Happy New Year! However, I am sorry to say that it was not a happy occasion for our old friend, correct-football-team-supporting EA Sports president Peter Moore, who has expressed his public disappointment at the absence of FIFA 09 and Tiger Woods 09 from Eurogamer's Top 50 Games of 2008.
Peter, who was watching the list like a hawk (or perhaps a Liver bird), believes the games are among the 50 best of the year, and he also questions some of the other positions, including Mass Effect (49) and Mario Kart Wii (41).
As it happens, so do I! But, as we discussed before Christmas, the formula is designed to highlight games that our staff and core contributors have played - whether through choice or obligation - and then enjoyed over the year. We take top ten lists from our core staff and contributors, and combine them to produce the list of 50 games, which we then comment on as a group. Unfortunately for Peter, we sports fans form a minority of Eurogamer's editorial staff.
However, Peter's post is helpful, because it illustrates a problem that I was planning to address on this blog today anyway. Despite attempts to make the format clearer - and to mitigate any bad feeling by publishing the Readers' Top 50 Games of 2008 first - perfectly sensible and intelligent people still make the wrong assumption about the list we're presenting.
They question absences (such as FIFA and Tiger, but also Dead Space and Call of Duty: World at War), and surprisingly lowly placing (such as Mass Effect), and in the absence of immediate context reach the wrong conclusion. FIFA, Tiger and friends aren't disliked, but if they fail to make a contributor's top ten, they may not appear. Similarly, Mass Effect isn't disliked, but having been released on Xbox 360 last year it enjoyed most of its success in our 2007 list. The reverse is often true as well: LittleBigPlanet's victory this year, for example, relied on its presence in the majority of contributors' lists, but it was seldom number one. Its profile and popularity nonetheless carried it highest.
Most damaging of all though, people still believe we are presenting these as the definitive games of the year when, as the above illustrates, we are not. The Readers' Top 50, to which over a thousand people contributed, reflects much broader tastes.
Obviously it's a shame people get the wrong impression about our own list. But it would be an even greater shame, I feel, if we didn't consider ways to address that in future. I believe the Top 50 writers' commentary on each game is great fun (a few snipes excepted!), and I want to preserve that. However, there may be a better way of presenting our favourite games of the year without winding people up. It's meant to be a celebration of the year's games, after all. So we'll spend a bit of time in 2009 considering where to take it. You'll still get a list, and we'll still say what we think about our favourite games, but hopefully you - and Peter - will be able to enjoy the results without recourse to pitchforks.
Incidentally, speaking of Peter, I've had a rummage around, and would you believe what I found down the back of Eurogamer's Liverpool FC memorial sofa? Two long lost entries in the Eurogamer Top 50 Games of 2008! Enjoy - and at least on this occasion, humour us the format? Once again, Happy New Year.
Eurogamer's Top 50 Games of 2008 Extra, Inspired by Peter Moore's Internet Fishing Trip!
0. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
EA Sports / PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, PSP
Dan Whitehead: Along with tennis, golf is one of those sports that I only ever enjoy in its digitised form. Over the past few years, Tiger Woods has quietly evolved into the most fully-featured golf game since the mighty Links, turning into a layered and engrossing simulation that doesn't forget to add enough videogamey flourishes to take the edge off the stuffier aspects of the sport. By bringing the Gamer.net challenges into the solo game, allowing you to compete against players from around the world on every fairway, green and final putt, Tiger Woods 09 found a way to bring clubhouse competitiveness to the joypad. Simultaneous online play, meanwhile, is the sort of idea you'd hope to see in every other golf game. Admittedly, for all its imposing features, the core game could do with a little more stat balancing - or at least a realistic mode for the golfing hardcore where experienced players can't finish 40 under par on every hole. But then you remember this is also one of the only series to offer a Wii version equal if not superior to its big boy console counterparts in several key areas. Combine the expansive online play and in-depth career options of the PS3 and 360 with the nuanced Wii controls and you'd have the greatest golf game of all time. Roll on 2010.
-1. FIFA 09
EA Sports / PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, PS2, PSP, DS
Johnny Minkley: When PES 2009 arrived shortly after the latest FIFA I hedged my bets at first and called it a score-draw. I thought securing the Champions League licence was a solid enhancement, and probably had my head turned a little too easily by the official inclusion of Man Utd (stuff the scousers). In reality, of course, FIFA's always been leagues ahead in authenticity and still is. But it's also, as I came to realise over time, now a better game. In picking personal favourites of the year, annually updated sports games have a tougher job than most in recommending themselves simply due to over-familiarity and a general lack of signal innovation. FIFA 09, however, taken on its own merits is a cracker and EA, for this season at least, is king of the kickabout. But please, for God's sake, ditch the irritating, self-regarding and utterly unnecessary EA Sports animation that runs before every replay. Or just replace it with a short clip of John Terry crying - I'd never tire of watching that.
Tom Bramwell: EA may not be the biggest publisher in the world any more, but it's still got some of the biggest game series, and this year crowned FIFA's ascent from mere commercial banker with critical acclaim to match. Not for the first time, but with the most conviction, we said that FIFA has beaten Pro Evolution Soccer. With the benefit of hindsight, it's more one-sided than anyone anticipated. PES isn't so much stuck in a rut, as stuck in a matrix of criss-crossing diagonal ruts that restrict player movement, and stifle footballing creativity. FIFA, on the other hand, gives players so much freedom that its defences are arguably slightly too robust, lest they never contain the attacking fluency of their opponents. The balance works though, and FIFA ultimately rewards football with the rewards of football. Although I still think Rooney's about to assault Ronaldinho on the front cover.