History of Video Games: Prelude to the Fall (2009-2010) - ArticleTaneli Palola , posted on 21 July 2016 / 8,250 Views
At the start of 2009 the Wii was far and away the most successful home console on the market. On the other end of the scale the PS3 was still in the process of gaining momentum, while the Xbox 360 was sitting quite comfortably in the middle of the pack; neither threatening the Wii nor at risk of being overtaken by the PS3 anytime soon. As far as the handheld market went, the DS had become an absolute monster, while the PSP was proving a more modest success.
The industry as a whole was riding the wave of one of its most successful year's ever, but replicating that success wouldn't be easy. As it turned out, 2009 would prove to be yet another massive year for video games, with numerous huge releases pushing the sales of every single platform available at the time. However, it would also be the year when some of the aforementioned systems began to show signs of weakness - with both sales and general interest in them declining - while others continued to push forwards.
As far as new hardware went 2009 was quite quiet, boasting only handheld revisions. The PSP's revision took the form of the PSP Go, which launched in October. It was the first ever handheld system that exclusively utilised digital downloading for gaming. Unfortunately the PSP Go simply never caught on - it received mixed reviews across the board and sales were low. It was quickly forgotten about.
Outside of this failure, the PSP itself had a good year in 2009. Not only did the handheld continue to sell very well, but it also received a number of great games, including Resistance: Retribution, Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines, Half-Minute Hero, Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, Gran Turismo, LittleBigPlanet, and the western releases of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite and Dissidia: Final Fantasy.
Overall, Sony's handheld went on to sell almost 10 million units for the year. This marked a slight decrease from the previous year, but it was nonetheless a very respectable number. Several of the games I just mentioned also went on to become million sellers too. The DS had by this point long since won the handheld war, but the PSP was doing just fine for itself so long as you weren't comparing it directly to its phenomenally successful rival.
Speaking of the DS, Nintendo's money printing machine had yet another huge year, selling over 27 million units in 2009 off the back of the DSi revision's release in the west and a large number of incredibly successful games. These releases included the likes of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Pokémon Platinum, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Scribblenauts, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
On the home console front the PS2 was finally well and truly on its last legs. It was still available for purchase, but new software releases were limited mostly to multiplatform releases of various yearly franchises. Time had finally caught up with the aging system and very few publishers retained any interest in releasing their games on the console. Most of its continued sales came from smaller markets where the newer consoles were either incredibly expensive or simply not yet available. As a result it wasn't quite yet time for the PS2 to bow out, but it certainly had one foot in the grave.
In terms of the newer platforms, the Wii had yet another hugely successful year in 2009 but a few small cracks were starting to appear that would go on to become major issues in the years ahead. While many developers and publishers had pretty much shunned the system from the offset in favour of its two competitors, the Wii still received its fair share of notable 3rd party titles over the years. In 2009 these took the form of rail shooters like House of the Dead: Overkill and Dead Space Extraction, action games like Madworld and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, and other acclaimed titles like A Boy and His Blob and Little King's Story.
Naturally, the most notable games for the Wii were developed and published by Nintendo. Among these were a few smaller releases such as Punch-Out!! and Metroid Prime: Trilogy, but beyond those 2009 also played host to some of the most successful games of all time. Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus continued their respective series in grand fashion, with sales of over 30 and 20 million copes respectively. Finally, New Super Mario Bros. Wii brought 2D Mario games to the system after New Super Mario Bros. had proved a massive success on the DS.
Thanks to games like these and the continued appeal of the so-called 'evergreen' releases from previous years, the Wii went on to sell over 21 million units in 2009. This was slightly down on the previous year's sales, but the console was still so far ahead of the competition by almost every metric that it hardly mattered at the time. It would however prove to be the start of the platform's fairly precipitous decline.
While the Wii was showing early signs of slowing down, the PS3 had its biggest year yet in 2009, with sales of almost 13 million units. One key reason for this, aside from the release of numerous great games, was the launch of the redesigned version of the console - the PS3 Slim - in September. 2009 was also the first year where the PS3 was able to noticabely outsell the Xbox 360.
By this stage in the platform's life-cycle notable exclusives and multiplatform titles were frequently being released and competition was fierce. For example, the fighting genre alone saw the launch of acclaimed titles Blazblue: Calamity Trigger, Tekken 6, Street Fighter IV, and sports hybrid UFC 2009 Undisputed in 2009. Other major multiplatform launches included Bayonetta, Resident Evil 5, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Assassin's Creed II, all of which performed best on Sony's console. Of these, the last three sold over five million copies each on the PS3, proving that Sony had well and truly turned the corner after a rocky start to the generation.
But it was of course the existence of exclusives that helped to differentiate the platform from its competition. In 2009 these included smaller profile releases like Fat Princess, Flower, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and the soon-to-be cult hit Demon's Souls, which went on to spawn a massive franchise with the release of Dark Souls. Stepping up a level, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time continued the story that had begun in Tools of Destruction, while InFamous brought something entirely new to the console's video game library with its combination of super powers and open world gameplay. Still, these were all eclipsed at the time by the launch of two other key exclusive.
The first of these was one of the most hyped games of the year, thanks in large part to its exceptionally impressive graphics. The game in question was Killzone 2. It went on to sell over three million copies, transforming Killzone from a largely forgettable shooter series into one of Sony's most important franchises. However, it was the second of these two games that had the most significant role in the PS3's rising success.
The second of these had an even more significant impact. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was similarly a sequel that transformed its franchise into a whole other beast entirely. The original Uncharted had been one of the PS3's first real exclusvie success stories, so a sequel was only a matter of time, but Naughty Dog improved upon it in essentially every way and really knocked it out of the park with the sequel. Overnight Uncharted went from being a great series to an exceptional one. Uncharted 2 was the PS3 must-have exclusive and went on to sell nearly seven million copies.
The Xbox 360 stayed mostly level in comparison to 2008, despite the fact that most of its big exclusive franchises skipped the year. That doesn't mean there were no games on the system, though. Far from it - 2009 featured notable multiplatform releases like Red Faction: Guerrilla, Prototype, Brütal Legend, Dragon Age: Origins, Left 4 Dead, Borderlands, and of course perhaps the biggest video game release of the year, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which went on to sell over 13 million copies on the Xbox 360 alone.
In addition, the Xbox 360 was the first platform to receive Grand Theft Auto IV's two expansions - The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. Gamers on PS3 and PC had to wait until the following year to get their hands on them. The fact that this was publicised as being the case during the game's launch window is perhaps a key factor in explaining why Grand Theft Auto IV became the only home console game in the series to not sell best on a Sony platform.
Most of Microsoft's headline franchises may have been absent in 2009 but there were still some notable exclusive releases. Among the console's smaller profile exclusives was one of its last serious attempts at appealing to Japanese gamers - Star Ocean: The Last Hope. It was a fairly successful release, performing on par with earlier JRPG games on the console, such as Tales of Vesperia and Lost Odyssey. However, by this stage it was clear that Microsoft's attempts to break into the Japanese market were not paying dividends.
There were three genuinely notable exclusive releases on the Xbox 360 in 2009. The Halo series expanded with two spin-offs; Halo 3:ODST, a side story set during the events of Halo 2 that focused on an elite group of human soldiers; and Halo Wars, an RTS prequel to the rest of the series that most fans on really came to appreciate some time after release. The third major exclusive release of the year was Forza 3. By this stage Forza had become Microsoft's best answer to Gran Turismo and the third entry in particular was a huge success, selling over 5.5 million copies. It comfortably remains the best-selling entry in the series to-date.
On PC the usual genres were dominating the market for the most part, albeit with a few new surprises thrown in. Shooters were still as strong as ever on PC, with games like F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin, ARMA 2, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, and many of the ones mentioned above all being available on PC. Adventure games were also coming back to life with Machinarium and Telltale's Tales of Monkey Island both attracting critical attention.
Strategy game fans had a good year too, thanks to the launch of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Empire: Total War, and Hearts of Iron III. Other notable games that came out in 2009 on PC included Torchlight, The Sims 3, the game that in many ways kicked off the indie game revolution - Braid - and finally what remains the biggest game in the world today - League of Legends.
2010 was an interesting year for the video game industry because clear trends were beginning to emerge. Nintendo was still on top, but both of its platforms were clearly in decline. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 would continue to be unable to match the Wii in terms of hardware sales for some time yet, but crucially they were heading in the opposite direction and were still trending upwards year-on-year. As a result the gap between the three in yearly sales was at an all-time low in 2010.
2010 was also the year in which both Sony and Microsoft would attempt to compete with Nintendo in the motion control arena. The PlayStation Move and Kinect were brazen attempts to capitalize on Nintendo's success with the Wii and its motion control technology, and while neither achieved anything like the level of success Nintendo had, they nonetheless both managed to sell a respectable number of units and helped extend their respective consoles' life spans. The Move sold around 15 million units by November 2012, while Microsoft's Kinect reached 24 million units sold by early 2013.
On the handheld front both major handhelds had a fairly slow start to the year, with very few high profile releases during the first six months of 2010. Among the few notable releases on the DS were Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth and Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, while the PSP received a selection of smaller titles like Lunar: Silver Star Harmony and Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley, as well as one of the platform's biggest games of the year, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.
During the second half of the year things began to pick up for both platforms. The PSP received a surprisingly large number of beloved releases including Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable, Ys Seven, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, Valkyria Chronicles II, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, and Monster Hunter Freedom 3, which became one of the PSP's best-selling games ever, despite only releasing in Japan.
The DS had an equally stacked second half of the year, with Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, Lufia: The Curse of Sinistrals, the long-awaited Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, and Super Scribblenauts all debuting. On top of that the DS also saw two big releases in the west, as Professor Layton and the Unwound Future and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies were released. Both games sold very well - Professor Layton exceeded 2.5 million copies sold outside of Japan, while DQ IX managed to shift around 1.5 million units in the west, becoming the series' best-selling title as a result.
The Wii's sales may have been in continual decline by this point - the console lost nearly a fifth of its sales in just one year - but it still sold over 17 million units in 2010 alone; well above either of its competitors. The Wii was also able to boast a very unique game library, with most of its releases only being playable on the Wii. Japanese developers in particular were still more than happy to release games on the Wii and this resulted in quite a few third party Wii exclusives, including Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Red Steel 2, Monster Hunter Tri, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, and Epic Mickey.
Naturally, Nintendo's own releases still stole the show. 2010 saw the launch of a couple of divisive and unusual entries in long-running series - Kirby's Epic Yarn and Metroid: Other M - the long-awaited comeback of Donkey Kong in Donkey Kong Country Returns, which has since sold over 6.5 million units and spawned a sequel on the Wii U, and finally a sequel to one of the highest rated and best-selling games of all time in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 didn't quite reach the same level of sales as the first game - it sold 'just' 7.6 million copies as opposed to the original's 11.5 million, but its critical reception was more or less comparable. It won numerous game of the year awards and is still one of the highest rated games of all time. So while the Wii was on its way down, there were still plenty of new releases to keep fans satisfied.
On the flipside, the Xbox 360 was surging to new heights. It sold over 13 million units in 2010, which was a new peak for the console. Unfortunately, it was still stuck in 3rd place for the second year running because the PS3 was also on the rise, managing sales of almost 14 million units. Still, the two consoles were practically tied at this point and had a lot of momentum going forwards.
The Kinect continued to perform incredibly well at retail, although it was sold mostly off the back of two particular titles - Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures! The latter was also a pack-in title that was included with every Kinect, so while the hardware and a few titles were doing well the ecosystem wasn't that healthy for game developers.
On the 'core' front, Fable III became to most successful entry in Peter Molyneux's often overly ambitious RPG series, selling over 5 million copies on the Xbox 360. Remedy Entertainment finally released its first game after leaving Max Payne behind. Alan Wake was easily one of the most anticipated games of 2010 on the Xbox 360 and although it started off slowly the game ultimately went on to sell over three million units across all platforms. Still, there was no doubt about which game was the most important exclusive release of the year on the console.
Halo: Reach was released in September to critical acclaim and massive sales. To this day it is the second best-selling game in the franchise, behind only Halo 3. It would also turn out to be something of an end of an era; Reach was the last game in the series to be developed by Bungie before the developer left the series in the hands of 343 Industries.
Of course, there were also a huge number of multiplatform releases in 2010, many of which were among the console's biggest games of the year. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction brought Sam Fisher back after a 4 year hiatus, while Dead Rising 2, Fallout: New Vegas and Darksiders gave the console's release schedule a lot of diversity. The highly acclaimed Mass Effect 2 was also released on the Xbox 360, continuing the epic saga of Commander Shepard in grand fashion.
Then there were the FPS titles. Games like the Medal of Honor reboot, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, BioShock 2, and of course the biggest release of the year, Call of Duty: Black Ops, proved once again the popularity of the genre on the platform. Black Ops on the Xbox 360 is (for the time being) the second best-selling release in the series ever, eclipsed only by Modern Warfare 3 on the same platform the following year. With releases like these it wasn't hard to see why the console had its best ever year thus far.
Sony's PS3 had another excellent year in 2010. Hardware sales were up year-on-year thanks chiefly to an excellent game line-up. These included numerous multiplatform games mentioned above as well as the likes of Dante's Inferno, Just Cause 2, Resonance of Fate, Nier (which is in my opinion one of the most underrated games of that console generation), Final Fantasy XIII, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and Rockstar Games' hit western video game, Red Dead Redemption.
Additionally, the console received quite a few exclusive video games throughout the year. Some smaller profile titles included Modnation Racers (also on PSP), MAG (which never quite lived up to the hype as an online-only massive multiplayer FPS), 3D Dot Game Heroes, and Yakuza 3.
There were also two other highly anticipated exclusive video games for the PS3 in 2010. The first of these was Heavy Rain, which was an unusual but highly successful thriller video game from Quantic Dream, and the second was God of War III, the hugely hyped conclusion to Kratos' quest to violently annihilate any trace of the Greek pantheon of Gods. An immediate critical hit, the game also became the best-selling entry in the series, passing the original title and selling 5 million copies.
Finally there was PC, which in addition to getting many of the multiplatform games I already mentioned above, saw the release of numerous highly anticipated titles and some unexpected surprise hits. Once again, strategy game aficionados had quite a few reasons to celebrate, with releases such as Napoleon: Total War, Supreme Commander 2, Civilization V, and the game fans had been waiting a very long time for - Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.
The prominence of indie games on the platform was also beginning to rise, helped by the launch of hugely popular games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Super Meat Boy. The year also saw the release of Final Fantasy XIV on PC. Unfortunately it quickly turned out to be an unmitigated disaster; Square Enix was effectively forced to redo the entire game from scratch and re-release it almost three years later.
As 2010 came to a close the balance in the console market was once again beginning to shift. Both major handhelds were on the decline, and with the 3DS having been announced by this point and Sony's successor to the PSP being heavily rumoured, their declines were only going to accelerate in the coming months. The Wii was also beginning to show its age - it was still at the top of the home console market for the time being, but it was about to fall in swift fashion. In contrast, the PS3 and Xbox 360 were both still building up momentum and would continue to do so for a little while longer.
But all of that is going to have to wait until next time. For now, we'll end our look at the history of video games here. I hope you'll join me next time; there are just two more years left to cover before this series comes to an end. For now, as always, thanks for reading.