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Year in Review: 2011

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By Nelson Schneider - 01/02/12 at 05:03 PM CT

The year 2011 has come and gone. Every year has its great successes as well as things that didn’t quite go as planned. Let’s take a look back at what the past year brought us:

Top 5 Fails

5. Sony Sues George “GeoHot” Hotz for PS3 Jailbreak
Showing its true colors as an Evil Corporation, Sony decided to sue the hobbyist hacker, George Hotz, a.k.a., GeoHot, for his part in developing and releasing a jailbreak for the PlayStation 3. Sony wasn’t content with 2010’s removal of the ‘Other OS’ feature of the PS3, nor was it content to just issue a Cease and Desist to GeoHot. Instead, Sony went the Big Brother route, suing Hotz and demanding the IP addresses of everyone who visited Hotz’ site or viewed a PS3 jailbreak how-to video on YouTube.

Sony and GeoHot settled out of court. The only part of the settlement that was revealed was the fact that Hotz ‘promised’ never to hack a Sony product ever again. Considering all of the bluster and obnoxiousness on Sony’s part in this case, I can’t believe they would settle a suit based on the promise of a hacker instead of squeezing blood from a stone and demanding millions of dollars from the guy.

Shortly after the whole Sony affair, Hotz was offered a job, which he accepted, at Facebook. So what have we learned? Disobeying a stupid law (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and battling a giant corporation, all while displaying a frivolous attitude, will get you a job at one of the wealthiest companies in the world.

4. Shooter Domination 3
Do you like shooters? Do you like the number 3? Well, if you do, 2011 was definitely a great year for you, as it ushered in the stunningly original “Modern Warfare 3,” “Battlefield 3,” “Resistance 3,” and “Gears of War 3,” and ostensibly “Uncharted 3.”

Don’t like that type of game? Then 2011 wasn’t a particularly good year for you, with highlights including “LittleBigPlanet 2,” “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword,” and “Portal 2.” But the 2011 Elephant in the Room would have to be “The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim,” a game with so much content it doesn’t really matter that this year’s releases were dominated by high-production-value shooters aimed squarely at the slavering mainstream. Right?

What’s that? You want original games instead of sequels? Sorry, but that princess is in another castle.

3. Nintendo Launches 3DS, World Says, “Meh!”
In March, Nintendo released the little handheld that nobody wanted, the 3DS, for the outrageous price of $250. Despite record-breaking early sales to hardcore fanboys who would buy anything with the Nintendo logo, the 3DS fire burned-out quickly and people stopped buying it, even in Japan, where handhelds are King. In August, after the shortest introductory pricing period ever, Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS to $170 and made-up some nonsense about how those who bought the 3DS for its original price would become ‘Ambassadors’ and receive special access to 10 Game Boy and 10 Game Boy Advance titles through the 3DS version of the Virtual Console.

Why was the 3DS such a disaster? It cost nearly twice as much as a regular DS, it had a tiny launch library consisting mostly of remakes with no system seller, people caught-on to the fact that 3D is a gimmick and won’t last, and the battery life is abysmal. Even worse, game developers began harping on Nintendo for designing the 3DS with only one analog nub instead of the two that have become standard across all consoles. To remedy the situation, Nintendo designed an add-on tumor for the 3DS that features an extra analog nub and runs off a separate battery.

Anyone who still has any faith in dedicated handhelds surviving in the face of competition from smartphones should just wait for the inevitable 3DSlite, which will most likely include the second analog nub and a better battery. By the time this thing sees the light of day, the 3DS might finally have some games worth playing.

2. “Duke Nukem Forever” Sucks
Despite being in production ‘forever,’ the winner of numerous Vaporware accolades finally clamored into the light of day after 20 years of gestation. And it sucks.

I don’t understand all of the shock and dismay, from gamers and gaming journalists alike, that “DNF” is a terrible game. Who seriously thinks that the previous entries in the ‘Duke Nukem’ franchise were hallmarks in creativity and brilliant game design? It has always just been a dumb FPS filled with raunchy humor. Were we all younger and more easily entertained 20 years ago? Most likely. Have games improved dramatically in the last 20 years? Cinematically, yes, otherwise gaming has been in a state of stagnation. But releasing a half-assed game in the one genre – the FPS – that has been lavished with the most attention recently is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

And who was still looking forward to this turkey? Certainly not the mainstream FPS fanboys, as they have their “CoD” and “Battlefield” and homework to keep them occupied. Only people who were gaming 20 years ago care about The Duke, and these gamers are the most likely to have started families, developed more refined entertainment palates, or stopped gaming altogether.

1. Sony Hacked… Multiple Times
Perhaps in retaliation for their legal efforts against GeoHot, perhaps for monetary gain, perhaps for lulz: We may never know why Sony was hacked, but we will never forget the aftermath. For the latter half of April and the first half of May, the PlayStation Network was completely offline, preventing gamers from downloading patches, purchasing games and DLC, or playing online multiplayer matches. In the process, over 70 million user accounts, most with credit card information attached, were accessed by intruders.

Sony’s response was to deny everything, then play dumb, before finally coming clean and apologizing to PSN users. This apology came in the form of a ‘Welcome Back’ package of free games and a month of PSN Plus premium membership. Of course, the choice of free games was pathetic and PSN Plus is worthless. The entire debacle was very disappointing.

But wait! Those darned hackers weren’t done with Sony yet. While PSN may have been reinforced and finally had security featured implemented that should have been there all along, Sony’s other online properties didn’t benefit from this entrenchment. Shortly after PSN service was restored, not one, but two of Sony’s other online properties were hacked: Sony Online Entertainment, which resulted in the unlawful access of thousands of European credit cards, and Sony Pictures, which resulted in the unlawful access of over 24 million user accounts, 10,000 of which had banking information attached.

All of this rampant hacking really brought online security to the forefront of the public’s attention. And Sony learned a valuable lesson: If you’re going to provide an online service that handles customers’ personal information and ESPECIALLY financial information, the security needs to be there from the outset.

Top 5 Wins

5. “Skyrim” Makes Fantasy Cool Again
Not since Peter Jackson made “The Lord of the Rings” come to vivid life in movie theaters has the Fantasy genre been given so much attention as it has with the release of “The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim.” Were it not for gamers’ insatiable desire for guns and killing each other, “Skyrim” might have been the top selling game of the year: Pretty impressive for a game that plops the player into the middle of a detailed Fantasy world with only the barest of objectives besides ‘do whatever you want.’

4. Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association
It only took 6 years, but the Supreme Court of the United States has finally set the precedent once and for all that it is unconstitutional to make laws barring the sale of games with violent content. It seems that videogames and the contents thereof are considered “protected speech,” and thus subject to the First Amendment, a designation that has long been afforded to other forms of media such as movies and books.

3. WiiU Revealed, Generation 8 Set to Begin “For Real” Next June
Despite the fact that we already have two 8th Generation handhelds on the market, it doesn’t really feel like Generation 8 because there’s no shiny new console available to hook up to the TV. Nintendo is set to begin the charge into the future with the WiiU, which was announced at E3 2011. As the only one of the Big Three console makers to announce a successor, Nintendo is taking a big risk: Will their hardware specs have a reasonable shelf life? Will the tablet-in-a-controller turn out to be a hit or just another gimmick? Will third parties hold-up their promises of support for this new machine? The WiiU, which will launch in June of 2012, is guaranteed to find a spot in the next installment of this article… but will it be a Win or a Fail?

2. “Operation Rainfall” Sees Some Success
The Wii’s 2011 library was a desert. But in Japan, the console has seen a variety of interesting-looking games, quite a few of which are RPGs. Yet, despite having nothing to give its audience, Nintendo of America staunchly denied localization of these games, even while Nintendo of Europe decided to release them. Fed-up, a number of North American gamers formed a movement known as ‘Operation Rainfall,’ with a specific set of demands: Localize “Xenoblade Chronicles,” “The Last Story,” and “Pandora’s Tower.”

The OpRainfall crowd endured quite a lot of ridicule from their so-called gaming peers (hooligans who only enjoy ‘shooten gaemz’ and couldn’t tell an RPG from a Sandbox, even if said Sandbox was filled with cat turds), which built to a fevered pitch when Nintendo of America responded to OpRainfall’s demands with a simple, “No Thank You.”

When all seemed lost, a miracle happened. Gamestop, the used game hawker hated by gamers and game companies alike, decided to help Nintendo of America ‘cover the costs’ of localizing the already-translated “Xenoblade Chronicles.” Nintendo of America has further commented that good sales of “Xenoblade Chronicles,” which can be pre-ordered either at Gamestop or on Nintendo’s website, will encourage the localization of the also-already-translated “The Last Story.”

While the results weren’t ideal, the actions of OpRainfall proved that in this era of connectedness and mass communication, if a group makes enough noise, companies can be convinced to listen.

1. MeltedJoystick.com Launches
In February, the ImaJAN Media Network had a second child: MeltedJoystick, the sibling of FilmCrave. For the past year, we’ve striven to provide news aggregation, social networking, game purchases, opinionated commentary, collection management, list creation, and reviews – all in one place. Here’s to hoping that 2012 will be an even better, more interesting year for gamers of all stripes.

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TicityTaz

Wrote on01/27/12 at 10:24 AM CT

I pulled the trigger on Duke Nukem for $8.99 today. Don;t know when I will play it but I couldn't pass up the price.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on01/20/12 at 06:04 PM CT

Hey Taz, when something gets down to the $10 range, it doesn't really matter how crappy it is. It's an acceptable amount to pay, even if you're just getting a peek at a circus freak.

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TicityTaz

Wrote on01/12/12 at 10:48 AM CT

Hey Christopher is Duke Nukem worth $10? I was thinking about picking it up cheap for nostalgias sake.

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TicityTaz

Wrote on01/12/12 at 10:46 AM CT

It is rare to get to a 3 that is good but I have to say that I enjoyed Uncharted 3 a lot. Maybe not as much as Uncharted 2 but was nice to not have any ridiculous monster in this one.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on01/08/12 at 05:57 PM CT

Ah, Killzone 3. How unforgettable.

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Jonzor

Wrote on01/04/12 at 10:50 AM CT

Don't forget Killzone 3!

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Chris

Wrote on01/02/12 at 09:56 PM CT

I'm still feeling buyers remorse for Duke Nukem Forever, even after all this time. I refuse to sell it because 1) It isn't worth anything anyway and 2) to remind me EVERY DAY I should really wait before pre-ordering any game ever again. Skyrim better get GOTY, or I will be highly disappointed. Even with the numerous bugs and glitches reported (this is Bethesda after all) I have yet to be impressed more by any game this year.

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