“Disney just laid off the guy it bought Marvel from… but that’s probably a good thing” by Emma Roth

Disney Plus logo on a black and red background.
Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

Disney has laid off Marvel Entertainment chair Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter as part of its layoffs affecting 7,000 workers, according to a report from The New York Times. Perlmutter, who’s been a Marvel executive since 1993 and joined Disney when Marvel was acquired in 2009, is a divisive figure.

Perlmutter helmed Marvel during its sale to Disney and later served as an executive chair. During his 30-year tenure at Marvel, Perlmutter has been blamed for holding back the inclusion of women and people of color in the studio’s films. In a set of leaked emails from 2014, Perlmutter argued that past superhero movies with a female lead flopped, while a memoir from Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed that he had to get past Perlmutter’s “roadblocks” when getting movies like Black Panther and Captain Marvel into production.

While Disney eventually booted Perlmutter from Marvel Studios in 2015 — the division in charge of Marvel’s films — it later gave him a new role as chair of Marvel’s consumer products. This came as a relief to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who experienced “several years of frustration” under Perlmutter’s lead, as Perlmutter even allegedly tried to fire Feige at one point.

Beyond his notorious interference with the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, here’s a list of some of the other scandals that the 80-year-old Perlmutter has reportedly been involved in, which include (but aren’t limited to): allegedly bribing a New York police officer to expedite the process of renewing his gun license; supposedly influencing the Department of Veterans Affairs using his connection to Donald Trump’s golf course; and a White Lotus-esque legal dispute involving tennis courts, stolen DNA, and hate mail.

More recently, Perlmutter helped stir up a proxy fight at Disney by supporting his longtime friend Nelson Peltz’s campaign to get on Disney’s board. The two men shared the same views on cost cutting.

But now, Perlmutter’s out at Disney, as the Times reports that the company decided to fold the Marvel Entertainment business within Marvel Studios, eliminating his job as a result. Disney also axed its entire metaverse team and laid off executives at Hulu, Freeform, and FX.

source https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/29/23661826/disney-fired-isaac-perlmutter-marvel

“Finally, a Logitech name-brand headset for little school kids” by Sean Hollister

When my six-year-old’s teacher told us we had to buy her a wired headset for school, I must have spent an entire hour doomscrolling Amazon reviews. Normal headsets wouldn’t fit, and every option for younger kids was from an alphabet soup brand of dubious quality — they felt like so much of a gamble that we eventually just went with one of the cheapest options.

Logitech’s new Zone Learn would have been an instabuy for me. Not only does the $40 rotating boom mic headset come from a name brand but it also actually looks thoughtfully designed.

It’s flexible, adjustable, gives you the choice of over-ear ear cups or on-ear ear pads (in case your kid needs more or less isolation or gets claustrophobic or sweaty) and your pick of audio cables: 3.5mm (AUX), USB-A, and / or USB-C.

Did I mention both those ear cups and cables are modular, and you can swap them right out? The $40 retail kit only includes over-ear cups and both 3.5mm and USB-C cables, but Logitech says even consumers can “simply order more earpads and cables when they need to be replaced.”

Image: Logitech
Ear cups twist to swap out.

Logitech also says it’s been tested to repeatedly resist drops up to four feet, survive being cleaned again and again with school chemicals, and that its cables should even resist being casually chewed on by a bored kid.

Image: Logitech
Over-ear, on-ear, and three different modular cables are available to educators.

The $40 retail package is coming this summer, while educators should be able to order sets with their choice of cable and ear pad this spring for $35 each.

source https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/29/23661917/logitech-zone-learn-school-children-headset-kids-usb

“Danganronpa’s creator wants to make detective games more approachable” by Andrew Webster

A screenshot from the video game Master Detective Archives: Rain Code.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code. | Image: Spike Chunsoft

While detective stories are a mainstay in the worlds of film, television, and literature, they’re comparatively niche when it comes to video games. And with a few notable exceptions, the most beloved detective games tend to be visual novels. Kazutaka Kodaka loves detective stories and is best known for the dark adventure series Danganronpa. But for his studio’s next project, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, he decided to take things in a slightly different direction. “Mystery games tend to be dull because it’s mostly reading text,” Kodaka says. “But for this we created a world where you can solve various kinds of mysteries and roam around freely.”

Rain Code is described as a “lucid-noir” detective game. It takes place in a sort of cyberpunk city called Kanai Ward, which is rendered as a 3D world where it never seems to stop raining. Players take on the role of an amnesiac sleuth solving mysteries throughout the city as part of a global detective group. Aside from having various locations to explore, there are a few other things that should make Rain Code feel different from other detective games. For one thing, you’ll partner up with other detectives who have special powers that just so happen to be useful for solving crimes: one can rewind time and another can visualize how a crime scene looked at the moment it was discovered.

Then there’s the way the game is structured. Like in most mystery titles, you start by gathering clues. But once that’s done, you’ll proceed to a Mystery Labyrinth, which is a kind of visual representation of the crime in question, complete with traps to avoid and puzzles to solve. There are even bosses, called Mystery Phantoms, which you battle by using something called a “solution blade” to slice through contradictions using all of the evidence you’ve gathered. The concept is reminiscent of the palaces in Persona 5, a physical representation of something more abstract — in this case, tied to specific unsolved crimes.

One of the goals of the game, Kodaka says, is to make these kinds of mysteries more accessible. Detective games can often be frustrating, as it’s easy to hit points where you’ve missed something small, whether it’s a clue or a contradiction, that completely halts your progress. In addition to the special detective powers, Rain Code is trying to get around this with a robust hint system. “If you get stuck, more hints will pop up,” Kodaka explains, noting that he doesn’t think this will ruin the satisfaction of solving a mystery. “Even though it gives you hints, and it might be easy to solve the mystery’s questions, players will still have to think more about who the culprit is and what the next problem will be.”

These features — the 3D world, the more active mystery solving, the hints — aren’t just there to be different, although they do make Rain Code look and feel distinct. Instead, they’re designed to make a genre that can often be difficult to translate to games into something anyone can play. “If other mystery games are more like a novel, Rain Code is more like a drama or a movie,” Kodaka says. “So people who aren’t really into mysteries, or don’t have a lot of experience with mystery games, they’re able to have more fun with it.”

Master Detective Archives: Rain Code launches on the Nintendo Switch on June 30th.

source https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/29/23661684/master-detective-archives-rain-code-nintendo-switch-kazutaka-kodaka-interview

“Unicorn: Warriors Eternal looks like Genndy Tartakovsky’s most epic series yet” by Charles Pulliam-Moore

There might not have been all that much noise being made about Adult Swim’s upcoming series Unicorn: Warriors Eternal from creator Genndy Tartakovsky, but the animated series’ action-packed first trailer might just change that.

Set in a world that’s been plagued by a malevolent presence since the dawn of time, Unicorn: Warriors Eternal tells the tale of a group of ancient heroes who, through countless reincarnations, have spent multiple lifetimes fighting to keep the forces of darkness at bay. Though a powerful sorceress named Melinda, a “cosmic monk” called Tseng, and Edred, a warrior elf, are all committed to their mission, their lives are all upended when their reincarnation cycle’s interrupted, which flings their souls into the bodies of unsuspecting teenagers who can’t control their powers or remember who they truly are.

Being reborn as teens seems to be the least of the heroes’ worries in Unicorn: Warriors Eternal’s trailer as the ultimate evil they’re hunting takes on a variety of new monstrous forms. But the trailer also makes it seem like Unicorn: Warriors Eternal might be poised to become one of Adult Swim’s more interesting new debuts when it premieres on May 4th at midnight.

source https://www.theverge.com/23661842/adult-swim-unicorn-warriors-eternal

“Apple’s WWDC 2023 kicks off on June 5th” by Mitchell Clark

Illustration of Apple’s WWDC23 event
Image: Apple

Apple has announced that its Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, will begin on June 5th. The full event will run from June 5th through June 9th in an online format, but like last year, there will be an in-person experience at Apple Park on the first day of the show. Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of worldwide developer relations, says this year’s WWDC is going to be Apple’s “biggest and most exciting yet.”

Traditionally, Apple uses the show to share details on the next versions of its operating systems, such as iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and (sometimes) tvOS. Last year, the company used the event’s keynote to announce iOS 16’s customizable lock screens, its Home app refresh, Stage Manager, the M2 chip, and more.

There are reports that this could finally be the year the company reveals its augmented / virtual reality headset, though people (us included!) have been predicting that for the past few years. It seems possible that Apple is teasing headset lenses with its event image — or maybe even the top half of an eye? — but if we’re being realistic, the image more likely represents the rainbow arches on Apple’s campus.

It also wouldn’t be unprecedented if Apple announced new Mac hardware at the event. The company has been teasing an Apple Silicon Mac Pro for quite a while now, and it’d make sense to announce it in front of an audience of professional Mac users. There have also been rumors that the company’s working on a 15-inch MacBook Air, and a WWDC announcement would make sense given that it announced a new 13-inch model at last year’s event.

Whatever Apple has in store, we now know exactly how long it is until we get to hear about it.

source https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/29/23637956/apple-wwdc-2023-event-date-vr-headset-mac-pro

“Forspoken is going full Sailor Moon in new story DLC” by Ash Parrish

Key art from Forspoken In Tanta We Trust DLC featuring Frey and her mother Cinta back to back with their arms extended
Image: Square Enix

I’m one of the handful of people who actually enjoyed Forspoken. Despite its flaws (and yeah, my glowing review aside, it is a flawed game) I saw a solid story with interesting characters and a unique combat and traversal system that was genuinely fun to play. So the announcement of new story DLC for the game has me pleased that I’ll have another opportunity to hardcore parkour my way through Athia.

Spoilers for Forspoken to follow.

In Tanta We Trust is set to take place 25 years before the events of Forspoken and will feature Frey venturing into the past to team up with her mother during a great battle. One of my biggest complaints about Forspoken is that Frey didn’t get enough time to process the revelation of who her mother was and why she was abandoned in New York (and not with her father’s family??), and the DLC seems like it’ll address some of those issues.

Also, Forspoken is essentially a Black magical girl isekai. Sending Frey back in time to fight and potentially bond with a younger version of her mother? That’s just the second season of Sailor Moon, and my “Moon Crystal Power Makeup!” obsessed ass is here for it!

In perusing the press release for the DLC, my interest was piqued by this little tidbit: “scale to new heights in unique, vertically-designed environments with Frey’s honed magic-enhanced parkour skills.” Oh, word? The magical parkour is the shining highlight of the game, and tweaking the combat system to make better use of it is exactly what this game needs.

I know Forspoken didn’t perform as well as Square Enix was hoping it would. Folding its developer Luminous Productions back into Square Enix shortly after the game’s launch seemed like the death knell for the game. But I’m really glad to see the company committed to giving us more of Frey and Forspoken.

Forspoken: In Tanta We Trust launches on May 26th on PS5 and PC.

source https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/29/23661797/forspoken-dlc-in-tanta-we-trust-ps5-luminous-productions

“How Wordle lives on at The New York Times” by Shannon Liao

Wordle Smartphone Game
Image: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

Executive producer Zoe Bell explains how the paper is keeping the phenomenon going more than a year after acquiring it.

Depending on who you ask, the biggest video game last year wasn’t the award-winning Elden Ring: it was actually Wordle. The word game continued to take the world by storm in 2022, beating out Queen Elizabeth and the election results in search volume. It was purchased by The New York Times in January 2022, and though its user growth has plateaued, it still has more daily active users than other newspaper offerings like the crossword puzzle or sudoku.

“When we bought Wordle, our main mission was don’t break anything. Just let it keep going,” said Zoe Bell, executive producer at The New York Times, in an interview. “Then over time, we shifted into this mindset of anything we do has to provide player value. So we’re not going to be trying to squeeze players.”

It’s been over a year since Wordle was acquired by the Times, and Bell gave a talk last Thursday in front of game developers in San Francisco describing how the game has changed and grown under the ownership of the Times. The year marks a milestone for Bell and Jonathan Knight, video game industry veterans who kept a popular game’s demanding player base satisfied, and for the Times, which is venturing further into puzzle game development. “We treat [Wordle] with as much respect as we treat the crossword,” Bell said.

Bell said that their approach worked better than “had we tried what some people do when you have a viral game, tried to throw up lots of advertisements or throw up lots of other things in people’s faces right away to try to monetize because you’re worried it’s going to start declining.”

Wordle was created by Welsh software engineer Josh Wardle back in 2013 as a prototype, which he eventually shelved. Wardle, who used to work for Reddit, then decided to return to the game and finish it during the pandemic. Palak Shah, his partner, contributed by curating the original list of answers for the game. At first, Wordle was mainly enjoyed by friends and family until Wardle expanded the title to a larger audience in October 2021 and went viral, attracting millions of players a day. The New York Times grew interested and bought Wordle for an undisclosed seven-figure sum.

A photo of Wordle producer Zoe Bell speaking at the 2023 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Image: GDC
Zoe Bell speaking at the 2023 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Wardle gave a GDC talk last year about how he designed Wordle and explained why he sold the game to the Times. He actually drew inspiration from the Times’ once-a-day crossword puzzle and decided to limit Wordle players to one game a day. Wardle said he didn’t want to monetize the game, but at the time, before he sold the game, other people were creating Wordle clones and charging for them.

Wordle breaks a lot of the usual rules of game design. At its core, it wasn’t attempting to monetize or take a lot of time away from players. Guessing the daily word is an endeavor that only takes a few minutes. “The first thing I did that I think you’re not meant to do: I made a word game,” Wardle said in March 2022. “I think when you think about viral, exciting games, you don’t think about word games, which is sad to me.”

As it turns out, the world loves word games. Since purchasing Wordle, The New York Times has done audience research, curated its own word list, and hired an editor for the puzzle. In audience research, the Times found that younger players who tend to spend money on games would visit the Times just to play Wordle and that these players were entirely new to The New York Times. “That traffic coming to our site really helped our subscriptions last year,” Bell said.

Bell came from the free-to-play mobile gaming world, and she said she found working on a subscription-based product to be an attractive job change. “In mobile, free-to-play, as a producer, you straddle the line between the game designers who are like, ‘Let’s make the most fun game we can make while maybe still making money,’ and the product managers are like, ‘Let’s make as much money as possible while maybe making a fun game,’” Bell said. “Taking the job here was like I get to focus on just making a really fun game.”

Part of the Wordle compulsion is that you can easily share your results with friends, found in the form of small colored boxes, and show off how quickly you guessed the answer. The Times also keeps a record of your win streak. When you open up the New York Times Games app, you can see the Times advertising its crossword puzzle front and center, followed by the Spelling Bee and then Wordle. Wordle’s tagline fits in well with the rest of the products: you’re meant to untangle terms with Wordle, wrangle words with the Spelling Bee, and decode digits with sudoku.

Wordle has more daily active users than the crossword puzzle, sudoku, or Spelling Bee, according to the Times, though it would not share exact numbers.

Wordle Smartphone Game
Image: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

The hope is that Wordle will help revitalize a struggling news industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that, by 2031, the journalism job market will shrink by 4,100 positions. Outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post are not investing in game journalists, some of whom they have laid off, but they are experimenting with the creation of more Wordle-like products that appeal to general fans.

Julia Alexander, strategy director at Parrot Analytics (and former Verge reporter), said that legacy media publications are likely trying to find reasons for an audience to visit their platforms given how freely accessible news can be across different websites.

“Gaming can be addicting, creating frequent visiting, and building strong habits that can make converting those eyeballs to other aspects of the organization easier,” Alexander said. “The New York Times isn’t solving a major pain with Games, but it is making the subscription more valuable to those who might get news elsewhere but can’t get Wordle elsewhere.”

“We are building leadership positions in a handful of areas that occupy a prominent place in global culture alongside general-interest news,” The New York Times wrote in an earnings report published in February 2023, stating that Wordle is an investment toward building that leadership.

The New York Times and other legacy media publications are trying to recreate the success of Wordle. As Bell explained, “We’re not expecting that we will necessarily discover the same thing as Wordle with the same huge daily average users or anything like that, but I think something like Spelling Bee, which is incredibly sticky and a deeper game could be interesting too.” The Times is also experimenting with visual puzzles, math puzzles, and a chess puzzle.

“Most games fail, so we’re definitely testing a lot of things,” said Bell.

source https://www.theverge.com/23660809/wordle-new-york-times-interview-zoe-bell-gdc-2023

“Alexa can now make and receive calls through T-Mobile” by Umar Shakir

Illustration of the T-Mobile logo, the letter T in a pink box with two squares on either side of it, in front of a blue and aqua background.
Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

Alexa now has the ability to let T-Mobile subscribers make and receive phone calls on dedicated devices hands-free. The new feature comes in the form of an Alexa skill, which can link your T-Mobile service directly to your Alexa Account. The new feature joins the other big US carriers AT&T and Verizon in enabling Alexa to handle phone calls.

”This is completely free for T-Mobile customers and it’s fully available to all Alexa customers today,” wrote T-Mobile spokesperson Trang Nguyen in an email to The Verge. In comparison, Verizon still charges you $5 per month to use its Alexa skill.

You can enable the new feature by opening your Alexa app and then going to More > Settings > Communication. Then, under accounts, select T-Mobile and follow along to link your accounts. You can also set it up by searching for the T-Mobile skill in the Alexa skill store.

There are lots of ways you can take hands-free calls when you’re at home cooking or doing other busy tasks, but that often involves having your smartphone in your proximity or a Bluetooth-powered speaker that may not be at the ready. However, if you have an Alexa smart speaker like an Echo in your home, it can be much easier to make or answer a call.

After setup is complete, you can then say commands like “Alexa, call John” or dial numbers by saying, “Alexa, dial 1-800-255-3700.” Incoming calls will be announced, and you can then say, “Alexa, answer call” or “Alexa, dismiss call.” Connecting the phone service to Alexa also enables emergency services, so you can say, “Alexa, call 911.”

When you first complete setup of the new T-Mobile skill, it will enable hands-free calling on all Alexa-enabled devices you’re linked to by default and will ring on all of them, too. You might not want this if you have, say, an Echo device in a room only your kids hang out in. Thankfully, it can be turned off by going to More > Settings > Communication. Select T-Mobile, then you can choose which specific devices you want to use with the phone service as well as turn off incoming calls to select devices.

source https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/29/23661504/tmobile-amazon-alexa-skill-phone-calls-echo

“Google’s Ads Transparency hub finally lets you see more about who is behind an ad” by Emma Roth

Google logo with colorful shapes
Illustration: The Verge

Google’s making it easier to find out more information about the advertisers behind the ads you see across search, YouTube, and the other sites where Google shows ads. The search giant has announced that it’s launching an Ads Transparency Center, a “searchable hub” containing a library of ads from verified advertisers.

Some of the information available in the hub includes a list of the ads an advertiser has shown and which regions they appeared in as well as the last date and format in which it ran an ad.

You can search for specific ads by heading to the Transparency Center directly or by selecting the three-dots menu that appears beside an ad you want more information about. From there, click the option that says “see more ads this advertiser has shown using Google,” and you’ll get redirected to the Transparency Center. Google says it plans on launching the Ads Transparency Center globally “over the coming weeks.”

Image: Google

The launch of Google’s Ads Transparency hub seems very… late. While Google introduced the My Ad Center last year, which lets you customize the types of ads you see by liking, blocking, or reporting ads, it never really provided more information about specific advertisers and their ads until now.

This is something Meta has been doing for years, as Facebook first launched its Ad Library in 2019. Twitter also introduced an Ads Transparency Center in 2018, although it only now contains archived data of the political ads that ran through 2018 and 2019. Meanwhile, Google first started doubling down on ad transparency in 2020 when it started requiring that advertisers verify their identities and later began letting users access information about an advertiser’s campaign in 2021.

source https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/29/23661628/googles-ads-transparency-hub-information

“Twitter replies make sense again — on the web, at least” by Jay Peters

A blue Twitter bird logo with a repeating pattern in the background
Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter replies are back to normal — well, on the web. Earlier this week, tweet replies stopped showing who the user was actually replying to, which made them look like vague subtweets or random missives with no context. But on Wednesday morning, tweets once again included details about who is replying to whom on the web.

It’s unclear if the original shift was a bug or an intentional change. When we asked Twitter to clarify, its press email auto-replied with a poop emoji. Personally, I think it was just a bug given that tweet embeds and tweets on TweetDeck still showed reply information even when tweets on Twitter.com did not. Unfortunately, on iOS, replies still don’t show who people are replying to, but fingers crossed that changes soon.

If this is just a bug, it’s just one of many recent technical problems Twitter has suffered as of late. Some problems that messed up links and pictures earlier this month were caused by a single engineer. On February 8th, some issues prevented people from tweeting. And just after Christmas, the site experienced a few hours of glitchiness. Remaining employees have had to adjust to multiple layoffs and CEO Elon Musk’s many cost-saving measures, so perhaps this replies bug is just one of many spots of weirdness resulting from all of that.

source https://www.theverge.com/2023/3/29/23661732/twitter-tweet-replies-fixed