Wednesday, January 09, 2008

2007 recap: the year of the game and firmware battles

Happy New Year to everyone!  This last year was a pretty crazy year in regards to technology, gaming and being a geek.  Today's post will be a personal recap 2007, and what i thought was the biggest trend from it.

2007: The year that gaming really went mainstream?

2006 yielded an estimated 12 billion dollars in revenue for the video game industry however 2007 could end up being an even better year.  This year we saw the X360 sales thrive (not counting japan of course) w/the release of much the anticipated Halo3 (which itself set a record for most copies sold on release for any media; movie, music, game).  We also saw gaming go mainstream with the help of the casual gaming system, Nintendo's Wii (ie money printing machine, hehe).   Sony's PS3 also started to pick up steam in sales with the price drops and release of two new models; however the PS3 was/is still trailing the pack in sales but has seemingly helped the next-gen format war for blu-ray vs. hd-dvd (x360 did not include the hd dvd, optional drive vs sony making blu-ray a requirement in the ps3).

 Up until this last two years, video games were not really taken very seriously as a hub of entertainment and usually were reserved for the 'kids' and not adults.  However, in the last few years many of those 'kids' that played Mario on their NES as a teenagers are now all grown up with paying jobs and in turn the industry has been growing with us gamers as we do.  With the core gamers growing up and having more income available; games got quite a kick-in-the-pants in terms of complexity and graphical prettiness  but of course that did come with a higher cost for the machine.

This year (and last) marked the begining of multi-million dollar production costs for a video game; development costs for the 'next-gen' systems (x360 and PS3 mainly) skyrocketed with the release of the systems but at the same time video games have in turn started to look like a cinematic experience.  However, Nintendo went a different approach with their Wii and like the DS banked their success of innovative and just plain-old-fun gameplay.  Graphical power was not an important factor for Nintendo and the Wii, rather the innovative control system and the ability for anyone to play really have driven its success. 

We also saw the continued battle of homebrewers/hackers and the big gaming companies.  Firmware updates being the weapons of choice and redesigning of system boards to deter the installation of modchips and of course Nintendo's crack down on piracy and modchips in China.  However, PSP hackers seem to dwarf all other gaming hackers in their speed of CFW (custom firmware) updates in regards to releases by Sony.  A few versions, 3.7x, had a CFW out only a few days after Sony released the official update.    Wii hackers got backups and homebrew to run on the first version Wii's (w/the help of a mod chip that had to be soldered on), while X360 hackers decided to just hack the firmware on the DVD drive itself to get those backups to play (one of my prev. xbox modding underlings is an avid modder of wiis and x360s so he's my goto guy on wii/x360 mods).  However, the PS3 still remains to officially hacked.  So far no homebrew or ability to play backups have been released.  Blu-ray as a storage media is, imo, a huge factor and the cost of blu-ray burners and media itself has help hindered the hackers/modders; however 2008 will most likely be the year the PS3 is officially hacked.  Or so we can hope.  :)

Speaking of firmwares, we also saw another battle between hackers and Apple and the iPhone.  So far, each Apple iPhone update has broken homebrew on the phone and also relocked the SIM and even bricked a few hacked/unlocked phones.  It appears this will be another one of our 'never-ending battles'; similar to the PSP hackers and Sony firmware updates.

Yes, 2007 was the year of the game.  Halo3 sold a crazy, record breaking number of units on launch; the latest Mario for the Wii was launched; next-gen game budgets rival those of movies; the PS3 dropped in price and grew in model types; the X360 added the HDMI port and bigger hdds; the Wii was still a hard to find item throughout the whole year and even surpassed the X360 in total units sold.

Will 2008 be the year that the video game finally loses its 'for kids' mantra?  Will video games start subplanting movies and tv as the main objects of entertainment or was 2007 just a good year?  I guess we shall find out soon enough!

All i know is that i'm really pumped for LittleBigPlanet for the PS3 and finally being able to buy JUST a guitar for my Rock Band setup.  Seriously, WTF is with only selling bundles during the holidays, are they purposedly trying to make us buy 2 complete sets just for the full setup?

Finally, I WANT TO GO TO CES2009!!!!  SO.... IF ANY OF MY READERS HAVE INS W/THE INDUSTRY, HOOK A GEEK UP AND MAKE HIS GADGET-WET DREAM COME TRUE!! seriously, i so want to go to CES!! btw, 2 tickets please?? hehe.. had to try..  :)