Pokémon TCG Is Ever Expanding

It’s also ever expensive.

A little over two years ago, I started playing Pokémon TCG with my family. During that time, numerous expansions were released, featuring new cards, new Pokémon, new abilities…you get the idea. Sometimes it only takes a single new ability to trigger an idea to create a new battle deck. A lot of money later, I’d take my fresh fighting strategy to the league and mostly get slaughtered by the veteran players.

Recently, the Evolving Skies expansion reinvigorated my Pokémon TCG habit. Before that, it was my Eternatus Dark Deck. It’s a signature new Pokémon from Sword & Shield, an awesome looking dragon. I bought two of the latest versions of its cards and added new Trainer cards to my deck, making it stronger than ever. It was a lot of fun to play for a while. Eventually, better players defeated me more and more.

Eternatus VMAX

It’s fun for a while. It’s also expensive. And now with so many Pokémon cards stored up in my bedroom, among other things, the space is very constrained. Besides limited space, I have limited time and money to invest in Pokemon. It competes for attention amidst my other interests, like video gaming. While hobbies are a healthy outlet for fun and creativity, I can only do so much.

I’ve been pondering the possibility of getting out of Pokémon TCG altogether, except for maybe some focused card collecting only. It would be a form of minimalism, wherein I eliminate one good thing in order to focus on — prioritize — the better things. No matter how trite, it’s still true: less is more.

With less Pokémon TCG, I’d have more time and money — plus physical and mental space — for video gaming, blogging, writing, and another bourgeoning idea I’m planning… Of course, I’m still interested in playing new Pokémon video games, just less so the trading card game.

I feel like I don’t have enough interest and availability to continue Pokémon TCG. It takes considerable overhead to organize the cards I have accumulated in just two years. On the upside, I have so many good ones now that, if I decide to liquidate some, I’d have a chunky wad of cash to spend on more interesting pursuits.

One sticky point to bailing out of pocket monster card playing is that my wife and kids are still into it. But if I decide to continue by only collecting a few certain Pokémon, then I’d still have my big toe dipped into the Pokémon pool, which would be enough to stir the pot and trade cards amongst my kids.

This is a thing that I think I should do, but it seems hard to do. It’s not the only hobby I had to quit in recent memory. I practiced Kyokushin Karate with my whole family for a few years and got pretty good at it. But two things transpired to end it: Covid-19 and my physical condition… The point is, I already know what it’s like to step back from a shared family hobby when necessary, and if I do it for the right reasons, then it’s for the best. At the very least, I’m sure I can downsize, which seems more reasonable than quitting altogether cold-turkey.

I’ll be thinking it over.

Why Make Apple TV Pro And Mini

Apple TV hardware has languished. Apple is in the hardware business and could do better with Apple TV. Here are some ideas.


The naming, pricing, and marketing should all be refreshed.

Naming

To help differentiate Apple’s TV products and services, I suggest two new Apple TV hardware models called: Apple TV Pro and “Apple TV Mini.”

These names would better distinguish the hardware from the software app, “Apple TV” and the service, “Apple TV+.”

Pricing

Apple TV Mini

It should hit the magical $99 price point. It would match the HomePod Mini at the same price and be more competitive with other TV boxes. And even if Apple TV Mini had the least market share, more people would buy it than the current Apple TV box because it would be more affordable. That’s more revenue for Apple.

To hit $99, Apple TV Mini would be like a small streaming stick with one feature: 4K resolution. So no Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio, or HDR. And it would have only 32GB of storage since it would be for streaming not storing content.

Apple TV Pro

This one should start at $199 and be marketed towards the gotta-have-it-all crowd and…gamers. It would feature 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio, and start with 64GB up to 1TB.

And throw in a free trial subscription of Apple Arcade.

It would be a small box like the current Apple TV hardware and be for storing loads of games or videos.

GamePad

Apple TV Pro would pair with an all-new Apple GamePad.” This new device would sell for $99 and would have physical buttons, be shaped more like a modern game controller with analog sticks, and also serve as the remote control.

The GamePad would utilize the W-series and ultra-wide band chips from Apple for auto-magically pairing (like AirPods) with Apple TV Pro and for finding with Apple’s upcoming (rumored) AirTags product. It would, of course, work with games on iPad and iPhone too.

Marketing

Marketing for Apple TV Pro and Mini would draw both consumers and developers. For the Pro, “Casual Console” gaming would attract more buyers and also compel game developers to…step up their game.

If Apple really wanted to lean into gaming, they could call their Apple TV Pro device the all-new, “GamePod.”

An Apple TV Pro (GamePod) with Apple GamePad and Apple Arcade would, like Nintendo, differentiate from hardcore gamers (Xbox and PlayStation) and lean towards more casual gaming. And of course, it would have the distinct advantage of a vast library of mobile games from iOS.

Apple could promote Apple TV Pro with Apple Watch and Fitness+ by pairing them together, like how Apple integrates Apple Watch, Fitness+ and Apple TV for video workouts.

It could also enable more interactive games, using Apple Watch, with its fitness and motion sensors, to track movement similar to the Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure.


Family Friendly

My wife and I have five sons, and we all play Nintendo. Owning two Switches, many 2DS devices, and a Wii U, we enjoy different types of gaming across several age brackets. Of course, Nintendo’s intellectual property, franchises like Mario and Zelda, are the “software that sells hardware.”

Apple can mirror Nintendo as a Family Friendly game distributor and leverage its Apple Arcade service along with a new Apple TV Pro device (GamePod) to sell more of its own TV boxes, peripherals, and third party and indie game apps. Apple is poised with the potential.

Think about it. An Apple TV Pro at $199 plus a GamePad at $99 would basically match the cost of a Nintendo Switch at $299.

Making Apple TV Pro would address the current languished state of Apple’s TV hardware. Pushing into home console gaming via Apple TV would do more for Apple’s overall gaming efforts than has its Augmented Reality gaming push.

If nothing else, a sub-$100 Apple TV Mini would revitalize the platform and be a strong complement to HomePod.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Fantasian Looks Fantastic

A Final Fantasy type game is coming to Apple Arcade! Both the renown director and the legendary composer for the Final Fantasy series of JRPG games have teamed up to develop a new title, Fantasian. It looks and sounds fantastic! I have two questions. One, will it eventually come to Nintendo Switch? And two, how am I going to keep up with a frontlog and a backlog of games!?


The Game

Before I address the above questions, let’s talk about the game itself. It’s from Mistwalker, the company formed by legendary Final Fantasy creator and JRPG veteran, Hironobu Sakaguchi. Composer Nobuo Uematsu is scoring the soundtrack for the game too!

To see some preliminary design behind-the-scenes, watch this video starting at 1:15.

The game features dioramas (real-life hand-made 3D mini-models) that were used to create scenes and environments, which give the game a remarkable aesthetic! Computers were then used to add lighting and special effects. Images and a video show it off; my eyes like what they see.

Two other note-worthy points are about the gameplay.

First, in the overworld areas, instead of fighting monsters on the spot, you can send them to a weird battle dimension to fight at a later time. This allows you to explore a level with fewer interruptions. I like that benefit; exploration is one of the funnest things in gaming. But it does seem weird to me that you must fight battles removed from both space and time. It’s less realistic (albeit fantastic). You’d expect to fight in the moment you meet an enemy. Maybe the story provides an explanation to this game mechanic.

Second, in battle-mode, there appears to be a focus on aiming or controlling your attacks along a chosen trajectory to strategically take out multiple targets. This looks and sounds very interesting. I think it will be fun to play and will add a breath of fresh air to time-based JRPG battles.

Overall, the game excites me because it’s a traditional turn-based JRPG. I don’t mind grinding it out. While I do enjoy action-RPGs, I still prefer strictly turn-based ones that allow time to think about my game plan and also sit back and enjoy the graphic visuals of the magic spells and physical attacks. (Just don’t do overly long summons like Final Fantasy VIII did please.)

Fantasian screeshot
Image credit: Mistwalker

The Switch

The game is referred to as a console JRPG playable on mobile; it’s coming to iOS as an Apple Arcade exclusive. And yes, you can use a controller to play the game on Apple TV. But the problem to me is that most gamers play console games on…you know it’s coming…consoles.

I have a Nintendo Switch and controllers for it. That’s all. I don’t own 3rd party controllers to play on Apple TV. Also, I don’t own an Apple TV. Or an iPad (yet). The good news is that Fantasian, while it is starting as an Apple Arcade exclusive, could arrive on the Switch. Another game, Oceanhorn 2, was once found only on Apple’s Arcade service. But now it’s on the Switch. Maybe by the time I complete other games on my backlog, Fantasian will be available on the Switch.

The Log

Speaking of the backlog (and the frontlog) the number of great games to play keeps growing nearly by the day! I suppose this is a perpetual “problem” I must embrace. I mean, it’s a good problem to have. So one must rely on quality game review sites to help weed out lesser titles, saving time to play only the best of the best games. That said, I like to discover hidden gems and try indie games sometimes because you never know how one will connect with you.


Apple has a good strategy in play. Get awesome games exclusive to Apple Arcade, making it irresistible. And maybe it’s working. It would only cost me $1 extra per month to subscribe to Apple Arcade! Seriously! But then, I’ll be more tempted to buy an Apple TV and a PlayStation controller.

Like I said, these are good problems. And I’m glad traditional JRPGs are enjoying a resurgence!

Is Fantasian on your wishlist? It’s already on mine. How do you cope with your game backlog?

(Thanks to 9to5mac for their write-up of Fantasian!)


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

The Great Game Backlog

I was prompted to share the feels on this topic thanks to a Gaming Diaries post about what I’m calling the Great Game Backlog. We gamers usually have a number of games waiting to be played, started, or finished. It’s a good problem to have, yet it feels more bad than good. Or is it just me?


Surely it’s not just me. There are so many good video games out there to play. But even if we limit ourselves to only the greats, I think the total game-time exceeds our available play-time. So no matter how often we pick up a controller, the backlog of hit titles to enjoy just keeps growing, like the multi-form final boss that just won’t die. Dude!

This big backlog problem exists even if you restrict yourself to just one home console system. For me, it’s the Nintendo Switch. That might not be a fair example, though, because the Switch not only has its own games, it also has ports and remasters of many games from other consoles like Xbox 360 and PS3.

In any case, there are a ton of Switch games, especially if you add up the indie or casual mobile games.

I’ve got a list of games I’m eager to start playing. They live squarely on my backlog, jammed up by whatever current game I’m enjoying. The game backlog is so common, it’s a default list when you sign-up on Grouvee. You can see mine at this link. While my list is short, it feels really…jammed up.

The thing that makes me feel most bad is not that I’m playing an awesome game now and must wait to start the others. It’s that, for various reasons, I tend to stop playing my current game! So the backlog must wait even longer.

That’s my problem. I don’t really stop, but I pause in a game for weeks at a time. I’m a Dad with a family and career. I have many responsibilities. If gaming were one, I’d be almost failing at it. It just makes me have some grief. I should be enjoying this awesome game until I beat it. But life happens, parenting and work exist, so play and personal time get side-tracked. And, apparently, back-logged!

The other distraction from my current game is that when I pause, I sometimes end up starting a new one anyways. So now I’ve got TWO games I must finish, the current one and the previous one. Only then can I continue to the next game in the backlog queue.

Link’s Amiibo fits his game case.

Also, there are easier entertainment distractions! When I could be gaming, I often am watching a movie or surfing YouTube. Passive watching is less interactive than gaming. So it becomes a habit to neglect my paused game, stretching the hiatus longer.

An example: In February 2019, I “paused” my game-play in Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. I finally un-paused in November that same year, finishing it in December (woo-hoo)! Meanwhile, my games backlog didn’t get any smaller.

Anyways, I try to see the backlog as a good problem. I have the privilege of playing lots of games, both short simple ones and the 100+ hour JRPG grinds I love to get absorbed into during long late night sessions. Being in my 40’s means I don’t get many of those sessions. But when I do, I sometimes feel like a kid again!

I look forward to picking up the controller. I last paused on Ni No Kuni and am now enjoying Link’s Awakening. I must enjoy both until each are finished, then I can start enjoying Tales of Vesperia! I’ve been looking forward to that one.

And you know what? That’s one thing that pulls me through my current game(s) if I get bogged down. It’s the anticipation of the upcoming new cool game that spurs me on to keep plugging away, mashing the buttons. Enjoy it, don’t rush. Look forward briefly, but stay focused on the present game and soak it up for all its fun.

So do you struggle with getting your game on, whittling down the backlog? It shouldn’t feel like a slog, right? It should be fun! Do you ever feel lazy for NOT playing your video games?


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Playing All The Roles

Hey blog buds and fellow web surfers, I hope your holiday season is cheerful. In my time off, I’ve been able to get more work done around the house (project backlog) and also play Nintendo! Fun times of escape going on here. So many good role-playing games! So allow me to explore, expound, and exclaim a bit.


Roles Played

A quick review of RPGs I finished this year. Winter started with Pokemon Sword. Next, Octopath Traveler (this is one I’ve yet to complete). Spring and early Summer were filled with Animal Crossing: New Horizons and reading a bunch of books – so no RPGs then.

But late Summer and Fall were fantastic. I re-finished Final Fantasy VII. Then I finally played and finished, for the first time, Final Fantasy X – HD Remaster.

That’s a lot of RPG goodness!

To see all the RPGs I’ve played to date, go to my Grouvee list.

Role Playing Now

The current RPG I’m playing, which I started this Fall, is none other than Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. In short, I’m around 20 hours into it, and it’s marvelous! I’m SO enjoying every bit of it! And there’s still much great stuff in the game to look forward to. This game deserves its own full blog post!

So that’s 5 RPGs I’ve played this year – lots to like – yet I can’t resist also looking forward to many other RPGs on my backlog – so many good ones, so little time!

Roles To Play

Next on my to-play list is Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. What will be my first Tales game ever, it’s an action-RPG like Ni No Kuni, also with an anime art style. It will be cool to compare the two once I’ve played them.

After that, oh my, it’s hard to choose. I plan to go back at some point and enjoy finishing Octopath Traveler – it’s a great game!

But Square Enix is releasing a new turn-based RPG early next year: Bravely Default II. It looks like I MUST play it! If I don’t, it’ll be one that I wish I hadn’t passed up. So I’d like to grab whatever special edition may be released for it – a physical copy.

There’s also the much loved and lauded Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition action-RPG. It originally came out on the Wii; I’ve never played it! But I have played about 20 hours of Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, so I have an idea of what it’s like. It should be awesome, so I’ve got that on my wishlist too.

Lastly, I might also play one other biggun’ – Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. The title alone is grandiose! It would be my first ever DQ game. Slimes! Yeah, I’ve got to play this one too.

So I guesstimate I have about 330 hours of awesome roles to play in 2021:

  1. Ni No Kuni – 45 hours remaining
  2. Octopath Travler – 25 hours remaining
  3. Tales of Vesperia – 60 hours
  4. Bravely Default II – 60 hours
  5. Xenoblade Chronicles – 70 hours
  6. Dragonquest XI – 70 hours

Yeah, wow! And I’m not really in a hurry. I enjoy immersing in the gameworld, taking on the role of hero, growing characters, discovering secrets, solving puzzles, battling monsters, applying strategy, and usually saving the world from evil catastophe.

By the way, all these games are on Nintendo Switch. And besides the games above that I plan to play in the future, there are more RPG options! For example, I already own Final Fantasy X-2 and Legrand Legacy: Tales of the Fatebounds; I can give those a try. And I’m also interested in Trails of Cold Steel III and Star Renegades.

So anyways, 2021 is looking promising, at least in virtual reality.

What are some things you are looking forward to in the new year? Let me hear it in the comments below!


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