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Club Nintendo closing, 'new loyalty program' on the way

'Club Nintendo is dead, long live the new loyalty program,' is the message from Nintendo this morning, after the company announced it's closing its current rewards service. Users in the US and Canada have until the end March to earn Club Nintendo Coins and until the close of June to redeem them, signalling when the service will finally hang up its brown boots.

"We thank all Club Nintendo members for their dedication to Nintendo games and their ongoing love for our systems and characters," said Nintendo of America executive VP Scott Moffit in the company's press release. "We want to make this time of transition as easy as possible for our loyal Club Nintendo members, so we are going to add dozens of new rewards and downloadable games to help members clear out their Coin balances."

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Nintendo Direct wrap-up: New 3DS on Feb. 13 and more

Today's Nintendo Direct dropped some huge news for both the Wii U and the upcoming New 3DS. The biggest announcement is that the New 3DS, which features a second analog stick, faster processor, amiibo support and a number of other improvements, will arrive in North America on February 13. The basic bundle, available in red or black, will retail for $199. Nintendo also revealed special Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Edition and Majora's Mask bundles, the latter of which is apparently already sold out at GameStop. Friendly reminder, these bundles do not include an AC adapter, presumably with the expectation that early adopters will be upgrading from the current 3DS models.

In other big news, Wii games are coming to the Wii U eShop starting today with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Each game will be available for half price ($10) during its first week of availability. To put that another way, you can snag Metroid Prime Trilogy on January 29 for the ridiculously low price of $10.

Find a breakdown of all the Nintendo Direct news, as well as a heaping helping of trailers, after the break.

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Wii games coming to Wii U eShop

Wii games will begin surfacing on the Wii U eShop, Nintendo announced during its Nintendo Direct livestream this morning. Starting today, players will be able to download Super Mario Galaxy 2, followed by Punch Out on January 22, then the Metroid Prime Trilogy on January 29. The games will be half price ($10) for their respective first weeks on the digital service.

Nintendo also revealed that Wii games that traditionally used the Wii's Classic Controller will be able to use the Wii U's Game Pad to control the game, and the games will be playable right from the Wii U's home menu. The Wii U previously required players to enter "Wii mode" in order to play the previous generation system's games.
[Image: Nintendo]

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Appeals court sides with ex-NFL players in Madden likeness suit

A federal appeals court struck down Electronic Arts' appeal to dismiss a 2010 lawsuit in which retired NFL players alleged that the publisher used their likenesses without permission in Madden NFL 09. A three-judge panel unanimously declined EA's motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of First Amendment protections under "incidental use." Madden 09 included over 140 historic NFL teams as well as the stats and positions of thousands of retired athletes to celebrate the series' 20th anniversary, and EA allegedly altered jersey numbers and removed the players' names to avoid paying licensing fees, according to the August 2010 lawsuit.

The judges referred to another recent likeness lawsuit in the opinion, in which former college athletes sued EA in May 2009 over the use of their likenesses in NCAA Basketball and NCAA Football games. EA proposed a $40 million settlement to that lawsuit in September 2013, resulting in those players earning up to $951 for each year their likeness was featured in the games. The publisher added $8 million in expenses related to that lawsuit in May 2014.

EA introduced similar First Amendment-based defenses in its appeal for the retired NFL players lawsuit save for one additional argument: That the likenesses were protected under the First Amendment as incidental use. The judges "held that Electronic Arts's use of the former players' likenesses was not incidental because it was central to Electronic Arts's main commercial purpose: to create a realistic virtual simulation of football games involving current and former National Football League teams." The decision upholds a California court's March 2012 dismissal of EA's attempt to prevent the suit from going to court. Among the plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit is Sam Keller, a former Arizona State, Nebraska and Oakland Raiders quarterback that filed the original likeness lawsuit related to the publisher's college sports games.
[Image: EA]

Federal court dismisses Wiimote patent case against Nintendo

Nintendo has prevailed in yet another patent lawsuit, this time against Texas company UltimatePointer LLC, regarding a case we first reported on in 2011. UltimatePointer asserted that Nintendo's Wiimote infringed on its patent for an "Easily Deployable Interactive Direct-Pointing System and Presentation Control System and Calibration Method Therefor." In a Seattle federal court, Judge Robert S. Lasnik ruled that the Wiimote does not infringe on UltimatePointer's patent and found that a number of the company's claims were invalid, meaning no trial is required.

Nintendo of America Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Richard Medway offered the following statement about the decision: "We are very pleased with these decisions, which confirmed Nintendo's position from the beginning – we do not, nor have we ever, infringed these patents. The result in this case, once again, demonstrates that Nintendo will continue to vigorously defend its innovations against patent lawsuits, even if it must do so in multiple courts and commit significant resources to defend itself. Nintendo continues to support reform efforts to reduce the unnecessary and inefficient burden patent cases like this one place on technology companies in the United States."

And now this one gets thrown in the "backlinks about Nintendo patent disputes" pile. Electronics company Philips recently won a dispute in the UK against Nintendo regarding the Wii and Wii U's use of a camera and motion-sensing technology. Nintendo plans to appeal the UK decision, and Philips has filed against Nintendo in the US as well.
[Image: Nintendo]

Skylanders Trap Team Light and Dark expansions hit retail this weekend

Skylanders veterans will soon be able to master in-game elements never previously seen in the series via a pair of new Skylanders Trap Team expansion packs premiering at retail this weekend.

Trap Masters Knight Mare and Knight Light join the Skylanders roster as part of Trap Team's new Light and Dark Element Expansion Packs. Each pack includes a character figure, a Trap accessory that allows players to trap and control Light and Dark villains, and a location piece that unlocks new levels featuring Light and Dark element-specific content.

Players who ventured through Skylanders Trap Team likely noticed deactivated element gates scattered throughout specific levels. These gates can only be accessed using the new Light and Dark element characters, opening up a significant portion of the game that was locked off since launch.

Trap Team's Light and Dark Element Expansion Packs will launch exclusively at Toys"R"Us stores on December 21 at $29.99 apiece.

[Image: Activision]

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Nintendo and Philips resolve 'virtual body' dispute

Nintendo and Philips resolved their patent disputes by signing a licensing agreement, the technology company announced. Per the agreement, both Nintendo and Philips will "cross-license portions of each company's patent portfolio." However, Philips did not disclose any other terms or financial details for the licensing agreement.

Philips filed a complaint against Nintendo in May, alleging that the video game maker infringed on Philips' patent '379, "Virtual Body Control Device." Philips said it sent notice of the alleged infringement to Nintendo in December 2011, claiming a second instance of infringement in May for patent '231, "User Interface System Based on Pointing Device." In June, a UK court found that Nintendo's reasons for developing various devices and controllers for its Wii, Wii U and DS consoles with both motion-sensing tech and cameras in it to be "unconvincing."
[Image: Nintendo]

Joystiq's Games of the Year 2006-2008

Those who don't learn from their past are doomed to replay it again and again. In the case of these games from Joystiq's "Best Of" lists from 2006 through 2008, that's not really a bad thing. As we celebrate our decade of existence, it seemed like the right time to look back at the games we thought were the greatest in their respective launch years. (The 2004 and 2005 lists remain classified.)

In some cases, our selections are part of franchises that have stood the test of generations, while others are like trying to recall what happened after that fourth Red Bull with a Mountain Dew chaser. Here are our selections and links to explanations to the best ghosts of Joystiq's past.

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New Super Mario Bros Wii crosses 10 million copies sold

New Super Mario Bros Wii reached 10 million copies sold, Nintendo announced via Twitter. The side-scrolling platformer first launched on Wii in November 2009 and became Japan's fastest-selling game for the console two months later.

Nintendo's return to 2D platforming action in the Mario series was popular for its multiplayer offerings; up to four players could traverse the Mushroom Kingdom's environments together, knocking into one another along the way. The publisher has since returned to Mario-leaping action on Wii U with games like 2012's New Super Mario Bros. U and last year's Super Mario 3D World, the latter listed by Joystiq as one of the ten best titles that launched in 2013. Nintendo shipped over two million copies of Super Mario 3D World as of May.
[Image: Nintendo]

Joystiq Deals: Free year of GameFly, free Ouya giveaways

We've got a pair of can't-miss giveaways on offer today at Joystiq Deals. First up is our Year Of Free GameFly Giveaway, a prize package that includes a free year of GameFly's deluxe 2-games-out-at-a-time subscription service (valued at $275).

You'll also want to check out our Triple Crown Ouya Giveaway, which offers up three Ouya consoles free of charge for three lucky winners. You can enter both of today's featured contests by submitting your e-mail address, and you can earn additional entries by referring your friends via Twitter. Good luck!

Joystiq Deals is a partnership between AOL and StackSocial. A portion of sales goes to funding this site. Deals are curated by StackSocial independently of the Joystiq editorial team.

Nordic officially purchases de Blob series from THQ

Over a year and a half after it won dozens of intellectual properties in THQ's back catalog auction, Nordic Games announced that it closed an asset purchase agreement with THQ for de Blob today. With the rights to the series now officially owned by Nordic Games, de Blob joins properties such as Darksiders, Red Faction and MX vs. ATV on the Austrian company's list of games. The publisher acquired those brands in April 2013 for $4.9 million.

"We are excited about what the future holds for this polychromatic extravaganza as the newest addition to our portfolio," Business and Product Development Director Reinhard Pollice said in an update on the publisher's site. "We will evaluate opportunities with the existing games, as well as potential sequels." De Blob launched in 2006 on PC before a THQ-published Wii version arrived in 2008. The paint-splattering, platforming follow-up de Blob 2 launched on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii in 2011. Nordic Games also reportedly acquired the THQ trademark under a separate agreement revealed in June, though the mark's listing on the USPTO's website still notes THQ as its owner.
[Image: THQ, err, Nordic Games]

Factor 5 president details canceled Star Wars projects

Factor 5 earned plenty of goodwill from Star Wars fans with its Rogue Leader series across the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, but the studio planned to do more with the universe beyond those games. During an episode of IGN's Nintendo Voice Chat, former Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht detailed the team's attempts to bring their Star Wars prowess to the Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii.

Factor 5's lost efforts included a Rogue Leader trilogy collection for the original Xbox, complete with online multiplayer. Management at LucasArts was rapidly changing at the time, resulting in the project being canceled, though Eggebrecht doesn't remember specifically why. Factor 5 then moved on to a launch title for the Xbox 360 called "Rogue Squadron: X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter," which had players working as the Rebels' Red squadron in cooperative multiplayer fighting against Imperial forces. LucasArts' management wasn't sure if launch titles made sense for them at that time however, and the project was eventually canceled.

Sony President Shu Yoshida contacted Factor 5 shortly after, but he was more interested in an internal PS3 launch project than the studio's work on Rogue Leader. The result was Lair, which Eggebrecht described as a "pretty big mistake" due to the PS3's complex architecture and the project's unreasonable ambitions for a launch title.

When Factor 5's exclusivity window with Sony ended in 2007, the studio's gaze was set on the Wii. They reworked the Rogue Squadron trilogy project originally built for Xbox and added optional play styles (you could steer an X-Wing with the Wii wheel and manage its pedals with the Balance Board, for example). Beyond piloting ships, Factor 5's "Rogue Leaders" used the Wii Motion Plus for 1:1 lightsaber battles between 20 characters, complete with force powers. Rogue Leaders essentially ran on Lair's graphics engine at 60 frames-per-second and featured ducking and dodging beyond what's found in Wii Sports Resort.

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Skylanders Trap Team review: Broccoli Guy's unjust desert

Skylanders' success is borne of equal parts solid game design and marketing savvy. Its central conceit – buy small plastic figurines in order to summon in-game characters – is instantly appealing for kids, and its Gauntlet-styled action-RPG gameplay makes it a guilty pleasure for adults.

The franchise's "toys to life" mantra, despite its potential for audience exploitation, rewards dedicated fans with bonus content and unlockables that mirror the size of their toy collections. There are now hundreds of Skylanders toys to collect, but to date, the series has maintained a delicate balance that ensures a fun experience both for hardcore collectors and for casual fans.

Skylanders Trap Team, the fourth major entry in the series, is the first Skylanders game to upset this balance. Trap Team still offers a fun journey at its core, but longtime fans will be disappointed to find out that they need to purchase several new figures in addition to an expensive starter set in order to explore the game to its fullest.

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Report: America favors gaming consoles for media streaming

Game consoles aren't really game consoles anymore. Sure they play games, but they're also capable of plenty of non-gaming activities. In today's age, we have an abundance of apps and features installed on our consoles that make watching our favorite shows and movies easy and convenient. But of course, you already knew this.

What you may not have known is that researchers at Parks Associates claim that game consoles are currently not just able to help us catch up on the latest season of <your favorite show>, but are reportedly the most popular method of doing so in the US. As reported by Home Media Magazine, Parks' data shows that roughly 46 percent of broadband-connected homes use a console to access non-gaming content via the internet, and of those homes, 28 percent use the console as their primary connected device.

This high percentage of users edges out connected Blu-ray players, as well as streaming devices such as a Roku box or Apple TV. Smart TVs are reportedly the second-most popular way for people to enjoy non-gaming internet media.

This may sound surprising, but really, using game consoles for non-gaming entertainment has been around for some time; after all, one of the PlayStation 2's most-touted features was its ability to play DVD movies. Remember those? Remember physical media? Good times. Gooooood times.

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly related the statistics regarding usage of game consoles. It has been corrected.
[Image: Sony/Microsoft]

Joystiq Giveaway: 12 Skylanders Trap Team Legendary Starter Packs

Bet you thought we were done after Destiny! Nope. Joystiq is all about doling out the gaming goodness. We're shifting away from the go go grim gun fantasias for our next big giveaway, though! This time, it's all about action figures.

Joystiq is giving away 12 Skylanders: Trap Team Legendary Starter Packs, three each for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and for the first time in the series, a tablet version of the game that is feature complete.

Every Legendary Starter Pack comes with that console's version of the game, the new portal, two Skylanders figures, two traps, sticker sheets with secret codes, posters, and trading cards. What's more, every one of our 12 winners will also get a random assortment of Skylanders Mini figures, standard figures, and a lucky few will also get deluxe Trap Master figures as well.

All you have to do to enter is "Like" Joystiq on Facebook using the widget below between September 26 and October 10, and also be an American or Canadian citizen over the age of 13. You can extra earn extra chances to win by following us on Twitter and

Full prize list and giveaway rules after the break.

Joystiq Giveaway: 12 free copies of Skylanders Trap Team
[Images: Activision]

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