2009 is over, but before we buy our first game of 2010, lets look back and remember the top 9 things gamers learned in 2009. 2009 was a year of shifting: Shifting the tide of the console war, shifting where we usually play our games, shifting release dates and shifting sales numbers. But what shifts were the most important? Click to find out.
1. The PS3 Ain’t Going Down Without a Fight.
I’m sure last January, Sony top dog Jack Trenton was training in the mountains of Russia with Rocky, because if gaming business is a boxing match with Ivan Drago, the battered PS3 KO’d the competition in 2009. PS3 exclusives Killzone 2, Infamous, Demon’s Souls and Uncharted 2 all received critical praise, with the later two winning multiple game of the year awards and the PS3’s price cut to 300 dollars caused sales of the console to spike to 300%. They may not have won the next gen championship yet but, just like Rocky, they took some shots but came back with a fury this round.
2. We’re Just Not in Love with Nintendo Anymore, and it’s Them Not Us.
Nintendo’s president, Satoru Iwata was quoted in saying, “The Wii has stalled…and the mood has chilled.” Wii sales were down 40% last year and the DS is slowly losing ground to the iPhone, but more importantly many gamers just don’t feel the warm fuzzies for Nintendo’s innovative experiences anymore. Many gamers would be quick to blame it on the lack of first party cash cows, but with a new Punchout, Zelda and Mario game released in 2009, maybe that’s not the case. Maybe we’re tired of waggling or hopping on Goombas. Maybe we’re just tired of Nintendo.
3. Good Voice Acting Helps.
Jack Black rocked as Eddie Riggs and Mark Hamill’s reprisal of the Joker stole Batman: Arkham Asylum’s show. The most impressive acting of the year may have been from Claudia Black’s Zoe and Emily Rose’s’ Elana in Uncharted 2 which made us feel like Brad Pitt trying to decide between Agenlina Jolie and Jennifer Anniston. Add that to the convincing voice acting that always comes from Grand Theft Auto and Bioware games and 2009 was possibly gaming’s best year for acting performances.
4. Everybody wants to Sense Our Motion.
It strikes me as funny that everyone’s so hot on motion sensing technology for gamers. It’s not like gamers are known for their movement. Does everyone realize that with the announcement of Project Natal, the new light wand for the Playstation Eye and the Wii Motion Plus we are inching closer to having to get off our asses? Kiss those all night gaming binges good bye, suckers, no one wants to play Wii-tennis or talk to Milo at 4am.
5. Everything Ends.
Midway, Pandemic, Grin, Eidos. The list of of companies that either locked their doors or were bought by another company reads like names of dead characters at the end of a slasher movie. Companies like Sega, Sony, Microsoft, 2K were among those to lay off hundreds of workers and game sales were generally down for the entire year compared to 2008. We thought Video Games were recession proof and we were wrong.
6. Downloadable Content is the Future. And Was Most of 2009.
The DSi and PSP Go were released with a heavy emphasis on downloadable games, with PSP Go even eschewing the UMD discs Sony created for the original PSP. Grand Theft Auto 4 and Fallout 3 convinced us to stop trading in our games to Gamestop by releasing engaging DLC like the Lost and the Damned and Broken Steel. PS3’s Flower and the Xbox 360’s Shadow Complex were critically acclaimed download exclusives. I even bought a Bioshock 2 shirt for my Avatar. I spent real money on a shirt that doesn’t exist, because I liked the way it fit. DLC was one of the biggest trends of 2009 and the clearest look at what the next “next gen” will look like.
7. Everyone’s afraid of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
The hot witch from Bayonetta, a Big Daddy and even the Splinter Cell himself all hightailed it away from Soap and Price this holiday season. What does it mean for so many games to be unprecedentedly releasing in January, February and March? It means they’re adopting a more movie-like release plan, trying less to cram all the best games into one season and more to space their games so they can own a week where gamers will have cash to spend. And that there’s no reason to believe that Q1 2010 won’t be a great time to release a game. We’ll all still be playing.
8. You Don’t Have to Do Something New. You Just Have to Do Something Well.
The best selling and most critically acclaimed games of 2009, and of most years, are sequels who have a formula that they’ve polished. Modern Warfare 2, the best selling game of the year, and Uncharted 2, the most critically acclaimed game of year are great examples of this. Meanwhile, the genre-blending, refreshingly written Brutal Legend and the super innovative Scribblenauts were mostly left out in the cold in 2009 when it came to writer’s pens and gamer’s wallets. Sure new games make mistakes, but shouldn’t critics, if not gamers, be a little more responsive to games that take risks?
9. Successful Games Can Pop Up in Unsuspected Places.
Zynga, the company that makes Mafia Wars and Farmville, have stated that 12 million people play their games over Facebook and Myspace. That’s like World of Warcraft numbers, many of which would have never played a game otherwise. The iPhone and iPod touch have sold over 30 million units and use the slickness of the app store to get games into the hands of consumers that would never pick up a wii-mote (as dignified as that sounds.) And lets not forget the impressive indy games that are thriving on the Internet and and stealing the show at GDC. Gaming wasn’t only based on the big three’s efforts in 2009 and hopefully 2010 will be the year that games are played by more people than ever before.