It’s traditional to round up what has been happening at the end of the year, and to take a look forward at what is coming next. So here are some of my highlights of the gaming year.
I finally joined the Xbox 360 brigade this year, primarily for one game – Rock Band. While it was an evolution rather than a revolution from Guitar Hero, the full band set-up makes for fantastic party gaming and online it is a lot of fun too. A thousand tracks are now available to buy, ranging from Simon & Garfunkel to the latest rock acts. The Beatles: Rock Band did take things to a new level, with its superb presentation and vocal harmonies, while Lego Rock Band had a few tricks of its own. The announcement of a Green Day edition has produced mixed reactions from fans and gamers – is it a band too far, or a good addition to the line-up?
The Lego franchise is in danger of spreading itself thin, but I put a lot of hours into Lego Indy 2. What shone through once again was the sense of humour, particularly in the cutscenes. For the obsessive gamer there was a juicy 1000 Gamerpoints on offer including some very obscure challenges. The addition of the Creator section was very welcome, allowing you to build your own levels and mini-adventures. With more than one Lego Harry Potter game on the way, it doesn’t look like Travellers’ Tales will be putting away the bricks for a while yet.
The mainstream media has once again had a very indifferent attitude to gaming. The midnight launch of Modern Warfare 2 bought the usual sneering coverage (along the lines of “Why are they queuing up for a new game?”, pointing out dedicated fans who had arrived in costume as being odd) tinged with the controversy over the airport siege level. By contrast Episodes from Liberty City and its “Ballad of Gay Tony” did not seem to draw the usual toxic coverage despite the provocative name. The TIGA campaign for tax breaks allowing the British games sector to remain at the top of the industry was ultimately unsuccessful, which could have repercussions long-term.
In the last couple of months there has been more advertising for games, and Sony’s PS3 Slim campaigns have done well to increase the profile of the console and its top titles. Microsoft still spends more and gets more notice for the multi-format titles. Nintendo’s use of Ant & Dec is aimed squarely at a broader demographic and has helped many Wii and DS titles continue selling long after release. However, the supermarket tactics of drastically reducing high-profile titles in price could also be dangerous long-term.
As I have mentioned before, early 2010 has become a sanctuary for titles hiding from the massive launch of Modern Warfare 2, so it could be a big quarter for the industry. Time will tell.