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

Posted 31 Dec 2009 11:11 by
This is a continuing SPOnG retrospective of the year’s events.


It’s Summer time in July, and following the not-quite-epic-but-still-interesting E3 2009, we went back to our regularly scheduled broadcast of bugger-all happening. So, what do you do when there are no games to play? Make one of your own!

A gaming community called ZiiP decided to while away its Summer afternoon by registering the domain name for Modern Warfare 4. Yes, 4 (“Infinity Ward Blackmailed over Modern Warfare 4”, 28th Jul 2009). The plan was to wait until Infinity Ward got round to making the fourth game in the up-to-date war series and then blackmail the development team for free copies of the game in exchange for the domain name.

Very shrewd. But they’ll need patience like a concrete wall if they’re thinking of holding out for that long - you’re looking at four years from now before getting anything - and that’s if IW want to give you anything.

This slow period in the games industry also gives one time to reflect on things. Just like Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, who this month lamented the “penalising” impact on games that are “only good” in quality (“Ubisoft: Only Good Quality Games “Very Penalising”, 28 Jul 2009).

Explaining the delays for games such as I Am Alive, Red Steel 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction, Guillemot said, “We have seen today by the lacklustre back catalogue sales of Prince of Persia and Endwar that games of only good quality are not sufficient any more and can be very penalising.”

Basically, the extra time was going to make these games the very best they could be. These three games were delayed further, to a 2010 release, so let’s hope they’re considered ‘more than good’ by Guillemot soon enough.

One reflection to another, but don’t expect any answers from Nintendo - it’s not entirely sure why ‘hardcore’ third party games, like Madworld and The Conduit, don’t sell particularly well on its Wii console (“Nintendo Not Sure Why Hardcore Wii Titles Don’t Sell”, 28th Jul 2009). Nintendo of America’s VP of corporate affairs, Denise Kaigler, didn’t have the foggiest.

“It’s hard to say. It could be titles have the same type of sales curve that a lot of Nintendo titles have,” she said, referring to a long tail of continuing sales like Mario Kart Wii, rather than traditional big titles that sell loads at first and then sharply drop. In trying (not very hard) to think of any advice for third parties to heed, Kaigler also took the opportunity to dodge a question regarding a Wii price drop. Because not enough people have a Wii, you see.

Bad news for Sony in the middle of 2009, as the company’s first quarter financials were published and made for some grim reading. Under Sony Corp’s Howard Stringer’s rule and recent restructuring, the “Game” division vanished from its report and was said to be consolidated into Kaz Hirai’s Networked Products and Services side of the company.

That didn’t help hide any blemishes, because ‘Sales and Operating Revenue’ for the ‘Game’ products fell by 48.6% from the same period in 2008. Uh oh (“Game Division Disappears from Sony’s Report”, 30th Jul 2009). Console sales dropped too - the PS3 sold 1.1 million units compared to 1.6 in 2008, and the PSP hit rock bottom in selling 1.3 million units in the first quarter - that’s compared to 3.7 million the year prior.

So you’d think by now that Sony would get around to announcing a price drop and officially reveal its PlayStation 3 Slim now, right? Nope (“PlayStation 3 Slim and Backward: Denials, Rumours, Ructions”, 2nd Jul 2009). Still the same old clown show, with the Internet dribbling all kinds of rumours - in July a German news site apparently got a quote from a “German Sony rep” that full backwards PS2 compatibility was to arrive “in the next few weeks.” Well, that didn’t happen.

Elsewhere in the ruckus, Foxconn Electronics issued a filing with the Taiwan Stock Exchange declining to comment on a Chinese newspaper report that suggested it was working on Sony’s “slim” PS3. You have to admire the additional effort just to say, “no comment” here. And then you had people talking about a price drop.
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