Features// SPOnG's Review of the Year '09: January

Posted 23 Dec 2009 14:13 by
Let’s do the Time Warp again! It’s almost the end of the year, dear SPOnG readers, and what have we got to show for it? Well, an awful lot as it happens. Not only did we get to speak to a whole bunch of people and play a whole load of games, but all sorts of other events occurred as well.

Modern Warfare 2 shooing the Holiday lineup into 2010, Nintendo's Wii outpacing PlayStation 2 sales, Warner Bros. assimilating Midway, Microsoft’s Dashboard-changing NXE, the PS3 Slimpact... yep, a lot of things have happened in the last 12 months.

The best way of moving forward is to learn from your past (or something), as someone once said (maybe), so take a stroll with us before the serene/mental (delete as applicable) Christmas holidays and reminisce about the most popular news stories and features with SPOnG.com’s Review of the Year.


Like most starts to a new year, January 2009 was still dealing with the hangover that 2008 brought upon it. Only this year it was more of a break-up; with the recession biting at the games industry - once thought to be immune from the economic crisis - we saw plenty of studio layoffs and bankruptcies.

Chief of these in most people’s minds was the furore surrounding Free Radical Design, which went into administration just before the Christmas holidays in 2008. As January saw an uncertain start to many ex-employees, work pertaining to unreleased games starting popping up on CVs around the Inter-tubes.

Free Radical had been known to be developing Star Wars: Battlefront III with LucasArts (and the cancelling of the deal by LucasArts was revealed to be a contributor to the studio’s financial woes. Well, that and the atrocious Haze of course), and sure enough information on the game slowly trickled out during the first month of the year.

It all came to a head on the 16th January, which we might as well call Battlefront III Day (imaginative, I know). It all began with a leaked video of early footage, which was promptly removed from Youtube by LucasArts. SPOnG dug a little deeper and met a chap who would only be known as “Thomas Dudenaughty” (‘gnarly’), a former Free Radical employee.

From Thomas, we exclusively learned that the leaked footage was legit, and the game had been passed to a new developer since Free Radical’s troubles. “But the tech that allowed you to fly from the ground, to air, to orbit, to space dies with Free Radical's involvement,” we were told. “The new developer will be making it a cutscene every time you want to transition from ground to space.”

What’s more, suspicions of the game’s plot turning Obi Wan Kenobi to the Dark Side were confirmed by Thomas, and he provided an awesome piece of concept artwork to prove it. With the love many gamers had for Free Radical and the Star Wars Battlefront series, it’s no wonder that these revelations became the most popular stories on SPOnG.com in January.

Despite worries of the recession, which would continue to bite publishers and developers throughout 2009, on the 7th January ELSPA revealed a record-breaking year for the games industry during 2008.

In news that would make Nintendo chuffed to bits, it was also said that nearly half of all software sales in the previous year were on Nintendo platforms, with 20.1million sales generating £481million. The casual market was celebrated as the cause of the boom.

While the PS3 came dead last in software sales (10.4m units; £334m generated), Sony’s console at least ended up beating the Wii on the use of the Internet via built-in web browser (2nd January). You have to appreciate the small victories, we guess.

Not everyone was happy with Nintendo’s casual dominance though. On 30th January Bonnie Ruberg took arms against the company for being “a little disingenuous” in marketing Wii Fit as a fitness tool rather than a game. So betrayed was Bonnie, that she suggested that readers shouldn’t buy the game because it apparently collects dust more than keeps you active. Wouldn’t that say more about the fickle market than Nintendo?
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