Sony will terminate its Sony Rewards program

Sony has announced that it will be ending its rewards program at the end of this year. No, it’s not PlayStation Stars, the loyalty program that rewards you digital collectibles for completing certain gameplay tasks. Nor is it the defunct PlayStation Rewards program, which offered PSN bonuses for the most voracious PlayStation gamers. It’s terminating the Sony Rewards program offered through the Sony and PlayStation-branded Visa credit cards.

The company updated the FAQ and Terms and Conditions pages to reflect that it will sunset the Sony Rewards website and mobile app on December 31, 2024, and new members will no longer be accepted into the program effective immediately. Pre-existing Sony and PlayStation cardholders will still be able to redeem points, access their account and submit bonus points and purchase credit request forms through the app between now and New Year’s Eve. However, they cannot send physical bonus points and credit request points by mail after July 21.

Additionally, members can no longer earn points through offers or partner offers, and they can’t link their accounts to the Sony Store or Movies Anywhere. The Sony Rewards customer service will cease operation on February 14, 2025. As far as the Sony and PlayStation credit cards are concerned, cardholders will be contacted by Comenity Bank in due time about changes to the credit card programs but they can keep using them until December 31.

The Sony Rewards program launched in 2017, allowing you to accrue enough points through your Sony or PlayStation credit card to redeem items only from the Sony brand. Redeeming points for PlayStation games seems like a great perk at first glance, but the redemption process is inflexible and the APR for purchases sits at a high 27.99%. The Xbox Mastercard, which Microsoft introduced last year, has the same issue but the APR can be 20.99%, 26.99% or 31.99%, depending on your balance. Plus, there’s no cash back.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sony-will-terminate-its-sony-rewards-program-224538912.html?src=rss

Amazon says it’s cut down on those plastic air pillows in packages

You know those little plastic air bags in your more fragile Amazon purchases that make perfect popping noise makers when you crush them? Amazon says it's reduced its usage of them and plans to completely eliminate using them by the end of the year.

The ecommerce behemoth announced on its news blog that it has reduced the use of plastic air pillows by 95 percent and switched to crumbled paper filler instead. Amazon also says it plans to use paper filler for “nearly all” of its customer deliveries on Prime Day.

The company says its decision to phase out the use of plastic air cushions at its distribution centers aims to eliminate unnecessary waste and focus more on using recycled materials.

Plastic pollution has always been a concern when it comes to our environment but it has dramatically increased as a result of Amazon’s meteoric rise especially during the COVID pandemic. The nonprofit ocean conservation group Oceana released a study in 2021 showing that Amazon produced 599 million pounds of plastic waste in 2020. The group also estimated that the waste produced from plastic air pillows alone “would circle the Earth more than 600 times.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-says-its-cut-down-on-those-plastic-air-pillows-in-packages-222953642.html?src=rss

Embracer Group plans to use AI in game development

Embracer Group is making the move to using AI in game development following the mass layoff and game cancellations months ago. The parent company of THQ Nordic, Gearbox Entertainment and Crystal Dynamics - Eidos Montreal detailed in its annual report (via Game Developer) that it is adopting an AI policy to its game production model, despite the controversy around the use of AI in the games industry and beyond. It said that not using AI will lead to the company lagging behind other major game developers and publishers like EA, Sony, Square Enix and Ubisoft, claiming that the tech will help expedite the development process and give players an optimized gameplay experience.

“AI has the capability to massively enhance game development by increasing resource efficiency, adding intelligent behaviors, personalization, and optimization to gameplay experiences,” Embracer said in the report. “By leveraging AI, we create more engaging and immersive experiences that provide each player with a unique, dynamic and personalized experience.”

Along with listing the benefits of using AI in and outside of game development, Embracer said it understands that adopting the technology is not without risks. It noted that AI may “produce unethical, biased, discriminatory or completely wrong results if it has not been properly trained, instructed or used for purposes it was not designed.”

Embracer’s plans to adopt AI comes several months after it laid off 1,500 employees and canceled 80 games over the past year, along with shuttering studios like Volition of Saints Row fame. Despite concerns that AI will replace human workers, Embracer says it doesn’t intend to use it that way. It went so far as to say AI will open doors to entry into the games industry for some developers, including those with disabilities who can’t operate certain equipment the same way as non-disabled people. Only time will tell if they’ll keep that promise.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/embracer-group-plans-to-use-ai-in-game-development-163040373.html?src=rss

Proton can now back up photos and videos on your iPhone

If your iPhone is digitally bulging at the seams from all those photos on it, Proton has a new way to back them up with Photo Backup for iOS. Photo Backup has been available for Android users since December and it officially migrated to Apple devices.

The Swiss company isn’t just offering another way to automatically upload your photos to a new online storage space. Proton also promises they will be securely stored with secure end-to-end encryption so no else can see or access them.

Proton also promises seamless integration with your iPhone and photo library. The feature can automatically upload and sync your photo and video collection, and provides simultaneous access on the web and mobile devices. There’s also an “Available offline” mode so you can keep your access to certain photos and videos without internet access while maintaining its encrypted safety status.

Proton’s Photo Backup offers free storage up to 5 GB and a $4/month plan for 200 GB of storage space. The Proton Unlimited plan offers 500GB of storage space for $10 per month and access to other Proton services such as Proton Mail and Proton VPN.

Proton started in 2014 as Proton Mail, an encrypted email service funded by a successful IndieGoGo campaign that raised over $550,000 from more than 10,000 backers. Since then, the Swiss company added new encrypted services such as a VPN, cloud storage and a calendar and rebranded itself simply as Proton. The company reinvented itself against on Monday by announcing it would transition to a non-profit model because “a Swiss non-profit structure provides additional security, which a corporation alone cannot achieve,” according to a company blog post. Specifically, the company says that it has no venture capital investors and also noted that Swiss foundations don’t have shareholders, so setting itself up in this new model could be beneficial for the company to stay afloat in a world where Google, Microsoft and Apple’s offerings are dominant.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/proton-can-now-back-up-photos-and-videos-on-your-iphone-with-100036501.html?src=rss

Amazon’s Throne and Liberty MMO is coming to the west in September

Amazon Games has revealed when it will bring free-to-play MMO Throne and Liberty to the Americas, Europe and Japan. The company will release the NCSoft-developed title in those regions on PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on September 17. There will be full cross-platform support. An open beta will take place in July and you can sign up for that through the game’s website.

Throne and Liberty, which was originally supposed to be a direct sequel to the original Lineage, debuted in Korea last year after a lengthy development process. It has both player vs. player and player vs. environment combat, and you can join guilds and form alliances to help you succeed. Amazon says battles can accommodate thousands of players at the same time.

The action takes place in an open world called Solisium, where the weather can impact the effectiveness of your weapons and even open up new routes. Your character can shapeshift into creatures that can navigate the sea and air more quickly. You'll even be able to transform into slain bosses to help out your side in battles.

Amazon signed a deal with NCSoft in 2023 to publish Throne and Liberty in North America, South America, Europe and Japan on the heels of Lost Ark’s success. That game, from South Korean developer Smilegate, turned out to be a huge hit, with a peak of 1.3 million concurrent players on Steam. Over two years later, Lost Ark is still going strong, with an average Steam concurrent player count of nearly 56,000 in May.

Despite how well Lost Ark (and before that, New World) performed for Amazon Games, the division has gone through some rough spells over the last several years. Soon after its first in-house game Crucible debuted in May 2020, Amazon pulled it back into beta status before completely shutting down the free-to-play shooter outright a few months later. Last year, Amazon laid off around 300 workers from its games division as part of a broader downsizing.

Even so, Amazon has some other notable games in its pipeline. It's working on a Lord of the Rings MMO and it's publishing the next Tomb Raider game (it's bringing a live-action Tomb Raider series to Prime Video too).

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazons-throne-and-liberty-mmo-is-coming-to-the-west-in-september-123028015.html?src=rss

The Morning After: The biggest announcements from Nintendo Direct

Nintendo sidestepped sharing the spotlight with all the other gaming companies at Summer Game Fest last week, promising its own Direct later in June. And that happened yesterday, teasing a lot of new games with Nintendo favorites. Mario games, yes. Zelda games, yes, and even a new Metroid game, confirmed. (More on that below the fold).

The funny thing is the new Zelda game is all about… Zelda. You play as the princess in The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom. It opens where most Zelda games finish, with Link defeating Ganon. But just as he frees Princess Zelda, our usual hero is sucked into an alternate dimension. The game is played top-down and borrows the art style of the Link’s Awakening remake. However, Zelda’s main weapon and tool is the trirod. With this, she can copy many items and use these “echoes” to navigate the world. You can even create echoes of monsters to fight for Zelda.

Nintendo’s 40-minute update also included release dates for the forthcoming Dragon Quest remake, a new Mario Party title and news that feline adventure Stray is coming to Switch.

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Here are all of the just-announced Copilot+ PCs with Snapdragon X chips

Black Myth: Wukong is pretty, intriguing and as challenging as it looks

TMA
Engadget

The Solo Buds cover the basics, but that’s about it. Audio quality is flat, unless you’re listening to Dolby Atmos content in Apple Music, but at least the earbuds are comfy with long battery life. Then again, they only cost 80 bucks.

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Fisker has officially declared bankruptcy. The US-based startup filed for Chapter 11 protections and plans to restructure its debt and sell its assets. This means the Alaska EV with a designated cowboy hat space — not a joke — will likely never happen. Fisker revealed in a recent report that it had produced 10,193 units of its sole EV available, the Ocean SUV, in 2023, but only delivered 4,929 vehicles.

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Habbo Hotel: Origins, on Mac today, revives the 2005 PC game in all its nostalgic glory. If you never played Habbo Hotel 20 years ago, the game is an online community, in the format of, well, a hotel. Your avatar can chat with your friends in the virtual hotel lobby and spend in-game credits on furniture and accessories.

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After 18 years and a complete reboot, Samus Aran will return in Metroid Prime 4: Beyond, next year. We got our first glimpse of the game too, with Samus duking it out with aliens in typical Metroid style. The teaser ends with the reveal of a new big bad. It’s wearing a suit like our hero but is flanked by two floating metroids. Ominous? Yes.

Continue reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-the-biggest-announcements-from-nintendo-direct-111547910.html?src=rss

The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom will finally let you play as Zelda herself

Did you think Nintendo would simply only release remakes and second-tier games until the Switch's successor finally comes along? Guess again. During Tuesday's Nintendo Direct stream, the company revealed a brand-new Legend of Zelda game. Nintendo is making many fans' long-held dreams come true here, as you'll get to play as Zelda herself in a Legend of Zelda title (as opposed to something like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate).

The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom opens where most Zelda games finish, with Link defeating Ganon. But just as he frees Princess Zelda, our usual hero is sucked through a rift into an alternate dimension. That flips the script, as it's now down to Zelda to rescue Hyrule (and her tunic-wearing cohort too, I suppose).  

Like the best Zelda games, this one's played in a top-down perspective and it borrows the art style of the Link's Awakening remake. Series producer Eiji Aonuma said his team wanted to create a new gameplay style for a Zelda game too. 

Rather than wielding a sword, Zelda's main tool is called a trirod. With this, she can copy many items and use these "echoes" to navigate the world. This brings some of the sandbox puzzle-solving elements of Tears of the Kingdom to Echoes of Wisdom. In combat, you can hurl echoed items at enemies, and even create echoes of monsters to fight for Zelda.

You won't have to wait too long to get your hands on the game and try all of this out for yourself. The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom is coming to the Nintendo Switch on September 26. A Hyrule-themed Nintendo Switch Lite will be available on the same day.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-legend-of-zelda-echoes-of-wisdom-will-finally-let-you-play-as-zelda-herself-143612318.html?src=rss

Mario and Luigi: Brothership is coming to Nintendo Switch this November

Nintendo kicked off its latest Direct showcase with quite a surprise. The company has revived the Mario and Luigi RPG series with the first new entry in nearly nine years. The upcoming title is called Mario and Luigi: Brothership, and that title just about melted my darn heart when I saw it pop up. 

The reveal trailer shows Mario Mario and Luigi Mario working together to explore islands, overcome obstacles and stomp out enemies. They'll be able to use "evolved bros moves" to take out bad guys and as in previous entries, it seems like you'll control both brothers simultaneously. It all looks extremely adorable. Mario and Luigi: Brothership is coming to Nintendo Switch on November 7.

The last entirely new entry in the series came in 2015 with Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam on the 3DS, a game that also drew inspiration from Paper Mario. Mario and Luigi: Brothership is the first game in the series made for the Switch, though Superstar Saga is available via Switch Online + Expansion Pack. It's not clear which studio is developing the latest game — Nintendo has been keeping strangely quiet about such details of its first-party games recently — but original studio AlphaDream shut down in 2019.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/mario-and-luigi-brothership-is-coming-to-nintendo-switch-this-november-142509633.html?src=rss

Playstation Portal update aims to make connecting to public Wi-Fi easier

Sony released the Playstation Portal late last year as a way to remotely play titles from your PlayStation 5. The device — which we frankly called "a baffling handheld for no one but Sony diehards" — relies entirely on a solid Wi-Fi connection. Well, as we all know, even in the year 2024, that can be challenging to find and annoying to connect to. Sony is attempting to streamline this process with a software update that should allow you to connect to Wi-Fi from a phone or tablet. 

Starting June 19, you should see a QR code come up on the PlayStation Portal after attempting to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, such as when it requires more than a password (like a sign-in screen). You can scan that on your device and use it to connect more easily. However, Sony is careful to state that it will work for "a range" of public Wi-Fi networks and that the device requires at least 5Mbps to work, but ideally at least 15Mbps. 

This feature comes alongside an update to the PlayStation Portal's touchpad which provides new visual feedback. Plus, you can now display the device's battery percentage at the top right corner of your screen. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/playstation-portal-update-aims-to-make-connecting-to-public-wi-fi-easier-141304117.html?src=rss

Nikon’s Z6 III is the first mirrorless camera with a ‘partially-stacked’ CMOS sensor

Nikon has introduced the $2,500 Z6 III with the world's first "partially-stacked" 24.5-megapixel (MP) sensor. That allows for high speed shooting in both photo and video modes, while unlocking features like RAW video and faster autofocus — making it far more capable than its predecessor, the Z6 II.

Stacked sensors are rare so far, having only appeared on expensive models like the Sony A1 and Nikon's own Z8 and Z9. Those chips have circuits covering the entire sensor designed to read pixel data far more quickly than regular CMOS sensors. 

By contrast, Nikon's new partially-stacked sensor has circuits covering only the top and bottom parts of the sensor. Those still accelerate readout speeds to much higher levels than ordinary CMOS chips, but fall a bit short of full stacked sensors — at a lesser cost.

Nikon Z6 III with partially-stacked sensor
Nikon

That, combined with the Expeed 7 image processor used on the Z8 and Z9, provides the gift of speed. The Z6 III can shoot RAW at up to 20 fps with the electronic shutter or 14 fps with the mechanical shutter (yes, unlike the Z8 and Z9, the Z6 III does have a mechanical shutter). It also comes with a pre-release capture feature shooting at up to 120fps that operates before pressing the shutter, letting you grab fast moving subjects you might otherwise miss.

It offers autofocus (AF) that's 20 percent faster than the Z6 III, Nikon said. At the same time it works in low light down to -10 EV2, "superior even to flagship-level cameras," the company claims. Nikon also borrowed the advanced subject detection from the Z8 and Z9, allowing nine types of subject detection including people, animals and vehicles. 

The video capabilities look formidable as well. It supports up to 12-bit 6K/60fps N-RAW and 10-bit 5.4K/30fps ProRes RAW capture, along with 4K/60fps (uncropped) and 4K/120fps (1.5x crop) video, plus 1080p/240fps recording. 

Nikon's Z6 III is the first mirrorless camera with a 'partially-stacked' CMOS sensor
Nikon

Nikon is now matching Canon's EOS R5 with eight stops of shake reduction with the 5-axis in-body stabilization system. Rolling shutter should be minimal with the partially-stacked sensor, though Nikon has yet to specify the exact readout speed. 

Other features are what you'd hope for in a hybrid camera. It has a fully articulating 3.2-inch rear display, along with "the brightest EVF on any mirrorless camera" at an eye-scorching 4,000 nits (and 5.67M dots of resolution), according to Nikon. Finally, it has one CFexpress card slot for N-RAW video and fast photo burst speeds, along with an SD UHS-II slot.

It looks like a formidable alternative to the like-priced 33-megapixel Sony A7 IV, offering faster speeds but slightly less resolution. It also competes with Canon's R6 II, which is missing features like N-RAW video recording. It remains to be seen whether it can keep up with those models in the real world, but Nikon has certainly supercharged the lineup, spec-wise. It arrives in late June for $2,500 (body only), or $3,100 in a kit with the Nikkor Z 24-70mm F/4 /S lens. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nikons-z6-iii-is-the-first-mirrorless-camera-with-a-partially-stacked-cmos-sensor-140036768.html?src=rss