2010 in Review
2010's been an interesting year for gaming news. Legal battles, slagging matches and broken promises have been par for the course, but there have been plenty of pleasant surprises along the way as well. So, in case you decided on a media black-out for 2010, here's the year's news in short.
The year's gaming got off to a cracking start with the release of Mass Effect 2. Gaining wildly enthusiastic reviews around the world, it prompted many to feel that 2010's 'game of the year' had arrived within weeks of its opening.
But people were less happy with Ubisoft, who introduced their controversial new DRM system. It required players to be connected to the internet at all times, even while playing single-player games. Lose connection, and the game would cut out, Ubisoft revealed.
The release of PS3 game Heavy Rain split opinion rather wildly. Innovative interactive movie, or sub-par storytelling that wasn't suited to a videogame? The ambitious title had as many critics as it did fans, meaning it stuck in the headlines for rather a while.
Legal battles commenced in March former Infinity Ward types Jason West and Vince Zampella filed a lawsuit against Activision for unpaid Modern Warfare 2 royalties. Activision had previously given the chop to the pair for apparent breach of contract, but West and Zampella weren't happy.
And the UK government pledged to bring tax relief to the country's games industry. But with an election - and potentially a new government - around the corner, many remained concerned that the tax breaks may never come to light.
What did finally come to light, however, was digital distribution platform Steam's arrival on Mac computers, opening up new doors for Mac gamers. Not a huge number of Steam games are available for Mac, but Valve's own games are among the few that are.
Ubisoft stayed in the bad books, though. Assassin's Creed 2 was released... and the PC version's online servers promptly crashed. Thanks to Ubi's new DRM, this left thousands of legitimate buyers unable to play their legitimately bought single-player game, while the pirates ploughed through the campaign in their cracked versions without hassle.
The Activision/Infinity Ward saga continued, with half the remaining Infinity Ward employees resigning over the situation, 38 of them filing another lawsuit against Activision on similar claims. Acti hit back with a countersuit, saying their actions were justified. The trial's scheduled for 2011.
The UK General Election /eventually/ resulted in a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. Rumours began to circulate that the planned tax relief wouldn't be coming into play as a result.
June was E3 month, and saw a number of interesting announcements. Valve revealed that it would be bringing Portal 2 to the PlayStation 3, despite having previously expressed concerns about developing for Sony's console. Meanwhile, the 3DS was unveiled following an announcement a couple of months previously, and wowed attendees with its glasses-free 3D technology.
Meanwhile, the UK Budget confirmed that games industry tax relief would not be introduced after all. Trade body TIGA got quite angry, and mounted a lengthy campaign to change the Coalition's mind. So far, no luck.
Acclaimed developer Irrational announced that it was working on a new game, codenamed 'Project Icarus'. A teaser site appeared online, and it was revealed that the game would be unveiled in August.
Meanwhile, at the Develop Conference in Brighton, Gratuitous Space Battles' solo developer Cliff Harris got rather irritated by interruptions from Epic's Mark Rein during a panel on indie development. Rein suggested that Harris was missing an opportunity by not mounting major PR campaigns. Harris called Rein a few naughty words on his blog. In the end Rein issued a public apology, they had a man-hug and made up, and everything was well with the world.
EA's reboot of the Medal of Honor franchise stirred controversy when the mainstream news media clocked that you could play as the Taliban during multiplayer matches. Despite very sensible suggestions from the gaming community that surely /someone/ must have to play as the Taliban in a game set in the Afghan conflict, the US military refused to stock the game on its bases, and many cried for its banning elsewhere.
Meanwhile, APB developer Realtime Worlds went into administration, having reportedly spent up to 100 million dollars on its latest game - a figure nowhere near matched by its disappointing sales figures.
Irrational's secret new game was revealed to be a BioShock spin-off, set on a flying city named Columbia. The game, it was announced, is to be called BioShock Infinite.
EA responded to those campaigning for a Medal of Honor ban, stating outright that they felt they'd done nothing wrong in their choice of name for one of the multiplayer teams. It was a 'creative risk,' they admitted, but said they could see no reason to change it.
And having failed to secure a buyer, Realtime Worlds announced that APB would be shutting down its servers, just three months after launch. Shortly afterwards the company laid off its final staff, and went to sleep forever.
Not going to sleep forever, despite initial suggestions, was digital distributor Good Old Games. The service disappeared from the web in September, its management claiming they simply couldn't keep running GOG.com in its current state... before spectacularly relaunching it just days later. It was all a marketing campaign! Many moaned about the 'hoax', but many more people discovered Good Old Games as a result.
Those who assumed Duke Nukem Forever had disappeared - well - forever turned out to be wrong. The game, which was announced to have been cancelled in 2009, was impressively re-unveiled and given a release date of 2011 - 14 years after it was first announced.
And Sony released its PS3 motion controller, PlayStation Move, to positive reception worldwide.
Under a sea of pressure, EA made a U-turn on the Taliban situation. Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea after all, they said, quickly renaming one multiplayer side 'Opposing Force'.
And at the start of the month, London's Earls Court Exhibition Centre played host to the Eurogamer Expo, which saw thousands of gamers from around the country and beyond gather to play some of the most exciting new and upcoming releases, including Gears of War 3, Dead Space 2 and Brink.
Meanwhile, notorious trademark troll Tim Langdell, boss of pretty-much-extinct publisher Edge Games, was booted out of the Independent Game Developers' Association. By pressing small developers to hand over wads of cash to use the word 'edge' in their game names, he was working directly against the mission of the IGDA, it was decided. Around the same time, a judge in the USA stripped Langdell of his trademarks, and the industry let out a collective whoop.
GamersFirst, a free-to-play MMO publisher, announced that it would be buying the rights to APB. Perhaps a little late to be of much use to Realtime Worlds, the deal nevertheless means that APB will be relaunched, for free, some time next year.
But in bad news, Activision announced that it would be selling or closing Bizarre Creations, the acclaimed development studio it had bought just three years previously. And Viacom announced that it would be selling Rock Band developer Harmonix, as console games were not part of the company's long term plan.
Microsoft released Kinect for the Xbox 360. The long-awaited controller-free motion control system was largely well-received, though its launch titles left a little to be desired, and many fell foul of the amount of space the peripheral requires to work properly.
Rioting students took many of the headlines, but there was one major talking point: BBC Panorama's documentary on gaming addiction. It didn't focus much on evidence, instead preferring to go for anecdotes about people who 'believed' someone they knew was addicted to games. Later, a friend of one of the show's subjects wrote a blog post, which claimed Panorama didn't tell the whole story about why his pal ended up being chucked out of uni and in lots of debt. What a surprise.
And Call of Duty: Black Ops was revealed to have won the race for Christmas number one in the charts. December was a month of wild surprises, it would seem. Ho ho ho.
Ho ho ho, in fact, and a Merry Christmas to all!
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