Given the rapid expansion of the casual and mobile games market, some gaming veterans feel like the days of the big-budget blockbuster video game is rapidly drawing to a close. That’s simply not the case, and a quick glance over the best video games of 2012 and 2013 should quell any fears that games produced by big teams will be slashed and burned to make more room for FarmVille.
Granted, not all of these games are yet available, though they’re certainly among the most promising games of the coming year and beyond. This current generation of consoles (including the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii) may be on its way out, but it’s not lacking for awesome options that (from this angle) catch the eye thanks to stunning previews and presentation.
Among the best games of 2012 and 2013 are:
BioShock Infinite (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC) – BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter that takes the player from the undersea city of Rapture to a floating steampunk-inspired city that bounds among the clouds. It’s certainly one of 2013’s most anticipated titles, and given its pedigree, that’s no surprise. The first BioShock still stands as a prime example of how to thread a compelling story through an action game. Release Date: February 2013
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – One thing is certain about Revengeance: with a name like that, you know you’re in for something different. Most games produced by famed industry professional Hideo Kojima are notable for their grand scope, and this upcoming military-themed action game appears to be no different. We’re talking about a cyborg hero who wields an epic katana and shoves it in the face of everything that moves. Metal Gear games are typically focused on stealth: Revengeance is pretty much the opposite of everything subtle. Release Date: Q4 2012
The Last Guardian (PlayStation 3) – Oh, Last Guardian. This action-adventure-puzzle game from the makers of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus has teased us since its initial reveal at E3 2009. We know almost nothing about it, except that the team behind it has produced some of the most heartfelt and stunning games that have ever existed, and given the chemistry that’s already apparent between the boy and the baby monster he commands in-game, this seems no different. Release Date: Q4 2012 (Subject to Delay)
Assassin’s Creed 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, WiiU) – When a numbered Assassin’s Creed game hits the news (as opposed to yet another spin-off), everybody sits up and takes notice. Assassin’s Creed 3 generated some extra buzz thanks to its unique historical setting: Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. The same open-world stealth-action that the series is acclaimed applies, which means a whole lot of exploration, hunting, and, of course, killing. Release Date: October 2012
Xenoblade (Wii) – Xenoblade only hit North America this year, and its action role-playing formula is unique, fast-paced, and helps to tell an involved and detailed story. It’s arguably one of the best role-playing games for fantasy fans available in this console generation, but given the Wii’s lack of vitality, it’s in danger of being overlooked. If you’re a fan of swords and sorcery, don’t miss it! Available Now
For more nominees for the best games of 2012, take a look at :
Perhaps you blinked at some point during 2004, and when you opened your eyes again, high-definition television sets (HDTVs) suddenly dominated living rooms. Just one problem: Many still don’t know how to buy an HDTV – a point of growing concern, as they’re no longer just an extravagant indulgence. Even basic cable stations are constantly optimizing viewing experiences for subscribers who own high-definition sets. And if you or anyone in your family plays a video game console, an HDTV is practically mandatory (vital features, like in-game text, no longer show up clearly on standard-definition sets).
The trouble, as you may have surmised, is that if you don’t know much about HDTVs, the act of buying one can be extremely intimidating: When you walk into an electronics store, you inevitably run smack into the ever-raging price war between television manufacturers. From LG Electronics to Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Vizio, everybody boasts the best features and highest resolution for the lowest price. Don’t get freaked out, though. You can successfully buy a more-than-decent HDTV set if you adhere to some simple bits of advice that call on your common sense.
Don’t automatically jump for the set with the highest resolution – Most sets that are 40 inches or larger have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is defined as 1080p. A lower-cost option is 1366 x 768 pixels, also known as 720p. 720p is generally restricted to sets under 40 inches, and its picture isn’t quite as sharp and well-defined as 1080p.
However, the cost of a 720p set is typically lower, so if you’re on a budget, you should ask yourself how your new HD set will be getting most of its use. Will it be the centerpiece of your living room theater? Or will it be a secondary set in the bedroom? Weigh your plans against your options before spending big money.
Consider contrast – Contrast (AKA “Contrast Ratio”) is important to consider when you’re buying an HDTV. Contrast determines the difference between the picture’s darkest blacks and brightest whites. A set with a poor Contrast Ratio will wash out colors, which goes against the point of an HDTV.
Manufacturers understand the importance of Contrast Ratio, which is why they’ll often try to demonstrate their sets’ abilities by displaying black-and-white images in a darkened room. Big deal: who watches HDTV in black and white? The best way to determine a set’s Contrast Ratio is to simply eyeball a typical show or movie in natural lighting. Compare sets side-by-side, if you can, and in real-world conditions, versus under the harsh, bright lights many big-box showrooms employ – how they look at the store won’t necessarily reflect how they look, say, in your living room, with its many windows and natural open lighting conditions.
What about plasma? – Plasma HDTV sets give you a remarkably rich and sharp image. Their Contrast Ratio is unmatched, and there’s less motion blur versus what you get from LCD HDTVs. Plasma TVs are definitely an option if you’re in the market for the best possible picture, but there are a lot of downsides to the format, too. Plasma HDTVs are expensive, use more energy than LCDs, and may still suffer problems with image burn-in.
Don’t go crazy with cables – After you buy your HDTV, the salesperson might try and upsell you on HDMI to DVI cables. While you definitely want to purchase HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cables so that you can view games, movies, and shows with optimal picture quality, some stores sell fancy, expensive cables that are supposed to work better than standard offerings. This typically isn’t the case, as there is virtually no degradation between cable brands. Whereas audio and video “leakage” was a problem in the analogue era, it doesn’t apply in the digital world. Your $15 HDMI cable should work just fine.
Do you care about 3D TV? – Your salesperson might also try and get you to invest in a 3D TV set, but you need to ask yourself how much you care before you spend that kind of money. It’s sure to delight the kids—at least for a time—and you can still watch movies in 2D, but you might be better off trekking to a theater to get your occasional 3D fix.
For more advice on purchasing an HDTV, visit:
Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses are increasingly turning to Apple’s popular iPad tablet PC as an alternative to traditional laptops. Given the mobile device’s gorgeous touchscreen display, user-friendly interface, and infinite selection of downloadable apps, which bestow the ability for the system to double as a growing range of gadgets, we can’t say we blame them. Of course, getting the most out of the gizmo often requires investing in some of the best iPad cases and accessories for businesses available out there as well – a point that shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re pondering adding the system to your IT budget.
Important to consider: While the iPad isn’t right for all businesses or industries, it can make a reasonable complement to or replacement for desktop and laptop systems in certain cases, meaning that it’s vital to consider your firm’s needs and high-tech usage patterns before buying. And, of course, recognize the device’s limitations, as its virtual keyboard, limited battery life and suite of software programs (in some cases less robust than those you’d enjoy on a traditional computer system) may not suit your company’s requirements. However, the following add-ons can help mitigate some of these issues, and bestow additional features onto the iPad, which may make the decision somewhat easier.
As you’ll see in our latest column for Inc. magazine, the range of iPad cases, accessories and add-ons continues to grow and expand in new directions – many highly beneficial for today’s business owner.
This leather carrying case has an integrated Bluetooth keyboard and folding kickstand. Beyond the obvious benefits of protecting your device and giving you a more comfortable way to type, it’s also elegantly designed. Heck, it’s even fashionable. Be prepared to pay for the style, however: Units don’t come cheap.
Digital cameras still produce better images than smartphones and tablets on average, especially under dimly-lit conditions. That’s why you might want to pick up this connection kit, which can import photos and videos onto the iPad via your camera’s USB cable or SD card. Support for JPEG and RAW images, and SD and HD video formats (H.264, MP4, etc.), make it especially handy for social media campaigns or those needing to capture low-light shots at product demos or events.
An all-in-one solution for mobile professionals, this “Bluetooth keyboard speaker system” (read: full-service workstation) provides a physical keypad, stereo speakers, and two USB ports for device charging. Using it, you can videoconference, play music while working, and recharge mobile gadgets all while you’re getting work done.
For more of the best iPad cases and accessories, please visit Inc. magazine.