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Gaming: Sony and Microsoft team up (waaa?). Plus, Super Mario Maker 2 jumps to life

By Benjamin Bullard
Luigi and Mario in Super Mario Maker 2

Is this the gaming version of peanut butter and chocolate finding each other after years alone in the culinary wilderness?

In a head-turning move for anyone who’s followed the console gaming wars, Sony and Microsoft — the world’s two biggest players whose names don’t start with the letter N — have just announced a partnership that promises to combine Microsoft’s cloud storage power with Sony’s raw processing technology.

If that sounds like a mouthful, it essentially means that the two competitors are joining forces to find new and better ways to make games and other data-hogging applications more seamlessly accessible, to more players, in more formats, and in more places.

In its announcement, Microsoft said the two gaming giants had signed a memorandum of understanding that unites the companies to “explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure [Microsoft’s single-umbrella cloud services platform] to support their respective game and content-streaming services.” The deal also appears to allow Sony to “explore” the use of Microsoft’s cloud network to stream its own in-house games and entertainment, as well as Sony’s future innovations in semiconductor development.

“By working together, the companies aim to deliver more enhanced entertainment experiences for their worldwide customers,” the announcement said. “These efforts will also include building better development platforms for the content creator community” — which sounds a lot like both companies could work more closely than in the past to streamline the games development process so that creators don’t have to struggle to adapt their games for two separate platforms.

While neither company has yet shared real-world examples of how we might be experiencing the fruits of such a landmark partnership, they assure that the memo of understanding they’ve agreed to will lay the groundwork for more specific details in the months to come. It’s also a significant signal that both companies view go-anywhere gaming, and the worldwide communications network that supports it, as a do-or-die hallmark of where the future of gaming is headed.

Now let’s let the big N have its turn: If you’re a fan of the classic 2D games that put Nintendo on the map, then the world will be your tortoise shell when Super Mario Maker 2 debuts this summer.

Nintendo took the wraps off its upcoming Mario-based platform game builder for the Nintendo Switch during a 15-minute Nintendo Direct presentation this week, and there’s so much depth and complexity to the creative tools that will be at players’ disposal that it’s pretty much like having the power of a user-friendly game-design interface right in the palm of your hand.

From mushrooms to coins to enemies to power-ups, obstacles, and environmental effects — even including the very ground your Mario will walk (or drive his race kart) on — Super Mario Maker 2 packs in pretty much every platform gaming element, one piece at a time, from the mustachioed plumber’s entire three-decade history.

If you can dream it, you can pretty much do it here: Not only do you get to decide what kind of side-scrolling course you want to build (Maker 2 supports 2D and 2.5D scrolling gameplay, but not 3D), you also get to mix and match stylistic elements that cover the artistic look of games dating from 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey all the way back to Mario’s first appearance on the NES.

There’s a story mode (Princess Peach needs you to build her a new castle) that lets you move through Maker 2 like a scripted game, and that mode also doubles as a visual demo of ideas on how you can construct your own course. But the real power lies in the game’s free-form course-creation tools. Without diving too deep into everything this game can do (and it’s a deep, deep dive), just think of Super Mario Maker 2 as a Mario-centric game development toolkit for people who don’t know how (or simply don’t want) to code.

Nintendo’s also touting the game’s social features for gamers who subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, including sharing and rating player-made courses, going head to head on custom-made courses in multiplayer “versus” mode, and teaming up in a co-op mode that supports up to four players.

We’re barely scratching the surface of what Nintendo’s already shown off, so there’s probably much more under the hood. Super Mario Maker 2 hops out of the pipes and onto the Nintendo Switch that resides in your castle this June 28.

That digital zig-zag marching sound you hear is the sound of arcade aliens making their orderly way straight to your tabletop.

Just in time for its 40th anniversary, Space Invaders creator Taito has greenlit a crowdfunding effort to put together a board game based on the classic franchise, and in only a few days’ time, it’s already sailed past an initial Kickstarter goal of $45,000.

Space Invaders Board Game

Arrayed on a board that looks just like a more colorful video screen of the iconic fixed shooter, the game combines “today’s popular deck-building genre” of tabletop games with “a more traditional strategy board game,” according to game maker 612 Entertainment. The new twist on an old classic will allow players (the game can go from 2-4) “to collect Space Invaders cards and add them to their hands, while moving across the board and shooting enemies with their laser cannons.”

The goal, say the designers, is to adapt the retro look and feel of the fast-twitch game by introducing compelling strategy elements that make good use of all the cool game pieces and gizmos (including four laser cannons) that come inside the box.

There’s no word on when the game will arrive as it moves through its crowdfunding stretch goals, but early backers have the chance to be rewarded with some pretty cool upgrades, including a Space Invaders diorama that lights up to mimic the look of creator Tomohiro Nishikado’s original 1978 arcade classic. To beat all those other aliens to the punch, head on over to the board game’s Kickstarter page.