19 – CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 (2009) – INFINITY WARD
I can hear the snorts of derision from you as you read the title for this entry. Modern Warfare 2 is hardly revolutionary in terms of gameplay, plot, graphics or overall quality – how and why did it change history you ask? I find MW2 to be highly significant because it marks a transition from games being a basic entertainment pastime into something akin to the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Modern Warfare and World At War had transformed Call Of Duty from being another average FPS into a marketing behemoth, and Activision certainly weren’t slow in pushing their weight around for the launch of MW2. The game received an intense marketing campaign around the world, and received pre-orders that smashed virtually all figures that had gone before it. It also piqued the interest of the press, who criticised the game for an optional mission in which the player can massacre civilians in a Russian airport. On launch day, it sold 4,700,000 copies worldwide and drew in near to £300 million in the UK and US alone. Within five days, it had garnered $550 million of revenue. With figures like that, it was quickly hailed as ‘the biggest launch in entertainment history’.
That record has not lasted long – ironically, the record was snatched by the next instalment in the series, Black Ops, just a year later…before the record got taken away by the instalment after that, Modern Warfare 3. These games were released in a culture that now accepts video games as a popular form of mass entertainment though; a culture that was cultivated by MW2’s impact.
20 – ANGRY BIRDS (2010) – ROVIO
The final spot on this list quite neatly considers a recent release, and the future that video games may have ahead of them. The mobile phone is a quite extraordinary invention – once upon a time it was like carrying a brick around in your pocket. As time has progressed, mobiles have evolved from being simple call making devices into entertainment mediums within themselves; you can take pictures, work out the weather, connect to anyone and so much more…which just so happens to include playing games.
Once discarded as a terrible and completely unviable idea (the Nokia N-Gage stands as a monument to its early failures), mobile gaming is the latest twist in the long road the video game industry has followed. Emphasising cheap, quick thrills that can be played at a moments notice, the market for such games has exploded with the force of a thousand suns, and no game represents the potential rewards like Angry Birds. The concept is blindingly simple; aim a selection of birds using a catapult to hit a structure in the distance housing villainous pigs: eliminate the pigs to earn points and progress to the next stage. All that is needed to operate the game is pulling your finger across the screen to aim the bird (disclaimer: you may well need a smartphone as well), and a few coppers in your pocket to purchase the game.
Since its release, Angry Birds has become quite possibly the most mainstream video game to ever exist. It has been ported onto several different operating systems including iOS, Android and PC, and when all is said and done has been downloaded over 1 BILLION times. It commands its own advertising empire ala Pac Man in the early 1980’s and is pretty much impossible to escape. And all this we have to remember has been achieved on a device used to call your parents for a lift. As much as the current big three wish to forage ahead with console games (which inherently offer more complexity and space for developers), there may be a time not too far away in the future when the likes of Nintendo and Sony will have to consider moving into the mobile games market. The next generation of gaming will be a very interesting battleground to observe.