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The top 20 game stories of 2008

Please check out our link to VentureBeat’s inaugural game conference, GamesBeat 09, on March 24.

Also, see our top 20 game stories of 2008.

The top 10 iPhone games of 2008.

The 10 most-anticipated games of 2009.

The game and virtual world fundings of 2008.

And Dean’s top 10 picks of the holiday season.

2008 has been a big year for the games market. Game sales soared to new heights this year and resisted the onset of the recession. Here’s a recap of our biggest game-market stories this year (including some links for related stories) for those of you who may have missed them:

1. The Nintendo Wii broke all sales records and expanded the market for gaming beyond nerds. The Wii tapped into a need to play more casual and social games. We had a Q&A with Nintendo of America’s president, Reggie Fils-Aime, about the phenomenon.

2. The industry hit a record $22 billion in the midst of a recession. A census estimates there are 44,400 people working in the U.S. game industry.

3. The iPhone emerged as a game platform. With companies such as Ngmoco making iPhone-only games, the market took off. Thousands of games are now available on Apple’s App Store.

4. Activision closed its merger with Vivendi Games, which included the crown jewel Blizzard Entertainment, maker of World of Warcraft. In post-merger life, the crown jewel was left to operate as its own independent company.

5. VentureBeat uncovered the behind-the-scenes story of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death hardware failure. Microsoft fired the game tester who talked to Venturebeat.

6. Electronic Arts struck out with its holiday line-up. Spore disappointed, and EA was forced to lay off 10 percent of its staff.

7. Both Microsoft and Sony tried to make console games into a more social experience. Sony launched Home virtual world for PlayStation 3, while Microsoft debuted its new Xbox Experience including movies from Netflix. Sony was able to get a bunch of partners to launch inside Home, but users overwhelmed Home in its early days.

8. Electronic Arts courted Take-Two Interactive with a $2 billion hostile takeover bid, but the maker of Grand Theft Auto IV wanted a higher price and the companies gave up on merger talks.

9. Microsoft cut console prices, finally addressed Red Ring of Death with Jasper-based models of the Xbox 360.

10. Advanced Micro Devices took leadership in graphics chips back from Nvidia. It did so by shooting for the sweet spot of the market. Previously, Nvidia owned the gamer market. But now the tables have turned.

11. World of Warcraft expansion pack Wrath of the Lich King sold 2.8 million units in 24 hours.

12. Google launched, then buried, Lively virtual spaces. But it got off the ground with in-game advertising.

13. The redesigned E3 trade show — once a signature extravaganza that drew 80,000 people — was a train wreck, drawing only a few thousand underwhelmed media and business people. Afterward, the game industry vowed to bring the old show back.

14. Music video games overtook sports games, thanks to Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises.

15. Nintendo DS ran away with the portable market, outselling the PlayStation Portable by two to one. Then Nintendo announced the DSi improved version of its handheld.

16. Grand Theft Auto IV sold 10 million copies, despite the criticism of anti-violence critics. The biggest game industry critic Jack Thompson was disbarred for unprofessional conduct.

17. Scrabble clone Scrabulous took off on Facebook, Hasbro sued, the game was shut down and the replacement Scrabble tanks.

18. Wii Fit broadened the video game audience and brought the exercise genre — which had been just a niche in the past — to mainstream audiences.

19. Funware — the use of game mechanics in non-game applications — expanded the game industry’s reach beyond games.

20. YouTube became a huge channel for game marketing.

Please check out our link to VentureBeat’s inaugural game conference, GamesBeat 09, on March 24.

The top 10 iPhone games of 2008.

The 10 most-anticipated games of 2009.

The game and virtual world fundings of 2008.

And Dean’s top 10 picks of the holiday season.


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