Netflix Mounts Game Competition for ‘Immortal’ Account to Promote ‘The Old Guard’

To celebrate the release of the Netflix action film The Old Guard, starring Charlize Theron, Netflix has announced a nationwide U.S. competition for an “Immortal” Netflix account (1,000 months of subscription, or 83 years).

Consumers can win the account by obtaining the highest score in an original The Old Guard video game (www.oldguardgame.com), where they play as a Labrys-wielding immortal and defeat hordes of enemies.

The competition will be held for three days, July 17, 18 and 19. Whoever reigns as No. 1 once at the end of the three days get the “Immortal” account.

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The Old Guard video game

The Old Guard, based on a graphic novel by Greg Rucka, is a Netflix original film that follows a covert team of noble mercenaries. When their mysterious inability to die is suddenly exposed, they must fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. The film stars Charlize Theron who plays Andy (or Andromache of Scythia), one of the oldest and most seasoned immortals on a mission to save her crew. The film also stars Kiki Layne and is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.

The Old Guard debuted on Netflix July 10.

Elon Musk at E3: New Teslas to Offer Game Play, Netflix Streaming

When Elon Musk arrived at the E3 video game convention in Los Angeles, he must have felt like the man who gulped pure oxygen after living with high-altitude sickness. After dealing with countless issues and enduring Congressional scrutiny with both Tesla and Space X, he spent a day stepping back into his roots — video gaming.

“I’ve always been into video games,” he told a packed house at the Microsoft Novo Theatre. “The first time I programmed I was 10 or 11, but it was published when I was 12. It was called Blaster.” That drew a lot of nods from gamers now in their 40s and 50s. “You’re a space fighter, blasting and fighting space aliens. I wrote the game, and did graphics and sound. There was no one else to do it, but it was a very simple game. I want to emphasize that.”

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Musk and video games have both come a long way since his first programming efforts. He appeared at E3 to announce a pair of video games coming to Tesla vehicles, Beach Buggy Racing 2 and Fallout Shelter, in conjunction with video game shop Bethesda Softworks. “I’ve been a fan of Bethesda Softworks games for a long time,” he said. “I’ve played the Fallout 3 game a lot. I’ve explored every corner of that game. Also played Fallout 4; that’s great. I’m such a Fallout fan that one time, I was having a birthday, and I wanted the statue of Vault Boy in my house.”

Fallout Shelter will bring the “Fallout” series to Tesla screens. It will join the run-and-gun video game Cuphead and Beach Buggy Racing 2 as games in development. They will be available to every Tesla model with an over-the-air software update. Beach Buggy Racing 2 includes quite a feature — direct wiring to the car’s braking and steering. “If you have a racing game, and you have a steering wheel — sitting right there…” Musk teased. “The way we have it, the brake is wired in. The scroll wheel is wired to the gas pedal. Sitting on the brake if you’re stationary isn’t a problem; sitting on the gas might be.”

To that point, Musk and Bethesda Softworks chief Todd Howard emphasized that the games will only work when the Tesla is parked. ““You have to park the car to play these. The fun police make us park the car,” Musk chuckled. Later, he added, “Our games come from a question we all ask at Tesla: ‘How can we make being in the car the most fun?’ First, we look for things other people don’t have. If you just park somewhere, waiting for someone or on a road trip, it would be pretty cool to go to the car screen and play.”

The Tesla software, screen and controller are designed to house and stream a variety of video games, according to Musk. “You can play almost all the Tari games in the car,” he explained. “You can connect Xbox or PS4 controller and have some pretty good control feedback. We have some cool games, and the more people like them, the more games we’ll create and the higher up game development will be on our list. We’ll also put games into an archive you can screen-tap to download. Besides video games, we’re going to enable passengers to stream videos through the browser, watch Netflix or YouTube, if the car is parked and connected to wi-fi, say at a supercharging station.

“Our games come from a question we all ask at Tesla: ‘How can we make being in the car the most fun?’ First, we look for things other people don’t have. If you just park somewhere, waiting for someone or on a road trip, it would be pretty cool to go to the car screen and play,” he added.

Today, many compare Musk to Thomas Edison; in fact, some consider him the most important inventor on the planet since Edison. The founder of PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City sits on the front lines of sustainable driving, space exploration and green energy — and is pushing the envelope on Mars exploration. “We’re even looking at developing video game platforms for our space capsule, for crews going to Mars,” he said. “That’s going to be a long flight out there.”

However, he is not a profiteering late-adopter to video games. He’s more of a video game pioneer. He is very clear that without falling into video games as a boy, we never would have seen the larger products and technologies of his visionary mind.

“I thought seriously about creating video games as a career, for sure. Seemed like it would be sort of fun,” he recalled. “I even worked at a gaming start-up, strangely enough called Rocket Science. Fate loves irony, right? I worked there programming games, about 25 years ago. The reason I got interested in technology was video games. I wouldn’t have been as interested in computers and technology if not for video games. They’re a powerful force for getting kids in technology. The positive effects for kids, in this day and age, are far more positive than people realize. When we’re interviewing someone for a software engineering role at Tesla or Space X, we’ll ask, ‘How did you get started programming?’ More often than not, they’ll say, ‘video games.’

“Many of the best software engineers have spent parts of their careers at video game houses. If people tried to create realistic graphics using very little computer power, that’s a hard problem. So a lot of people had to write really tight code and come up with really great ideas to do that. Problem solving in video games transfers to a lot of software engineering skills, and demand is going to keep growing for that.”

Robert Yehling is an award-winning author, the founding editor of Innovation & Tech Today, and Executive Editor of STEM Today magazine.

Video Game Show E3 Opens June 11 With New AR Experience

E3 2019, the biggest annual video game trade show, opens June 11 for a three-day run at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

New this year is “The Unreal Garden @ E3,” an evolved version of the San Francisco-based augmented reality experience with new scenes and content.

E3 delivers new immersive experiences to E3 attendees each year. “The Unreal Garden @ E3,” a pop-up, blends the use of art, entertainment, augmented reality, projections, soundscapes, and technology.

“E3 provides unparalleled interactive experiences to our attendees,” said Dan Hewitt, VP of communications for the Entertainment Software Association, the U.S. video game trade association that owns and manages E3. “The Unreal Garden @ E3 provides a world-class opportunity for E3 attendees to explore the intersection of technology and human experience.”

Produced by Onedome and built on the Enklu platform, The Unreal Garden launched in San Francisco in October 2018, and is the first large-scale multiplayer AR experience using multiple technologies to deliver a fully immersive, interactive social experience with collaboration and connection at the core. Both Onedome and Enklu’s vision is to use interactive technologies to bring people together to inspire collaboration, connection, community, and empower the creative within.

Last year’s E3 attracted more than 69,200 visitors and featured more than 200 exhibitors, including 85 companies that were exhibiting at the event for the first time, showing 3,250 products.

‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ a Massive Hit, with 17 Million Copies Sold in Just 8 Days

Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 has sold 17 million copies since its Oct. 26 release, parent company Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. said in a Nov. 7 earnings release.

That surpasses the total lifetime sales tally for the original Western open-world game Red Dead Redemption, released eight years ago, in 2010.

Take-Two chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick said in the release that the game sequel is the label’s “first game built from the ground up for the current console generation. Red Dead Redemption 2 has received outstanding reviews, with numerous critics awarding the title a perfect score. The title is now tied with Grand Theft Auto V as the highest rated title on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with a 97 Metacritic score.

“A massive commercial success, Red Dead Redemption 2 has set numerous records, including achieving the biggest opening weekend in the history of entertainment, with over $725 million in retail sell-through during its first three days. Red Dead Redemption 2 sold-in more units in its first eight days than the original blockbuster Red Dead Redemption sold in its first eight years….

“As a result of our strong second quarter performance and outstanding early results from Red Dead Redemption 2, we are raising our financial outlook for fiscal 2019…. Looking ahead, we have a strong development pipeline across our labels and are exceedingly well positioned for long-term growth and margin expansion.”

On a subsequent earnings call with analysts, Zelnick noted that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a “collaboration among all of Rockstar Game studios worldwide, including more than 2,000 team members.” The game, he continued, “features the deepest and most expansive Rockstar world to date.”

Take-Two reported strong results for its fiscal second quarter 2019 ended Sept. 30, 2018. Net revenue grew 11% to $492.7 million, as compared to $443.6 million in last year’s fiscal second quarter. Recurrent consumer spending (virtual currency, add-on content and in-game purchases) grew 12% and accounted for 49% of total net revenue.

The largest contributors to net revenue in fiscal second quarter 2019 were NBA 2K19 and NBA 2K18Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto VNBA 2K Online 2, Dragon City and Monster Legends, and WWE SuperCard.

Digitally-delivered net revenue grew 18% to $358.4 million, as compared to $302.9 million in last year’s fiscal second quarter, and accounted for 73% of total net revenue.

The largest contributors to digitally-delivered net revenue in fiscal second quarter 2019 were Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto VNBA 2K18 and NBA 2K19NBA 2K Online 2Monster Legends and Dragon City, and WWE SuperCard.

More Retro Sega Video Games in the Pipeline

Sega of America on Sept. 20 announced that the first two titles in its “Sega Ages” line, Sonic the Hedgehog and Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar, are now available digitally on Nintendo Switch on the Nintendo eShop for $7.99 each.

Sega Ages is a series of classic Sega games developed by M2, the Japanese developer known for high-quality ports of vintage games such as the popular “Sega 3D Classics” series on the Nintendo 3DS.  The line is part of Sega’s broader support for retro games, including upcoming releases such as Sega Genesis Classics for Nintendo Switch.

Sonic the Hedgehog is the Blue Blur’s debut title. This is where the chase for those Chaos Emeralds started. This new version of the classic video game also adds new features like Drop Dash, as well as the console premiere of the Mega Play arcade version.

Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar, considered one of the best shooters of its era, features frenetic action and vertical and horizontal scrolling. The new version of the game mixes in a new Styx mode that lets players pilot the ship from its predecessor, plus a Kids mode for newcomers and rankings for the “shmup” elite.

In the coming months, fans of vintage video games will be able to enjoy other classics such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Out RunSpace HarrierColumns II, Thunder Force AC, and Phantasy Star.

Phantasy Star is a groundbreaking sci-fi RPG that follows Alis in her planet-spanning quest to avenge the death of her brother and topple a tyrannical regime. Besides faithfully recreating the original experience, this version adds a new map display to help novice adventurers and a compendium where longtime fans can view their favorite monsters.

Toys ‘R’ Us, Once a Big Seller of Discs and Games, Winds Down Operations

Toys ‘R’ Us is winding down operations, even as a last-minute attempt to save the struggling toy chain – once a significant player in the DVD/Blu-ray Disc and video game sellthrough market – is gaining a fair amount of press attention.

The Wall Street Journal on April 13 reported that billionaire toy maker Isaac Larian, founder of Bratz dolls maker MGA Entertainment Inc., said he had submitted a bid of $890 million for U.S. and Canadian Toys ‘R’ Us stores.
The offer came after a public crowdfunding campaign to salvage parts of the distressed chain “failed to gain much traction,” the Journal said, noting that Larian has also “dismissed suggestions that the bid was a publicity stunt.”

Meanwhile, Toys ‘R’ Us has employed “sign twirlers” to stand at high-traffic intersections near some of its stores, promoting the liquidation at prices up to 30% off.

At an Oceanside, California, Toys ‘R’ Us – one of the older stores, with side-by-side entrance and exit doors and a metal divider separating those coming in from those coming out – the toy shelves were surprisingly full Monday night.

But the movie and video game department – set off in a corner, store-within-a-store style – the cupboards were nearly bare.

The video game section, in particular, was virtually depleted, with catalog games for the big three consoles priced at 15% off the list price.

Discs are even more deeply discounted, at 20% off. But the selection was a shadow of what it used to be, and the rack was about half empty.

Still awaiting purchase: a plethora of budget cartoons and family movies as well as a smattering of marquee titles, including Walt Disney combo packs of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the live-action Beauty and the Beast, each stickered at $29.99: Universal Pictures’ The Fate of the Furious (pre-discount sticker price $19.99); and Warner’s Justice League (also $19.99, even before the discount $5 less than what Amazon is charging).

Larian launched a $1 billion crowdfunding plan last month to save at least a portion of the retail chain. So far the effort has raised $59,000, on top of the $200 million he said he already raised toward the goal from himself and traditional investors. He had set a deadline of May 28 to raise the funds for the bid.

Toys ‘R’ Us was founded by Charles Lazarus in 1957, nine years after he launched a children’s furniture store, to which he gradually added more and more toys. Toys ‘R’ Us subsequently expanded into a chain and ultimately operated around 800 stores in the United States and roughly the same number abroad.

The chain was so successful that it birthed sister chains Babies ‘R’ Us and Kids ‘R’ Us. In 2001, Toys ‘R’ Us opened a 110,000-square-foot flagship store in New York’s Times Square at a cost of $35 million.

But with the rise of discount chains like Walmart and Target Stores, with their sizeable toy departments, toy specialists found it increasingly hard to compete. The rise of the Internet and the surge in e-commerce made things even more difficult. K·B Toys and FAO Schwarz were among the casualties (although Toys ‘R’ Us picked up both chains’ remains), while Toys ‘R’ Us limped along, closing stores and negotiating with toy makers for better deals.

A $7.5 billion leveraged buyout in 2005 by Bain Capital, KKR & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust loaded Toys ‘R’ Us with debt, weakening the chain’s position even further.

After years of trying to find a buyer, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States on Sept. 18, 2017, and has also filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

On March 14, 2018, Toys ‘R’ Us announced that all of its stores in the United Kingdom would close. The next day, it was announced that the U.S. operations of Toys ‘R’ are us were going out of business as well and all 735 of its remaining U.S. locations would be shuttered.