2010 – The winners and losers
The games industry isn’t a school sports day – it’s not the taking part that counts. Winning is everything. And pointing out the losers is important too. Here’s my rundown of the biggest winners and losers of the year. Please feel free to argue vehemently about it…
WINNER – Activision
Activision and its CEO Bobby Kotick seem to have been at the receiving end of more bad press than ever this year, but I suspect they don’t care that much. Sales of the latest Call Of Duty have, as usual, been rampant and it’s become the biggest selling game of the year in just a few weeks. World Of Warcraft’s userbase has risen to over 12 million players and Starcraft 2 shifted about 3 million units – an admirable performance for a PC exclusive these days. All-in-all, Activision had had its most profitable year ever (again), and no amount of complaining and not even disastrous sales of Tony Hawk Shred, can do anything about that.
LOSER – Bizarre Creations
How much of Activision’s $4 billion+ revenue this year can be attributed to Bizarre Creations, the studio (best known for the Project Gotham Racing series) acquired by Activision in 2007? Not much. Despite releasing two games this year – Blur and James Bond 007: Blood Stone – Bizarre hasn’t been pulling its weight from a commercial point of view, and that’s the point of view that counts with Activision. A few weeks ago, rumours emerged that Bizarre had closed. This turned out not to be true, but the future of the studio was under consideration, with either restructuring or a sale looking likely. It’s sad to say it of such a great studio, but Bizarre Creations lost in 2010.
WINNER – Microsoft
Despite Sony making some very positive strides this year, Microsoft has managed to stand its ground and the 360 is still a few million units ahead of the PS3 in the total global sales race. The 360 also saw strong sales and critical acclaim for exclusive titles like Halo: Reach, Mass Effect 2 and Fable III. Finally, Microsoft took a chunk of the casual gaming market for its own with Kinect, by far the most technologically advanced motion control system on the market.
LOSER – Call Of Duty fans
I am a Call Of Duty fan and, since I bought Black Ops, I feel like a loser. There are some very smart design ideas in the game’s multiplayer and I was really looking forward to it, but there is simply no denying that it has dreadful matchmaking and serious issues with lag. A lot of fans seem prepared to turn a blind eye to this crap, but I won’t settle for sub-standard online implementation from such a high-budget, high profile game. Perhaps if they get around to fixing it some time soon, I’ll feel like a winner in 2011.
WINNER – Nintendo
I’m not even sure exactly what Nintendo did this year, but whatever it was I know it made billions of dollars without appearing to break a sweat. Sales of the DS and Wii have slowed, but are still much higher than anything else. Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Pokémon Black/White have both performed extremely well, but Nintendo hasn’t really needed to release new games with oldies like Wii Sports, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Wii Fit Plus and Pokémon Gold/Silver racking up tens of millions of sales between them this year. It’s actually a little frightening.
LOSER – Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV just got patched. The list of fixes reportedly read like a novella and that was just the first in a series that will continue through December and into January. Even if you generously disregard the fact that FFXIV has blatantly been release unfinished, it’s still easily the worst Final Fantasy game ever and one of the worst MMOs ever to have been laughed at by World Of Warcraft. Why tarnish such a highly regarded brand in this way?
WINNER – Rockstar Games
Red Dead Redemption isn’t strictly a new franchise, but it might as well be, given how few people remember Red Dead Revolver. New or not, Red Dead Redemption was a difficult and risky sell for Rockstar. It’s an unfamiliar brand and an unfamiliar genre (in gaming at least), but thanks to a huge, skilfully spent marketing budget and a quality end product, of course, Red Dead managed to become one of the biggest hits of the year. Where will Rockstar take its winning formula next?
LOSER – Prince Of Persia
Ouch! How the mighty have fallen. Looks like Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands was too little too late for Prince Of Persia fans who’d long been begging for the series to recapture the feel of the classic Sands Of Time. Sales were, to be blunt, pitiful. Maybe people were still sour about the almost complete absence of any actual gameplay in the last Prince Of Persia.
WINNER – Sony
Sony had a bit of a wobbly start to this generation, we all know that, but the last couple of years has seen the PS3 finally shifting into gear and 2010 has undeniably been a good one for Sony. It’s the quality and diversity of its first-party software that’s really impressed me. Gran Turismo 5 might not quite be everything that was promised, but it’s still selling like hot cakes and, y’know, it actually came out at last. The PS3 also got its first God Of War at long last plus bold, groundbreaking titles like MAG and Heavy Rain. Move has also proven a hit with a hardly revolutionary, but solid nonetheless, games line-up backing it up. The PS3 is gaining on the 360 all the time. I don’t know how much longer Microsoft’s lead is going to last.
LOSER – Star Wars
LucasArts promised it wasn’t going to be a disappointment like the first one. No, this was going to be the Star Wars action game we’d been dreaming of forever. But it isn’t. No, it’s actually worse than the first one, and this time weak sales would suggest that fans might have been tricked once, but ain’t gonna be tricked twice.