Tech Savvy: Nintendo will offer a $20 subscription to play old-school games on the Switch

Nintendo had some good news and some bad news to announce Thursday about its upcoming suite of online services for its Switch console, which will add some much-anticipated features such as access to classic Nintendo games to the portable game system.

The Nintendo Switch console during the company's launch event in New York on March 3, 2017. Photo by Kholood Eid/Bloomberg.
The Nintendo Switch console during the company's launch event in New York on March 3, 2017. Photo by Kholood Eid/Bloomberg.

Nintendo had some good news and some bad news to announce Thursday about its upcoming suite of online services for its Switch console, which will add some much-anticipated features such as access to classic Nintendo games to the portable game system.

First, the bad news: Nintendo's pushed back the full launch of Switch Online services. The company had originally said that it would launch these features in 2017, but it now expects to add them sometime in 2018. For those who have been on the fence about buying a Switch because they want more social features, that's a frustrating delay.

The good news is that the services sound like they'll be a pretty good value. The service will give players access to online play for all Switch titles, the ability to voice chat and to set up appointments to play together. It will also give players access to a library of Nintendo's classic games; the selection is currently limited to NES games, Kotaku reported, though the company will consider adding Super NES games in the future.

Online services are crucial to the Switch's ability to compete in the modern gaming world. Players expect to be able to voice chat or at least communicate with each other. Having a richer online multiplayer experience is particularly important to Nintendo if it wants to court outside developers of titles such as "Call of Duty," where having that ability is key.

The whole package will cost $20 per year, though players can also pick a one-month subscription for $4 or a three-month subscription for $8.


For consumers, that's not a bad deal, especially considering Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold or Sony's PlayStation Plus both cost $60 per year.

Nintendo is setting up Switch Online in a slightly different fashion than the competition, perhaps because of its more compact screen size. The chat features will work by way of a separate smartphone app. That means players will have all their social interaction going on a second screen, rather than on the Switch console itself. Nintendo plans to roll out a free, limited version of this app over the summer.

-- Washington Post

Gmail will no longer scan your emails for advertising purposes

Google is making a change to its advertising practices that will affect millions of Gmail users around the globe. Starting later this year, the company will stop reading your emails to refine its ads.

If you're just learning that Gmail scans your messages, this is an issue that dates back for years. Google's automated systems routinely scanned Gmail users' incoming and outgoing emails to help refine the company's massive data-gathering operation, which in turn supported its enormous targeted advertising business.

Google's ad business is what keeps the entire company chugging along. Last year, 88 percent of all revenue at Alphabet, Google's parent company, came from Google advertising, according to its annual report.

Only Gmail will be affected by the coming change. In a blog post Friday, the company said its Gmail ad targeting in the future will be based on existing account-wide settings that users can control.


"This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products," wrote Diane Greene, Google's senior vice president of Google Cloud.

It's not clear when the change will officially take place; in a statement to The Post, Google reiterated that it will be this year but declined to offer more specifics.

The history of Google's email scanning has been a checkered one. Privacy groups and activists have filed lawsuits against the company over the practice, which they allege collected user information without those users' informed consent. In 2014, Google suspended email scanning for its educational customers in the wake of one such case, a policy that gradually expanded to cover all of Google's enterprise customers. In the case, nine plaintiffs - including two Google Apps for Education customers - said Gmail's scanning practices violated California wiretapping laws, and also reflected broader concerns that student data should not be used for commercial purposes, according to Education Week.

In December, Google tentatively agreed to hold off on scanning incoming mail until after the messages were available in a Gmail user's inbox, which it argued would help resolve concerns about Google violating state wiretapping laws. That proposal was part of a settlement negotiation that was still ongoing as of March, when a federal judge rejected the proposed settlement in a case involving California privacy law, Matera v. Google. That case is significant because it concerns how Gmail treats email coming in from other providers, such as Yahoo or Microsoft, whose own customers allegedly have not consented to the Gmail scanning.

In her ruling rejecting the settlement, Judge Lucy Koh said the agreement didn't go far enough in explaining to consumers how Google was treating their messages.

It's unclear how Google's new decision not to scan Gmail messages for advertising purposes altogether may affect that case. Google also still scans the content of emails to screen out malware and spam, and could continue scanning messages to help power its Smart Reply feature (which creates robot-generated responses to incoming email that users can select with a click). A Google spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a question regarding Smart Reply.-Washington Post

Microsoft plans to cut 'thousands' of jobs, source says

Microsoft Corp plans to cut "thousands" of jobs, with a majority of them outside the United States, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.


Reuters reported on Monday, July 3, that Microsoft would undergo a reorganization that would impact its sales and marketing teams as the company doubles down on its fast-growing cloud business.

The Redmond, Washington-based company employed about 120,000 people globally as of March 31, with sales and marketing teams accounting for about 19 percent of the workforce, according to the company's website.

Microsoft has notified some employees about the reductions, the source said. However, in some geographies, the company plans to notify employees that their jobs are under consideration, the source added.

Since taking over as chief executive in 2014, Satya Nadella has sharpened the company's focus on its cloud computing unit to counter a prolonged slowdown in the PC market.

-- Reuters

Volkswagen, Kuka cooperate on robots for electric, autonomous cars

German carmaker Volkswagen and robot maker Kuka are expanding a cooperation to develop ways that robots can help drivers of electric and autonomous vehicles, Volkswagen said in a statement on Friday.

Europe's biggest carmaker last year announced a multi-billion-euro shift to embrace electric cars and new mobility services as it battles to overcome its diesel emissions scandal.


Among other, Volkswagen and Kuka, which was bought by Chinese home appliance maker Midea, are working on a system to hook up electric cars to charge points with the help of robots, Volkswagen said in its statement.

"The driver simply has to position the electrically powered automobile in a designated parking space. The robot takes care of connecting up the charging cable for the driver," it said, adding the two companies were also making plans to develop other concepts.

-- Reuters

Deal allows home shopping networks QVC and HSN to merge

Liberty Interactive Corp. said it would buy the remaining 62 percent of HSN Inc. it does not already own in a deal that values the TV shopping network at $2.1 billion.

The deal allows U.S. cable TV mogul John Malone to fully merge HSN with Liberty Interactive's QVC network.

The all-stock offer is worth $40.36 per HSN share, a premium of 29 percent to the stock's Wednesday close. HSN's shares jumped 33.9 percent to $41.90 in early trading on Thursday. Liberty Interactive's shares were up 4.1 percent at $25.45.

The deal, which gives HSN an enterprise value of $2.6 billion, will help Liberty develop its e-commerce and mobile shopping platforms and improve its programming content across its networks, the company said.


The HSN group consists of HSN, its home shopping business, and Cornerstone, which includes home and apparel lifestyle brands including Ballard Designs, Frontgate and Garnet Hill.

HSN shareholders will receive 1.65 shares of Series A QVC Group stock for every share held, Liberty Interactive said.

HSN will be overseen by QVC Chief Executive Mike George and will remain headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Allen & Co is the financial adviser to Liberty Interactive, while Baker Botts LLP is the legal adviser.

Centerview Partners and Goldman Sachs Group are the financial advisers for HSN. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is the legal adviser.

-- Reuters

Tencent to launch mega-hit game in U.S., EU amid regulatory chill in China

Chinese gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd will launch its mega-hit smartphone game "Honour of Kings" in the United States this year, a person familiar with the plans said, amid a backlash in China over its addictive features.


The game has roughly 55 million daily active users and analysts estimate its monthly revenue is more than $147.09 million, making it the firm's top-grossing game.

It comes as Tencent announced this week it would slash the number of hours underage users can access the app, amid a wider campaign by the Chinese authorities to stamp out gaming behavior that it deems "harmful to the psychology of minors".

The new bans restrict players under 12 to one hour of game play a day and limits users under 18 years to two hours.

China's People's Daily called the game "poison," alluding to a Chinese gaming term used to describe addictive games and called for the industry to be further regulated.

Tencent stock has dipped by 4.2 percent since the bans were announced on Monday.

The multi-player role playing game is free, but allows users to purchase items to advance more quickly in the game.

The game's launch in the Europe Union and the United States marks its first attempt to bring the massively popular homegrown franchise to western markets.

Tencent has previously acquired top-grossing foreign titles, including an $8.6 billion majority stake in "Clash of Clans" maker Supercell, but it is yet to export self-produced games of the same size to Western markets.

A Tencent spokeswoman said it currently had no timeline for the game's expansion.

Honour of Kings is already available in markets in Asia including Taipei, Thailand and Hong Kong, as well as Turkey.

-- Reuters

What To Read Next
Get Local