To end 2009 and to go into a new decade, Eoin Mason has taken it upon himself to predict things you should look out for in the next 12 months, first off with the leader of the console war right now with much to prove after a mixed 2009.
2009 was a good and bad year for Nintendo. It turned major profits and sold consoles and handhelds like they were candy laced with caffeine but, on the Wii at least, there was nothing really to show for it apart from the brand favourites, Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort.
The only thing they have going for them in the first quarter of 2010? The DSi XL. That, to me, kind of says it all. As much as the DSi is a great handheld and I love mine, Nintendo has barely provided anything to make people get a DSi instead of a DS. People did not like the taking out of the Game Boy Advance drive nor did they see the point of a camera in their handheld. It may be aimed for a different audience, which is a fine business practice, but there is nothing as stand out in the same way as, say, Nintendo doing a Wii Remote/Wii Play bundle. It has been more about good ideas with mediocre execution for Nintendo in 2009.
So why Nintendo and not Sony and Microsoft as the one to watch? Because at this stage in the game, Nintendo have more to lose.
Sony and Microsoft, as companies that make virtually nothing from their game consoles or games development, are patting the door of Nintendo’s fortress. Eventually, this will turn to kicking with their own wireless controllers coming out next year and with more and more games coming out for different audiences on both the 360 and the PS3, Nintendo’s got something to prove to not just the gaming community but also to its own critics who say of how Nintendo have forced their hardcore to go to their rivals and how .
Along with that, the ambitions of Microsoft and Sony are not to be just a console. They want to be the box in your home. Project Natal has been promoted not just in the games media, but on such places as network television shows like NBC’s Today Show and Microsoft has been the leader, too, in integrating social network onto its XBox Live service with Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm already joining Netflix in enhancing the experience in using the console.
Nintendo, at this stage, does none of this apart from very minor bits and pieces (The most recent DSi update allows users to send their pictures online via Facebook). Part of the reason is because they don’t need to and the other reason has been they want to enhance their own experience of being a games console. It plays games, it allows you to download games and, minus the web browser and BBC iPlayer, not much else. For them, this has always been an MO and it will be interesting to see whether this MO will last them through 2010 considering the competition is building their own major forts against Nintendo’s powerful juggernaut.
But maybe Nintendo doesn’t care about the amount of consoles they don’t sell or the pennies they don’t make when they’re selling so much and making so much money, but what people should be watching for is what Nintendo do to counter the upcoming threat. There’s Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Team Ninja’s Metriod: Other M and the possibility of a new Zelda and…that’s it. That’s all Nintendo have that stands out for the Wii. I mean, there might be an expansion for Wii Sports Resort or some kind of new fangled device to rival Microsoft’s Project Natal, but when you think of the Wii in 2010…that’s all you’re going to get. Red Steel II, as surprisingly good the first game was, isn’t a console seller so something major will have to happen to shift the balance away from Nintendo’s faltered reputation.
On the flip side, there is a tonne of potential in upcoming Nintendo DS titles coming up including Phantasy Star Zero, Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations, Nostalgia (UK Release), Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver, Dragon Quest IX, the latest in the Professor Layton series and, the most hotly anticipated of them all, The Another World, by Layton developers Level 5, which is the first DS game to be created in collaboration with Studio Ghibli who many will know as the home to legendary Japanese Animation director Hayao Miyazaki. Then, as I mentioned, is the DSi XL, which has surprised many by selling buy the bucket load in Japan and will be judged on how well it is marketed in the West when it comes out there in the first few months of 2010. That’s not even counting the surprises that can and will spring up because they will happen. I mean, who would have thought a Grand Theft Auto game on the DS would actually be not just good, but damn great to play?
Over the last two years alone, it’s been demonstrated what can be done with the DS when people separate themselves from just making gimmicky touch screen games. Something you kind of wish Nintendo tried with the Wii when you think about it…
Also keep an eye out for…
Sony: The slimming down of the PS3 in terms of look and price will probably be seen as a genius move on the part of Sony as they see sales shoot up on the console for the first time in a couple of years. Their momentum will lead them to 2010 with God of War III, Heavy Rain and many other exclusive titles in the first quarter alone. The PSP side is also very interesting as, now they are pushing the PSP more and putting more exclusives and content onto it, we might be seeing Sony finally kick things into gear to fully compete with the DS.
Microsoft: Their lineup next year may not pack the punch of Sony and the PS3, but you should never count the software giant out. Natal will be watched with keen eyes in a gaming world filled with cameras, skateboards and band kits to see how much it will last and there is always a possibility that Halo: Reach could draw in the big money in the same way Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 did this year, Microsoft going as far as saying it will be the biggest game of 2010. Not to forget, of course, that their E3 conference will probably contain more guest cameos then a whole season of Robot Chicken.
Activision-Blizzard/EA: In 2007, EA had a reputation of rehashing franchises and putting out game year after year. In the couple of years after that, EA tried to shift itself towards creating original ideas and making them mainstream in the hopes of shifting this reputation with varying degrees of success but there is no disputing that this shift has caused many job losses in the company. The question is where to go from here? They have said they want to bring back ‘Medal of Honor’
In 2009, Activision now have this reputation with more Guitar Hero games, more accessories and more rehashes then ever before. Even with the success of Modern Warfare 2, this stigma cannot be shaken. With more Guitar Hero games, a DJ Hero sequal and rumours of a Drum Hero game, will the buck stop on Activision’s cash cow? It also doesn’t help that Bobby Kotick is the most hated man in gaming right now.
Talking about Blizzard, Starcraft 2 and Diablo III should be coming out next year and the latest World of Warcraft expansion is right around the corner so there is no doubt they will still be making money. All questions with those will point to how they sell, Starcraft and Diablo more then WoW, because of how long it has been since the last games have come out.
And then there’s that small matter of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm…