Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride creator Halfbrick takes on publishing duties for Band Stars, a charming but shallow game by Six Foot Kid that lets you climb the charts and conquer the music world. It takes after Kairosoft’s (Game Dev Story, Dungeon Village) unique flavor of management simulation, with compulsively simple mechanics that have you calling the shots on combinations of genre, lyrics, and musicians — all in search of a viral hit that will launch your band into ever more illustrious levels of stardom, rising from local to national and ultimately global success.
You have up to six active band members at a time, while any others that you’ve hired out of the 50 available chill out in a VIP area that costs Drink — the premium in-game currency — to unlock and expand. Each musician has a favorite genre, three challenges to complete (such as playing on a particular instrument skin, or recording a song with 100 points for Lyrics), and five attributes — Lyrics, Creativity, Melody, Rhythm, and Polish — that affect his or her contribution to a song when you assign an instrument or solo to play. Your band members’ energy levels deplete as they write, record, mix, and jam, and refill either slowly in a hot tub or at an arcade machine, or instantly with a Drink.
The bulk of the charm comes from speech bubbles and randomly generated song titles, though the fun had via strange combinations of genre and theme is offset by low sales and lost fans. Band Stars never comes close to Kairosoft-level brilliance, sadly, and the novelty of the concept wears out before you can hire or train up enough talent to eke out a global number one hit. The many challenges on offer don’t do enough to make up for a lack of depth, and it’s too easy to see through the formula at work here — gaming it for effortless riches and fame without needing to spend a cent on a multitude of in-app purchases.
The bottom line. Band Stars brings charm and fun in a polished package, but it fails to build on good first impressions and ends up feeling blandly generic.
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Will they or won't they, and if so, when? That continues to be the question as a new advertisement on China Mobile's website seems to indicate that the carrier will launch its 4G network with the iPhone 5s and other compatible handsets.
The Wall Street Journal today reported that China Mobile appears poised to begin taking preorders for the iPhone starting this Thursday, if an advertisement for the world's largest wireless carrier is to be believed.
The advertisement, which touts "4G is here!," invites prospective high-speed customers to preorder a range of smartphones from Samsung and Sony, but curiously also includes Apple's latest iPhone 5s -- a deal that's been long expected but has yet to be confirmed in any real way.
“Customers can begin to preorder for our new 4G services from Dec. 12 through the company’s website and some dedicated branches in Shanghai," a customer services representative with China Mobile confirmed. "But we will only start providing commercial 4G services after Dec. 18."
According to the report, the carrier has yet to lock down iPhone pricing, and an attempt to preorder the handset on the China Mobile website wasn't quite ready for primetime on Monday. China Mobile is expected to make a splashy announcement about 4G service on Dec. 18 at a global trade conference in Guangzhou.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter
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My, how far we've come from the days when only AT&T carried the iPhone. As 9to5 Mac reports, today Apple started the rollout of unlocked models of the iPhone 5s without SIM cards on the online Apple Store. There's a bit of a delay involved, however, as you'll need to wait around one or two weeks for the SIM-free phones to ship over the three to five business days for carrier specific models.
In theory, at least, this isn't the first time that Apple's made such phones available. 9to5 Mac points out that the iPhones carried by T-Mobile have been unlocked since they were launched, although the carrier (understandably) didn't play this up in its marketing. Apparently there was also a brief slip not long after the 5s' launch in which Apple declared some phones were unlocked and SIM-free, but it was quickly retracted.
And thus this marks the first time that Apple has ever expressed that it has unlocked, SIM-free phones available for sale (and from its own store, at that). But don't expect such freedom to equate into savings. According to Apple's page, the pricing for the SIM-free versions remains the same as it does for its carrier-specific siblings.
If there's one small catch, it's that the phones can only be used with GSM networks. If you're an overseas Apple aficionado (or at the very least, a frequent traveler), make sure your network is compatible before taking advantage of this offer.
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.
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The device in question, the KRUPS EA9000 Barista Full Automatic One Touch Cappuccino Machine, costs one penny less than $2,500 on the KRUPS website. That doesn't include sales tax, shipping, or $6.95 for gift wrap. (If you're already laying out more than two grand on a coffeemaker, you might as well spring for the gift wrap, right?)
Now, no doubt you're thinking that's a lot to pay for a coffeemaker. And we'd say you're right. But according to public relations firm 5W, we're both actually wrong.
5W lays out the case for why KRUPS' new wunder-machine will actually "save you money in the long run."
- "Many consumers ... spend [from] $1.38 (the average price of a cup of brewed coffee) [to] $2.45 (the average price of an espresso-based drink) daily."
- "Spending $2.45 [on] a specialty coffee drink from your favorite coffeehouse each day for a year adds up to $894.25. Over 5 years, $4,471.25. And in 10 years? You've spent $8,942.50 on java without even realizing it!"
- But the KRUPS EA9000 can change all that by giving you "expert preparation of superior espresso-based beverages"...
- ...and "the coffeehouse-quality java drinks you crave with the same ease and convenience but without the added costs over time."
It's a Bargain! (Sort of.)
Perhaps not. Let's start with the obvious. When you hand over your $2.45 to the Starbucks (SBUX) barista, you're paying for the coffee preparation apparatus, yes. But you're also paying for the coffee itself -- and unless you're a purist, for the cream and sugar, too. The value of the ingredients could run as much as an extra dollar a cup for high-end Kona coffee, some nice organic half-and-half, and a packet or two of Splenda.
So unless Krups has hooked its cappuccino maker up to an inexhaustible cornucopia of coffee, milk, and sugar, you're going to have to buy these ingredients for yourself -- increasing your total cost of ownership well beyond the EA9000's list price. (And did we mention that price is $2,499.99?)
Five of the 13 reviews on file come not from actual buyers, by the way, but from folks who were given the devices to try out free of charge under Amazon's "Vine" review program -- and even then, one brave soul couldn't bring herself to rate the device higher than three stars. Six of the remaining reviews come from people whom Amazon was unable to "verify" even bought the device. So, it's possible that only two of the folks who reviewed the EA9000 actually bought it.
Time to Get Creative
According to Bloomberg, total spending over Black Friday weekend was down 2.9 percent versus 2012. The metrics on Black Friday per se were particularly disheartening for retailers, with analyst ShopperTrak saying sales dropped 13.2 percent year over year, and foot traffic down 11.4 percent.
So it seems that the traditional retailer strategy of selling lots of stuff cheap and hoping to "make it up on volume" isn't working out so well this year. That being the case, what's left to try? Apparently, at least according to this particular marketing campaign, it's targeting well-heeled shoppers to try and "make it up on price" instead.
Bottom line: There are far cheaper coffeemakers out there. We're talking decent ones that run about $2,400 less than the Krups. But if you are longing for a coffeemaker that gives you bragging rights, and need to lean on the per-cup math to justify the purchase, the EA9000 is the one for you.
Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith loves coffee -- but even he has his limits -- and $2,499.99 coffeemakers are pretty far beyond those limits. He has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Starbucks.
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There's a popular expression here on Wall Street when things are going well: A rising tide lifts all boats. And that was certainly the case Friday.
A bullish jobs report sent stocks sharply higher: The government said 203,000 jobs were created last month, and the unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent. That's the lowest it's been in five years. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rallied 198 points, snapping a five-session losing streak. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) jumped 20 points, and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC)
It was a broad-based rally with the number of gainers swamping the number of losers. But despite the big gains, the Dow and the S&P both ended their streak of eight straight weekly gains.
Financial stocks, technology, consumer and industrials led Friday's advance.
But Apple (AAPL) lost 1 percent after hitting a one-year high on Thursday.
Once again, a number of retailers found themselves in investors' cross-hairs after issuing disappointing outlooks for the holiday shopping season.
- American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) dropped 9.5 percent.
- Ulta Salon (ULTA) tumbled 21 percent.
- And the discount retailer Five Below (FIVE) ended the day -- you guessed it -- 5 percent below where it closed on Thursday.
- Sears (SHLD) lost nearly 4 percent after saying it would spin off its Lands' End division.
Meanwhile, J.C. Penney (JCP) dropped 8.5 percent on word of an SEC inquiry into its finances. And Barnes & Noble (BKS) is under the SEC microscope, too. The agency is looking into the company's earnings restatement from back in July, as well as allegations from a former employee about improper accounting practices. The bookseller's stock fell 12 percent.
And InterOil (IOC) plunged 37 percent after agreeing to sell a majority stake in two gas fields, apparently for far less than investors had expected.
What to Watch Monday:
(There are no major business news events scheduled.)
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.
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There are now just two weekends left before Christmas for holiday shoppers, and retailers are starting to get nervous -- especially after snow and ice in many areas of the country reduced the traffic at stores. So far, analysts say this has been a disappointing season for most brick-and-mortar retailers.
The weekend storms also played havoc on airline schedules and on package delivery services UPS (UPS) and FedEx (FDX). Airlines were forced to cancel thousands of flights over the weekend, especially American Airlines flights coming and going from Dallas.
Better news for American on the merger front, as it completes the deal to merge with USAirways (LCC). Changes for fliers will come slowly, as both brands will continue to exist for at least another year.
Ski resorts might appreciate the snow, but middle and lower-income skiers are getting priced out of the sport. CNBC reports that a number of the most popular slopes -- Vail (MTN), Jackson Hole, Sun Valley and others -- are charging $100 or more for lift tickets at peak times.
Health concerns are causing more and more people to cut back or give up on diet soda. The Wall Street Journal says in-store sales of diet brands have plunged nearly 7 percent over the past year. For many, there are new concerns about the health impact of aspartame and other artificial ingredients used by Coca-Cola (KO), Pepsi (PEP) and Dr. Pepper (DPS).
Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 0.4 percent last week and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged just slightly lower. Both snapped streaks of 8 straight weekly gains, despite Friday's huge rally. The Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) edged a bit higher for the week.
Market watchers will be paying attention to a series of speeches today by Federal Reserve governors. Everyone is looking for new clues about when the Fed will start tapering on the massive bond-buying program that's been one of the key drivers behind the market's big rally this year.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.
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Exercise more. Drink less. Travel. Save money.
These are your unoriginal regurgitated New Year’s resolutions. And they are getting pretty tiresome, especially considering the vast majority of you never fulfill them, choosing instead to wallow in the banality of your own existence, and roll them over again next year.
1. Take a vow of silence. Join CrossFit. Do P90X. Detox in January. Become a vegan. Sell your TV. Train for a marathon. Start the Paleo diet. Go for any or all of these, but please shut the f--k up about it.
2. Read more. Yes, that’s a permanent boring fixture on most people’s lists, but this year, be more specific and realistic. Make a list of 10 books to read, a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction. Throw in a couple of classics that you’re embarrassed you never read in college. Purchase the hardcover copies, and keep them as a small trophy of your accomplishment. The Economist puts together a great “Books of the Year” list, but I’ll get you started with “The Private Life of Chairman Mao.”
3. Befriend a World War II veteran. Spend time with him. Talk to him. Because there aren’t too many of them left. I certainly regret not helping the red-coated Chelsea Pensioners with their Tesco’s bags down the King’s Road.
4. Wash your hands more frequently. An actual study has shown that the average New Yorker indirectly touches 24 penises per day, and twice as many if they work at 1585 Broadway.
5. Take an online course. Why continue talking hollowly about self-improvement when leading colleges and graduate schools, including Duke, Wharton, and MIT, are investing significant resources into free education. Ironically, statistics have shown that it tends to be the better-educated and wealthier who take advantage of this. But, who among us couldn’t benefit from knowing more about accounting, marketing, child psychology, or real estate and contract law?
6. Watch "The Sopranos" from start to finish. Even if you’ve already seen it.
7. Freshen up the starting lineup in your wardrobe. Go get 2 new suits, 10 dress shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of shoes, and 50 pairs of socks. Maybe this guide will help. Why? For the same reason that Michael Jordan wore a brand-new pair of shoes every single game.
8. Avoid extreme and unrealistic health pledges. Eat right, exercise sensibly, and drink mostly in moderation; it’s not rocket science.
10. Skip the dramatic savings scheme. Don’t go crazy with unrealistic goals about how much you’re going to save this year. Keep it simple; spend less than you make, and save up for the big-ticket items until you can afford them. There’s no need for an extreme savings plan, so be sensible… but don’t forget to enjoy your expendable income.
12. Write down your goals. Most people never fulfill their resolutions, but the people who write them down have a proven higher success rate. Take it a step further and make a list of what you want to accomplish each day, week, and month. Just write them down and check them off the old-fashioned way. And tell Mr. There’s-an-App-for-that to go f--k himself.
14. Put your phone away at dinner.
16. Don’t just rely on the gym. Remember that feeling of playing a competitive sport as a kid, when you’re on the field, and not thinking about anything else. Most of us have forgotten what that feels like. So join a team or find someone to play tennis with.
17. Drink more. I’m not contradicting myself from earlier… If you’re healthy, eating well, and exercising, then your body can handle a few more drinks every now and then. There is nothing wrong with the occasional black out, and you’re just going to lie to your doctor anyway. “At most, maybe 15 to 17 units per week, doc.”
“The 1st bottle is for health, the 2nd for love, and the 3rd for sleep.” – Eubulus, 350 BC
18. Help a pet get adopted, if for no other reason than to prove that you can. I’ll get it started with Spirit and Peony currently residing at the North Shore Animal League shelter in Port Washington, New York. (Tweet me; I’ll pay for the adoption fees.)
“WASPs kiss their wives on the forehead and their dogs on the mouth.”
19. Get a regular foot massage. A dark room. No TV. No loud voices. It’s the most peaceful and productive 75 minutes I have every week. I go on Saturdays with the Weekend FT and The Economist.
20. Stay in on New Year's Eve. It’s amateur night and it rarely lives up to your expectations anyhow. Get dressed up, strap on the Patek, go out for some Per Se gnocchi and get drunk on Krug? That sounds like my Tuesdays. This year, stay in… And then start January 1st early and productively.
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CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen explains how the company uses YouTube, and how crucial the video platform is to their business model at our Ignition conference.
Produced by Kamelia Angelova, Alana Kakoyiannis and Justin Gmoser
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Stocks didn't do a whole lot today.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 16,026.3 (+6.1 +0.0%)
- S&P 500: 1,808.4 (+3.3, +0.1%)
- Nasdaq: 4,068.7 (+6.2, +0.1%)
And now the top stories:
- There were no major market-moving economic reports published today.
- According to the Federal Reserve's latest flow of funds report, household net wort climbed by $1.92 trillion in Q3. Rising wealth was spurred by a 2.0% increase in the value of tangible assets (household real estate value rose 2.3% and the value of consumer durables rose 0.7%) and a 2.4% increase in the value of financial assets (deposits rose 1.2%, credit market instruments fell 1.8%, corporate equities rose 5.6%, mutual fund shares rose 4.7%, pension fund reserves advanced 1.9%, and equity in noncorporations rose 2.2%). "In our view, the wealth effects that have resulted from the rising prices of financial and real estate assets have been a boon to consumption in recent quarters," said Barclays' Cooper Howes. "Given the lagged impact of these effects, we expect them to continue to provide a tailwind to consumption in the coming quarters as well."
- Economists are still trying to figure out when the Federal Reserve might begin tapering its stimulative quantitative easing program, especially in the wake of Friday's strong jobs report. But St. Louis Fed President James Bullard warns that inflation continues to be surprisingly low. “A small taper might recognize labor market improvement while still providing the Committee the opportunity to carefully monitor inflation during the first half of 2014,” said Bullard in a speech to the CFA Society of St. Louis. “Should inflation not return toward target, the Committee could pause tapering at subsequent meetings.”
- Don't Miss: Robert Shiller Took Jabs At Fellow Nobel Laureates During His Nobel Prize Presentation »
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