The Christmas and New Year break affords us a chance for reflection; a glance over the shoulder at a year passed, the games released, the games announced, the shows that have been and gone and the promise of the year ahead.
There were major headlines: Microsoft announcing Project Natal and Sony revealing the PS3 wand, the introduction of Wii MotionPlus, DSi, PS3 Slim and PSPgo. Apple's iPhone also boosted mobile gaming, Michael Jackson died and Twitter took over the internet. All that amidst a global recession.
But what stood out for developers, retailers, executives and analysts?
Who better to start with than Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft's group product manager for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live? Well, Bill Gates would have been nice but we couldn't get hold of him. Greenberg was staggered by the "overwhelming and overwhelmingly positive response to Natal", he told us, and the fact the E3 booth for it was visited by some "very famous creators from other companies".
Ubisoft has apparently promised to make more games for Natal than "any other peripheral coming out in the next 12 months" - "any peripheral" in this case being Sony's PS3 wand, due springtime. Combine the unveiling of Natal, "late night shows" and "The Beatles on our stage", and Greenberg said you had Microsoft's biggest ever E3, which was his highlight of 2009.
Jason Avent, game director for Pure at Brighton's Black Rock Studio (and therefore my old next door neighbour, fact fans), reckoned Microsoft stole the show. "E3 was great in 2009, and in my opinion the most exciting and important thing to come out of that was Natal. If it works it has masses of potential," he said, adding that "Develop in Brighton was the best yet this year too."
Greenberg continued: "Finally, congrats to Infinity Ward and Activision on the biggest game of the year - look forward to passing the crown next year to Halo: Reach." Always on-message.
Activision's Modern Warfare 2 wasn't just a highlight for 2009 but a landmark for the industry as a whole, showing us "just how big videogames can be these days", according to Antti Ilvessuo, co-founder of Trials HD developer RedLynx.
And the arrival of Modern Warfare 2 and its ilk was a time for retailers like ShopTo's Igor Cipolletta to celebrate. "The biggest triumph of the year has to be the return to prominence of the gamers' titles rather than the year being dominated by casual games like 2008," he claimed. "Great games like Uncharted 2, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising have been a huge success for us."
Modern Warfare 2 may have provided the mainstream media with a new post-GTAIV poster-child, but the hearts of the industry belonged to another: to Batman's second coming in Arkham Asylum.
"The biggest triumph was, without question, Batman: Arkham Asylum," declared Michael Pachter, analyst for investment bank Wedbush Morgan Securities - a man we hadn't expected to actually like games if we're honest. "An unknown developer took a previously unsuccessful licence and turned it into one of the highest rated games of the year. Bravo to Rocksteady for making the first melee game that I've enjoyed in years," he added.
Split/Second game director Nick Baynes was also "surprised" and "blown away" by Arkham Asylum, which sounds painful. "The combat was sublime and Arkham itself was a really well-realised, cohesive environment," he offered, although "the comedy final boss fight in Arkham Asylum was a bit of a letdown".
Baynes' highlight of 2009 was showing the incredibly promising Split/Second to the public "after being gagged from talking about it for two years". You may have seen the game at the Eurogamer Expo 2009. "The reaction since has been amazing," beamed Baynes, who also like New Super Mario Bros. Wii for its soothing contrast to "blowing s*** up all day".
"The biggest low for me, though, was getting a replacement iPhone and discovering that the App Store doesn't back up your save-games so I had to start everything from scratch again," he growled, probably. "But I guess that goes to show it wasn't a bad year really, was it?"
Colleague Jason Avent picked out Batman: Arkham Asylum as a memorable game of 2009 alongside Killzone 2, Red Faction: Guerrilla and Uncharted 2. "But Demon's Souls beat the lot of them in competition for my gamer's heart," gushed Avent, who's consequent low point was "finding out that it wasn't being published here".
While today we may look back and smile, 2009 was tough year for the entire global economy, even our robust videogame industry. Carlos Bordeau, co-founder of Zeno Clash developer ACE Team, reflected: "The one thing that came to mind as both an initial triumph but then a failure was the industry's reaction to the economic crisis after many had declared us impervious to it," recalled Bordeau.
"A bucket of cold water fell on everyone's head when layoffs began and studios closed. Here in Chile we weren't worried about the recession but eventually it caught us up and hurt us more than anticipated. We, the industry, were arrogant, and that was a failure of 2009," he said.
Antti Ilvessuo watched from a similar position. "At first we thought the games industry would be safe when bad times hit. But that's not been the case. How could it be? Games are part of the wider economy, and the games business is a significant industry. Really big studios have been shut down and talented people have been laid off. That's sad, but that's typical of any industry facing such a reality," rued Ilvessuo.
One of those "really big studios" was EA, where a reported 1500 staff have been cut loose. "Although they're viewed as the big evil empire, I felt bad about EA falling to bits," recalled Jason Avent. Sony also felt the sting following the launch of the PSPgo, which didn't so much make waves as sink. As Avent put it: "PSPgo went." But, as he hastened to add, digital distribution really is the future, and, like Braid last year, 2009 had its indie champions as well.
"This year was a clear success for downloadable and digitally distributed games," said Antti Ilvessuo, who made one of the very best: Trials HD. "All the online console services became more widely known and grew, and Apple showed the world the true potential of mobile games. All in all there were more better quality games downloadable games and a bigger variety of them, and as a result more people played and talked about them.
"For RedLynx specifically Trials HD has been a triumph," he added. "Before launch pretty much nobody knew about the game nor about RedLynx, even though we had been making good smaller games for quite some time. From being an underdog or sorts to success, 2009 has been huge ride to us!"
For video too, thanks to Microsoft's Zune HD movie player and Sony's new PS3 film rental service, business has blossomed. But for media genre that started it all, music (no, not pornography), the future isn't so bright.
"I would say the biggest failure was the precipitous decline of the music genre, likely to be down overall by 50 per cent year-over-year, in spite of the introductions of The Beatles: Rock Band and DJ Hero," analysed Michael Pachter the analyst. "It's really staggering how much the genre tapered off, and the music decline represented over 50 per cent of the overall sales decline for the year."
Oh, and Antti Ilvessuo told us he has decided to ditch downhill skiing for "swim jumping", whatever that is, because he kept injuring himself. "I'll have to face the truth," he sighed. "I'm old. And fat."
As 2010 rolls around the unusually full Q1 calendar is bursting with brilliant games. And as in 2009, Eurogamer will bring you up-to-date, punchy coverage of everything as it happens. Perhaps even when we're asleep. And we're doing some of those other things we mentioned, like a podcast, starting very soon...
We hope you had a lovely Christmas, and do please share your opinion on the highs and lows of 2009 below. Then forget about 2009, because we're back tomorrow. 2010 baby.