February was a crowded month, chock-full of financial reports and tailing off with the Japanese release of Nintendo’s 3DS. Head in for a full round-up of the month’s news.
New in February 2011
Two Worlds II
Test Drive Unlimited 2
Marvel vs Capcom 3
De Blob 2
The 3DS arrived in Japan on February 26, and as we learned in later months, shifted over 370,000 units in just two days. Excitement was high – even before the console hit shelves, Famistu doled out reasonably high review scores for its launch line up. It would be weeks before the optimism wore off, and in the meantime, we were jazzed for western launch – although the Australian pricing caused more than a few raised eyebrows.
But it was Sony’s other handheld that made headlines – even prior to its official debut. Its launch trailer was leaked to YouTube a good five days before the covers came off ahead of a full reveal at the Mobile World Congress.
One of the year’s most controversial releases arrived in February: People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm. The Epic co-developed shooter threw out any pretention at gravity and approached the shooter genre with absolute levity – and quite a lot of swears. Although reviews were mainly favourable, and later reports showed decent sales, the game proved highly divisive – a real love or hate release.
Sony’s PS3-exclusive shooter Killzone 3 proved almost the opposite, taking its usual deadly serious approach and mostly winning praise for it.
Knights Contract, an action-slash-AI-escort effort and what would prove to be the last major release from Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom developer Game Revolution, arrived and promptly fell flat. Meanwhile, Trion Worlds’ MMORPG Rift did the opposite of that, going on to carve out and maintain a significant player base over the coming months.
Still with RPGs, Two Worlds II released – and didn’t. The UK and PAL territory release was delayed, apparently due to a damaged shipment, with the game later becoming an Amazon exclusive due to limited stock. After all that, it didn’t raise much of a buzz.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 launched, pleasing fans of racers but drawing 70-average reviews, whereas the equally genre-specific Marvel vs Capcom 3 was praised to the rafters.
On the more whimsical side, Double Fine released another of the digital titles born from brainstorming days, the charming and clever Stacking, while the Australian-developed de Blob 2 proved a wonderful successor to the Dutch original, although it didn’t exactly set the charts on fire.
According the NPD Group’s February Report on US sales figures, Call of Duty Black Ops remained top of the charts for the fourth month running. Marvel vs Capcom 3 came in second place, with Bulletstorm and Killzone in seventh and eighth respectively.
Although total software sales took an 8% year-on-year tumble, hardware jumped 10% and accessories, 22%, resulting in an overall 3% boost over 2010’s figures.
Sony boasted of the PlayStation 3’s 18th consecutive month of growth, While Nintendo hit the 35 million millstone for Wii sales in the US. The Xbox 360 took out its 11th month as top console and hasd its biggest non-holiday month so far.
Going from strength to strength – at this stage – Sony released its quarterly financials, showing doubled PlayStation 3 software sales year on year, a narrowing of the gap between the PS3 and the Xbox 360, and a massively improved profits prediction.
EA’s financials were quite eventful, too, with the first hints that BioWare’s long-awaited Star Wars MMO might actually in 2011. An “exciting” new shooter was teased for 2011, too – surely you remember how that played out.
THQ also had an exciting announcement to make, slapping Saints Row: the Third down for a third quarter release – which was almost enough to make us overlook posting another quarterly loss, especially when we got the first leaked images.
Square Enix didn’t fare so well, with a massive drop in profits and the sad admission that Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days had sold like the titular dog’s breakfast. Sega has similar news, and although its numbers jumped, Platinum Games’ excellent shooter Vanquish was revealed as a sub-1 million seller.
On the positive side, Namco Bandai boasted a win and growing Tekken sales, and Take Two not only pulled in money – Red Dead Redemption had shifted 8 million units by this point – but was named Metacritic’s highest rated publisher for 2010.
Hatched, Matched and Dispatched
Now for the gloomy part: February brought carnage. Activision Blizzard axed its entire music game department – at least temporarily – and that put paid to DJ Hero developer 7 studios close. ActiBli’s guillotine wasn’t finished, either – UK-based racer specialist Bizarre Creations bowed out after months of tense waiting.
As if Activision had started a trend. MTV announced it would close its Games venture, resulting in lay-offs at Harmonix. The company struggled on as an independent and continues to push out DLC for MTV Games-published titles.
Hudson’s Entertainment banner announced it would close doors by the end of the month as part of its acquisition by Konami, and THQ cut 14 jobs at its flagship Australian studio, offloading its mobile division, too.
True or False?
After reading that, you probably need a laugh. Here’s one: a report claimed Ubisoft staff had said I Am Alive had been transitioned from full retail product to digital offering. Ubisoft claimed the report was a joke. As you probably know, I Am Alive is a digital only release. Oh you wacky publishers!
After weeks of speculation, From Software put a name to its mysterious Project Dark: Dark Souls. For business reasons, Namco Bandai was keen to stress the game had no relation to Demon’s Souls, but it did, of course – and went on to become on of the year’s most important releases.
Our ongoing longing turned up yet another Mirror’s Edge 2 rumour, but the question of its eventual appearance remains unanswered. More satisfactorily, we heard that Grashopper Manufacture was working on something called “Lollipop Chainsaw”. Vincdicated, amirite.
Hints suggested something major was going on at Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege III developer Obsidian Entertainment, with a CV outing “Project Virginia”, strongly suspected to be a Wheel of Time game. Officially, the team had two unannounced titles in the works – one for XBLA, and one under wraps, but possibly the South Park RPG announced late in the year.
To the horror of eager fans everywhere, strategy veteran team Gas Powered games put its passion project, Kings and Castles, on hold. It wouldn’t be long before we found out why, but at this point, it was all tears, all the time.
But DICE and EA had an antidote, using Game Informer as a platform to announce Battlefield 3 at long last.
Ball’s in your court
Legal eagles had a busy month, mostly because of Sony. The great LG vs Sony case continued, with LG attempting to pull the consoles off US shelves and succeeding in blocking shipments to Europe.
On the political side, Australian minister for home affairs Brendan O’Connor vowed that an R18+ratings category for video games would be in the works by mid-year. Maybe he wanted to play Mortal Kombat – the games was refused classification, and Warner chose not to censor it, effectively banning it from Australian retail.
In its war on hackers, Sony was denied subpoenas on practically every site ever, but was said to be set to inspect GeoHot’s PC. GeoHot wrote a somewhat obscene and decidedly homophobic rap about it. On a related note, one hacker claimed that user’s credit card information was transmitted to the PlayStation Network in unencrypted form.
For other companies, the digital frontier proved less hazard-filled, and February was full of positive signs of change. Apple began allowing subscription fees through its App Store, and Steam was reported to hold 70% of the PC market, and to be making money hand over fist.
Even Sony scored a win by announcing it planned to bring the PlayStation Suite to other manufacturer’s devices – paving the way for a hardware to software platform transition in the future.
Did I say there was no gloom in this part? that was a fib. Crytek was bitterly disappointed when an incomplete Crysis 2 build leaked, and Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime made an impassioned rant against cheap mobile games. He had some good points, but he also came across as a bit of a jerk.
Marketing and PR
Speaking of coming across as a jerk, EA launched a marketing campaign called “Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2“, which ruffled feathers for pandering to stereotypes.
Ubisoft confirmed it wouldn’t use its hated always-on DRM from the Steam page for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood; another blip in its up-and-down graph on this issue.
E3, long the mecca of hardcore gamers, decided to close ranks against bloggers with smaller audiences, denying them press passes, which was a major blow for non-commercial sites.
Rumours suggested 2K had made some drastic changes to XCOM, the shooter revival of the classic 90’s tactics series, following negative fan and press reaction. 2K denied the reports. (Spoiler: That was a fib.)
Gearbox’s troubled relationship with announces came to a bit of a head when a quote snaffled from VG247 itself began doing the rounds as “confirmation” of Borderlands 2. The game was due for a massive media reveal later in the year and Gearbox was in super-deny mode, so Randy Pitchford did not take kindly to the misquote. We scrambled to control the story.
TechLand won praise for its emotional and artistic Dead Island trailer, but copped a bit of flack for depicting the death of a child.
Speaking of kiddies, Bethesda offered a lifetime pass to its entire catalogue of games for any baby born on Skyrim’s release day and named “Dohvakiin”. They were totally not joking, and someone did it.
And on the homefront, VG247 relaunched with a new, even spiffier look, some new features, and some structural changes which let us get out the big stories faster, as well as extend coverage to more kinds of gaming.
February was even busier than January, and this trend was to continue unabated all year – so tune in again tomorrow as we head into March.