Top 10 2007 News Stories
It has been an incredibly busy year for the video and PC game industry. Surprise mergers, unexpected developments and lots of turmoil have almost been the norm in the past 12 months but with the year almost finished it's time to take a look back at the major events of the past year and how they might affect the game industry in the next 12 months. We've picked out our selections for the top 10 biggest gaming news stories of the year (with a few additional honorable mentions) and we think this quick review of 2007 will serve as a way to perhaps better predict what might happen in the near future.
10. Windows Vista/DirectX10 Launch
In late January with much fanfare, Microsoft introduced the consumer version of their next version of the Windows PC operating System. Windows Vista wasn't just a new OS for business or the home, however, as Microsoft pushed the fact that it would also serve as a new revitalization of PC gaming with the launch of DirectX10, the new graphics API that promised to bring the visuals of PC gaming far above those of current consoles.
It's been nearly a year since Vista's consumer launch and the result for PC gaming hasn't been the huge leap that Microsoft tried to push on gamers. Vista's performance on older PC games was less than Windows XP and many games had to be patched up to even work properly with Vista. And those DirectX10 games? As of this writing only a handful have been released either out of the box or via patches and the amount of upcoming PC games that will use DirectX10 is still fairly small. While Vista will eventually get into more and more gamer's homes at the moment DirectX9 based titles are still being developed and likely will for years to come.
A side-story to Vista and gaming is Microsoft's Games For Windows Live program which is trying to create a more console-like approach to PC user interfaces, networking, matchmaking and more. However, that too has been mixed with only a handful of games (Halo 2 Vista, Shadowrun, Gears of War PC, Universe at War: Earth Assault, Kane and Lynch) currently supporting Games For Windows Live. Gamers have to to pony up money to get the Gold version of Games For Windows Live (for features like TrueSkill Matchmaking, multiplayer achievements, and, if the game supports it, cross platform play with the Xbox 360 version). Again this new program hasn't been embraced by many developers yet. 2008 will show if Microsoft's push for Games For Windows Live will be taken up by more developers.
9. Silicon Knights/Epic Games Lawsuit
Too Human is an Xbox 360 exclusive sci-fi action game that was heavily hyped even before its first public showing at E3 2006 by publisher Microsoft and developer Silicon Knights. It was a game, like many others, that used the Unreal Engine 3 game development tools created by Epic Games. However, the E3 demo for Too Human was panned by the press so heavily that Silicon Knights went into stealth mode to develop the game. As it turned out, Silicon Knights decided to blame much of Too Human's development problems on Epic's Unreal Engine and in mid-July filed a lawsuit against Epic, saying that the company's engine "did not work as Epic represented it would and, moreover, Epic has been unable or unwilling to fix it."
Epic struck back fast with its own counter-claim against Silicon Knights, saying that the developer misappropriated the Unreal Engine 3 technology and wanted to "pay nothing for it, and use it any way it pleases". At the time of this writing it seems like the case will be heading to some kind of trial; Epic tried to get the case dismissed, but a judge allowed the Silicon Knights lawsuit to continue.
This isn't the first time developers have mentioned issues in developing games on Epic's Unreal Engine 3. Indeed the PS3 platform seems to be a big issue for the engine tools with games like Medal of Honor: Airborne, Stranglehold and BlackSite: Area 51 releasing the PS3 versions of the games weeks or even months after the PC and Xbox 360 versions. While some have said the Silicon Knights lawsuit has some merit other developers have come to Epic's defense, including Gearbox Software head Randy Pitchford, who said in a recent interview that he wasn't sure if "....they've gotten too many inexperienced developers or they're just cry-babies. I just don't know." It's likely that the lawsuit will continue through the court system in 2008 and if Silicon Knights manages to win the lawsuit it could change the way third party middleware software programs are made and marketed to game developers.
8. Manhunt 2 Banned In UK
It was a game that didn't get the best review marks and didn't generate a ton of sales, yet Rockstar Games decided to go ahead and make a sequel to their brutal stealth action title Manhunt. The next game, Manhunt 2, would be released for the PS2, PSP, and Nintendo's Wii system this year in the US but that game has yet to be released in the UK thanks to the British Board of Film Classification deciding this summer that the game was so violent it would not to give a rating to Manhunt 2, effectively banning it for sale in that country.
Rockstar Games appealed the decision while at the same time delaying the release of the game from its initial August ship date. After a revised version of the game was also banned by the BBFC, Rockstar took their case to the appeals board and just a few weeks ago the board in a 5-4 vote recommended that the game be allowed to be put on sale in the UK. The BBFC, however, is planning to take its case for the ban to a UK court to keep Manhunt 2 from being put on store shelves.
In the US, the initial version of Mahunt 2 received an AO rating from the ESRB ratings system. Giving a console game an AO rating effectively bans the game since none of the three console makers allow AO rated games on their systems (PC games that are AO rated are of course not affected). After a revised version of the game was sent to the ESRB which blurred some of the kill animations, the ESRB re-rated Manhunt 2 with an M rating. Rockstar released all three versions of the game in the US on Oct. 31. Both Rockstar and the ESRB were attacked by lawmakers and media watchdog groups for this move and it got the game a lot of free publicity in the press but in the end Manhunt 2 once again got mediocre reviews from the gaming press and fairly low sales.
2008 should see the UK court system give the final word on the release of Manhunt 2 in that country but in the US it seems the court of supply and demand have given their final verdict already; Manhunt 2, while violent, isn't all that great of a game.