The games industry moves pretty fast, and there's a tendency for all involved to look constantly to what's next without so much worrying about what came before. That said, even an industry so entrenched in the now can learn from its past. So to refresh our collective memory and perhaps offer some perspective on our field's history, GamesIndustry.biz runs this monthly feature highlighting happenings in gaming from exactly a decade ago.
Was PS3 hard to develop for?
The biggest news from 10 years ago this month happened right up front with the delay of Grand Theft Auto IV from its October release window (that had just been announced at E3 the prior month) and would now arrive sometime in the February-to-April stretch of 2008. That was huge at the time, but delays happen, and it's not the sort of thing we usually lead this column off with. In fact, the reason we're going over it here is the possible reason for the delay.
The day after GTA IV's delay was announced, long-time industry analyst Michael Pachter put the blame on the PlayStation 3, saying, "We think it is likely that the Rockstar team had difficulty in building an exceptionally complicated game for the PS3, and failed to recognise how far away from completion the game truly was until recently." Combined with a contractual obligation to not launch the game early on one platform or the other, that meant pushing back all versions until the next year.
Granted, the deductions of an analyst aren't confirmation, and Pachter doesn't have a flawless track record when it comes to bold speculation. (Here's one from later that same month that he might like back.)
That said, this was far from the only suggestion that developers were having difficulty with the PS3. Sony had already been chastising third-parties for not taking full advantage of the hardware, and it didn't help having massive publishing partners like Electronic Arts publicly explaining why the PS3 version of Madden NFL was noticeably inferior. It's particularly damning considering the company didn't even attempt to refute the game's inferiority in any way.
"In the case of the next-generation consoles, many publishers have been developing titles for the Xbox 360 for over three and a half years while everyone who publishes now for the PlayStation 3 with the exception of Sony has been developing for the PlayStation 3 for only a little over one full year," the company said.
At least Ubisoft was a little more diplomatic, with Yann Le Tensorer, co-founder of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfare studio Tiwak calling the idea nonsense, and then basically repeating what EA had said.
"It's not harder to develop on the PS3 than it is on the 360; it's just a different console. Developers might say it's harder because it just takes time to understand the technology. We're still early in the lifecycle."
By the time October rolled around and Midway delayed PS3 releases for BlackSite: Area 51, Stranglehold, and Unreal Tournament 3, the PS3's reputation was essentially set in stone. And while Sony was able to overcome the PS3's rough start and turn it into a very successful system over the long haul, the "hard to develop for" tag persisted for years.
Elsewhere in gaming...
- Microsoft gave the Xbox 360 its first price cut after almost two years on the market, and added an HDMI port to new versions of the hardware for good measure.
- Midway's European MD claimed "Stranglehold will be the top selling title this Christmas" in a holiday season that featured Call of Duty 4, Super Mario Galaxy, Halo 3, Guitar Hero 3, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, and BioShock. (Stranglehold made zero appearances in the NPD Group's monthly top 10 best-seller lists.)
- Capcom removed the phrase "Allahu akbar" from its Wii-exclusive adventure game Zack and Wiki after concerns were raised that it was used in an inappropriate context.
- id Software announced Rage, which I want to call the studio's first original IP since Quake, but can't because of that one mobile game Orcs & Elves. Wonder when the next time they'll get to work on an original IP will be...
- Thanks to the stock options backdating scandals of the day, we occasionally were able to run headlines like "Take-Two founder avoids prison." Good times.
- Just a reminder for those following the Ubisoft-Vivendi potential takeover story that Ubi has been here before.
- This celebratory look back at Lionhead's first decade is a lot sadder now knowing it didn't survive the second one.
- Fortunately, there are happier milestones this month as well. Happy 10th birthday to Elder Scrolls Online developer Zenimax Online Studios --which is still chugging along under the leadership of founding president Matt Firor--and the Montreal International Games Summit!