This week’s news was dominated by EA’s third quarter conference call, but it was just smoke and mirrors masking the main event. While not blatantly obvious, this GamePro cover was by far the biggest story this week, signalling the beginning of 2008’s big reveals and the start of the stories and games that will dominate consumer, trade and retail press for the rest of the year.
EA’s financials and the various bits of product-related information surrounding them were important, sure, but hardly nuclear. Rock Band was confirmed for Wii (shock), Spore was moved into “holiday 2008” (horror) and the company tried to mask a profit hit in some record revenues in a financial performance that could be described accurately as “not bad, must do better”. The news went everywhere, the investor call was torn apart by a hundred sites and that, as they say, was that. The real meat didn’t turn up till Saturday.
GamePro’s next edition, to release on February 12, has the title “Gears of War 2” on the cover, it emerged yesterday, four little words that signal the start of the annual Great Tradeshow Circus and first solid mention of what will almost certainly be one of the biggest games of the year. GDC, running from February 18-22, is now looking like a dead cert for a showcase reveal of the game, in itself an indication that the San Franciscan event’s importance has risen astronomically since E3 decided to take a rest by the pool in 2006.
Epic has taken the second largest stand at GDC, next to Microsoft’s – the biggest in the show. Microsoft has confirmed a keynote from Live’s corporate VP John Schappert in which the company promises to outline Xbox 360 strategy for the coming year. CMP’s Jamil Moledina said at the time of the confirmation, “The Game Developers Conference is the premiere stage for industry leaders to present their strategies for advancing the state of the art of games.” Given Sony ruled the roost at the show last year with first airings of Home and LittleBigPlanet, and that Microsoft said virtually nothing about gaming in any capacity at CES, it’s reasonable to assume we can expect at least one major reveal from the company at GDC 2008, and probably plenty more.
The web started buzzing about GDC this week. Home will be there again. Alan Wake may be shown by Microsoft (or not). Too Human will definitely appear. CryEngine will be shown running on Xbox 360 and PS3. Fable 2 will be there, and there’s talk now of Square showing off the FFXIII engine in some form. To quote Alan Partridge, “It’s all happening.”
GDC overtook E3’s importance as the Great American Show™ when Phil Harrison stepped onto the Moscone Center stage last year and blew the crowd away with the slickest big show presentation ever seen from a platform holder, followed the next day by Miyamoto himself. Harrison’s legacy – Sony isn't keynoting this year – is that pretty much every major title looking to break ranks before Christmas is now confirmed or rumoured to be heading to San Francisco later this month.
2007 is so, like, last year
Whether or not Gears 2 makes GDC is, of course, irrelevant. GamePro’s cover means we’re now on a merry-go-round of major games tradeshows to include GDC, E3, Games Convention and TGS, and all the smaller events in between. It means we are now looking forward to Banjo-Kazooie, Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid 4, GT5, Halo Wars and Final Fantasy XIII. It means 2007 is officially over.
GamePro’s cover flash may be nothing more than that and the mag’s team is just drumming up sales with “what we know so far”. Microsoft may not show Gears of War 2 at GDC. Epic may have a giant stand full of Unreal-related stuff and we may have to carry on guessing about when we’re going to see the game’s announcement. But whether or not GDC carries a debut for Epic’s sequel, the mere fact that we’re looking forward to another sure-to-be-hot show in California and the big 2008 games it may hold is reason enough to leave 2007, along with EA’s third quarter and all that NPD data, back in 2007 and start looking forward to what promises to be a monster holiday season later this year.