|Entertainment News of 2007
The Entertainment eZine - News
Celebrity News of 2007
1. Jerry Lewis's Gay Slur
Jerry Lewis dropped an anti-gay slur during his annual Labour Day Telethon, with a ramble about imaginary family members, The Associated Press reported. "Oh, your family has come to see you," he said,. "You remember Bart, your older son ... Jesse, the illiterate f-----."
Lewis, 81, apologized for a "bad choice of words," while the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called his use of that other f-word "simply unacceptable."
Other than reaching an agreement in a lawsuit over a failed proposal to remake his 1961 movie The Errand Boy, Lewis has been uncharacteristically quiet since the incident. Rumours of him spending quality time with Isaiah Washington could not be confirmed.
2. Rosie's Rambling
A rambling video Rosie O'Donnell posted on her website about her departure from The View.
Whoopi Goldberg stepped in to replace O'Donnell. O'Donnell sparring partner Elisabeth Hasselbeck returns to The View from maternity leave on Jan. 7, and O'Donnell published a book, Celebrity Detox, detailing her days on the talk show. She persists in offering indecipherable advice on her website, often in mangled haikus.
3. Man dies in Ving Rhames home
Jacob Adams, the Mississauga-raised actor/screenwriter, age 40, was found dead Aug. 3 at the home of Ving Rhames, after what appeared to be an attack by two of the actor's mastiff dogs. But police determined Adams didn't die from dog bites and an autopsy failed to determine a cause of death.
There's been no news on a definitive cause of death that we can find, although Rhames suggested Adams died of an aneurysm. Rhames, meanwhile, was in Toronto in the fall shooting the movie Phantom Punch.
4. Get out of the spotlight, Britney
Britney Spears' appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards draws comments: "She went to Las Vegas to revive her wheezing career and the gamble backfired spectacularly. Because in less than four minutes, her `comeback' was six feet under."
Britney's latest album debuted at No. 2 on Billboard charts, but everything else went downhill for the singer who has lost primary custody of her children.
5. Dumbledore is Gay
J.K. Rowling was asked why she chose to announce that wizard Albus Dumbledore was gay instead of making it explicit in her Harry Potter novels. "Because I really think that's self-evident," the 42-year-old British author replied.
Rowling has already moved on. Last week, her first book since the Harry Potter series, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, was bought at auction for almost $4 million by online retailer Amazon. Beedle the Bard describes himself as "bi-curious and open to suggestions."
6. Jane Wyman, 93: Screen legend dies
Actor Jane Wyman died.
Prior to her death she recalled her reaction at a Los Angeles restaurant when she realized the waiter was leading her to an inferior table. The Oscar-winning legend was once one of Hollywood's richest and most durable stars and simply marched over to a better booth. The perks of stardom were very important to her.
7. Paris Hilton not eating or sleeping
Paris Hilton reportedly had not eaten or slept since arriving at the medical ward of an L.A. jail, where she was doing time for violating probation, and was being given psychoactive drugs.
Hilton was released from jail after three weeks and seems to have bounced back just fine, ready to again be famous for no reason.
8. Gordon Ramsay faking show
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay was accused in a lawsuit of faking scenes for the reality show Kitchen Nightmares, The Associated Press reported. The former general manager of Manhattan restaurant Dillon's claimed Ramsay, known for foul-mouthed outbursts, humiliated him and forced him to quit to avoid further abuse, and asked for millions in damages and to keep the show off the air.
The $^@ case was dismissed in August in Manhattan federal court. Nightmares went to air this fall and showed the transformation of Dillon's to Purnima, which has garnered good reviews despite the show's stomach-turning shots of rotting meat.
9. Paris Hilton released from jail
Paris Hilton ignored the media but flashed a smile and slapped hands with well-wishers as she was released from jail.
Upon release, Hilton vowed to go to Rwanda to do good. Rwandans asked if they could please have some locusts and baby-eating rats instead. Her goodwill tour has since been postponed for more important matters, such as switching over to energy-saving light bulbs and hosting a New Year's Eve party in Las Vegas.
10. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah has turned her attention to her latest favourite thing: Barack Obama.
In the world of retail, there's star power, there's celebrity endorsement and then there's Oprah Winfrey. Her Midas touch saves names from anonymity, best sellers from dusty storerooms and favorite things from Internet obscurity.
But as Winfrey has long chosen abstinence in the arena of political endorsements and campaign-trail theater, her capital remains untested. Until now.
In May, Winfrey affirmed her support for Sen. Barack Obama's presidential candidacy to Larry King, describing Obama's leadership as "worth me going out on a limb for." In September, the media titan feted Obama at a California fundraiser, raking in more than $3 million for the Illinois senator's White House bid.
Winfrey hits the trail with the Democratic candidate, making appearances alongside Obama in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire. Though Winfrey made a third-quarter contribution to Obama's primary bid, she acknowledged that because of contribution limits, "my money isn't going to make any difference to him. I think that my value to him, my support of him, is probably worth more than a check."
Sports News of 2007
As they approached the midway point of the football season, the Toutle Lake Ducks were sporting a 2-2 record that included setbacks to Central 2B League foes Napavine and Adna.
"We're not quite ready to hang with a team of this caliber yet," TL coach Scott Grabenhorst said after the Ducks' 37-0 loss to eventual league champion Adna.
But TL quickly turned their campaign around and finished the regular season with six straight wins, including a 34-8 triumph over rival Wahkiakum on Nov. 2 to claim the league's second berth to the postseason.
The Ducks extended their winning streak with playoff triumphs over Darrington (19-13), South Bend (21-7) in the quarterfinals and defending state champ Asotin (7-0) in the semifinals. The win over Asotin avenged TL's 47-19 setback to the Panthers in the 2006 semifinals, and propelled the Ducks into the Class 2B state championship game against DeSales.
The Irish held Toutle Lake to 55 yards of offense as the Ducks' nine-game winning streak came to an end with a 30-0 setback.
"The kids battled. They gave it everything they had," Grabenhorst said after the title game. "We just ran into a good football team, and we did a couple of the things we could not afford to do in a game like this."
Not a bad turnaround from a 2-2 start, particularly when the Ducks advanced to the state championship game without winning the league crown.
"This was a great season," Grabenhorst added. "Sometimes, you can have a really good season but have kids that are challenging. Not this group. They stayed solid the whole time. Every day we went to practice was fun."
2. World Series Baseball
After winning the Southern Washington State Championships in Centralia and the Pacific Northwest Regional Championships in Astoria, Kelso's 13-15 year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars found themselves heading south in August.
Kelso, which made its fifth World Series appearance in the past decade, competed for a Babe Ruth World Series championship in Andalusia, Ala.
"We have a pretty darn good team," veteran Kelso coach Bob Baker said after his troops won the state crown. "We run. We have speed. We pitch it well. And we're hitting the ball now the way we're capable of. ... And, we're having fun doing it."
Kelso opened the World Series at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College with victories over Mobile, Ala. (5-4) and Punahou, Hawaii (7-3) before falling to Nederland, Texas, by the same 7-3 score. Kelso bounced back to top Augusta, Maine, 7-3 and advance to the tournament semifinals, where they were eliminated by Henderson, Ky., 8-4.
Despite the semifinal setback, Kelso finished with a 41-4 record and advanced deeper into the World Series than any Cowlitz County Babe Ruth team in history.
"I'm very proud of them," Kelso assistant coach John Croco said. "They're about each other instead of individuals. They've done things no other team has."
After months of refusing to make a decision on a citizen proposal to name the basketball court at R.A. Long High School after legendary coach Joe Moses, the Longview School Board reversed course and granted the name change at its Nov. 26 meeting.
The board voted 4-0 to accept the name change, but declined to offer a reason for its earlier reluctance. The decision also received the blessing of the R.A. Long Booster Club and RAL Alumni Association, which had earlier decided to not endorse the change.
The verdict was the culmination of a six-month process of garnering a favorable decision to the naming of Joe Moses Court. Petitions containing more than 5.000 signatures of approval along with more than 200 letters of recommendation were submitted to the school board, including letters from legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and Pacific-10 Conference commissioner Tom Hansen.
Moses coached basketball at RAL from 1946 to 1957, where he had a 105-30 record that included seven conference titles and seven state tournament appearances. His teams brought home state hardware in 1947 (fifth place), '52 (seventh) and '53 (sixth), the last state tournament trophy the Jacks have claimed.
Moses' coaching and classroom techniques touched the lives of thousands of students he mentored through the years, and his former players and students are quick to speak of his virtues and unyielding will to win.
"He taught us to never give up, that's what he did for me," said Denny Larson. "He gave us a winning attitude, and I don't know anyone who doesn't admire him."
Castle Rock junior Stormi Grendahl had the biggest hit of the Rockets' season with a walk-off double to left-center field in the bottom of the seventh inning to plate Makenzie Gilman for a 10-9 victory over Montesano in the title game of the Class 1A softball tournament at Moses Lake in May.
The victory brought Castle Rock its first state fastpitch title in school history, and the school's first championship in a team sport since 1993 (volleyball).
"All of our coaches rotate (coaching first and third base) during the game, and it was my turn at third. I made sure I didn't send Makenzie home until I knew that ball was going to drop," CR head coach Jim Van Fleet said. "Makenzie was still a step away from the plate when the mother of one of our players came running onto the field. And then it was just crazy. There was huge excitement."
The title-game victory capped a 19-game winning streak for the Rockets, which also included victories over Warden (5-1), Lakeside (6-0) and league rival La Center (1-0), before taking down perennial state title contender Montesano in the final game.
Sophomore Lindsay Melton was named the state's Class 1A Player of the Year, and Van Fleet earned Class 1A Coach of the Year honors.
Winning games by single runs in the bottom of the seventh inning had become a fad for the Rockets. CR beat La Center 2-1 in the seventh on an RBI triple by Lacey Seidl in the Southwest 1A District semifinals prior to winning its first district title in 11 seasons.
But after starting the season 4-4, Van Fleet was pleasantly surprised that his Rockets were able to run the table and bring home championship hardware.
"I knew we had quality kids and I knew we had a good team. I knew we had a good shot to take first or second in our league," Van Fleet said. "But if somebody had told me before the season that we'd win the state championship, I would've said that was a very bold statement."
Ironically, it wasn't one of their team-record 123 home runs that helped propel Lower Columbia College to its second straight NWAACC softball crown and its eighth in the past nine seasons.
It was a Courtney Mathews double down the left-field line that plated Jessi Hanna with the game-winning run in the seventh inning of a 3-2 victory over league rival Clackamas at Portland's Delta Park in May.
This is the fourth time in the past five years the LCC softball team has appeared in The Daily News' Top 10 year-end stories, and the third time it was a unanimous No. 1 selection.
"The girls did exactly what we talked about," LCC coach Tim Mackin said after the title victory. "We started the year strong, had some ups and downs in the middle, and started going up and were peaking going into the tournament. The team really started bonding the last couple of weeks when we had to play Chemeketa, Clackamas and Mount Hood to end the year. We played them again at the tournament and beat them."
The Lady Devils also got the best of Clackamas pitcher Renee Santos, who dominated them during the regular season. Santos, an all-tournament pick, scattered five hits and struck out 12, but it was when she hit LCC's Hanna with a pitch to start the seventh inning that proved costly.
"We did what we needed to do," Mackin said. "We didn't win it on a walk-off home run like we have so many times this season, but we battled and won it by beating the best pitcher in the conference, an All-American."
Hanna was the first player in conference history to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases while earning Western Division and all-NWAACC Tournament MVP honors. But it was timely hits, along with glove work in center and right by Mathews and Tiffany Coates, respectively, that made the difference in the Lady Devils' quest to win their conference-record ninth softball title.
In the fifth, the 5-foot-5 Mathews elevated high over the outfield fence to make a leaping catch that stole a potential home run away from Cougars slugger Ashley Roy. After the catch, Mathews was mobbed by members of the LCC infield.
"I like it when balls are hit over my head and are challenging to catch," Mathews said. "I get a good read on balls when I'm running back on them, and I trust myself on those. I saw it and knew I had to get it, because I didn't want it to be extra bases."
Coates' grab in right field was made while running toward the outfield fence for the final out in the seventh. If she didn't make the catch, the Clackamas runner at first would have scored easily.
After gloving the ball, Coates' momentum carried her through the portable fence. As she lay face-down on top of the collapsed section of fence, Coates was met by her teammates.
Mackin noted that longtime Clackamas coach Paul Fiskum was also impressed with the Devils' outfield defense.
"Paul came up to me after the game and said that LCC won an NWAACC title not with the home run or strong pitching, but with defense on those two great plays," Mackin said. "He said those were the two best defensive plays he'd seen in 15 years. I thought they were perfect and kept us in the ball game."
Video Gaming News of 2007
It has been an incredibly busy year for the video and PC game industry. Surprise mergers, unexpected developments and lots of turmoil have almost been the norm in the past 12 months but with the year almost finished it's time to take a look back at the major events of the past year and how they might affect the game industry in the next 12 months. We've picked out our selections for the top 10 biggest gaming news stories of the year (with a few additional honorable mentions) and we think this quick review of 2007 will serve as a way to perhaps better predict what might happen in the near future.
1. Windows Vista/DirectX10 Launch
In late January with much fanfare, Microsoft introduced the consumer version of their next version of the Windows PC operating System. Windows Vista wasn't just a new OS for business or the home, however, as Microsoft pushed the fact that it would also serve as a new revitalization of PC gaming with the launch of DirectX10, the new graphics API that promised to bring the visuals of PC gaming far above those of current consoles.
It's been nearly a year since Vista's consumer launch and the result for PC gaming hasn't been the huge leap that Microsoft tried to push on gamers. Vista's performance on older PC games was less than Windows XP and many games had to be patched up to even work properly with Vista. And those DirectX10 games? As of this writing only a handful have been released either out of the box or via patches and the amount of upcoming PC games that will use DirectX10 is still fairly small. While Vista will eventually get into more and more gamer's homes at the moment DirectX9 based titles are still being developed and likely will for years to come.
A side-story to Vista and gaming is Microsoft's Games For Windows Live program which is trying to create a more console-like approach to PC user interfaces, networking, matchmaking and more. However, that too has been mixed with only a handful of games (Halo 2 Vista, Shadowrun, Gears of War PC, Universe at War: Earth Assault, Kane and Lynch) currently supporting Games For Windows Live. Gamers have to to pony up money to get the Gold version of Games For Windows Live (for features like TrueSkill Matchmaking, multiplayer achievements, and, if the game supports it, cross platform play with the Xbox 360 version). Again this new program hasn't been embraced by many developers yet. 2008 will show if Microsoft's push for Games For Windows Live will be taken up by more developers.
2. Silicon Knights/Epic Games Lawsuit
Too Human is an Xbox 360 exclusive sci-fi action game that was heavily hyped even before its first public showing at E3 2006 by publisher Microsoft and developer Silicon Knights. It was a game, like many others, that used the Unreal Engine 3 game development tools created by Epic Games. However, the E3 demo for Too Human was panned by the press so heavily that Silicon Knights went into stealth mode to develop the game. As it turned out, Silicon Knights decided to blame much of Too Human's development problems on Epic's Unreal Engine and in mid-July filed a lawsuit against Epic, saying that the company's engine "did not work as Epic represented it would and, moreover, Epic has been unable or unwilling to fix it."
Epic struck back fast with its own counter-claim against Silicon Knights, saying that the developer misappropriated the Unreal Engine 3 technology and wanted to "pay nothing for it, and use it any way it pleases". At the time of this writing it seems like the case will be heading to some kind of trial; Epic tried to get the case dismissed, but a judge allowed the Silicon Knights lawsuit to continue.
This isn't the first time developers have mentioned issues in developing games on Epic's Unreal Engine 3. Indeed the PS3 platform seems to be a big issue for the engine tools with games like Medal of Honor: Airborne, Stranglehold and BlackSite: Area 51 releasing the PS3 versions of the games weeks or even months after the PC and Xbox 360 versions. While some have said the Silicon Knights lawsuit has some merit other developers have come to Epic's defense, including Gearbox Software head Randy Pitchford, who said in a recent interview that he wasn't sure if "....they've gotten too many inexperienced developers or they're just cry-babies. I just don't know." It's likely that the lawsuit will continue through the court system in 2008 and if Silicon Knights manages to win the lawsuit it could change the way third party middleware software programs are made and marketed to game developers.
3. Manhunt 2 Banned In UK
It was a game that didn't get the best review marks and didn't generate a ton of sales, yet Rockstar Games decided to go ahead and make a sequel to their brutal stealth action title Manhunt. The next game, Manhunt 2, would be released for the PS2, PSP, and Nintendo's Wii system this year in the US but that game has yet to be released in the UK thanks to the British Board of Film Classification deciding this summer that the game was so violent it would not to give a rating to Manhunt 2, effectively banning it for sale in that country.
Rockstar Games appealed the decision while at the same time delaying the release of the game from its initial August ship date. After a revised version of the game was also banned by the BBFC, Rockstar took their case to the appeals board and just a few weeks ago the board in a 5-4 vote recommended that the game be allowed to be put on sale in the UK. The BBFC, however, is planning to take its case for the ban to a UK court to keep Manhunt 2 from being put on store shelves.
In the US, the initial version of Mahunt 2 received an AO rating from the ESRB ratings system. Giving a console game an AO rating effectively bans the game since none of the three console makers allow AO rated games on their systems (PC games that are AO rated are of course not affected). After a revised version of the game was sent to the ESRB which blurred some of the kill animations, the ESRB re-rated Manhunt 2 with an M rating. Rockstar released all three versions of the game in the US on Oct. 31. Both Rockstar and the ESRB were attacked by lawmakers and media watchdog groups for this move and it got the game a lot of free publicity in the press but in the end Manhunt 2 once again got mediocre reviews from the gaming press and fairly low sales.
2008 should see the UK court system give the final word on the release of Manhunt 2 in that country but in the US it seems the court of supply and demand have given their final verdict already; Manhunt 2, while violent, isn't all that great of a game.
4. The New E3 And The E For All Launch
The summer of 2006 was the time period when shockwaves went through the game industry as word came down that the massive 60,000+ E3 trade show had come to an unexpected end due to publishers not willing to spend millions of dollars on exhibit hall space at the Los Angeles Convention Center. E3's owners, the Entertainment Software Association, decided that a smaller invite-only event was the way to go. The renamed E3 Media and Business Summit launched in mid July 2007 but instead of the LA Convention Center the event was spread out over several hotels in nearby Santa Monica.
The final results of the first mini-E3 were mixed. Many publishers and reporters felt the more intimate settings actually helped to present more info on the games displayed at the show and publishers of course like the fact that the loud and massive exhibit hall of past E3s was gone. However, spreading the event out over several hotels got old really fast for many reporters, most of which missed more than one appointment while trying to walk all over town as well as being shuttled over to the Barker Hanger were many publishers had set up playable game kiosks. Overall the media attention to E3 was smaller than in the past but it still turned out to be an important event in the game industry calendar. Just this week it was announced that E3 2008 would return to the LA Convention Center in mid-July and while it will still be a small invite only affair it's assumed that having one central location should help with the problems that this year's E3 had.
While E3 was being revamped, the show's organizer IDG World Expo announced plans in early January to hold a consumer game event that many had predicted would be the over-the-top kind of spectacle that E3 once was. The E For All Expo was finally held at the LA Convention Center in mid-October but the reception to it was chilly thanks to many publishers deciding not to attend along with high ticket prices and a date that was smack dab in the middle of the busy fourth quarter, meaning that a lot of the games on display were either already on store shelves or only one or two weeks away from being released. The result was that only 18,000 people attended the four-day event (organizers had said in previous interviews that they were hoping for between 20,000 and 30,000 attendees). The 2008 E For All is currently scheduled for the last weekend of August which is already occupied by Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, a well established consumer gaming convention that had over 37,000 people attend in 2007. It remains to be seen if E For All will move its dates, stick with what it has planned, or perhaps be cancelled entirely.
5. Xbox 360 Hardware Problems
Ever since the launch of Microsoft's Xbox 360 in November 2005, reports on message boards and web sites had numerous users telling their stories of multiple hardware failures for the console. At first, Microsoft tried to make the reported failures sound almost normal, saying that the reports were from a small fraction of Xbox 360 owners. However the reports continued to come in 2006 and 2007, and in late June Microsoft finally announced what many people had already known; the initial design of the Xbox 360 was flawed. As a result, the company announced it would take a $1 billion charge to improve customer support for the console.
That support included extending the Xbox 360 warranty to three years for any issue that had the "red ring of death" error. Microsoft also integrated new heatsinks inside new and refurbished versions of the machine, perhaps to help with overheating (Microsoft has never officially revealed any specific changes to the console's hardware set-up). While the company once again would not comment on what the percentage of Xbox 360 consoles have had hardware failures, the $1 billion charge says volumes about how widespread the failures got.
Since Microsoft's move to correct the hardware problems, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of people complaining that they have gone through several Xbox 360 consoles. What's really important is the bottom line. People still want to buy an Xbox 360 console despite the hardware issues of the past and this past November saw over 700,000 consoles sold in the US. 2008 should be less of a traumatic year for console owners fearing the "red rings of death."
6. Bungie Breaks Away from Microsoft
The crown jewel of Microsoft's internal game development teams has been Bungie. Ever since the Chicago-based developer was bought by Microsoft and moved to Redmond, Washington in 2000, Bungie has helped Microsoft launch the original Xbox with the sci-fi shooter Halo, extend the first person shooter franchise further with the multi-million selling Halo 2, and finally this year completing the shooter trilogy with the Xbox 360's Halo 3, a game that became a mainstream entertainment media event normally reserved for the release of blockbuster feature films.
You would think that Bungie could write its own ticket at Microsoft but as it turned out Bungie wanted more; it wanted to be independent again. In early October, after word got out via leaked messages on the Internet, Microsoft and Bungie announced an agreement that got Bungie out of Microsoft's direct ownership (specifics were never reported). The company still has lots of ties to Microsoft; it's still based in Redmond and will continue to work on Halo-related games for Microsoft. However the newly free Bungie will now be able to work on its own projects as well, including possibly working on other consoles as well as the PC (Bungie reps have emphasized that their next immediate projects will be for the Xbox 360 only).
The breakaway of Bungie is representative of Microsoft's current uncertain first party game situation for the console. Another internal developer, FASA Interactive, shut down after releasing the critical and sales disappointment Shadowrun earlier this year. Bizzare Creations, who developed all four Project Gotham Racing games for Microsoft, was bought by Activision this past fall which means any future games in the PRG franchise will have to be developed by someone else. Will Microsoft's upcoming first party line-up continue to be strong or will all these changes have a detrimental effect?
7. Electronic Arts Buys BioWare/Pandemic
Independent game developers BioWare and Pandemic, both of which were already highly successful, decided to merge their companies to form the massive independent developer BioWare/Pandemic in late 2005 via venture capital firm Elevation Partners. In late October of 2007, the surprising news came on the newswires; massive game publisher Electronic Arts had secured a deal to buy BioWare/Pandemic from Elevation at a price of nearly $800 million. It's the largest amount ever for a publisher to buy an independent game development studio.
Of course, BioWare/Pandemic isn't your ordinary developer. Separately BioWare created acclaimed and best selling games like Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and the recently released Mass Effect. Pandemic's line-up of games is nearly as good with titles like the original Merceraries, Full Spectrum Warrior, Destroy All Humans, and Star Wars Battlefront. With the EA purchase, it gets the rights to future Mass Effect games along with the long-in-development fantasy RPG Dragon Age and the still mysterious MMO game (allegedly a new Star Wars MMO). It also gets from Pandemic the upcoming Mercenaries 2, the open world WWII game Saboteur and a number of unnamed projects (including reportedly a Batman movie based action game).
Will the price of BioWare/Pandemic be worth it for EA in the long run? Will the creative spirit that BioWare and Pandemic currently have continue after the EA purchase is finalized? Ultimately the result of this huge acquisition by EA will likely be due to how much freedom they give to the game development studios. If the independent feeling that BioWare and Pandemic had before its EA purchase continues, this could be both a great opportunity for everyone involved.
8. Starcraft II Annnounced
No other new game announcement in 2007 had the immediate impact that Blizzard made in mid-May when it announced during a Korean gaming event that it was finally working on Starcraft II, the long awaited sequel to their landmark PC RTS game. The rumors that Srarcraft II would be announced at the event was given wide press beforehand and the final reveal didn't dissapoint with the battle between the three very different factions continuing in a full 3D engine.
The original Starcraft was a major hit in the US and Europe but it became a true sport in Korea, with Starcraft players in that country becoming huge celebs in their own rights. At this year's BlizzCon in August, attendees got a chance to play an early build of Starcraft II and so far the response has been positive.
As usual with most Blizzard games, the official release date for Starcraft II is "when it's done" but many are expecting that the game will be released for the PC sometime in 2008. It's possible that Blizzard could have the number one and two best selling PC games in 2008; in addition to Starcraft II the company is also working on their second commercial expansion pack to their best selling MMO World of Warcraft.
9. Activision Blizzard Formed
Just a few days before the announcement, Electronic Arts' CEO said in an interview that while there would be other mergers in the game industry, most of them had already taken place. Opem mouth and insert foot just a few days later as Activision and Vivendi made a joint announcement (on a Sunday no less) that Activision would merge with Vivendi Games and form Activision Blizzard in a deal expected to be worth a massive $18 billion; it's the largest planned merger in game history (the deal has yet to officially close as of this writing).
So why merge their companies, especially since both are doing pretty good on their own? Activision is currently riding on huge sales of Guitar Hero III and Call of Duty 4 and Vivendi Games is riding the coattails of their Blizzard brand and its success with World of Warcraft. In short, Activision and Vivendi feel that a combination of their publishers would result in even more profit. While technically Vivendi Games becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision as part of the merger, the combined Activsion Blizzard would be at least 52 percent owned by Vivendi.
With this massive new publisher on the horizon, it stands to reason that there might be even more publisher consolidation in the works. Eidos' parent company SCi has admitted it is in talks with unnamed companies about a possible purchase of Eidos, and Sega execs have hinted they might be on the trail of new game publisher deals. Activision Blizzard will become the largest third-party game publisher in the world, and in 2008 we may see even more activity on that front.
10. Nintendo Wii and DS Sales
Without a doubt the biggest news development in the games industry in 2007 is the massive success of Nintendo's two hardware consoles; the set-top box Wii and the portable DS. Indeed, sales of the Wii, which reached nearly 1 million units in the US in November, could have been even higher had Nintendo made more consoles available to meet the seemingly higher demand. Over a year after the Wii launch, the console remains a hard-to-find device. The DS console is even more successful in terms of unit sales; the twin screen device with WiFi support had well over 1 million units sold in November in the US.
So what has Nintendo tapped into that the Xbox 360 and especially the PS3 haven't been able to do? One is low cost; the Wii and the DS are the lowest priced consoles in their categories. Another aspect is appealing to the masses with easy to play games via the motion sensing capabilities of the WiiMote controller. The DS has a niche for puzzle games and of course the still popular Pokemon turn-based action game franchise.
While both the Wii and the DS each have their faults, the truth is that their issues are overcome by the ease of use of the hardware and a line-up of games that, with only a few exceptions, are tailored to a more family-oriented theme. In 2008 you can expect Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Brawl to be a major best seller and the Wii and DS will continue to fly off the shelves.