Questions for 2008

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posted 1/2/2008 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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2007 was a record year for the game industry. Between the success of the Wii and the amazing games that came out this year it was a banner year. Sure there were a lot of controversies (Manhunt 2, "Gerstman Gate") but the industry grew by leaps in bounds. As the year ends it's time to start looking forward at 2008 and seeing what the New Year will bring.

Instead of doing the standard predictions article I thought it might be interesting to ask a series of questions and then re-visit those questions at the end of 2008. Without further blather here are some key questions for 2008.

1. Could 2008 be a better year for games than 2007?
2007 will be a hard year to top for the industry but looking at the lineup of titles due in 2008 makes me think 2008 could be an even better year. With Silent Hill 5, Resident Evil 5, Fallout 3, Haze, Killzone 2, Alan Wake, Metal Gear Solid 4, Smash Brothers, Grand Theft Auto IV potentially hitting shelves next year it could be another banner year for gamers. If you throw in the possibility for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 and Gears of War 2 then 2008 could easily top 2007. Of course some of those titles could get pushed into 2009 but that's still fairly solid list of games.

2. Does Microsoft have anything left in the tank?
There's no doubt that the Xbox 360 has the best line-up of games in 2007. Some of them may not have been genre innovators but if you look at the number exclusive titles the 360 ruled the roost. 2008 is a bit murkier though as outside of Fallout 3, Alan Wake, Lost Odyssey, and Too Human there really aren't a lot of big name exclusives. Sure those titles will be solid (well Fallout 3 and Alan Wake at least) but there really aren't a lot of titles that are going to sell hardware. We could see Gears of War 2 next year but outside of that there's not a whole lot on the table for Microsoft.

Update: Fallout 3 is not an exclusive to the 360, my apologies

3. Can Sony build on their momentum?
Heavenly Sword, Ratchet and Clank, and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune were all games for the PS3 and helped Sony end the year on a high note. The real question now is if Sony can build on that in 2008. With Metal Gear Solid 4, Little Big Planet, Haze, and Killzone 2 coming out for the system next year it certainly looks like the PS3 could make up some ground on the Xbox 360 and the Wii. If Final Fantasy XIII hits then all bets are off as that game will sell hardware like nothing else.

Another key will be the launch of Home. If the new online service can live up to half the promises made by Sony it could be the answer to Xbox Live that Sony has been looking for. I don’t think the PS3 will overtake Xbox 360 in total units in the marketplace but it should setup a nice dog fight for 2009.

4. Will anyone other than Nintendo make money off the Wii?
There's no doubt that the Wii was THE gaming story of 2007. Originally picked to be the number three console in the current console war the Wii has vaulted into first place and become a media darling. The only thing holding the Wii back is Nintendo's ability to manufacture the units and get them to stores. The problem is that Nintendo seems to be the only one making any money off the system and even then it's just on the hardware (compare sales of Super Mario Galaxy to those of Halo 3 for proof of that).

The question for 2008 will be if there will be any third party games that sell well for the system or if Wii Sports will continue to be the dominant game for the system. Nintendo likes to tout all the new gamers who are buying the Wii but the majority of those people aren't buying games for the system. This isn't like the DS where developers struggled to adapt to the new control system (the Wii has that problem as well) but Nintendo now needs to Wii owners into the stores to buy a new wave of games.

5. Will there be any reason for gamers to upgrade to Vista?
Saying that Vista hasn't lived up to expectations is a bit of an understatement and Microsoft has yet to come up with a solid reason for gamers to move over to the new operating system. DirectX 10 was supposed to be that reason but developers have been slow to pick it up and even some of the big DirectX10 games like Crysis don't look that much better than their DirectX 9 counterparts. Live for Windows was another reason to upgrade but Microsoft has now enabled XP users to play games online using the service.

The hurdle for Microsoft is going to be finding a reason or reasons for gamers to upgrade to their new OS. At this point Microsoft is trapped in a bit of a chicken and the egg situation. Gamers won't upgrade until they have games to play and developers won't create games for an audience that isn't there yet. Normally I wouldn't worry about this as gamers will upgrade as they buy new PC's but a lot of manufacturers are still offering XP as an option Microsoft still has to come up with a good reason to get people into Vista.
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