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Image: Nintendo

Nintendo’s mighty crossover game, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” capped off three years of ambitious expansion with the announcement that “Kingdom Hearts” hero Sora will be added to the Switch fighting game’s roster on Oct. 18.

Why it matters: This wasn’t just the addition of a character that had secretly topped Nintendo’s official fan request poll six years ago. It was a stream watched by more than 500,000 people that demonstrated the convergence of some of the industry’s major trends.

Disney’s growing gaming presence: Sora is the first Disney-backed character to join the 89-character “Smash” roster, which already features heroes and villains licensed from Konami, Sega, Capcom, Square, Namco and several Microsoft-owned studios.

  • Sure, Sora isn’t quite as Disney-fied as his “Kingdom Hearts” co-stars Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
  • But this does mark yet another prominent Disney deal, in a year when the company has also revealed major game projects with Xbox, PlayStation, Ubisoft and Take Two.

Metaverse as marketing tool: For all the talk of digital playgrounds as potentially transformative platforms for communication, Nintendo is keeping pace with Epic and “Fortnite” in demonstrating how it can also work as a forest of digital billboards.

  • Sure enough, the news that Sora can soon brawl with Mario, Pikachu and the guy from “Doom” in “Smash” was coupled with the news that 10 of the multimillion-selling “Kingdom Hearts” games are coming to Nintendo Switch.

Rise of cloud gaming: Those “Kingdom Hearts” games coming to Switch can’t all natively run on the platform, so Nintendo is offering them via cloud-streaming, meaning players press buttons on their own device, which receives the graphics and sound from remote hardware via the internet.

  • That approach can work well for players with strong internet connections and a tolerance for a little lag. It’s fueled much of Microsoft’s and Google’s gaming plans of late.
  • The Switch has had some cloud-based games but nothing as popular as “Kingdom Hearts.”

Go deeper

Oct 12, 2021 - World

Companies still optimistic after China's youth gaming restrictions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's new regulation limiting children under 18 to just three hours of online games per week may be devastating for dedicated gamers, but gaming companies — and the advertisers that rely on them — will likely be fine if they can adapt.

Why it matters: China comprises about a quarter of the world's gaming market; the country's mobile gaming industry alone raked in more than $29 billion in 2020.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressman criminally charged with lying to feds

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has been indicted on charges he falsified records and lied to federal investigators probing an illegal foreign donation scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ says a Fortenberry associate, who later cooperated with investigators, informed him he'd likely received illegal donations from an intermediary for a foreign national, but that Fortenberry denied any knowledge of such a scheme when contacted by the FBI.

"Assassin's Creed," but for schools

"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.