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Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

Felix Kemp
Duke Nukem Forever, Features, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Top Ten, Top Ten Tuesdays
Duke Nukem Forever

It's been six years since Microsoft jumped the gun and released the Xbox 360, and since then we've been lapping up what the next-generation has had to offer. Xbox LIVE. Blu Ray. The Wii. Gears of War. Uncharted. The list can go on and on. It's also been six years of ups and downs, unexpected turnarounds and mind-shattering surprises. We've seen great developers fall, new stables rise, leaders and runners up exchange places, and quite a bit of legal controversy.

So, in honor of these six scintillating years, Dealspwn presents The Top Ten Next-Gen Surprises!

10. Fifa's Dominance

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

Back in the bygone days of the PS2 and Xbox, Pro Evolution Soccer reigned supreme on the footballing front. No matter how hard Fifa tried, PES was always one goal ahead. The lead seemed unassailable, but so did Arsenal's on the weekend at Newcastle, and we all know how that ended, don't we? But since Fifa 09, it's PES who's been on the back-foot, panting and wheezing and coughing up dust in the wake of EA's rampant success. I honestly couldn't see it happening; but, lo and behold, it did.

9. Ensemble's Demise

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

Ensemble was - is - a fantastic studio. Their work on Age of Empires was some of the finest we've seen in the RTS genre. So what went wrong? How did taking charge of Microsoft's most precious franchise result in their untimely demise? Halo Wars didn't set the world on fire like its FPS siblings, but thanks to brand awareness and Ensemble's competency it sold well and pleased many. But even then the taste was soured. Months before Halo Wars released, Microsoft announced the closure of Ensemble Studios. And the world cried.

8. Western Rockstars

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

Rockstar can do no wrong. Not content with revolutionizing the urban sandbox genre, they decided to resurrect the western as a popular, profitable genre. Red Dead Redemption took the mold established by GTA, left it out in the arid sun to bake and gather dust before saturating it in all the finest western tropes and cliches you can imagine. And not only was the game good - fantastic, actually - it sold like hot cakes! Who'd have thought it? We'll be seeing a True Grit tie-in, soon.

7. Infinity Ward Fiasco

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

You're Infinity Ward. With Modern Warfare 1 and 2 under your money-tight belt, you can do no wrong, surely? Not with Bobby Kotick around. Whatever Jason West and Vince Zampella actually did, it was astounding to see their controversial departure literally unravel the inner core of Infinity Ward, tugging away key personnel and leaving the studio - as hyperbole might suggest - in ruins. It's still an ongoing debacle, what with lawsuits and counter-suits being exchanged like quips at a meeting with Tim Schafer.

6. Dwindling Exclusives

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

Who'd have thought that in 2005, the likes of Metal Gear, Tekken, Final Fantasy and more would no longer be vital exclusives? With publishers tightening their belts and the Microsoft leveling the field with Sony, widespread exclusivity is a thing of the past. Sure, the 360 still has Gears and Halo, Sony has Killzone and Uncharted, and even the Wii has the brilliant Madworld and the usual roster of Nintendo's finest pimping themselves out yet again. But it's a far cry from the days when exclusives occupied a large portion of store shelves.

Some are obviously in a better position than others - Sony's careful strategy has put the others to shame - but of those exclusives that do remain, so many appear to be unimaginative sequels, cash cows in place of true innovation.

5. Little Big Success

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

It was clear from Little Big Planet's reveal at GDC '07 that it would shake things up a bit. But who expected a plush platformer with an intimidating creation kit could become so influential? We saw EA literally ape it with Create, Microsoft try their hand at a sly competitor with Boku, and even Sackboy himself has become a recognizable mascot for Sony to champion. Not to mention it brought the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry to a far wider audience. He's a national treasure, don't you know?

4. Duke Nukem's Revival

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

It's been close to fourteen years, but the Duke is finally on his way home. It's been a long journey, beset with problems from all sides. The odds were not on his side. Then Gearbox stepped in, the wonderful Randy Pitchford rallying a charge to bring the Duke back from the brink of cancellation. And wouldn't you know it, he did just that. Duke Nukem Forever is due for release in May this year. Although it would hardly be surprising if Gearbox was struck by lightning and all the code lost.

3. Microsoft Surviving

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

Just how did the 360 survive? First of all, the Xbox wasn't particularly popular. It appealed to a certain type of gamer, but ran a distant third in the console race last gen. The 360 launched early, which helped, but the dreaded RROD pandemic threatened to derail Microsoft's ambitions. Then the PS3 and Wii were finally released, and Microsoft was forced to face its competitors. But despite the odds the 360 clung on, with the likes of LIVE, Halo and popular third-party partnerships yielding much profitable fruit. As if Microsoft need more of that.

2. Sony's Slump

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

And yet where Microsoft succeeded, Sony appeared to stutter. Coming off a resounding win last generation, Sony set their sights a little too high and their promises higher still. The PS3 was a year late. It's complex architecture proved difficult for developers early on. It was priced ridiculously high, and had begun to lose its backbench of vital exclusives. However, the PS3 is steadily chugging along, and while in America its lagging behind the 360 and Wii, worldwide it's rocketing ahead and shows no signs of stopping.

1. The Wii's Success

Top Ten Tuesdays: Next-Gen Surprises

I'll admit, I expected the Wii to fail. First, it had a stupid title. Wii? Were they serious? Second, it couldn't produce HD graphics - it was just a little bit more powerful than an Xbox - and you couldn't even play DVDs. But you can't fault Nintendo's strategy, carefully refocusing their efforts on the casual crowd so overlooked before. Appealing to families, parents, the old and young alike, the Wii hit a rich vein of form and has blasted ahead of its competitors at such a rate its literally astounding. The difficult step now is what Nintendo does next...

In the last six years or so, what has surprised you the most in the wild, wacky world of videogames? We'd love to hear, so leave your most mind-boggling realizations in the comments section below!

Add a comment7 comments
Jonathan Lester  Feb. 8, 2011 at 15:13

God bless the Wii and all who play upon it. I'd have called it the same as you when it first launched- who'd have thunk it?

Brian  Feb. 8, 2011 at 19:24

I'm totally befuddled by the fact that consumers continued to throw their hard earned $ at the XBOX 360. I've worked in quality control for over a decade at a billion $ + company. A fiasco like the RROD is totally inexcuseable IMO since it was obviously design flaw that was (possibly knowingly)rushed out the door. I don't care how good the games are. MS always seems to get away with poor hardware/software. Just ask Apple.

Felix Kemp  Feb. 8, 2011 at 20:47

It's true. MS was quite clearly aware of the issues, but decided to go ahead and release a half-baked product. That's the point, though, it's amazing the 360 managed to survive. Without it's strong list of third-party games and LIVE's continued excellence, I doubt that would be the case.

Brad  Feb. 9, 2011 at 15:06

Pro Evo, Why cant you be good again!?!?

But I dont get why FIFA is so much more popular? Its certainly the better game but the best of a bad bunch in my opinion.

Matt Gardner  Feb. 9, 2011 at 15:37

Brand licensing counts for a lot I think, and FIFA's always been an easier game to simply pick up and play. There's nearly always been the argument, I feel, that FIFA offers a more accessible and simplistic model of football for the masses, whilst PES has been one for the purists. Initially perhaps a little hard to get into, but far more rewarding once you do.

As technology has evolved, however, I think EA Sports have managed to really capture the excitement and atmosphere, the slick drama and colourful theatre of glossy weekend footie. The little presentational details and a vastly improved core engine have helped.

PES simply hasn't evolved so much in the last couple of years, but I'd watch out for Konami's effort. If the subtle improvements this year were anything to go by, we might see a return to serious form very soon indeed.

Felix Kemp  Feb. 9, 2011 at 15:48

Fifa is definitely the 'slicker' of the two. Even the most average of players can pull off a spectacular goal now and again - although the same is true of real football. The fact is, however, Konami got lazy. EA invested heavily in Fifa and it paid off. I say that with some bitterness, though, as I'm still a PES guy at heart. I'm just sleeping with the enemy this year!

Gunn  Feb. 9, 2011 at 20:47

I've only read snippets of the history online but was there not some sort of unethical corporate skullduggery with IBM making the 360 CPU out of designs for the PS3 Cell, meaning they were desperate to get it out before the PS3.


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