Fortnite released (in beta) on Android

I had no idea that the Android version of Fortnite wasn’t out yet. Marc Lagace on Android Central:

Fortnite is a great concept for a game and has proven itself to be wildly popular amongst gamers of all ages. I’ll admit to being among the millions of people who will watch Fortnite streamers on Twitch because there’s just something fascinating about the level of creativity that the open world and building mechanics allow.

It’s just a damn shame how Epic Games has gone about releasing the game on Android.

Epic Games is making the beta build of Fortnite for Android available outside the Google Play Store, initially for Samsung Galaxy devices only. Lagace reports “janky” graphics, laggy performance, and low frame rates compared to other platforms.

I suppose there’s just too much money to be made to hold back even a sub-par release, especially considering the average lifespan of a trending video game is unpredictable. Lagace sums things up:

Fortnite is supposed to be a game that pits players against one another, but Fortnite for Android instead pits players against the game itself.

Xbox One

Rob Crossley at the CVG blog dissects the Xbox One launch:

I’m still shocked that, during early Xbox One design meetings – a time when obvious, sprawling and significant changes were occurring across the western household – Microsoft executives decided to bet the house on the future of live TV and cable.

More to the point, it’s frankly staggering that Microsoft observed the modern ways people view cable TV and believed, somehow, that it could add to the experience by getting in the way of it.

The existing consumer demand to interrupt TV with Skype calls, and a hand-gesture controlled Internet Explorer, can only be described as fictional.

I don’t doubt that Microsoft is going to sell a lot of Xbox Ones based on the brand name alone- it’s arguably their most successful product line of the last handful of years.  But forward thinking it’s not.

I’m not so sure about that iPad mini

Predicting the release of Apple’s medium-sized iPad has been the national pastime for the tech press this year.  I would argue that it may be a very long wait.

Practically no one who follows Apple announcements expected the “iPad mini” to be announced alongside the iPhone 5.  The conventional wisdom was that Apple would shine the spotlight on the iPhone for several weeks to guarantee a huge rollout, and then schedule another event in October to unleash the not-too-small, not-too-big iPad.

But then Apple announced the new iPod touch.

The latest generation touch now has the same larger screen (vertically speaking) as the iPhone 5, along with a host of other significant changes.  And it’s priced at $299.

Which begs the question: what would they charge for the iPad mini?

Pundits predicted that Apple will price the still mythical device in the $200-$250 range, which is well below that of the new touch.  I suppose the iPad mini could be built with cheaper components than the new iPod- a non-Retina screen, slower processor, lesser storage capacity, lousier cameras- all to drive it down to the price of something like the Kindle Fire.

This is a problem for two reasons:

1) Apple would suddenly be undercutting a new high-margin product with something slightly larger, cheaper, and slower.

2) Apple is not in the business of selling crap.

Let’s address the second point first.  The battle cry for the small-ish iPad reminds me of a time in the distant past (3 years or so) when pundits declared that Apple would face certain peril if they didn’t create a super-cheap laptop to compete with the surging netbook market.  Back then there was a range of $200 laptops available at your local Best Buy that ran Windows or Linux on cramped screens and were powered by yesterday’s technology.  Profit margins on these devices were razor thin, and Apple just doesn’t duke it out for scraps at the bottom of the market.

So how much profit would Apple make on a $200 iPad mini?  Not enough.  Amazon is willing to go there with the Kindle Fire, but Amazon doesn’t mind barely operating in the black.

So, what if Apple decides to charge more than the iPod touch’s $299 price tag for the iPad mini?  It would avoid the undercutting I mentioned earlier, and it would sit neatly between the price points of the touch and the the $499 iPad.  That makes even less sense.  Why? Because the iPad 2 parked in that slot at $399, and some believe it’s Apple’s best selling tablet.

Any way you slice it, there’s little if any room for a device like the iPad mini to slide into the current lineup.

“No plans” for ‘Angry Birds Space’ on Windows Phone

The top selling iOS and Android game right now is Rovio’s followup to the slightly popular franchise known as Angry Birds.  Where’s the Windows Phone 7 version?  Here’s Vlad Savov from The Verge:

Bad news if you’re eager to try out the latest — and indisputably greatest — Angry Birds game on your Windows Phone: Rovio’s Peter Vesterbacka has told Bloomberg that the company has “no plans” to port Angry Birds Space to WP7. The original game in the series is currently the top-selling Windows Phone app, but Microsoft had to assist Rovio with the port and Vesterbacka cites that same difficulty of porting software as the major hurdle.

I’m guessing Microsoft will step in again to “assist” Rovio in an attempt to stay (or should I say, become) relevant in the mobile space.

The iPad and the retro arcade

Retro gaming is staging a mini revival on the iPad.  Earlier this year ION released the iCade, a scaled-down arcade cabinet that controls the iPad via Bluetooth.  Initially it was only compatible with Atari’s Greatest Hits collection, but developers have been steadily adding support for additional games.  I have it, and I can say that it’s a lot of fun if you’re into that classic arcade experience.  Now Atari, the quintessential “retro” company of the early 80s, is releasing their own controller.  Raymond Wong at Dvice addresses the question of usability:

To answer that question in one word: average. A modern joystick experience can be pretty hit or miss. Sometimes they move around smoothly and sometimes, as with Atari Arcade, they’re really stiff. There’s nothing wrong with the Atari Arcade — it’s a very sturdily built peripheral and feels like it could survive a few hard drops — but it’s just that controlling games with the joystick feels imprecise.

Atari has also chosen to use the iPad dock connector instead of Bluetooth for communicating with the controller.  This means that the only game that is currently compatible is Atari’s own Greatest Hits package.  Whether or not other developers jump on board still remains to be seen.

Nintendo, another Apple casualty

Minyanville reports:

The 3DS’s predecessor, the DS, was the best-selling handheld gaming device ever made, moving over 146 million units.

So what happened in just one generation that has Nintendo scrambling in a way it never has before?

The answer that that question is right in your pocket. The flop of the 3DS stems from the emergence of smartphone mania, kicked off in 2007 by the first Apple (AAPL) iPhone.

I’ve always been a fan of portable gaming, but my interest in Nintendo’s offerings vaporized with the rise of iOS.  Will pigs fly before WarioWare is ported to the iPhone?  Probably, but that would be cool.