This year, this month, Pocket Gamer celebrates its tenth birthday.
In internet terms, that’s pretty ancient.
To mark the occasion, and to illustrate just how old and wise we are, we’ll be taking a look back at the games, trends, and general happenings for each of the years we’ve been around. (See 2006 and 2007.)
It’s no exaggeration to say that 2008 was the year that everything changed for PG, and for portable gaming in general.
That’s right, it was the year of N-Gage.
Oh, and it was also the year that both iPhone and Android gaming kicked off in earnest. Not that anyone cared.
What were we playing?
Java games still had the mobile gaming market pretty much to themselves in the first half of 2008, with great arrivals in the form of Townsmen 5, Orcs & Elves II, Diner Dash 2, Steven Spielberg's Boom Blox, Playman Summer Games 3, and The Oregon Trail.
But the alternatives were starting to appear.
We’ll discuss Nokia’s N-Gage more in a bit, suffice to say that Reset Generation (character Dr Love Bomber above, ladies) was a momentous and ingenious strategy-puzzler that history will remark deserved a better platform.
The second half of the year saw the arrival of the first batch of iOS games and, in Rolando, the platform’s first 10 out of 10 classic. HandCircus’s game was colourful, assured, and perfectly suited to the new format.
By contrast, the traditional handhelds of 2008 were starting to wane. There were tonnes of DS games still being released, but most of them were utter pap. Still, even in a quiet year, Nintendo’s popular console managed to churn out left-field gems like Bangai-O Spirits, The World Ends With You, and Professor Layton and the Curious Village.
The situation was the opposite on PSP – precious few games were being released, but the general standard was pretty high. Space Invaders Extreme, Patapon, and God of War: Chains of Olympus were all outstanding – the latter winning a Platinum Award for home console brand of violence.
What were we playing on?
If the modern smartphone was born in 2007, it wasn’t properly realised until 2008. This was when the iPhone 3G was released, correcting the crippling flaws of the first iPhone (such as no 3G or GPS).
It also brought with it iPhone OS 2 (now known as iOS) complete with the first App Store, so we could finally download and play games. Yay!
The iOS 2 launch fell in between the releases of the first and second-generation iPod touch – essentially iPhones without the phone part. A classic affordable pocket gaming device (and standard-issue PG staff weapon) was born.
On November 1, Nintendo released the Nintendo DSi in its native Japan. This third iteration of the mega-popular DS added a pair of cameras, device storage, and access to a digital content store. It also dropped the GBA slot, so was lousy for backwards compatibility.
What else was going on in mobile?
Right at the end of 2008, a phone called the T-Mobile G1 made its way to market and into this particular PG writer’s hands.
HTC’s plasticky, creaky phone had a clunky slide-out keyboard and a trackball. Yes, a trackball. However, it was also the first ever Android phone, and an early glimpse at a more affordable and customisable alternative to Apple’s pricey and locked-down iPhone.
Earlier in the year, Nokia made its final bid for mobile gaming stardom with its revamped N-Gage project. This rejected the dedicated hardware of the original concept in favour of a cross-device gaming platform. It was essentially a half-way point between messy old Java and modern smartphone platforms, and appropriately enough it ended up falling between those two stools.
What else was PG doing?
As longtime readers and those in the gaming industry will know, Pocket Gamer has a younger, more studious sister. It’s called PocketGamer.biz, and it started ironing creases into its trousers in the summer of 2008.
Besides being a valuable font of industry knowledge, it’s notable for being the first b2b (management-speak translator: business-to-business) site that dealt exclusively with the mobile games industry. It’s still going strong.
This was also the year that PG spread across the Channel with the launch of the francophone PG.fr. Naturellement, il était très bon!
What else was happening?
In broader terms, not much happened in 2008 – if you discount the global economic meltdown.
Yep, this was the year the worldwide financial infrastructure went A over T, thanks to a bunch of useless bankers.
On a lighter/more absurd note, this was also the year in which Londoners conspired to vote Boris Johnson in as mayor. Those crazy city folk!
In sport, the first ever all-English European Cup football final took place between Manchester United and Chelsea. The reds won on penalties, like you give a hoot.