GamePro News 2009: A look back

A look back at the news stories, trends, and people that shaped the world of video games in 2009.

Denial, downsizing, cost-cutting, and realignment. While there was lots to be positive about in 2009, these were the pervasive trends that you'll see as we look back through the news stories of the past year. We saw studios close, and we saw frequent calls to both publishers and platform-holders to be more responsive to the market. As you read through this two-page retrospective you'll no doubt see some of the same comments coming up again, and again, and again - particularly with regard to Sony and the need for some movement on the price of the PlayStation 3. We eventually saw this in August, but that was after eight long months of nagging, complaining, and threatening from analysts, consumers, and games publishers.

All told though, it was a very interesting year for gamers and we saw some wonderful games. Not only were there some fantastic new IPs, like 2K Games' Gearbox-developed Borderlands, but we also finally got a superhero game worth being excited about in the shape of Eidos' Batman: Arkham Asylum, and an incredible sequel in Assassin's Creed 2. For GamePro's look at the very best games of the year, check out our awards feature here.

JANUARY

Nintendo kicked off the year with the news that Wii Sports had become the best selling game of all time. This was soon followed by the surprising news that despite all of the activity around the Wii, the DS, and the Xbox 360 (in particular) throughout 2008, it was actually the PlayStation 2 that had been the most played console of 2008. In spite of this though, the most played game of 2008 was Halo 3. No big surprise there.

2K Games revealed its wishes to see BioShock flourish as a franchise, with the brand's global president Christoph Hartmann comparing the series to Star Wars, hinting at the possibility of as many as five more sequels.

In early January, everyone was shocked to learn that as part of the Hearst Corporation's acquisition of 1UP.com and it's associated brands, Ziff Davis Media would be closing venerable video games magazine EGM. This news was followed later in the year with the news that the original founder of the magazine, Steve Harris, had reacquired the rights to the and would relaunch it in March 2010.

Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima kicked off the year setting his sights on Western development in an effort to revamp his Kojima Productions studio, promising that he would "challenge foreign creators and software houses." He also cited Planet of the Apes as a major influence on his work, in large part due to the franchise's anti-war message.

2K Games revealed its wishes to see BioShock flourish as a franchise, with the brand's global president Christoph Hartmann comparing the series to Star Wars, hinting at the possibility of as many as five more sequels.

As Obama settled into the White House in January, we learned that, like seemingly every other American, he had bought a Wii for his family. The same week we learned that Guitar Hero 3 had become the highest grossing game in history, and a gamer in China had attempted suicide by eating saw blades due to his frustrations with World of Warcraft and Starcraft.

Microsoft told us in January that there's "no new Xbox coming any time soon" while Wedbush Morgan industry analyst Michael Pachter was the first to jump on the PlayStation 3 price drop bandwagon, stating that Sony would drop the price to $299 by April. How wrong he was. Days later, Sony's Kaz Hirai made a comment that there's "no way" that the Xbox 360 would win this generation, even saying that it was "something that lacks longevity." Microsoft responded almost immediately, calling Sony both "complacent" and "out of touch." A week later, Sony posted a huge $2.9 billion loss, before Sony Europe's David Reeves (always good for a quote) stated that the company had to "suffer a little" before comparing its position to "Ali vs. Foreman ... We're still standing, we're still profitable and there's a lot of fight in us. I don't say we will land a knockout blow, but we're there and we're fighting."

In the first of a number of industry downsizing moves, Electronic Arts laid off the majority of the staff at its Canadian EA Black Box studio just days before Skate 2 shipped in late January.

The month ended with a couple of accidental product confirmations. Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot slipped up during an earnings call and confirmed Red Steel 2, while voice actor Ken Lally let the world know that he was working on a new Call of Duty.

FEBRUARY

February kicked off with the news that Nintendo would be releasing both Punch Out!! and Wii Sports Resort in the first half of 2009. This was soon followed by Electronic Arts announcing both Mass Effect 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Capcom revealing Dead Rising 2. Later in the month EA also announced the Wii version of Dead Space in the shape of Dead Space Extraction, while Sony told us that God of War 3 was confirmed as a 2009 release. How wrong they were. Sony also went PSP crazy in early February, noting 2009 releases for Assassin's Creed, Rock Band, and a new MotorStorm game.

They sent Helghast soldiers to bring cupcakes to the media ... and they shook up their management team

At the New York Comic Con in early February, Gears of War 2 writer Joshua Ortega noted durung a panel that there is a "10 year plan" for the Gears of War franchise, before noting a possible prequel.

February's first PlayStation 3 price cut comment from a financial analyst came from Mike Hickey at Janco Partners. His prediction? A price drop before the end of April, or by June at the latest. Wrong! Instead, Sony did two things at the end of the month: 1) They sent Helghast soldiers out to bring cupcakes to the media, and 2) they shook up their management team, putting former SCEA boss Kaz Hirai at the very top of the PlayStation heap in Japan.

MARCH

March kicked off with the news that Resident Evil 5 retail code had leaked online, 10 days ahead of its release. This was the first of many high profile stories about video game piracy this year, and something that kicked off an ongoing debate about digital rights management, user licenses, digital distribution, and even game rentals and trade-ins. Speaking of trade-ins, both Amazon and Toys R Us kicked off their used games programs in early March.

Sony emphatically denied that it would be moving the price, but did confirm that the PlayStation 2 would finally move to $99.

Nintendo told us that the Wii MotionPlus accessory was delayed (it later went on-sale on June 8) and also started putting celebrities in its TV commercials.

Details of new Lego Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Hobbit games leaked, and 2K Games revealed that BioShock 2 would have multiplayer modes in it, surprising absolutely no one. Rock Star announced Max Payne 3, Halo Wars became the best-selling console RTS game ever, and Rock Band surpassed $1 billion in unit sales.

In keeping with the monthly schedule of PlayStation 3 related price drop news, Sony emphatically denied that it would be moving the price, but did confirm that the PlayStation 2 would finally move to $99.

At the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco at the end of the month, possibly the biggest buzz surrounded the announcement of the "cloud" based streaming online gaming service, OnLive. The service, which was said to enter a beta test phase later in the year in anticipation of a 2010 rollout, would eliminate the need for an expensive console plugged into your TV, instead streaming all game data from remote servers. To say that some people expressed some doubt about its effectiveness would be an understatement.

APRIL

On April 1, Final Fantasy XIII producer Yoshinori Kitase commented that the game would use "nearly 100 percent" of the processing power of the PlayStation 3.

Konami's Six Days in Fallujah game was cancelled just three weeks after it was announced.

The Nintendo DSi was released on April 5 with much fanfare, but it wasn't beloved by everyone. Continuing the year's theme of the hardware guys talking smack about each other, Sony's director of hardware marketing John Koller criticized the Nintendo DSi, stating that "there isn't much new" with it, and noting that it was designed to appeal only to "the kids market." At the same time, rumors began to emerge about a new PSP.

Killzone 2 became the fastest selling PlayStation 3 game ever, and Nielsen revealed survey results that indicated that PlayStation 3 owners use their consoles significantly more than Nintendo Wii owners. This started to look like it would become even more the case as news started to circulate that the Netflix streaming service would soon be coming to PS3 too.

Reports emerged that video game sales had dipped 17 percent in March, just as MTV Games and Harmonix announced that the special edition of The Beatles Rock Band would be $250. Yikes.

Assassin's Creed 2 was confirmed as a "winter" title (leaving the door open for possible delay), a new Fallout game was announced, Lego Rock Band was confirmed (still confusing many folks), and Konami's Six Days in Fallujah game was cancelled just three weeks after it was announced.

MAY

Eidos delayed Batman: Arkham Asylum, noting that it would be out by "the summer." Meanwhile, Bioware surprised everyone by releasing a new Mass Effect game... a top-down shooter on the iPhone.

Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter went all Nostradamus on us predicting a Wii HD in 2010, and both PlayStation 4 and an Xbox 360 successor "by 2013." Around the same time, photos of a mysterious PS3 Slim started to emerge from Japan.

Michael Pachter went all Nostradamus on us predicting a Wii HD in 2010, and both PlayStation 4 and an Xbox 360 successor "by 2013."

Developer 3D Realms shut down after years of delays to its ill-fated Duke Nukem Forever project. Meanwhile MTV Games and Jerry Bruckheimer announced that Halo 3 producer Jim Veevaert and Ubisoft senior VP of publishing Jay Cohen had joined Jerry Bruckheimer games - a studio that has still yet to announce anything.

We learned that Nintendo was the sixth most reputable company in the world (according to Forbes) behind Johnson & Johnson and Ikea, and ahead of Microsoft, Apple, Sony, and Google.

The NPD Group released data that indicated that more Americans play video games than go to movies, and as if by way of response movie giant Warner Bros. announced that it would be buying the struggling Midway Games. Maybe they were excited after Ed Boon had been dropping hints about a ninth Mortal Kombat? They can make movies and games out of that one.

Bethesda representatives made a comment that they were working on "a really big" Wii game, which is still yet to emerge, and early images of a Shadow of the Colossus sequel leaked online. People were calling it Trico at the time, but more details would soon become apparent.

David Jaffe revealed that he would not be showing his new game at E3, but said he expected to reveal it at E3 in 2010. There was still no indication of what it actually is, but the smart money is on something Twisted Metal related. Meanwhile another big development name, Tomonobu Itagaki previously of Team Ninja, revealed that he had formed a new studio tentatively called Tokyo Vikings.

Ubisoft finished the month confirming that Splinter Cell Conviction, Red Steel 2, and Assassin's Creed 2 would all be available in 2009.

The month ended with a contradiction to Michael Pachter's comments earlier in the month, this time from Signal Hill analyst Todd Greewald who noted that "we're not even close to nearing an end" to this generation of games systems. "We think it's highly premature to be thinking of the cycle ending until all of these consoles are well below the $199 mark," said Greenwald, suggesting that Microsoft and Sony are so invested in their present boxes and third-party relationships that he doesn't believe "any party seriously interested in throwing away these investments and starting over from scratch."

JUNE

Gaming's big show returned to its full splendor this year. E3 kicked off in early June and yielded some wonderful glimpses of upcoming games. Nintendo showed Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Metroid: Other M. We saw Crackdown 2, Halo 3: ODST, and Alan Wake on Xbox 360. Team ICO also finally presented the game that was causing a stir on YouTube the previous month in the shape of the amazing-looking The Last Guardian for PS3. These were joined by Valve's sequel to Left 4 Dead, which fans were immediately outraged by, stating that it would "split the community" and "decrease the quality of multiplayer gaming." This was later deftly quashed by Valve community managers.

Microsoft and Sony went motion controls crazy at E3 2009.

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