Predictions for 2009
With the new year celebrations well and truly aside, we've been gazing into our crystal balls (and in horror at the credit card statements), and have decided to treat you all to a few not-so expert predictions about the gaming year ahead. Feel free to deliver your own premonitions, disagreements and links to Chinese gold-farming sites in the comments at the bottom (please don't actually do that last bit). Over to the team (please imagine smoke wafting and eerie seance-like music).
Martin Gaston: Publishers finally starting to realise that there are twelve months to a year
After the rather lukewarm sales figures of Mirror’s Edge, Prince of Persia and Dead Space, to name a few, publishers must be losing hair at an alarming rate after the stress of the 2008 Christmas period. Let’s face it, though, trying to put out an entire years worth of games in two months is clearly not working. Not everyone is oblivious to this, however: releasing outside of the fourth quarter is something Capcom have been toying with for a while now. It completely pays off. Would the entertaining but ultimately unspectacular (and not as good as number 3) Devil May Cry 4 have sold what it did if it came out in the middle of November? I think not, and Capcom probably agree with me. They’ve been saving their current crop of titles for outside of the festive season, with Bionic Commando, Resident Evil 4 and Street Fighter IV due to be released in the first three months of 2009.
I imagine plenty of other publishers will be watching to see if they sell well and rearranging their own release windows when they realise that people still play games in May, too. This way, the games will also have gently reached lower prices by the Christmas season, and consumers won’t have to wonder exactly why it is that games like Prince of Persia can be bought for 24.99 GBP a mere week after release.
Stevie Smith: Ubisoft becomes the new Electronic Arts and vice-versa
In 2008 we saw Ubisoft eschew high-profile imagination and invention in favour of largely average franchise entrants such as Far Cry 2, Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and Prince of Persia. In 2009 we’ll all likely shed a tear as the French/Canadian outfit continues on its downward spiral and edges ever closer to the realms of flaccid formulaic profit churning.
While initial flashes of disaster epic I Am Alive suggest something of a return to form, Ubisoft’s current 2009 line-up is more notable for the likes of Red Steel 2, Tenchu 4, World in Conflict: Soviet Assault and Imagine Fashion Party. And, with still no sign of studio stalwart Sam Fisher, we can only hope the once revered Ubisoft moves forward from a poor year and the utter mess that was Haze.
Conversely, 2009 will see Electronic Arts striving to shake off its reputation as being reliant on endless sequels punctuated by little more than statistical upgrades and graphical tweaks.
The third-party publisher everyone loves to hate will accomplish this by expanding on qualities laid down through original IPs such as Dead Space, Army of Two, Boom Blox, Spore and Mirror’s Edge, and also by adding yet more polish and fine tuning to its ‘best in class’ 2008 sporting successes NHL 09 and FIFA Soccer 09. And, following through with the long overdue abandonment of its dire Need for Speed series, 2009 will also see EA adhering to both the economic climate and a general lack of consumer interest by chopping off dead series wood such as Battlefield, Def Jam, and Medal of Honor.
Titles of note to look out for in 2009 include Brutal Legend, Dante’s Inferno, Fight Night Round 4, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Godfather II and possibly the next chapter of 2007’s sci-fi RPG epic Mass Effect.