Our look back over the last decade comes to a close, set against a backdrop of economic turmoil – and the biggest entertainment launch of all time.
RECESSION LOOMS LARGE
The combination of the UK’s economic slowdown and a weak pound made 2009 one of the most fractious years in the industry’s history. Retail’s caution in bracing itself for a difficult year proved wise – as GAME and fellow High Street chains suffered a drop in group sales.
However, worse was in store for the likes of Pinnacle, Trilogy, Oxygen Games and Empire, which all went under in the year. Elsewhere, Ubisoft, Sega and THQ cancelled their individual publisher events as E3 began to offer better return on investment. Nintendo and Activision fought a weak pound by hiking up prices for their two key products, Wii and Modern Warfare 2 – much to the chagrin of retail. Fellow publishers also began moving games releases previously destined for Q4 into 2010 – giving cash-strapped consumers more time to get their money together.
GOOD AS NEW
In harware terms, there were plenty of fresh SKUs rolled out and new add-ons announced during 2009. The biggest news of the year in this respect was the unveiling of Microsoft’s Project Natal and Sony’s Motion Controller at E3 in June.
MCV would later send the industry into a tailspin with exclusive revelations about Natal’s launch date and price. Meanwhile Sony itself shook the trade in October with the launch of PSPgo – the first digital-only console from ‘the big three’.
Nintendo wasn’t undone in the new hardware stakes either, launching DSi in April and bringing its ‘extra sensitive’ Wii add-on MotionPlus to market in June, which worked with games such as Sega’s Virtua Tennis, Nintendo’s Wii Sports Resort and EA’s Grandslam Tennis.
WHAT'S WAR GOOD FOR
It was always going to be big, but 1.7 million big? As predicted by MCV, Modern Warfare 2 smashed entertainment sales records in its opening week.
The title sold 1.76 million copies in the UK in its first five days on sale – just over the number we called a month before release. It grossed an incredible £67.4 million in that time. To put the game’s achievement in full perspective, consider that GTAIV – the industry’s previous fastest-selling release – sold 926,000 units in its opening week and took £39.9 million at retail.
ACTING OUR AGE
ELSPA lobbying for the PEGI age classification system paid off this year. The Government announced that PEGI was to become statutory in June, as part of its Digital Britain report. As PEGI symbols began appearing on boxes, ELSPA promised the system was tough enough to protect children from adult content.
The Government outraged the industry in March with its ‘Risk an early death’ ad. Created in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research, the ad was support of anti-obesity drive Change4Life.
However, MCV soon discovered that funding for the campaign came from junk food and TV companies – perhaps explaining why video games were picked on so unfairly. However, by October the industry had a representative involved – as Nintendo became an official partner of Change4Life.
2009: THE KEY GAME RELEASES
Batman: Arkham Asylum - Eidos
The lack of a movie game for The Dark Knight in 2008 was a blow to fans. This title more than made up for it.
Assassin’s Creed II - Ubisoft
It couldn’t quite match Modern Warfare II in terms of immediate sales, but Ubi’s flagship title was still a smash hit.
New Super Mario Bros Wii - Nintendo
Mario and Luigi returned in a multiplayer smash hit for all the family – albeit it without an online mode.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - Sony
The PS3 had been looking for a true classic to define it since launch – and Naughty Dog supplied it this year.
The Beatles: Rock Band - EA
Some speculate that the licensing costs alone make The Beatles: Rock Band the most expensive game ever made.