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The 5 events that shook the video game industry in 2012 Exclusive

The 5 events that shook the video game industry in 2012
December 7, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi

Gamasutra news director Frank Cifaldi continues Gamasutra's annual year-end roundups series by looking back at the five events that defined 2012.

I can't help but shake the feeling that 2012 is the start of the most major disruption to video games since the crash of the early 1980s. All year long I felt like we were on the precipice of something, some major fundamental change (or, more likely, combination of changes) that is forever going to change the way we work in this industry.

I can't wait to see what it is.

We've already gone over the trends that defined the year, so what I want to do now is whittle the year down to five distinct moments, the five events that shook us the most in 2012.

When 38 Studios imploded

The mere existence of 38 Studios was one of my favorite things about the video game industry. That a man could make his fortune being an all-star baseball pitcher and use it to jumpstart a video game studio, hire his favorite people, and make the kinds of games he wants to play was proof that even the wildest adolescent fantasies can come true.

Unfortunately, the dream didn't last. While still in the midst of developing its ambitious MMO (codenamed Copernicus), 38 missed a loan payment to the state of Rhode Island, which helped get the company going with a $75 million loan (in exchange for operating in the state).

And that was just the start. 38 kept its employees working, without pay before laying them all off and declaring bankruptcy leaving developers -- many of whom relocated, only to find that 38 never actually paid for their relocation as promised -- stuck with no money and no severance in an area not exactly known for its thriving game development community.

When the doctors left the building

It didn't exactly come as a shock to us when BioWare founders Doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk (pictured above) resigned from the (now EA-owned) company they founded -- we'd been hearing rumors for the better part of the year, in fact -- but it still felt like a blow when it happened.

Both claimed that they felt like they'd accomplished what they'd wanted and that it was time to move on, but with the struggles of The Old Republic fresh on our minds, it was really hard not to draw a connection.

When the world hurled money at the little console that could

I had a meeting with Ouya founder Julie Uhrman before its Kickstarter went live and, skeptical as I was about how it would solve the ever-oppressive discoverability problem, I knew developers would flock to support a new kind of game console allowing basically anyone to make a game.

I didn't think it would go this far, though: at $8.6 million in pledges, Ouya is still the highest-grossing video game-related project in Kickstarter history.

The Ouya is obviously speaking to a desire that a whole lot of game developers have: to be able to self-publish games of any scale to a home television console that uses a real controller.

When #1reasonwhy made us all angry

As my boss Kris Graft pointed out yesterday in The 5 trends that defined the game industry in 2012, 2012 seems like it could go down as a turning point for diversity and gender inclusiveness in the video game industry which, sadly, is still around 90% male according to our independent research.

The issue hit a crescendo on the night of November 26, when several women working in the industry took to Twitter to explain "#1reasonwhy" they don't feel comfortable working here.

We're certainly no strangers to the issue around here, but never before was there such a concentration of horror stories, ranging from being groped at conferences to studios not hiring women because they're "more trouble than they're worth."

When professionals screamed for blood

This year's E3 was a weird one for us -- as you may have read previously -- but one particular moment sticks out, and is something we're still talking about.

During Sony's big annual press conference, with cameras rolling and the internet livestreaming and major media documenting what's new in the video game industry, we were all shown several minutes of gameplay of Naughty Dog's upcoming adventure game The Last of Us. It's an impressive game that, frankly, looks like it'll be great.

However, at the end of the demonstration, our protagonist -- who, granted, has been defending himself from enemies who would see him dead -- points a shotgun straight at a guy's face who literally begs for his life before being blown to pieces.

And in the crowded room full of video game professionals, the audience erupted in applause. I saw some people stand up in excitement. One guy threw punches at the air, unable to contain his joy at having seen this.

It remains to be seen if this moment is going to have any impact on the rest of the industry, but I think Gamasutra changed at that moment. All of us were frankly bored and a bit disgusted by the endless extreme violence we were seeing at the show earlier that day, but that moment really turned us off of triple-A video games for a while.

Here we are in an industry creating some of the most beautiful works of art that have ever been seen, literally redefining how humans interact with the very world they live in, and this is how we're represented at the largest trade show of the year?

Was it an overreaction? Maybe. But looking back over everything we wrote in 2012, I can't help but notice subtle changes to the way we covered this industry starting from that moment. We've been returning big publisher PR phone calls just a little bit less often, for better or for worse, and have retrenched a bit to focus more on what makes games great, as opposed to what games are selling the most.

More Gamasutra 2012 roundups:

The 5 trends that defined the game industry in 2012

The 5 most significant video game controversies in 2012

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