Two of the year’s most important events, a rapidly filling release calendar, probably the year’s biggest new IP and Epic’s farewell to the Gears of War trilogy. September 2011 was all go.
New in September 2011
Gears of War 3
Warhammer 40k: Space Marine
Rise of Nightmares
Star Fox 64 3D
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
The Cursed Crusade
The Binding of Isaac
Commanding headline space with one of the Tokyo Game Show’s two international keynotes, Sony went all out with the Vita hype machine. At the pre-show conference, the handheld console was priced and dated for Japan; revealed to be region free; to have optional external batteries; to boast a strong launch line up; and most excitingly, prepaid 3G Internet, the importance of which should not be underestimated. Shuhei Yoshida gave a forward-looking presentation, showing off the console’s AR capabilities, and the potential to stream full PS3 games to it via remote play – a feature still in the works but drawing strong interest.
Famitsu snapped the first official images of the 3DS’s second analog circle peripheral, dubbed various the Circle Pad, Slide Pad, Claw, and Frankenstick. The add-on would make playing Monster Hunter on a portable far more bearable for those used to twin stick camera control, leading to a great deal of excitement among the phenomenally popular series’s fanbase.
That excitement was justly rewarded at the company’s pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference, where a 3DS version of Monster Hunter Tri was announced – along with Monster Hunter 4. Nintendo also showed off a number of previously unannounced, upcoming 3DS titles, many of which are yet to be detailed for western press.
After many hints and months of speculation, Sony Online Entertainment announced DC Universe Online would go free to play in October. The PC and PlayStation 3 MMORPG launched just nine months earlier, in January.
With the game on the horizon at least, EA and Virgin gaming teamed up to offer a $1.6 million prize pool in Battlefield 3 tournaments.
Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, a tablet with many more gaming-friendly functions than the strict e-Reader models of the past.
True or False?
Finally making good on its three year old promise to deliver Dragon Quest X (apparently in the works for six years), Square Enix unveiled the game, revealing a change of creative team from recent series developer Level-5 to an internal studio. More interestingly, the game was touted as something like an MMO, but still playable offline – up to a point – on both Wii and Wii U.
Speaking of the Wii U, rumours originating with generally trustworthy outlets suggested the console’s development was not going strictly to plan.
Back with Square Enix, the publisher announced an HD re-release of Final Fantasy X for PlayStation 3 and Vita. Konami added its Metal Gear Solid and Zone of the Enders collections to the handheld’s line up, too.
At long, long last, EA confirmed the existence of Starbreeze’s Syndicate reveal, with a surprisingly short PR cycle ahead of its February release. Then again, it seems to have been in the works for, you know, forever, so the PR team was probably pretty organised. Certainly they went ahead and uploaded the reveal assets a day early, spoiling the surprise. Starbreeze has a brand new IP in the works, too.
Team Ninja admitted it is in fact working on Dead or Alive 5,
Marketing and PR
343 Industries let slip some artwork of Master Chief as he will appear in Halo 4, the first core entry in the series to be developed outside Bungie. Small changes in the Spartan’s appearance drew wrath from the faithful, which 343 is still attempting to calm with repeated messaging about the protagonist’s subtle, narrative-driven morphing over the franchise’s lifetime.
Ubisoft landed in trouble again, having shipped Driver: San Francisco with missing UPlay Passports – the equivalent of an online pass. Online pass critics were quick to rage out over the error. It did retrospectively remove the always-on DRM from Eric Chahi’s From Dust, though, which won it a few points.
Although it was quiet at E3, Activision grandstanded in September with Call of Duty XP, the first major event based on the most successful shooter series in the business. Call of Duty Elite was explained in detail; punters went hands-on with Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer debut; and Steph talked to Robert Bowling about building one of the biggest entertainment experiences in the world.
Square Enix told the world that Final Fantasy Versus XIII, first announced in 2006, had gone into full production at last.
Keiji Inafune re-ignited fanboy rage by revealing he had offered to complete the shelved Mega Man Legends 3 as a freelancer and been shot down by Capcom.
Ahead of the October release of its first new IP in forever, RAGE, id held an anniversary celebration at the Sydney opera House. It was geektastic, our man on the scene reported.
The back-and-forth mudslinging between Microsoft and Sony as to which one is more supportive of third parties and indies continued; one third party joined Microsoft’s ranks, but remained anonymous
Gears of War 3 launched world-wide to massive excitement, including a strongly localised patch somewhere in rural France. 3 million units were sold in the first week of release, making Gears of War the only Microsoft-exclusive franchise to bring in $1 billion.
Dead Island received mixed reviews – particularly the Steam version, which turned out to be an incomplete dev build instead of the retail version which should have been uploaded. There was a nasty bit of inappropriate humour hidden in the botched release, which caused a bit of a ruckus. Nevertheless, the game wandered up to the top of the charts and stayed there for a couple of weeks. Lionsgate bought the film rights.
Resistance 3, on the other hand, reviewed very well, but failed to set the charts on fire.
The NPD Group’s September report had Madden 12 in top spot, having released right on the tail of August, but for the first time in months the chart got a good shake up. Gears of War took second with Dead Island in third, FIFA 12 in fourth, and NHL 12 in fifth. resistance 3 managed seventh and Warhammer 40,000: Soace marine scraped in in tenth.
Software sales showed an increase both year-on-year and over August, but hardware dropped nine percent year on year despite the 3DS’s release in the interim.
Hatched, Matched and Dispatched
Ryan Payton farewelled 343 Industries, where he had served as Halo 4’s narrative designer, to form a new company called Camoflaj. He was somewhat besieged with questions about the game he left behind, unfinished, but 343 maintains much has changed since Payton’s departure.
Ex-CD Projekt producer Tomasz Gop reportedly turned up again, now in the services of City Interactive with an unannounced RPG in the works.
Sony appointed ex-Homeland expert Philip Reitinger to the post of chief information security officer, a new role created in the wake of the April hack of the PlayStation network.
Ball’s In Your Court
Jason West and Vince Zampella, former Infinity Ward leaders, were given a May 2012 window to go to trial against Activision.
Having reached no resolution with the board game creator holding the trenched trademark in Europe, microsoft elected to retitle the game worldwide as Iron Brigade.
A tussle between Bethesda and indies Mojang over the trademark for Scrolls got real, with the two parties heading to court.
And on the homefront, this was the first year VG247 ventured to the Tokyo Game Show; you can grab all our coverage from the event compiled here.
A lot of remarkable things happened in September, not least among them Pat retracting a strongly-held conviction that DRM doesn’t hurt anyone, after massive storms in France left him without Internet for a week. Within days he and his family were living in the cellar, in a shelter they built from slaughtered woodland creatures, expecting the apocalypse.
While our beloved leader was in the talkative mood, he gave his opinion that Eurogamer Expo has become on of Europe’s – and therefore, the world’s – top gaming events. You can see everything we gleaned from the event here.