Mon, Jan 02, 2012 | 08:43 GMT
Holiday Retrospective – What happened in August 2011
For a large percentage of our audience, August 2011 is the month their capital city went violently insane. For the rest of us, there’s this.
New in August 2011
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
Age of Empires Online
No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Madden NFL 12
Driver: San Francisco
August was a busy month. At the year’s premum fighter tournament, Las Vegas’s EVO, reigning champion and favourite Daigo was bested by Fuudo. At Quakecon, John Carmack’s keynote was as fascinating and as baffling as we have come to expect from one of the industry’s legends. PAX 2011 attendees received pledges of free games.
And there was some other little event, wasn’t there? Oh yes – gamescom. Pat’s two cents, delivered at the end of the show, is that gamescom is doing what E3 isn’t. Check out all our coverage from the massive show – over 550 exhibitors; 275,000 visitors; and serious over-crowding – in one convenient link – or just hunker down for the highlights ahead.
Five months on from the system’s launch, Nintendo promised premium DLC support for the 3DS, although implementation was still a few months off, as well as for the upcoming Wii U.
Blizzard made something of a bold (and controversial) announcement during a Diablo III splurge, outlining plans for an auction house where players can buy and sell in-game items – for real money. The free-to-play revolution was visible elsewhere, too, with Microsoft again making noises about bringing more freemium titles to Xbox Live Arcade.
On a related note, Valve began testing Steam’s trading system, which would eventually let players swap in-game items – including those acquired through random drops – for premium virtual goods including full games.
Valve put $1 million up for grabs in its very frst DOTA 2 tournament at the game’s gamescom reveal – Riot responded instantly by unveiling a $5 million prize pool for the second season of League of Legends.
The Vita swam back into headlines, with Sony revealing the handheld console can be used as a controller for the PS3 – evoking development ideas similar to those attached to the Wii U’s controller set up. Johnny went hands-on with the new console. Sony announced price cuts for the PS3 during its gamescom presser, too.
The NPD Group, still failing to account for digital sales in its monthly reports, announced a partnership with EEDAR to increase its tracking capabilities. We’re still waiting for the results.
True or False?
Warner Bros. put a ring on Grasshopper’s latest effort, the rumoured Lollipop Chainsaw, after a reported case of love at first sight.
Back in the headlines again, Blizzard trademarked Mists of Pandaria, and then got a little bit defensive when everyone promptly guessed it’d be the next expansion.
Borderlands 2 was finally revealed as officially a thing, after months of everyone having to pretend we didn’t know precisely what Gearbox was up to regardless of what they told us. A Game Informer cover spilled plenty of details, and Johnny took a gander at it at gamescom.
Valve had another big reveal, with Counter-strike: Global Offensive. The multi-platform shooter is planned to bring together the two disparate Counter-strike communities in one tournament-friendly setting.
Carbine trumpeted in its heretofore top secret new MMO, Wildstar, which Pat saw and was genuinely impressed by.
Nintendo made a patent for something called a “Massively Single-Player Online Game”, which baffled us utterly (until the reveal of Dragon Quest X. Now we’re just moderately baffled).
Deadly Premonition creator Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro hinted he hopes to get a publisher on board plans to turn the cult favourite into a series.
Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, lovingly developed at Eidos Montreal as a successor to the classic 90′s PC favourites, was hands down the biggest release of August. Reviews were absolutely sterling, and critical praise aside, the buzz was simply tremendous. Anything anybody anywhere had to say about the game was handed around and pawed over as gamers welcomes the official kick off of the release crunch.
Driver: San Francisco had a comparatively quiet launch. Although it reviewed strongly, drawing unexpected praise for its delightfully fun if inarguably silly premise and addictive multiplayer, it slipped under the radar.
Meanwhile, Codemasters Guildford’s flagship Bodycount turned up to – underwhelming praise, shall we say? Stace had a crack at it and was as tactful as possible.
Madden NFL 12 finally got out the door, just in time to technically land a summer release, following strike action which delayed it out of its usual annual window. Everyone felt precisely the same about it as every other yearly entry, and it sold like hotcakes.
The NPD Group’s August report had Deus Ex: Human Revolution at the top of the charts, but the other big names released too late – or too quietly – to make a splash.
It was a bad month all round, actually. Sales jumped a measly 3% over July, and fell 23% year-on-year.
Marketing and PR
During the London Riots, footage from ground zero dominated media for weeks. One example showed a young man, already injured, being robbed of his PSP – Sony representatives quietly replaced the console and games, but we caught ‘em at it and told everyone.
Someone at Starbreeze got the wrong end of the stick and mentioned a reveal of Project Redlime at gamescom. We had been expecting the secret project – know confirmed as Syndicate – to turn up at every major event for the past year, so it’s entirely possible a debut had been planned and then pulled. Regardless, nothing came of it – yet.
Ubisoft back-pedalled again on its always-on DRM, this time promising to leave it out of Driver: San Francisco. The back and forth over From Dust’s DRM resulted in the publisher issuing refunds to dissatisfied PC gamers.
Having itself made some catty comments on Battlefield 3′s console versions, Activision came out firing against EA’s “public mudslinging“. EA’s next volley, the rather mild and sensible comment that it doesn’t need to outsell Call of Duty, made it look positively rational.
We got our first proper look at Steel Battalion at gamescom, and found the Kinect mech sim to be good.
Speaking to shareholders about the 3DS’s price cut, which disappointed early adopters, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said the company hoped to avoid mistakes made with the Gamecube. The executive also halved his salary, taking personal responsibility for slow sales. It wasn’t all bad news – Ocarina of Time became the troubled console’s first million seller.
Indies don’t have to make financial reports, but Mojang did reveal that Minecraft had passed 3 million sales – three months before it would officially come out of beta.
Hatched, Matched and Dispatched
Sly Cooper and inFamous developer Sucker Punch finally made the leap from contractual exclusives to full-blown first party studio, purchased by Sony. The developer expected to continue on as usual.
An organisational shuffle saw EA ‘s top brass play musical chairs. Former EA Sports chief Peter Moore became COO, while EA Games boss Frank Gibeau jumped a rank to the head of EA Labels. In the same switcheroo, EA Games studio’s under the BioWare moniker were promoted to full label, coming under the umbrella name EA BioWare. Oh, and EA acquired Bight Games.
Less delightfully, a death knell was sounded over L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi, with the studio’s assets being sold off and the company going into administration. Nor were publisher-owned studios safe from the headsman’s axe – THQ gave three full teams the chop and dumped MX vs ATV Alive.
Steve Jobs resigned from his position as Apple CEO. We weren’t totally certain why, but we now know he was extremely ill.
Ball’s in your court
A nasty dispute between EA Sports and NCAA players looked likely to cost the publisher over $1 billion.
EA and Valve continued their slow duel over Steam’s terms and conditions, which apparently block the publisher from doing something it desperately wants to do to its own games – direct patching and DLC sales are the prime suspects. During August, the two companies’ ongoing difficulties meant Battlefield 3 would not appear on the Steam. Valve said it wanted to get EA back on board.
And on the homefront, we ran a competition to send a couple of you to Sweden with Pat, to see Battlefield 3 and chat with DICE.
For a few days running Pat favoured us with a full history of the original Xbox, celebrating the consoles anniversary. Read the whole thing – parts one; two; three; and four. This set of editorials wwas among our most popular features this year, and are still well worth a read.