The Alternative Game of the Year Awards 2011 Happy New Years, folks. It's the time of the year where we convene with our families, over-indulge in everything bad for us and watch the same films you watch every year once again, you know, for old-times sake. It's also the time of the year in which video game outlets start waxing lyrical about what they think the "Game of the Year" was, giving publishers a reason to release a "Game of the Year" edition of their title including all the DLC early adopters had to shell-out for. But, I'm not here to give rise to yet another re-released game, instead here's the "alternative" Game of the Year awards, where we award companies for their shameful actions and punish poor judgement... Mostly because we can! So without further ado, let's start naming and shaming.

Biggest Cock-Up of the Year Award

The "Biggest Cock-Up of the Year Award" is given to the company which managed to balls something up so bad that it makes E.T. The Video Game look a bit more favourable by comparison. Let's look at the nominations:

Sony Computer Entertainment for the Playstation Network Security Breach

You knew this was coming, so why not get it out of the way. It's not so much the security breach itself which is why Sony has been nominated for this award, although it seems that anecdotal evidence does suggest that Sony was rather flippant about Playstation Network security, no, this award is being given for Sony's complete failure to communicate when, arguably, the biggest data protection violation in the last decade occurred on their watch. Millions of user's personal information and encrypted credit card numbers fell into the hands of hackers. It took Sony a whole week to admit personal information was stolen and even longer to come clean about the true extent of the breach. In the day and age of the internet, such a delay is unacceptable.

Nintendo for the Launch of the Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo 3DS (Cosmos Black)
Name the last big-name console released which was met with extremely poor sales and the eventual price drop by about 35% within six months of release. Well, that's the story of the Nintendo 3DS. Over priced, under-featured and undeniably rushed to market, the Nintendo 3DS was rejected by-and-large by consumers. The only people willing to pony up cash for the device were Nintendo's die-hard fans who would eventually get given downloadable Virtual Console games from the NES and Gameboy Advance for their early-adopting troubles. Mix that in with a lacklustre games library for the first 8 months and you have yourself one hell of a mess.

EA & Activision for the Launch of Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty Elite

One soldier wishes the instructions weren't written so small on the launcher.
Picture this, you're a multi-national, multi-million dollar video game publisher and you have a title which you know will bring in millions upon millions of gamers, day-one, to your online-multiplayer-focused video game. Do you ensure the service you're giving to gamers is fit for purpose? Well, of course not. And this is exactly what EA and Activision did for their two big titles this year; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. In the case of Battlefield, the multiplayer servers were over-capacity for the first few days as EA struggled to meet demand, despite hosting both a public Alpha and Beta of the game and having massive demand for the title at conventions. Activision, on the other hand, didn't have problems getting gamers into the multiplayer itself, but the add-on component of the service; Call of Duty: Elite which is a premium service for die-hard fans. In either case, the shortages were unbecoming of companies which really should have anticipated such demand for their products. Hence their nominations.

The winner of the Biggest Cock-Up of the Year Award is... Sony, for the Playstation Network Security Breach.

It was the obvious one to pick, sure. But let's put nonsensical brand affections aside for a moment and realise that the scope and scale of the Playstation Network security breach was massive and communication during this breach was essential to those highest at risk of fraud and eventual phishing attacks. Trying to hide the breach while they starting running PR damage-control does not inspire confidence nor respect.

Special Mention: Shout out to Paul Christforo of Ocean Marketting for his on-going internal detonation after a PR disaster of monumental proportions. If you haven't heard the story yet, you can read the whole debacle right here. Sadly, his efforts came too late to make the normal nominations, but we have to page homage to a delusional man who refuses to properly apologise as his entire world falls apart around him.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year

This award is given to products, services or whatever else which has disappointed to the point of frustration. Don't think much more has to be said, roll on the nominees:

2K Games for Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever
Why, oh why, oh why, oh why did they ever have to release this game. Duke Nukem Forever is, ironically enough, a timeless staple of bad video game management and how people just can't let things die gracefully. Duke Nukem Forever, originally slated for release 12 years ago and in development for 14 years has often been the running joke for all things vapourware in the video game industry. It enshrined itself in video game lore by failing to launch for over a decade, but when the game eventually hit store shelves, the sad truth that The Duke's so-called return was to end in tears. A just-playable, barely passable, outdated First Person Shooter is what fans received, a far cry from the hype that surrounded the game since before the days of Half Life.

Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo 3DS eShop's Japanese Launch
You can probably tell a trend emerging here, but Nintendo's latest handheld creation's launch was a catastrophe of proportions barely seen in the modern video game industry. While the original Nintendo DS wasn't all that powerful, looked somewhat ugly at launch and was experimenting in unfamiliar, casual-friendly waters, it was priced right and had a solid near-launch title lineup. The same things cannot be said about the Nintendo 3DS. The rushed-to-market system omitted several key features at launch, such as the Nintendo eShop and the in-built web browser. Putting aside the re-releases of Nintendo 64 games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Starfox 64 3D, the game lacked any sort of competent or enjoyable games for 8 months or so. However much you may enjoy these titles, I for one do not enter into consoles for re-releases of games which were more at home on the previous Nintendo handheld.

Microsoft and Sony for Motion Controls

Motion Controls!
Last year, Microsoft and Sony unveiled their untimely solution to their "Wii Problem". Nintendo caught them off-guard with their unusual approach to the home console market back in 2006 and hoping to ride the storm, Microsoft and Sony dismissed the Wii as a gimmick. 200 million units later, Sony and Microsoft are now more willing to cash-in on what they once saw as a non-issue with Sony's Playstation Move controllers and Microsoft's Kinect sensor. Both intriguing new takes on motion controllers, both coincidentally using cameras to track 1:1 motion. Sadly, by the time these gadgets hit the market, Wii-Fever was over. The Nintendo Wii has lost all traction, new releases are few and far between, especially when looking for quality products. The mini-era of motion controls has all be disappeared, which leaves Microsoft and Sony peddling their solutions to a problem which already solved itself. And it shows, Microsoft is now trying to shoe-horn in support for Kinect any way they can with Mass Effect 3 acquiring voice commands with Kinect and some limited features in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition. Sony, meanwhile, continues to have an unsteady stream of casual-orientated Playstation Move titles and gimmicky, slapped-on control options for more "Core" titles such as Resistance 3. Neither of which are entirely convincing nor worth the investment in their prospective systems to bother.

And the winners are... Sony and Microsoft for Motion Controls!

It mustn't be easy for companies to have their market swept from under them, not after huge financial investment in the new control methods. Still, it's not all doom and gloom for the companies themselves, Kinect is finding a nice home in non-gaming applications and a healthy homebrew community being built around it. Sony will likely continue to dish out worthless casual titles for the remainder of the Playstation 3's lifespan and try to bundle-off the Move as best as possible to make up for the shortfall in direct consumer interest. How much benefit this will bring to gamers and consumers in general is... Well, depressing. Let's just leave it at that.

Best-Worse Video Game Title of the Year

This is a bit of a hastily thrown-together section and I'll be honest, it's merely here so I can make snide comments, so here it goes...

Konami for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

Oh yes, when Konami and Kojima Productions revealed that Metal Gear Solid: Rising was not only cancelled, but rebooted into a more action-orientated title along the lines of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, many fans howled at what they saw as Konami betraying them. And while they may have a valid claim, frankly, this is all outdone by the game's re-worked title: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, because Revenge or Vengeance itself just wasn't powerful enough to convey... The same thing, basically. Don't think this isn't a call to change that title, Konami. You don't dare touch Revengeance. There's a level of absurdity in that title which just makes it awesome. Oh and since this is the only nomination, I suppose it wins this award. Congratulations!

Most Underperforming Platform of 2011

This one's a big 'en, but let us explain what we mean by "underperforming". Essentially, it's a platform, be it a console or service, doesn't matter, which has failed to deliver to consumers and fans alike. Can't get much clearer than that. So let's look at the nominees:

Nintendo for the Ninendo Wii

Rumoured Red Nintendo Wii console for Europe
I doubt I'll be corrected for pointing out that the glory days of the Nintendo Wii are over. It's been 5 years since it's fateful release in 2006 and the momentum of the reasonably priced system has come to a spluttering end. Attempts to breathe life into the system with the launch of the Wii Motion Plus and subsequent Wii Remote Plus controllers with the functionality built-in haven't inspired developers to make much more than countless minigame compilations and Ubisoft to release more of it's "Imagine" range upon an unsuspecting casual audience. While The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword or Xenoblade are signs of quality products still being released for the system, sadly, two eggs don't make an omelette. Not in the video game industry, anyway.

Microsoft for Kinect

Microsoft Kinect
As mentioned previously, the Kinect has had a pretty bumpy life and while it has already shared an award with Sony's Playstation Move for being a disappointment to gamers expecting innovative games based around full-body motion sensing, what they got instead was tacked-on gimmicks found in Mass Effect 3, Halo: CE Anniversary and even Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, none of which have or will add to the game in any significant way and the best we have received from purpose-built Kinect titles has been "The Black Eyed Peas Experience", "Disneyland Adventures" and "Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster". The only decent Kinect game so far has seemed to be Twisted Pixel's "The Gunstringer" mostly because of its flawless delivery. Hardly the innovative, controlled-free future we were sold so many-a-moons-ago.

Sony for Playstation Move

Playstation Move
Ah, well this is awkward. Seems one rant about how the Playstation Move has simply attempted to copy-paste Nintendo's best-selling strategy onto it's own just wasn't enough. There's several reasons why people flocked to the Nintendo Wii in their droves. While Microsoft was selling their be-all-and-end-all of entertainment for £240+ and Sony was lingering around the £300 mark both for the most basic model of the system sans-bundled-in-games, Nintendo was gladly offering up their system for £180 complete with Wii Sports. The system appealed to everyone with it's new, innovative motion-sensing controller. Fast forward to 2010, where Sony is still selling it's console for £280 without the additional cost of the Playstation Move controllers and camera required, it's not hard to see why people aren't lapping up what Sony has to offer on the motion-sensing front. Especially not when support for Move is lacking and where it is found is often either shovelware or clumsily added to First Person Shooters for no good reason.

And the winner is... Sony for the Playstation Move

I know this one will sting for all Move owners and lovers alike but if it's any consolation, I didn't make up my mind on this award until the very last moment before publication. In the end, I acknowledged that Nintendo, even though they made the bed they lie in, are doing the best they can with their already-outdated-before-release console and supporting it with 1st party gold like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Microsoft is trying to facilitate those who bought the Kinect with a new dashboard interface tailored more towards them, not to mention some of the games which only really work on Kinect like Dance Central 2 or the "Experience" games... Even if it is the only new sub-genre to emerge from the Kinect so far. The Playstation Move just doesn't seem to have found its stride yet, and that's assuming it ever will. All we've seen from the peripheral is some shoe-horned First Person Shooter controls and games which would have been considered impressive as Wii launch titles. And for these very reasons, the Playstation Move can take this award.

Biggest arse who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near video game development ever again award

Yeah, well, that award exists. So let's see that nomination:

Brendan McNamara for L.A. Noire

It would be naive of anyone to assume that video game development is as glamorous as many would like to make it out to be. It's not. It's low-paid, high-stress, deadline driven work which is often thankless, much like any line of software engineering. But people do it because they love it and love the challenge. The least you can expect out of your line of work is to be surrounded by people you trust and rely on to get the job done. Sadly, for those who worked on the long-winded development of Rockstar Games and Team Bondi's 1940's detective thriller; L.A. Noire, things couldn't have been further from those expectations. Nicknamed the "Sweatshop in Sydney", Team Bondi was a place where people's dreams and aspirations of a career in video game development went to die. Long hours, unpaid overtime and an over-controlling, completely dismissive management made work at Team Bondi unbearable. The studio had an unusually high turn-over of staff as people's contract of employment changed unexpectedly, making working hours longer for no compensation of that time while the company continued to heavily invest in facial-capture technology which would ultimately define L.A. Noire as a game, but at the same time completely bankrupt the company after just a single title, this award cannot go to anyone but Brendan McNamara.

If you're interested in reading the specifics about just how awful the development process of L.A. Noire was, I direct you towards this Eurogamer article which will spell everything you need to know about this man and what a complete arse he is. Unfortunately, you'll be sad to hear that the man has already found himself home at another development studio (KMM Interactive) working on the subtly titled "Whore of the Orient". If I were you, boycott anything this man touches.

Best Show of Concept for Fans and Consumers At Large

And for our closing award this year, ladies and gentlemen, perhaps the most important award of the evening. This award is given to the entity, company, publisher, developer, news outlet, etc. which has shown a complete and flagrant disregard for fans and paying customers by-and-large. Let's check out the nominees:

Multiple publishers for Online Passes

Online Pass
You know what? I quite happily left behind the 90's and the early naught-ies. It seems we had finally left the days of the annoying "CD key" behind us by-and-large. Sure, PC gamers have to put up with draconian DRM which requires them at the very least to activate games online, some of which even insisting they play single-player, offline titles while connected to the internet, with any interruption to that connection bringing your whole game to a stand-still. That, unfortunately, doesn't look to be changing any time soon. However, a change that has recently started to affect all paying customers, not just those who game on a platform hosting a high rate of piracy, is the rise of publishers looking to destroy pre-owned game sales by limiting functionality of games not purchased brand-spanking new. This mostly affects online multiplayer as seen with Online Passes being distributed in game boxes, these passes are one-time-redeemable vouchers which enable aforementioned functionality. The passes can also be purchased for around £8 off various digital online stores, with many games more than happy to take you to the Online Pass Purchase Screen through the in-game menus. While I sympathise with publishers going after pirates who aren't contributing anything to the video game industry, I do not sympathise when they punish those who can't otherwise afford to buy the game. I think the industry might want to take a long, hard look at how it prices games and try to entice those who are looking to save a little money off the price of a £40 game, rather chastise them for being poor... Especailly when many countries are turning the screws on austerity measures, hitting everyone's pockets right now. Just a thought.

Nintendo for yes, you guessed it, various things about the Nintendo 3DS I haven't moaned about yet

Nintendo eShop logo
Where was I? Oh yes, so Nintendo had a bit of a bad time with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS. So bad they had a huge price-slashing session which left some early adopters out of pocket. You always run the gauntlet of things falling apart when you make an early leap into a product or service. Sometimes you can get burned and this is exactly what happened to Nintendo 3DS owners... But most the time, when things end up going awry, big, well-known companies or organisations go out their way to make up for the error and thank early adopters for their support. It's all about building brand loyalty. "But Chris", you cry, "Nintendo gave us 20 free games for our troubles". And you are correct, but they are 20 "free" games which Nintendo are no longer making money off-of in the first place. For some people who lost-out on around £55 for supporting their beloved company, 10 NES games and 10 Gameboy Advance titles, some of which they could already own on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console or actually own the original game of in some form feels a little hollow. Nintendo also gets bonus points for getting rid of their digital currency; Nintendo Points and use real-world currencies... But then insists on you adding funds to your account in £10 increments in order to buy things off their digital, in-console store. Nice.

Various publishers... Again for day-one DLC which removes content from the actual game to be served up as pre-order bonuses or rewards for buying the game new

Batman: Arkham City
Now, you didn't think I would miss this one too, did you? Day-one DLC is nothing new to games in 2011, much like online passes, which have existed for some time now... But it's getting to the tipping point now. So many games are pushing digital pre-order bonuses that it can be a little bit maddening. And as you may have guessed, not all of these games will have purpose-made content especially for pre-order bonuses. Somewhere along the line, that content has to come from somewhere and where else would they find content to re-package than in the retail product itself. Perhaps the best example of this can be found in the day-one DLC of this year's Batman Arkham City. Players who purchased the game new acquired the ability to download the Catwoman "DLC" for free through a redeemable, online-pass-like code on the first day of release... Meanwhile, those who preordered the game at any participating retailer was handed a code for a costume for Batman to wear, although there were about a dozen different skins unique to each participating retailer... Not that I pine for the old days of the Nintendo 64, but these player skins used to be unlockables in games. Now they're micro-transactions waiting to happen. Roll on the fun times!

And the winner is, Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS

They couldn't get away with three nominations and not a single victory to take away with them, could they? But I think we can all agree that since the above three are indeed actually happening at the moment, we're all losers thanks to them. So here's a big round of applause for greed and never letting good business get in the way of making obscene profits. Here, here!

And the wrap-up.

So that's it for this year. Hope you're all happy with the nominations and winners, I know I'm sure not. So Happy New Years, folks, hope 2012 in gaming doesn't provide enough fuel for another of these awards... Who am I kidding? Of course it will! So, see you next year, same place, same time.