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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 09:42 GMT
The golden age of videogames
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Bioshock
Bioshock is one of the most celebrated games of the year

Edge magazine is notoriously parsimonious when it comes to handing out 10 out of 10 review scores for video games but in the past three issues there have been three of them.

Halo 3, The Orange Box and Super Mario Galaxy have all been awarded one of the highest accolades in gaming - a perfect score from Edge. And plenty of other games have been given near perfect scores also - from Bioshock to Crysis, Drake's Fortune and Call of Duty 4.

The Edge scores are just one of a number of signs that reinforce a growing feeling that videogames are enjoying a golden age.

It is not just that the interactive experiences are getting ever more immersive, or the industry is being taken ever more seriously, but hardware and software sales are up significantly on last year - buoyed by a new generation of consoles and the work of developers who are beginning to exploit the tools they have at their disposal.
A lot of the games are sequels and I would like to see more innovation
Margaret Robertson, games consultant

"You have to look at the maturity of platforms in part to answer why there are currently so many good games out there," said Tony Mott, editor of Edge magazine.

"It's difficult to say across the board that games are getting better. But we are seeing publishers being more careful about the quality of games that they release.

"And there are so many good games out now that some publishers are holding titles back to next year."

The industry also looks to have found a way to blend the loose attractions of casual and social gaming with the hardcore experiences beloved by the seasoned player.

GAMES OF THE YEAR?
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy (pictured) - 97.3%
The Orange Box - 96.1%
Bioshock - 95.3%
Call of Duty 4 - 95.1%
Halo 3 - 93.2%
God of War 2 - 93%
Mass Effect - 93%
Crysis - 91%
Drake's Fortune - 89%
Project Gotham Racing 4 - 87%
Assassin's Creed - 84.5%
Gamesrankings.com aggregates review scores

Margaret Robertson, a former editor of Edge and now a games consultant, said long-standing gamers were spending more money on games and a whole new audience had been introduced to gaming for the first time.

"There are now more ways than ever to spend money on video games - from consoles to handhelds, supplementary purchases online via Live Arcade, Virtual Console and the PlayStation Network to games on your iPod.

"The evidence of what Nintendo has done to attract people to games for the first time with the DS and the Wii is unmistakably clear."

This year will be remembered as the year the Wii took centre stage as the console of choice for families, the year PlayStation 3 finally showed its promise in real terms and the Xbox 360 hit its stride with the 5th anniversary of online service Xbox Live.

It is also the year of the handheld with Nintendo DS and PSP continuing to sell explosively, the year PC gaming began its renaissance and developers got to grips with tools that allowed them to tell stories in new, dynamic ways.

I have been publicly criticised for saying that we are yet to see a next generation game in terms of gameplay. And I stand by that
David Braben, Frontier Games

Developer David Amor, creative director of Relentless games: "This is the second generation of titles on consoles and speaking as a developer, we are now benefiting from the tools that these machines offer.

David Braben, founder of Frontier games, agreed: "This new generation of machines is now bedding down with developers. A crop of quality titles emerging simultaneously is typical at this point in a console's lifecycle.

"I have been publicly criticised for saying that we are yet to see a next generation game in terms of gameplay. And I stand by that."

Mr Amor added: "I found myself queuing at the local video game store the other day and that hasn't happened for a long time. There is a batch of very good games out at the moment and I'm finding myself putting TV and movies to one side to play video games.

Titles like Assassin's Creed and Mass Effect have also helped raise the profile of games with big budget advertising campaigns, and an emphasis on storyline and production values. Both are expected to join the ranks of million-plus sellers this year.

Margaret Robertson said the market growth for games this year had been "explosive and phenomenal". Sales in the US are up 50% on last year and the Christmas figures are still to come.

Call of Duty 4
First person shooters like Call of Duty 4 are ever more realistic

"On the strength of sales alone 2007 has been the greatest year in gaming - that much is certain," she said

But she said the industry was also showing signs of maturity.

"This year we have had the huge titles like Halo 3, The Orange Box and Super Mario Galaxy, which have had huge success and deservedly so.

"But it's almost the next tier down - games like Project Gotham Racing 4, Call Of Duty 4, Ratchet and Clank and God of War 2 - where there has been such ambition and confidence that you can now almost take the quality for granted. It's very encouraging."

She added: "A lot of the games are sequels and I would like to see more innovation."

Mr Braben said it was ironic that the games getting all the praise are the least representative of the industry as a whole.

"Games like Bioshock and Halo 3 are made for the hardcore gamer while there is a widening family appeal of games and gaming that is less talked about.

"2007 will probably be remembered as the year of the Wii," he added.



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