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Super Mario Odyssey – not your everyday voyage

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The new Super Mario Odyssey game has been touted as the best Mario Bros release yet. SEAN BACHER finds out what all the fuss is about.

Super Mario Odyssey, the new Mario Bros instalment from Nintendo, has been released for the Nintendo Switch, the hottest gaming platform of the past year.

It brings together various characters from previous Mario Bros games, along with a myriad of new ones.

The plot remains similar to the original 8-bit, 2D game that many of us grew up with and got us into TV games – where Mario finds himself on a quest to save his beloved Princess Peach from his old time nemesis, Bowser.

However, Odyssey’s gameplay is in 3D, with 17 worlds or kingdoms, ranging from the Metro Kingdom to the Moon Kingdom – each offering different challenges, puzzles and game dynamics. I have found that many other game manufacturers can’t quite get the idea of a 3D landscape to work properly, with characters getting stuck or with me just wandering around with no idea on where to go next, finally just giving up.

Not so with Nintendo and Super Mario Odyssey. They managed get it right with Mario Odyssey and a lot of it has to do with the Nintendo Switch gaming console.

In addition to the main 3D kingdoms, various hidden mini games transform the modern, detailed Mario into the old 8-bit, 2D version. You enter through a green sewage pipe and have to knock down bricks by jumping and moving left and right through the maze. Once cleared, Mario is rewarded with Power Moons, which need to be collected before moving onto the next world. There are on average 70 moons per kingdom and, although only a few are needed to advance, the more collected, the more rewards are offered.

As mentioned, Super Mario Odyssey brings with it new characters – good and bad. For instance, Mario is given Cappy the cap, which is used to destroy enemies and possess those that can’t be destroyed, like the Chain Chomps. Once Cappy has been thrown onto one of the Chain Chomps, Mario can use them to destroy walls and reveal treasures and additional hidden games.

Cappy also acts as a temporary platform to jump onto when scaling buildings or mountains. But Cappy can be difficult to control, which is why the Switch is a great console on which to play the game.

Although you can play the game with the controls attached to either side of the console, I found this rather limiting, and felt that using them wirelessly with the console hooked up to a TV offered more freedom – especially when in tight corners or executing difficult manoeuvres. There are even hints throughout the game that recommend using the latter for a better gaming experience.

In terms of playability, Mario needs to wander the kingdoms, getting his white-gloved hands on as many collectables as possible. The gold coins are still the main collectables, as they give Mario life and he loses them when attacked. There are also purple coins located throughout each stage, and these can be used to customise Mario and Cappy before beginning the next mission.

I found it rather motivating to explore each world as much as possible to find these coins to make my Mario unique. Many games would charge real currency for a customization like this.

Although the game starts out fairly easy, it gets more and more difficult as you progress. But, checkpoints throughout each of the worlds are relatively close together, meaning you don’t have to redo an entire world if you accidentally jump off a cliff or get defeated by a main boss.

In conclusion

Super Mario Odyssey is a fun game that will appeal to adults and kids. Although it can get a little challenging, its creators have designed it so that it’s not so difficult as to put a player off. Some patience and determination will get Mario through this odyssey.

Super Mario Odyssey is available from the following retailers for R850:

  • Makro
  • BT Games
  • Dion Wired
  • Musica
  • Toyzone
  • Takealot
  • RARU
  • LOOT
  • Nintendo Switch Pop Up Zone
  • Toys R Us
  • Nexus

Arts and Entertainment

VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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