Yesterday we talked you through our 2009 picks for Indie and Esoterica, which is us at our most self-indulgent, so today we turn to what will be some of the biggest and most profitable games of 2009. Quality, after all, is not anathema to profit.
Nor are profits driven solely by shooting monsters in the face in post-apocalyptic American cities. The best-selling game of 2009 was FIFA 09, with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games in the top five. Wii Sports is included with every Wii, and drives many of its mainstream sales. And the model of annual iterations attracts less scorn as the quality improves, to the extent that those working in other genres are now critically and commercially envious. As The New Yorker considers whether grungy shooters will make it in the real world, sports games already have.
Wii Sports Resort
On: Wii / Developer: Nintendo EAD / Publisher: Nintendo / Release date: Spring
Wii Sports didn't even need its oft-forgotten depth to succeed, as the tactile bowling, tennis and boxing prospered on multiplayer alone. Nintendo Channel statistics for the US suggest the average console has logged over 35 hours with it. And yet we may never know how a Wii Sports game sells on its own. It was indivisible from the Wii itself, and Wii Sports Resort - still listed for spring - is ensured success thanks to the inclusion of one-to-one "Wiimote 2" add-on the MotionPlus.
Then again, you could easily say the opposite. MotionPlus will struggle to find a better back to piggy than another Wii Sports, and don't expect to begrudge Nintendo another game with a tail to shame the Large Hadron Collider, either. There are reportedly more than ten games in total, and the initial three recorded pin-sharp measurements with promising results at E3 2008 - particularly tossing a frisbee to a dog or taking a stick to a friend in kendo. (We hope it's not too late to throw out a vote for French cricket, by the way, or Boules Lyonnaise.)
It's become fashionable to knock the Wii as it falls into disuse in hardcore households, but that's often because third parties have struggled to make the most of the Wiimote. Nintendo got it right first time. What excites us about Wii Sports Resort is partly the prospect of a MotionPlus champion to match, but also the lessons Nintendo EAD must have learned in the intervening period, and the impact they could have on Wii development in the years that follow.
Supporting Cast (in alphabetical order)
EA Sports Tennis
On: Wii (other formats may follow) / Developer: EA Canada / Publisher: EA Sports / Release date: 2009
EA Sports has been charitably absent from the tennis game genre, allowing 2K Sports (Top Spin) and SEGA (Virtua Tennis) to assert their authority at intervals. Taking them on directly would be ambitious, but dull. Coming at them from the side, MotionPlus in hand, is altogether more interesting.
On: Every format ever / Developer: EA Canada / Publisher: EA Sports / Release date: 2009 (our money's on 2nd October)
It's the biggest-selling game in the UK, but do games journalists take it seriously? Peter Moore has his doubts. We won't know how FIFA 2010 plans to expand upon Be-A-Pro, Adidas Live Season and 09's excellent core gameplay for a few months yet, but we seriously want to know.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010
On: Every format / Developer: EA Tiburon / Publisher: EA Sports / Release date: 2009 (we'll go for 28th August)
One of the few EA Sports games better known for critical than commercial success in its early years, Tiger Woods 09 found a new path to old heights with smart features like Club Tuner, simultaneous multiplayer and Real Time Swing Feedback that improved the core experience without ripping it up for no reason. Enough to make this list on philosophy alone.
Tony Hawk's Adrenaline
On: PS3, Xbox 360, PC / Developer: TBC! / Publisher: Activision / Release date: Autumn
Neversoft has moved on, and Skate has moved the trucks, but Activision isn't giving up. "You're not going to be playing this game with a controller in your hands," a publishing executive told an advertising conference in December, suggesting that we can lay our high-scores combo-goggles to rest as well (and make some plastic-shaped room under the bed for six weeks after release?).
Activision needn't wait long to discover what Adrenaline's aiming at, as Skate 2 is out on 23rd January; Eidos launches Championship Manager 2009 in late April, but only after Sports Interactive goes online with Football Manager Live, with FM 2010 no doubt brewing for the middle of Q4 already; and Atari gets back on the balance board in We Ski & Snowboard (out in Japan) very soon. We're not counting out Pro Evolution Soccer, either - even in an off year, it's sold twice or three times as many copies as higher-profile action and adventure games released for Christmas.