Some weeks are born great, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Others have rainbow-farting unicorns. This was the latter.
What happened: BioWare sent its latest space odyssey through the mass relay to 2012. For a brief moment, the smile was technically extinct.
What it means: While our desire to sink our teeth into the last leg of Shepard’s journey can only be described as “disturbing” and “Please, sir, stop seductively licking the pre-order case,” we actually count this as a good thing. Fact is, we were looking at three BioWare epics in one year, and something needed to give. Hell, if it meant getting the best Mass Effect 3 possible, we’d wait until the end of next year – you know, when the actual Reapers are causing the real end of the known universe. Let’s be honest here: Dragon Age II was a bit of a mess. It seems, however, that BioWare’s learned its lesson when it comes to cutting corners. Or at least, we’re really hoping so. (Also an acceptable reason: BioWare’s decided to reinstate Wrex as a full party member and also turn him into a romance option. Fingers and redundant nervous systems crossed.)
What happened: The Sony hackstravasplosion continued with enough twists and turns to populate an entire one-and-a-half M. Night Shyamalan movies. In no particular order: SOE got hacked in two and bled credit card info all over the place, Congress shouted a bunch, Sony blamed Anonymous, Anonymous denied it, and then Anonymous blamed Anonymous. Confused? That’s because nothing makes sense anymore.
What it means: Sony’s tribulations are far from over, but blame-shifting and more frighteningly lengthy periods of radio silence probably aren’t in its best interest. Has some Anonymous splinter group been at the heart of all this? Probably. The motivation and means are both there. But does it really matter? Similarly, did it really matter when Sony tried to beat Geohot over the head with a judge’s gavel? Regardless of who’s technically in the right (and if you ask us, everyone involved is wrong in some way or another), Sony’s just throwing more dirt on its own reputation instead of owning up to what has been – in all honesty – a stunningly slow response to the whole situation. “Welcome Back” and “Making Good” programs are a step in the right direction, but unless Sony displays actual awareness of what it should be making good for, it merely looks ignorant and out-of-touch.
What happened: Ubisoft added another grizzled, pretty-spry-for-an-old-guy hero to its arsenal in the form of a middle-aged Ezio Auditore. We’d like to think him and Sam Fisher often share drinks and reminisce fondly about a time before kids used curse words.
What it means: On one hand, we despise slapdash annual sequels. On the other, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was anything but. Game Informer’s first details are undeniably tantalizing, too, with an apparent parkour revamp in the cards by way of a snazzy hookblade that Ezio may have swiped from Link during one of his nightmares about D-Day, except with chickens. A robust bomb system, Assassin’s Dens, puzzle rooms for Desmond, sophisticated mo-cap, and story focused multiplayer also all sound like just what the creepy, bird-mask-wearing doctor ordered. Sure, we feel like Ezio’s definitely warn out his welcome, but if Ubisoft manages to pull this off without any major drops in quality, we doubt we’ll be able to complain.
What happened: Both EA and THQ reported their FY11 financial results and impressed us with their ability to do perfect impressions of one another. For instance, who’s general gist is this: “Despite a number of generally successful titles, we lost a bunch of money. It’s sort of a bummer. But we plan to make it all back by beating Call of Duty eventually.” Give up? Us too.
What it means: Big-budget game development’s stakes continue to grow ever higher, and companies like EA and THQ are being forced to evolve. Without a doubt, this is a huge transition period, and the sorts of companies that emerge on the other side will determine what triple-A gaming looks like in the future. The good news: By and large, EA and THQ are doing a quite a few things right. EA’s making big strides in the digital space and pacing its releases very smartly. THQ, meanwhile, is following a similar mold, though perhaps with a bit too much reliance on proven franchises. But there’s still that damn combat boot-clad elephant in the room: Call of Duty. This overwhelming desire to beat it by being it seems like a huge step backward – especially given Activision’s lack of lineup diversity otherwise. Gaming industry, we love you, so know that these are Affection Punches we’re throwing as hard as we can directly at your soft, highly shatter-prone nose.
What happened: Remedy boss Matias Myllyrinne thinks the industry needs to wake up and smell the collectible coffee that consumed our lives like a delectable Starbucks beverage and realize that digital’s the way forward. No ifs, ands, or buts. And if retail has to fall of the face of the earth in the process, well, maybe it had it coming.
What it means: This is a tricky subject, because there are plenty of pros and cons to either side of the argument. Digital’s frequently more convenient and cloud saving theoretically eliminates the whole “But how do I bring my game to my friend’s house” argument. On the other hand, some people just like being able to clutch something to their chest and intermittently stroke it like a precious kitten, and all-digital potentially gives publishers and devs free reign to charge arms, legs, and first edition Charizards for content that’s worth, like, a few fingers and a Venusaur at best. Obviously, PC and mobile gaming are mostly all the way there, but the big-budget console sector presents its own set of challenges. Physical media may be on the wane, but we’re not sure it’ll ever get kicked to the curb completely. Nor are we sure we want it to be.
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