2009 in Review (part two)
Welcome to 2010! I'm glad you could make it. Last time we covered, amongst other things, six months of business woes, Bill Clinton turning down a role in Fallout 3 and Sony's accidental reveal of the PSP Go. Pretty exciting, huh? But that's old news now - it's time to look at the second half of 2009. Don't get up: allow me to extract, especially for you, the prime cuts of last year's tastiest news nuggets.
Exciting sci-fi MMO spreadsheet EVE Online surprisingly popped up with the news that billions of in-game currency had been stolen by one crafty player and flogged for 3000 GBP of actual money. Blizzard also announced plans to give World of Warcraft micro-transactions on the same day, which seemed far less interesting by comparison.
A few days later, BioWare defended their love of sex scenes. "It's based on the fact that this is a sophisticated, mature experience," said BioWare big cheese Greg Zeschuk. That doesn't stop it being awfully embarrassing if somebody walks in the room whilst your characters are bumping and grinding on the screen, Greg.
Infinity Ward managed to confuse everyone with a screenshot of Modern Warfare 2's box art bearing the Call of Duty name. Weren't we supposed to not call it Call of Duty, the public asked, before being distracted with the overblown Prestige edition of the game. Gamasutra speculated on whether the confusing titling might damage sales, but the beauty of retrospect means the very idea is now as silly as mullet haircuts.
Following on from EA's announcement of their very own MMA title, UFC president Dana White declared his league to be at war with EA before driving over to EA's offices and throwing a Molotov through John Riccitiello's window.
And whilst we're on the subject of crime, ex-Gizmodo boss Stefan Eriksson found himself once again behind bars. Fingers crossed they make that movie.
Citing the need for some quality control, as opposed to being terrified of Modern Warfare 2, Ubisoft delayed most of their games until 2010. Keep reading to discover if other publishers followed a similar logic (spoiler: they did).
The money apocalypse continued, with news that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo were all missing out on sweet, sweet revenues. I hope they still had enough money for the CEO's to afford a bit of bubbly at their respective New Year's parties. It was also discovered that the music game genre was suffering. Denis Dyack, on the other hand, envisioned the future of gaming on a single platform, possibly titled the Dyacktron 4000 - although even that wouldn't make anyone want a second Too Human. And Gabe Newell imagined a wacky future where gamers fund the development of games. But he's hardly one to talk: with all the money I've dropped into Steam this year I'd imagine Valve has enough cheddar for six new Half-Life games.
And whilst the director of Pirates of the Caribbean declared Halo to be our generation's Star Wars, Bungie spoke of how they were looking to secure a publisher for a non-Halo title. They weren't fooling anyone, of course - everyone knows Bungie will be making Halo games until the end of time. They could probably make a co-op shooter, though, provided they asked Microsoft, who patented the concept, really nicely.
My personal favourite story of the month: a British psychiatrist offered to provide in-game counselling for addicted World of Warcraft players, provided Blizzard could give him a free subscription, and probably a couple of sweet mounts and some epic purpz. Don't hassle him, he can quit anytime, okay?
August was a month of rampantspeculationaboutpricecuts followed by actual price cuts. First came the PS3 Slim, annouced at Gamescom, which had the merry side-effect of shifting the silly Spider-Man font off the top of the console. Bravo Sony. It all made Microsoft look a bit silly, as they'd recently increased the price of the Arcade model. Although they trimmed a few quid off the Elite model a couple of weeks later. Nintendo remained unfazed but were secretly laughing at the idea of the PSP Go retailing for 225 GBP.
Sony also got into trouble when their in-game advertising (which was quickly removed) for WipEout HD inadvertantly caused the game to spend three days loading. A nice touch. Their egg-on-face quotient was likely to be less than Microsoft's, though, as it was also revealed the failure rate for the 360 could be higher than fifty percent. Why you gotta hurt us so bad, Microsoft? What you give in one hand, like announcing Fable III, you take away with the other, like announcing an episodic version of Fable II.
Modern Warfare 2's arrival loomed ever-nearer, and jittery publishers coincidentially pushed their releases into 2010. Infinity Ward gleefully announced the inclusion of akimbo weapons and famous water-loving rap fiend 50 Cent, pondered over how many map packs they'd put out and quietly mentioned the beta of Modern Warfare 2 would go live on November 11th 2009.
Whilst we're thinking about Actvision, Bobby Kotick popped up to express his desire for even higher game prices. How does Microsoft's exorbitant Games on Demand pricing structure suit you, Bobby? And then there was the little matter of a playable Kurt Cobain in Guitar Hero 5. We'll return to that one later.
Closer to home, Derby council considered naming a ring road after buxom heroine Lara Croft. If the gaming icon wins (Lara has reached the voting stage, which closes on the 31st January 2010), the council have considered modifying their plans and building two adjacent, large circular ring roads instead. The previous statement may not be true.
In other Eidos news, it was briefly rumoured that now-superstar developers Rocksteady could take over the Hitman series before being swiftly debunked. How is such idle speculation news? It's not, but it gives me a good opportunity to demand that Rocksteady get working on a sequel to Urban Chaos. Right now, please.
And it was announced that Germany had become Europe's largest purveyors of videogames. Go Deutschland!
How many computers does it take to power World of Warcraft's gigantic servers? 20,000.
As the celebrated mastermind behind the Metal Gear franchise, it's safe to say Hideo Kojima knows a thing or two about making games. He's not quite as adept at constructing controllers, it seems, with his experiments in including grip and pulse sensors in a PS3 pad ending with failure. His two production teams - one working on Peace Walker, the other on Rising - can't seem to get along, either: Kojima revealed the Peace Walker team were frustrated at all the money and hardware the other lot were getting. Must be tough. Maybe Kojima should get on the telephone and get in touch with beautiful producer starlette Jade Raymond who, seeing as Ubisoft gave her control of Ubisoft Toronto, probably knows how to handle inter-studio politics.
Steve Jobs celebrated the App Store's vast range of games, boasting a library of over 20,000. And almost ten of them are worth buying!
In other business, Take-Two finally saw the end of the Hot Coffee scandal. They ended up forking out over 5 million dollars, with their insurer coughing up another 15. That's probably history's most expensive case of ensuring some weird fourteen year old boy could have a tug.
Remember Kurt Cobain popping up in Guitar Hero 5? It all kicked off in September. Drug-addled human timebomb Courtney Love spoke out on Twitter over the incident, saying that "for the record this Guitar Hero shit is breach of contract on a Bullys part and there will be a proper addressing of this and retraction." A proper addressing of this there certainly was, as a few days later Activision replied with news of the publisher securing the necessary licensing rights from the Cobain estate in a written agreement signed by Courtney Love to use Kurt Cobain's likeness as a fully playable character in Guitar Hero 5. Coincidentally, the money obtained from such a deal could probably afford a few giant bags of cocaine. Probably. Even aging rock legend Jon Bon Jovi got in on the action, taking a short break from licensing Livin' on a Prayer to every single music game on the market, to say how he wouldn't like to see an in-game version of him singing tracks by other artists. Lucky for you, Jon, that your likeness isn't controlled by someone commonly believed to possess a somewhat haphazard track record. It was all a different story over at rival music game camp Harmonix, as Sir Paul McCartney reckoned John and George would have found their appearance in The Beatles: Rock Band amusing.
Polyphony Digital big cheese Kazunori Yamauchi also realised that taking so much time in-between iterations of your popular racing franchise that a rival studio can release three games might not be the best of ideas.
And whilst Penny Arcade's magnificent PAX expo caught a nasty bout of swine flu, annoying telly pig Nicky Campbell's faux-concerned consumer vehicle Watchdog found itself upsetting Sony executive Ray Maguire over allegations of the PS3 being occasionally duff and breaking. This sinister Yellow Light of Death could scupper Sony's plans to make the PS3 life cycle longer than the ever-durable PS2's, at least in my household. Where are Microsoft when all this is going on? Thinking about buying EA, apparently.
More damaging for Sony, in my opinion, was their tacky rewards programme for the PSP Go. Wait a second, I thought we were promised some way to convert our old and busted UMD's into the shiny new hotness of the digital format? Obviously not.
Nintendo finally dropped the price of the Wii in time for everyone to get their Wii Sports Resorts ready for Christmas day.
Quick-fire round: who decides to publish Modern Warfare 2 in Japan? None other than Square Enix, of course. What's back on the cards in China? World of Warcraft, of course. And which violent zombie-slaying co-operative shooter did Australia see fit to ban? Left 4 Dead 2, of course.
And the Pac-Man world record was smashed by 40-year-old David Race, who blitzed a perfect score out of the game in 3 hours, 41 minutes and 22 seconds. Thanks for making the rest of us look bad, David.