Can we still be surprised by video games in an industry rife with rumours, leaks and publishers who prefer safe bets to bold risks? Looking back at the turn of events that was 2010, a year sometimes rocky, sometimes thrilling, it seems we can.
We should have seen some of the biggest surprises of 2010 coming (and in some cases, we actually did).
Revivals & Rebirths When the venerable vaporware that was Duke Nukem Forever rose from its grave at PAX 2010, with new developer Gearbox Software at the helm and the promise of a 2011 release date, we were incredulous — despite that we'd heard Duke was returning in Gearbox's good hands a month earlier. Could this forever-in-the-making shooter finally see the light of day? We'll rub our eyes in disbelief even when we hold a copy of Duke Nukem Forever in our hands, but a publicly playable version of the game was still one of 2010's nicest surprises.
In 2010, Nintendo also answered the prayers of long-suffering Kid Icarus fans, announcing a third game in the series after a two-decade break. Kid Icarus Uprising, from the designer of Super Smash Bros., is expected to be one of the launch titles for Nintendo's next platform, the Nintendo 3DS.
Never Thought We'd See The Day The annual E3 expo is typically the place where bombshells are dropped (see: Kid Icarus Uprising), but one announcement managed to surprise us—developer Valve embracing the PlayStation 3 by announcing that next year's Portal 2 would come to Sony's console. Why is that surprising? After numerous dismissals of the PS3 by founder Gabe Newell, the head of Valve took the stage during Sony's E3 keynote to deliver the good news himself.
And call us pessimists if you want, but the release of Gran Turismo 5 for the PlayStation 3 actually happened. After multiple delays, including one very close to the release of the driving game, GT5 managed to cross the finish line in 2010.
Unexpected Crossovers, Unexpected Hits Capcom revealed two big cross-company crossovers in 2010, with legal adventure game Phoenix Wright planning to cross paths with Level 5's Professor Layton and Street Fighter's world warriors duking it out with the cast of Tekken. While Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney for the Nintendo 3DS was unexpected, the 3D fighting game mash-up had another surprise: there are two of them. Capcom and Namco revealed two titles at this year's Comic-Con, Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken X Street Fighter, the latter of which we'll be waiting a long time for.
While not a crossover, many of us were stunned by the success of the lo-fi world building game Minecraft, which has sold in excess of 900,000 copies according to its creator. Not bad for a game that only recently went into beta.
Hardware Successes & Failures We'd heard rumblings about Nintendo's stereoscopic 3D handheld game machine for months. When Nintendo finally announced it in a low-key fashion, we were more perplexed than surprised. And despite knowing details about the hardware before they were public, when Nintendo announced the 3DS at this year's E3, we were blown away. Why? Perhaps it was the army of spokesmodels who swarmed the keynote stage with working Nintendo 3DSs. Or perhaps it was the realisation that, hey, this thing really works.
One surprising hardware curiosity from 2010 was another new handheld game machine, Panasonic's Jungle. Pitched as a "new mobile device concept designed specifically for online gamers," the Jungle seems like a risky, surprising move from the electronics giant.
Perhaps the biggest hardware disappointment of 2010 happened on March 1, the day PlayStation 3s around the world simply stopped working. Twenty-four hours worth of PS3 downtime was blamed on a clock bug, which rendered some games unplayable. The 8001050F error was not the kind of surprise we were hoping for this year.
And Now For The Bad News Developer Infinity Ward had only recently released one of the most successful video games of all time, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, when (surprise!) its parent company Activision fired the series' creators, a huge chunk of the development team jumped ship and everyone started suing the pants off each other. What started off as a bizarre rumor eventually became into one of the industry's biggest debacles.
Activision's rival Electronic Arts also had a few surprises for basketball video game fans. We're not talking about the decision to ditch the NBA Live name in favour of NBA Elite and overhauling the series, we're talking about the last minute delay of the basketball sim and its eventual and complete cancellation. Yeah, it was a disaster alright. EA Sports' basketball game is now in the hands of the Madden team, hopefully surprise-free next year.
A Few More Along The Way They may be minor, but we didn't see the cast of characters killing zombies in Call of Duty: Black Ops coming and the ending of Red Dead Redemption featured a pleasantly unexpected twist. (That the zombie-infested Undead Nightmare expansion for that game was also so enjoyable was similarly unexpected.) And this year's Spike VGAs had a happy surprise announcement or two, namely The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
What was surprising to you about 2010?