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Awesome Con 2015 Raises the Bar

 Awesome ConAwesome Con

Introduction

In light of how great Awesome Con fared, the bar was raised for this year's convention. Awesome Con was held at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC May 29 - 31, 2015.  Notwithstanind the long treks between the different exhibits and events, including the photo and autograph ops sessions, you may walk away from the convention feeling elated to have been a part of such an entertaining event.

Size and Scope

The size and scope of Awesome Con rival that of others that I recently attended, namely the Tidewater Comic Con. This year Awesome Con took over not only the main convention center building but the building across from L Street as well.  If you have not been to the Washington Convention Center lately, as a side treat you could admire the artistic displays including modern hanging sculptures such as a cluster of hanging bicycles as well as tables arranged in a large circlular design.  

Awesome Con CosplayAwesome Con Cosplay

Cosplays

As probably expected, there appeared to be a bigger turnout of both shoppers, cosplayers and others on Saturday, the second day of the convention. There were signs posted to request a photograph before taking pictures of cosplayers.  The cosplayers, in my opinion were happy to have pictures taken, sometimes posing and doing double duty if someone else approached wanting a picture also.  In fact, even though I did not purposely seek out photographs for myself, I was happy when I was asked for a picture -- which I gladly obliged.

Awesome Con CosplayAwesome Con Cosplay 

Regarding the mix of cosplayers versus shoppers -- I noticed the majority of attendees seemed to be focused on shopping or even browsing rather than cosplays.  A visual survey of the attendees -- which was many -- showed quite a few were not dressed up as cosplayers.  However, the ones who took the time to cosplay as their favorite comic book, video game or other characters, did, in my opinion, an amazing job. Some were decked out in lots of clothing while cosplaying while others wore no more than a lion's cloth and briefs with body artfully decorated with yellow paint and black lined designs. Some cosplayers depicted characters in block buster franchises such as Star Trek, Stars Wars, Dr. Who and others.

Star Wars Storm Trooper at Awesome ConStar Wars Storm Trooper at Awesome Con

Make-up of Awesome Con

There was tables and booths set up gearing toward the comic book industry including comic books, graphic novels, with some sold at relative low prices. On Friday night, I made a mental note to return to the comic book table that had impressive large discounts on comic books and other items.  However, when I returned to the booth the next day, it was no where to be found.  Lesson learned is when at large conventions with schedules and exhibits sometimes changing constantly, it is best to purchase an item right then and there, unless you are absolutely sure the booth will be there on another day.

Awesome Con Comic Book DealsAwesome Con Comic Book Deals

In addition to special guests including authors, there were also comic book graphics artists displaying their wares as well.  While at Awesome Con on Friday and Saturday, I interviewed a few graphics artists including Josh Anderson and Sean Von Gorman. I did not attend Sunday's event; however, I'm sure those who did had lots of fun.

Photo and Autograph Ops

Even though there were both autograph as well as photo ops, I will focus on how photo ops were handled at Awesome Con.  There were lots of big names at the photo ops sessions where for a fee you could get your picture taken with a well-known celebrity such as William Shatner, George Takei and others as listed on the Awesome Con website and in the program book.  Because of the popularity of some celebrities, long lines were to be expected.  Based on my experience of leaving a line and returning just a few minutes later to find out my chosen celebrity had already leflt, here is my suggestion.  To ensure everyone there gets the photo ops they want and paid for -- there should be an announcement on the loudspeaker of when the last person or close to when the last person is in line to take photo ops.  That way, there would be less of a chance for a photo op to be missed. It was a nice touch to have someone using a bullhorn to welcome attendees to Awesome Con; however, I think announcing when a photo op is getting ready to end would be beneficial to the attendees as well.

The above being said, the swapping of my celebrity choice for a photo op to Star Trek's George Takei from William Shatner was handled smoothly, where I also received a digital picture as well due to the price differences of the photo ops.

Awesome Con CosplayAwesome Con Cosplay

Video Gaming

What would Awesome Con be like without video games? Glady, I did not have to find out because there were video gaming at Awesome Con 2015. On the first floor of the main convention area, large rooms were set aside dedicated to not only console gaming but other types of gaming as well.  I visited the 24 hour console video gaming room sessions which displayed two large video game screens, one showing a dancing video game, and the other showing a fighting video game.  On the tables were a myriad of video gaming consoles including of course the Play Station 4 and the Xbox One along with the video games.  This darkened room provided a respite from the hustle and bustle of the exhibit halls which were packed with people on Saturday.  Everyone was cordial and shared the use of the video gaming consoles. An added plus was there was adequate seating in the video gaming spaces, which seemed to be sparse in some other areas in the large, main convention area.

Wrap-Up

If Awesome Con sounds like one you would like to attend, it is never too early to plan ahead.  The next Awesome Con is scheduled for June 3-5, 2016 at the same location, Washington Convention Center.  Improvements were made from the previous Awesome Con which included a smoother process for the photo ops sessions and expanding to use another building for the convention.  If these improvements and raising the bar continues, the next convention will provide even more enjoyable experiences.  I for one, can't wait to see what other awesome experiences are in store when Awesome Con returns.  

Video Games On Your "Can't Wait" List for 2014

watchdogs

Now that a brand new year is here, is one of your resolutions to enjoy even more video games in 2014, than you did in 2013?  If so, the video game industry is ready to help you keep your New Year's resolution by offering new games not only for the next generation video game consoles -- the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 -- but for the previous video game systems as well, such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the Wii U.

Limited New Games 

There have been complaints about the low quantity of video games released for the next generation video game consoles at launch; however, I believe the developers are hard at work to provide quality video games, which may take longer than churning out video games as if they were on an assembly line.  I'm not making excuses for the developers, but it's possible that there is a learning curve in upgrading or creating new games for the next generation video game consoles.  Speculations aside, a developer actually admitted that making video games for the next generation consoles was 10 times -- I repeat -- 10 times harder than for the previous video game systems.  Additionally a senior manager from Capcom, Masaru Ijuin, stated they ran into some problems using their original engine, MT Framework -- which is the reason they are now working on a new engine, Panta Rhei.  Of course video game development itself takes time, and there may be a "gazillion" reasons for the limited number of video games for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 at the current time. Hopefully as the developers get more accustomed to the new video game hardware (or overcome other causes for delayed new video games) -- games will start flowing abundantly, similar to what happened during the tail end of 2011.  I recall during that time -- just about every day a game was being released for the Xbox 360 and the PS3.  I was so impressed with the rapid availability of video games, I gave kudos to the video game industry here.

http://www.moms-minute.com/ms-h-news/210-2011-video-game-news-in-review

titanfall

Slow Start for New Video Games

 I'm choosing to take a positive projectory stance regarding the slow start for new video games for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. Even with the slow start for new video games, things are looking up for the video game industry as a whole. Did you know the video game industry is estimated to be worth approximately 76 to 100 billion dollars, with the video game console segment currently heading the market?  To keep its market lead, I think it's important for video game companies to develop quality video games -- not only for the satisfaction of the video game player -- but to also keep its lead, and to survive in general -- since it's reported that PC and mobile gaming are on the heels of the consoles -- attempting to take over market share. 

Xbox One and PlayStation 4 Woes

Unfortunately, the new generation video game consoles are not without problems since both systems have failed to deliver on some promises.  A thorough, unbiased summary and assessment of those broken promises are here: http://www.allgames.com/component/k2/item/7217-broken-promises-of-the-next-gen-consoles  

Microsoft - Sony Video Game Issues

The good news is that I'm sure both Microsoft and Sony are aware of these issues and have them on their radar.  The lack of new video games is certainly obvious. In fact, a  video game company has gone so far as to offer pre-order bonuses for the game, Evolve, without the prerequisite gameplay footage available to preview. Essentially if you  preorder this game, you are doing so in the blind.  I guess they wanted to fill the void by at least offering a preorder bonus for a game that is in the works -- with an unspecified, projected release date of the near future.

With the above being said, here is the list of video games that may be on your "can't wait" list of video games for 2014.

Projectcars

Video Games -- "Can't Wait" List for 2014

Note:  Remember to check the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings of video games and purchase accordingly.

1.  Watch Dogs -- Since the announcement in October 2013 that Watch Dogs would be delayed, Ubisoft has been relatively quiet about the progress of this game.  There was a rumor there would be some "GTA 5"- like gameplay when it is released, which, personally, I'm wishing is just a rumor.  In my opinion, Watch Dogs is one of those video games that will show that a video game can be innovative and exciting to play without an overload of bad language, blood and violence.  I believe this game is certainly worth waiting for and I'm hoping that it will not disappoint.  Watch Dogs will be playable on previous and next generation video game consoles and the PC.  Release date:  Spring, 2014

2.  Titanfall -- Microsoft has announced there will be a special, limited edition wireless controller available for this game which will be designed to have the feel of a military spec item transported from the Titanfall universe. This first person shooter video game won numerous awards as well as a record breaking six E3 critics awards at E3 2013.  Titanfall will be playable on the Xbox 360, Xbox One and the PC.  Release date:  March 11, 2014.

3.  Project Cars -- Slightly Mad Studios plan to give Gran Turismo 6 and Fortza 5 a run for their money.  They are developers of Need for Speed and Need for Speed Shift 2 and are showing they mean business by the stunning, realistic graphics of the cars in this video game as well as the environment.  Having high quality video games Gran Turismo 6 and Fortza 5 as competitors, I'm not surprised the video game graphics of Project Cars have been described as "beyond incredible."  Hopefully the gameplay will measure up as well.  Project Cars will be playable on the Xbox One, Playstation 4, Wii U, Steam OS and the PC.  Release date: Third or fourth quarter, 2014.

4.  Quantum Break -- This third person shooter is described by Remedy as the "ultimate Remedy" game, Quantum Break meshes television action with your video gameplay.  Of course this video game/television scenario has been done before, i.e. the video game Defiance, but the storyline, in my opinion makes this video game stand out.  Here's my take on Quantum Break:

 http://www.allgames.com/all-games-blog/item/6363-quantum-break-a-game-worth-a-second-look

Quantum Break is an Xbox One exclusive video game.  Release date: 2014 (specific timeframe unavailable at press time). 

5. Tom Clancy's The Division -- If you are a fan of Tom Clancy's video games, you should be happy to know that more action-adventure video gameplay is coming your way soon. Video gameplay involves fighting against a virus and other type enemies to save everyone from the fall of society.  This game will have a companion app where you can join your team of friends as a drone from a smart phone or tablet -- anytime and wherever you may be. Tom Clancy's The Division will be playable on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC.  Release date:  Possible 2014. (An anonymous developer is rumored to have revealed they have quite a ways to go before this game is finished).

6.  The Order:  1886 -- In this action adventure video game set in Victorian-era London, you will use advance technology to fight against monsters. Add this gameplay with the fusion of time, and you will have a unique experience playing this video game.  The Order: 1886 is a PlayStation 4 exclusive video game.  Release date: Third quarter, 2014.

7.  Destiny -- With an open world setting, Destiny is described as an action, role-playing first person shooter video game with a "mythic science fiction" type influence.  The unique feature of this game is actions may happen during gameplay that were not necessarily designed or orchestrated by the developer. Destiny will be playable on the previous and next generation video game consoles.  Release date:  September 9, 2014.

Here's more on Destiny: http://www.moms-minute.com/ms-h-news/745-video-games-halo-4-successor-destiny-changes

8.  Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes -- I guess this video game was so nice, they had to do it twice.  The video game is in two parts -- with part one being more of an extended prologue and the action continuing in part two -- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain -- which currently does not have a release date.  Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes will be playable on the previous and next generation video game consoles.  Release date:  March 18, 2014.

9.  Dragon Age: Inquisition -- Unlike its Dragon Age predecessor, Dragon Age: Inquistion will afford you the opportunity to explore the open video game environment with a mission to save the world.  It will be playable on the previous and next generation video game consoles as well as the PC.  Release date: Third quarter, 2014.

10.  Smash Bros -- In my opinion, this list would not be complete without an Nintendo video game.  Enter Smash Bros -- a fighting game featuring Nintendo characters. This game has been providing fun video gameplay since 1999 and is still going strong.  It will be playable on the Wii U and the 3DS and has the connectivity to play between the versions.  Release date: 2014 (specific timeframe unavailable at press time).

If you do not see your "can't wait" video game for 2014 on the list -- don't fret.  I'm sure if I had extended the list to more than 10 video games -- your game would have found a place -- front and center.

Happy New Year Everyone.

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Mom's Minute Grades Black Friday Sales

Black FridayBlack Friday

Black Friday is almost here! You may want to take advantage of the Black Friday Sales, some which are starting as early as 6:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014.  In my opinion, it pays to know which stores are worth the time you may spend waiting in lines to own those coveted sale-priced video games, video game systems or other merchandise.  To help you decide where to shop on Black Friday for video game merchandise -- I, Ms. H from Mom's Minute Video Game Show, will grade some prominent Black Friday retailers.  

There will be lots of sales on all types of merchandise on Black Friday; however, I will be grading these establishments for video game prices, as well as video game systems and related peripheral video game type merchandise.   If you want to know which store offers the best Black Friday deals on gaming merchandise -- you are at the right place.

Black FridayBlack FridayAs a disclaimer, the ratings here are my opinions,  which of course you may or may not agree with.  Grades were not based on prices alone, but include the array of discount offers , as well as the quantity of video game merchandise choices available at the retail establishments on Black Friday.    On Black Friday, I believe retailers' merchandise should have  extraordinary sale prices so low that these low prices will entice you to leave the comfort of your home, venture into the crowds to get those coveted video games, or video game merchandise.  The grades will be listed, starting from the lowest performing Black Friday establishment in the group and end with the store that has the best video game deals befitting Black Friday sales.  If the retail store you frequent for video game merchandise is not included in the list, you may visit its website, check out the ads and find out if the  sales are worth your valuable time as well as your hard-earned money. With that being said,  let's get started with the grading countdown!

10.  Sears:  In my opinion, Sears is not known for video games per se and Sears video game Black Friday ads reflected that. In looking over Sears' ads, I did not see a sale that, in my opinion,  you would want to stand in line for or to even visit the store.  There were a few Nintendo products advertised such as the Nintendo 3DS XL  for $169.99 which has a regular price of $199.99 and the Nintendo 2DS for $99.99 -- regular price $129.99.  There were a few accompanying games for these systems ranging from $29.99 to $39.99 -- certainly nothing to write home about.  It goes without saying that Sears Black Friday video game sales are a fail.

Sears Black Friday sale starts 6:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014 through November 29, 2014.

Grade:  F

9.  GameStop:  Someone needs to notify GameStop that Black Friday is a time to lower regular priced video game merchandise substantially to prices that would be categorized as  Black Friday sales. It may be understandable that GameStop wants to be conservative with their Black Friday pricing since their core business model is based on video games --unlike some of the other retail establishments that sell video game merchandise --  However, looking at GameStop Black Friday sales -- the prices for video game merchandise were not anywhere near competitive with some other retail establishments.  For example, at GameStop, the video game Destiny is  $49.99, a mere $10.00 savings from its regular price of $59.99.  GameStop is offering the usual video game system bundles that sell comparably elsewhere for the same price including the Xbox One Assassin's Creed Unity and Assassin's Creed Black Flag bundle for $329.99 and the PlayStation 4 Limited Edition Bundle which comes with Grand Theft Auto V and a digital copy of the Last of Us Remastered for $399.99.  These are standard prices for the video game bundles at most other establishments that sell video game merchandise -- so there are actually no or very little savings here.  There are sporadic savings on a few older games, such as Call of Duty Ghost for $27.99 -- regular price $49.99, and the Xbox One wireless controller is $44.99, a savings of $15.00.  The largest savings I saw in the GameStop ads were $20.00 off sports games that regularly sold for $59.99 which included Madden 15, FIFA 15, NHL 15 and Need for Speed Rivals. I recommend you save your gas and not shop at Sears -- or bypass Sears if are looking for true Black Friday sales.

GameStop's Black Friday sale starts at midnight, November 28, 2014 and ends November 30, 2014.

Grade:  D+

Black FridayBlack Friday

8.  Kmart:  Kmart differentiated itself this Black Friday shopping year by opening early, 6:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  Unfortunately, I did not see any video game sales that were that exciting to get up so early for.  Someone needs to advise Kmart to rethink its points system and let their mangement know that most customers shop for money deals and not deals in points.  Kmart lists several video games at the regular price where you can earn points.  For example, Super Mario Brothers video game for the WII U is the regular price of  $59.99 with a notice that members get $40.00 back in points.  You are not saving $40.00 on the video game -- but can save $40.00 on your next shopping trip.  You can of course return to the store and buy another video game using the $40.00 earned in points, but you still paid full price for the first game that you bought, which in my opinion is not true savings.

Kmart Black Friday sale starts 6:00 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014 through November 30, 2014.

Grade:  D-

7.  Xbox Games Store:  If you have an Xbox One or an Xbox 360, you may want to check out some of the digital video game Black Friday sales. Microsoft is advertising a wide range of video game titles showing a percentage discount as high as 75% off the original prices.  For instance, Angry Birds Star Wars  will be 30% off the regular price as well as Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag.  Use caution in your purchases on Xbox Live since it's been reported that although some of the games are advertised as being a certain percentage off -- when you do the math on some -- the savings sometime are much less.  To get these sales, you must be an Xbox Live Gold member.

Xbox Games Store Black Friday sale is from November 25, 2014 through December 1, 2014.

Grade:  C-

6.  PlayStation Store:  Just ahead of Xbox Games Store Black Friday sales grade-wise is the PlayStation Store.  PlayStation Store is advertising more than 30 titles discounted up to 65% off -- Up to 80% off if you are a PS Plus member.  Note the discounts are "up to" a certain percentage instead of an actual percentage.  What I liked about the PlayStation Store Black Friday ad was instead of listing games with percentage offs  (like Xbox Games Store) -- the actual sale prices broken down by the PS Plus price and regular sales price were listed.  You could see at a glance how much money you were saving.  For example, Angry Bird Star Wars PS Plus Price was $22.49, sale price was $24.99 compared to the regular price of $49.99. Soul Sacrifice Delta for the PS Vita has a sales price of $17.99 and a PS Plus price of  $14.39 compared to the regular price of $35.99.  I also noticed that most of the discounts were on the older games -- and no -- Destiny was not discounted for Black Friday.  Note:  PSN also has a sale that if you spend more than $100 using your SEN Wallet, you will receive a redemption code of $15.00 on or before December 15, 2014 which must be redeemed by January 13, 2015.

PlayStation Store Black Friday Sale is from November 25, 2014 until December 2, 2014.

Grade:  C+

Sims 4Sims 4 

5. Toys R Us:  Toys R Us would be higher on the list if its inventory of video games were larger.  Unfortunately, if you shop Toys R Us, there are no guarantees that the games you are looking for will be available.  For video games, the Black Friday sale is Buy 1, get 1 40% off.

Toys R Us Black Friday sale starts 6:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014 and ends November 29, 2014.

Grade:  C

4.  Target:  Target was in the news regarding credit card breaches during the holidays last year, 2013 -- and its sales performance  seem to have not been as negatively affected as expected.  Regarding this year's video game Black Friday sales, Target has the Xbox One Assassin's Creed Bundle and Assassin's Creed Black Flag Digital download for $329.99.  Call of Duty Ghost is $25.00, and Madden 15 is $15.00.  What cemeted Target in the top five was their blockbuster Black Friday sale of a 40" Element TV for only $119.00.

Target's Black Friday sale starts 6:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014 through November 29, 2014.

Grade:  B

3.  Amazon: Give it to Amazon to be creative with their Black Friday sales.  For instance, on-line retailer Amazon is featuring Black Friday sales coupled with a timing element.  For example, every 10 minutes an item is placed on sale.  To find out the price, you click on "Deal Price" to see what your savings are.  By being an online store, reaching millions of customers, Amazon has the flexibility to announce Black Friday deals creatively. You get the sale by simply clicking on the item you wish to purchase. The above being said, let's see how Amazon is faring relative to its online video game merchandise sales.  I must say that it is faring quite well.  To illustrate --  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Ultimate Media Collection for the PS4 and Xbox One is selling for $72.70, a discount of 66% from the original price of $215.03. You save even more if you buy the regular collection -- sale price $54.98, a 69% savings over the regular price of $179.97.   If you are in the market for an Xbox One and do not mind waiting for it to be delivered, the Assassin's Creed Unity Bundle is reduced 13% for a price of $349.99, a savings of $50.00.  Other online Amazon Black Friday video game sales include The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Legendary video game for the PC -- $26.99 and Wolfenstein The New Order playable on the PS4 and the Xbox One for $29.99. In my opinion, Amazon is a viable source for your Black Friday video game sales, especially if you can get free shipping on video game items and do not mind waiting to receive your Black Friday merchandise.

Amazon Black Friday sale started with pre-Black Friday sales, the middle  of November and the sales continue through December 1, 2014.

Grade:  B+ 

Best BuyBest Buy

2.Best Buy:  Best Buy is known for people camping outside days prior to the start of its Black Friday sales.  From a video game perspective, the question is  -- is the waiting in line worth it?  Just as some of the other stores listed, Best Buy has the Xbox One Assassin's Creed: Unity Bundle selling for $329.99 as well as the PlayStation 4 The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V for $399.99. There is also an Assassin's Creed: Unity bundle with Kinect and a free extra Xbox One controller for $429.99.  If you are in the market for a big screen TV, Best Buy will have a 50" Panosonic 60 Hz 1080 p LED  television selling for only $199.99.

Video game deals include Call of Duty Ghosts, MLB 14 and The Walking Dead for $19.99 each. Madden 15, Diablo, FIFA 15 and NBA 2k15 are $29.99 each, a savings of $30.00.

Similar to some other Black Friday sales, current video games are also on sale, for example both Call of Duty, Advanced Warfare and Destiny are $44.99,  a savings of $15.00 each. 

Best Buy's Black Friday sale starts 5:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014 and will close at 1:00 a.m. the following morning.  Stores will then reopen at 8:00 a.m. on Black Friday, November 28, 2014. Online deals are available all day Thursday and Friday at http://www.bestbuy.com .

Grade:  A-

 WalmartWalmart

1. Walmart:  Drum Roll -- Da! Daaah! -- and the winner is the retail giant Walmart.  Walmart is not relying on its reputation of being a low-price leader not only in video games -- but other merchandise as well. It has been in the media a lot -- reminding you of its low priced merchandise.  You may have seen the youtube videos and television commercials tooting not only Black Friday sales at Walmart -- but also all the different sales options available.  Walmart has a low price Black Friday guarantee to match Black Friday sales at other retail establishments if the Walmart price is higher.  Additionally Walmart will have hourly blockbuster deals beginning on Thanksgiving Day.

The video game sales include the $329.00 Xbox One Assassins Creed:  Unity Bundle as well as the $379.00 Xbox One with your choice of game bundle and a 12-month Live card.  (Walmart exclusive).  Purchase a $399.99 PlayStation 4 and get a free $50.00 gift card.  The $449.00 PlayStation 4 Grand Theft Auto V bundle is on sale with a choice of two games.  (Walmart exclusive).

Walmart sales start 6:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014 with a second round of doorbusters set to start at 8:00 p.m. on the same day.  On Friday, November 28, 2014, Walmart stores will reopen at 6:00 a.m. which is two hours earlier than last year.  Some 24 hour Walmarts will remain open. 

Grade:  A

Alert:  If you plan to shop at Walmart or any of the above stores where there are large crowds, practice safety whether you are shopping Black Friday sales alone or with others. Remember, it is nice to get items on sale, but it is even more important to be safe.

Happy Thanksgiving -- Happy Black Friday Shopping and be safe!

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