Moving through another year of our historical journey, Tim Ingham gives a nod to the 12 months that gave us PS3, Xbox Elite – and a whole lot of consolidation…
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
After the disappointment and the backbiting, the PlayStation 3 finally arrived in the UK in March 2007 – delivering on Sony’s pledge to put £100 million in retail’s tills in opening weekend.
But its arrival wasn’t without problems. Sony’s in-store theatre for the console was a little more spectacular than retail were used to. So what did they do? Moan of course – about space concerns. The departure of SCE UK commercial director Kevin Jowett just five weeks from launch didn’t help matters, either.
Other grumbles met Sony’s decision to launch with one, super-expensive 60GB model, which retailed for a monster price of £425. Many High Street retailers saw the lack of a cheaper SKU as an error – not least as Microsoft had led with a dual-model approach.
However, Sony was soon up and running with an eye-catching £6 million ad campaign.
Interest in the machine was also given an unexpected boost at the Game Developers Confernce three weeks before UK launch – as Phil Harrison unveiled pseudo-gameworld and potential Live-beater Home.
WELCOME BACK WARNER
Warner Bros made a shock return to the European market as a fully-fledged publisher in the second half of 2007. Although its initial release slate wasn’t exactly dynamite (Jumper, anyone?), it did a lot of work behind the scenes to become the behemoth we know and love today. First, there was the appointment of industry veteran Chris Meredith as sales and distribution boss in September, and then there was the big one: Buying out Traveller’s Tales – and the LEGO game franchise – for a gargantuan (and estimated) £100 million.
ACQUIRED AND EMOTIONAL
It wasn’t just Warner Bros that splashed the cash in 2007.
In the UK market a shock deal in May completely changed the face of the British High Street overnight. GAME snapped up arch rival Gamestation for £74 million – bringing with it the promise of a price war ceasefire. Yeah, as if that was ever going to happen…
In August – after spotting the potential of toy giant Hasbro’s IP (perhaps through MCV?) – EA struck a licensing deal with the firm that gave the publisher exclusive rights to property such as Monopoly, Scrabble and Nerf.
But EA wasn’t done there. In October, it shook the industry with a double swoop for Pandemic and Bioware – a spending spree that carried a receipt of $800 million.
All other deals were dwarfed by the year’s real heart-in-mouth takeover, however, which arrived just in time for Christmas in December: French multimedia colossus Vivendi snapped up Activision in a deal worth an astonishing $18.9 billion. However, it was Activision that took the business lead once the deal was done, being rebranded as all new super-label Activision Blizzard.
Vivendi the games publisher died soon after, alongside with its Sierra sub-brand.
XBOX FIGHTS BACK
With all the hype, excitement and press coverage surrounding PS3’s launch, Microsoft knew it needed something to steal the limelight. And Xbox Elite’s launch certainly did the trick. It launched on August 29th at £249.99 – almost a full £200 cheaper than Sony’s new baby – and carried a 120GB hard-drive, double the size of PS3’s.
TIME FOR A BREAK?
2007 was the year that the games industry got organised – and got demanding. The likes of Eidos, EA and ELSPA added their names to those requesting financial help for UK studios from the Government. Then Culture Minister Margaret Hodge told us to ‘forget tax breaks’. The industry didn’t, of course, and there were grumbles last week when Chancellor Alistair Darling omitted any help for video games from his Pre-Budget Report.
2007: THE KEY GAME RELEASES
The Orange Box - Electronic Arts/Valve
Boasting five games in one, Valve’s The Orange Box sold very well and included the award-winning Portal.
BioShock - 2K
The spiritual successor to System Shock was a big hit for 360 and PC. It sold millions and has a Metacritic of 96.
Colin McRae: DiRT - Codemasters
DiRT was the first of Codemasters’ next-gen racers, sold half a million in a week and a sequel arrived this year.
Halo 3 - Microsoft
The highly anticipated shooter became the world’s biggest entertainment launch of all time and remained so until GTA IV.
COD4: Modern Warfare - Activision Blizzard
The FPS reinvigorated the long-running series and paved the way for this year’s record-breaking sequel.
2007: UK's BEST SELLING GAMES
1. FIFA 08 (EA)
2. Dr Kawashima's Brain Training (Nintendo)
3. COD4: Modern Warfare (Activision)
4. Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 (Konami)
5. More Brain Training (Nintendo)
6. Halo 3 (Microsoft 360)
7. The Simpsons Game (EA)
8. Wii Play (Nintendo)
9. Assassin's Creed (Ubisoft)
10. WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2008 (THQ)