The past month and a half has gone by so fast for gamers with the release of heavyweight titles like MAG and Mass Effect 2, it is easy to forget that December was just a blink away not too long ago. Although many titles that were expected to release this holiday season didn’t, that didn’t stop December 2009 from being a record-breaking month for gaming. I’m talking epic! To the ring of $5,290,000,000 (a.k.a. 5.29b for Billion) worth of sales in computer and video games for the month alone! The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) points to 1997, to put in perspective this large figure, when the gaming industry brought in $5.1b that entire year. Surely now the enormity of it is setting in, this has now been topped in a single month! The ESA points to titles like Splinter Cell: Conviction, Final Fantasy XIII, and God of War III to suggest that Quarter 1 of 2010 will not be a mild period for gaming either, and I don’t blame them all the upcoming games look simply amazing this year.
Continuing to excite hardcore, casual, newbie, and veteran gamers alike this year are the announcements of Microsoft’s Natal and Sony’s [Gem?] (Rumored name; Official name unknown) motion controllers for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms. Both companies have expressed their desire to utilize these additions to the gaming industry in both casual and serious games. Couple this with the excitement of a mouth-watering games lineup all year round and the ultimate quench for many parched Role Playing Game fans’ thirst this year, as you will recall hearing our Senior Contributing Editor Chad Awkerman discuss in the DualShockers ShockCast Episode 3, the industry is raining down RPGs at Noah’s Ark proportions.
Another factor driving 2010 strong into the new year pointed out by the Entertainment Software Association this year is the Olympics relationship to video games. Video games, as far back as I can remember to my toddler years playing on the Nintendo NES while eating pizza chugging soda, have always done amazingly well from a game play standpoint with the Olympics. I can remember blowing on some old Olympics cartridge games, probably after I had left them out of their case too long, I do not remember the names to that were so addicting that if a sequel was released tomorrow I’d buy it. Moving on, Sega has been successful in the past with the Olympics license as well and in 2010 they have obtained its exclusivity and teamed up with Nintendo to deliver Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games! Hardcore and casual gamers alike should be excited and want to try this game, simply because the physical feats featured in the Olympics make for great game play. They always have and they always will. Mario and Sega just sweetens the deal a hell of a lot more since we all have a special place in our hearts for those icons of gaming. Vancouver 2010 is another Sega 2010 Olympics game to keep your eyes out for, if they are anything like Sega’s latest entries into gaming they will surely be fun!
Your game console is plotting ways to blow your mind right now as it sits there looking so innocent! While all of these emerging technologies and upcoming games are sure to prolong the longevity of this gen much further, there is another emerging technology the ESA finds particularly central to the future of entertainment software. That is the technology of stereoscopic 3D, or as it is beginning to become known as ‘3DHD’. With the earth shattering success of James Cameron’s AVATAR movie this technology is in the spotlight like never before. Many people who enjoy the movie’s stereoscopic visuals describe them as an evolution in 3D to a whole new level. The ESA, as well as many gaming insiders, expect that the adoption of this new format will be gradual and this sounds on the money to me because HD was phased in a very similar way. It largely was sports programming as well as Xbox 360 which helped drive the major mainstream embrace of HDTV. Now we see the same stage being set with the PlayStation 3, sports programming, and movies, which have been all preparing for the idea of mainstream 3D content publishing since as early as 2007-2008 in many cases. Many games have proven that 3DHD gaming is very possible recently at events such as Consumer Electronics Show 2009 and 2010.
Sony plans to attempt a jump-start to the format in Spring 2010 by releasing a patch that will allow many (or possibly ‘all’) PlayStation 3 games to run in full stereoscopic 3D on 3D ready HD televisions. But will this be enough to cause mass hysteria over who’s getting a 3DTV before you? Probably not. I believe until the major sports and movies content publishers begin to release their content more widely many people will not feel compelled to upgrade their televisions. For better or for worse hardcore gamers like myself and many of you reading this now will be some of the few early adopters trying to come up with the cash to enjoy what some claim is just a ‘gimmick’. Even if it means I have to settle for wearing goggles until auto-stereoscopic sets come way down in price, I feel obligated to experience this as a gamer who has lived to see the day near-holograms are available for blockbuster video games. With 2009 behind us, an incredible year of gaming awaits that is poised to out-do the last by any means necessary!