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REVIEW: Content is king in 'Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics' – The Chronicle Journal



TORONTO – While video games may occupy an outsized piece of today’s entertainment landscape, they have not extinguished the appeal to their ancestors. A visit to a board game cafe, casino or even a cottage on a long weekend will provide ample evidence of traditional games still being enjoyed in all their tactile glory.

Restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, have made enjoying a live board game or round of cards more difficult. Some potential players might be isolating on their own while others might not have an old chess set or backgammon table to help pass the time. In addition, many places where game enthusiasts would normally congregate to match wits remain closed.

The release of a video game compilation of popular board and card games would seem well-timed, given current circumstances. “Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics,” out this week for the Nintendo Switch, collects some of the all-time legendary pastimes — checkers, chess, backgammon, poker — and bolsters the package with a diverse selection of popular games from around the world.

Digital versions of classic games are far from a new idea — the “Clubhouse Games” brand itself debuted in 2006 on the handheld Nintendo DS system — but the roster included in this title as well as the options for solo or multiplayer competition are impressive.

Many of the games on offer will be familiar, including dominoes, Chinese checkers and versions of “Connect 4,” “Mastermind” and “Yahtzee.”

There are also some that might be new to North American gamers but have large followings elsewhere in the world, including: Mancala, a centuries-old strategy game; Ludi, a game of Indian origin; and Shogi, also known as Japanese chess.

The 11 card games available include casino classics Texas Hold ’em and blackjack, as well as Japanese favourites Pig’s Tail and Hanafuda.

Pool (both 8- and 9-ball varieties), darts, golf, bowling and air hockey are among the sports offerings. Solo gamers can play three types of solitaire as well as a sliding puzzle.

A slot-car racing simulator is also included. If you have access to multiple Nintendo Switch consoles, they can be placed next to each other in ‘mosaic mode’ to allow for increasingly complex track designs to stretch across the screens.

The individual games are well presented with easy-to-use controls, and each has a comprehensive tutorial to help players unfamiliar with the concept or rules quickly learn the ropes.

Not confident in going head-to-head with a human opponent? The games can also be played against opponents controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence, with different difficulty settings available.

Games can be played by multiple players either online, by sharing a Switch console, or on multiple Switch consoles on a local area network. Some games like Texas Hold ’em, which require players to keep their cards concealed from their opponents, cannot be played on a single Switch.

While the game is heavy on content, it also comes with an attractive sticker price. Nintendo’s website lists the suggested retail price at $49.99 — around $30 cheaper than a triple-A new release.

Of course, a video game can’t duplicate everything that playing a game head-to-head with a live opponent offers.

There is no real substitute to looking an opponent in the eye as you make the last checkers jump or declaring “Checkmate” while placing your winning piece with a declarative thud.

But this compilation has plenty to offer at a fair price, and at least no one has to put all the pieces away when the game is over.

“Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics” is rated E for all audiences. A copy of the game was provided to The Canadian Press for review.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020.

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U.S., EU advocacy groups warn against Google's purchase of Fitbit – Yahoo Canada Finance



U.S., EU advocacy groups warn against Google's purchase of FitbitU.S., EU advocacy groups warn against Google's purchase of Fitbit
FILE PHOTO: Fitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a displayed Google logo in this illustration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twenty advocacy groups from the United States, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere signed a statement Wednesday urging regulators to be wary of Google’s $2.1 billion bid for fitness tracker company Fitbit Inc <FIT.N> because of privacy and competition concerns.

The 20 organizations – which include the U.S.-based Public Citizen, Access Now from Europe and the Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defense – argued that the deal would expand the already considerable clout in digital markets of Alphabet Inc’s <GOOGL.O> Google.

Acquiring Fitbit would give Google such intimate information about users as how many steps they take daily, the quality of their sleep and their heart rates.

“Past experience shows that regulators must be very wary of any promises made by merging parties about restricting the use of the acquisition target’s data. Regulators must assume that Google will in practice utilize the entirety of Fitbit’s currently independent unique, highly sensitive data set in combination with its own,” the groups said.

Australian and Canadian groups were among the signatories.

A Google spokeswoman said the tech wearables space was crowded.

“This deal is about devices, not data,” she said. “We believe the combination of Google’s and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector.”

Google announced the deal in November to take on competitors in the crowded market for fitness trackers and smart watches. Fitbit’s market share has been threatened by deep-pocketed companies like Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS>.

Australia’s competition authority said this month that it may have concerns about the deal and would make a final decision in August.

EU antitrust regulators will decide by July 20 whether to clear the deal with or without concessions or open a longer investigation.

In Washington, Google is under antitrust investigation by the Justice Department, a congressional committee and dozens of states for allegedly using its massive market power to harm smaller competitors.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Samsung is selling a wireless charger that also sterilizes your phone – Engadget




As the world comes to terms with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have learned that keeping a small distance and regularly washing their hands are important tools in limiting the transmission of the virus. However, when the humble smartphone is considered to be one of the dirtiest things someone can own, hand care may only go so far. In a bid to give its customers an phone-cleaning option that doesn’t involve an antibacterial wipe, Samsung has begun selling a wireless UV charger that promises to “kill up to 99 percent of bacteria within 10 minutes.”

The ITFIT UV Sterilizer is a very unremarkable white box that Samsung says is spacious enough to fit a Galaxy S20 Ultra. However, it’s not limited to just Samsung smartphones, or wireless gadgets like Galaxy Buds and the Galaxy Watch — if it fits inside then it can likely be disinfected (but may not be charged). Place the item(s) in the box, connect it to a USB-C power source and press the switch. The embedded 10-watt Qi charger will deliver power while it does its thing.

While it’s not an official Samsung design, the company sells the UV Sterilizer via a partnership with ITFIT, a Samsung sub-brand that seems to be applied to rebadged accessories. In the FCC listing for the device, the documentation includes a “Designed for Samsung” seal. Other ITFIT products made for Samsung include headphones and selfie sticks.

Wireless UV chargers aren’t new, but they’ve seen a huge rise in popularity following the coronavirus outbreak. Samsung doesn’t explicitly state that its UV Sterilizer successfully eradicates SARS-CoV-2, but a recent research study suggests that UVC lamps are capable of killing “more than 99.9 percent of airborne coronaviruses.”

The ITFIT UV Sterilizer is currently only being sold in Thailand for 1,590 baht (around $51), although it is also listed (but not available) in Hong Kong. There’s no word on whether it will go on sale in the US, but big-name accessory brands like Mophie and InvisibleShield (both owned by Zagg) are already on the case.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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EU signals deeper investigation of Google Fitbit deal – Financial Times



The EU is examining whether Google’s proposed $2.1bn takeover of the fitness-tracking company Fitbit will give the company more data to entrench its search engine and advertising businesses, as consumer groups called for the deal to be blocked.

EU regulators have sent two questionnaires, adding up to around 60 pages, asking Google and Fitbit’s rivals whether the deal will damage competition, disadvantage other fitness tracking apps in Google’s Play Store, or give Google more profiling data to improve its online search and advertising businesses.

The questionnaires also ask rivals to assess the impact of the deal on Google’s growing digital healthcare business.

Separately, 20 consumer groups, including Europe’s umbrella consumer organisation BEUC and the Consumer Federation of America, issued a warning about the deal on Thursday.

“Regulators must assume that Google will in practice utilise the entirety of Fitbit’s currently independent unique, highly sensitive data set in combination with its own, particularly as this could increase its profits, or they must impose strict and enforceable limitations on data use,” they said, in a joint statement.

The detail of the questions posed by the EU suggests that Brussels is gearing up for an extended investigation and may block the transaction, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The EU has until July 20 to make a decision after the end of the initial phase of the investigation, and could waive the deal, extend the investigation or ask for concessions.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission raised concerns last month that the deal could lead to a strengthening of Google’s position.

“Past acquisitions by Google, of both start-ups and mature companies like Fitbit, have further entrenched Google’s position,” said Rod Sims, the Australian watchdog’s chair, last month. “The access to user data available to Google has made it so valuable to advertisers that it faces only limited competition.” 

The Australian authority said it is looking into the “uniqueness and potential value” that Fitbit’s data would give Google. 

“The risk is that Google would extend its empire of consumer data also into vital medical data and digital medical services undergo some kind of consumerisation rather than being available to the wider medical community,” said an antitrust expert in Brussels with direct knowledge of the deal.

At the time the deal was announced, Rick Osterloh, senior vice-president for devices and services at Google, said the company “will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data.”

Google said: “Throughout this process we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data.

“Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. And we do not sell personal information to anyone.”

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