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Some major shakeups happened in the video game industry this year.
It was a year that saw legendary game designers publicly falling out with their studios, major publishers spending billions of dollars on mobile gaming, and the industry saying goodbye to one of its own. Here are some of the headlines that made the biggest waves in the video game world in 2015.
The death of a Nintendo icon
This year, Nintendo fans around the world said goodbye to the company’s beloved president, Satoru Iwata. Iwata died in July at the age of 55 due to complications from a bile duct growth. During his 13-year tenure as president, Iwata oversaw the launch of the DS, Nintendo’s most successful handheld. He also helped launch the Wii, which has sold over 100 million units to date.
Following Iwata’s death, executive directors Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda took over running the company until a new president was found. In September, Nintendo announced his replacement was 65-year-old Tatsumi Kimishima, a former banker and former head of Nintendo of America.
Hideo Kojima and Konami’s bad breakup
For many, the idea of Metal Gear Solid developer Hideo Kojima leaving video game publisher Konami was unthinkable. Yet, that’s exactly what happened earlier this year. Rumors of Kojima’s departure from the company began in March when references to his studio, Kojima Productions, were removed from Konami’s websites and from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s box art. Then Konami decided to pull P.T. from the PlayStation Store. P.T. — which stands for “Playable Teaser” — was a demo to promote the new Silent Hills project Kojima was working on with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and actor Norman Reedus.
Once The Phantom Pain hit store shelves, Hideo Kojima retreated from the public eye. Earlier this month, The Game Awards host Geoff Keighley revealed that Kojima was barred from attending the show by Konami’s lawyers. Then, on December 15, word came that Kojima had officially left Konami and was teaming up with Sony to create a PlayStation exclusive.
The PlayStation 4 is winning the console war — for now
Sony is maintaining a strong lead over Microsoft in the so-called console war. Despite a lack of first-party exclusives, Sony sold over 30 million PlayStation 4s this year. The PS4 has consistently topped NPD charts, outselling the Xbox One and Wii U during most of the summer months. The launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops III, however, gave both the PS4 and Xbox One a boost. According to NPD analyst Liam Callahan, November 2015 was the best month for Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U software ever, exceeding the second-best month, December 2014, by 34 percent.
But just because Sony had a great year doesn’t mean Microsoft hasn’t. The company claimed it saw record sales of the Xbox One console and Xbox Store digital games during the week of Black Friday. The Xbox Store allegedly increased sales by 57 percent across the Xbox One and Xbox 360. Xbox Live Gold subscriptions were also up over 40 percent, and Xbox One console sales at retail were up 22 percent over the same period last year. Microsoft said it was the second biggest Black Friday week in 15 years.
Activision buys Candy Crush maker King
It’s good to be the King.
Video game publisher Activision, home of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, bought King Digital for $5.9 billion in November. King Digital is the publisher of saccharine mobile puzzler Candy Crush Saga as well as the Farm Heroes Saga series. According to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, the combined revenues and profits from the merger has solidified the company’s position as the largest, most profitable standalone company in interactive entertainment.
The move also represents a big push into mobile gaming for Activision. With the exception of its successful collectible card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, the publisher has been slow to embrace that particular market. Now that it owns King, however, it has a roster of established games and a team of mobile veterans ready to create some new ones.
Composer Marty O’Donnell battles Bungie and wins
While disputes between creatives and the people who employ them are nothing new, the 18-month long legal battle between composer Marty O’Donnell and Bungie, the studio responsible for Halo and Destiny, was a notable one, offering a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of the industry’s biggest developers.
The feud began when publisher Activision decided to replace O’Donnell’s music in a Destiny trailer. An angry O’Donnell believed the publisher was interfering in the creative process. Things went downhill from there. In April 2014, Bungie decided to fire O’Donnell and strip him of his founder’s stock. The composer sued his former employer, and in September 2015, a court-appointed arbitrator ruled that Bungie did in fact break its agreement with O’Donnell when it fired him. His stock holdings were restored and he was awarded $142,500 for work he did in 2014 before his termination. O’Donnell was also awarded $95,000 in unpaid wages in a separate case.