Razer soups up its gaming smartphone

Razer is quick to refute any suggestions that its second phone is little more than an iterative update. Sure, the thing looks remarkably identical to its predecessor from the front, but the innards are certainly souped up — and there’s a snazzy new back to match.

As the company puts in the Razer Phone 2 press materials, “we wanted to keep the core Razer industrial design intact with a CNC aluminum frame flanked by powerful dual front-firing stereo speakers.”

Fair enough. The first Razer Phone wasn’t the prettiest handset on the market, but that was never the point. The gaming peripheral company entered the mobile market with one very clear motive in mind: helping usher in a new age of serious smartphone gaming. It follows, then, that the Razer Phone 2 sports some beefy specs to match.

Razer’s not quite at the point in its mobile story where custom silicon makes sense, so the company’s relying on the the latest Snapdragon (845), instead. What is custom, however, is the vapor-chamber cooling system inside, which dissipates surface heat for intense game play. In all, the company says it’s able to eke out a 30 percent bump in performance over gen one. 

The battery is the same size, at a still impressive 4,000mAh — though this time coupled with Qi for fast wireless charging. It’s a beefy battery in a beefy phone. It’s not the slickest design out there, compared to flagships by Apple and Samsung, but it’s built like a damn tank. It’s also IP67 rated water-resistant and dust proof. 

As mentioned above, the front-facing speakers are still intact from the first generation, and they can get plenty loud, as evidenced by the demo Razer gave us ahead of today’s event. Those are tuned with Dolby Atmos. 

At 5.7 inches, the screen is the same size as the first generation. I’m a bit surprised the company didn’t go a bit larger this generation — gaming is one of the stronger arguments for large screens on mobile devices. That said, Razer’s increased the brightness by half and improved color accuracy.

While, as expected, the front looks pretty much exactly like the first gen’s, the back’s been souped up a bit. The familiar tri-headed snake logo lights up now, with 16.8 million color options. There are different settings for the light, including the ability to have it light up with notifications based on different apps — so, light blue for Twitter, red for Gmail. You get the picture.

Of course, having a light-up logo on the back would be silly, so the company’s created a case with a cutout, specifically to showcase the new lighting rig.

Razer’s managed to maintain a decent price point here. At $799, it’s not cheap, but it’s a couple hundred bucks below the latest from Apple and Samsung. Preorders start tomorrow.

Game publisher GameMine inks a $20 million partnership with South Africa’s Vodacom

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Nintendo’s Miitomo for iOS tops Japan’s App Store in less than two days

Miitomo is a communication tool with plenty of distractions.

For years, industry watchers speculated that Nintendo could rule mobile if it would only make games for smartphones and tablets. And based on how well Miitomo has done in its first week in Japan, we know have proof that the storied Japanese gaming company is primed to succeed on mobile worldwide.

Miitomo hit No. 1 on all categories (not just games) for free iOS apps in Japan today, app marketing intelligence firm Sensortower told GamesBeat. It’s tracking Miitomo on its own platform, and the data comes from Japan’s Apple store. Mobile gaming is a $34.8 billion industry worldwide, and $6 billion of this comes from Japan. Nintendo has struggled with its Wii U home console, and sales of its aging 3DS handheld have been tailing off.

This social game knocked GungHo Online Entertainment’s Pazudora Radar from the top spot. That game is a riff on Puzzle & Dragons, itself one of the most profitable games on the Japanese mobile market.

Miitomo isn’t in the U.S. app store yet, but GamesBeat did download it from Japan on Android and give it a spin, as it already has an option to play in English. The big thing about Miitomo is that it is essentially Facebook or Twitter by way of Nintendo. If we lived in a universe where the same company that invented Mario also invented social networks, Miitomo is what we’d get.

You start by creating or linking Miitomo to your My Nintendo account, which is the publisher’s new network service that will also appear on its console devices. You can then either make your Mii or import it from your 3DS or Wii U using the QR-code feature. After that, you’ll want to find some friends by linking Twitter or Facebook to the game.

According to Sensortower, apps that usually hit No. 1 in Japan receive more than 100,000 downloads a day.

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Google Play gets ‘Indie Corner’ to promote games from smaller studios

The Room is one of the more popular "indie" games on mobile.

SAN FRANCISCO — Remember when your teacher made you sit in the corner after you did something bad and you would spend all that time thinking up crazy ideas for video games? Well, Google is bringing that feature to its Android app market … sorta.

Indie Corner is a new feature in the Google Play store that promotes more games from smaller studios. The company announced this initiative during its event as part of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The idea behind indie corner is to bring more attention to games from independent studios by maintaining an ever-present vertical inside of Google Play that is always showing cool new games from those companies. To take part, developers need to submit their game to Google for review. This could help some smaller studios get a piece of the $34.8 billion mobile gaming market while also giving Android more cachet with a core gaming audience that sees iOS as a far superior platform thanks to its history of support from developers.

GamesBeat asked Google how it defines an “indie game,” and the company laid out some of the criteria it is using.

“It has to be a relatively small company,” Google Play spokesperson Joshua Cruz told GamesBeat. “We think 11 to 15 employees — something along those lines. And then it’s the type of game. Is trying to do something creative or different stylistically.”

The term “indie” has taken on a nebulous meaning over the last 10 years as it seems to have more to do with what the end product looks and plays like than whether or not the studio responsible for the game is actually independently owned. And, technically, Valve — owner and operator of Steam — is independent. But Google recognizes that the term is strange, which is why it hasn’t built an algorithm to figure out what to include in Indie Corner.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be assessed by humans,” said Cruz. “They’ll make the call.”

And while Google wants great games, it also made it clear that it doesn’t hurt if a potential Indie Corner game exemplifies all of the services available to Google Play developers.

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Supercell’s Clash Royale rushes to the top of the download charts in 12 hours

Supercell's Clash of Clans followup.

Check out more of our 20th anniversary of Pokémon coverage this week at GamesBeat.

The developer responsible for Clash of Clans has another hit.

Supercell’s Clash Royale, an online multiplayer tower-defense game for iOS and Android, has reached the top of the Apple App Store download chart, according to data provided to gamesbeat by intelligence firm SensorTower. This is just 12 hours after the game went live. It’s not a huge surprise that Clash Royale is doing so well. It’s from a studio that has made Clash of Clans the top-grossing mobile game every year since 2012. Supercell’s huge player base is bound to at least try anything it puts out, and that is helping the studio dominate the $34.8 billion mobile gaming business.

Clash Royale is not just charging up the download charts, SensorTower has also pointed out that is is already the No. 7 highest-grossing game on iPhone and No. 25 on iPad. That means players are already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the free-to-download experience.

Supercell's newest hit is off to a strong start.

Above: Supercell’s newest hit is off to a strong start.

Image Credit: SensorTower

Clash Royale joins a roster of other mobile strategy games from Supercell like the aforementioned Clash of Clans as well as the military-themed Boom Beach and farming simulator Hay Day.

But Royale is something of a departure for the studio.

The company’s previous games have focused primarily on building up bases or farms or kingdoms with some asynchronous multiplayer thrown in to keep things competitive. Clash Royale, however, is all about 1-on-1 simultaneous duels. Players are still working with familiar units that they’ll recognize from Clash of Clans, but they have to use them in a slightly different way since they’re competing against another human and not a computer.

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