It should still be quite fresh in your mind, but let’s seal the deal and wrap up our 2011 retrospective by recapping December, or, to give it its more common name, “Star Wars Month”.
2011′s news, month by month
If you could animate the shifting of the release calendar over the course of a year as new releases and delays are announced, I strongly suspect you’d see a kind of tectonic shift away from December after EA and BioWare put a date on Star Wars: The Old Republic. The long-anticipated MMORPG, spiritual follow up to the success of the Knight of the Old Republic games, dominated the month. Some of it was even news – BioWare gladdened antipodean hearts by promising an Australia and New Zealand release, probably with local servers. Less surprisingly, the game suffered massive queues and delays as demand outstripped server supply.
Teabagging and Other Revealing Moments
One of the key reveals of the VGAs was The Last of Us. The mysterious new PlayStation 3 exclusive came out of nowhere, and despite repeated teasing – including inside Uncharted 3 – nobody tipped the game as Naughty Dog’s new IP.
Confirming rumours, BioWare revealed its new project as Command & Conquer: Generals 2, in the works at Victory Games, newly folded into the EA BioWare label.
Vita: Is it or isn’t it?
The Vita launched in Japan mid-way through the month, ahead of its February release in the west. Reports came in of an official apology over mass firmware problems, but Sony issued a denial.
Accounts of the initial shipment ranged up to 700,000, but retailers reported that the console had not sold out. Media Create later revealed the first week saw just 325,000 units sold, not as many as rival 3DS managed in its own launch. The best-selling Vita game, Hot Shots Golf, peaked at seventh place on the charts, with multiple 3DS titles above it.
But after all that, remember that we thought the 3DS was a roaring success, then feared that it wasn’t, and now it seems to be back on the up – so don’t put on your mourning garments just yet.
The 3DS turned a corner, with Nintendo announcing the console had passed the first year sales of its precursor, the DS, in just eight months. Even accounting for gaming’s increased audience that’s significant news, as the DS holds several records for best-selling hardware. The 3DS nabbed one of its own though, becoming Australia’s fastest-selling console. That’s a bit like being king of a postage stamp, but hey! Nintendo finally got around to releasing the free Game Boy Advance titles it had promised early adopters, too.
Jaws dropped as EA announced a new premium subscription service … for the mobile versions of Tetris.
New in December
Star Wars: The Old Republic
The Adventures of Tintin
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD
Infinity Blade II
On the trade side, Zynga prepared for its initial public offering, dropping its valuation from $10 billion to $7 billion. Shares went live at $10, and then fluctuated madly before heading into a decline. Also worth slightly less money than previously thought, Activision parent company Vivendi struggled to find creditors.
Microsoft unleashed its new Xbox Dashboard, calling it the “future of TV”. It was quite light on gaming features, and the new look raised the usual grumbles – including worrisome reports of decreased video quality. On the upside, Australians actually ceased complaining, as voice support for ocker accents finally arrived.
Telstra lifted the lid on a planned streaming games service for Australia, and still in Oz, we were shocked when Gerry Harvey, an outspoken opponent of parallel importing, announced a new games import service attached to the Harvey Norman retail chain.
Hatched, Matched and Dispatched
Not a lot of turnover hit the headlines in December, but SCE Americalost two executives, with Rob Dyer heading to Zynga and Scott Steinburg resigning without explanation.
There was lots of recruiting news, though – Rare recruiting pulled in some key staffers from Codemasters and Ubisoft, among others, and Sledgehammer started luring in staff for the next Call of Duty. Ubisoft Quebec’s MMORPG plans were outed by job ads; LucasArts similarly revealed two new games; and Lionhead’s own hustling apparently revealed an upcoming MMO.
EA snapped up KlickNation.
An interview revealed Infinity Blade II was the result of a crunch period so intense Chair vowed never to do it again. Also ready for a holiday. Markus “Notch” Persson turned over the lead development role on Minecraft to take a break and focus on other projects.
While refusing to comment on rumours of his resignation, Sony repeatedly assured fans Fumito Ueda was still working on The Last Guardian. Eventually, the rumours were confirmed - Ueda has left Sony, and will continue work on The Last Guadian as a contracted freelancer. Gamestop landed in hot water when it issued an erroneous message that the game had been cancelled, tpp.
True or False?
Picking up an ongoing chain of rumours over unannounced EA titles, studio changes and tech sharing, whispers suggested the next Army of Two of two game would sport four-player co-op and use the Frostbite engine.
Ken Kutaragi, the Sony engineer largely responsible for every PlayStation product prior to the Vita, hinted that he was working on a “cool” new project.
Square Enix gave away a first look at one of its new properties – an action RPG. Obsidian unveiled South Park: The Game, an RPG which nobody saw coming, and Sony finally gave us another look at PS Move title, Sorcery.
A scandal over the Vita’s support for multiple users ended badly for everyone. First it didn’t, and then it did – and now it definitely doesn’t, and nobody seems happy about it. On the bright side, uh, look at these pretty trailers for launch and upcoming Vita titles.
A couple of nasty bugs caused grumbles, with Bethesda still unable to date a patch for Skyrim’s PlayStation 3 stutter-bug, and Nintendo owning up to a game-breaking Skyward Sword glitch. Unusually, the company will offer a patch – or you can send your console in for a manual fix.
Although the PS3 bug is still causing rage, Bethesda announced it had shipped 10 million copies of Skyrim. In the digital realm, the game broke Steam records, and took the top of the charts from Modern Warfare 3.
Famed Nintendo creative Shigeru Miyamoto joked in an interview that he would be “retiring” – meaning he would allow younger creatives to take the reins while he pursued his own projects – but the story of his imminent departure spread like fire and elicited an official denial from the big N. Wired insisted they’d reported verbatim.
Ball’s in Your Court
After literally decades, Quake was delisted by German authorities, and on the subject of violence in games, the Red Cross launched an investigation into whether warfare conventions should apply to games.
In Australia, the lack of any content ratings category higher than MA15+ truck again – Syndicate was refused classification, effectively banning it from sale, for its frequent dismemberment, decapitation and mutilation of corpses. EA Australia proudly declared it wouldn’t submit to “arcane censorship“, sparking a furious debate in local media as to whether it meant “archaic”.
A French court ruled in favour of Namco Bandai, forcing CD Projekt to accept the publisher as distributor for the Witcher 2 on Xbox 360.
And on the homefront, we shut up shop for a well-deserved holiday. VG247 produced nearly 14,000 articles over the course of 2011, and after a few days of stuffing ourselves with food and presents, we’re back and determined to do even better this year. Here’s to 2012.