2009 in Review (part one)
One of the best - or worst, depending on how you see it - parts of the holiday break is that the daily flow of news evaporates into the ether. Meaning there s more time for mince pies, brandy and trawling around in John Lewis for two hours until you find something (anything) to spend your Christmas money on. I bought a Pestle & Mortar, for some reason.
Still, for those of us who've run out of festive cash and are desperately trying to stop binge eating, it's time to look back, remembering how 2009 rounded off the noughties with a mixture of apathy, blunders and ceaseless speculation about Modern Warfare 2. Let's reminisce, because at least it'll give us something to think about whilst we wait for David Tennant to pop off.
2009 kicked off with a shining example of why humanity is definitely worth saving from global warming: a seventeen-year-old boy was arrested after a false suicide threat to a World of Warcraft representative. Turns out that's not the way to get free purples - who knew?
Meanwhile, the retail industry was proclaiming videogames were recession-proof despite continued reports of hard times at major studios - Microsoft, Sony, Eidos, Sega and EA all felt the pinch of the money apocalypse. And the ongoing saga of Midway's imminent financial collapse was reaching critical mass. The company would implode later in the year.
Still, it wasn't gloom and doom for everyone: Nintendo were doing pretty well. King Reggie also took some time out from counting all his money to declare that the company always listened to its fans. "We listen very closely to what people have to say, both pro and con, and keep those feelings in mind as we plan ahead", he said in an interview with GameDaily. Although he wouldn't confirm if the company purposefully avoided listening to people who wanted anything more than Mario and Zelda sequels, because I pray every night for a new 2D Metroid. Every single night.
Emperor of Sony Kaz Hirai also took a quick break from salivating over the thought of getting some of Nintendo's money mountain to declare Sony weren't competing with the Wii, although he'd clearly forgotten how the rubbish Sixaxis was completely lifted from Nintendo's console. This story had nothing to do with the fact Nintendo said something similar a few days earlier, either.
January also saw the end of the Leipzig Games Convention. But the world was not to be without a summer games convention with a deliciously European twang: the new hotness of Gamescom was scheduled just down the road at Cologne.
In a rare display of businessmen being honest, Satoru Iwata publicly admitted that listening to Wii Music was worse than being subjected to an endless loop of all the X-Factor Christmas singles mashed together. Although he didn't use those words. Another baffling bit of business speak came from EA's John Riccitiello, who said the economic crisis was a blessing. He probably has a mate with shares in the Job Centre.
It was also revealed that perhaps games are good for kids after all, at least according to a study ordered by the EU. We still recommend all parents make their spawn go outside and move about every now and then, if only to give Mummy and Daddy some peace and quiet to play Wii Fit. It wasn't all positive news, however, as the month also saw the results of another study which concluded games can increase levels of stress and anxiety. Which explains why the kids are so angry on Xbox Live, at least. They're also not fans of lesbians.
Lord David Puttnam, 2007 chair of the UK's Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill and producer of the film Bugsy Malone, also made the news after saying he believed it would be good if videogames did more to educate people on climate change. All I know is that you should never, ever build an underwater city or invest in property on the planet Sera. In other political reveals, the Conservative party had a pop at the current government for completely failing to foster games development in the UK. We need more tax breaks, or something. I say we just give every studio four free pizzas a day.
February also saw the official announcement of Modern Warfare 2, pre-empted a few days earlier by the first in what would become a series of carefully constructed Twitter announcements from professional mouthpiece Robert Bowling. Coincidentally, EA were the first studio to publicly admit they were considering releasing some of their games at different periods of the year, specifically ones where there weren't going to be any Call of Duty releases. Activision popped up again in an attempt to sue EA for the publishing rights to Brutal Legend.
It was also the month where speculation over a new PSP started to run wild, spearheaded by design guru Dave Perry mouthing off on Twitter. Sony must have been chuffed to bits.
If it doesn't work, you're doing it wrong. So says Kaz Hirai, probably. According to Lord Sony the PS3 is deliberately difficult to develop for. Those silly complaining developers!
What wasn't amusing was the news about how the RAF were hoping to recruit gamers to fly unmanned drones in Afghanistan. I imagine the only way to get online gamers aboard would be to fit the drones with loudspeakers so the pilots could shout offensive racial epithets at their targets.
Meanwhile, the money apocalypse continued its merciless rampage, but Eidos escaped destruction by convincing Square to buy up the company.
EA and Activision both lamented the high prise of hardware, but that didn't stop Nintendo raising the price of the Wii and Sony accusing developers of being unrealistic in their expectations. Everybody also marvelled at the realisation that, despite a recession, the MMO gold trade was on the up-and-up.
An increasingly vocal debate about racist imagery in Resident Evil 5 raged on in March - leading all the way up to the game's release - and the politically sensitive nature of the story ensured maximum exposure. Even a senior anthropologist from the university of Kent had an opinion. All the furore was based off the trailer, so heaven knows what people felt after playing Act 3 in the game.
It was revealed Sigourney Weaver fancied a go at lending her vocal talents to the Ghostbusters game after she realised it might not be all that bad, but was denied the chance. She probably didn't sleep for a month afterwards. And developers Media Molecule declared their 2008 title LittleBigPlanet was only half finished, with the team presumably leaving the rest of the development up to the game's community.
As for the customary health stories, a man died whilst playing Wii Fit and some boffins decided that games might be able to improve the eyesight of gamers, although I'd wager a fair chunk of us (me included) are already a lost cause. And David "Metal Gear?!" Hayter launched his own production studio, although there's a 45% chance it's just a front for developing nuclear tanks.
Oh, and some particularly silly websites reported a Starcraft II Beta was well on the way. Those eejits.