Metal Gear Survive, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, Shadow of the Colossus, and Other Games Releasing This February

Metal Gear Survive, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, Shadow of the Colossus, and Other Games Releasing This February

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Shadow of the Colossus for the PS4 is a remaster of the PS2 classic
  • Metal Gear Survive is the first entry in the series minus its creator
  • Bayonetta 1 and 2 will come to the Nintendo Switch

Now that the 2017 hangover is done with, we’re now stepping into February where an exciting lineup of games wait us. We have some great remasters like Secret of Mana and Shadow of the Colossus, along with some ports of some of the hottest action games that we didn’t get to play the first time around. Don’t worry, we have some great originals releases out in February too. Here’s our un-cluttered list of the games that are a must-play this month, starting with a spin-off on the biggest stealth game franchise ever.

 

Metal Gear Survive
The Metal Gear Solid franchise has a long, convoluted history behind it that was masterfully pieced together by the legendary game developer Hideo Kojima. He may be out working on his own new IP, but Konami has found a way that may just make the franchise more interesting – by adding zombies.

It sounds like an easy cash grab, but Metal Gear survive does have a lot of new concepts at work that help it transition well from a stealth action game to a survival horror one. Besides the hide and attack bits, you can now craft a myriad of items and traps on the fly to better prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Or at least give you some very entertaining ways for dealing with them.

 

  • Metal Gear Survive release date: February 22
  • Metal Gear Survive platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Metal Gear Survive price: Rs. 2,790 on PC & Xbox One, Rs. 2,750 on PS4 ($39.99 in the US)

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition
It’s time for old-school strategy game fans to relive their glory days. Age of Empires returns with much better visuals, improved gameplay, and basically all the pampering you’ve come to expect from modern gaming, while retaining the original feel. It’s not just a cheap remaster either. Age of Empires has been rebuilt from the ground-up with 4K visuals, redone narration and pacing, as well what’s touted to be a much better 8-player online multiplayer gaming experience. Will it touch the right nostalgic chords? We’ll know soon enough.

 

  • Age of Empires: DE release date: February 20
  • Age of Empires: DE platforms: PC
  • Age of Empires: DE price: Rs. 574 ($19.99 in the US)

Bayonetta 1+2 Collection
Missed Bayonetta 2? Can’t blame you considering it was originally released only on the Nintendo Wii U. But now with the immensely more popular Nintendo Switch, the game will finally have the reach that it deserves. To make sure you’re completely up to speed for the upcoming Bayonetta 3, you also get the original Bayonetta as well, which simply sweetens the deal.

 

  • Bayonetta 1+2 Collection release date: February 16
  • Bayonetta 1+2 Collection platforms: Switch
  • Bayonetta 1+2 Collection price: $59.99 USD (roughly Rs.3,830)

Kingdom Come: Deliverance
It’s not Skyrim, but it is a story-driven open-world RPG that will just scratch that itch. Kingdom Come: Deliverance offers a highly detailed and period accurate set pieces including real-world locations and castles, and spins a story that’s ripe with the right amount of facts and fiction. Even the combat style and soundtrack used in the game are real representations of the 15th century European setting that the game is based in. If you like attention to minute details, then this game is exactly what you need.

 

  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance release date: February 13
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance price: Rs. 1,179 on PC, Rs. 3,999 on consoles ($59.99 in the US)

Shadow of the Colossus
Yes we know it’s been remastered before on the PS3 and originally on the PS2 before that, but the PS4 version of Shadow of the Colossus is a whole new beast. The visuals are brand new in this version instead of just a texture upgrade that we saw in the PS3 re-release, so the game looks a lot better than it ever did. Moreover the most frustrating part of the original game has been redone as well. Yes, we’re talking about the controls. If you haven’t played this game on any of the previous generation of consoles, you should give this one a try only for the most epic boss battles in the history of PlayStation.

 

  • Shadow of the Colossus release date: February 7
  • Shadow of the Colossus platforms: PS4
  • Shadow of the Colossus price: Rs. 2,750 ($39.99 in the US)

This isn’t all either, if you’re using Xbox Live Gold, here’s what you can play this month.

Games for Xbox Live Gold – February 2018

  • Shadow Warrior (Xbox One)
  • Assassin’s Creed Chronicles – India (Xbox One, Feb 16 to Mar 15)
  • Split/Second (Xbox 360, Feb 1 to 15)
  • Crazy Taxi (Xbox 360, Feb 16 to 28)

What are you planning to play this month? Let us know via the comments.

 

 

[“Source-ndtv”]

Welcome To The Golden Age Of Gadgets, Thanks To China

Gadgets are entering a new golden age (Photo: Benjamin Joffe / HAX)

Gadgets are entering a new golden age (Photo: Benjamin Joffe / HAX)

Back in the pre-internet days, a friend of mine owned a key ring which beeped when he whistled. It was one of those small, affordable, quirky, fun or useful electronic devices that we call gadgets.

Fast forward to the present. Smartwatch pioneer Pebble was acquired by Fitbit earlier this month, whose stock is down 75% year-on-year, and had to dismiss most of its staff and discontinue its products. Many took it as a bad omen for gadgets.

Farhad Manjoo at The New York Times collected evidence: the drone startup 3D Robotics gave up making hardware, Makerbot fell short on its ‘3d print everything’ promise, many crowdfunded projects failed, like AR bike helmet Skully which went bankrupt.

The future sounded bleak. Gadgets makers would either be copied by some unscrupulous manufacturer in China or dominated by large companies. Some, like Mark Wilson at Fast Company, recommended not to buy smart gadgets for Christmas. But Ashley Carman at The Verge, which had announced the come-back of gadgets, wrote a response pronouncing gadgets very much alive, quoting Kickstarter-born VR headset Oculus (acquired by Facebook), sound systems maker Sonos, Snap’s Spectacles and a few more.

So what is it? Are gadgets both alive and dead at the same time?

As a partner at HAX, which invest in dozens of hardware startups for a living, ranging from consumer devices to robotics and health tech devices, I would say we’re entering a golden age for gadgets. Here’s why.

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The First Ice Age of Gadgets

First, there is no denying the situation The New York Times article pointed out. Companies need to keep innovating to survive. Apple would not be around if they had allowed the first iPhone to be the last. Where there was one category champion, like Fitbit, many competitors are cropping up, and Chinese companies are at the forefront.

Xiaomi single-handedly commoditized many product categories, from smartphones to $15 fitness bands, to action cameras for half the price of a GoPro. While those are mostly sold in China for now, the clock is ticking for Western incumbents; they will need to keep innovating to avoid extinction.

A Cambrian Explosion

The Economist called it in 2014 for software; it has now spread to hardware startups. Hundreds of them are getting started and funded worldwide. Why is this happening?

First, prototyping has become faster and cheaper, and crowdfunding can help promote, validate and finance early projects.

Second, manufacturing is now possible at a faster pace, lower cost and smaller scale, thanks to Shenzhen. This goes from getting same-day components, PCBs or 3D prints at the prototyping stage, to a super-efficient supply chain of enormous size. Every time we buy a smartphone we effectively invest in the local ecosystem, which trains factory workers and tooling experts, and finances better and better machines. Those advantages are a critical aspect to enable early stage startups and the “long tail” of niche products (pioneered by the Shanzhai movement) to get to market.

[“source-ndtv”]

13 SMS Text Messaging Services for Marketing in the Mobile Age

Ninety nine percent of the time statistics can drive you to heavy drinking. In researching this post on SMS or Text Message Marketing, I wanted to find out how many people use text messaging, how quickly they are read, and are business owners using it as a way to reach customers.

More than any other topic that I’ve written about recently, the data is all over the place:

  • Text Messages have a 98 percent read rate
  • Text Messages have a 100 percent open rate
  • Texts are typically read within 15 minutes of being received
  • Mobile phones have reached 100 percent penetration in the United States

Let’s go with something more trustworthy: Do you know very many adults without a mobile phone? How about business owners without one? Have you had a customer without a cell phone? Here’s the leap, but I have pretty good evidence it is true: If they have one, they likely use text messaging on it, too.

Text message marketing is a permission-based approach to sharing short updates or specials with your customers. It lends itself to point of sale or retail offers, but not entirely. My gut or intuition tells me that it’s a good way to share news, updates, ideas, and special offers with customers with whom you have a relationship and who express interest in signing up.

Here are services that can make it easy and affordable; some are completely free if you keep your efforts small and focused:

TXT180 offers 500 messages for $19.95 per month. Discounted to only $16/month if you prepay for a 12-month contract. Other plans are available for other volumes of messages sent each month. Includes “text 2 win,” text 2 vote” and similar services. You can try the service for just $1.

TellMyCell is useful if you want to give your customers a specific keyword to text in and receive a special offer (or any response really). You can have unlimited contacts and unlimited groups, but you pay on a per message basis. You can pay-as-you-go for five cents per message or plans start at $29/month.

Simple Texting has one of those sites that is just clear and easy to grasp and the main screen calls out to business owners. I like that. You can integrate with social media like Facebook and Twitter. Free 14-day trial, then prices start at $45/month for up to 1,000 messages.

CallFire offers a variety of telephone-based services like IVR (interactive voice response – you know those automated attendant types) and a virtual call center service. But their pay-as-you-go SMS plan is a basic flat rate of five cents per message. Or you can go for a monthly bundled package starting at $99 per month.

Mozeo is another text platform with flat message pricing – three cents per message. Unlimited contacts, unused messages roll to the next month. You pay a one-time charge for keywords (as in your customer texts in the word PIZZA to your number to get a special offer). You get 10 free text messages to trial the service.

TextMagic is a text messaging service that you don’t even need a phone to use. You can forward your emails to this SMS service, too. You buy credits in 100 pack increments starting at $4 (4 cents per text message). I discovered this UK-based service via a terrific post at the Content Marketing Institute: Why SMS is a Must for a Younger Audience.

Betwext is one of the few text message marketing companies that had unlimited keywords (which could be important if you intend to do a lot of different campaigns) and a low rate of only two cents per message. Monthly plans start at $9 per month for 3 keywords or $19/month for unlimited keywords.

Trumpia sells texts in packaged units (i.e. 10,000 or 25,000) and they don’t expire. You can use them in your text message marketing in a variety of ways, from appointment reminders to event coordination to standard marketing messages. Plans start at $142/month – provided you prepay for 2 years. The lowest monthly plan is $285/month.

Groovv Offers is a text, email and social marketing solution by Total Merchant Services. Groovv Offers acquired Fanminder, one of the SMS text messaging services included on this original list. Groovv does not make pricing public on its website.

Editor’s note: Since this original article was published, the following five SMS text messaging services no longer appear to be operational. We’ve left them in for historical reference purposes.

SnapGiant knows that many small businesses (including restaurants and food service businesses) use text message marketing and their page gently reflects that. You only pay for outgoing messages, not incoming, and unused messages roll over to the next month (that’s kind of cool). Plans start at $19.95/month after free 30-day trial.

Signal is pretty robust and lets you send text messages, QR codes, barcodes, and mobile optimized web pages. You can do coupons, sweepstakes, polls and plans start at $29/month with a free trial.

ReachPeople charges by the number of contacts and number of messages. They have a full free plan with up to 25 messages and 100 contacts. Paid plans start at $29/month. I like that they had a voice broadcasting option if you wanted to leave a voicemail for a group.

SMS Marketing has a one-time flat rate of $35 to setup your web-based text messaging account, then a per message fee. You get unlimited autoresponders and can schedule text message offers with ease. It even comes with one free keyword.

Notifo is another that handles notifications to the iOS platform.

Bonuses:

If you simply want to replace your mobile phone text plan for something less expensive, these five options are worth a look:

Go SMS Android App. Free texting. Handcent is another.

JAXTR MOBILE (Formerly JaxtrSMS) is sort of like Skype but just for texting. If you text another Jaxtr user, it’s free. Otherwise a low message fee based on destination country. Makes international texting pretty easy.

Kik Messenger is texting for smartphones. Or more like texting with an instant messenger feel. Free.

Google Voice is a free voice-over-IP phone (like Skype) but offers free texting, too. You can send to up to five people at one time.

GroupMe is part of Skype and is a novel way to text a group of people. Totally free. Might not work in a business situation with a group of customers, but might be good for internal teams.

If you just want to be able to get Twitter or Facebook updates on a mobile device, but not cell phone type text messages, then Boxcar for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is a notification app that allows you to get updates from many different web services (Curdbee, FourSquare, GitHub, Google Voice, just to name a few more). Free for the iOS world. Android and PC versions coming.

If you’ve been contemplating how to offer your customers a way to get special marketing offers, via cell phone, then one of these text messaging solutions will help.

Like all services we review, I try to pick ones with transparent, affordable pricing and that make it easy for a busy small business owner to figure out. Let us know what services you’ve been using in the comments below.

For additional reading, please visit:

14 Android Texting Apps That Should Be On Your Smartphone
11 Best Practice Tips for Professional Text Messaging
How to Create the Perfect Marketing Text Message

UPDATED: MARCH 14, 2016

Text Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Nimble Ushers in the Age of CRM Automation

nimble feature

Usefulness
Functionality
Price

Summary


Nimble is a game-changer, forever altering the landscape of how CRMs support marketing and sales professionals.

Over the past few years, small business use of marketing automation solutions have skyrocketed. It’s no surprise, really, as these solutions automate “significant aspects of customer acquisition such as lead generation, qualification and nurturing activities”.

In other words, marketing automation enables you to save one of your small business’s most important resources: time.

While many marketing automation solutions include significant customer relationship management (CRM) features and functionality, that side of the equation remains the least automated of all. Yes, every interaction with a lead is recorded and tied to their contact record however, beyond that automatically captured information, you and your staff must populate each contact record manually.

In other words, your CRM activities, from data entry to data mining, still consume a lot of time. This is exactly the pain point that Nimble was created to relieve and they’ve done so by focusing on three key features.

Key Feature #1: The CRM that Builds and Maintains Itself

“The problem with CRM is that it’s a database where you’ve got to type stuff in and it’s too much work for a human being,” says Jon Ferrara, the founder and CEO of Nimble.

Ferrara believes that traditionally, “CRM stands more for Customer Reporting Management, rather than Relationship Management because relationships happen in Outlook address books and Google contacts. Those are your relationship managers.”

However, even those contact managers don’t save a lot of information and they certainly don’t aggregate it into one easily understood and usable contact record.

Ferrara contends, “You need a complete view of what’s going on with a person. You need connections to calendars and email and social signals to make that happen.”

And that’s view is exactly what Nimble has built. As you can see below, a Nimble contact record contains everything from social media profiles to education, social messages, email messages and more. Most importantly, this content record was automatically compiled by Nimble once we imported our Twitter contacts into their system.

nimble review

As Ferrara puts it, “The most important thing you can have in a CRM is data, and if you have contacts and insights, that’s 60% of the work that any businessperson has.”

Importing is where everything begins. Nimble can pull your contact records from a variety of systems including Google Contacts, Gmail and Twitter. Once the platform has the information, it builds your contact records by matching information from many disparate systems. The result? A complete view of each contact, no data entry required.

“Your calendar activities, messages and social interactions are all connected to the record automatically,” says Ferrara. “Nimble builds each contact record so you understand where they’re from, where they work, where they went to school, what they’re influential in, whether they’re an investor, all that stuff.”

What’s more, Nimble actually brings the data down so it’s yours to own, as it should be in a CRM solution. They also update your contact database on a daily basis, bringing new and changed information into the contact record automatically.

“What people love about Nimble,” says Ferrara, “is that it’s the first relationship platform that works for you by building itself.”

Key Feature #2: Anytime, Anywhere Context

Once Nimble builds your contact records, you can use its browser plugins to access your records as you work online.

“If you’re sitting inside of your CRM,” says Ferrara, “you’re not engaging with customers. You need context and insights on everyone that you’re engaging with — Nimble give you the ability to ‘Nimble’ anyone anywhere.”

This powerful feature is a game-changer, forever altering the landscape of how CRMs support marketing and sales professionals. Here’s an example that, in Ferrara’s words, “Just might blow your mind.”

Access Your Contact Records Anytime, Anywhere

Let’s say you’re working on LinkedIn, nurturing your connections and looking for new ones. Using the Nimble sidebar, you can pull up the details of anyone on LinkedIn:

nimble review

A view of the Nimble sidebar on a LinkedIn profile. In the interest of showing the full view, we’ve broken the sidebar into pieces moving left to right.

As you can see, Nimble has built a profile for our LinkedIn connection on the fly, including information that did not originate on LinkedIn. If we want to add the contact to our in Nimble, all we need do is click the, “Add To Nimble” button.

Now, we have some context however, Nimble enables you to dig deeper as well as take action right there and then.

Deeper Context and Taking Action

As you can see below, Nimble’s sidebar offers a number of super-handy features:

nimble review

  1. Dig deeper into a contact’s record using this menu. “This way, I can see the history of conversations, the history of interactions,” says Ferrara. “I can see what this person’s saying to the world and interact with them.”
  2. Schedule or record an action by clicking on the circled plus icon.
  3. Send a message via connected channels by clicking on the envelope icon.

With all this context and functionality at your fingertips, your marketing and sales efforts just got a lot easier to manage. Or, as Ferrara succinctly put it, ” The most important thing is to be able to follow-through wherever you’re at.”

Key Feature #3: Automatic Segmentation

As shown below, Nimble offers a number of ways to slice and dice your contacts (i.e. segmentation):

nimble review

This is basic CRM functionality but as with many of it’s features, Nimble is about to take segmentation to the next level.

“Using the data we pull behind the scenes,” says Ferrara, “we’ve built a new segmentation engine (rolling out soon) that let’s you use any of that data and we’ve pre-faceted your contacts.”

As you can see, this new feature will enable you to search on a number of useful data points, all built for you automatically (note the black boxes near the top of this photo):

nimble review

Here’s an example of one of these drop-down menus built by Nimble using the data they’ve pulled from our contacts:

nimble review

Using this functionality you can really dig into your data. For example, if you wanted to find all contacts who are CEOs of Chicago-based companies who are interested in SEO, this new segmentation engine would make doing so a snap.

Conclusion

While we’ve explored three of Nimble’s key features, there’s a lot more under the hood including tags, integrations with other types of solutions and group mailing/tracking functionality.

Perhaps the most compelling facet of Nimble is its ability to give you a whole view of each of your contacts. As Ferrara put it, “Your CRM system needs to be both professional and personal because that’s how relationships grow, by forming connections to the person, not the contact record.”

Images: Nimble

[“source-smallbiztrends”]