2011 has come and gone, and the year that seemingly slipped right past us was full of major events--some of which may very change the landscape of the video gaming industry forever. Everything from new a new Nintendo console to the death of a computer pioneer was all crammed into the previous year. However, of all the news-worthy events that occurred last year, which was the most influential to the video gaming industry? The following are the 5 most important video game-related news stories of 2011.
On October 5, 2011, Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs passed away and every news source practically came to a complete halt. Jobs' passing was monumental. He was widely regarded as the pioneer of the personal computer revolution, and until his final moments, changed the way we use phones, play games, purchase music, and access entertainment.
Steve Jobs may not be a person who is directly related to gaming, but the platform that he created has forever changed the landscape for how we play and view video games. The rise of the iOS-devices can be largely responsible for the decline in dedicated portable gaming handhelds such as Nintendo's 3DS.
Steve Jobs, however, has been known to disdain video games throughout his career. In fact, Monkey Island designer Ron Gilbert once had a meeting with Mr. Jobs at Pixar Studios. Before the meeting, Gilbert was told to not argue Jobs as a word of advice. However, after Jobs made a statement during the interview that one cannot effectively tell a story using the video game medium, the two of them argued for about an hour.
4. Nintendo Wii U Announcement
What made the announcement of Nintendo's Wii U so important during 2011's Electronic Entertainment Expo is that it officially started setting everything in motion for the next gaming hardware generation. Sony and Microsoft have been waiting for someone to make the first move before they announce their own next-gen consoles, and Nintendo did just that.
After trying the system during 2011's Electronic Entertainment Expo, I can comfortably say that this system certainly is...weird. It certainly looks better than what the PS3 and XBOX 360 can pull off today, but it does not make any effort to make leaps and bounds over the competition in terms of raw horsepower. Nintendo is continuing to use the "less technology, wider market" apporach that they have been successful with during the Wii's lifecycle.
3. Sony's PlayStation Network Hacked
During May of 2011, Sony's PlayStation Network got hacked into and exposed personal information (and possibly credit card information) for over 70 million users worldwide. News of this information hack spread like wildfire, it made headline news for just about every major news publication.
After the announcement of the information leak, Sony immediately shut down the PlayStation Network for well over a month, which prevented game publishers from releasing their games as planned, and gamers were prevented from playing games online. Games like Portal 2 and Mortal Kombat, both of which were released during the PSN downtime, had special PS3-exclusives that had become useless because no one was able to play the games online or have access these special features.
However, the reason why the PSN hack was so important was because news of it affected much more than gaming enthusiasts. As previously mentioned, just about every major news publication covered the story, and people that aren't even gamers had to question how safe their personal information was online.
2. Nintendo 3DS Release and Immediate Price Cut
Nintendo launched their newest handheld system, the Nintendo 3DS, on March 27, 2011. Being the successor to highest-selling game system in history, many people were certain that the new handheld was going to be a guaranteed success. If you look a list that makes what the 3DS special, you'd be convinced too- it has amazing glasses-free technology, a bigger, sharper screen than its previous system, graphics that can match certain console games, and it fixes many things that Nintendo has typically done "wrong" in the past.
However, due to poor sales of the system, Nintendo cut the price of the system from $250 to $169 5 months after the system's release. Many factors have contributed to the slow start for the 3DS. It did not many quality games for months after its launch, many gamers have been unwilling to spend $40 for a handheld game, and the popularity of 3D has been a bit deflated during the past year.
Sony's latest handheld system, which was recently released in Japan, also has been suffering through a slow start with lower than expected sales.
What makes this bit of news so important to the world of video gaming is that it shows that the gaming market is changing, particularly the handheld gaming market. People have moved away from dedicated gaming consoles, and the popularity of smart phones and iOS devices have been on the rise. Parents simply don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a portable gaming system and spend up to $40 per handheld game for their children any more, especially compared to the cheaper and more accessible games found on iOS-devices.
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1. US Constitution Defends the First Amendment Rights of Video Games
Having the fate of the future of video games as a creative medium in front of the highest court of the United States meant that the stakes were immeasurably high. If the Supreme Court ruled differently, the government would have enforced game developers what they can and cannot produce in video games. Game developers would stay away from anything that is even vaguely controversial to avoid the penalties they would have to endure if they violated any laws. Developers would be less likely to take artistic risks and create new, innovative games. There would also be a possibility that game publishers would create a "special" version of their released games made specifically for the U.S. Market under the new government rules.
Luckily, however, we probably don't ever have to worry about ever again, now that the Supreme Court ruled in the favor to protect video games as an artistic medium. This also creates a precedence for video games to be on the same category as movies, music, and literature.
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