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Google Wants Developers To Use Dark Mode, To Save Battery Life

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Google has finally confirmed that dark mode does indeed save battery on Android smartphones. This is something that was known by pretty much everyone, and it makes a ton of sense. Google even released a graph that shows battery usage for apps that are all dark versus those that are white (like much of Google’s apps are), and there is a huge difference in battery usage there. The easiest way to explain why there is such a big difference is that with dark mode, especially all black modes, there are less pixels that need to be lit. This is particularly true on OLED displays since every pixel is lit individually. And when you have a ton of white space, that’s a lot of pixels that need to be lit, and that translates into poor battery life. Now as you can see from the graph below, that is a decent change between black and white, but even red and green are pretty low.

Android used to be completely dark, the entire OS. But over the years as Google has adopted Material Design, it has instead gone to a lighter interface, which not everyone is excited about. The reason for this was due to the design guidelines that Google had outlines for Android and apps. But, many did not like it being so bright, since we do use our smartphones at night, when it’s dark. And using a white interface can be pretty blinding. And now that Google knows, and admits, that dark mode is better for battery life, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Google adding dark mode to more of its apps, and even system-wide in Android Q next year. We do have dark mode on the notification shade and the app drawer, but the rest of the operating system is white or light gray. That will likely change, in the next major Android update or two.

In the picture below, you can see how much of a difference the dark mode on YouTube is making. It shows that at 50-percent brightness, it’s only a 14-percent difference, between dark and normal mode. That’s not a big difference, but it does make a difference. Now at 100-percent brightness, it’s a much bigger gap, of around 60-percent. And what is perhaps even more interesting here is that normal mode at 50-percent brightness is 93mA, while dark mode at 100-percent brightness is 96mA, showing that white mode at 50-percent brightness is almost the same as dark mode at full brightness. That is pretty insane, and a huge difference. So if you’re serious about saving battery, dark mode on YouTube is definitely worth toggling on.

Background: Dark Mode has been a favorite of many Android enthusiasts, not just because it is darker and saves battery life, but it also looks better. Many of Google’s partners have been going dark on its skins for different devices. Like Huawei, for instance, was already dark, but it has now added a truly black theme for devices with an OLED display, like the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro. That helps save battery life, rather significantly on an OLED panel, because it is lighting up those pixels individually, so the less pixels you need to light up, the less power is being used. Which is always a good thing with smartphones, especially those that have smaller batteries, or might be a bit older.

In the past few months, there have been plenty of leaks from Google with their apps turning to dark mode. Some of these were from teams that were "dogfooding" the app (this is how Google tests apps and features internally before rolling them out) that were sent out to people outside of Google by mistake. But so far, really only Google News has added a dark theme, which looks really good on the news app. Google isn’t forcing everyone to use the dark mode either, it is offering up the light mode and dark mode and it can change automatically based on the time of day. So after sunset it’ll change to dark mode and during the day it is light. But you can also opt to change it to dark mode all the time, or only switch to dark mode when in battery saver mode – which that right there shows that Google knew that dark mode was better on battery than light colors. So we do know that Google’s teams are working on dark modes for different apps from Google. But so far, only a couple have dark modes available, like YouTube and Google News. But others should be rolling out their dark modes rather soon.

Impact: This is going to have a rather big impact on Android in the future. Dark mode is something that everyone has been asking for, for quite some time. Not only is it going to provide a better user experience for users, but it is also going to provide better battery life. And this is something that Google can do without having to limit how fast processors are going during battery saver mode, or limiting data connections, or even adding a larger capacity battery. Now yes, it’s not going to double your battery life – though that chart does say something different – but it is going to be a noticeable difference. If you have a smartphone with an OLED display (like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, LG V40 ThinQ or Google Pixel 3) and use a black background on that phone, you will really notice the difference in battery life. It’s actually pretty significant. Now imagine that throughout your entire phone, that can be an even more significant savings.

There are other, non-Google apps out there that do have dark modes, like Twitter. And while it isn’t a black or even dark gray mode, it is a dark blue, which uses a tad more energy than a true black theme would use, but it is far better than using the default white mode on Twitter. Google is now urging developers to use dark mode, or at least give users a choice. They aren’t forcing everyone to move to a dark mode on their app, but they do at least want users to have the choice. Of course, most users will opt for a dark mode anyways. And this isn’t really because of battery life, but because users do use their phone a lot in bed, and a dark mode is easier on the eyes than a white or light mode.

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Reggie Fils-Aimé hints at Metroid Prime 4 release window

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Reggie “Ready Bod” Fils-Aimé, current president of the Nintendo of America branch, recently talked with Mashable. In this discussion, he talked about a few intriguing details about Smash and Metroid. We found out, for example, that Reggie mains the awkward but loveable Ridley in Smash Bros Ultimate. Reggie also said that Nintendo usually intentionally announces products between 6 months and a year before release. Although the company has not yet announced a Metroid Prime 4 release date, it is far enough into development that they can estimate one internally.

Unfortunately, Reggie didn’t say what their estimated release window was, and that’s lame. But, I don’t think he talked about both Ridley and Prime 4 in one interview unintentionally. It’s likely that they’ll be announcing a release date relatively soon.  The Game Awards 2018 is happening next month, maybe we’ll get a release date then?

Why another Metroid Prime is needed

Metroid fans are endlessly clamoring for more games. Whether it’s on handheld, console, heck even a browser game would hold them for a while.

They’ve had it rough in recent years with lukewarm games. Titles such as Metroid: Other M and the fun but completely misguided Federation Force. Luckily Samus Returns was a good palette cleanser. Finally, during Nintendo’s E3 Direct 2017 we got our first glimpse of a mainline title, Metroid Prime 4.

Granted it’s probably one of the more lackluster reveals I’ve ever seen. Essentially equating to Nintendo showing the logo and saying “It’s coming”. But still, another Metroid Prime!

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Writer, Illustrator, Graphic Designer, and “geek culture” aficionado. Jake B is an avid art lover based in San Francisco, California who has been hooked on video games and animation since he was just a wee lad.  As one of those so-called “creative types” Jake obsesses over art in any medium, whether it’s video games, cartoons, or anime. Ask him about any artist, they’re probably already in his bookmarks. Gaming is one of his biggest passions, and an industry he takes seriously.

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Reggie Fils-Aimé on 'Metroid Prime 4,' Nintendo sales, and his 'Smash' main

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'Tis the season for big video game sales.
Image: nintendo

Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aimé sat at the end of a white table in a hotel room in Midtown Manhattan. At the other end of the table sat a small array of packaged Nintendo consoles and games, arranged as if they were sitting in a storefront window display ahead of the holidays.

The window behind the makeshift display looked out on a cold and rainy November morning, and Fils-Aimé was talking about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, coming out for the Nintendo Switch on Dec. 7.

I asked him who he’s been playing as.

“I’m focused right now on playing Ridley,” Fils-Aimé said, referencing one of the brand new characters coming to Smash. “My strategy is simple. It is a well-known fact that I am not a very good Super Smash Bros. player, and so my focus is I’m going to keep practicing as Ridley so that at 12:01, the morning of the 7th, I can be the very best Ridley player for a very short period of time. That’s my strategy.”

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one of Nintendo’s key anchors for the 2018 holiday season, along with Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Evee!, launching on Nov. 16. Fils-Aimé was eager to discuss how much Nintendo has to offer for the holidays, including a recently announced Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Nintendo Switch bundle for Black Friday, Diablo III and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate bundles, and a Super Mario Maker Nintendo 2DS bundle.

Earlier this year, Nintendo set some pretty high sales goals for this fiscal year: 20 million units sold by March 31, 2019. As of October, the company had only pushed about 5 million units, so there needs to be a huge upswing in the next few months.

Even so, Fils-Aimé said that Nintendo isn’t backing down from that estimate.

“Our confidence is high,” he said. “October, November, December is a huge selling season globally for Nintendo. Here in the Americas, it’s upwards of 60% of our revenue, so it’s a big, big selling time.”

Fils-Aimé mentioned that Super Mario Party kicked off the season with a fantastic start, exceeding expectations “quite significantly.” The company has also seen strong reactions to its limited bundles, mentioned above, including the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate bundle put out Nov. 9 that is effectively sold out.

“We’re seeing really good consumer response to our games and our special offers, and with Pokémon and Smash Bros. to come we believe we’re very well positioned for the holidays,” Fils-Aimé said.

Ridley in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' is a huge addition to the series.

Ridley in ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ is a huge addition to the series.

Image: nintendo

It’s important for companies to plan releases for these big selling seasons, and it’s something that Nintendo is very deliberate about.

“We have expectations about when [Metroid Prime 4] is going to be released”

“This is something that Mr. [Shinya] Takahashi really thinks deeply about as head of all of our internal development,” Fils-Aimé said. “We certainly think about launching key games during key selling seasons. So it was well thought-through to have, for example, Zelda as a key launch title when the Switch first came out. It was well thought-of to have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 to maintain momentum in that early launch window… It was thought-out to have a game like Super Mario Party to kick off our October selling season. It was well thought-of to have Pokémon and Smash Bros. as key anchors.”

So for a hotly anticipated game like Metroid Prime 4, which was teased at E3 in 2017, does Nintendo have an idea of when that will be coming out? Of course they do.

“Internally, we have expectations about when [Metroid Prime 4] is going to be released,” Fils-Aimé said. “We haven’t announced it, but yeah, the game is well in development.”

Nintendo thinks very deeply about its messaging when announcing games, and normally Nintendo likes to announce its games within a short window of when they will be available to players, Fils-Aimé explained.

“Typically six months to maybe a year out is what we like to do, but there are times for strategic reasons that we believe it’s important to message that a game is coming,” he said. “We did that years and years ago with Zelda. We were messaging a new Zelda experience back during the days of the Wii U… It really depends on the game, it depends on the type of development that it’s going through, and it depends on how we feel the consumer is going to respond to the particular message.”

Heavy hitters like Zelda and Metroid are worth the wait for Nintendo fans.

Heavy hitters like Zelda and Metroid are worth the wait for Nintendo fans.

Image: nintendo

Even with all that planning and thoughtfulness in game releases, sometimes things don’t always line up perfectly — release dates aren’t necessarily set in stone years in advance.

“We do think deeply about the sequencing of our games, but having said that, Nintendo is well-known that if a game isn’t ready, we will push out the development in order to make sure that it is as strong as possible when the game launches,” Fils-Aimé said. “During my tenure with Nintendo, we’ve pushed back development a number of times on key games — in the end it’s always worth it. Because our focus on quality is so strong.”

“Our company really has a strong commitment to that work/life balance”

This mentality of being OK with pushing back release dates plays into the recent conversations in the games industry about “crunch” and exploitation of labor, which is something that Nintendo is committed to avoiding, according to Fils-Aimé.

“Our company really has a strong commitment to that work/life balance,” he said. Certainly I can speak to it form a Nintendo of America perspective, we’re not involved in the development of our content — ours is a sales, marketing, distribution company — but certainly our mentality is that we will balance the workload, we will make sure that we deliver our results, but we do it in a way that really respects the employee.”

The conversation topic turned back over to specific video games. Less than two years into the Switch’s lifespan, many of Nintendo’s most iconic franchises have already had an entry on the console or have one on the way, including Smash, Metroid, Animal Crossing, and even Luigi’s Mansion.

'Metroid Prime 4' may not have a release date but at least we can play as Dark Samus in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' soon.

‘Metroid Prime 4’ may not have a release date but at least we can play as Dark Samus in ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ soon.

Image: nintendo

I asked Fils-Aimé if it’s Nintendo’s goal to have all these different franchises have a moment in the sun on every console.

He said it is, but it’s more than just putting out a game on a console just to check each franchise name off a list.

“We’re always looking to create experiences that the consumer hasn’t even considered”

“Our goal with every system is that we launch an iconic execution within a particular franchise, whether it’s a Super Mario platforming experience, or a Smash Bros. experience, we want that execution to truly be iconic,” Fils-Aimé said. “That takes time, and that’s something that for us is very important. Ours is a company that doesn’t do annualized software, and so when we create a Zelda game, when we create a Smash Bros. game, or a Pokémon experience comes on the platform, it needs to be exceptionally compelling because we plan on selling it for a very long time.”

Of course Nintendo doesn’t just stick to their most popular franchises. They’re always creating new experiences.

“We always strive to create new content,” Fils-Aimé said. “We want to create the next Splatoon, we want to create the next Arms, we want to create the next Labo. We’re always looking to create experiences that the consumer hasn’t even considered.”

That’s just one of Nintendo’s three core business pillars, its dedicated games business. One of its other, newer pillars, mobile, is something that gets equally nuanced attention.

“What we won’t do is simply take an existing console experience and put it on mobile,” Fils-Aimé said. “We want to do something new. Super Mario Run is something new and different within the Super Mario experience. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is something different — still Animal Crossing — but a different type of experience. That’s the way that we think about it.”

Earlier this year, Nintendo announced a new Mario Kart game coming to mobile, which Fils-Aimé assured would have that key Mario Kart DNA but be different and optimized for a mobile experience.

'Mario Kart Tour' won't be a copy of 'Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.'

‘Mario Kart Tour’ won’t be a copy of ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.’

Image: nintendo

Nintendo also sees mobile as a place to introduce new intellectual property, as we’ve seen with September’s Dragalia Lost made in partnership with Cygames.

Some other partnerships between Nintendo and other developers have popped up recently, as seen with Ubisoft and Nintendo’s team-up on Mario + Rabbids: Battle Kingdom and the inclusion of Star Fox and friends in Starlink: Battle for Atlas.

“For us, what we think about is: The company we’re working with, do they share the same values that we have? Do they have the same type of mentality when it comes to that content? Will our intellectual property be showcased in a way that’s consistent with that intellectual property? And in the end is it going to be a great experience for the consumer?” Fils-Aimé said. “Those are the things that we think about as we enter in those types of conversations.”

“That is going to be a key business pillar for us”

Beyond Nintendo’s two gaming pillars, there’s the third pillar: the growth and expansion of Nintendo’s intellectual property.

“That shows up in our relationship with Universal Studios in the park experiences that are being created,” Fils-Aimé said. “It shows up in our relationship with Illumination who’s creating a Super Mario movie in partnership with Nintendo, and so that is going to be a key business pillar for us, how we effectively utilize our intellectual property. So as we look to the future, these are things that are important to us.”

I asked about Nintendo’s movie and series plans around streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, but it’s hard to get Fils-Aimé to give up any information that Nintendo hasn’t already expressly announced.

“We are going to be exploring a range of different opportunities, and when those are ready we’ll announce them,” he said.

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Telltale Games Is Closing

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Telltale Games appears to be shutting down. According to GameDaily, the troubled Northern California game studio behind the acclaimed Walking Dead series is shuttering, and has enlisted the help of an outside company, Sherwood Partners, to assist in the closure of the company.

Co-founder Martin Pitchinson told GameDaily that Sherwood will be overseeing the liquidation of Telltale’s assets. Not only this, but an ex-employee told the site that the remaining health benefits mandated by law for affected eligible employees will come to an end on November 30.

This development is no big surprise. In September, the studio laid off the majority of its staff, reportedly paying no severance to affected developers. Only a small “skeleton crew” remained on staff, and now it appears the true end is in sight for Telltale.

All of this happened amid Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Final Season. For a period of time it was unclear if the series would be finished, and eventually The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman’s studio, Skybound, announced that it would step in to release Episodes 3 and 4.

Additionally, GameDaily reports that a number of Telltale’s games have been removed from Steam, which now makes more sense given that the company may be going under.

For more on the Telltale Games situation, check out GameSpot’s timeline of the key events.

This story has been updated to reflect that Telltale has not entered bankruptcy proceedings.

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