Hello and welcome to Gaming Matters, a potentially semi-regular column on the state of the games industry which has arisen a) out of a need to write something for the weekend and b) to solve the problem of coming up with new ideas every couple of weeks. It's in its infancy right now, but if you approve could well return so let me know what you think. With introductions done away with, what's on my mind this week?
It's been long held belief of mine that the games industry is a ridiculous enterprise. No other profitable industry, perhaps with the exception of "professional" wrestling, can generate such fervent opinions and loyalty from the public. Yet, despite its great success, it's difficult to escape the feeling that it has arrived there by accident, like an inebriated horse winning the Grand National.
Despite this belief it's hard to deny that 2007 has probably been the best year for gaming that I've seen in my lifetime, which either betrays my youthfulness or shows that developers and publishers might be doing something right. There's a thought! It's never been too fashionable to give credit to publishers for good work, but in a year where there seems to be a quality release around every corner, surely publishers should get some of the credit too?
Maybe, but what I'm really interested in discussing is whether this deluge of games is indicative of some kind of trend or whether 2007 has simply been a coincidence - one which won't be repeated any time soon?
In some respects, there are many reasons why this is no coincidence at all. Putting aside the fact that this time of year is always busy, we're at a point in this console cycle where the Xbox 360 in particular is reaching maturity. Having been in circulation for a good while now, developers have gotten to know the console well and how to get the best out of it. This can be easily extrapolated from the way so many multi-platform titles look and perform better on the Xbox 360 than the PS3, despite the latter professing to be the "more powerful" console.
Moreover, since the PS3 has seen such a dramatic dip in fortunes for Sony, we're now at the point where the Xbox 360 can reasonably be seen as the market leader if you consider Nintendo's Wii to be in a class of its own, which I do. Following this chain of thought a little further, the lack of meaningful direct competition for the Xbox 360 means developers have been able to commit more resources to the one console, which only removes another barrier to success.
Looking at the best games this year, it's also no accident to see who is making them - experienced studios producing titles from established franchises. Take a look at this list: Half-Life 2: The Orange Box, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, God of War II, Word of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, Project Gotham Racing 4. All are among the best reviewed games of this year and all of them are sequels to already successful franchises, with more where they came from on the way.