The games development year in review: 2008

The games development year in review: 2008

By Develop

December 16th 2008 at 11:28AM

2008 has been a testing year for the development industry, with plenty of challenges to overcome before the economic downturn set in properly and sent shock waves of uncertainty through numerous studios. There were positives too, and a new hope in the form of the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Despite the lack of new console hardware, 2008 was a transition year of sorts, thanks to the move to embrace Web 2.0 technologies, the acceptance of casual gaming as a multi-billion dollar force to be reckoned with, and the arrival of iPhone and its App Store, with the latter rekindling dreams of self-publishing freedom. A string of studio closures and the ongoing lack of UK tax breaks provided sour notes, however, that gathered pace as the year drew to a close.

January

Electronic Arts announces its $860m acquisition of BioWare and Pandemic parent is complete

Former EA man David Gardner becomes the new CEO of Atari

Institute of Directors exec Richard Wilson is named to take over from Fred Hasson as TIGA CEO

Nintendo responds to third parties' concerns that only first party games are selling on Wii

Take 2 acquires Illusion Softworks, the central European developer responsible for the Mafia franchise


February

Real Time Worlds' Dave Jones unveils APB, the studio’s long-in-the-works online multiplayer genre-bender

Microsoft announces Xbox Live Community Games, its YouTube for games

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello admits the company ‘blew it’ when it acquired well-known developers in the past

Nvidia buys physics technology firm Ageia, the creator of the PhysX PPU hardware and software

President of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios Phil Harrison resigns – he later resurfaces at Atari as President


March

UK government’s budget fails to introduce measures to support the development industry…

…even as the Government of Ontario, Canada enhances its tax breaks for game production

The UK Government’s ‘Byron Review’ study calls for 'more dialogue between games developers, educational resource developers and educators'

EA rebrands its UK studio EA Bright Light, and refocuses on casual games. (Alas, poor Bullfrog...)

26 studios based in the UK make the grade for the 2008 edition of the Develop 100


April

Sega's closes its high-profile UK-based Racing Studio; it had completed just one title, Sega Rally

Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser explains GTA’s longevity: “We protect our IP, not exploit it”

Realtime Worlds confirms receipt of some $50m in venture capital funding

EA’s co-founder Bing Gordon leaves to join investment company Kleiner Perkins

The founders of Jagex, Traveller's Tales and Rare all appear in an annual ranking of the UK and Ireland's 1,000 richest people


May

UK studios sign-up to back Games Up? lobbying campaign

Valve adds Steam Cloud, a persistent data storage service, to its Steamworks SDK

PopCap breaks through the $1 million barrier for casual game development

Intent Media, publisher of Develop and MCV, launches CasualGaming.biz to serve the casual games sector

Sony Computer Entertainment adds support for the YouTube API to the PS3 SDK


June

Former EA exec Neil Young forms ng:moco, to focus on high-end handsets such as iPhone

Sony London Studio suspends development of its big-budget titles The Getaway and Eight Days

Apple unveils the 3G iPhone and games including Sega’s Super Monkey Ball

Anonymous studio exec stokes row by saying the skills shortage is due to an ‘aging' industry

David and Richard Darling, the co-founders of Codemasters, are recognised with CBEs in the Queen's Birthday Honours List


July

“Home is not a social network” stress SCEE developers at the Develop in Brighton conference…

…while Microsoft CTO Chris Satchell says the new 360 dashboard reinvents the Xbox

Former Empire Interactive studio Razorworks is rescued by Rebellion

Conflict series developer Pivotal Games is closed down by Eidos

QA, localisation and testing firm Babel Media is acquired by Indian outsourcing firm Quatrro


August

SCE Worldwide Studios VP Jamie MacDonald speaks out against games degrees

Monkey Ball for iPhone sells over 300,000 in just 20 days

EA plans to build 200-strong sports game QA centre in USA

Ubisoft Reflections studio head says the publisher would add an extra 1,000 members to its team in the North of England – if only there was a tax break

Jamil Moledina resigns from his position as executive director at GDC


September

EA Mobile announces nine iPhone games in development

Microsoft Game Studios disbands Ensemble, its veteran Age of Empires development team

At $1.6 million, Nintendo’s profits per employee are calculated as the best in the world

NCsoft closes its Brighton-based European development team just one year after launch

EA abandons its Take-Two takeover attempt


October

British developers earn a salary of £30,316. That’s 20% higher than the UK average

Autodesk acquires the 3D animation specialist Softimage

EA announces plans to cut around 600 jobs

SouthPeak Interactive buys Gamecock Media Group

London-based Facebook developer raises $17 million in VC funding


November

Microsoft to open a studio in London dedicated to creating 'social experiences' for Xbox Live

MMO tech firm Monumental buys for Swordfish Manchester…

…while Codemasters splashes cash on Swordfish Birmingham

MTV pays Harmonix studio founders over $300 million in bonuses

Richard Garriott quits NCsoft


December

Electronic Arts cancels plans to establish a new development studio in Vancouver, Canada

Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions signs an exclusive publishing agreement with EA Partners to produce a rock music themed adventure game

Atari moves to acquire Cryptic Studios, the City of Heroes developer

Warner Bros and Square Enix rumoured to be mounting rival bid for Eidos

EA acquires Korean free-to-play game specialist J2MSoft