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15 Actors Who Have Been Rumored To Take Over For Daniel Craig As James Bond

Bond… James Bond. It’s a sought after role that many will chase, but few get to call their own. With Daniel Craig sending his tuxedo to the cleaners for good after Bond 25, it’s, obviously, time to find a new super spy to protect the world in the name of the British crown. There’s no shortage of names for the position, and thanks to some recent betting activity, there’s a good list of folks that seem to be front runners and long shots. Though there are some surprises that don’t have any money riding on them just yet.

Richard Madden

Madden is the apparent favorite in the betting world right now, and why wouldn’t he be? Folks mostly remember him as the ill-fated King of the North, Robb Stark, from Game of Thrones, or his turn as Prince Charming in Kenneth Brannagh’s live-action Cinderella. So, he can fight, as well as handle himself at a party.

Though, most recently, his name has been flying around as part of a hit British action/drama, Bodyguard, where he plays a law enforcement agent sworn to protect the Home Secretary. With a background in action, and a current gig that more than likely invokes Bond-ian comparisons on a regular basis, this could be a really good fit.

Sam Heughan

Sometimes, all you need to do is put on a tuxedo, and people will start saying you’re the next James Bond. And that’s exactly what happened to Sam Heughan, after he played a facsimile of 007 in this year’s comedy, The Spy Who Dumped Me.

Best known for his role as Outlander’s dreamy Jamie Fraser, he was even asked about playing the role at this year’s New York Comic Con panel. Naturally, nothing definitive was said, but you could see in his face that Heughan has definitely thought about the possibility.

Idris Elba

Perhaps one of the most famous names attached to the next potential James Bond has been Idris Elba. A fixture of British television, thanks to the BBC’s Luther, as well as an actor who’s been in films far and wide, his is a name that’s still hotly debated as next in line for a franchise martini.

While there haven’t been any talks between Elba and Sony, with the actor even pegging himself as too old for the role, there’s always been a fan contingent in his corner. If the right offer came along, we wouldn’t blame him for never saying never again.

Cardi B Giving Away Free Coats in Brooklyn Is an Inspiration

By now, we know we can count on Cardi B to add some brightness to the world, even when things are at their gloomiest (just spend a half hour on her social media accounts if you don’t believe us). But this week, the Bronx-born rapper went above and beyond on the delightfulness scale by hitting the streets of New York and handing out hundreds of coats and sneakers to people in need.

According to WABC, Cardi was seen on Thursday at the Marlboro Houses, a housing complex in Gravesend, New York, where a crowd had gathered to get a glimpse (and selfies) with the hip-hop queen. The swell of people surprised Cardi, who had shown up to help the community as temperatures drop over the weekend (the National Weather Service had issued a freeze warning in parts of upstate New York.)

“I didn’t know it was gonna be so big,” Cardi B told WABC. “My homeboy Chuck, he told me, ‘Hey, let’s give out coats to our community, I know somebody who wants to give out coats in Marlboro,’ and I said, ‘I’m pulling out, what’s up?'”

Billboard reports that some of the coats and shoes were donated with help from organizations such as NY Tent Sale, Trax NYC, and Daniel’s Leather. The event was set up by friends of Cardi, and she made it out—despite arriving four hours late because of a scheduled photo shoot. Videos show her rolling in full of excitement and ready to help.

“You gotta support the ppl who supported you,” Cardi B says in footage while handing out the items.

Cardi took to Instagram later to thank people for braving the cold to see her, and indicated this isn’t the last time we’ll see her out and about doing good deeds: “IT WAS LIT IN MARLBORO TODAY !My Hat @astonmartinchuck hit me up a couple of days ago about a coat giveaway we couldn’t believe how big this was and how many people pulled up, i wasn’t ready😩😩!Thanks Marlboro! I shot RED BARZ & PULL UP ON ME out here .I will be back before the year end .THANKS @traxnyc @Astonmartinchuck @danielsleather @nytentsale @mr_Footwork @bg_chopwhop FOR putting this together and the Marlboro community 🎩.I can’t wait to this in my borough next BX.”

The charitable giving comes just after Cardi celebrated her 26th birthday with the most extravagant surprise party ever, courtesy of her husband, rapper Offset.

Feeling inspired by Cardi? You can donate coats by getting involved with the organizations below.

  • One Warm Coat: This nationalnon-profit organization provides free coats to anyone in need.

    Operation Warm: Thisorganization provides brand new coats to children across the country.

    Coats For Kids: This is theSalvation Army’s effort to collect thousands of coats for children.

    New York Cares: New YorkCares organizes coat drives every year, and you can help by textingCOAT to 41444 and donating just $20, which is enough to help NewYorkers buy a new winter coat.

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The Funniest Reactions To Daredevil’s Gross Neti Pot Scene

Daredevil Season 3 has a ton of action scenes and moments worth talking about, so it might be weird to hear so many folks are focused on one that involves a neti pot. The scene has fans reacting left and right, with some mystified and others disgusted, and a few downright confused. It’s led to many sharing their reaction to it on social media, and they’re all pretty funny, given the subject matter.

For those that haven’t seen the scene, that tweet sounds like an exaggeration. Those who saw Matt flush his sinuses in the Daredevil Season 3 episode, however, can attest it’s as brutal as advertised mainly due to the excessive amount of blood he expelled. Of course, Matt Murdock is no stranger to bleeding, and was relatively unfazed despite the fact that it looked as though part of his brain flew into the sink in front of him.

Soon after the flush, Matt realized most of his senses had been revitalized, which meant he could go back to training again. Matt dashed around and began training to get back in peak shape despite having only been a shell of his former self an hour prior. The sudden shift wasn’t lost on fans, who all were shocked all it took was sinus irrigation to bring back the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.

To be fair, Matt was in far better shape prior to this treatment than he was at the beginning of the episode, and the neti pot simply (somehow) cleared him up enough so that he could move around without the use of a cane. Also, the treatment wasn’t an absolute cure-all, as Matt still couldn’t hear out of one ear. The neti pot helped, but he still had a long road to go before he could be Daredevil again.

Marvel fans were thrilled for Matt’s turnaround regardless, although some have wondered why it had to be a neti pot that turned things around. Does Disney own stock in the sinus irrigation business, or did someone pay to have it written into a scene that literally restores someone’s superpowers? Some viewers began to speculatae there’s perhaps a deeper conspiracy here to get sales in the home remedy treatment to spike.

Obviously, a good deal of those tweets were probably tongue-in-cheek, but the question remains. Why did the Daredevil writing team decide it would be a neti pot, of all things, that would be key to bringing Matt’s senses back? Why not a montage of painstaking physical therapy, or maybe even some mystical healing potion or an herbal mix? This is the Marvel universe, after all, those things exist!

Viewers may never know the answer, but they’ll likely never be able to look at a neti pot again without thinking of Daredevil. That may not be a good thing for stuffed up folks already on the fence about pouring water up their nose, although the scene hasn’t turned off everyone from the alternative therapy. In fact, some were thrilled to see Marvel highlighting the device’s uses, and maybe how well it gets blood out of your nose?

Daredevil Season 3 and that horrific neti pot scene are both streaming on Netflix. For more on upcoming television shows premiering this fall, head on over to our fall premiere guide.

A Model Gondolier With a Relentless Regimen

Michael Angelo Ruffino practices rowing near Newport Beach, Calif. The 35-year-old hopes that one day gondoliering will become an Olympic sport.
Michael Angelo Ruffino practices rowing near Newport Beach, Calif. The 35-year-old hopes that one day gondoliering will become an Olympic sport. Photo: MICHAL CZERWONKA for The Wall Street Journal

For most, a gondola ride evokes a romantic cruise powered by a crooning boatman through the winding canals of Venice.

That’s not how Michael Angelo Ruffino thinks of it. The 35-year-old has facilitated his fair share of marriage proposals in his 10-year career as a gondolier in Newport Beach and Sunset Beach, Calif. “I get to be a footnote in one of the most important days in people’s lives,” he says. But for him, the job is about fitness as much as entertaining customers.

“I’d love before my days are done to see gondola racing making it into the Olympics,” he says.

Mr. Ruffino is hoping to win multiple medals at US Gondola Nationals in November.
Mr. Ruffino is hoping to win multiple medals at US Gondola Nationals in November. Photo: MICHAL CZERWONKA for The Wall Street Journal

He’s hoping to win multiple medals to add to his collection at the U.S. Gondola Nationals (yes, a real thing) in Providence, R.I., in November.

This unusual career piqued Mr. Ruffino’s interest several years ago. He was planning to work as a teacher and looking to make some extra money during the summer. Mr. Ruffino liked having the opportunity to sing while on the job. A connection to his Italian heritage also appealed to him.

Mr. Ruffino soon discovered rowing a gondola offered an opportunity for him to compete, too. Now, in addition to working as a yoga and fitness instructor and nude model for artists, Mr. Ruffino spends several hours a week training.

An opportunity to sing on the job and a connection to his Italian heritage is what first drew Mr. Ruffino to gondoliering.
An opportunity to sing on the job and a connection to his Italian heritage is what first drew Mr. Ruffino to gondoliering. Photo: MICHAL CZERWONKA for The Wall Street Journal
The Workout

About two times a week, Mr. Ruffino spends about an hour doing a form of yoga called sculpt, which he describes as hot yoga with weights. He will wear a weighted vest and an altitude mask while practicing. He’ll also spend about an hour four times a week doing traditional yoga.

Mr. Ruffino also spends about a half-hour four times a week doing exercises that focus on his joints, tendons and ligaments. He’ll do strength training, using machines and free weights, for 90 minutes twice a week. He added the weight training to his regimen after a competition in Stillwater, Minn., where strong winds caused him to fall behind.

“That made me realize you can have the best technique in the world, but if it’s a windy day, it’s just a matter of who is stronger,” he says.

Mr. Ruffino developed his own twist on burpees—an exercise that involves a jump in the air followed by a push-up—to help him train. Instead of a traditional push-up, Mr. Ruffino will do a staggered push-up. His left hand rests on the ground and his right hand on a block and a bit closer to his hip, to help mimic the angle of the oar. Rather than jumping, he does a lunge hop.

Mr. Ruffino calls these gurpees, or gondola burpees, and by the time the competition comes around, he likes to be able to do 45 minutes of them straight.

He also spends as much time in the boat as possible perfecting his stroke, including practicing with teammates.

Finally, Mr. Ruffino exercises his mind. About seven to 10 times a week, he’ll visualize his races. Since Mr. Ruffino competes in the distance races, which can last as long as 45 minutes, maintaining focus is important. “If you have a bad stroke, it takes a long time to re-correct,” he says.

Mr. Ruffino spends several hours per week rowing, doing yoga and ‘gurpees,’ or gondola burpees, an exercise he developed to train for gondola races.
Mr. Ruffino spends several hours per week rowing, doing yoga and ‘gurpees,’ or gondola burpees, an exercise he developed to train for gondola races. Photo: MICHAL CZERWONKA for The Wall Street Journal
The Gear

Mr. Ruffino uses a variety of equipment in his workout throughout the week. He spent about $80 on the weighted vest, about $80 on the altitude training mask and roughly $10 on a metronome, which he and his teammates will use to stay in sync. He’s also well-stocked with more typical exercise equipment, like a jump rope ($10) and medicine ball ($30).

For competitions he wears a blue, striped T-shirt in the mode of the classic gondolier look, and white work pants.

The Diet

Mr. Ruffino describes his body type—he’s 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds—as “light and slender,” which makes it difficult for him to bulk up and build muscle mass.

To counter that, Mr. Ruffino says he tries to get as many healthy calories as possible. He’s frequently drinking shakes with foods like banana, peanut butter, berries, açaí and added protein powder. He’ll also try to eat carbohydrate-heavy meals in advance of workouts. “I eat more pizza than any two people I’ve ever seen in my life,” he says.

The Playlist

When Mr. Ruffino and his teammates train together, they sometimes use a metronome to keep their strokes on the same rhythm. When he’s training alone, Mr. Ruffino gravitates toward music with a high energy, but that also has a steady drumbeat, like punk or Afrobeat.

So You Want to Race a Gondola

Want to become a competition-level gondolier? (Or at least learn how to row one of the boats?) Experience in other sports can help.

Athletes who understand the water, like surfers, stand-up paddlers and rowers, make some of the best gondoliers, says Greg Mohr, who owns Gondola Adventures, a company that offers gondola rides in Irving, Texas, and Newport Beach, Calif. Michael Ruffino works for Mr. Mohr.

Cyclists and motocross racers also have “a little bit of an edge,” Mr. Mohr says. Those sports also require athletic control of a vehicle.

For John Kerschbaum, 61, who has taken passengers on gondolas in Minnesota’s St. Croix River since 2001, decades of experience in tai chi have been crucial to his success driving the boats. “It’s the only thing that’s kept me on the boat a number of times,” he says.

Both agree that the key to success in gondoliering is practice. That’s perfecting the technique, voga alla veneta, used to propel gondolas and other, similar boats. It’s been “tweaked and perfected to be effective and yet easy on the body,” Mr. Mohr says.

The efficiency of the Venetian stroke allows gondoliers to continue rowing beyond their athletic prime. Matthew “Marcello” Haynes, who owns La Gondola Providence in Rhode Island, which will host the U.S. Gondola Nationals this year, is 39. That’s almost twice the age of many of the rowers working for him. Thanks to a technique he’s honed over the past 20 years, Mr. Haynes can hold his own against gondoliers half his age and, if the distance is long enough, even beat them. “Give me enough time and I could smoke them all,” he jokes.

What’s your workout? Tell us at workout@wsj.com

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‘Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion’ Review: Piecing Together the Van Campen Clan

Proposed reconstruction of Frans Hals’s complete ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25)
Proposed reconstruction of Frans Hals’s complete ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25) Photo: Toledo Museum of Art

Toledo, Ohio

‘Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion,” at the Toledo Museum of Art, might just as easily have been subtitled “An Art History Mystery.” Or “The Secret Life of a 17th-Century Masterpiece.” Or “A Lesson in Connoisseurship.” Or—let’s just say the exhibit has many stories to tell.

Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion

Toledo Museum of Art
Through Jan. 6, 2019

More Art Reviews

It began when curator Lawrence W. Nichols saw Hals’s “Family Portrait in a Landscape” (c. 1623-25) at a London gallery in 2010 and immediately worked to acquire it for the Toledo Museum. Knowing that it was a fragment of a larger painting—its unfocused composition and unmet glances among the subjects are telltale signs—he set out to organize an exhibition that would reunite it with the artist’s “Three Children With a Goat Cart” at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. As early as the 1920s, art historians had noted similarities between the pair, which had been split by the end of the 18th century (why is a matter of conjecture). Some experts had also proposed that a small portrait in a private collection, “Head of a Boy,” belonged to this sprawling painting, but others disagreed.

Separately, about five years ago, the Dutch art historian Pieter Biesboer had identified the subject of the work as the large Van Campen family.

The Hals work formerly known as ‘Family Portrait in a Landscape,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25)
The Hals work formerly known as ‘Family Portrait in a Landscape,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25) Photo: Toledo Museum of Art

Then the discoveries, presented here for the first time, began. Belgian conservators—cleaning their painting for this exhibition—discovered the presence of about half of a girl on the far right of their canvas who had been painted over. Adding to the excitement, her lace collar matched a fragment visible in “Head of a Boy,” cementing his presence as part of this family portrait. Cleaning also revealed two hems on the left of the Belgian work that complete the dresses of two girls on the right of the Toledo painting—leaving no doubt that these paintings were all once part of a whole.

And what a whole it is. Hung here so that each work occupies the same place it would have in the intact work, the paintings show the great portraitist at his best. Rather than depict the sitters looking at the viewer—only three of the 14 figures stare out, one being the obviously proud patriarch—Hals creates a lively scene of merry faces, twinkling eyes, and dynamic hand gestures that signal family interactions. In this relatively early painting by Hals—the first of his four known family group portraits—he deploys a more controlled style of brushwork than the thick, bold strokes that made many of his portraits famous, but it’s never stilted. It’s lifelike. As usual, Hals made his changes right on the canvas—not a single drawing by him survives—and he did it with care as well as flair.

But the Toledo painting, now renamed “The Van Campen Family in a Landscape,” has an anomaly: the baby on the lower left. Connoisseurs—and viewers—can clearly tell by the differences in style (its rigidity, the too-obvious shine on her cheeks) that it was by another hand, not Hals. On the baby’s right shoe is confirmation: It’s signed by Salomon de Bray and dated 1628. With additional archival research, Mr. Biesboer determined that the Van Campens had 14 children—six boys and eight girls—including a daughter born after this painting was finished. Art historians theorize that the Van Campens, thinking their family was complete, commissioned the painting at some celebratory moment, but later were compelled to add their new child. Hals may have been too busy to do the job.

The Hals work formerly known as ‘Three Children With a Goat Cart,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25)
The Hals work formerly known as ‘Three Children With a Goat Cart,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25) Photo: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Be

The three fragments account for 12 children, but what of the other two, both girls? They must have occupied the lost, lower-right corner. In Toledo, a freestanding panel illustrates an educated possibility: a sitting girl with a youngster on her lap. This piece may still exist, somewhere, but it’s more likely that it was destroyed by fire or flood—damage that may also have caused the 11-foot-long painting to be divided.

Impressively, the exhibition includes all three of Hals’s other family groups; his stunning portrait of a newly married couple; and a pair of single portraits of a couple by Hals, as well as several Dutch paintings by others and decorative-art objects from the 17th century. They create the Hals milieu beautifully, but cannot compete with this fascinating reunion of three works that have not been seen together for more than 200 years.

Those galleries contain the splendid core of this exhibition. In an attempt to make it more “relevant,” the museum has wrapped them with two others. A large initial gallery questions the meaning of family and displays other family-related artworks from the museum’s permanent collection; these range from an Egyptian pair-statue of Reramu and his wife Ankhet (c. 2400 B.C.) to five photographs of contemporary anthropological groups, like “Goth Girls” and “sports fans,” by Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek (2004). At the other end, a family activity room allows visitors to reflect on the meaning of family with others in the room, aided by puzzles, games and books. Both were superfluous to me and, I suspect, will be for others. Fortunately, they did not subtract from the edifying exhibition at the center.

The Hals work known as ‘Head of a Boy,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25)
The Hals work known as ‘Head of a Boy,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25) Photo: Toledo Museum of Art

Luke Cage Cancelled After Two Seasons On Netflix

Another one of Netflix’s Marvel series officially bites the dust, and this one will come as a shock to many. Exactly one week after news broke that Iron Fist had been cancelled after two seasons, Marvel and Netflix announced that Luke Cage too has been cancelled. The series ran for two seasons on the streaming service and will not return for a third. Not-so-sweet Christmas!

Even after the streaming service announced the cancellation of Iron Fist, Luke Cage seemed safe from also getting the axe. Although the Mike Colter-led superhero series never generated as much buzz as Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it was well-received by a large number of viewers, and the showrunner actually used the negative reviews for Season 1 to try and improve Season 2. Iron Fist was largely panned by critics and viewers. Nevertheless, Luke Cage joins Iron Fist on the list of cancelled Marvel TV shows.

Netflix and Marvel released a joint statement confirming the cancellation, saying this (via THR):

The bad news about Luke Cage comes on the very same day that many Marvel fans were ready to celebrate, as the long-awaited third season of Daredevil finally released on Netflix. Will the new Daredevil episodes soften the blow of the Luke Cage cancellation, or will the cancellation be a downer for viewers as they watch Daredevil? Neither Marvel nor Netflix has released details about what led to the cancellation, which happened in spite of the writers room already at work and delivering scripts for a third season.

That said, a source reports that the cancellation happened because of creative differences and parties being unable to reach a deal to keep the show going. Netflix was reportedly not thrilled by the scripts for Season 3 that had been delivered, leading to a pause on the writers room, and disagreements about potential changes to personnel on top of creative differences could not be resolved. Thus, Luke Cage is no more.

The cancellation of Luke Cage — on the premiere date of Daredevil Season 3, no less — will undoubtedly prompt worries about the remaining Marvel shows on Netflix. The Defenders was never guaranteed a future beyond the first season, although there are evidently ways a second season could happen with some big changes.

The Punisher Season 2 is undoubtedly going to hit the web on Netflix, as production began a while ago. Jessica Jones was renewed for a third season back in April, and star Krysten Ritter has been open about her hopes for Season 3, so the odds are pretty good that at least one more season of Jessica Jones will happen. As for Daredevil… well, Marvel has enough ideas to keep going through Season 4 and beyond.

Are the cancellations of Iron Fist and Luke Cage the beginning of a trend, or did both just happen to warrant cancellation within a week of each other? It’s worth noting that the possibility of Iron Fist returning on the Disney streaming service was floated when it was cancelled last week. The same has not yet happened for Luke Cage, but that’s not to say that it’s out of the question. There are big plans in place for Marvel shows on the streaming service.

Why Supernatural’s Michael Is Allowed To Be Funny, According To Jensen Ackles

When Supernatural picked up for Season 14, fans didn’t get a double dose of the Winchester boys as usual. Although Dean was still around in the first couple of episodes, he spent almost the entire time as the archangel Michael’s vessel while Michael murdered people and made deals with monsters. You might think that playing such a despicable character would leave no room for laughs, but Jensen Ackles still managed to deliver some humor, even if it was fairly dark. Here’s why Ackles believes Michael is allowed to be funny:

It took years for Castiel, a.k.a. everybody’s favorite angel and the source of plenty of comic relief, to actually be deliberately funny, as angels are generally lacking in humor. According to Jensen Ackles in comments to EW, he originally intended to play the archangel Michael the same sort of way. Besides, it’s not like Michael would fall into the same foibles as Cas did in his early days in a vessel, so we probably wouldn’t even laugh at him.

The good news for Jensen Ackles was that Supernatural has featured a couple of angels with genuine senses of humor, although their humor wasn’t always on a level humans appreciated. Those couple of angels were archangels themselves, and the precedent was set for archangels to have some humor to them. Lucifer was proof that an archangel didn’t have to double as a Trickster to be funny, so Michael was allowed to be funny as a villain as well. Entertaining Michael beats monotone Michael any day, as far as I’m concerned.

Of course, after 13 full seasons of history, there’s a precedent for the characters to get weird and funny in plenty of ways. It’s always difficult to say when Supernatural is going to reach back into its own history and pull something to the present, whether it’s a character or a type of monster or even a case. Dean as Michael isn’t even the first time that a Winchester brother has been possessed by an archangel. He’s technically the third of John Winchester’s sons to become an archangel vessel!

That said, Supernatural could still go in some very new directions with Michael. Unfortunately, the second episode of Season 14 ended with Michael having vacated Dean for some reason. My fingers are very much crossed that this was a temporary twist and the archangel will be back in Dean before too long. It may not be a very kind wish for Dean’s sake, but Dean as vessel for such a huge villain is a story with a great deal of potential, and Jensen Ackles could flex his acting muscles.

We’ll have to wait and see if Jensen Ackles gets to portray Michael again and deliver some more humor of the archangel variety. New episodes of Supernatural air on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW as part of the fall TV lineup.

It Turns Out, Games-As-Service Is Really Profitable

You may hate microtransactions, in-game app purchases, day-one DLC, season passes and loot boxes, but they’re here to stay. Because no matter how much hate any one single gamer throws at these monetary mechanisms that continue to creep their way into every major title at an increasingly alarming rate, the reality is that they’re really profitable for publishers.

According to a report from DFC Intelligence, focusing on games-as-a-service monetary models has helped Activision grow its market intake from $10 billion to over $60 billion since 2012. And Activision isn’t the only one who has seen massive gains in recent years thanks to game-as-a-service systems. Electronic Arts saw a massive uptick from $4 billion in 2012 to $33 billion.

As noted by GameDaily.biz, the real highlight here is that companies are producing fewer boxed products while relying more on digital transactions. The article points out that EA only has seven announced boxed products set to go on sale in fiscal 2019, and four of those titles are the annual sports titles such as Madden’s NFL, the FIFA series, NHL and the NBA Live series. The fifth product is BioWare’s MMO-themed third-person shooter, Anthem. For this year the last big boxed product that EA will ship is Battlefield V for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

The article points out that services like the MUT packs, the UFC UT packs, the FUT packs and the HUT packs have all helped push massive revenue for Electronic Arts. Microtransactions and DLC packs in games like Battlefield and Star Wars: Battlefront, as well as expansions for The Sims 4, have also all contributed to $2 billion in revenue throughout the last fiscal year for EA. So basically, the company is making billions of dollars just selling skins, card packs and DLC.

This is all in compensation for a drop in sales of physical releases (which were down by 17% last year) and an increase in digital revenue from microtransactions or live services (which were up by 31% last year).

As pointed out in the article, the revenue and profits are just too much for most AAA publishers to pass up, which is why we’re seeing more games including DLC and mictrotransactions right out of the gate while AAA boxed products continue to dwindle in market presence. This tactic worked well at first for many mobile games just until over-saturation took hold of the mobile market, forcing a lot of studios to either fight for the top spots on the app charts or fold up.

We’ll see how this further affects the mainstream gaming industry over the next few years as we watch more live-services taking hold while traditional physical releases continue to become rarities on the market.

This will all be especially interesting when the next generation of home consoles arrive, because it’s going to be difficult getting people to move to the next gen of hardware by promising more microtransactions in games that are several years old. We could, however, see more remastered games with updated cash shops making their presence known, similar to what Rockstar did moving GTA V from the Xbox 360 and PS3 over to the Xbox One and PS4.

Telltale’s Guardians Of The Galaxy And Minecraft Were Almost Very Different

Now that Telltale Games has basically let go almost all of its staff, we’re starting to get quite a few stories from behind-the-scenes about the production of various games, alternate endings, and postmortem details about various projects, including Guardians of the Galaxy and Minecraft.

Over on GamesIndustry.biz, it was revealed that during a presentation at the Sweden Game Conference, Emily Grace Buck, the former narrative designer at Telltale Games, broke down some of the design decisions that led to a misreading of Telltale’s games and the audience that they were making the games for. Buck explained how Guardians of the Galaxy ended up being tonally different from what fans of the series may have been expecting:

I can definitely see how that happened, and it’s something I both agree and disagree with. Buck states that originally Telltale’s take on Guardians of the Galaxy was filled with humor and comedy, and that it was all extricated in place of the darker tone the game went for. In a way, some of the darker elements did actually help add gravitas to the overall story, and, in the later episodes, it helped give weight to some of the decisions that can be made that drastically alter the character development, especially for Drax and Rocket. Being too lighthearted likely would have diminished the impact of certain subplots; but on the flip side, maybe being more comical would have made the entire adventure more appealing and entertaining for a broader audience.

It’s easy to pick apart what supposedly didn’t work in hindsight, but it’s not always easy to tell what wouldn’t work while you’re actually working on the project… unless it’s Minecraft.

Buck noted that some of the original thematic elements for Minecraft: Story Mode were designed with a ‘T’ for Teen rating in mind, not younger kids. This was something that the studio had to go back and redo after initially developing the story.

Now in a case like that, it’s pretty obvious that there’s some sort of misreadings going on if the game that was supposed to be designed for little kids is being made to appeal to teens and adults.

It kind of speaks volumes to the kind of corporate culture at Telltale where some of the franchises weren’t quite being built around the kind of topical matter that they should have been from the start. Rewriting, redoing and remaking content is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, and not only can it hurt the finished product in terms of story consistency, but it also ramps up the overall budget.

Obviously there were a lot of issues that culminated in Telltale shutting down, but based on Buck’s retelling of what was happening with some of the franchises, it appeared as if misreading what the audience wanted helped contribute to the less-than-stellar sales that some of Telltale’s titles produced.