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Awards Analysis

Who'll be the winners and losers this week?

If there's one thing that an industry likes in order to be able to benchmark itself, and quantify to one and all - once and for all - some semblance of success, it's an awards ceremony.

Over time they've become the most important date on the calendar for some industries, and while the Golden Joystick awards never quite hit that height, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts' decision last year to give videogames its own event means that it's now only a matter of time.

Instantly with BAFTA's involvement comes mainstream media attention and the sense of social acceptability that the industry craves. While having the two events happen in the same week might raise an eyebrow or two, they are after all designed to speak to two different audiences: The Golden Joysticks to the Future readership and other dedicated gamers, the BAFTAs to everybody else.

On the surface of it, it seems like everybody's a winner - the London Games Festival perhaps above all, as the icing on the cake of event diversity. One potential sticking point will occur if the two ceremonies yield drastically different winners in similar categories - who should consumers believe, the experts, or the gamers?

But either way, there are enough suspects that crop up on both shortlists to give us some idea of who may well take home the silverware.

One of the most likely candidates for headline success will be Nintendo. Up for either a GJ award for nomination as a platform, or a plethora of representations on both lists for its titles - most notably Wii Sports - the Wii won't surprise anybody if it's recognised with a lot of winners this week.

After all, the console itself has continued to outperform most honest people's expectations, and while the traditional gamer might not dally too long on many of the platform's titles, it's become the talking point for parents, grandparents, girlfriends, wives, and any other non-gaming stereotypes you'd care to mention.

In total the Wii, or Wii titles, are contesting nine GJ awards and ten BAFTAs, with Wii Sports nominated in both "best game" categories. It may not win in either of the latter, but its presence in such force is something that few would have predicted at this time last year.

What's more, while many have speculated as to the longevity of the Wii's realistic lifecycle, it's notable that there are actually eight different Wii titles nominated in various categories - outside of the GJ best Nintendo game award. While that's nowhere near the number of different Xbox 360 titles up for awards, it is close when you consider the relative number of titles available for the two platforms.

But while Nintendo could well be this year's biggest winner, there are a few others that are definitely worth a mention.

Firstly, Crackdown, which when released was almost overlooked because of the Halo 3 beta key giveaway, but has consistently won people to its cause ever since. It was nominated for a cluster of awards at the Develop conference earlier in the year, and could realistically add several more this week to the two it won then. It would be a surprise, not to mention a shame, if it walked away empty-handed.

Gears of War is another game nominated massively in both sets of lists, and while Epic might find that the passage of time since it was released has dulled the memory of some, that it's represented in categories as diverse as gameplay, technical achievement, use of audio, online play and best/ultimate game is a testament to the respect it's given, even one year on.

But in these events there are always more losers than winners, and for a game that seemed to have been aiming to harness as much publicity as was possibly available, Microsoft's decision not to submit Halo 3 for the BAFTAs seems curious, to say the least.

It would have been eligible, as it only needed to have been released this calendar year, and there were certainly a number of titles submitted for evaluation that were less finished when judging took place. Another round of headlines - of the kind that only BAFTA could produce - at this point in the Halo 3 lifecycle would surely have reignited sales and kept them strong in the run-up to Christmas?

Either way, on the back of that decision the doors are opened for others, such as BioShock, Kane and Lynch, Orange Box and more to potentially profit from the absence of what would have undeniably a firm favourite. Admittedly, it might still win the GJ one to watch prize, but arguably the world has already waited, watched, played and rested, and seen that it was good.

On another note of slight disappointment, while PlayStation 3 titles are nominated across a host of different categories, it might be hard for them to compete against the more bedded-in Xbox 360 titles or innovative Wii games.

Of course, the issue of compelling software titles is a problem that the platform-holder is thinking about for more important reasons then just awards at a UK industry ceremony, and if its games don't win a hatful this year, it's likely to show a more competitive offering next year once the hardware is more established.

But spare a thought for the makers of Okami - developer Clover was disbanded after the release of the game, which could be something of a shame as the game's up for five BAFTAs and four GJs - no doubt Capcom will be pleased enough if it picks something up from this week anyway.

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Phil Elliott

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