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Game

Nintendo’s Switch sales drop as it contends with chip shortage

Nintendo’s Switch sales fell significantly last quarter, dropping to 3.43 million units compared to 4.45 million during the same period last year, according to its earnings report. Software sales also fell to 41.4 million units compared to 45.3 million year over year. All that that resulted in an operating profit of 101.6 billion yen ($763 million), down from last year and short of what was expected. 

The company chalked up the Switch sales issue to a parts shortage, the same thing that bedeviled Sony during the same quarter. “Hardware production was impacted by factors such as the global shortage of semiconductor components, resulting in a decrease of hardware shipments,” the company said. It noted that the OLED model made up a large chunk of Switch sales with 1.52 million units sold, and the lower margins on that model dragged profit down a bit.

While game sales also dropped, Nintendo managed to boost the overall percentage of first-party games sold. In fact, it was the second best first quarter for first-party game sell-through since the Switch launched — second only to Q1 2021, which was fueled by Animal Crossing: New Horizons. All told, however, Nintendo would have to call the quarter a success considering that game buyers spent 13 percent less this year compared to 2021, according to Bloomberg

Some of that was aided by the launch of three key games, the company pointed out, particularly Nintendo Switch Sports which arrived on April 29th. Mario Strikers: Battles League launched on June 10th, while Fire Emblem Warriors arrived on June 24th. “More than 100 million users played Nintendo Switch in the latest 12-month period,” the company added. 

Nintendo is hoping that upcoming games will help out next quarter. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 just launched, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass: Wave 2 arrives on August 4th, Splatoon 3 will be released on September 9th and you’ll see Kirby’s Dream Buffet sometime this summer. The company is also launching an OLED Switch Splatoon 3 Edition on August 26th. 

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Game

Ubisoft will drop details on Assassin’s Creed and more games in a September stream

Ubisoft will share updates and announcements about its roster of projects in a showcase on September 10th at 3PM ET. The event will be streamed on Ubisoft channels on YouTube, Twitch and the studio’s official website, and it’ll include news on “multiple games and projects from Ubisoft teams around the world,” according to spokesperson Youssef Maguid.

Back in June, Ubisoft confirmed plans to share information about the future of Assassin’s Creed during a special event in September, and this appears to be that. Ubisoft is currently working on two Assassin’s Creed projects: one is a live multiplayer experience spanning multiple time periods codenamed Infinity, and the other is a standalone series installment codenamed Rift. Early reports indicate Rift started out as an expansion to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and it stars Basim Ibn Ishaq from that title.

Alongside Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft is the caretaker of Far Cry, Rabbids, Beyond Good & Evil, Just Dance, Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, Rayman and Prince of Persia. A remake of the original Prince of Persia has been bouncing around Ubisoft’s studios for a few years and is now in development in Montreal, due out some time after April 2023.

Ubisoft is also hosting a broadcast for its open-world, online pirate simulator Skull and Bones on July 7th at 2PM ET. Skull and Bones has been kicking around since 2017 and it was even playable in 2018, but updates since then have been few and far between.

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Computing

Graphics Card Sales Drop By Almost 20% Quarter-To-Quarter

Although many desktop users all over the globe are still hunting for one of the best graphics cards, market analysis shows a large drop in GPU sales.

According to Jon Peddie Research, a firm that specializes in tech industry analysis, graphics card sales dropped by 18.2% compared to the previous quarter. On the other hand, comparing sales to the previous year still shows massive growth that speaks volumes about current demand.

Nvidia

The statistics apply to PC-based graphics cards. Over 101 million GPUs have been shipped as of the third quarter of 2021. Those are massive numbers, especially when taking the ongoing graphics card shortage into consideration. These sales mark a 12% year-over-year growth, continuing the upward trend affecting most of the PC market.

While yearly sales have gone up, quarterly results took a huge dive. Compared to the second quarter of 2021, GPU shipments dropped by 18.2% in the third quarter of this year. This quarter used to be the strongest in terms of hardware sales, but all of the previous statistics have been thrown out the window due to various supply chain issues, shortages, and of course, the ongoing pandemic. Even accounting for the current situation in the world, a drop of 18.2% is massive and far above the 10-year average of -5.2%.

The GPU market continues to be a two-horse race between Nvidia and AMD. Intel is gearing up to join the battle with its upcoming Intel Arc Alchemist line, but until then, the manufacturer has almost no market share when it comes to discrete graphics cards. As such, all of these numbers apply almost oolely to Nvidia and AMD.

Jon Peddie Research reports that over the last quarter, AMD and Nvidia both maintained the same market share that they held in the second quarter: Nvidia holds 83% of GPU sales, and the rest belongs to AMD. However, year-over-year, Nvidia increased its lead by 3%, leaving AMD further behind.

Promotional image of an AMD Radeon RX 6000-series graphics card.

The above applies to discrete GPUs, but Intel does play a part in the overall GPU attach rate. Overall GPU attach rate includes both integrated and discrete units, desktop GPUs, laptop models, and those installed in workstations. Jon Peddie Research reported that the attach rate for the last quarter was 125%, which is a 7.6% increase compared to the second quarter of 2021. Despite the overall increase in sales, only Nvidia managed to grow its market share in this section by 8%. AMD saw a decline of 11.4%, but that’s still not too bad when compared to Intel’s -25.6% drop.

The huge dip in quarter-to-quarter sales is not as surprising as it might seem. The chip shortage is not getting any better: Getting a graphics card at MSRP is a small miracle. As prices reach outrageous levels, many opt to not buy a GPU or choose to buy a used unit. Throw into that various supply chain issues and limited availability of graphics cards, and all of it adds up to a bad quarter for sales.

Recent rumors reveal that AMD may be working on new budget graphics cards. Nvidia is readying RTX 4000-Series GPUs for next year, and Intel has its Arc Alchemist line in the works. Perhaps the new releases will help GPU sales rebound, but the GPU shortage itself is likely to persist throughout 2022.

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Game

How to Drop Items for Teammates in Back 4 Blood

There’s no “i” in Cleaner. Back 4 Blood is all about teamwork, coordination, and sharing. With each Cleaner using an assortment of weapons, players will be sharing and dropping ammo more than anything. However, health items, weapons, and even copper can be dropped and shared among your teammates. This guide will tackle how you can drop items for your teammates in Back 4 Blood and the best practices for sharing with your team.

How to drop items in Back 4 Blood

To drop items in Back 4 Blood, open up your inventory by pressing the Trackpad on PlayStation or the appropriate button on Xbox and PC. Then, hover over the item you’d like to drop and press X to drop it on the floor. When it comes to weapons, you can obviously only drop one.

For items you have multiples of (like ammo and accessories), you can press X to drop a set amount or the Right Trigger to drop all of it. For example, pressing X over a specific ammo type will drop a bundle of 50 bullets, while Right Trigger will drop everything.

You can’t drop attachments for your weapons in Back 4 Blood unless you swap them with different attachments you find on the ground or in loot chests. With plenty of weapons and attachments to choose from, the inability to drop them isn’t too bad. However, players are finding it especially annoying when they accidentally attach an optic they don’t like.

When to drop items

Ammo and health accessories are your most precious resources in Back 4 Blood. Sometimes, ammo will feel plentiful. Other times, you’ll find yourself down to your last clip with a horde of Ridden heading your way.

Talk with your teammates about your current ammo situation before each major fight, especially when you know you’re about to trigger the horde. You may be using an AR while sitting on a full stack of shotgun ammo. Since you don’t need the ammo, drop it for a shotgun-wielding teammate.

You can always rely on the bots to drop ammo for you, so don’t get discouraged when someone quits an online match. You can also rely on bots to heal you with their own healing items.

Before you embark on a run, you can drop any leftover copper at the buy box for your teammates to spend on themselves. Since copper can be dropped and shared, it’s considered universal. You could compare this to cash in Call of Duty: Warzone. Share the wealth with your teammates to ensure everybody has what they need. You can drop copper in bundles of 100 or all at once.

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Computing

The 2022 MacBook Air May Drop The Air Name Outright

Though Apple’s new MacBook Pro lineup is here, the rumor mill continues to churn in regard to the next evolution of the entry-level MacBook Air.

The updated model will allegedly sport the same MagSafe connector Apple brought back to the MacBook Pro, as well as introduce Apple’s next-gen M2 custom silicon. Did we also mention it may not be called the MacBook Air?

This rumor comes courtesy of Twitter leaker, Dylandkt, who’s been fairly reliable when it comes to Apple leaks. The new leaks seem to confirm earlier rumors of a 2022 release and a bevy of color options similar to the M1 iMac 24-inch. The overall design will reportedly be similar to the new MacBook Pro, yet thinner, lighter, and fanless.

Jon Prosser

Unlike the MacBook Pro, the new MacBook Air may not have the 120Hz Pro Motion display, SD card slot, or HDMI port.  It will include MagSafe, a 1080p webcam, and USB-C ports. While the lack of Pro Motion is disappointing, it may at least still have the mini-LED display.

One of the more interesting bits of news is that this new MacBook will usher in Apple’s M2 processors. That’s not completely surprising considering the current MacBook Air was one of the first Apple devices to receive the M1 chip. Judging by the jumps in performance Apple has had in its A-series chips, it’s safe to say that the M2 will likely be a healthy boost over the current M1.

How will the base M2 compare to the more powerful, newly announced M1 Pro and M1 Max in the MacBook Pro line? That, we don’t know, but it’ll likely hold its own. The fact that this rumored MacBook Air will still be fanless means that total system power will probably be around what it is now while still bringing boosts in performance.

Dylandkt also confirmed that the pricing will be slightly higher and that the new Air will lose its trademark tapered design. Interestingly, Apple may also choose to drop the “Air” off of the name entirely and just name it MacBook. This harks back to the 2015 12-inch MacBook which famously only had one USB-C port (and was subsequently discontinued).

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Computing

New MacBook Pro Might Drop The Controversial Touch Bar

According to multiple reports, Apple might ditch its famous Touch Bar in its upcoming 2021 MacBook Pro.

Many sources claim that Apple might release its next-generation MacBook Pro in the summer of 2021. Out of the multiple changes that the device is going to bring, one of them includes the absence of a Touch Bar.

The DSCC (Display Supply Chain Consultants) analysis report said the following about the future of the controversial feature: “Touch Bars continue to be the No. 3 application with an 18% unit share and 1.2% revenue share in Q1’21. We expect Touch Bars to be exceeded by tablets when Apple starts the adoption of the 10.9-inch AMOLED iPad. Further, our sources suggest that Apple may cancel the Touch Bar in the future.”

Sources such as Ming-Chi Kuo and Bloomberg, too, attested the claim. Apparently, the Touch Bar will be completely removed and replaced by a row of physical function keys. The 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro that was released last year in the fall did leverage the Touch Bar. The company introduced the feature in 2016. However, it wasn’t ever received well. People liked the feel of having physical keys to press. They also found it much more convenient to press on functions without having to look down. It has been five years since the feature was unveiled, and it appears Apple has finally listened to the complaints.

According to DSSC, the Touch Bar is the third largest use of OLED displays at the moment. Rumors also suggest that the company might switch to OLED displays for iPads in the future.

The new MacBook Pro will also host the upgraded silicon processor and a retouched design. The new design will feature square sides in the top and bottom halves of the device along with the flat edge design trend that we saw in the 2018 iPad Pro and in the iPhone 12 series. Apple is also expected to add more IO ports on the side and bring back MagSafe charging. Kuo reports that a MagSafe power connector is returning, but does not mention if this means the ability to charge on the left or right will be lost.

Apple will hopefully be satisfying the demands of all of those who miss the 2015 MacBook Pro with the return of physical function keys.

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Game

Animal Crossing, Mario and Pokémon Switch games drop to all-time lows

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If you have somehow not jumped on the Animal Crossing bandwagon yet, now’s your chance to do so for less. Amazon and Best Buy have the popular Nintendo Switch title for $45, or $15 off its normal price. It’s also a new low since we’ve only seen the game drop to $50 in the past. The only caveat is that the sale is only on the physical version of the game, not the digital download.

Buy Animal Crossing: New Horizons at Amazon – $45 Buy Animal Crossing: New Horizons at Best Buy – $45

New Horizons came out in March 2020, which meant millions of players found an escape from the pandemic in its adorable animations, pleasant music, ASMR-like sound effects and its open-island gameplay. You’re tasked with building your personal island from the ground up with seemingly endless customizations, while you spend your days fishing, catching bugs, making friends with your neighbors and more. And with online multiplayer mode, you can visit your friends’ islands at your leisure.

If you’ve already devoted countless hours into your Animal Crossing island, there are a bunch of other Switch games on sale right now as well. Super Mario 3D World + Bower’s Fury, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokémon Snap are all down to $45. That’s a record-low price for all of those titles, so it’s a good time to stock up on new games if you’ve been waiting for a decent sale.

Buy Super Mario 3D World at Amazon – $45 Buy Super Mario 3D World at Best Buy – $45

Buy Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at Amazon – $45 Buy Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at Best Buy – $45

Buy Super Mario 3D All-Stars at Best Buy – $45 Buy Pokémon Snap at Best Buy – $45

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Computing

The GPU Shortage Could End Soon as Prices Drop in Europe

Falling prices and increased inventory in Europe suggest that the GPU shortage could be coming to an end. A new report shows a nearly 50% drop in AMD and Nvidia graphics card prices in Europe, as well as a far greater variety of GPU models available.

The report comes from Computer Base, just a month after we reported on GPU price increases of up to 317% by European retailers. The RTX 3080, which has become somewhat of a poster child for the GPU shortage, dropped from a minimum price of 2,299 euros ($2,726) on May 17 to a minimum price of 1,499 euros ($1,777) on June 17. More importantly, there were only three RTX 3080 models available on May 17. Now, the report says there are 24 models available.

Computer Base

Similarly, the RTX 3060 dropped from 949 euros to 639 euros ($1,124 to $757) and the RTX 3070 dropped from 1,499 euros to 999 euros ($1,776 to $1,184). These cards also saw increased inventory over the past month, with the RTX 3060 jumping up from five models to 24 and the RTX 3070 jumping from four models to 26.

Prices are still far off what they should be, but the report shows that the GPU market is recovering. This report comes just a day after AMD board partner ASRock said it expects a steep decline in GPU demand from cryptocurrency miners over the next few months. Close to a year after Nvidia first launched the RTX 3080, things may be returning to normal.

There are a few explanations for the decline in demand. A recent report showed that 25% of all GPUs shipped in the first part of 2021 went to miners, but the falling values of popular coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum could reduce the number of cards miners need. China has also introduced stricter cryptocurrency regulations. China accounts for around 65% of all Bitcoin mining in the world, so the new regulations could cut off one of the main sources of GPU demand.

Nvidia also introduced the Lite Hash Rate (LHR) GPU core to its RTX 30-series graphics cards, which limits the Ethereum hash rate, and the company recently shifted production from last-gen cards to current-gen ones, hopefully increasing supply. The seemingly disjointed efforts to combat the GPU shortage are starting to align. Although it will still be many months before prices return to normal, at least it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

The news isn’t as sweet for hopeful U.S. buyers. Cards imported from China are still subject to hefty tariffs, so although we may see more cards become available over the next few months, they will still sell for well above MSRP. Secondhand prices are already falling, though. Reddit user u/gregable charted prices on eBay from the start of the year, and the graph shows a clear decline in the going price of current-gen cards.

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Game

Monster Hunter Rise freebies drop as sales hit 5 million

We’re only about a week-and-a-half out from the launch of Monster Hunter Rise, and it’s already safe to say the game is already a success. Shortly after announcing that the game had shipped 4 million units by the end of its first weekend of availability, Capcom has now revealed that Monster Hunter Rise has sold – not shipped – 5 million copies around the world, a figure that includes digital downloads as well.

To celebrate this milestone, Capcom has started handing out some in-game freebies to all players. Players logging into Monster Hunter Rise today will find that they have a new item pack called Kamura Pack 1: Big Hit Celebration waiting for them, with Capcom distributing these item packs to all players beginning at 12 AM UTC this morning.

The Kamura Pack includes 30 Mega Potions, 20 Well-Done Steaks, 10 Large Barrel Bombs, 5 Mega Demondrugs, and 5 Mega Armorskins. Some of these items – specifically the Mega Potions and the Well-done Steaks – are fairly easy to get in game, but they’re all items that every budding hunter needs, so we imagine these packs will be put to good use among Monster Hunter Rise‘s playerbase.

In order to claim this pack, you’ll first need to update your game and then head to the courier to claim it. That’s all you need to do, but of course, keep in mind that the Kamura Pack 1 can only be claimed once, so don’t go wasting or discarding the items that are in it.

The way this item pack is titled – Kamura Pack 1 – suggests that Capcom is planning to give out more of these item packs in the future. Perhaps we’ll get more freebies as Monster Hunter Rise keeps passing sales milestones? Only time will tell, but we’ll be sure to let you know of any other free item packs that come down the pipeline.

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Tech News

The OnePlus 9 Pro takes S-tier photos, and I may just drop the Pixel for it

OnePlus has come a long way since 2014’s OnePlus One. Back then, it was just a scrappy startup (and Oppo subsidiary) that made its name by offering an affordable phone that could nearly go toe to toe with the big boys of the tech industry. Nowadays, it makes veritable flagship phones (with flagship prices), packing some of the best performance on the market.

There’s just been one thing that’s prevented OnePlus from achieving the kind of mindshare that Samsung, Google, Huawei, and Apple have: the camera. The company made major improvements every year but always seemed to be a step behind the competition, despite using some of the best hardware available. The OnePlus 8T got really close to the top, but I still ended up preferring photos from my Pixel 5, despite the latter’s far inferior hardware.

With the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, the company has finally broken into my personal S-tier of phone cameras — as one would hope considering the latter starts at $969 (the OnePlus 9 starts at $729). After using the phone for two weeks, I feel it flat out takes better pictures than the Pixel 5 in a significant majority of scenarios. I’d go so far as to say it takes the most DSLR-like photos I’ve seen from a smartphone.

You likely have the company’s partnership with the medium-format camera experts at Hasselblad  to thank for the improvements this year. The original announcement seemed underwhelming; I’d assumed the partnership was mostly a marketing move, as OnePlus said Hasselblad’s contributions primarily amounted to tweaking the colors and image processing. Custom hardware like lenses wouldn’t arrive until later years.

But then I realized: it is exactly color science and image processing that differentiate the great cameras from the good ones. Google and Apple are still considered to have some of the best cameras in the business, despite the fact that they use inferior camera sensors to most of their competition.

Likewise, it’s precisely image processing that give the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro their edge — except they use the best in sensor technology too. The IMX789 in the OnePlus 9 Pro and IMX689 in the OnePlus 9 are top-notch sensors, larger than what you’ll find in most smartphones, at 1/1.43″ in size.

Some disclaimers: In case you can’t tell by now, this article focuses primarily on the camera. You can read up more on the phone’s specs here, and my full review will follow. But for now, I just want to talk about how good this shooter is.

Also note that the photos in this article are all taken with the 9 Pro, but you can expect similar results from the 9, which uses the same ultrawide and a similar primary sensor to the Pro. None of the images in this article are edited or even cropped in any way. They were shot using automatic settings, with the occasional tap to expose.

The first thing to stand out to me about the new phones was how they handled extreme high-contrast scenes. OnePlus consistently nailed the exposure and kept a massive amount of dynamic range.

 

In the above photo, despite my dog Ozzie being massively backlit by near-direct sunlight, the phone manages to keep details in the sky without crushing the shadows. It also does so while maintaining a pleasing amount of contrast, where previous OnePlus phones might’ve led to a more washed out image in order to maintain dynamic range.

Here’s another photo of Ozzie:

The camera nails the tricky golden-hour colors. Also note the impressively shallow depth of field without the need for portrait mode.

The camera also manages to handle skin tones well in this difficult lighting:

Time after time, the camera delivered punchy colors that were true to life:

And the photos from the ultra-wide look just as good:

And another:

OnePlus implemented a special ‘freeform’ lens for the ultrawide that helps it minimize fish-eye distortion in the optics, rather than through post-processing, helping to maintain sharpness at the edges:

I’m a sucker for good blues, and the 9 Pro consistently delivered accurate but vibrant skies:

The skies were consistently just right:

And did I mention those colors?

The images are sharp without being exaggeratedly so:

Even the telephoto camera, which I feel is a throwaway on most devices, takes some pretty sweet pictures:

OnePlus‘ Nightscape mode is also insanely good, no doubt aided by the massive sensor:

It’s not all perfect though. Unlike the Pixel 5, you need to remember to activate Nigh Scape manually. The 9 Pro can still take decent pictures otherwise, but they’re way behind what Night Scape is capable of:

The selfie camera is also pretty good, but not particularly remarkable. The colors seem to be a step behind the main camera. For example, here’s the selfie camera (with portrait mode on):

And here’s the main camera (with portrait mode off):

Aside from the general improved sharpness, the white balance, my skin tone, and sky hues are much more accurate on the primary camera.

 

Actually, the selfie camera reminds me a lot of OnePlus’ old color-grading, which always made me look a little whiter than I am, so I’m wondering how much input from Hasselblad there was for that sensor. The Pixel 5, by contrast, is significantly more consistent between its rear and selfie cameras.

Although the camera delivers punchy images, sometimes it leads to slightly crushed shadows:

The phone also has a tendency to give darker tones a blue tinge in some high-contrast scenarios:

Lastly, I still think OnePlus still has work to do to improve the actual shooting experience.

  • Again, Nightscape should work automatically.
  • OnePlus revamped its ‘Pro’ mode to model it after Hasselblad cameras. But as far as I’m concerned, pro mode, even with RAW photography, is useless if it doesn’t include HDR processing like Google and Apple do. No amount of post-processing of a single RAW photo will make it look better than the typical jpeg shot in HDR.
  • The camera disengages the tap-to-expose function far too quickly.
  • Portrait mode is still a bit fiddlier than on some other devices, requiring subjects to be in a specific ‘depth effect’ zone.
  • Not so much a criticism as something that I miss from the Pixel 5, but I wish I could adjust the highlight and shadow exposure separately.

But that’s nitpicking. The OnePlus 9 Pro takes the best straight-out-of-camera photos of any phone I’ve used to date, and what you don’t see from the above photos is just how consistent the phone is at taking great pictures. Any phone can take a great photo with careful composition, exposure, and editing but the OnePlus 9 Pro makes it so you don’t have to work so hard for them.

I do still prefer the Pixel 5’s camera app and shooting experience, but the OnePlus 9 Pro may have just won me over with sheer image quality. Your move, Google.

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Published March 23, 2021 — 16:22 UTC



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