I read with some sadness that Big Games Studios were forced to file for bankruptcy in the last week together with their parent studios. As you may or may not be aware (or indeed care), Big Games are responsible for two of my favourite games – Rise of Nations & Rise of Legends. They also came up with the Asian Dynasties expansion pack to Age of Empires 3.

Dum-dum-dum – Another One Bites The Dust

Well, it is bad news as Brian Reynolds really was a visionary when it comes to video games and it’s a matter for debate as to where his not inconsiderable talent will end up. The global economic downturn has hit the videogame industry hard, especially now that it was expected to keep pulling past DVDs in terms of overall sales figures. Factor 5 was another tragic loss although the story of their demise is a little murkier (and if I could be bothered, I’d hyperlink a story in).

What this has meant is that the mainstream console/game market has been oversaturated with (what I consider to be) crap. Sequels of proven titles which haven’t really added much to the overall video game experience. Familiarity is all very well and good but something innovative needs to be delivered periodically otherwise that familiarity will breed the proverbial contempt – how many more “Call of Duty” games can be pushed onto the market? Even Grand Theft Auto is beginning to become stale.

It was a good move in the last UK Budget that tax breaks for the UK video games industry would continue because our software publishers and the people that work for them have been some of the most influential designers around. People like Jeff Minter and the Oliver Twins, Peter Molyneux and Mike Singleton have really been able to deliver on concepts that have endured for decades, influencing legions. Granted, the software houses aren’t as strong as they once were with most of them having been subsumed by other companies (and let’s NOT enter into the Microsoft/Rareware debate because we all know that was a disaster). But the raw material is there and there is no shortage of people willing to learn the craft at university.

But back to the matter at hand, sad news for PC gamers. Rise of Nations was a particular favourite of mine as it was a Civilization/Age of Empires Mash up taking the best concepts of both. I played the scenarios in the Thrones & Patriots expansion repeatedly with the Cold War scenario being a particular favourite. Whilst the studio hadn’t really put out anything of note the last couple of years, there were the constant promises of the next big thing right around the corner. Ah well, what can ya do?