This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
Hits and misses of 2008...
Many of the big surprise hits of 2008 were brand new intellectual properties. Among the pleasant surprises were Dead Space, Left 4 Dead, Grid and Pure. While well-known franchises will always have the edge during the holidays, the proliferation of review aggregation sites such as Metacritic and GameRankings is making it easier for great new games to find their way to the top. That said, it obviously helps if you have the marketing muscle of the larger publishers to go beyond the enthusiast gamer segment.
Other surprise hits include downloadable games such as Braid for Xbox Live and World of Goo for the Wii. The cult success of these games is proof that you don't need to make a blockbuster game to get in front of millions of eyeballs.
On the other side of the spectrum, the biggest disappointment of 2008 was undoubtedly Too Human. In development for almost 10 years, Too Human was hyped to be one of the defining releases of this console generation.
With such high expectations, it was no surprise that many critics judged the game harshly; the general consensus among gamers was that the game play was highly repetitive and the story fell flat.
Microsoft/Silicon Knights' Too Human
Data from OTX's GamePlan Insights tracking study reflects the disappointment in Too Human. The game quickly went from one of the top-ranked games for positive buzz during the months leading up to launch, to the top-ranked game for negative buzz soon after launch.
How all the platforms performed in the market in 2008...
While the continued momentum for the Wii has certainly been impressive (2 million units in one month is quite a feat), the biggest surprise has to be the Xbox 360. The real battle in this console cycle is for second place, and Microsoft is making all the right moves to ensure that it holds a significant edge over Sony in the U.S.
In the face of a struggling economy, the Xbox team hit just the right tone in the marketplace by dropping the price of the Xbox 360 Arcade to $199.
Sony, on the other hand, decided to stick with the same general price points while adding extra gigabytes to the hard drive. It should come as no surprise that the large majority of consumers are choosing cheaper consoles over more gigabytes.
Lessons learned in 2008 that could change things in 2009...
Despite not being 100-percent recession-proof, the video game industry has proven this year that it is definitely recession-resistant. This is still a growth industry, and there are many outside players trying to figure out how they can get a piece of the proverbial pie.
As the larger publishers begin to focus more and more on generating blockbuster hits, there is a growing contingent of independent developers with their eyes on a different kind of business model.
For a fraction of the cost of developing a fully-loaded $60 game, independent developers can avoid the pitfalls of the traditional retail distribution model and reach gamers directly through the consoles' online services.
While these two approaches could not be more fundamentally different, both will need to rely on the growing number of connected consoles in order to find success in 2009. The release of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost & Damned in February will be a milestone in the video game industry, one that marks the official shift towards downloadable content as a way to extend the life of a game.
With Xbox Live, Wii Ware and the PlayStation Network, publishers and developers now have an effective weapon to soften the blow of the used games business. Gamers will simply not sell their favorite games right away if they know that there will be quality DLC.