January is behind us, and an exciting year of gaming lay ahead of us. February was an important month more for industry issues than it was for games. Yes, games like Crysis 3 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance came out and to mostly positive reviews; but, the things that carried weight really didn’t have to do with games at all. Here’s This Month in Gaming for February, 2013.
Esports Start Off Strong with New League of Legends Season
2013, in part, will be the year of esports. Earlier this month, Riot Games started season 3 of League of Legends, broadcasting their North American tournament play on the Internet. For the very first match, around 275,000 people tuned in on the stream I was watching. Esports is a growing part of the industry and is fast learning how best to turn gaming into a competitive spectator sport. The success of the launch of season 3 is evidence enough that there is an audience, and therefore potential market, for esports. Other important esport events are coming up in the next few months. Treyarch and Activision will be putting on an esports tournament with Call of Duty: Black Ops II, a world championship event that’s looking like it will be world-class. February ripped the top off of what may be one of the most important industry developments this year.
Layoffs and Closures Across the Industry
February also saw the closure of IGN’s sister-sites. 1UP and Gamespy have been closed down. It’s unclear exactly how many of the employees from those websites that were closed continue to hold some kind of position within the existing IGN network and how many had to start the search for new employment. Either way, there were some good people with loads of talent at many of those sites, and I hope they all are able to continue talking and writing about games. The publishing portion of the industry also saw a few closures and layoffs. Activision announced it was laying off a portion of development studio Treyarch, and EA announced layoffs at its Montreal and Los Angeles development studios. Those are some important and large studios, folks. It may not be indicative of the health of the publishing and development portion of the industry, but it’s indicative of something. My guess is that many of the publishers are gearing up for a focus away from traditional DLC and toward micro-transactions, thus downsizing development teams whose sole responsibility had been the development of DLC. I suppose only time will tell.
The Gigantic Stick of Suck that is Aliens: Colonial Marines
So many of us looked forward to Aliens: Colonial Marines, and so many of us were punched in the face with how bad it turned out to be. Some of us spiraled into a depression, drawing ourselves farther and farther into a dark world, an evil world, a world where we may have started to wish that the Aliens franchise never happened. It is indeed a dark and evil world when we have to wish away the existence of one of nerd-dom’s most beloved sci-fi franchises just to protect it from the utter misuse of licensing and rights by the game industry. It turns out that Colonial Marines was pathetic shite. Questions were asked and interviews given. After Jim Sterling’s excellent expose on how the E3 demos were simply a lie and nothing like the end-product at all, more of his colleagues started poking around. Kotaku recently published an article by Jason Schreier that lifted the curtain on some of the dysfunction that took place behind the scenes between Sega, Gearbox and TimeGate. If you haven’t read it already, definitely do so. Read it and weep.
So… this happened. Sony announced that its next console would be available “Holiday 2013.” The press conference itself was a mix of the usual and utterly confusing. Many people were happy to see Sony take the tech of the PlayStation in a new “PC oriented” direction, hopefully making it significantly easier for studios to develop games for the system. After Sony’s explanation of the tech in their next system, the audience was treated to a truly bizarre string of game announcements, most of which were underwhelming and most of which were announcements of announcements. Sony showed off the controller as well, and discussed at length how “social gaming” will play an important role in the PlayStation 4 experience. However, Sony didn’t show off the console itself and seemed to go out of its way to be as coy as possible about some of the details regarding many of the announced features of the PlayStation 4. In the end, most people left with more questions than they did answers, and I’m sure Sony specifically designed the press event to do exactly that, so that people would stay interested in the console until at least E3 in June. Most people thought the press conference was okay, some people thought it was terrible, and a few people thought it was great—at least among the company I keep. Definitely look for more information in the coming months and for Microsoft to announce its next console sometime in April, if rumors are to be believed.
Article by Jon Hamlin
Jon Hamlin is a freelance game journalist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He plays too much Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and enjoys a good glass of wine. Occasionally, he can be found commanding his legion of doom on Xbox Live as GeniusPantsPhD. Follow him on Twitter @WordsmithJon, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. All Articles byJon.