Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 Stories of 2010



Sony and Microsoft Jump into Motion Control Market with Move and Kinect


Microsoft's Kinect and the PlayStation Move were unveiled in 2009, but neither had a name when 2010 got underway. That changed in March when Sony officially christened their controller; and by the time E3 rolled around, the battle to "refresh" the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 with motion controls had been joined.
Kinect would receive considerable scrutiny for reportedly being unable to scan players while they were sitting in the run-up to launch; nevertheless, it would go on to sell more than 2.5 million units thanks in part to a well-orchestrated marketing campaign that kicked off with Oprah handing them out for free to a screaming audience. The Move's reception, meanwhile, has been a bit murkier. While Sony sent out a release claiming that 4.1 million units had been sold worldwide, they later clarified that they actually meant the units had been sold to retailers.
It's unclear how much momentum the two peripherals will have through 2011; but for the moment, it seems as if Microsoft's gamble with hands-free gaming has paid off.


Angry Birds Leads Mobile Gaming Charge with 50 Million Downloads


Few games have been as successful as Angry Birds, which has become the face of mobile gaming meteoric rise in the handheld gaming space. Released in December 2009, the simple puzzler has since been downloaded more than 50 million times, and has spread rapidly from iOS to platforms like Android. It'll be jumping to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii next year, and Finnish developer Rovio is looking to expand into everything from TV shows to toys.
As Nintendo prepares to launch the successor to the Nintendo DS, they will surely be keeping an eye on Angry Birds and other games like it. While hardly the first salvo in the battle between mobile platforms and handhelds like the DS and PSP, Angry Birds is a clear shot across the bow in what is sure to be a fierce competition heading into the new year.


Taliban Multiplayer Faction Gets Medal of Honor Banned from Military Shops


The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been something of a third-rail for videogames. While EA's Medal of Honor reboot didn't suffer the same fate as Atomic Games' ill-fated Six Days in Fallujah -- dropped only weeks after initially being announced -- it still took a beating for making it possible for putting the action and Afghanistan and allowing players to take the role of the Taliban.
Medal of Honor was ultimately banned from the Army and Air Force Exchange Services shops on U.S. bases, which include 49 GameStop stores. The ban stood even after EA changed the name "Taliban" to "Opposing Force," but the reboot did go onto respectable sales (two million in first two weeks) despite the controversy and middling reviews. Nevertheless, the furor in the mainstream media and EA's decision to change the "Taliban" designation paints a picture of a medium that is still widely seen as immature by the public at large.


All Points Bulletin Launches, Shuts Down Three Months Later


After five years of development, Realtime Worlds' ambitious massively multiplayer title All Points Bulletin was released to disappointing reviews; and things only got worse from there. Six weeks later, the game that was expected to attract millions had a mere 130,000 registered users, and Realtime Worlds was inadministration. With APB being shopped to prospective buyers, Realtime Worlds announced that they wereshutting down the game's servers in September -- barely more than two months after launch. K2 Network finally purchased the property in November and plans to reboot it as the free-to-play APB: Reloaded in 2011.
The studio's painful demise has inspired lasting bitterness on the part of some former developers. After accusing Grand Theft Auto creator and founder Dave Jones of "pissing away millions" and failing to pay the developers for their work, one spouse vowed that if she couldn't find a welfare charity for her horse, she would "barter her last possessions to have a fork lift driver dump his 800kg bloody carcass on the top of [Jones'] favourite car."


EA Goes After the Used Games Market with "Project Ten Dollar" and Online Passes


After testing the waters with Dragon Age, EA went full speed ahead with "Project Ten Dollar" in 2010. Mass Effect 2, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and other EA titles were released with one-time codes that could be redeemed for "free" downloadable content. That was nothing compared to what EA did with flagship sports titles Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 and Madden NFL 11 though.
The codes included with Madden and Tiger Woods unlock their respective online modes; meaning that those buying used have to spend an additional $10 to play online. Other publishers have been watching the program closely; while Activision's Bobby Kotick assailed them for "not being in the best interest of the gamer," THQ introduced their own online pass for UFC 2010. With Dragon Age 2 set include a redeemable code, it seems as if Project Ten Dollar won't be going anywhere anytime soon.


Gearbox Brings Duke Nukem Forever Back From the Dead


When 3D Realms cut the Duke Nukem Forever team loose after more than a decade of development, it looked as if the project that had long since become an industry punchline had finally died a merciful death. Fast forward to the end of 2010 though, and Gearbox appears poised to yank the final nail out of Duke's coffin.
Gearbox says the shooter only needs some minor polishing ahead of its scheduled release; and to prove it, they brought a playable demo with them to PAX 2010. Duke fans can thank the handful of ex-3D Realms employees who worked on the game in their spare time; as well as Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford, who had briefly worked on Duke Nukem Forever before leaving to found his own studio. It's set to launch on the PS3, PC and Xbox 360 in early 2011, at which point the underworld will become very cold indeed.


NBA Elite 11 Cancellation Results in Big Changes at EA


It's not uncommon for games to get canceled, but this particular cancellation has had far-reaching consequences for one of the pillars of EA's business. After running neck-and-neck with NBA 2K11 in 2009, EA hoped to capture the basketball simulation market with the re-branded NBA Elite. Instead, they ended up ceding the basketball simulation market entirely to 2K Sports while "The Passion of Andrew Bynum" became a punchline across the industry.
The joke is in reference to a now-famous video in which Lakers player Andrew Bynum is stuck in the "Jordan Wings" pose at half-court during the demo. That wasn't the only problem though, as the development team struggled to implement dual analog controls and the marketing team struggled against the momentum 2K generated by putting Michael Jordan on their cover. Later, even EA admitted that NBA Elite "was going to be a bad game."
The fiasco resulted in EA restructuring its studio leadership structure; the publisher's NBA license being handed over Tiburon and layoffs at EA Canada. NBA Elite 12 is reportedly in development, but EA has a long way to go before they recover the standing with basketball fans that they enjoyed as recently as last June.


Nintendo Reveals the Successor to the DS Three Months Early


The successor to the Nintendo DS was supposed to stay under wraps until E3; but thanks to some aggressive investigation on the part of the Japanese media, Nintendo was forced to confirm the new handheld in a terse press release only days before the DSi XL was scheduled to launch in North America. Afterward, gamers were left to speculate on how exactly Nintendo would pull off the promised 3D effect without forcing users to wear special glasses.
During E3, users were dazzled by what turned out to be some very solid 3D; but during a September press conference, Nintendo revealed that the 3DS will launch at 25,000 yen in Japan, meaning that the device could cost as much as $300 in North America. And while the 3DS is sure to get plenty of mainstream buzz when it launches in March 2011, it will face tough competition as mobile platforms vie for a piece of the market traditionally dominated by Nintendo.


The Videogame Industry Has its Day in Court


In November, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for Schwarzenegger v. EMA, which is a critical test of the protection afforded the videogame industry under the First Amendment. If the court opts to uphold the California law criminalizing the sale of mature-rated titles to minors, it will have far reaching effects on which games are developed and sold.
During the questioning, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked if Grimm's Fairy Tales should be banned as well; and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked by games had been singled out for special treatment compared to comics and films. So far so good; but while the California law has been repeatedly struck down in the past, the decision by the Supreme Court remains very much up in the air.
The final decision is expected in June 2011. You can find our breakdown of the case here.


The Infinity Ward Meltdown


In what may be the most shocking development of the year, Infinity Ward was effectively dismantled only months after Modern Warfare 2 broke sales records; dismissing founders Jason West and Vince Zampella on charges of insubordination. The result is what looks to be a protracted legal battle between West and Zampella, Activision and now Electronic Arts, which was recently added to Activision's official complaint.
West and Zampella have since founded Respawn Entertainment and signed on with the EA Partners Program, bringing as many as 46 former Infinity Ward employees with them. Infinity Ward has been restocked; but it may have been supplanted by Treyarch, which saw Call of Duty: Black Ops rake in more than $1 billion in sales. The future is murky, as Activision also brought in Sledgehammer Games to work on yet another offshoot of the franchise.
The case is expected to proceed in mid-2011; and with charges of insubordination, sabotage and "pretextual investigations" flying around over one of gaming's biggest franchises, it figures to get even uglier. 

1 comments:

ImmaFrog said...

hopefully they'll come up with something better than generic game titles were you get to use that kinetic controller

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