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

Posted 3 Jan 2010 16:31 by
This is a continuing SPOnG retrospective of the year’s events.


Serious, serious, serious. That was the games industry in October 2009, ladies and gentlemen. Whether it was smack talk from one hardware manufacturer to another, switch-arounds in company personnel, or Activision pushing on the Modern Warfare 2 hype like there was no tomorrow, October was no family picnic.

Our biggest story of the month - and the most popular SPOnG news story of the entire year - focused on a huge controversial revelation regarding the aforementioned Modern Warfare 2. A video cropped up that featured, amongst other things, an in-game slaughter of civilians at an airport. Activision confirmed that players would be given a choice to play through a sequence that includes this material (“Update: Activision Confirms Civilian Slaughter Scene in Modern Warfare 2”, 28th Oct 2009).

Explaining the bombshell, the company said, “The scene establishes the depth of evil and the cold bloodedness of a rogue Russian villain and his unit. By establishing that evil, it adds to the urgency of the player’s mission to stop them.”

At least it was able to justify the content. We applauded the thought-provoking nature of the scene, particularly as the sequence was announced by Activision to be skippable via two separate checkpoints that can’t be disabled. Being an adult game, it would be nice if it covered adult choices and situations, right? As we said, referring to those who raged at the situation; “Apparently we [all] want our games to be realistic, just not so realistic as to prick the conscience of the player.” So much for the ‘Games is Art’ argument.

Despite the explanation, Activision felt that more damage control was necessary to avoid being painted as some sort of ‘terrorist simulator maker’, and issued a statement the very next day (“Activision: Modern Warfare 2 Civilian Slaughter Does Not Reflect Game Play”, 29th Oct 2009). “Consistent with its content, the game [MW2] has been given an ‘M’ for Mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. The rating is prominently displayed on the front and back of the packaging, as well as in all advertising.”

We all knew that somehow, 12 year old kids were going to get their hands on the game anyway.

While Modern Warfare 2 was but a month away in October, Sony had one of its prize exclusives launching in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Naughty Dog’s Justin Richmond had a chat with us about the game’s design and just how awesome it really is (no really, it is).

We also reviewed it at SPOnG, and despite not pandering to the “OMG 150% Best Gaem Evar!” articles that were swimming around the media, we thoroughly loved the snot out of it. “A superb storyline, great pacing, smooth character animation, involving cut-scenes, immersive playability and a perfect difficulty curve,” equalling one of the greatest games we’ve ever played, basically.

Seems it wasn’t just us (and the gaming populace) that loved Nathan Drake’s latest adventure. Analyst for Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, Jesse Divnich, claimed in October that Uncharted 2 would be the tipping point for people to rush out and buy a PlayStation 3 (“Analyst: Uncharted 2 Will Be Tipping Point For PS3”, 13th Oct 2009). Forbes supported that theory by citing recent moves by Sony to make the console more approachable for consumers, including the price cut and PS3 ‘Slimpact’.

“Five years from now, when we look back at the success of the PlayStation 3, the release of Uncharted 2 will certainly stick out as one of the tipping point that helped changed the tides in Sony’s favour,” was Divnich’s full quote. Oh, it’s on now. Fighting stances are seen!

Microsoft got incredibly bullish this month when Aaron Greenberg (Director of Product Management for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live - I would love to see these guys’ office name plaques one day) brushed off Wii and PS3 price cuts, and said, “We remain confident that Xbox 360 will not only outsell PS3 for the full calendar year, but for this entire generation” ("Microsoft: We'll Outsell PS3 for Entire Generation", 16th Oct 2009).

Just so he could cover his tracks in case that doesn’t happen, Greenberg added that the real “win” will be determined by “consistently delivering” throughout the console’s lifespan. So, a technicality, then. That clears things up. NPD figures for October indicated (and later confirmed) that Sony trounced the competition in sales due to its brand refresh.

“It is typical to see a short term bump following the introduction of new hardware and pricing into the marketplace,” said Greenberg, eager to piss on whatever parade Sony wanted to plan.
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