November Wrap Up
“It was then I knew I’d had enough, burned my credit card for fuel”As expected, the economic crisis engulfing the world continued this month, and the games industry did not escape unscathed. Firstly, THQ reported a loss in sales revenue, revealing it would be closing five of its development studios: Paradigm, Helixe, Locomotive, Sandblast and Mass Media. UK sources also suggested that Warrington-based Juice Games (the studio behind the Juiced racing series) would lay off up to a third of staff following project cancellations.EA quickly followed suit, announcing the merger of its Casual and Sims labels after the departure of Kathy Vrabeck. However, not everyone at EA was feeling the pinch as CEO John Riccitiello took time out from his busy schedule of insulting people who don’t like Spore to invest $1 million of his own hard-earned into the company. Likewise, other publishers also defied the credit crunch by expanding; Ubisoft acquired World in Conflict developer Massive Entertainment, while Epic announced it was opening a new studio in Seattle.“[I]t would seem that Blizzard’s designers are OK with breaking the Geneva convention. Well they may be, but I’m not.”November was a big month for MMOs but it wasn’t all good news. Tabula Rasa creator Richard Garriott decided it was time to leave NCSoft behind to pursue new interests (more p**ing about in space?)and, later in the month, the development team called time on the game revealing its servers will close in February next year.Other MMOs had a better month with Turbine releasing its Mines of Moria expansion for Lord of the Rings Online. The developer also dropped a few more hints about bringing the MMO formula to the console market, although Jeffrey Steefel said the process was fraught with difficulty.Eclipsing all the competition, however, was the Wrath of the Lich King launch. The latest World of Warcraft expansion made international news and ludicrously excited WoW fans queued late into the night to get their hands on the game at the Oxford Street midnight launch. Despite impressive review scores, Blizzard didn’t manage to please everyone with the Lich King as MMO legend (or has-been, depending on how you look at it) Richard Bartle, took umbrage with a particular section of the game. The Art of Persuasion quest was the bone of contention, with Bartle so livid at the inclusion of torture in the game that he curled out an angry blog on the subject.“Common sense is not so common”The phenomenal success of the Lich King was bound to turn the mainstream media’s attention to games and, surprisingly enough, it didn’t take long for the scaremongering to start. The Times reported the unfortunate tale of a Swedish boy who suffered an epileptic seizure after playing Wrath of the Lich King for 24 hours straight, once again prompting impassioned pleas from technophobes everywhere to protect our children from the digital devil.However, November also turned out to be the month of common sense as a number of more temperate observers attempted to play down the hysteria with cold hard facts. IncGamers’ favourite, (and most brilliantly-named) psychologist, Dr Guy Cumberbatch, offered a more balanced explanation of the relationship between games and epilepsy, while Texan academic Christopher Ferguson pointed out some serious flaws in a recent game/violence study by Iowa State University. The tsunami of logic did not end there however as a Dutch gaming addiction clinic, displaying less business acumen than your average Apprentice contestant, announced that the vast majority of its patients are not addicted to gaming.Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be a monthly wrap-up without some kind of moralistic attack on videogames and November was no exception. What was it that ruffled feathers this time? Killing cops in GTA? Spraying grannies with effluence in Saints Row 2? Shooting limbs off Germans in World at War? Nope, it was the vile tribute to depravity that is Cooking Mama. Yes, you read it right, Cooking Mama. It would seem that the folks at PETA, once again defying critics who fear its message has been eclipsed by cheap publicity stunts, blasted Majesco’s recipe game for failing to promote veganism. Which is a bit like seeking out the nicest, most harmless kid in school and then booting them in the genitals because they don’t like Oasis (I’ll never get over it). Majesco’s graceful response earns them top billing in my new People for the Ethical Treatment of People movement.“A bombastic, action-packed sequel which improves on its predecessor in every way”November was a pretty special month for gamers as a number of fantastic titles threatened bank balances everywhere. Both Sony and Microsoft managed to craft impressive sequels in Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2 respectively, whilst Treyarch finally managed to step out of Infinity Ward’s shadow with Call of Duty: World at War. EA also had a good month, offering up scare-fests Dead Space and Left 4 Dead as well as the beautifully-styled Mirror’s Edge. And then there was FIFA Manager ’09 which stinks more than Michael Moore on a treadmill.