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14 gifts for the gamer in your life – TechCrunch

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Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

To those who are in it, gaming is more than just a hobby. It’s a way to connect with others, an outlet for competition and, for the most talented, a potential career path. But as far as hobbies (or more-than hobbies) go, it can become really expensive.

So this holiday season, surprise your beloved gamer with gear that will keep their wallet full and their fingers engaged.

Before you dive in, make sure to double check your recipient’s preferred gaming platform. While things like a massive USB hard drive will generally work regardless of whether they’re on PC or Xbox, even the best Xbox headset probably won’t work with PS4. We’ve got suggestions for each platform below, plus a few games for each.

This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

Logitech G502 Hero (or Lightspeed)

PC

If they’ve been gaming for years, your giftee might already have a mouse they love. If they’re just starting to get into gaming on a PC, though, upgrading to a really good mouse is a solid first step. You don’t have to worry too much about compatibility with their existing hardware, and it should last them years.

The Logitech G502 Hero and the Logitech G502 Lightspeed are great options here. The Hero, a wired and more budget-friendly version of the Lightspeed, comes with 11 customizable buttons, weight customization, LED lights and the namesake HERO sensor can scale between 100 and 16,000 DPI — allowing them to find their exact sensitivity comfort zone. The Lightspeed, meanwhile, adds two big features to the Hero with the Lightspeed wireless tech (super-low latency for a wireless mouse) and wireless charging via the optional $100 PowerPlay mouse pad.

Price: G502 Hero (Wired), $42 on Amazon | G502 Lightspeed (Wireless), $150 on Amazon

Razer Huntsman Elite

PC

Though this keyboard is on the pricey side, it’s worth it. The Huntsman Elite has super-fancy hybrid keys, using both mechanical and optical sensor inputs for super-consistent, ultra-fast key presses. The opto-mechanical switch gets rid of debounce and promises a much longer lifespan (100 million keystrokes) than much of the competition, so it’ll last. It has built-in storage for profiles, letting you quickly swap in customizations you’ve made for different games. It’s got a comfortable wrist rest, and, of course, RGB lighting.

Price: $175 on Amazon

Astro A50

PC + PS4 + Xbox

Having a good headset can feel like cheating, and the Astro A50s are pretty damned great. With Dolby Headphone 7.1 Surround Sound, and 5GHZ wireless transmitter for low latency, I honestly feel like they make me a better player. The headset has controls for mixing voice chat and game sound, and the battery lasts up to 15 hours. It comes in two versions: one for Xbox/PC, and one for PS4/PC; sadly, no version works with all three platforms.

Price: $300 on Amazon

SteelSeries Arctis 7

PC + PS4

If dropping $300 on a headset seems a bit too much, the SteelSeries Arctis 7 will get the job done at less than half the price. It offers Lossless 2.4GHz wireless audio (low latency) and a fantastic Clearcast bidirectional mic. SteelSeries says it has up to 24 hours of battery life, though I’ll admit that I’d never have the stamina to test that.

Price: $110 on Amazon

Astro C40 TR Gaming Controller

PS4 + PC

As gaming gets more and more competitive, controller players have historically been at a bit of a disadvantage. While most console shooters have systems like aim assist to try and make up for the gap, console controllers inevitably have fewer inputs than a PC gamer with their full-blown keyboard/mouse setups.

The Astro C40, my personal go-to PS4 controller, helps counter that a bit. With re-mappable panels on the back, trigger stops and both wired and wireless capabilities, the C40 is a controller that can up your game. It also has a 12-hour battery life; I’ve never managed to actually kill this controller between charges.

(I have noticed a bit of aim drag on one of the joysticks from time to time. That said, the controller has a removable panel for changing out joysticks, and Astro sells the C40 with a six-month warranty.)

Price: $180 on Amazon

Scuf Gaming Prestige Xbox Controller

Xbox

If your Xbox gamer isn’t happy with the included Xbox controller, a solid option is the Scuf Gaming Prestige controller for Xbox. It has four mappable paddles on the back, and is fully customizable. That means you can tailor the color, the length and shape of the joysticks, and the feel of the controller. One caveat: It’s worth noting that in my experience, Scuf controllers don’t stand up to a lot of wear and tear, especially considering the $160 price tag.

Price: $160 from Scuf

Seagate Game Drive 4TB

PS4/Xbox One

The game you’ve been dying to play is finally out… aaaaand now you’ve got to pick which of your existing games to delete to make it fit. Or you could just plug in a monster hard drive and forget about all that for a while.

The Seagate GameDrive 4TB will immediately bump up your console’s storage capacity, adding space for another 50+ games. It uses USB 3.0, which means it doesn’t need an extra power source and transfers at good speeds. It’s a spinning disc rather than solid state — the upside of which is that it keeps things cheap, the downside being that the read(/load) times tend to be a bit slower.

(Tip: Pretty much any USB 3.0 hard drive bigger than 256GB will work with PS4 or Xbox One, though you’ll need to wipe/format it for each console the first time you plug it in.)

Price: 4TB Game Drive for PS4, $114 | 4TB Game Drive for Xbox, $120

A big ol’ microSD card

Switch

As with the Xbox/PS4, most people will probably eventually want way more storage than the 32GB that comes built into the Nintendo Switch. Unlike the Xbox/PS4, however, the Switch taps microSD cards rather than external USB drives.

Fortunately, microSD cards have seen drastic price drops over the last few years. You can get cards as big as 512GB for less than $100 these days. Two things to be aware of: you’ll want a card that supports transfer speeds of at least 60-95 MB/s, and you probably want to buy from a brand you recognize from a retailer you trust. Bootleg cards with mislabeled capacities are a thing.

Price: Sandisk 512GB microSDXC, $80

Giftee already got things covered on the hardware front? Get’ em some games! No game is one-size-fits-all, so here’s a smattering of choices across genres and platforms.

(Trying to figure out if a game seems right for someone? Look for “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube, or watch a Twitch stream. It’ll take a few more minutes than just watching a trailer, but they’re often much better representations of what a game is really like.)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)

Shooter, PC + PS4 + Xbox

Call of Duty has been a staple in any gamer’s diet for the past decade. Though the franchise has had a bumpy few years, the community has been re-energized with the recent launch of Modern Warfare*, the sequel to one of the franchise’s most popular titles. This boots-on-the-ground FPS game should be a welcome gift to most gamers, as long as they don’t already have it!

(*Confusingly, this one is officially just called “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” without any number following it, despite it being the fourth CoD game to share the “Modern Warfare” name. Make sure you’re getting the one made in 2019, not 2007, 2009 or 2011.)

Price: $45 on Amazon

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Action/Adventure, PC + PS4 + Xbox

The upcoming release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” makes this 2019 title an excellent option for your gamer, who may wish to continue on in a galaxy far, far away the moment they leave the theater. This action-adventure games follow the story of Cal Kestis, a Jedi Padawan, who is looking to finish his training and restore the Jedi Order, all while thwarting the Empire’s attempt to hunt him down. It’s a true Star Wars tale.

Price: $40 on Amazon

The Last of Us (Parts 1 & 2)

Action/Adventure, PS4

The Last of Us initially launched a few years ago, but the title has been remastered for PS4. The title follows Joel and Ellie, two survivors of a Zombie apocalypse as they try to survive warring factions, the military and the zombies themselves. It’s a cinematic adventure that your gamer could end up playing for hours without even noticing. And the affordable part 1 is a great way to prime for the 2020 release of part 2, which you can pre-order now.

Price: Last of Us 1 (Remastered), $17 | Last of Us 2 (Pre-order)

The Outer Worlds

Action RPG, PC+ PS4 + Xbox

The Outer Worlds is a first-person RPG that is sure to please classic sci-fi fans. The relatively complex game allows players to make decisions as they move to new worlds and meet new NPCs, all the while participating in combat situations with hostiles. The game is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox, with a Switch version set to launch in 2020.

Price: $35 on Amazon

Untitled Goose Game

Puzzler, PC + Mac + PS4 + Xbox + Switch

Anyone interested in a super-lightweight, lean-back sort of game will appreciate the Goose Game. Essentially, the player is a very annoying goose, and completes tasks that make the lives of surrounding humans more difficult. It’s cute, it’s fun and it’s affordable.

Price: $20

Pokémon Sword/Shield

RPG, Switch

The first original Pokémon game for Switch is a great jumping on point for those new to the franchise. The Pokémon company changed some key elements of gameplay to make repetitive actions less punishing, and created a great, engaging story. There are also dozens of new Pokémon to discover on the fastest-selling Switch game ever, and a thousand+ from past generations.

As with most main series Pokémon titles, there are two versions of this game — Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. They’re slightly different — each one has a handful of unique Pokémon you can’t get in the other, some visual differences, etc. — but there’s not really a wrong choice.

Price: Pokémon Sword, $60 | Pokémon Shield, $60



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Arcade1Up pinball cabinet review: Fine for families, interesting for modders

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Enlarge / Say hello to the Arcade1Up Attack From Mars physical pinball cabinet. The chassis is physical; its games are all virtual. Read below to understand what the heck that means.

Sam Machkovech

If you’re of a certain generation, chances are you have imagined (or, at this point in your adulthood, built) your own home arcade that resembles something out of the golden ’80s era. One useful path to making this a reality, especially in tighter quarters, is the “multicade,” an invention that squishes multiple games into a single cabinet.

But what if your old-school gaming dreams revolve around something bigger and bulkier, particularly pinball? Until recently, your options were either buying a bunch of original pinball cabinets or building your own ground-up emulation solution. And the latter is complicated by the realities of how pinball plays and feels.

I’ve wondered how long it would take for that to change in the gaming-nostalgia market, especially as companies like Arcade1Up produce and sell more multicade cabinets for home use. The time for change is now, evidently, thanks to a handful of manufacturers producing pinball multicades. Arcade1Up in particular launched three distinct pinball emulation cabinets this year, each revolving around a different license.

Thanks to Arcade1Up, I’ve gone hands-on with arguably the most interesting product in its 2021 pinball line: a collection of 10 classic tables, all created by Williams during its arcade heyday but emulated for more convenient home play. What exactly does $600 get you in terms of emulation and build quality?

Time to get Mad and Medieval

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Game Boy Advance game gets split-screen multiplayer through new FPGA core

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Developer Robert Peip shows off some split-screen Game Boy Advance multiplayer gaming through his new FPGA core.

Here at Ars, we’re big fans of situations where emulation creates a classic gaming experience that’s actually better than what you could get with original hardware in some way or another. In the past, that has meant upsampling rotated sprites in SNES’ “Mode 7” games or adding “widescreen” support to NES games or mitigating the controller lag that was built into certain older consoles or overclocking an emulated SNES to remove slowdown without ruining gameplay timing.

The latest emulation-powered retro-gaming upgrade to cross our paths greatly simplifies an oft-overlooked capability built in to many Game Boy Advance titles. Namely, it adds the ability to play multiplayer titles in split screen on a single display.

This upgrade is the work of Robert Peip, a developer who’s spent years working on field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These days, Peip works primarily on the MiSTer FPGA an open source project that recreates classic gaming hardware extremely accurately through emulation “cores” that replicate every single logic gate involved in the schematics of the original system (most of Analogue’s high-end retro hardware is similarly powered by FPGA cores). Such cores are currently available for consoles ranging from the Odyssey 2 through the Neo Geo era and more.

Peip’s new “special version” of the Game Boy Advance FPGA core works relatively simply, running two GBA cores in a single MiSTer. As Peip explains, “you get 2 raw GBA cores, one connected to SDRAM, one connected to DDR3, communicating directly inside the FPGA. Sound is used from Core 1 only.”

Thus, games originally designed to be played on two consoles connected via link cable can now be played in split screen on a single MiSTer with a single connected display, as shown in this demonstration video. Peip says that “most multiplayer games should be supported,” a statement that presumably includes original Game Boy games (which work on a GBA link-cable through a supported secondary mode).

Playing these multiplayer GBA games on original hardware required two separate consoles, two copies of the game, and a GBA link cable, ensuring most casual players probably never even bothered (some GBA games offered limited multiplayer with just one cartridge). And while previous GBA emulators have offered link-cable support, even that required a LAN or Internet connection between two separate machines with two separate displays. While some RetroPie users have done a bit of finagling to get multiplayer games for the original Game Boy working via split screen, we’ve never seen a similar one-machine, one-display solution for Game Boy Advance multiplayer games before this.

Peip’s turnkey test core for multiplayer GBA emulation is currently only available by supporting his Patreon, and it is currently missing features like savestates, fast forward, and visual filters available on other GBA cores. Still, we’re excited to have a new, easier-to-use method to try the oft-ignored multiplayer modes in some classic portable titles. Now if we could only get split-screen support for those four-player GBA titles…

Listing image by Nintendo

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Peter Jackson’s 6-hour Beatles documentary confirmed for Disney+ this November

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Peter Jackson’s next six-hour epic is finally coming out this year—and in a first for the acclaimed director, the film will launch directly to a streaming service. It will also be broken up into episodes.

The Beatles: Get Back, an expansive documentary originally announced for a theatrical run this August, has had its release strategy tweaked. On Thursday, Jackson and Disney confirmed that the entire project will launch exclusively on Disney+ during this year’s American Thanksgiving holiday. Each third of the documentary will launch on the streaming service on November 25, 26, and 27. As of press time, Disney hasn’t said how the film will reach audiences outside of Disney+’s supported territories. Neither Jackson nor Disney clarified how the original theatrical run might have worked or whether the global pandemic forced anyone’s hand.

Today’s news confirms that Jackson had an abundance of footage to work with. Roughly three years ago, the remaining Beatles handed him access to a musical holy grail: over 60 hours of previously unseen video recordings, mostly capturing the Beatles working on the album Let It Be and rehearsing for, and then performing, the band’s legendary 1969 rooftop concert in London.

Jackson stitched the footage together with access to what Disney calls “over 150 hours of unheard, restored audio”—meaning yes, somehow Apple Corps. still has some tapes in hiding after this many Beatles special edition albums, anthologies, video games, and Cirque du Soleil collaborations. For further context on the Let It Be recording sessions, the film will be paired with a physical book full of photos and original interviews, now delayed to an October launch.

Jackson’s comments in today’s news, as provided by Disney to members of the press, imply that he indeed sought to release a long documentary: “I’m very grateful to the Beatles, Apple Corps., and Disney for allowing me to present this story in exactly the way it should be told.” He also commented on the original documentary footage, filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, as something that is “not nostalgia—it’s raw, honest, and human.”

The Beatles: Get Back will launch on a Thursday, thus breaking Disney+’s latest initiative of launching new series episodes on Wednesdays instead of Fridays. If anyone can break a newly sacrosanct Disney+ rule, it has to be the Beatles.

Listing image by The Walt Disney Company / Apple Corps / Wingnut Films

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