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Nintendo surprised just about everyone tonight by taking to Twitter and making three significant announcements. It’s not unusual for Nintendo to take different routes than other companies to make announcements.  But, this is the first time I’ve seen three tweets in almost rapid fire succession making announcements that would have been worthy of a press release.

Nintendo Switch Online

Nintendo finally confirmed the name of their upcoming online service aptly named Nintendo Switch Online. They also announced that the service will be releasing in September 2018. This is different from what they originally projected, but they have been giving the service away at no cost up until this point so no one can really complain.

According to an article on The Verge the Nintendo Switch Online service will cost either $3.99 per month or $19.99 per year. This is significantly lower in cost when you compare it to other online services like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. The service will obviously include online play, but it will also include access to a suite of older Nintendo games. These older games will be updated to include things like online multiplayer and leader boards. Nintendo has confirmed that they will be providing more updates on that feature later on in the year likely as we get closer to the release of the service.

Mario Kart Tour

Nintendo also sent out a tweet confirming that a game called Mario Kart Tour will be releasing in the fiscal year ending in March 2019 for mobile devices.

So far Nintendo’s mobile games have been a mixed bag some of them have been great while others have been less so. Super Mario Kart is one  Nintendo’s strongest franchises. This has especially been true in recent years so I’m excited to see what they bring to the mobile scene.

We don’t know any details but the fact that it will be here within the fiscal year that ends on March 2019 means that will have it in about a year. That in and of itself is pretty exciting.

Super Mario Brothers Movie

Lastly, Nintendo sent a tweet indicating that they are teaming with Illumination and partnering on a movie starring Mario. The movie will be co-produced by Shigeru Miyamoto and Chris Meledandri.

We don’t know any other details but we can assume that since Illumination is involved this will be an animated feature. Illumination is best known for the despicable me series and most recently the minions.

I think it is reasonable to have concerns considering the questionable quality of the recent Minions movies. But, The Secret Life of Pets and the original Despicable Me were great movies. Here’s hoping that the Super Mario movie is more like the latter and less like the former.


 

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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An Educator’s Perspective: Nintendo Labo

One of the largest and latest crazes for kids is STEM, which is the incorporation and integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (all high demand subjects).  STEM also furthers the develop of innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving. Nintendo appears to be dipping its toe into the STEM realm with their newly announced Nintendo Labo kits.  They have two kits available for pre-order right now; the Variety Kit which includes: fishing pole, toy house, motorbike handlebars, two RC cars, and a 13 key piano.  The second kit is the Robot Kit which allows you to build a backpack harness that controls a robot.  The variety of these kits allow for a diverse range of exploration, discovery, and connecting to technology.

Make Play Discover Verses STEM

The Labo kits announced from Nintendo are the latest foray into STEM with an intriguing technology component. These kits are not advertised as STEM on the Nintendo website, which is a wise move on their part.  These Labo kits are not STEM in the ideal educational model. They don’t meet the definition because they don’t provide an opportunity for the child to design and problem solve. Ideally in a STEM activity, materials are provided and the child has to determine how to build the item.  With that said, the Labo tagline is “ Make, Play, Discover.” This cuts right to the core intention of STEM. First, the kits allow the children to construct items which turn their joy-cons into “toy-cons”. Then they can learn about the engineering and technology involved.

Educational Assets

Nintendo Switch Labo Variety Kit

They may not be STEM kits in their purest form. But they have great potential. They let kids see how these cardboard objects are interacting with the different technological components in the Switch.  This is a great fit for children who enjoy building.  Labo provides kids with the opportunity to explore the mechanics of how each toy-con works.  Then using the software, they delve deeper into how each item utilizes the Switch technology. Nintendo states that there also is the ability to create beyond what is in the kit, and that creation is at the heart of STEM.

Durability

With the Nintendo Labo, building is a one shot experience.  Additionally, sharing among siblings may provide difficulty, especially for the robot.   I have reservations about the durability of the cardboard, however, being cardboard a resourceful parent to child potentially could remake the creation.

Conclusion

The  kits incorporate another level of play into the Switch that is far beyond solely interacting with the software.  We may be seeing the next stage of technology integrating into kits for children. There have been kits to build robots for years.  To incorporate the interactive technology that the Switch provides takes these STEM kits to a whole other level.  While the complexity of the software of the Switch is undenied, I wonder if this will be the beginning of more interactive DIY kits.  Ones that incorporate the technology we already own, such as our phones.

Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that Labo will be a great STEM experience for children to compete and enjoy with their families.  We will have to wait until April 20th when it launches and then can see for ourselves once it is in the hands of our kids.  

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Hello Kitty Kruisers

 Hello Kitty and her Sanrio friends are coming to the Nintendo Switch! Hello Kitty Kruisers was previously released on the Wii U, but is being brought to Nintendo‘s newest console in Spring 2018.

The adorable arcade racer features three different racing modes including traditional cart racing, boat racing, and even small planes! I hesitate to say that the developers are attempting to clone the Nintendo 64 classic Diddy Kong Racing, but the similarities are obvious. I don’t think any of that matters though as the younger set will be so excited to race around as Hello Kitty that it doesn’t really matter WHAT they are doing. (True story: I showed this trailer to my five year old daughter and she practically immolated in front of me. Needless to say… I have to buy this game.)

The races will include single player modes and up to 4-player multiplayer action. The trailer (posted below) makes the racing seem a little on the slow side compared to games like Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but I think that might actually be to its advantage considering its target audience. Younger gamers often lack the reaction time and coordination to keep their fast moving karts on the track.

The Hello Kitty Kruisers Trailer

Rising Star Games have been in the publishing business since 2005. They’ve published dozens of games, several of which being Hello Kitty themed so they are no stranger to the franchise. “We’re continually honored to enjoy a close partnership with Sanrio in order to bring Hello Kitty video game titles both to fans and to new audiences,” said Martin Defries, President of Rising Star Games. “Hello Kitty inspires happiness, friendship and sharing across the world and we’re humbled and excited to be an ongoing part of spreading smiles around the globe.”

A word of caution to parents interested in this one: Physical copies of this game will likely be difficult to get. The Wii U version of the game was highly sought after by collectors so it is possible that some of that will bleed over to the Switch version. Never fear though! It will be released digitally as well so your youngsters still be able to enjoy it.

Happy racing everyone! Sound off in the comments if you’ll be picking this one up!

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Nintendo 3ds system

Nintendo had a VERY good month in December. The video game industry depends on the five week reporting period of December, and according to the NPD Group, Nintendo killed it.

The Nintendo Switch

nintendo-switch-logo

The Switch has been selling well all year. In fact, it has sold 4.8 million units in the US since it launched 10 months ago. That gives it the distinction of being the fastest selling video game console in US history. I know a lot of people scoff at that because the video game industry is bigger now than it ever has been AND games are more mainstream. But, we have to remember that Nintendo was also responsible for the Wii, and anyone who remembers trying to buy one of those in the early days will tell you that it sold very quickly.

The Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo 3ds system

Many people, myself included, have reported that the Nintendo 3DS family of systems was dead. I was convinced that the sales would sputter and development would stop in favor of a newfound focus on the Switch. But, then the 3DS family of systems went and had their best month of sales since December of 2014. More than 750,000 units were sold, which represents a 27 percent increase in sales over the same time period the year prior.

The 3DS family of systems has now sold more than 21 million units in the US alone.

The Triple Threat

Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic

The Nintendo Switch and the 3DS Systems weren’t the only ones doing heavy lifting either. The Super NES Classic Edition did work as well. The three consoles accounted for more than half of the console sales in December. This is impressive when you consider that this Holiday features strong sales results for the PS4 and the newly released Xbox One X.

The Games

Four different Nintendo Switch games finished the month high on the December 2017 NPD chart.

  • Super Mario Odyssey – 3rd
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – 4th
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 9th
  • Splatoon 2 – 16th
  • Additionally, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon for the 3DS finished 13th and 14th respectively.

What does all this mean for you?

At the end of the day, Nintendo is a publicly traded business. They depend on happy shareholders and other investors in order to be able to invest in themselves. These sales numbers have GOT to give giving them the confidence (and the money) that they need to be able to get more projects into the pipeline for the Switch.

The continued success of the 3DS is an tough egg to crack. On the one hand, Nintendo has a console with a massive install base and a lot of earnings potential. On the other hand, any  time spent developing games for the 3DS is time not spent developing games for the Switch. We’ll have to stay tuned to see what Nintendo will do in 2018!

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Nintendo Switch Labo Variety Kit

Nintendo announced their new line of DIY Cardboard STEM toys last night: The Nintendo Labo. Its a collection of kits that include pre-punched cardboard sheets and instructions to turn them into peripherals for the Nintendo Switch. Two kits will launch on April 2oth, 2018. The first is a Variety Kit that will include the components to make a piano, a toy house, a fishing pole, a pair of “remote-control cars,” and a set of handlebars for a motorbike. The second is a backpack harness that lets players control a giant, building-smashing robot a-la the Jaegers from Pacific Rim.

The announcement was met with mixed results last night. I’m willing to throw out some of the concerns though. Single adult men don’t really get to complain that a children’s plaything doesn’t appeal to them. Comedy Writer Mike Drucker said it best in this Tweet:

With that said, I don’t think the kits are without risk. I’ve spent the last day thinking about it and have some thoughts about the risks and the potential rewards of purchasing, and playing with, Nintendo Labo Kits.

The Risks

Durability

The Labo kits are made out of cardboard. All signs are pointing to the cardboard being of the thicker variety, but at the end of the day it is still cardboard. This means that these things have the chance of being very, very flimsy. I can imagine a lot of families will buy these things, build them, and have them broken after a few uses by a rambunctious child or pet. Some of the early previews from places like The Verge have said that the kits seem pretty durable, but we really won’t know how much punishment they can take until they are out in the wild.

The Cost

The Variety Kit and the Robot Kit are $70 and $80 respectively. That is a lot of cash. Now, both of those kits come with a cartridge that includes software, but we have no idea what’s going to be on it. $150 for both kits is a TON of cash in today’s economy and I think that will, unfortunately, leave a lot of families out of the fun. Also, these kinds of toys can’t really be shared so the price will never come down like they do on most video games.

The Games

The fact is that we really have no idea how fun any of the mini-games will be. If the cartridges are filled up with a bunch of trash and tech demos a lot of kids will just bounce off of them and create a LONG line of resentful parents. I don’t really see that as a good look for a company that is just starting to build momentum.

 

The Potential Rewards

The Joy of Creation

What kid DOESN’T like building things? LEGOs and other building kits have never been more popular so this does seem like a natural success. I can absolutely see a bunch of kids getting hyped to build their own game peripherals. A lot of younger kids learned to play Super Mario Kart using the plastic steering wheels that you put Wii-motes in. These kits give them the change to build stuff that is way cooler.

Discovery/STEM Learning

The piano kit works by using the infa-red sensor on one of the Joy-Cons to detect the movement of silver tabs to play music. The remote controlled cars work by using the precise vibrations from the HD rumble in the Joy-Cons to move themselves. That’s just two of the projects in one of the kits. Kids are going to learning some very interesting engineering tricks that are being used by a company that is used to achieving miracles using relatively simple technology. The learning potential is incredible for kids who are interested in taking advantage of it.

Family Time

The instructions for building the Toy-Con kits are all displayed on the Switch tablet. They are manipulated using touchscreen controls. This makes building the different kids ideal fort a two person team. I expect that a lot of parents will be teaming up to build these toys and play with them. That kind of family time is invaluable.


What do you think? What are you concerned about? What are you excited about? Sound off in the comments!

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Nintendo Announces Labo: A Line of DIY Cardboard STEM Toys

Every time I think Nintendo is going to act predictably I end up looking foolish. They announced this morning that they would be posting a new video tonight that would demonstrate a new “interactive experience” that was “specially crafted” for kids. I assumed that they were just talking about a game. I like to give myself partial credit, so I’ll give myself 1/10th of a point.

Nintendo showed a new video announcing Labo. This is a bizarre line of DIY cardboard kits that let kids (or adults) build attachments for their Joy-Cons and play various mini-games. On a high level, Labo works by providing a set of pre-cut cardboard sheets that you punch out, fold, and connect in order to build different attachments called Toy-Cons (ADORABLE name btw). Once the Toy-Cons are built you can use them to play a set of mini-games either on the Switch Tablet or using the Switch tablet as a controller. There will be two Toy-Con sets at launch on April 20th, 2018, but I am certain that more will be launched over the course of the year.

Labo is a STEM toy at its core and represents a huge shift for Nintendo. When the Switch launched last year Nintendo focused on games that appeal to the standard gaming audience. They did a great job releasing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey in one year. But, they definitely played it safe. Labo is different. This brings Nintendo back to where they were with the Wii. They are releasing a product whose core attraction isn’t a traditional game. Instead, Labo focuses on three core experiences.

Make

 

 

The experience of punching the cardboard sheets and following on-screen instructions on the Nintendo Switch tablet evokes the same feeling as building a complex LEGO set. Reports from around the web on places like The Verge are telling us that some of the sets can be completed in as little as 15 minutes, but will be best when done by a parent and child working together. This kind of social experience is something that was missing during Link’s solitary adventure last year.

I never would have expected Nintendo to try and capitalize on the growing maker movement among families and in educational circles now, but this is a great way to do it. Our kids are already excited about it and they’ve only seen a 2 minute long promo video.

Play

 

It wouldn’t really be a Nintendo product if it didn’t include a game. Each of the Toy-Con sets includes a cartridge full of mini-games and other software that will help kids play with their newly built creations. We don’t know many details yet, but I am super hungry to play the robot game if for nothing else because that robot can transform into a car!

 

Discover

 

Once kids have built their Toy-Con Accessories, and played their mini-games, they can then use the Discover mode to get information about how the Toy-Cons work. For example, the piano works by using the Joy-Con’s camera. When you plug the Joy-Con into the back of the box it can see the cardboard pieces moving when you press the keys. The software translates that movement into song! This learning component is something that is a perfect fit, too. The market has been flooded in recent years by toys and games that let kids figure out their inner workings, but none of them have the polish of a Nintendo game. This has the chance to be something special.

I will admit that I am very excited to see the Piano included in this set. It reminds me of when Nintendo packaged the music maker alongside the Mario Paint game for SNES. This Piano is going to see a LOT of use. I can’t want to see the cool YouTube videos that kids will create with it.

 

The Nintendo Labo Announcement Video

The Toy-Con Sets

Toy-Con 01 Variety Kit (MSRP $69.99) includes:

Nintendo Labo Variety Kit box

  • 2 RC Cars
  • 1 Fishing Rod
  • 1 House
  • 1 Motorbike
  • 1 Piano
  • The game cartridge

 

Toy-Con 02 Robot Kit (MSRP $79.99) includes:

  • The (awesome) robot kit
  • The game cartridge

 

Toy-Con Customization (MSRP $9.99) set includes:

  • 2 stencil sheets
  • 2 sticker sheets
  • 2 colored tape rolls

 

Nintendo Labo will be launching on April 20th, 2018 and we can’t be more excited for it. Is this something that your family will be picking up? Sound off in the comments!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

Nintendo has had an awesome year. The Nintendo Switch is selling like crazy, and they haven’t really released a bad game yet. Take a look below for our recommendations for Nintendo Switch games that will make great gifts!

 

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild


You can read my review to see exactly what I think about this one at length. I feel, strongly, that Breath of the Wild is the best game that Nintendo has ever made. This is an game that will give your family hundreds of hours of enjoyment. I can’t recommend this game enough.

 

Super Mario Odyssey



New Super Mario games are rare. It isn’t out yet, but I played Super Mario Odyssey at E3 for ten minutes and I was sold afterwards.

The biggest new feature in this 3D Mario adventure is Mario’s hat. Its been possessed by an ghost named Cappy. Cappy gives Mario the ability to capture enemies (and other characters) in the various levels and use their powers to help complete puzzles and locate Power Moons.

Splatoon 2


Splatoon was one of our favorite games last generation. We had our doubts initially, but there was no way that we were letting an shooter that’s appropriate for kids slip past us. I wasn’t sold initially, but I played for an single hour long demo and was sold.

The sequel takes every part of the original formula and improves on it. Its a great gift for kids who are asking for an shooter to play, but just aren’t old enough for other games in the genre.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe


Mario Kart is one of the biggest, and best, franchises in Nintendo history. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is also one of the best games available on the Switch. This game will be a ton of fun for your family so buy with confidence.

Nintendo even added more benefits for families by adding both auto-steering and auto-acceleration options. These two accessibility options make it much easier for younger players (or players with disabilties) to play the game.

Arms



Arms is a super-cool fighting game experience where players battle it out using spring-armed warriors. Most fighting games released to date feature a camera set to the side. Arms is different because the camera sits behind the character like it’s a shooter. It is also a little bit slower since fighters tend to be farther apart. This slower and more methodical pace makes it more accessible for less experienced gamers while still leaving room for players to master it.

Minecraft


I know I sound like a broken record, but Minecraft should be on top of everyone’s shopping list. It may be one of the best selling games of all time, but there are plenty of kids who don’t have it.


Be sure to check out all of our other 2017 Holiday Gift Guides!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

The Holidays are a great time for families to get new home consoles. They make great gifts for the whole family and can be responsible for a lot of great memories. Take a look below for our recommendations for home consoles this year.

Nintendo Switch


The Nintendo Switch launched in March of this year and has been a wild success for Nintendo. It is, without question, the best console for families on the market right now and it isn’t close. The console/tablet hybrid has just passed its 6 month anniversary and it is already home a better lineup of family games that either of its main competitors.

The main attraction for the Nintendo Switch is that it serves two purposes. It is both a home console that you can play on the family TV and a handheld console that you can take on the go. This can be a godsend for families that have multiple siblings because you can use it in “tabletop mode” to play multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition anywhere!

Looking for some Switch games to give? Heres our list of Switch Games!

Sony PlayStation 4



The PlayStation 4 is another great console option. It doesn’t have the strongest lineup of exclusive games, but it is home to all of the major third party games like Destiny 2. You shouldn’t have any problems finding games to play with your family here. The catalog is already full of great games already and the future is bright since Spider Man will come out next year.

The biggest decision that new PlayStation owners will have to make when shopping for a PS4 is whether to purchase a base model or to spend a little bit extra for a PS4 Pro. The main difference between those two systems is going to be the graphics performance. Both of them will play the same games, but the PS4 Pro will make them look better if your family owns a 4k television.

Looking for some PS4 games to give? Here’s our list of PS4 games for this holiday!

Microsoft Xbox One


2017 has been a challenging year for Xbox fans. The exclusives have been in short supply and several high profile games have been delayed or cancelled.

There is a ray of hope though. The Xbox One X has been announced and it looks like a great console for families looking for a powerful console to help show off their new 4k television.

Looking for some Xbox One games to give? Here’s our list of Xbox One games for this holiday!

Last Generation Consoles



Families that aren’t interested in standing on the bleeding edge of console gaming technology still have plenty of reasons to pick up older consoles like the PS3, Xbox 360, and, to a lesser extent, the Wii U. These consoles should be relatively easy to find used from places like GameStop and have huge catalogs of games just waiting to be plucked from bargain bins.

In the worst case scenario a uses Xbox 360 will be a serviceable Minecraft machine for families that want to let their children play, but don’t want them using the family PC or laptop.

3DS Family of Hardware


The Nintendo Switch is the most exciting thing that Nintendo has on the market right now, but the 3DS handheld systems are still useful. They will be great purchases for families that want to introduce gaming to their children, but want something sturdier. The handheld may be entering the sunset of its life, but it has a library with hundreds of games that your children will love.

The only real problem with the 3DS family of systems is that there are so many versions that it can be hard to keep track of them. Fortunately, EFG published a handy guide to help sort all those details! You can read it here.

SNES Classic

The SNES Classic isn’t a traditional console, but it is such a big deal that I had to include it somewhere. It is a bite-sized console that includes twenty of the best games ever made. Its going to be in high demand though, so keep that in mind if you are adding it to your shopping lists.


Thats it for the consoles, but make sure to check out the rest of our 2017 Holiday Gift Guide!

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Fe is the Next EA Originals Game and its Stunning

Fe was first announced back at E3 2016 and has been silent since. EA revealed more about the game during their GamesCom press event. It is being developed by Zoink Games and follows the story of a fox cub as learns to use his voice to help heal the forest of light.

We haven’t been able to get our hands on the game yet, but everything we have been shown so far is looking great! Fe appears to be a 3D platformer (like Super Mario 64, Yooka-Laylee, and other similar titles). Players will control a magical fox cub as he or she explores a forest and learns to use various songs to help befriend different animals. These animals will help unlock new areas for further exploration. The gameplay itself doesn’t really strike me as particularly new or interesting, but I am captivated by the sound design and the visuals. The heavy use of black in the background and the foreground really make everything stand out. It is tough to tell whether or not the art style will get confusing during combat or platforming sections, but we’ll obviously know more about that we get closer to launch.

EA will be publishing Fe in early 2018 on the PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. The trailer is linked below. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments.

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Dragon Quest Builders 2 Announced

The Dragon Quest Summer festival took place this past weekend. Square Enix announced a sequel to the surprise hit Dragon Quest Builders. The game is tentatively titled Dragon Quest Builders 2.

We don’t have a release date, but Square Enix did tease several new gameplay elements. The first game combined Dragon Quest RPG elements with Minecraft building. The sequel doubles down on that and adds additional features like:

  • Underwater diving
  • Up to four player cooperative play
  • a huge increase in the number of blocks that can be stacked
  • a Breath of the Wild style glider to help with traversal

The biggest news, however, to come out of the announcement is that it will be coming to both the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch. Its a perfect system for a game like this. Dragon Quest Builders is a game that encourages lots of small trip out into the wilds looking for materials. The hybrid console will give players plenty of opportunities for that. I can absolutely imagine playing DQ Builders on my Switch in handheld mode while watching football or something similar.

You can watch the gameplay demo that was livestreamed at the event below.

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