Carolina Chocolate Drops bandleader Rhiannon Giddens to release first solo album

Jon Pareles for the New York Times:

The album is a showcase for Ms. Giddens’s glorious voice, which merges an opera singer’s detail and a deep connection to Southern roots. She can summon the power of a field holler, Celtic quavers, girlish innocence, bluesy sensuality, gospel exaltation or the pain of slavery. She can sing velvety, long-breathed phrases or rasp and yip like a singer from the backwoods long ago. For all her technical control, her voice is a perpetually soulful marvel.

“I was given the voice — I’ve developed it, but the voice was just here,” Ms. Giddens said. “I feel proud about what I’ve done with it, but it’s never been mine. It’s been given to me to take care of and to shepherd.”

Giddens is the real deal, and I’m excited to see how this turns out. The album, which is called Tomorrow Is My Turn, is out February 10.

Mobile developer Game Oven to close in April

Studio cofounder Adriaan de Jongh:

All of us felt the financial pressure of three full time people, an office, and a whole bunch of contractors for 2D art, 3D art, music, sounds, and trailers. This pressure removed much of the creative downtime we needed and gave us less and less time to think about new games or to make new prototypes. This ultimately left us where we are today, at a point where we are in need of another vision for a beautiful game, but where we don’t have one, and don’t have the financial resources to find one and make one.

Sad news. Adriaan and Game Oven producer Eline Muijres visited Harmonix early last year to show off Bounden, and they seemed like great folks (and kindred spirits in the weird-games-with-weird-inputs space).

The Shape of the App Store

iOS developer Charles Perry, with an encouraging analysis of the App Store revenue distribution curve:

At the top of the long tail, in position 871 on the Top Grossing list, an app still makes over $700 in revenue per day. That’s almost $260,000 per year. Even number 1,908 on the Top Grossing list makes over $100,000 per year. In fact all apps above number 3,175 on the Top Grossing list produce enough revenue to at least make its developer the United States household median income for 2014 ($53,891). And this is just for a single app. Most indies I know develop more than one app simultaneously. Developers who can put together a collection of apps that rank at about 6000 on the Top Grossing list (about $25,000 in revenue per year) stand a good chance of building an app business that can sustain them and their families.

Developing “a collection of apps that rank at about 6000 on the Top Grossing list” is no small feat, obviously, but things are less dire than I would have expected.

The People Who Only Play One Video Game

Mark Serrels looks at games as all-encompassing cultural phenomena:

But when it comes to promoting its video game as a service or a ‘culture’, Wargaming operates on a different plane. Not only is World of Tanks its own culture, it’s a service that attempts to infiltrate and support the broader culture it has become a part of.

“We’re moving into things outside the game,” says Max [Chuvalov, Wargaming marketing manager].

What does that mean? Specifically, it means working with museums on military exhibits. It means supporting historical research on military vehicles. It means literally helping teams of experts extract and restore old tanks. It means working with schools and universities. There are institutions using World of Tanks as a virtual handbook. Wargaming has its own internal researchers publishing books with new information in the field of military history.

Quite literally Wargaming is making World of Tanks — the product — an indispensable part of military history itself.

Crash Override Network

Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz have an impressive new project. From the website:

Crash Override is a support network and assistance group for victims and targets of unique forms of online harassment, composed entirely of experienced survivors. Our network includes experts in information security, white hat hacking, PR, law enforcement, legal, threat monitoring, and counselling.

After six months of Gamergate bullshit, Quinn could be forgiven for wanting nothing to do with the internet or video games ever again. That she’s still around, and still fighting, is nothing short of amazing.

Monument Valley data from Ustwo

They spent about $1.4 million on development and earned about $5.8 million in revenue.

I’m surprised that the game wasn’t more successful, given its high profile and widespread critical acclaim. Still, it’s good to see that Ustwo did well for themselves.

Twitch now allows live music broadcasting

From the FAQ:

Q. I love to create original music. Can I broadcast myself doing that?
A. Yes! Do it!

Q. I love to sing my original songs. Can I broadcast on Twitch?
A. Yes! Do it!

Q. Can I host a karaoke or dance party with my friends?
A. No. This against our Rules of Conduct.

No dance parties? Forget it, then.

Runnerguy2489 speedruns the child dungeons in Ocarina of Time while blindfolded

This was my favorite part of last week’s charity speedrun marathon Awesome Games Done Quick, which has quickly become one of my favorite video game events.

Anthony Burch:

Here are some incredible things about this run:

  • Runnerguy2489’s performance in general. Even if he wasn’t wearing a blindfold, he’s pulling off tricks that are highly interesting in their own right.
  • He’s blindfolded. Unlike the blindfolded Super Punch-Out or Dustforce runs, Ocarina of Time is a game built around navigable 3D space, which means he can’t just memorize button inputs. He has to use every available audio cue to know where he is, where he’s going, and if he’s succeeded or failed at any individual trick he’s trying to do.
  • Ocarina of Time’s sound design actually makes all of the above possible. Link’s footsteps sounds different on dirt versus grass versus stone. Navi reacts to certain things, but not others.
  • Runnerguy2489 is goddamn blindfolded, and doing sick tricks, AND still manages to provide interesting and understandable commentary on what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.

Also recommended: the astonishing Tetris: The Grand Master block.

New Nintendo 3DS XL won’t come with an AC adapter

Samit Sakar for Polygon:

Nintendo is releasing the New Nintendo 3DS XL without an AC adapter in the box in North America and Europe, so buyers who don’t already own a DSi or 3DS (and their associated charger) will have to purchase an AC adapter separately. Nintendo explained the decision to Polygon as a cost-cutting measure.

“Rather than raise cost of New Nintendo 3DS XL by charging consumers for a component they may already own, we are giving them the option to only buy if they need an AC adapter,” a Nintendo representative told Polygon.

And a response from Steve Lubitz:

This is not a company that is intent on delighting their customers, or even really cares about their satisfaction. This is a short sighted company that may be more in survival mode than we realized. None of this changes that Nintendo still makes great games that are worth buying their hardware to play. What the last Nintendo Direct proved, however, is that they’re willing to make sacrifices to the product and to the Nintendo experience in favor of cutting costs here and there.

I suspect that Nintendo’s decision to omit the AC adapter actually comes from a position of confidence, not desperation. (As the Polygon article notes, the current 3DS XL model does not include a charger in Japan, the 3DS family’s bestselling territory.) Whether or not that confidence is warranted, though, is still an open question.

Also of note: the limited-edition Majora’s Mask New 3DS has been selling through its online preorders almost immediately.