it under the Game Grid.  The card shows the locations of the Rocket target and Space Rock Blockers. At the bottom of the card the additional pieces needed to complete the challenge are displayed. The player then manipulates the additional pieces around the Game Grid in order to reflect the laser. The challenge is successful once the Rocket Target is lit up by the laser beam.

Haba

Rhino Hero


Rhino Hero is a competitive  3-D stacking game for ages 5 and up and is for two to five players where players are building a tower of cards and moving Rhino Hero up the tower.  This dexterity game directs players were the wall cards need to go on each turn.  Players have wall and ceiling tiles.  On their turn, the player first builds the wall in the place indicated on the ceiling tile and then place their ceiling tile.  Actions indicated on some of the ceiling tiles and those benefit the player, such as skipping the next player.  The game ends when the tower fall, a player places their last roof card, or all the walls are built.  

Rhino Hero- Super Battle


Rhino Hero- Super Battle is the sequel to Rhino Hero.  The game is for ages 5 and up and plays two to four players. This game adds three more superheros:  Giraffe Boy, Big E. and Batguin.  The walls now come in two sizes; tall and short and there is a superhero medal.  Additionally there are spider monkeys which attack. 

The gameplay has additional steps they includes: 1. Build!, 2. Spider monkey attack (place a spider monkey hanging from the floor if there is a spider monkey symbol and see if it makes the tower fall), 3. Climb the skyscraper! by using a die to determine how many floors to climb, 4. Super battle if two superheros are on the same level, 5. Superhero medal goes to the players if their super hero is the furthest up at this phase in their turn, 6. Draw another floor card.  The game ends when all or part of the tower collapses or all the floors that are playable have been used.

Monza


Monza is a racing game for ages 5 and up and plays two to six players. Movement of your race car in this game is based on rolling six color dice.  Players must utilize strategic thinking to use the colors you roll to plan the path for your car. Players can only move to a forward space and may not enter a space with an obstacle.

This game is more thoughtful than a straight roll and move because you need to plan your path based on the colors you roll. With a luck roll and good planning a player can move six spaces. Any die that do not correspond to a color ahead of the player on the board are discarded for that turn. The first player to the finish line is the winner.

Brandon the Brave


Brandon the Brave is a tile placement game for ages 5 and up for one to four players, where you are a knave desiring to be a brave knight like “Brandon the Brave”. Knaves prove their intuition and skills by completing tasks.  To do this players place field tiles and are trying to match colored crosses.  These crosses represent a location of a completed task and the color needs to match one color of the task card. As players lay tiles a jousting arena may be build. The player who places the sixth tiles completing the arena gets to place a task card in the center.  The game ends once a player completes all their task cards or all the field tiles are placed.

May Day Games 

Coconuts


Coconuts is a dexterity game for ages 7 and up for two to four players where you are launching coconuts with your monkey and trying to land them into baskets in the center.  When you land a coconut in a basket you get to place the cup on your game board.  To win you need to collect 6 baskets and stack them into a pyramid on your board, but there are not enough baskets in the center for everyone to collect.  You need to try and steal from your opponent by landing a coconut in their basket. An added component is the basket are red and yellow.  Should you land in a red basket you get to take a additional shot.

Playroom Entertainment

The Magic Labyrinth


The Magic Labyrinth is a memory and grid movement game for ages 6 and up and plays two to four players. In this game you are playing apprentices that have lost various objects, which are now in the Magic Labyrinth.  The twist is there are invisible walls!  Players must move and remember where the wall are when they or a competitor hits a wall.  A series of wooden blocks in a grid under the gameboard create the walls.  The walls are movable so the maze can be different each time you play. The pawn is magnetic and a ball sticks to it. If you hit a wall the ball falls off an rolls to one of the trays on the side and you go back to the start corner.

At the beginning of the game players draw a few lost objects tokens and place them on their corresponding picture throughout the maze.   A players landing on the space with a token they get to keep it.  A new token is then drawn out of a bag and placed on the board.  The first player to collect five objects wins.

Drei Maiger Spiele 

Enchanted Tower


Enchanted Tower is a hidden information/deduction game for ages 5 and up and is for two to four players.  The princess is captive, locked away in a tower by the wizard.  The board sits inside the box with compartment so the metal key can be hidden under the board. There are token covering the compartments. Players are either playing the wizard or the prince and they are trying to get to the key first.  At the beginning of the game the wizard hides the key in one of the compartments. The players take turns rolling specialty dice which have a player color corresponding to the pawns and number of spaces to move for each color.

The wizard (blue) has to start on a lower track and has eight extra spaces to move than the prince (red).  This advantage evens the playing field since the wizard player knows the location. When a pawn lands on the space where the key is under, it clicks against the magnet at the bottom of the pawn. Once a player finds the key, they try it in one of the six keyholes of the tower.  If the princess pops out they win.  If not the wizard hides the key again and players start over.  First to free the princess wins.

Asmodee

Catan Junior


A popular game which has been simplified for younger gamers is Catan Junior.  This is a route building  resource management game for ages 6 and up and is for two to four players.  Like the original Settlers of Catan you are collecting resources based on the numbers that  come up with each roll. These resources used to build or get Coco the Parrot cards which provide resources or the ability to build at no cost. Instead of building settlements, cities, and roads in the full version you are building pirate ships and hideouts.  The first player to build seven pirate hideouts wins.

Days of Wonder

Ticket to Ride: First Journey


Ticket to Ride: First Journey takes the formula of its predecessor and strips out several of the more complex concepts in favor of a streamlined experience that can be played by kids who are even younger! We have always said that the Ticket to Ride series was accessible to savvy kids, but this new version is even better.The map is simplified also. The game board is large, and the various cities are larger and more defined.  Each of the cities includes a colorfully illustrated image associated with it. The winner is the first person to finish six routes. This game teaches players the general flow of a game of Ticket to Ride without the burden of some of the finer details of the senior game.

Z-Man Games

My First Stone Age


My First Stone Age is another popular game simplified for younger children ages 5 and up and players two to four players. Like the original game you gather resources to build huts, but the worker placement component is not included in this simpler game. The game has large chunky high quality pieces.

On each players turn they take a forest tile from the perimeter of the board. On each tile is a resource, an image of a die, or a dog.  If a player pull a resource they move to that resource space and take one of that resource.  A die image indicates the player may move that many spaces along the path.  A dog is a wild card and can represent any resources.  If there are not any more dog tokens in the resources pile players can steal a dog from another player.  Players have a field of three huts they are trying to collect the resources to buy.  When a player purchases one with their resources, they flip over a new hut revealing the cost of the next hut. The first player to build three huts wins.

Blue Orange Games

Doodle Quest


Doodle Quest is a drawing game for one to four players ages 6 and up. In this underwater themed game players choose one of the 18 quest cards.  Each card includes drawing instructions specific to the card.  Players then draw on blank transparent sheets with dry erase markers. Once complete, each transparent sheet is placed on the quest card and is scored based on how each players doodle aligns with the picture. The player with the most points after 6 challenges is the winner. Additionally, each quest card has a beginner and advanced challenge side.

Dr. Eureka


Dr. Eureka is a logic and dexterity game for ages 6 and up and is for two to four players.  It was originally published as an 8 and up game, but in later publications changed to a 6 and up game.  In this game you are taking molecules (balls) in a test tube and need to combine colors to correspond to a challenge card.  The dexterity challenge is you can not touch the balls and cannot drop them!  The round ends when one player has their molecules match the formula exactly, and they call out “Eureka”. That player gets the cards, but players do not reset their test tubes.  The players begin the next round with the configuration the ended the previous round.

This game is great for multiple ages and skills because you can scale the rules to add challenges for more advanced players, and eliminate rules as needed.  There are also several variants that add different challenges to the game.

Peaceable Kingdom

Cauldron Quest


Cauldron Quest is a cooperative game that will fit right at home in any house full of Harry Potter fans. It is for players 6 and up and plays two to four players. Players are working together in Cauldron Quest to brew a magic potion that their kingdom needs to break a magic spell cast by an evil wizard. They do this by trying to move special barrels of ingredients from the outside of the board into the cauldron in the center. This might SOUND easy, but the evil wizard is trying to stop them by putting magic barriers in the way. Players need to get the correct three ingredients to the center before the wizard blocks all six paths.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Fortnite Beginner's guide

by: Jonathan Goosetree of InkedGaming.com

Fortnite has taken the gaming world by storm.  Gamers of all types are joining the craze as it is playable on PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS. With often 300,00 viewers or more on Twitch, Fortnite is currently the most popular title in gaming. If you’re looking to jump into the action, our beginner’s guide to Fortnite will make sure you hit the ground running.

There are a few aspects of Fortnite which set it apart from any other game. In almost all other Battle Royale, FPS, and Third Person shooter games, players only need to work on their skills with weapons. In Fortnite however, building and gathering resources are just as important as weapon skills. You may be thinking this sounds intimidating and that Fortnite might be too complex for your family. Fortunately, we are here to help.

Our Fortnite Beginner’s Guide will be broken down into two main sections: The first focuses on farming materials and building beginner level structures, with the second part focusing on the early, mid, and late stages of the game.

Use that Pick Axe!

Fortnite

 

Fortnite has three types of materials: wood, stone, and metal. Each has a different purpose and different in-game statistics. Wood has a five-second build time per panel, with 200 health, stone has a 12-second build time, with 300 health, and metal has a 20-second build time, with 400 health. Wood is the most commonly used resource, as it is used for exploring and fast cover. Stone is better used for when you have time to build a fortification in the mid-game, and metal should be used exclusively in the late game, as it is the only material that can withstand a blow from an RPG (Rocket Powered Grenade).

Materials are gained by swinging your pickaxe at various targets. One thing many new players miss, in spite of its importance, is the blue circle that appears on screen when you are attacking a resource. Swinging your pickaxe where this circle appears acts as a critical spot and striking near it will yield more materials per swing. The easiest way to strike the circle is to start in the middle of the tree or structure, then moving straight down with your mouse or thumbstick. Using this tactic, you will hit the blue circle almost every time.

It is always important to have enough materials to build when the situation calls for it, whether exploring or when being fired on by an enemy and protection is needed. Being caught out in the open without enough materials to build cover is often a deadly mistake. This is why farming materials efficiently is a crucial skill for any new Fortnite player. When moving from one area to another, always be aware of your surroundings and plan your route accordingly. You should not stray too far out of your way to farm a single tree or area. Instead, try to choose the path with as many trees along the way as possible. Knowing what to farm is also important, as larger trees and wood pallets provide the most materials per swing for wood, and vehicles are most efficient for farming metal. One important tip is that you should never finish chopping a tree completely, as a disappearing tree is a dead give away of your position to potential enemies!

You, the Builder

Now that we know the different types of materials and how to farm efficiently, let’s go over what those materials are used for. Materials are used to build four different shapes or panels: walls, floors, ramps, and roofs. Knowing when and where to use each shape and for what purpose is key to becoming a skilled builder in Fortnite. Your first few games of Fortnite should be focused on farming materials in a remote part of the map and practicing building. With three different types of materials and four panels, you will need enough practice to where you can switch between all 12 options in a split second.

Now that selecting the desired materials and panels is second nature, it’s time to learn what to do with them. Building is used for three main purposes: exploring, fast cover, and building forts in the mid to late game. Exploring in Fortnite means building ramps or floors to reach places that would otherwise be inaccessible. Common examples of these would be building a ramp to reach a loot chest in an attic or building a bridge to move between two buildings. Wood should always be used for exploring because it does not need to withstand enemy fire.

Building fast cover, which is one of the most important skills in Fortnite, can be used defensively and offensively. If you are out in the open and an enemy begins firing at you, quickly build walls and ramps for cover (Wood should also always be used for this). Something important to note is that although wood panels have a 5 second build time, during the build time there is a blue indicator for the panel that will immediately obstruct your enemy’s vision. This obstruction of vision is often more important than the finished panel itself, as you will have moved to a new location before the five second build time is over.

Ramps can be used either offensively or defensively. Building a ramp to run into the second floor of a building can often save your life as well as preserve precious materials because you will not have to build more panels to use for cover. Ramps are often used as an offensive tool as well. If you are moving out in the open and encounter an enemy, quickly build a ramp. Moving to the top of the ramp allows you to peek over with your medium to long range weapons and take cover when needed.

A slightly more advanced form of building is combining multiple panels to form structures. There are many different sizes of structures players use. The most basic structure is known as a 1×1 structure. This is made by building 4 walls with a roof or ramp panel in the center. Most often used when out in the open, this structure provides 360-degree protection, with the roof or ramp panel allowing the player to peek over the sides. The 1×1 structure is the most basic of examples and there are many more advanced patterns that can be found online. These more advanced structures are primarily used in the mid and late game, where players build extremely high towers in the ever-important battle for high ground.

The Fortnite Beginner’s Guide to The Early Game

Fortnite glider

Fortnite has three different phases, early, mid, and late game. The early game is generally viewed as the time from when you first drop into the map until after the first storm circle closes. Knowing where to drop is the most important part of the early game. The named areas of the map have better loot and thus attract more players. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to avoid these areas and drop on a hilltop somewhere in a remote area that is away from the path of the bus. This way you can avoid firefights and practice building until you have a few games under your belt.

When you are ready to land in the more populated areas and go for better loot, it is important to start memorizing where the loot chests are. Chests are often in the attics of buildings, which can be found by listening for their shimmering sound effect. If you drop into an area with buildings at the start of the game, you should always land on the roof and break through with your pickaxe in hopes of finding a chest. If you are lucky, you may get a good weapon at the start and get an easy kill on another player who has not yet had a chance to loot anything. You can also reach attics in other houses by destroying ceilings and building a ramp. However, you must be careful to not destroy the ceiling the crate is resting on, or the crate will be destroyed as well. If you loot a chest with a shield potion right after landing and hear another player, consume the shield potion as fast as possible before engaging. The extra health will give you a considerable advantage. Most important in the early game, but important throughout all stages, is to always be active. You should always be looking for loot, planning your most efficient path, and checking around for enemies, never move around without purpose or using materials when unnecessary.

The Fortnite Beginner’s Guide to The Mid Game

 

After the first circle closes, we head into the mid-game. In the mid-game any remaining players will probably have a decent inventory of weapons and shields, so be ready for a fight. It’s important to have a balanced inventory at this point. A balanced inventory consists of a shotgun for short range, an assault rifle for medium range, and a sniper rifle or assault rifle with a scope for long range, as well as some consumables.

It is also important for the mid and late game to play around the enclosing storm properly. If you are in between the safe zone (The safe zone being the center circle) and the enclosing storm, you can use the storm as protection from behind. Try to move towards the safe zone as the storm closes in. However, it is possible that some players in the storm will fire upon you, so don’t treat the storm as complete protection. If you are already in the safe zone as the circle starts to close, take or build some cover and try to pick off any players moving in. These players will be caught between having to stop and return fire, risking damage from the storm, or continuing to run and being unable to fight back. This advantage should most often net you an easy kill. Also, be sure to farm some stone and metal when the coast is clear, as you will need these materials for your fort in the late game.

The Fortnite Beginner’s Guide to The Late Game

Fortnite female character

If you have made it to this point, then congratulations! Late game is the most adrenaline pumping phase of the game and begins when there are roughly 10-15 players remaining. If you are outside the safe zone, you should focus on getting as close to the center as possible. This is important because in the late game you will need to build your final fort, and you do not want to construct it somewhere that will end up in the storm before the game ends. Constructed with stone or better yet, metal, your fort should be three to five stories high. Three stories are the minimum and should be made if you are low on materials (Be sure to keep some materials in reserve so that you can rebuild destroyed panels). If you have a healthy amount of materials, then a five-story fort is ideal. A five-story fort will usually give you the high ground advantage while allowing you to hear the footsteps of enemy players on the ground. Since every player should have a sniper rifle or long-range weapon at this point, whoever controls the high ground has the advantage.

Once you have your final fort constructed, try to get a feel for where the remaining players are. As a new player going for the win, it’s best to let other players fight it out and eliminate each other. If you see two other players in a firefight, wait for one to take out the other before engaging. The winning player will most likely be low on health and an easier target. Keep moving and avoid peeking from the same spot or moving in patterns, keep your movements random to avoid becoming predictable. The late game is especially nerve-racking so keep your cool, focus, and wait for your opponent to make a mistake and you will be in a good position to take home the win.

Fortnite Victory Royale!

On the surface, Fortnite looks like a simple game but as you can see, there is more than meets the eye. Fortnite has many other features and advanced strategies not mentioned in this guide. Gaining confidence as you progress and learning more about the game is half the fun. As you play, try to remember in each game what worked and what didn’t. Learn from your mistakes, follow our guide, and with some beginner’s luck, you will surely be on your way to your first Fortnite Victory Royale.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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PlayStation Now logo on blue Sony background

It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to PlayStation Now!

The Pitch

PlayStation Now (PSNow) is a Netflix-esque streaming service for PlayStation 4 and PC. Subscribers have unlimited access to stream a collection of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games over the internet on their PlayStation 4 console or PC.

How Does it Work?

Subscribers have access to the massive catalog of games for as long as their membership lasts. The games are streamed over the internet so there is no downloading involved. This makes the service.

How Much Does it Cost?

PlayStation Now (PSNow) can be purchased in 12-month, 3-month, or 1-month increments.

12 Month subscription – $99.99

3 Month subscription – $44.99

1 Month subscription – $19.99

Advice

PlayStation Now (PSNow) is entirely dependent upon the strength of your internet connection. The games are streamed over the internet so they will run poorly if you can’t get a good enough connection. Sony customer support recommends that your internet service has a download speed of at least 5mbps (megabytes per second) to use the service. Tests performed by other sites like ArsTechnica have shown that it takes closer to 9 mbps to really take advantage of it.

Troubleshooting

Sony technical support has provided a few tips for folks who have the recommended download speed and are still experiencing issues with the service:

Use a Wired Connection

Many homes have their consoles hooked up to the internet via a wireless connection (wifi). This does hamper the quality of the connection between your PS4 and the modem. One way to correct this is by using an ethernet cable to connect your PS4 to the modem directly. This may not be possible for everyone, but it is at least worth mentioning.

Reduce the Number of Applications Using the Network

Your home network only has so much data that it can download from the internet at once. Applications that are sharing that download speed and can hinder each other’s performance. Its like traffic coming into your house. We’d get everywhere faster if we were the only car on the road.

Some applications you might consider shutting down are:

  • Streaming video applications (Netflix, Hulu, YouTube)
  • Cloud backup or sync applications (Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud)
  • Content downloads (BitTorrent, software, games, movies, or music)
  • Video/audio communication apps (FaceTime, Skype)

Try Off-Peak Hours

Your download speed can also be hurt if you try to use a shared (or public) connection during the busiest hours of the day. Try using the service during off-peak hours like evenings and weekends so there may be fewer people using the service.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origin’s Access


Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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A Parent’s Guide to EA Origins Access

It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to Origins Access!

The Pitch

Origins Access is a PC subscription service run by Electronic Arts that gives subscribers early access to EA games, discounts on digital purchases, and access to the “Origins Vault.”

How Does it Work?

Subscribers gain three benefits from their Origins Access membership.

  • Early Access to EA games – This usually amounts to a 3-4 day early access period where you can play the game for free prior to its launch date. Your game progress carries over to the full version if you choose to purchase the game after it comes out.
  • Discounts – Subscribers get a 10% discount (at least) on the digital purchase of games on Origin (An EA PC gaming platform that is similar to Steam). Games purchases using the discount remain yours without restriction after your subscription lapses.
  • Origins Vault – Subscribers get access to the Origins Vault. This is a list of older PC titles that is regularly updated. Most EA titles end up on the services 6-9 months after release. As of right now EA has stated that they don’t intend to remove older games from the Vault, but the terms of service do indicate that they reserve the right to do so.

How Much Does it Cost?

You can pay for your Origins Access subscription monthly for $4.99 or Annually for $29.99.

EA Access vs Origins Access

A lot of people get confused by these two services considering they have similar names and are both operated by Electronic Arts.

Origins Access is a PC gaming service. All of the benefits are for PC games only.

On the other hand, EA Access is a console service. In fact, it is limited to the Xbox One. All the benefits of THAT service are limited to subscribers on that console.

Advice

Origins Access is a valuable service for people who regularly play Electronic Arts games on their PC. It’s appeal is pretty limited beyond that though. It also requires that the games be downloaded using the EA Origins platform.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus


Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

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It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to EA Access!

The Pitch

EA Access is an Xbox One exclusive subscription service run by Electronic Arts that gives subscribers early access to EA games, discounts on digital purchases, and access to the “EA Vault.”

How Does it Work?

Subscribers gain three benefits from their EA Access membership.

  • Early Access to EA games – This usually amounts to a 3-4 day early access period where you can play the game for free prior to its launch date. Your game progress carries over to the full version if you choose to purchase the game after it comes out.
  • Discounts – Subscribers get a 10% discount (at least) on the digital purchase of EA games. Games purchases using the discount remain yours without restriction after your subscription lapses.
  • EA Vault – Subscribers get access to the EA Vault. This is a list of older EA titles that is regularly updated. Most EA titles end up on the services 6-9 months after release. As of right now EA has stated that they don’t intend to remove older games from the Vault, but the terms of service do indicate that they reserve the right to do so.

How Much Does it Cost?

You can pay for your EA Access subscription monthly for $4.99 or Annually for $29.99.


EA Access vs Origins Access

A lot of people get confused by these two services considering they have similar names and are both operated by Electronic Arts.

Origins Access is a PC gaming service. All of the benefits are for PC games only.

On the other hand, EA Access is a console service. In fact, it is limited to the Xbox One. All the benefits of THAT service are limited to subscribers on that console.

Advice

EA Access is a great value for Xbox One owners who play a lot of EA games every year. Hardcore Madden or FIFA fans might think the extra 3-4 days of early access to their favorite game might be worth the price of admission all by itself.

It isn’t a streaming service though. This means that any games that you choose to download will need to be downloaded in full to your Xbox One hard drive. If you are planning to make full use of the service it may be a good idea to purchase an external hard drive.


Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origin’s Access


Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

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Playstation Plus logo

It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to PlayStation Plus!

The Pitch

PlayStation Plus is a subscription service for PlayStation that is required in order to play online multiplayer games over the PlayStation Network. The service also includes periodic discounts on digital purchases through the PlayStation Network. It also includes a suite of free PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, PlayStation  Vita, and PlayStation VR games that are available for free each month.

How Does it Work?

PlayStation Plus is a subscription service that must be maintained in order to keep using it. The service grants its members access to the following:

  • Online Multiplayer gaming using the PlayStation Network platform
  • A suite of free games available for download each month for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. These games can be downloaded to the PlayStation 4 hard drive at any time, but you can only play them if you have an active PlayStation Plus subscription.
  • Periodic discounts on digital games sold on the PlayStation Marketplace. The games you purchase using a discount made available during a PlayStation Plus subscription will remain playable even after the subscription expires.

How Much Does it Cost?

PlayStation Plus can be purchased yearly, every three months, or monthly.

Advice

There isn’t much advice to give. If your family owns a PlayStation 4 console then this is required for online play. It is, however, a pretty good value because over the course of a year the free games available through the program will add up to a significant value.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origin’s Access


Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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xbox-game-pass

It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to Xbox Game Pass!

The Pitch

Xbox Game Pass is a service that allows unlimited downloads of a wide range of games on the Xbox One for a relatively low monthly fee.

How Does it Work?

Subscribers have access to a roster of more than 100 games. They can download as many of them as they want as often as they want for as long as they maintain their subscription. This isn’t a gimmick or a trap either. Subscribers can download, with very few exceptions, the complete version of every game on the service to their Xbox One hard drive. This means that they don’t have to depend on streaming the games over the internet like they would have to using PlayStation Now.

In addition, Game Pass subscribers are given a 20% discount on the digital purchase of games that are included in the Game Pass game list. They also get a 10% discount on DLC for games on the game list. This is relevant for players who decide to purchase a Game Pass game so they can play it after they end their subscription. One unfortunate “loophole” that you will also need to consider is the inherent risk is purchasing DLC for a game you only have access to through the Game Pass subscription. Buying DLC for a game that you technically don’t own is definitely risky.

Microsoft made a significant update to the program recently. Starting on March 20th, Xbox Game Pass subscribers will have access to first party new releases on the same day that they are available in stores! This will add up to a significant value each year as Microsoft is bound to release at least a few games each year. In 2018, for example, they plan to release Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3, and State of Decay 2.  It hasn’t been announced yet, but it is safe to assume that a Forza racing game will find its way out at some point this fall. The fact that subscribers will have a chance to play all of these games at no additional charge is a very big deal.

How Much Does it Cost?


Xbox One Owners are entitled to a 14-day trial. After that has been used up the service can be purchased for $9.99 a month. Microsoft has stated that starting on March 20, 2018 they will have 6-month subscription cards available at retail partners for $59.99.

Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Live Gold

Xbox Game Pass has only been around for a year or so, but it is often confused with Xbox Live Gold by people who don’t pay a lot of attention to games.

They are not interchangeable services. Xbox Live Gold is a subscription that provides access to Online Multiplayer gaming and a limited suite of free games each month. Xbox Game Pass gives access to a large list of games for free for the duration of the subscription. Game Pass does NOT, however, give access to online multiplayer gaming on those free games.

Advice

The Xbox Game Pass isn’t for everyone. It does have a few issues that interested families should consider.

  • Many of the games available on the service are rated M. This won’t be a problem for parents who are engaged and interested in the games their kids play. But, it does reduce the overall value of the service for families where only younger kids play video games.
  • The service is expensive. It may not be prohibitively so, but $120 dollars for 12 months is the price of two full price games.
  • Downloading all those games will fill a hard drive up VERY fast. The biggest drive available on an Xbox One is 1 TB so subscribers will want to put some thought into purchasing external memory so you don’t have to delete games every time you want to try something new. We recommend this Seagate External Hard Drive for this purpose.
  • Games aren’t guaranteed to remain on the service forever. Microsoft hasn’t confirmed that their first party games will remain on the service indefinitely, but I think it is pretty safe that they will remain. But, games from companies like Ubisoft and Rockstar Games aren’t under the same protection. They can leave at any time just like shows on Netflix. Its not all bad news though. Microsoft has been adding new games to the service regularly since it was first announced.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origins Access

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to the Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus


Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Subscribe to our Podcast!

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