Analyzing the Story of 2008

We put the wraps on 2008 over the next two weeks, and in many ways I think I speak for many when I say good riddance. Judging by plummeting stock prices and skyrocketing unemployment, I fear we may at some point need to change the name of the site to Gamers With Resumes and focus our attention primarily on handheld games you can enjoy while waiting in line for government cheese.

I’d love to say that from a gaming perspective the year has been good to us, and there’s no doubt that even as late as August I still tended the hopeful spark of optimism like the dying embers of a spent fire in a blizzard. Spoiled by the richness that was 2007, this year which promised much and delivered far less was at least rich with memorable moments of all kinds both in and out of the gaming landscapes where aliens cavort and zombies shamble.

But for me, the story of the industry itself is in many ways more compelling than the stories created within it. Looking back, these are, I think, the 10 most relevant and sometimes under-reported developments in the video game industry from 2008:

#1 Bobby Kotick is the Future of Video Games – It’s Bobby Kotick’s world, and you’re living in it. Recognized by Market Watch as one of four finalists for CEO of the year, Kotick’s name is on the rise in and out of the video game industry.

Twas the year of Activision. With EA unable to close a deal with TakeTwo and the ink on Activision’s acquisition of Blizzard still wet on the page as the year opened, the company started the year with an advantage that they never sacrificed.

As for Kotick, he is brazen, unapologetic and focused like a laser beam on one thing: the business of hustling video games at a profit. If Kotick believed that Activision could soar to the top of the heap by selling intentionally buggy games and then requiring micro transactions to purchase iterative patches, then the only question would be how many versions of Guitar Hero they could slap together with this new money making paradigm.

Let his own words stand, “There's only 100 years of stock-market history to suggest why return on invested capital is the only objective measure of the value of a business.” Is he wrong? Considering that he’s not only beating his competition but Wall Street itself in terms of weathering the financial storm, I suppose he’s not, but let’s not be fooled into thinking that innovation, creativity and compelling content are going to be watchwords for anything out of the standard Activision assembly lines.

Why this is Important: As an industry leader proving that the path to success is in thinking of video gaming as strictly a commodity enterprise that exhaustively milks any successful franchise, we can likely expect other major publishers to follow suit. Kotick may just be redefining the way the industry looks at its business and investments. That may prove to be very bad.

#2 Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space, Army of Two and Spore Disappointment – This story is the flip side of Activision and Bobby Kotick’s mercenary approach to video game publishing. Electronic Arts’ experiment in rededicating resources to innovating development of new IPs is slowly unraveling, and in the coming analysis of what went wrong part of the blame will be laid at the feet of EA management, but when they write the conclusion look for the phrase: people just didn’t want to buy into new properties.

Certainly Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space could have been of higher quality, but even with the exact same level of quality and attention is there anyone who doesn’t believe these games would have done substantially better had they had a familiar name brand slapped on the front? I’m betting EA’s investors will be asking that question.

Why This is Important: On the watch of the CEO, John Riccitiello, that said EA would be rededicated to new and innovative gaming along with a refocus on customer service, the company’s stock declined 70% and gave up significant ground to an aggressive competitor that relied on a much safer strategy.

#3 Rhythm Gaming Begins to Slip – I don’t think the effect of games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band on the way the industry does business can be overstated. Activision and EA have enjoyed two years of consistent revenue totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention a vehicle for building robust downloadable content sales, on the backs of these two franchises alone.

These games have been a driving force in propping up the still growing industry, but as 2008 closes on a rough holiday sales season that has seen publishers scaling back expectations, the market may either be reaching a state of saturation or exhaustion with the rhythm nation. The Guitar Hero franchise alone is down 19 percent on the year, a genuine disappointment on the heels of World Tour’s release, and while the Rock Band franchise is up the reasons may have more to do with competition last year than any genuine bolstering of interest this year.

Why This is Important: Not only have the two biggest names in gaming hitched their wagons to these franchises, but they may be a measure of things to come. These titles account for a large portion of the industry growth, and without something to replace their performance they could prove to be a catalyst in the start of a gaming slow down.

#4 iPhone Gaming – If you want to talk about it in different terms, the iPhone and iPod Touch are probably the most successful video game platforms of the year. It has long been held that cell phones were the next frontier for electronic entertainment, and funny as it may sound, it took Apple Corporation to create the proper gaming platform.

Why This is Important: Cashing in on the casual gaming movement and the desire by developers to release games with low development costs to a large market, the iPhone offers hundreds of titles for as low as a $1. It is an ever-present sales platform with a very satisfied consumer base. It is the best of all possible worlds, and you can expect that every company that likes money has taken notice.

This may be a significant look at the future of video gaming.

#5 Apple Pulls Out of MacWorld – Apple ending its attendance at MacWorld would be like having the NFL pull out of Monday Night Football. Sure you could keep the show around for laughs, but really what would be the point.

If we needed a nail in the coffin to suggest that trade shows are no longer marketing events, this may be it. Certainly E3’s embarrassing decline has been the discussion of much conversation, but the idea that it may have been an indication of a larger trend is less explored.

Why This is Important: This seems to be confirmation for the changing marketing model offered by the major companies that have abandoned E3 and slowly been trickling out of the ESA. Rather than having to work around an artificial timetable dictated by a third party in an environment where these companies have to compete for attention, many of these companies now have the leverage and capital to dictate their own messages through whatever medium they like. The era of the massive technology trade show is dead, and while Tokyo and Leipzig may not have gotten the memo yet, the writing is definitely on the wall.

#6 Recession-proof … ? — Video gaming sales are up for 2008, but you wouldn’t know it from the mood of the businesses that actually make and publish these games. Reduced forecasts, lay-offs, closures and disappointment are the watchwords of an already difficult year.

Historically entertainment media has been nearly impervious to economic slowdowns, and the video game industry has already weathered three recessions (1981, 1991, 2002), but things may have changed. You can no longer compare the costs of gaming in the same breath with the cost of going to a movie or buying music, and this year seems to have left businesses wondering whose party might be coming to an abrupt end next?

Why This is Important: There has been an illusion of invulnerability in the industry and if we’re not careful they’ll be using the phrase ‘video game bubble’ a lot on the radio next year. A struggling industry, should it not prove recession proof after all, will mean fewer games, smaller budgets, more focus on established franchises and lots more closures.

#7 Sins of a Solar Empire – Stardock and Ironclad broke all the conventional rules. They created a strategy game for the PC with virtually no DRM protection, and managed to be rewarded by a grateful, if desperate, PC gaming fanbase. An outstanding game on its own, it is also a slap in the face to companies too lazy or too jaded to believe that this kind of market still exists.

If you were to hold a gun to my head and make me pick a Game of the Year, this is it for a variety of reasons.

Why This is Important: Large corporations with the resources to risk tens of millions of dollars in the hope that they will collect revenue in the hundreds of millions are timid juggernauts. With that kind of scratch on the line, these companies must play it safe at every opportunity, and like financial hypochondriacs, the more risk averse they become the more they see risk in every option.

With a more modest budget comes the ability to be successful with more modest sales, thus opening up the opportunity to tap otherwise untapped markets. Ironclad proved that you can still create a strong product from humble means without sacrificing quality or integrity.

#8 The End of Print – Honestly, can you believe it’s only been since April that Games for Windows Magazine was put to pasture?

The trouble began in 2007 with some of the less established magazines finally giving up the ghost, but now we’re looking at flagship brands like EGM potentially folding. Even the European magazine market, which has relied more on subscription based revenue rather than advertising pressure, is showing disturbingly deep cracks in the foundation.

Why This is Important: By itself, the loss of print isn’t that critical. What is concerning is that the talent that made a home in the pages of our favorite magazines aren’t making the decision to move online in the same way. A look at just the list of talented writers that have shoveled off from Ziff-Davis alone is a disappointing and discouraging role call.

#9 Netflix, Home and NXE – My wife has already watched a half dozen movies through the streaming Netflix service, and my PS3 has become a really cool Blu-Ray player that has the added bonus of occasionally playing games. In many ways, this is the dream that console manufacturers had for the industry at the launch of this generation, changing these boxes into multimedia centers, and as it becomes more successful the question must be raised of what that means for the future of console gaming.

Why This is Important: The constant investment into infrastructure and content delivery methods makes it less and less easy to roll into the next generation. As these machines become a fixture in all kinds of content delivery, Sony and Microsoft are slowly backing themselves into the corner of not being able to take the next step. If the PS3 struggled with questions of backwards compatibility before and the Xbox with DRM related issues for Live games, what does that mean for their ability to manage all that content on a generational shift. One must begin to wonder if all the eggs are in this basket.

#10 No Sign of Next-Gen – The life of the Xbox began in November 2001 and by all accounts ended in November 2005 with the release of the 360. If we take that as any indication of a trend, then the Xbox 3 should release sometime next year.

That sound of crickets is the industry not even hinting at a new cycle of gaming consoles.

It may be odd to consider an omission of information one of the most important events of the year, but it is a further indication of the chilly mood of publishers. Not only aren’t gamers themselves clamoring for the latest and greatest, but the console manufacturers aren’t the least bit interested in rushing the coming shift. Burned by high costs and slow adoption rates, only now are the best laid plans of executives and men beginning to come to any kind of fruition.

Why This is Important: I think this is the capstone of a general theme that I have, which is that the landscape of gaming is changing and perhaps not for the better overall. Looking back we may see 2008 as a year of genuine transition.

-- What are your most important industry moments of 2008?

Comments

I for one am not too disappointed that the next gen systems aren't even a blip just yet. I haven't planned on getting the 360 and am more than willing to wait the time needed for Microsoft to get their crap together and put out a console that doesn't have such a high failure rate.

If only a company could put together the online capabilities and library of the 360, the resilience of the PS3, and the innovation of the Wii, I would be content.

Excellent article, Elysium, despite the capitalisation of "Why This is Important"

I think that staying with the PS3 and 360 for a longer time is a good thing overall... i barely feel like there's many games out there that really take advantage of the two consoles' power (despite the relatively large libraries of games) nor do i feel that this generation has really taken off yet - which is a bit strange considering we're now really 2 years into this generation..... (i don't count the first year of the 360)

It's a shame that large companies like EA and Activision can't do 'multiple stardocks' within their structure. I'm pretty sure that this is what is done when investing in 'safe' money schemes rather than risky ones (i've temporarily forgotten the proper name - ventures? I don't know, so i hope people know what i'm talking about). Surely by utilising that approach EA/Activision would overall make more net profit whilst still providing innovation.

I think #1 and #2 are insightful, and can only hope enough investors take the long view that building new IP's is like a sports team building its roster; short-term cost for long-term payoff. (Also, that financially disastrous 2008 is not necessarily a "typical" year.)

Despite my hopes, I anticipate a largely cautious and conservative 2009.

Thanks for taking a look at the quiet stories. "Top 10 Games" lists and the like are sexy and easy and fun, but something like this is more interesting to those taking the long view.

The biggest industry story this year, to me, has been the rise of smaller, independent game studios as facilitated by application stores (the iPhone App Store, WiiWare, PSN, and XBLA). You touched on this in your comment about the rise of iPhone gaming, but it's important to recognize that independent games arrived in a big way on consoles this year, too, with games like World of Goo, Braid, Castle Crashers, and PixelJunk Eden really making an impact on the gaming scene. Braid, especially, is significant because it showed that independent game studios can not only create small, "casual" games but can create games that are every bit as ambitious, or more ambitious, than the AAA titles. Independent and art games on the PC have done this for years, but this was the year that it hit consoles, and I look forward to seeing what happens with that in the future.

re: #10 There are a lot of reasons why next gen isn't being heralded yet, but as a consumer, I know the shift to this gen was a no brainer because it meant HD vesus no HD (guess I'm showing my stripes as a non-Wii-er here). Any potential next gen is going to need something like that to be a compelling proposition, but next time around, better graphics aren't really going to be the thing to do that, as I imagine HD is "good enough" for most people.

I think as each generation gets more advanced technologically in terms of hardware, development times have increased alongside with it. A current gen game that uses 720p resolution should take much longer to develop than a 16-bit 2d game. So, a console's life has to be much longer now to compensate for the fact that games take longer to make, and so "good" launches are fewer and concentrated around holiday time. While people are eagerly anticipating the next AAA title for their current gen consoles, they're in the mindset that they want the most out of what they invested for this generation, while the companies are finally starting to see profits from the current gen.

Wonderful article, Elysium.

I'm happy I haven't seen a hint of any next-gen consoles. I don't believe for a second that the consoles we have now have reached their full potential yet. After everything that has happened this gen, I'd wait a year or two before considering what the next-gen consoles have to offer. I don't even have a PS3. I still have no reason to buy one. If the PS4 is on its way, I'll gladly wait.

My other disappointment is the new IPs that I was looking forward to. I loved the Mirror's Edge demo. It was a first-person platformer and I thought it was awesome. But after reading a ton of reviews and impressions, the problems turned me off. The same thing happened with Spore and Prince of Persia.

Speaking of Mirror's Edge, when are these developers going to get it through their thick skulls that I will not pay $60 for gaming content that lasts 4 hours? It's not going to happen. I don't care how "great" those 4 hours are. It's sixty dollars! Don't you realize that we are in a recession?

cartoonin99 wrote:
If only a company could put together the online capabilities and library of the 360, the resilience of the PS3, and the innovation of the Wii, I would be content.

It would be bliss.

Great article, Elysium. Great comments, too. We have some big ol' heads round these parts.

A single thought regarding the bit about Stardock: I've been wondering about how it seems that a few well-established little guys are doing so well. I think mainly of Stardock and Valve because they are two companies that don't have to answer to shareholders. Can you imagine EA or Activision saying "It'll be done when it's done?" Only in bizzaro-land.

Their size seems to afford them a flexibility that the big guys can't match. Their laser-beam like focus seems to mean that they have more room to innovate. They don't have to appeal mainly to "the masses". Sorry I pulled a smarmy Certis on you - it was too delicious to pass up.

Well at least the Netflix content doesnt require anything for a generational shift, seeing as you stream the movies with no purchase beyond your standard Netflix subscription fees. All they would have to do to carry it into the next generation is update the XBOX Netflix Client and continue their partnership.

On the otherhand, it'll be curious to see how digital media purchases get handled by Sony and Microsoft when the next generation arrives. I expect they'll need to honor their customer's purchases in some way, for fear of hurting the digital business model. It's not like the physical format has changed between streaming digital content to a PS3 or a PS4, though maybe they could 'encode' it differently, making it Mo better, and thus requiring a repurchase.

I think the next generation is quite a ways out yet though. When it does arrive, I think this generation will be forward compatible, or the next backwards compatible. with PS4 having additional cells processors and faster disc access, while the NextBOX 360 would gain processors and get a hi-def disc. I doubt there is going to be much developer desire to relearn new programming techniques for new hardware, nor patience for new development middleware to support cross-platform development. The cost to develop a game is likely too high already to throw away all their 'learnings' this generation.

I think the rhythm games have shown their true colors. Too many versions pumped out too quickly. Maybe one more sequel in the cycle will be a hit for each, but at that point the instrument controllers will stagnate and folks will get tired of re-buying a new game client. They should move these games over to buying a core client to which you can buy digital expansions, with your DRM ladened music remaining compatible across updates. I think the Band specific versons of Guitar Hero just over-saturate the market. They should sell digital band avatars or themes and get away from cheapening the Guitar Hero brand name.

There is one silver lining for EA, and it's weak, I admit.

For years, EA's stock has been trading at a huge multiple of its actual performance. It's not hard to understand why:

1. People saw video games as the hot new future of entertainment.
2. EA was the perceived leader of video games.
3. People invested in EA.
4. The stock went up, based largely and falsely on perception.

In short, EA was really sexy and EA used a lot of its money and resources to support the sexiness: huge marketing campaigns, big name executives with big name salaries, high profile purchases of other hot companies, etc. This all culminated with EA's ruinous flirtation with Hollywood, where untold millions (billions?) of dollars were flushed down the commode.

What was missing from all of this was ... GAMES PEOPLE WANT TO PLAY. I have no doubt that Larry Probst is a skillful businessman from a logistical point of view, but I always got the feeling that he couldn't tell a good game from road kill. And maybe some folks don't think this matter, but if he was the man responsible for determining what to fund and what not to fund, surely his seeming disengagement from the actual gaming culture proved an impediment.

I get the feeling that Ricciatello is more engaged, but then you run into the other problem, which is EA's excessive bureaucratic bloat. Even if you have a genius game designer designing the next big thing, he has to somehow get his ideas through a gauntlet of executive producers, vice-presidents and senior executives who are NOT genius game designers but whose ass is on the line and who therefore feels a very pressing need to take the genius idea and fill it with every gimmicky thing they read in a magazine on a several thousand dollar first class flight to another country to screw up somebody else's idea.

Which brings me back to my first point, the silver lining.

EA Stock is now trading at about 16 points, which is about where it should be, given its performance. EA Stock is no longer sexy. EA is no longer sexy. And this is a very good thing for EA, imho, as the talentless ass-clowns will now leave EA in search of companies that have a better chance of getting them laid and / or a mistress in a luxury San Francisco hotel. Activision will become the big new thing for the executive mediocrities polluting our industry, and I say good riddance. Don't be surprised if World of Warcraft releases an expansion pack featuring a Hillary Duff hit single in a few years. This is what they do.

And the circle of life continues. I am actually a very big fan of EA, which is why I get really worked up and write long rants like this. I have played their games since I was in short pants, and I will always feel an enormous amount of loyalty towards them. EA does make great games, because EA has a LOT of very, very, very talented people. So I think EA's future is bright, because they can finally start sh*t-canning the middle managers who were an impediment to quality games and replace them with people who care more about games than stock options. And that will be its saving grace.

etc.

I think the mass-flogging of peripherals (notably the Wii Balance Board thingy) was a pretty big part of 2008. This is somewhat encompassed in the rhythm game section, but I, for one, was consistently astounded that stuff like the Mario Kart Wii wheels, the balance board, the guitar faceplates, and whatever other kooky gadgets are out there have done so well.

2009 will probably see a dramatic rollback of these 'buy this plastic piece of crap for the one game that'll actually need it' bundles.

I don't normally agree with everything you write, but these are all great points - except #1. Like it or not, "return on invested capital is the only objective measure of the value of a business" is Business 101. I mean, this is the opening statement of any undergrad business course. I can tout the other benifits of having businesses around, but their goal is to make money, or they die.

With a more modest budget comes the ability to be successful with more modest sales, thus opening up the opportunity to tap otherwise untapped markets. Ironclad proved that you can still create a strong product from humble means without sacrificing quality or integrity.

Amen Brother.

Man, I told you guys 2008 was going to suck, I was sooo right, but no one listens to me*.

* Which is probably a really good thing in general

I must say, this was a very thoughtful article. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are so intertwined I really do wonder if EA and Activision are going to get too aggressive in their Rock Band/Guitar Hero projections when the inevitable backlash hits. Large, plastic peripheral games aren't sustainable at a mass market level. Eventually they will slide into the same kind of niche market as the Dance Dance Revolution games do. Still profitable, but not nearly as relevant in the grand scheme of things.

2008 big news?

Wii. 2 million sold in November. I think that's the best selling month ever for a console and it came in November which is traditionally the second-best sales month in videogaming.

App store is big news too because it makes the iPhone/Touch a 100% pure digital distribution platform. Probably a first for a major mainstream device. I'm thinking there's a pricing advantage there, for companies not tied to retail, to take advantage of.

My big gaming events of 2008? A return to boardgaming (especially wargaming). Analog has really grabbed my brain cycles in ways the digital medium has been failing to. I can't believe that at this time last I year I was deep into yet another year of 360, PC gaming and my new Wii. Now it's pushing cardboard around on paper maps and damn if I'm not frickin' happy.

No discussion about gaming in 2008 is complete without first talking about the success of Nintendo and both the Wii and the DS. In a so called year of decline Nintendo was not only able to grow the market, but shatter the roof. Selling 2 million consoles in November is an unprecedented achievement , made even more so by the fact that there was more then likely only 2 million Wii on the market. In other words the growth of the Wii is limited only by how many units Nintendo is able to produce. Think about that and let it sink in.

Re: #7 - If I remember correctly, Stardock also did quite well with its DRM-free Galactic Civilizations II a while back...yet still no larger companies seem to have taken notice. Obviously, the argument goes back to protecting oneself from the wrath of stockholders, but in general, if something performs well, that should be what matters, not the possibility that it could have THEORETICALLY done slightly better because some "potential customers" downloaded it for free instead. I'm too idealistic in that regard, however...

Re. #8 - The saddest thing about the impending end of print is that it coincides with the ease of its consumption in locations other than "in front of your monitor". Until Star Trek-like pads become common, time spent in a beanbag, on the porcelain throne, in a vehicle during a long trip, or in bed right before lights out will be slightly less interesting. I will forever hold a special place in my heart for the quality of the written contributions to be found in CGW/GFW magazines.

Re. #10 - While moving to the current gen may have been a "no-brainer" for some like juv3nal, I'm guessing I'm not the only one who still doesn't see that much to cheer about in the present scene. Being someone who is well known for buying nearly anything and everything based on two criteria (A. Is it highly rated? and/or B. Is it an innovative attempt which may or may not be deeply flawed?), it is a bit odd to me that this deeply into the current gen's life cycle, I still only own a DS and a Wii (both of which I rarely use) in addition to the old standby of the PC. It seems to me that these systems still have a long way to go before achieving greatness based on the quantity of quality offerings rather than system sales numbers.

I really like Sins of a Solar Empire, but I think the game is vastly overrated, especially in the stability department. I have played over 200 games on Ironclad Online, and probably 1/3 of those games ended due to sync errors or crashes to the desktop. One can have a great time playing multiplayer on private networks, but that greatly reduces the number of games available to play. Sins also crashed consistently when switching to the desktop until the very latest patch.

So, Sins is a great start. The concept of mini-expansions is a great idea for a small company - you have cheap upgrades to your game that add revenue for future development and the customer gets more gameplay for less money.

I hope that they find a way to fix their multiplayer problems in the mini-expansions.

Thanks for mentioning Sins. I started playing this based on your recommendation. And have spent several months trying to master the TEC.

But I really like how you stated it's importance in the industry. It's like the micro brew of video games. I hope we see more of this.

My eyes are still bleeding from Elysium letting slip the forsaken word.

Mordiceius wrote:
My eyes are still bleeding from Elysium letting slip the forsaken word.

I can hear Gaald screaming all the way from here.

Or that could just be echoes of him from last night's game of L4D.

I do try to torment Rob at any and every opportunity.

Shoal07 wrote:
I don't normally agree with everything you write, but these are all great points - except #1. Like it or not, "return on invested capital is the only objective measure of the value of a business" is Business 101. I mean, this is the opening statement of any undergrad business course. I can tout the other benifits of having businesses around, but their goal is to make money, or they die.

This is pretty much my reaction as well, and the ultimate "villains" here aren't the company executives but the consumers. If the consumer market rewarded innovation and creativity consistently, we wouldn't be having this discussion. But they don't, so as a publically-traded company, you're going to focus your resources on iteration afer iteration of known IP, rather than try something risky and get burned. Let smaller companies take the gamble and buy them out if they succeed. I guess what I'm saying is, a CEO's responsibility is to make as much money for his shareholders as possible, not drive innovation, so it's kind of unfair to judge him by those standards.

Great post, but I can't figure out for the life of me why everyone considers dead space a dissapointment. As far as I'm concerned, this game more or less came out of left field and was very high quality in terms of everything except for creativity (For those of you who aren't paying attention, the same can be said (save the left field part) for everything released by the holy Blizzard)

#2 is the one that caught my attention. I know it is more interesting to discuss how will EA react in the future, but I'm not sure I understand what happened there? Why didn't those games sell well? What makes the difference between a Bioshock and a Dead Space, an Assassin's Creed and a Mirror's Edge?

Nintendo=success. Before the Wii launched I know many in the gaming industry were wondering if Nintendo was en route to Sega Land, the Gamecube's success being what it was. Any such sentiment seems completely laughable after 2008; for better or for worse, Nintendo is once again solidly synonymous with videogames, family, and fun.

Also, benu302000 is spot on - Dead Space did great. As Mr. Green attested to on the latest podcast, and as Riccetello (I can not spell that man's name) has said himself, EA is very happy with Dead Space (in terms of sales). The game got very favorable reviews, too (Metacritic: 89, 360; 88, PS3; 86, PC). Unless you were expecting Dead Space to sell millions upon millions (and really, Mr. Sands, you are much smarter than that) I can't imagine where exactly the dissapointment bag lands. Mirror's Edge, on the other hand... not so great.

In any case, EA should be applauded for pushing new IPs: Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Army of Two, and Skate might not all be blockbuster franchises, but the fact that they even exist is astounding. You seem to have taken a negative view of this year, Mr. Sands, but this EA initiative seems like a wonderful thing to me. And yes, I get that they aren't doing so great as far as the stock market is concerned, but I think there's more to that than just new IPs and slumping sales. EA still made their money back from a handful of titles, and I believe we'll see their 2008 IPs reappear in some form in 2009 and 2010.

EA is very happy with Dead Space (in terms of sales). The game got very favorable reviews, too (Metacritic: 89, 360; 88, PS3; 86, PC). Unless you were expecting Dead Space to sell millions upon millions (and really, Mr. Sands, you are much smarter than that) I can't imagine where exactly the dissapointment bag lands. Mirror's Edge, on the other hand... not so great.

Great PR, but on a day when EA lays off hundreds and is closing studios left and right it rings a little hollow.

In any case, EA should be applauded for pushing new IPs: Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Army of Two, and Skate might not all be blockbuster franchises

You'll get no argument from me, but in they are getting closer by the day to having to make the distinction between making the games people say they want and the games people actually buy.

How much marketing went into Dead Space? And specifically how smart was the marketing? It's possible i saw one TV commercial for the game though i'm not sure i can distinguish that from ads i saw on the internet - this is the sign of a forgettably bad marketing campaign. (I found this on youtube but i certainly don't remember seeing that on TV...)

Compare this with Assassin's Creed with the sweeping panorama's they set up, the music and fluidity that was part of the Assassin's Creed adverts all underlined by the huge lettering that it was 'in-game footage' and they had a fantastic advert - similarly to the two Gears adverts.

Mirror's edge, almost had it right with the music but the action and flow were too quick, too confusing for the general viewer.

IMO, the poor sales (since the hardcore gamers make up the minority of sales) are due not to them being bad games but purely down to their marketing strategy.

Nice writeup, and yep, whilst I hope to be proven wrong, when it comes to #6 we could be only seeing the tip of a very late 70s-early 80s gaming iceberg rising up out of the fog.