The strange, destructive fan obsession with Avengers: Endgame beating Avatar at the box office

Avengers: Endgame is not the highest-grossing film of all time. It still sits somewhere behind 2009’s Avatar, by around $6 million at the time of this article’s publication.

If you watch or read the propaganda, this race is a bid to unseat an undeserving film with something proper. It would put the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its rightful place at the pinnacle of a monetary hierarchy. In the sport of box office earnings, the top spot establishes a clear winner, and certain fans have decided the MCU must be that winner. Following along, you might think that there’s some kind of justice at stake here.

But the only thing that focusing on blockbuster profits does for fans is suck up their money like a mega-corporate vacuum. This record doesn’t mean that artistic goals were met, that performances were excellent, or that a film was even enjoyable to watch. Box office, in fact, has almost nothing to do with a film proper, and everything to do with the context around it. The top spot didn’t make Avatar a better film, and falling to No. 2 doesn’t mean it’s a slightly worse film. For better or worse, Avatar has had a marginal cultural footprint since its release.

Despite that, though, there’s still an intense focus on the raw truth of monetary charts that has completely overwhelmed any discussion of whether people actually enjoy the films competing with one another. There are livestreams dedicated to tracking moment-to-moment profits of Endgame against Avatar via methods that are, to me at least, extremely opaque.

The top comment on a Reddit thread about how close Endgame is to the top rank notes that if everyone in r/MarvelStudios watched the film again it would already be #1. These are calls to action: You need to give Disney a bit more of your money to make things right and put Endgame at the top of the charts.

Focusing on numbers going up, and asking fans to identify with that number like they’re at a local sports game, only achieves the goal of getting fans to pump more money into a franchise. Highlighting that race to the top just pulls more people into the cycle. It’s a method of pumping fans for more cash, and it should be resisted for the cynicism that it is.

Who benefits from the race?

Julia Alexander’s excellent write-up about this phenomenon at The Verge has all the details of this most recent race between Endgame and Avatar. Despite a lackluster re-release of Endgame with an additional anemic scene, Avatar is still at the top of the list, and Alexander and fans “riling each other up to continue spending money at the box office” may not be able to unseat Avatar in the near future. The film might catch up, especially due to a heavy push coinciding with Comic-Con, but that doesn’t make the fans’ ire or determination any less strange or worthy of criticism.

She hits a certain cultural nail on the head when she says that contemporary fandom exerts pressure for this specific form of success. As she notes, people paid $15 to see an additional 18 seconds of film, and that was supposed to mean something: “The success of a film,” she explains, “at its core, mirrors the success of that community.”

The push for the top of the box office is simply marketing, even if it’s often fan-driven marketing. Like a trailer or solid key art, it’s part of a formula to get us to associate a product with quality. Entertainment companies are pushing a paradox that works despite being nonsensical: it made money because it is good, and it is good because it makes money.

It’s worth remembering that while the community provides initial power for films, there is a place where that plateaus out in predictable performance. How much money Endgame makes has no bearing on any upcoming Marvel films. This isn’t a scrappy company fighting cancellation with fan donations and petitions. This is one of the most profitable media companies on the planet, running up the scoreboard.

The top spot is not about making people happier or improving their experience of these films in any way. The re-release arguably made that experience worse, or at least soured it with a disappointing addition. It is simply money for money’s sake, the kind of thing that Disney CEO Bob Iger can mention in his investor report to instill shareholder confidence or for the re-release marketing to fold into their advertising push.

But monetary success for a film can sometimes be reliably predicted without any of this. Movie studios do everything they can to make blockbusters a sure bet. In a piece published in the Journal of Marketing in 2003, three academics determined that movie stars and a big budget could reliably temper negative reviews.

“In some sense,” the authors conclude, “big budgets and stars serve as an insurance policy.” In a study published in Applied Economics in 2011, another group of researchers found that a 1 percent increase to a film’s budget equates to a 0.375 percent increase in how much money it makes. Agreeing with previous research, they explain that “the production budget has the ability to raise the minimum revenue that a movie might earn, but has a relatively small influence on its potential maximum.” What both of these studies suggest is that you can always guarantee a number of butts in seats with a budget of, say, something in the range of $350 million.

A big-budget film can help secure a floor, but what about a ceiling? In a 2015 article in the Journal of Advertising Research, scholars determined that there are three primary ways of determining pre-release enthusiasm for a film: the size of the budget, whether or not it’s a sequel, and if it’s an action film. Endgame ticks all of those boxes, and it’s a double sequel of sorts in that it inherits both the momentum of the entire MCU broadly and Infinity War directly.

This is all to say that there’s some backing behind the idea that Endgame was destined to make a significant chunk of change regardless of its quality. It is the definition of a safe, money-making venture, the film equivalent of a savings account with a guaranteed return. It doesn’t need you to buy a second, or third, ticket. Its cultural dominance is already ensured, and it was ensured long before it was released.

What does that leave us with? We’re talking about accruing money. Full stop.

The only real case I have found for caring about these numbers as a fan, for really getting into how much a film makes, is a piece by Simon Brew from 2010 where he argues that fans have to care about box office because it allows them to predict the future of their favorite things. For him, the box office is what lets certain creators live or die. But that doesn’t factor into the top slot for all-time gross. Endgame’s creative team, its company, and its intellectual property will enjoy blue skies for the foreseeable future regardless of whether the movie makes another $6 million or so.

And as Edward Jay Epstein claimed in a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review in 2012, the finances of Hollywood are so bizarre that journalists (and by extension, fans) who engage in the rat race of the charts are doing themselves a disservice because they’re missing the “real story” by focusing on the unreality of dollar signs. The real money, Epstein claims, is in licensing and the long tail of content.

Following Epstein, we should recognize that the value Endgame has as a product — to drive subscribers to the streaming service Disney Plus for the next few decades — vastly outstrips the still-significant value it has as a product in theaters. The race to the top is a partial picture in a great game of money, and that’s something for fans and journalists alike to grapple with: is your coverage now just an implicit part of a marketing strategy that will outlive you? Will the banner “Top Grossing Film Of All Time” plastered on every info box work longer than you’re able to provide for yourself?

The Marvel fans’ desire to unseat Avatar as the top grossing film of all time is ultimately an attempt to help one of the largest corporations on this planet squeeze more money from fans and provide more value for stockholders. It is an endeavor to strengthen a titan of entertainment that is already so swollen and dominant that some are calling for it to be broken up.

It is a false race to the top that has no value other than bragging rights, and they’re bragging rights for a company that’s going to do well regardless. This is a fight to make companies more profitable, and we shouldn’t pretend it is anything else.


EON Super 64 HDMI Adapter Review: The Cost Of Convenience

There was a time not that long ago when video game consoles didn’t support a common standard like HDMI, and we instead relied on a range of different analog connections to play low-res games on bulky CRT TVs. Composite video, the most common of these connections, resulted in blurry, noisy images, but hardly anyone noticed or cared at the time. Plug that same cable into your HDTV today and you may have a very hard time looking past the color bleeding, improper de-interlacing, and slow image scaling that results. This is where a product like EON’s Super 64 HDMI adapter comes in handy, but at $150, you might think twice before investing above and beyond the cost of the console itself just to upgrade its video output.

The Super 64 is still based on an analog video signal, but it draws on the N64’s S-Video encoder, which provides a noticeably cleaner image than composite. The Super 64 then upscales and digitizes the audio and video to send it over HDMI to your TV. While your TV also includes a signal processor that will upscale a composite or S-Video signal in roughly the same manner, the Super 64 is designed with retro gaming in mind, offering faster, more intelligent upscaling to 480p, which results in a cleaner image and less input lag than connecting a low-res analog source directly to your HD or 4K TV.

Click the image for a closer look at the difference the Super 64 makes over standard composite video.

While this may sound complicated if you’re unfamiliar with these terms, using the Super 64 is a very straightforward process: plug it into your Nintendo 64, connect an HDMI cable to the other end and plug it into your TV, and start playing. The only option you have is to press a small button that activates Slick mode, which is just a fancy term for a smoothing filter that can blur rough edges–an effect that really just muddies the overall image. Otherwise, the Super 64 simply works, and that includes with notoriously finicky games that output unusual resolutions outside of the more common 320×240, such as Indiana Jones and The Infernal Machine. We couldn’t test every N64 game, but every game with an odd (and standard, for that matter) resolution that we tested worked without issue.

As a turnkey solution that just works, the Super 64 makes for a very attractive option if you’re put off by modern TVs’ improper handling of low-res N64 video. It does what it promises, and the physical shape of the adapter is very thoughtfully designed, with a bump on the bottom to help support the adapter as it extends out the back of your console. All that said, at $150, there are cheaper alternatives that not only provide similar functionality, but also work with any retro console you may own.

Mike Chi’s $99 RetroTINK-2X is the best option in the same product category. It accepts composite, S-Video, or component video inputs and properly scales the signal to 480p over HDMI. It does require USB power, and isn’t as robustly built as the Super 64, but the fact that it’s technically comparable (it, too, has a smoothing filter) and can work with multiple systems makes the high cost and proprietary nature of the Super 64 stand out as less cost-effective.

EON’s Super 64 is a great-looking device that does exactly what it promises, but it’s not the only option on the market.

If you aren’t worried about playing multiple retro consoles and just want the best Nintendo 64 experience possible on an HDTV, you can go above and beyond the cost of the Super 64 to get an internal mod, known as UltraHDMI, that will provide numerous options including support for 720p and 1080p, and the ability to undo the Nintendo 64’s default pixel blurring that occurs on the processor level. The UltraHDMI mod is more expensive at $165, is rarely in stock at its primary distributor, and requires a complicated install that’s only for experienced electronics tinkerers, but if you’re ready to invest $150 for a good HDMI solution in the Super 64, you might as well consider that the best solution isn’t considerably more expensive.

None of this is to diminish the fact that the Super 64 is a good product that works exactly as promised, but it does highlight the fact that it sits at a very challenging price point. Whether or not the cost is warranted comes down to your personal sensitivity to video quality and input lag, and how dedicated you are to the Nintendo 64, versus retro gaming in general.

EON’s Super 64 is on sale now, but the first wave is currently sold out. Pre-orders for the next batch can be placed over at Castlemania Games.

Editor’s note: EON provided GameSpot with a complimentary Super 64 for review.


I Play Destiny As A Warlock But Now Think I Should Be A Titan

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

As far back as I can remember, I, like Ray Liotta, have always wanted to be a Warlock. My daddy was a Warlock. His daddy was a Warlock. Warlockin’ is in my blood, I thought as I started up Destiny for the first time in 2014. When Destiny 2 was released three years later, I stuck to what I knew. I stayed a Warlock.

Sure, in the past, I have dabbled in other classes. In Destiny, I eventually rolled a Hunter, but by the time I did, Destiny 2 was on the horizon. I tried playing a Hunter again in the sequel, but changes to the way Destiny worked made it not feel as fun. So I continued, a Warlock, like I’ve always been. It’s been five years now, and I think I’ve been making a mistake.

Character classes in Destiny are weird. It’s a first-person shooter, so your class can never really overshadow the shooting for more than a few moments—like, say, when you trigger your show-stopping super ability. Outside of that, a lot of the differences are subtle. Classes influence the way your jumps work, what kind of grenade and melee attacks you use, and how all those abilities work together and complement the players around you.

Destiny’s Warlocks are glass cannons, which is typical for mage classes in most role-playing games. You can’t take a terrible amount of damage, but your super abilities can wreck face from afar. Also, Warlocks have a bunch of melee and grenade skills that can be tuned to set off fun little chain reactions good for clearing out foes when you’re in a jam. I like playing a Warlock, but recently, I’ve also been starting to think a little more honestly about how I play Destiny 2, and it is…not like a Warlock.

I’ve just got to be in there, man, smashing Hive Ogres to bits up close and personal. I wanna feel like a walking space tank, not a floating space artillery. It’s time for a change. I want to be a Titan.

I realized this the other day as I was running some bounties using my Stormcaller sub-class. It’s got this super ability called Storm Trance that lets you float around the battlefield and fire the game’s version of Force Lightning at everyone around you. It’s a cool ability, and one of the few Warlock skills that lets you get up close and really scrap, if only for a little bit.

Unlike most online role-playing games, changing classes in Destiny 2 is not that big a deal. Doing it doesn’t come with the sort of guilt that my colleague Heather Alexandra experienced when she changed classes in Final Fantasy XIV. There’s less riding on your decision. Party composition matters for some of Destiny’stoughest challenges, but for the day-to-day of it, you can run whatever you like and be fine. It’s just work, since I’ll have to level up a new character from scratch. I don’t know if I want to do that work, especially because I know massive changes are coming in September when Destiny 2: Shadowkeep launches.

This is the drawback of playing a live game like Destiny. The world of the game can be mercurial; substantial changes can occur at any time, rendering decisions you make today moot tomorrow. That’s part of the fun, of course—learning the meta, figuring out the most effective ways to find what you need and get the best loot with every new update—but it also has a way of driving me into a narrow focus, from keeping me from wanting to spread myself too thin.

So maybe I’ll just stay a Warlock, at least until Shadowkeep drops and I have this existential crisis all over again this September. Who knows. Change is good, maybe.


New trailer for Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 promises a brutal end to the film series in June 2020

The final movie in the Rebuild of Evangelion reboot film series finally has a new teaser trailer after years of waiting. Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 is the fourth film in the series, which is a reinterpretation of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion anime. It will hit theaters in Japan in June 2020.

The trailer is predominantly a whole bunch of creatures and Evangelion units accompanied by a quintessentially Evangelion, vocal-heavy soundtrack. Along the way, we also catch glances of Asuka, Rei, Shinji, and Kaworu, a puzzling appearance given the events of Evangelion 3.0. While the Rebuild of Evangelion movie series aligns with the anime in its early stages, the plot diverges towards the end of the series, with the fourth film promising a novel conclusion.

The original television run of Neon Genesis Evangelion, in addition to follow-up films EVANGELION: DEATH (TRUE)² and The End of Evangelion, hit Netflix in June, finally finding a legal streaming home in the United States.


How Gears 5’s Arcade mode works, and why it’s important

The technical test for Gears 5 starts Friday, and with it comes an all-new game mode called Arcade. Polygon sat down with Ryan Cleven, The Coalition’s multiplayer design director, to chat about the design goals and what fans of the franchise should expect when they boot the game up for the first time on Xbox One.

Traditionally, the Gears of War franchise has had a very different style of gameplay from other multiplayer shooters. There’s the cover elements, of course, but stylistically the game relies on close-quarters engagements more than some others. Arcade is intended to ease in fans of multiplayer shooters who just might not otherwise be ready for that.

“‘Gears is that kind of game that, whenever I go into it, I get shotgunned in the face and I don’t know why,’” Cleven said, mimicking the complaints of a traditional FPS player. “Arcade is an experience that might be more familiar to you, as well as being something that players who have played the series their whole life will also enjoy.”

Cleven describes Arcade mode as a combination between a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive-style weapon buying system and a more traditional hero shooter like Overwatch. Before a match, players will be able to take on the role of one of several iconic characters, including Marcus Fenix, and an assortment of comparable locust enemies. Each one will have their own different loadout, their own passive ability, and a weapon tree.

The character select screen from the technical test of the Arcade mode for Gears 5. It shows Kait Diaz and four other characters, as well as the custom loadout and weapon tree available for her. The Coalition/Microsoft

Each one will also have an associated bounty, which provides a bonus for playing to type. Kills and bounties will earn skulls, which can be cashed in to advance up a given character’s weapon tree. Skulls carry over after death, and upgrades can be purchased at any time. Videos show players leaving cover with one weapon and arriving in front of the enemy with a completely different weapon, so expect bluffing to play a key role in the evolution of each match as players feel each other out.

“With Gears 5 we feel comfortable that we’ve proven ourselves,” The Coalition’s Cleven said, “and we want to make our own mark on [multiplayer] and do a bit of a departure from what Gears has traditionally done, and this really manifests inside Arcade, which is to try to de-emphasize just the singularly shotgun play to bring about a much more diverse combat experience.”

In the end, this is a test after all. Arcade mode might not be for everyone, especially fans of the traditional double-tap style of shotgun play or the new Escalation game type that is the hallmark of high-level play. But Cleven and his team are hoping fans give it a try regardless.

“If you’re a campaign player and you hate PvP, this mode isn’t going to convince you to love PvP,” he said. “It’s our take on a hero shooter [that still relies on Gears’] core of intimate violence.”

The Gears 5 tech test starts July 19 at 10 a.m. PDT and goes until July 22 at 10 a.m. PDT. A second technical test begins on July 26 at 10 a.m. PDT and runs through July 29 at 10 a.m. PDT. Expect status updates throughout the test on social media, and on the official website. Gears 5 arrives for Xbox One and Windows PC on Sept. 10.


Disney’s Millenium Falcon attraction just had its millionth rider

The Millennium Falcon attraction at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge just had its millionth rider. That’s a pace of nearly 24,000 riders per day. It’s a lot of foot traffic, even for the ship that made the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs.

The number counters some online critics who have mistaken crowd control for poor attendance. It’s a major milestone for the ambitious Star Wars-themed land, and testament to Disney Parks’ near mastery of line management.

Galaxy’s Edge opened in Anaheim, California, with only one of its two main attractions. You’d think that would have created lines that stretched all the way back to the Disneyland entrance, but on opening day things felt pretty calm. Waits ranged from 30 to 90 minutes for Smugglers Run during out time in the park, and people seemed to be moving through at a brisk pace.

Turns out they were moving a lot more briskly than we thought.

More than anything, it speaks to the pressures that the team at Disney Parks must be under to get the next ride, called Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, right. Some say that it’s one of the longest rides that Disney’s famed Imagineers have ever created, and also among the most complex. Early reports say it’s effectively four rides in one, and even includes simulated blaster fire and pyrotechnics. It’s telling, then, that even though Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland first, Rise of the Resistance won’t be welcoming guests in California until after the ride opens in Orlando, Florida. Disney Parks pegged the attraction’s opening day for Dec. 5 at Disney World, while fans in California will have to wait until Jan. 17.


All the Legendary Cosplay We Saw at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Day 1

San Diego Comic-Con is back, baby, and the cosplay is looking bigger and better than ever. Thousands of cosplayers and fans have flocked to the San Diego Convention Center to show off their tributes to amazing shows, films, comics, and video games. And we’ve got it all right here.

Take a look at io9’s video and photo collection, highlighting our favorite finds from Wednesday and Thursday. We’ve got a terrifying Tethered duo from Us, a shockingly uncanny Princess Anastasia, and a couple that apparently got devoured by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Leave a comment with your favorites, or share your own look from SDCC! Also, be sure to head to our Instagram Stories, where we’re sharing even more looks and cool finds from the con floor. Have fun!

Ice to meet you, Sub-Zero.
Photo: io9/Gizmodo
We’re gonna be legends! Mirage, Bangalore, Bloodhound, and Wattson from Apex Legends are here to take the number 1 spot.
Photo: io9/Gizmodo

Conan readies his sword.
Photo: io9/Gizmodo
Snow White’s looking rather dapper.
Photo: io9/Gizmodo

Dread him. Run from him. Thanos still arrives.
Photo: io9/Gizmodo
Indiana Jones has found her own kind of Comic-Con swag.
Photo: io9/Gizmodo

For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.


You now can stream all 255 episodes of Robotech for free

Robotech, the classic 1980s anime about transforming mechs, is now available to stream for free. During the Robotech panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Harmony Gold, the original distributor, announced that it was partnering with the streaming platform and film distribution company FilmRise to bring every episode of Robotech online.

Robotech is really a combination of three unrelated but similar Japanese anime series: Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. The three series were adapted for American audiences and combined into the single Robotech series. Each one has a similar premise: giant transformable mecha fighting outside forces in the future.

The new partnership with FilmRise will make available every episode in the series history. That includes the original Robotech series, the remastered version of the original, and the movie. The partnership also includes the three original non-Robotech-branded shows that were the basis for Robotech. In total, there will be 255 episodes available to stream. The series will also offer 11 hours of bonus footage, including original promotional videos, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and documentaries.

Robotech is available to stream now on the FilmRise streaming service, the Roku Channel, or on Vudu. These platforms will have the series available to stream for free via their ad-supported option.


X-Men Barbies and Batman vs. TMNT figures announced at SDCC, coming soon to GameStop

GameStop announced two new toy collections at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 and both sets focus on classic franchise mashups.

In honor of Marvel’s 80th Anniversary and the release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Mattel is releasing three X-(wo)Men Barbies: Storm, Mystique, and Dark Phoenix. Speaking only for myself, despite celebrating the most disappointing Marvel movie since The Wolverine, these Barbies look rad as heck. As someone who loved both lady superheroes and playing with dolls growing up, superheroine barbies are especially exciting. I’m particularly drawn to the Mystique doll, mostly because I’ve never seen a blue Barbie before.

The GameStop-exclusive collectibles will be sold separately for $54.99 each, or in a bundle for $164.99. They are due to be released on Oct. 4.

A Dark Phoenix Barbie posed against a red and gold background Mattel/Marvel

A Mystique Barbie posed against a blue background Mattel/Marvel

GameStop’s second collectible set celebrates the cartoon crossover of Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The comic-series-turned-animated-movie was a surprise hit; as we wrote in our original review, “If there are two things that go together like wine and cheese, chocolate and peanut butter, or cookies and milk, it’s Batman and ninjas. And if there’s another, it’s Batman and teenage superheroes.”

The collectible figures will be sold in packs of two for $49.99 each, so fans will be sure to pick up one Batman character and one Ninja Turtle. (The best pairing is Batgirl and Donatello, don’t at me.) There’s also a bundle featuring all 10 figures, including villains Ra’s Al Ghul and Shredder, selling for $249.99. The Batman vs. TMNT figures will get a staggered release according to GameStop’s website, with a Batman & Leonardo pack and a Robin & Raphael pack dropping on Sept. 2. The bundle will debut a few months later on Dec. 16.

A Batgirl figure and a Donatello figure with bowstaff accessory Nickelodeon/DC Comics
Ra’s Al Ghul and Shredder figures with weapon accessories Nickelodeon/DC Comics

Pre-orders for both collections are available now at GameStop.


Here’s The Gears 5 Modes That Support Cross-Play Between Xbox One And PC

Like Gears of War 4, this year’s Gears 5 will support cross-play between Xbox One and PC. Multiplayer director Ryan Cleven has confirmed that cross-play is supported not only for Versus multiplayer, but also for the Escape, Horde, and Campaign modes.

“We are happy to confirm that Gears 5 will feature cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10 PC for Versus Multiplayer,” he said. “Cross-platform play also extends across the other Gears 5 modes to provide a great over-the-top three-player experience in Escape, an epic five-player Horde session, or three-player Campaign co-op.”

Keyboard and mouse controls offer a level of precision that’s better than a controller, and thankfully, Gears 5 multiplayer users can opt-out of playing against PC users for ranked play.

“For the launch of Gears 5, Xbox players will be able to opt-out of matchmaking against PC players for ranked matches,” Cleven said.

Gears 5 launches in September, but a multiplayer technical test is available today on Xbox One and PC. For lots more on the test and the game in general, check out GameSpot’s news feature: Gears 5 Dev Answers Our Burning Questions About Microtransactions, Multiplayer, Battle Royale, Loot Boxes, And More