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Traditionally when Hardware Manufacturers are planning their Next Generation Console launches, there is always a systemtic market lull as consumers wait for the Next Generation to arrive. 2005 was no different than previous industry lull (the last one being 1999-2000, right before the end of Nintendo 64's life cycle and before PlayStation 2's debut.), and like other industry lull, it was a time where innovative software took the lead as developers have mastered the platform and attempted to sqeeze every bit of extra power from the aging systems. The end of 2005 also saw the first entrance into the Next Generation Console group with Microsoft's Xbox 360. Although the system suffered from major supply shortage, it still managed to become 2005's must have gift.
However, in contrast to the diminished home console segment, the Handheld arena overachieved beyond all expectations. After Nintendo DS's worldwide launch in 2004 (which was described as mediocre Japan or even abysmal North America) and Sony PlayStation Portable's "Paper Launch" in Japan, both handheld manage to perform better than expected, carrying the game market through 2005 with innovative titles and pinnacle franchises. What was even more surprising was the performance of Game Boy Advance and it's two redesign iterations: Game Boy Advance SP and Game Boy micro, which manage to outsell the combine sales of the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable.
On the PC side, hardware news was dominated by two major announcement/product releases: Ageia's dedicated physics card PhysX; and the ongoing battle for video card supremacy between nVidia's GeForce 7 Series video cards and ATI's Radeon X1000 Series video cards.
Ageia's announcement of their PhysX Dedicated physics processing card created a stir as industry observers debated on the viability of a dedicated physics card in gaming machines, and how well the adoption rate of such technology will be. Although the product won't be released until 2006, many PC developers have expressed interest in the card and have pledge support of such an expansion card when it arrives.
In contrast, PC Software can be described with one word: WoW. World of Warcraft remains the talk of the industry, breaking 5 Million suscribers worldwide, becoming the biggest MMORPG and drawing in newbies to the genre who have never played a MMORPG before. The emphesis of highly detailed, rich graphics and atmosphere created by First-person shooters in 2004 like Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 fell wayside as many players have yet to upgrade to the latest video cards by nVidia or ATI (hardware shortage again is the culprit). Some were also wary of the continuous flood of First-person shooters, even though there has been numerous AAA titles such as F.E.A.R., Battlefield 2, and Quake 4.
Console Hardware Releases
The Xbox 360 arrived towards the end of the year becoming one of this years most sought after Christmas gifts. The 360 quickly sold out in the western world leaving only those who were willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money on eBay able to get one. It was, however, a different story altogether in Japan where new consoles sat on shelves quietly waiting for buyers that never arrived. The 360 is what could be called the next logical step for Microsoft to take in the home console market. It takes a leap in computing power that all next gen consoles take and features a removable hard drive, an upgraded Live service that would feature downloadable content and would create a new virtual marketplace, as well as what could be described as a more refined Controller S.
The launch titles for the 360 were diverse, if you exclude RPG's, with some lacking in quality and some in features. Perfect Dark Zero for example, the much anticipated FPS released by Rare, was met with less than stellar criticism. This coming from a developer that many gamers held dear from the N64 days. Rare redeemed themselves with the release of Kameo: Elements of Power, an action game for the 360 which was met with positive reviews and praise among gamers. Call of Duty 2 by EA also hit the street at launch and was applauded for its immersive single player campaign but criticized for lacking a lobby system, among other issues with online play, that Xbox Live players are so accustomed to. Another title during the launch came from left field, Gun, released by Neversoft who are known for their Tony Hawk games, set in the wild west. The game based on the remake of King Kong titled Peter Jackson's King Kong came out a shook some of the stereotype that all movie inspired games are horrible.
- Game Boy micro (GBM)
At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nintendo shocked the audience with the announcement of Game Boy micro, another revision of the Game Boy Advance hardware. Riding on the wave of portable electronic miniaturization, the Game Boy micro is roughly the size of three Game Boy Advance cartridges. The new portable system has a brighter screen, longer battery life than the Game Boy Advance SP, and a new digital volume control buttons (doubles as Start/Select button during gameplay) that replace the volume slider control in previous Game Boys. However, these upgrades are at the expense of a smaller screen and lack of Original Game Boy and Game Boy Color compatibility.
On the day of Game Boy micro's launch, some stores also received a new batch of Game Boy Advance SPs with a different packaging, stating that it has a brighter screen. The official packaging has the words, "Now with a Brighter Screen" and a whiter highlight glowing out of the Game Boy Advance SP. It was officially revealed that Nintendo has phased out the Game Boy Advance SP and is replacing them with a brighter screen, the same ones found on the Game Boy micro. Beyond the brightness functionality, it is no different than existing Game Boy Advance SP.
Gaming Related PC Hardware Releases
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Notable Software Releases (Jan-June)
- Largely considered the best Tekken yet, at the time of it's release.
- A highly difficult action game that brought the Devil May Cry series back to its roots.
- Innovative, violent, Game of the Year candidate by designer David Jaffe.
- One of the PSP's launch titles and the first PSP game to feature downloadable content.
- The 2nd Fire Emblem game released in North America, first in series to allow replaying maps.
- First in wave of critically acclaimed DS games after post-launch drought.
- Critically acclaimed sequal to hit multiplayer craze, Battlefield: 1942.
- A popular puzzle game by developer Q Entertainment.
Notable Software Releases (July-Dec)
- Another entry in the best-selling Madden series.
- Japanese sleeper-hit that got 40/40 in Famitsu reaches western shores, to see if it would meet the same level of success.
- Sequal to the critically acclaimed Black & White, this
- Third entry in the famous Age of Empires series in over 5 years.
- First game by the development team since the cult hit ICO.
- October 25 - Call of Duty 2 (PC)
- October 25 - Civilization IV (PC)
- October 25 - Soul Calibur III (PS2)
- November 7 - Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360)
- November 8 - The Matrix: Path of Neo (PS2, Xbox, GameCube), (PC)
- November 9 - Resident Evil: Archives: Umbrella's Virus Uncovered (Paperback Book)
- November 14 - Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS)
- Shadow's first starring role in a game.
- The 2nd Nintendo WiFi Connection game for the DS.
- March 6 — The television show 60 Minutes tackles issues within video game controversy. This segment of 60 Minutes has been criticized by video game players for encouraging video game censorship.
- March 7–March 11 — Game Developers Conference:
- May 11 — The global version of Maplestory is launched.
- May 12 — The Xbox 360 was officially announced on MTV in a special hosted by Elijah Wood.
- May 16 — The PlayStation 3 was unveiled by Sony during a pre-E3 press conference, at 21:25 GMT. At the same time, the press release was released through the Japanese PlayStation website.
- June 1 — IBM held the first virtual video game on-demand conference in which game developers and manufacturers were able to come together to discuss issues with online games, including management and distribution.
- July - IEMA (Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association) hosts 6th annual Executive Summit.
- September 16 — September 18 — Tokyo Game Show takes place at Makuhari Messe. One hundred-thirty companies are expected to show with 1,429 booths.
- November 14 — Nintendo's first mainstream online service (Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection) is launched with Mario Kart DS and Tony Hawk's American Sk8land.
- November 22 — Microsoft's Xbox 360 is released.
- December 16 — The Family Entertainment Protection Act (FEPA) is introduced by Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh. The bill calls for a federal mandate enforcement of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings system for video games in order to protect children from inappropriate content.
- January 6 — French publisher Titus Interactive, owner of Interplay Entertainment, is declared bankrupt after being in receivership since October 2004.
- January 12 — Video game companies and players worldwide donate money to the UNICEF South Asian Tsunami Relief Fund for rescue and reconstruction efforts upon the South Asian tsunami disaster. Electronic Arts pledges to donate $250,000 to the UNICEF South Asian Tsunami Relief Fund. CCP, the publisher of EVE Online, establishes a fund that video game players can contribute to.
- January 17 — Electronic Arts and ESPN announced a 15-year partnership that would give EA access to ESPN's broadcast, print and online content.
- January 20 — Activision announced that it acquired developer Vicarious Visions known best as a developer of Game Boy games as well as for their middleware program, Alchemy.
- January 24 — Major League Baseball and Take-Two Interactive sign exclusive seven year deal that gives Take-Two the rights among third-party publishers to develop games based on the MLB license.
- January 25 — Take-Two Interactive announced that it acquired developer Visual Concepts and their wholly owned subsidiary Kush Games from Sega for $24 million. Additionally, Take-Two also announced the start of another publishing label named 2K Games.
- February — Troika Games defunct after being unable to get contracts for development work.
- March 2 — The Entertainment Software Rating Board or ESRB added the rating of "E10+" to its ratings system. E10+ was created in order to divide E ratings for younger and older children.
- March 7 — Sammy Studios breaks away from Sega Sammy Holdings and renames itself High Moon Studios.
- March 9 — Sega acquires Creative Assembly.
- March 23 — Vivendi Universal Games buys developer Radical Entertainment. Radical is best known for developing The Simpsons Hit & Run.
- April 2 — Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man series, was promoted from corporate officer to senior corporate officer.
- May — Buena Vista Games announces that it had bought the rights to the Turok video game franchise and will be publishing new games. The rights were originally held by bankrupt Acclaim Entertainment.
- July 20 — After coming under heavy fire from many politicians, most notably Hillary Clinton, the Entertainment Software Rating Board re-rated Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Adults Only 18+ (AO) due to the sexually explicit minigame mod "Hot Coffee". Additionally, Rockstar Games ceased production of the game and has announced plans to offer a new version of the game that can't be affected by the mod, and plans to patch the PC version.
- July 27 — Sony Computer Entertainment released the first major update in Japan for their video game handheld, the PlayStation Portable. Version 2.00 includes an web browser, A-B repeat mode, Wi-Fi picture sending, as well as additional audio & video support among other features.
- August 8— Abandon Mobile announces its formation through a partnership between Abandon Entertainment, Inc. and GF Capital Management and Advisors, LLC.
- August 22 — Square Enix acquires Taito Corporation. That leads to Square Enix entering the arcade sector of the electronic game industry.
- November — Pandemic Studios and BioWare partner to create BioWare/Pandemic Studios.
- November 7 — Take-Two Interactive acquires Firaxis Games.
- November 30 — Sony Computer Entertainment announce that PlayStation 2 breaks a record: the fastest console to reach cumulative shipment of 100 million units, beating the previous record holder, the PlayStation, by three years and nine months. The PS platform has until the present year the biggest sales of all times of video games history, with 120 million consoles shipped.
- December 12 — Working Designs closes down.