2008 - year-end wrap-up

A rehash of the past twelve months, from my P.O.V.
  And so, my little blog finds it's way to the end of another year, and I suppose it's my duty (absolutely!) to do a little summation of what 2008 had in store for the world of gaming.

  Unlike the previous year, 2008 seemed relatively quieter/less disruptive overall. A lot of money was made, lots of big sweeping changed occurred, but overall the year seemed kind of grey in it's tone. I would say in the bigger scheme of things, it was a somewhat forgettable year overall... not a bad one, though.

  Lots and lots of big releases for a year I hadn't expected much fanfare from. We saw the PS3 hitting it's stride quite a bit, after kind of a dull 1st year in existence. Xbox 360 of course had a great year, well at least consistent if not... noteworthy. Wii is continuing to be a mammoth money-making machine, and it saw some decent releases as well, but again nothing like it's previous year (though it saw a few very solid titles). DS and PSP sort of went on doing their thing, with expected efforts.

  Economically, I can't say I know how much moolah the games industry raked in, but you can bet it was something hefty. I believe March alone saw something in the neighborhood of a BILLION dollars (a sum that previous entire years could not match!) and that was before some of the year's bigger releases had even come out. Despite the wild profits, game development has become exponentially more expensive, so in spite of wonderful sales, it's costing much more to get to those profits - we saw a lot of layoffs and studio closures this year, as the typical cycle of change continued in the industry. It really hit in earnest toward the end of the year (not unusual for such things) but what a bummer..!

  Games releases - as noted, I was a little clueless about what was due to come down the pipe this year, but as it unfolded I wised up. We saw heavy hitters Metal Gear Solid 4 and GTA 4 of course, with much buildup and fanfare proclaiming these games to be the Second Coming for some time now. Ultimately, they may have failed to live up to that hype, and regardless of what their ultimate effects were on their audiences, they did deliver - and they DID sell loads of copies. Of course all eyes were on the Wii this year, as it's been building up quite a head of steam since release - for a variety of reasons, not least of which is it's remarkably well built-up userbase (hey, it is still challenging to find a wii system available for purchase on a store shelf! It has been TWO YEARS!) Wii did well with titles such as Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart, and of course Wii Fit - regardless of how these titles rated, or their staying power, they were standout during the year for various reasons. Wii Music released for the holidays, a game which I am sure will always be remembered as one that never-quite-fit, though it does seem to have it's fans (though perhaps not the intended sales). Personally, the Wii surpised me with the "EA/Steven Spielberg Collaboration" Boom Blox, which looks horribly childish (and low-tech) but is just incredibly fun, particularly at parties. No one wanted to like this game, but after playing it I don't think anyone could argue that it's one of the most enjoyable videogames ever produced, in many ways..

  PS3 games.. ummm.. it's escaping me right now, WHAT came out for this system - was lair this year? Sigh. PS3 is stuttering along, they aren't exactly falling apart at the seams but certainly failing to impress when it really counts. I guess we saw Ninja Gaiden 2 on PS3 - or was it Xbox? (Exactly! Well, it was only on Xbox actually) Devil May Cry released for both systems this year as well, a former PS3 exclusive that wanted to "make money" and I cannot blame them. So they got their MGS4
anyway, and the (who noticed?) Metal gear Online as well. I couldn't even tell you if there was a SOCOM. Gran Turismo Prologue I think (enough with this...!) Ratchet and Clank got a very tiny side-story (better than nothing, but commendable nonetheless). No Jak and Daxter, no Spyro, okay that stuff is a generation or two old but still we should have seen something by SOMEone. There's big holes in their release schedule, and not much excuse for it. I mean, money is waiting to be spent! At the end of the year we got another Motorstorm (who asked for it?) and Resistance 2 (should have waited another year, or "who asked for this either?") Sony is a smart and powerful company, who seem to be making some extremely predictable missteps. Yea, they are making money. Yeah, their system is "formidable." But they are losing a lot of ground for some pretty simple reasons. I guess this is what happens when you start getting top-heavy (and invested a bit much in the longevity of the PS2). I predict a better 09 for PS3, but still sluggish and stale. Lest I forget, at least we got LittleBigPlanet out of the deal, one of the coolest games I have EVER seen. Truly a game which maybe didn't "deserve" to exist (2D? DIY? on PLAYSTATION?) but it gives me hope and pride to see a game this gorgeous, brilliant, and full of pep and character come out with this kind of backing. It won't make them tons of money, but at least it shows some willingness to do something weird and different.

  XBox has gone on as planned - business as usual. What the hell big-name titles did they release this year, I can't even get anything out of my head? Who cares. Xbox is to hardcore gamers as Wii is to everyone else. They are truly the PS2 of this generation, in that they have games for all walks of life. Unlike PS2, they are powerful enough (technically) to stand head-to-head with the competition (PS2 always looked weak next to Xbox and Gamecube, though it had many more "fun games" that everybody wanted). Okay, this is bothering me, WHAT DID COME OUT for Xbox this year? Mass Effect was the end of 2007 - fallout was mutli-SKU. yeah I know Gears 2. Um... Viva Pinata 2? Banjo-Kazooie? Fable 2? Shoot I am drawing a blank, what a cheesy way to wrap up my year-end of blogging then. I guess they kinda lay back and let the multi-platform stuff run the show on autopilot then.. which I guess you an do when a billion people have already purchased your platform, and keep doing so. Notably, 360 is extremely progressive in Japan, where once upon a time (forever!) any game system not produced by Nintendo or Sony or the like was instantly DOA. Same for 360 for a time. Anyway I have to hand it to them for turning things around. I am still waiting to see if my system dies... sigh. Online, nothing spectacular. Geo Wars II, but everyone's forgotten already. I was excited - to a degree - for Galaga Legions, but the demo left me uninterested (this, after all the enjoyment I got out of Pacman CE). As noted in an earlier entry, I am waiting to see Space Invaders Extreme over here, I think that'll be a blast...!

  What did the PC guys get - well, other than the usual Multi-SKU stuff, EA/Mythic got Warhammer out the door hoping to steal a little WOW thunder - no clue how that's going, though I am sure it's only a matter of time until another one bites the dust (you can't stop those guys.. behemoth!) Of course the new WOW expansion released recently as well, and it moved record units, though again.. it's an expansion. WOW's gotta get old sooner or later, but it's got some crazy-remarkable staying power. EA Maxis' Spore finally saw light, after umpteen years of development and redevelopment - again, to no great fanfare. It sounds interesting, but another halfhearted effort at the end of the day, no doubt throttled by politics and economics. But hey, I am not gonna be one to kick EA when they are down, they have definitely been trying to do right by the critics as of late (much to their stockholders' chagrin).

  --ONLINE --

  PS3 finally got their "online experience" Home up and running, after much lead-up. I don't think many people like this thing, personally I see it as a warm pile, but I stand by my conviction that it still holds enormous potential - if exploited properly, it could become a really unique, enjoyable experience. It needs the right people in charge of it, someone with a combination of technical knowhow and imagination and enthusiasm to make it their baby, who won't cave into the suits so much - I think it could take off (I'd love to give it a shot!) That'll never happen, but as far as where it does go, time will only tell.

  Xbox has their "NXE New Xbox Experience" as well, which I think is kinda gross as well, but at least they are trying to change with the times - even if it doesn't fit my taste (and I'd never promote "changing for the sake of changing," at least not in such a fashion). Still it's noticeably more accessible than Wii's 24Connect service - yuck - but hey at least Nintendo has done SOMETHING. Pathetic that it must be so championed -- Again, I'd love to be the person in charge of designing such things, as there's a lot they could learn from M$ Live and the PSN.

  Soooo, yeah! Another year, all wrapped up all pretty with a big ol' BOW on it. And me, what did I play? Ah heck, I am no gamer. I just read GAF a lot, boy. I got a vectrex! That's fun! I got a TG-16 and CDRom and Japanese card to play JPN discs! I guess my most enjoyment was a few notable sessions of Boom Blox on Wii with friends, plus back to it with more Rock Band (though that's pretty stale by now. Still fun, but old!) Honestly we pulled Bomberman 2 out for SNES at a few parties this year and that got a lot of play, that was probably the most enjoyable gaming for me. I played a bit of Wii Fit, it's not "fun!" but it does feel useful and gets me more interested in going to the gym and stuff. I would love to see a tweaked-out version of this, or something.. I still have to charge up my gameboy micro with some other games... As for PSP and DS, lest I forget, nooooot much to sayyyyyyy. PSP is yawny, DS is always eh-to-really good, and iPhone/Google-thing are the ones to keep an eye on.

  Am I excited for the coming year in games? Not really. It's just kind of grinding away at this point. Wii's the one to watch, always, it gets the "weird games" which I find enjoyable. Uncharted 2 will likely be fun, colorful, and more-of-the-same... God of War 2 will of course look excellent and be fun. Xbox will keep coasting. No one will care about PSP, and more weird little games will come out for DS. Everyone and their mother will keep wringing their hairs over WOW. Bleah.

  ---SCRREEEEECH! I almost forgot! Can't have a year-end wrap-up without some mention of the weirdness in the industry! Aside from all the upset (layoffs times a million), the usual hubbub- 19 new guitar hero games announced, activision/Blizzard merger and all of that fallout, death knells of giants like Midway and THQ, etc... we saw a lot of change in the gaming press. A lot of big names who were active in the press retired, or went over to dev, or what-have-you. Also my favorite podcasty-thing Retrogaming radio pretty much ran outta steam after a decade. Over all it was a lot of changing of the guard, across a LOT of sources that I followed, and I am not too pleased about all of that - a new day is dawning, and it's with a lot of the old guard being absent. And so it goes. Happy new year.

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