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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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Ubisoft reportedly fires VP of editorial following allegations of sexual harassment

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One of Ubisoft’s most influential executives has been fired after an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made against him, reports Business Insider. Ubisoft confirmed to The Verge that the executive, Tommy François, departed the company, but declined to comment on the nature of his departure.

François was formerly Ubisoft’s vice president of editorial and creative services, a role that gave him oversight over the development of many of the studio’s largest franchises. A separate Business Insider report detailed some of François actions, which included commenting on how his female colleagues looked, massaging people without asking, and, on one occasion, telling his colleagues he had spent the previous evening masturbating. Ubisoft had previously said on July 6th that François had been placed on disciplinary leave while it investigated the allegations.

François’ departure comes amid a significant reckoning at Ubisoft, which has recently come under heavy scrutiny for its workplace culture. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla creative director Ashraf Ismail stepped down and took a leave of absence on June 24th following allegations of sexual misconduct with fans. And after assault allegations against vice president Maxime Béland were shared on social media and in a Kotaku report, Ubisoft said on July 6th that Béland had resigned.

Following Béland, a series of other executive departures followed: Chief Creative Officer Serge Hascoët resigned; HR chief Cécile Cornet stepped down; and Yannis Mallat, managing director of Ubisoft’s Canadian studios, stepped down as well and left the company following “a rigorous review,” Ubisoft announced on July 11th. (Business Insider reports that Cornet is still at Ubisoft but is in a different role.)

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot promised sweeping internal changes aimed at addressing the culture issues in an email to staff on July 2nd, including appointing a head of workplace culture and setting up an “online confidential alert platform.” Ubisoft said it would tie employee bonuses to creating “their ability to create a positive and inclusive workplace environment” in its earnings call on July 22nd.

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This is how Xbox games are getting touch controls for xCloud

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Microsoft is preparing to launch its xCloud game streaming service as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate next month, and we’re now starting to get some more details on how touch controls will work with the service. Microsoft initially detailed touch controls last year, but the company has now been working with Xbox Game Studios developers like The Coalition and Ninja Theory to bring these controls to Xbox games.

During a Microsoft Game Stack stream today, Jarret Bradley, senior gameplay producer at The Coalition, showed off how touch controls will work with Gears 5. The Coalition has built custom layouts for anything you can do in the game, including buttons for aiming, shooting, reloading, and controls for driving vehicles.

The team has even built layers where you can push buttons to bring up different views when you’re weapon changing, so the D-Pad isn’t always on-screen. The touchscreen controls even disappear automatically when a cinematic appears on-screen. The Coalition has also added gyro aim controls, allowing you to use your phone or tablet to aim a gun.

“When we first started talking about this, we were going a little over complicated because we weren’t sure what we needed to do,” explains Bradley in the talk. “As we started to dig into it, we realized the best thing for us to do is to treat this as a different input device like we already support keyboard and mouse, controller, and we have customized controls and remapping.”

Touchscreen controls on xCloud.

The Coalition has gone back over Gears 5 and painstakingly optimized it for touch controls, but Microsoft is hoping developers will consider designing games with these controls in mind at the beginning of development. This will make it easier for developers to consider touch controls with xCloud, and for xCloud players to use them when a Bluetooth Xbox controller isn’t available.

Microsoft is now allowing existing xCloud testers to access touch controls for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice today, and other games should launch with these touch controls as xCloud becomes available as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate in September.

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Square Enix’s Avengers game is getting a PlayStation-exclusive Spider-Man character, and that sucks

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Square Enix’s Avengers game will arrive this fall, and it’ll bring back console-exclusive content in a big way: the company announced that PlayStation players will get exclusive access to a playable Spider-Man character sometime in 2021.

Frankly, that sucks. It’s not clear whether Sony paid Square Enix extra for the exclusive character or if this is simply an extension of the movie rights that Sony has long since held to the character. But the fact is that PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 owners will be able to get access to a major piece of content for the upcoming game that players on Xbox, PC, or Stadia won’t.

Platform-exclusive content in third-party releases has been a frustrating aspect of the games industry for years, with both Sony and Microsoft shelling out for exclusive levels or early access in games like Call of Duty, Destiny 2, or Control. But since cross-play between Sony, Microsoft, and PC platforms for games that exist on all three platforms has started to become the norm, the fad of gating off pieces of content to the owners of the “right” console has been falling out of favor — at least, until this latest resurgence.

What makes it particularly frustrating is that different playable heroes are a key part of Marvel’s Avengers, with the specific hero you play (and their role in a four-player team) having major impacts on gameplay.

Marvel’s Avengers is set to launch with six playable characters — Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, and Ms. Marvel — with the promise of additional characters (like the recently announced Hawkeye) to be added to the game in the future for free. Each character has their own loot pool, skill tree, combat style, and traversal methods that set them apart. Imagine if Diablo or Destiny had an extra class that was only available on Xbox or PC; that’s roughly the level of what PlayStation owners are getting here.

As frustrating as the exclusive content is, it does make sense given Sony’s current strategy for the PlayStation brand as a whole, which has been to focus on PlayStation-exclusive games that simply aren’t available anywhere else. Continuing to push that platform advantage through DLC — especially with a character like Spider-Man that’s so tightly tied to Sony as a company — makes perfect sense (for Sony, at least).

Marvel’s Avengers is set to be released on September 4th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia. Next-generation versions for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are also planned for later this year.

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