2009 is now upon us and we here at MMORPG.com would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year. As is our custom here, we want to kick off the year by announcing the winners of the 2008 Reader's Choice Awards. In each entry, we will give you the choice of the fans, as well along with a little bit of "editor's choice" commentary.
Before we announce the results of the voting for Biggest News Story of 2008, we want to take this opportunity to thank everyoe for taking the time to vote. In the overall awards, more than 26,000 votes were cast.
In the voting for Biggest News Story, 2202 votes were cast. The editorial nominees were: Tabula Rasa's Closure, Activision / Blizzard Merger, Age of Conan Directorial Change, Bioware Announces The Old Republic, Star Trek Online Re-Announcement, and WAR Ditches Cities and Careers.
With 46.8% of the vote, the winner of the Biggest News Story of 2008 was Bioware's Announcement that their secret MMO project was indeed the rumored MMORPG incarnation of the Knights of the Old Republic frnachise, titled Star Wars:The Old Republic.
The voting broke down as such:
Activision / Blizzard Merger
Age of Conan Directorial Change
Bioware Announces The Old Republic
Star Trek Online Re-Announcement
Tabula Rasa Closure
WAR Ditches Cities and Careers
(login to vote)
This story was a long one in the making. In March of 2006, Canadian video game developer Bioware announced that they would be opening a new studio, dedicated to building a new MMORPG, in Austin, Texas. The catch was that while MMORPG fans everywhere knew that the popular development studio was working on a game for their genre, they had no idea what that game would be. Needless to say, speculation started almost immediately and from day one, a single popular theory emerged; that the Austin studio was working on an MMORPG adaptation of one of their most popular and critically acclaimed single player titles: Knights of the Old Republic.
There were a few problems with the theory though, aside from the fact that despite numerous attempts by an eager gaming media to get confirmation on the rumor, the Bioware bosses weren't talking, there was also the small matter of a currently existing Star Wars MMO title in the form of SOE's Star Wars Galaxies. No one knew whether LucasArts would license their franchise to two competing.
The speculation continued for nearly two years until on July 17th, 2008, John Riccitiello, the CEO of Electronic Arts, let it slip in an interview with portfolio.com that Boware Austin's secret MMO project was indeed Star Wars based. Generally speaking, that would have been the end of the situation, but even after the interview, we received no official confirmation from Bioware, Austin.
What was jokingly known as the worst kept secret in the MMO industry was finally "revealed" in a fancy press conference on October 21st, 2008 and with all of that lead-up, the MMORPG.com voters overwhelmingly decided that this announcement was the #1 news story of 2008.
This was one of my favorite categories in the voting this year. I think it's because there was such a variety of good,solid and interesting news stories. Some were long and drawn out, like this year's winner, while others were sudden and unexpected like the resignation of Age of Conan's Game Director.
Personally, I would have gone a different way with my vote in this category. While Bioware's announcement was certainly big news, the long lead-up and string of semi-confirmations, combined with the Riccitiello slip meant that the eventual announcement fell a little bit flat to me.
My editor's pick for the Biggest News Story of the Year was more likley to have been Richard Garriott's sudden and rather unexpected departure from NCsoft and the name that bore his name, Tabula Rasa and the cancellation that followed.
To me, this story had everything: An industry legend returns to design a new MMO which, throughout its development process changed from being a high-fantasy elves and fairies game to a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, humans fighting aliens shooter MMO. Said industry legend lends his name to the project and it officially goes from being known as simply Tabula Rasa to Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa. The game experiences a dissapointing launch and developers work to improve the game through patches. The game's namesake then announces that he has purchased a flight into space aboard a Russian space shuttle and the company runs a major (and frankly rather clever) marketing campaign based around Garriott carrying DNA into space for an experiment. Garriott then travels to the international space station, comes home, announces that now that he has accomplished his lifelong goal, that he would be leaving NCsoft to persue other avenues. Shortly thereafter, the company announces that the game would close. Add to this the fact that NCsoft seemed plagued by stories of layoffs in 2008, and you have what was, in my opinon, the biggest news story of the year.