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2008 In Review, Oct-Dec: Struggles And Trends At Year-End

2008 In Review, Oct-Dec: Struggles And Trends At Year-End Exclusive

January 2, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

As 2009 starts out, Gamasutra has been reflecting on last year's major stories in the video game industry, one quarter at a time.

Over the holiday and into the new year, we've rounded up a news summary aimed at providing a complete look back on 2008's memorable events.

Following our round-up of January to March, April to June and July to September, we conclude with a look back on October through December.

October 2008

October began with big news for Nintendo, as the company revealed several long-rumored projects at a Tokyo press conference. First, they showed a new, revamped DSi handheld featuring a camera, the ability to play music and download games, and an SD storage slot.

The Wii's much-discussed storage issues would receive a fix in Spring 2009 with the addition of its own SD card slot, and Nintendo seemed to be aiming to address the demands of the hardcore audience with the upcoming Punch-Out Wii remake.

It was a month for major presentations, it seemed; BlizzCon revealed that Starcraft II would release as a trilogy, while LucasArts and BioWare announced their joint project: the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO.

In business news, Southpeak (Ninjatown, Roogoo) acquired fellow publisher Gamecock and its upcoming titles, including Legendary, Mushroom Men and Velvet Assassin.

Additionally, economic challenges began to knock on Electronic Arts' door, as the company announced 600 layoffs, the start of a disappointing holiday season for the publisher.

November 2008

November was the month that more companies began to show signs of feeling the recession, or simply the results of unsuccessful business models.

EA consolidated its casual business and shuttered its Blueprint studio, Brash made portentous layoffs, and Midway's year-long struggles took it into critical status.

After taking the trip in space he'd always dreamed of, NCsoft's Richard Garriott announced he was leaving the company. Tabula Rasa's launch proved to have been far less successful than Garriott's space flight, however, as NCsoft saw its profits sliced in half.

Nonetheless, speaking at the BMO Capital Markets event in New York, many of the top publishers gave bullish talks on the state of their business, aiming to prove their resilience to their investors. Microsoft said it was "pretty comfortable," Ubisoft said 2009 was set to be a 'great year', and Nintendo expressed confidence that its "gaming for everyone" strategy would continue to create "evergreen" products that would post long-term steady sales.

December 2008

Crediting underperforming holiday sales, EA reduced its estimates for the year, planning to cut its portfolio in favor of a focus on less-risky hitmakers and reducing yet more staff.

The company apparently wasn't about to cut all creative risks, though -- it then revealed that Double Fine's Brutal Legend, arguably the most-buzzed castoff from the Activision Blizzard merger, had found a home with EA.

Joining the influx of Japanese companies looking to better address the needs of Western audiences, Namco Bandai created a new Western-focused label called Surge, which had been quietly at work on Afro Samurai for some two years already.

Finally, just two months after snubbing Electronic Arts' $25.74 per share offer in September, Take-Two, like many of its fellow publishers facing economic constraints, saw its shares down significantly.

Trading at just about $9 and with losses widening, the company made a big move to keep its key Rockstar talent in a largely unprecedented deal: key employees of the studio received a new contract that allowed for profit-sharing.

More significantly, the contract gave those employees the ability to own their own IP to be funded and published by Take-Two -- a key concession, but one that kept the Grand Theft Auto IV masterminds working for the publisher.

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