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Call of Duty: Warzone will soon offer 200-person matches

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Popular battle royale shooter Call of Duty: Warzone is upping its already large 150-person lobbies to let 200 people compete in Quad mode contests, publisher Activision announced today. The new lobby size will arrive with an update releasing at 2AM ET tomorrow, June 30th.

Warzone’s large lobbies are one of many ways the game tries to differentiate itself from the increasingly crowded battle royale market. But after this update, if you’re playing in a full Quad mode lobby of 200 people, you’ll be competing against 49 other teams of four, which could make Warzone’s already hectic games even more of a wild ride.

Image: Activision

It seems the mode will only be available for a limited time, according to an image from Activision’s blog announcing the update, but it’s unclear exactly how long the mode will stick around. Activision didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

When Warzone launched in March, Activision hinted that the game could someday get 200-person lobbies. “I can tell you we are already playing with 200 players,” said Patrick Kelly, co-head of Warzone developer Infinity Ward, in an interview with USA Today published on March 10th. “We are going to release that a little bit later.”

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Sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. breaks record for most expensive game ever sold

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Super Mario Bros. keeps breaking records three and a half decades after release. A mint copy of a US version of the 1985 game just sold for $114,000 at Heritage Auctions, breaking the previous record set by a copy of Super Mario Bros. in similar condition that sold for $100,150 at an auction last year.

That makes it, according to game collector and journalist Chris Kohler, the most expensive game ever sold to date.

A sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. just sold at auction for $114,000, which is a new record for the sale of a single game. Bet the owners of the $100,000 one, which is an earlier printing, feel great today. pic.twitter.com/lVdcla8d19

— Chris Kohler (@kobunheat) July 10, 2020

What makes this particular version so coveted? Well, it’s graded at a 9.4 out of 10, which means it’s in near-perfect condition, with everything sealed in the original packaging. It’s also a particular version of the US retail edition, which went through quite a few iterations over time. Here’s Heritage with a neat explanation of the so-called cardboard hangtab that makes this unit so rare:

What’s the deal with cardboard hangtabs? one may, understandably, wonder. Cardboard hangtabs were originally used on the US test market copies of black box games, back before plastic was used to seal each game. As Nintendo began to further establish their company in the US, their packaging was updated almost continuously. Strangely, the addition of the plastic wrap came before the box cutting die was altered to remove the cardboard hangtab. This rendered the functionality of the cardboard hangtab completely useless, since it was under the plastic seal.

There are four sub-variants of the plastic sealed cardboard hangtab box (this particular copy of Super Mario Bros. being the “3 Code” variant) that were produced within the span of one year. Each sub-variant of the cardboard hangtab black box, produced within that timeframe, had a production period of just a few months; a drop in the bucket compared to the title’s overall production run.

In short, a cardboard hangtab copy of any early Nintendo Entertainment System game brings a certain air of “vintage” unrivaled by its successors.

Heritage also outlines the broader picture in terms of the game’s value and nostalgia factor: it is the highest-selling game on the original NES console of all time, in addition to being the first entry in the Super Mario Bros. series and marking the first appearance of series villain Bowser.

Yet why, of all items, is this one worth $114,000? We can’t be entirely sure, as the auction winner remains anonymous. Typically, these buyers, often very wealthy, like to stay that way. That said, it’s certainly believable that someone with the money and dedication to building out the rarest of Nintendo or video game collections would want something like this on the shelf (or perhaps sealed in glass or in a safe).

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HBO Max is getting a Batman spinoff show based on the upcoming Robert Pattinson movie

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HBO Max has announced a new TV series focused on the Gotham City Police Department, which will be a spinoff of Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman film (which is set to star Robert Pattinson at Bruce Wayne / Batman).

The new series will be set in the same world as Reeves’ film and will be produced by Reeves and Dylan Clark (who’s also producing The Batman). Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter is set to write the series.

The series promises to “build upon the motion picture’s examination of the anatomy of corruption in Gotham City” and “further explore the myriad of compelling and complex characters of Gotham,” with the goal of launching a “new Batman universe across multiple platforms.”

The new TV series emphasizes how important DC properties are to the overall HBO Max strategy. By tying a TV series to its next big Batman film, Warner Bros. is hoping to leverage the popularity of its DC characters to help drive subscribers to the new streaming service. It’s a similar motivation that’s fueling the slate of already-announced DC series coming to the platform and the upcoming release of the Snyder Cut of Justice League that’s planned for next year.

The Batman isn’t the only property that WarnerMedia is looking to expand to HBO Max. The company is also set to try a similar experiment with its upcoming Dune adaptation. It’s already announced a spinoff for HBO Max, Dune: The Sisterhood, which will explore the larger world of Dune and the characters in it. It will be produced by Dune director Denis Villeneuve.

WarnerMedia isn’t the only company trying to tie its blockbusters to streaming: it’s a cornerstone of Disney’s strategy for Disney Plus, too, which has emphasized its Star Wars series (like The Mandalorian) and the upcoming Marvel shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or Loki as ways to drive subscriptions.

There’s no release date yet for the upcoming Gotham PD HBO Max series; The Batman is scheduled to release on October 1st, 2021.

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The world is finally coming around to Starship Troopers

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The Verge is a place where you can consider the future. So are movies. In Yesterday’s Future, we revisit a movie about the future and consider the things it tells us about today, tomorrow, and yesterday.

The movie: Starship Troopers (1997)

The future: Two hundred years from now, Earth is governed by the United Citizen Federation, a new world order where people are defined as either citizens or civilians. To be a citizen, you must enlist in the UCF marines, which will earn you the respect of your peers and the right to vote. Not much is divulged about the lives of those not enlisted; it’s implied they don’t really matter much. Everyone wants to be a good citizen, everyone wants to enlist.

The UCF needs a steady stream of recruits, too: they’re in a seemingly endless war against the Bugs. If they have a proper name, no one is told. They’re just hostile, overwhelming, and need killing. If they were provoked, the UCF does not care.

Starship Troopers follows a group of new recruits from the end of their compulsory schooling to their enlisting in various branches of the military. All-American jock Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) becomes an infantryman, his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) becomes a pilot, and his weirdo pal Carl (Neil Patrick Harris), who seems to have psychic powers, joins the military’s Intelligence division.

Viewers see the future through their eyes, and it’s one forged on the equitable distribution of violence. Voting is violence, and those who use actual force are the only ones qualified to exercise that privilege. Women and men are equals in this militaristic future: they bleed the same, play on the same arena football teams, and buy into the jingoistic propaganda with equal enthusiasm. They don’t question their roles, the war they fight in, or the fascistic nature of their government, their uniforms, their attitudes. All that matters is that they fight, and they’ll gladly die in a war that doesn’t make sense.

The past: Upon its release in November 1997, Starship Troopers almost immediately flopped. Audiences and critics hated it. Roger Ebert called it “the most violent kiddie movie ever made” in his two-star review. Ebert conceded director Paul Verhoeven seemed to be angling for a satire of fascism but argued the film lacked humanity, considering its action soulless spectacle.

It didn’t help that the movie arrived in a tremendous year for film. Titanic would steamroll box offices a month later, and the preceding months saw more successful genre fare like The Fifth Element and The Lost World: Jurassic Park rake in millions. Perhaps Star Wars didn’t help, either: in 1997, the Special Editions had been released both theatrically and on home video, and the mean contrast of Verhoeven’s film might have been difficult to swallow.

Starship Troopers seems to be an obvious satire now, but the movie and its marketing mostly played things straight. It was an unpretentious sci-fi action film with a $100 million budget and great special effects. Why shouldn’t it be fun? And in the heady glow of late-’90s American prosperity, it wasn’t particularly obvious that the people Starship Troopers was critiquing might have been us.

The present: As Atlantic writer Calum Marsh noted in 2013, the tide has been slowly turning on Starship Troopers. Like a lot of prescient satire, the times changed until the movie’s point was made for it, and its targets became obvious — even though its story in retrospect could not have been more plain.

Revisiting the film in 2018, Verhoeven stressed how Starship Troopers consciously evoked the iconography of fascism on every level, from the casting of blond and square-jawed Casper Van Dien in the lead over known names like Matt Damon to the uniforms they wore.

“I decided to make a movie about fascists who aren’t aware of their fascism,” Verhoeven said, citing the United States’ refusal to limit firearms and the escalating number of executions in Texas under then-governor George W. Bush as aspects of American policy that could easily give way to fascism.

In a recent piece for The New Yorker, David Roth argues that the movie is especially potent in 2020, as American institutions have all but failed, with fascism the only avenue for them to persist.

“For most of Starship Troopers, humanity, in every possible facet, gets its ass kicked. A culture that reveres and communicates exclusively through violence—a culture very much like one that responds to peaceful protests with indiscriminate police brutality, or whose pandemic strategy is to “dominate” an unreasoning virus—keeps running up against its own self-imposed limitations,” Roth writes. “It’s not a realization that anyone in the film can articulate, or seemingly even process, but the failure is plain: society has left itself a single solution to every problem, and it doesn’t work.”

It’s worth noting that it’s still easy to misinterpret Starship Troopers if you’re not necessarily expecting satire. There is nothing to compare the fascistic UCF against other than the bugs — aliens shaped like things we already abhor, who don’t speak or seem to want anything other than to be left alone. It’s full of long, corny action, characters who don’t seem to think about much, and very little growth.

On this level, it’s a mindless blockbuster that’s easy to ignore, which is precisely the problem. It’s been easy to ignore our society’s very obvious ills. The atrocities of 2020 are not abnormalities or acts of God; they’re the logical conclusion to decades of careful work on the part of some and negligence on the part of others. The rot is slow, like the online propaganda videos that Starship Troopers uses for exposition that all end with a link asking “would you like to know more?” It’s a shadow of the way algorithms would serve as accelerant for radicalization nearly a decade before YouTube.

Starship Troopers asserts that the spectacle is the point. Its final act, a last, desperate push to clear out a bug stronghold, is exceedingly dull and senseless, violence made mundane. It plays it straight with no clever asides for the audience to pick up on, no character to channel the experience through, no one to ask the viewer why they have this urge to find this violence meaningful, for having the temerity to think that violence would have a meaning. I’m here to see the fireworks, and rare is the blockbuster that is interested in forcing me to question that.

Besides, would people even care? If we gave the Avengers an S.S. paint job, would people love them any less? We don’t just cheer for the “good guys” with guns anymore, but the ones with literal superpowers, and they’ve taken over the world.

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