Covering the video game news beat isn't as easy as you'd think. Frankly our little hobby doesn't really require around the clock constant news coverage, and yet there's countless blogs dedicated to providing exactly that. Just to keep the updates coming every year the gaming media latches onto a handful of pointless, fabricated non-stories and squeezes them for every last drop of blood they have.
Here are five of the "stories" gamers had to hear far too much about in 2011...
More subdued than most 3DS stories in 2011.
Back in March Nintendo's new 3DS handheld rode a wave of early anticipation and delivered record-breaking first day sales, but then things quickly stagnated. It wasn't hard to see why -- the system was overpriced, there weren't many games, key features like the eShop and 3D video hadn't been delivered yet, and Nintendo hadn't properly stamped down sensationalistic "the 3DS will eat your children's eyes!" stories. There wasn't anything wrong with the system itself -- those who actually bought it tended to dig it -- the launch had simply been poorly handled.
Don't tell that to folks who write about video games though! The 3DS was fundamentally broken! The 2nd coming of the Virtual Boy in fact. After a couple months of mediocre sales it was time for Nintendo to abandon it's entire business plan that had made them untold billions since the mid-80s and go 3rd party!
Then Nintendo lowered the price, released some good games and delivered those missing features and guess what? The system started to sell! In fact the 3DS is on track to sell significantly more units in its first year than the original DS.
So, shockingly Nintendo, a company that's been around for over 100-years, has avoided doom yet again. That is, until the Wii U comes out next year. That one's got Virtual Boy written all over it.
They're coming to destroy everything you hold dear.
Gaming blogs and websites continued to mercilessly pound away on one of their long-time favorite non-stories in 2011 -- the imagined threat that all the games you love will soon be destroyed by, or forced to transform into Angry Birds and/or Farmville.
The struggles of the 3DS and slowing sales of the Wii were held up as evidence that mobile and social games were rapidly chipping away at the foundations of "traditional" gaming. Never mind that the 3DS' issues could be blamed almost entirely on Nintendo's own mistakes and that the Wii is now five years old and about to be replaced, Rovio and Zynga are about to topple the old giants!
In reality, mobile and social gaming seems to be dealing very little direct damage to traditional gaming, despite all three current gaming consoles being pretty damn long in the tooth. Hell, the six-year-old Xbox 360 just had its best-selling holiday season to date. If Angry Birds and Farmville can't even hurt the current crop of over-the-hill consoles, it would seem their threat to traditional gaming has been greatly exaggerated.
You know, it's almost as if mobile/social gaming and traditional gaming are two completely different markets with little effect on one another! But nah, I'm sure it's just a slow burn thing. Angry Birds is totally going to kill traditional gaming next year. Totally.
You'll note the list is empty.
From the day it was announced to the day it was released, Duke Nukem Forever has never looked like anything more than a dumb pointless game starring a dumb pointless character. Somehow though the gaming media managed to whip itself and it's readers into a Duke Nukem frenzy in 2011. For whatever reason, they did their damndest to try and convince us that the game was actually going to be great, and that we should run out and pre-order the thing immediately...
...and then it turned out to just be a dumb pointless game starring a dumb pointless character. Surprise surprise. Now please, let's make 2012 Duke Nukem free.
If there's one phrase I never want to hear again after 2011 it's "biggest entertainment launch in history". That's what Activision's PR department labelled the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and almost every gaming blog and website just kind of blindly parroted the phrase over and over and over again.
Yeah, MW3 made a lot of money in one day -- 400 million according to them -- but let's not forget each copy of MW3 sells for 60 bucks. Only about 6.5 million people actually bought MW3 on day one -- premiers of movies and new TV shows easily trump that. Also, while MW3 sold a huge number of copies on day one, they're not bringing in that many people day after day for weeks or months on end like a Harry Potter or Avatar.
Also, how many of those 6.5 million actually liked the game they lined up to buy? Based on Internet comments, it seems like a lot of them didn't. I don't see another entertainment launch record being set next year unless they jack the price up another 10 bucks.
So yeah, MW3 made a lot of money in one day. Was it really the biggest entertainment launch in history? In terms of how many people actually consumed that entertainment, no way. In terms of money made? Maybe, but probably not if you take inflation into account.
Bottom line, "biggest entertainment launch in history" was just a meaningless marketing term and it was sad to see so many "games journalists" mindlessly reporting on and repeating such an obviously empty claim.
Time for Miyamoto to return to his first love, the banjo.
In a recent interview with Wired Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had this to say...
“Inside our office, I’ve been recently declaring, ‘I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire'. I’m not saying that I’m going to retire from game development altogether. What I mean by retiring is, retiring from my current position.”
Never mind that the meaning of Miyamoto's quotes are often lost in translation or taken out of context, the gaming media decided they'd better take this one entirely, 100% literally. Miyamoto was retiring! What did this mean for Nintendo? Every two-bit games journalist had to write an editorial, every "industry analyst" had to comment.
Of course most of the folks speculating on his retirement decided to ignore the very next paragraph in Wired's interview where Miyamoto explained that he wasn't retiring, he just wanted to alter his position within the company somewhat so he could get more involved in game design.
“What I really want to do is be in the forefront of game development once again myself. Probably working on a smaller project with even younger developers. Or I might be interested in making something that I can make myself, by myself. Something really small.”
So yeah, this was never a story to begin with, just a bit of idle chatter from Miyamoto. Basically he briefly allowed himself to be human in an interview and let some of his real feelings be known, and everyone lost their sh-t.
Nintendo has since released a statement saying Miyamoto's position isn't changing, so even the minor move within the company Miyamoto proposed isn't happening, but December is a slow news month, so those "What if Miyamoto Retires?!" pieces just keep on coming.