As another year comes to an end, it's time for us to look back at the biggest stories that have been reported on GamesPaper during the past 12 months - and what better way to pick them than choose those which featured as lead stories on the front page of the site, for our review of the year 2003.
The year started with quite a surprise with Nintendo announcing the Game Boy Advance SP
- possibly more surprising was the fact that the release wasn't too far off, with Europe getting the flip-top back-lit GBA SP before the end of March.
Mobile phone giant Nokia also confirmed their plans for the N-Gage mobile game deck
, which would be their entry in to the gaming industry and a direct rival to Nintendo's market leading Game Boy Advance. Initial reaction to the phone based console was positive, although rumours of a high price point for both the hardware and games didn't seem quite so popular with gamers.
Online gaming proved it's popularity when 350,000 set Xbox Live
since it launched in America during November 2002, and clocking up over 15.7 million hours of online play in less than four months.
As if by magic Xbox goes green
, when Microsoft announce that they're bringing the translucent design to Europe as a special limited edition pack, and due to go on sale a day before Nintendo's much hyped Zelda Gamecube pak
launched in the UK - another goal for Microsoft, then.
The annual E3 show took place in Los Angeles and saw Nokia N-gage LA
although their press conference was blighted with problems, and the $299 price point went down like a lead balloon. Sony on the other hand decided to rival Nokia's device when they take the PlayStation Portable
, along with several other hardware announcements to woo the crowds including information about the launch of EyeToy and their online services.
Microsoft's Xbox announcement disappoints
, with very few major announcements other than some Xbox Live upgrades (of which still don't fully seem to have happened by the end of 2003 - where's the SpotWatch and Messenger integration?), and lots of whooping from the over-excited crowds. As is now inevitable at large shows such as E3, a price war also broke out, with both PlayStation 2 and Xbox price cuts
being confirmed by Sony and Microsoft.
XGameStation console - home developers dream come true?
Or maybe just a hoax? By the end of 2003 we're none the wiser - there's no reason that XGameStation shouldn't be real, and in some ways we hope it is but either way our news story created huge amounts of interest from people trying to find out more about the make-it-yourself console, which features a built-in BASIC programming language and somewhat bizarrely makes use of the Atari 2600 VCS controllers.
First screens of Microsoft's new Xbox.com site
featured on GamesPaper, along with screens revealing new aspects of the upgraded Xbox dashboard which features a Friends List and the ability to chat directly from the dashboard without having to do so from within a game. The new website (dubbed "Xbox Live Web") gave gamers access to web-based friends lists allowing you to see which of your friends were online from your computer, and also finally ditched the gory green colour scheme for a more tasteful one.
The end of August saw ECTS roll in to town as London Games Week starts
, and saw a number of events take place including the ECTS trade show
, Sony's 2003 PlayStation Experience
made it's return to Earls Court, industry body ELSPA welcomed Lara Croft creator in to their Hall of Fame
, and Nokia's big announcement was Electronic Arts to publish games for N-Gage
- before getting a barrage of questions from the press about the £230 price point of N-Gage.
Kate Russell announced the ECTS Stars award winners
with Ubi Soft's XIII winning Best Console Game and Overall Best Game of show, along with several other awards going to Ubi Soft. Last but not least there was Tube chaos for show visitors
as huge parts of London were plunged in to darkness when a powercut struck, leaving the tube out of action and very lengthy journeys home from Earls Court.
Microsoft held their annual Xbox event in the South of France during September, and revealed a number of new games for the first time, gave details of an Xbox Live free trial, and reportedly told selective retailers about a £149 Xbox, games and Live bundle
, although it wasn't announced officially. Several weeks later we got the first confirmation of the bundle
when it appeared on Amazon, and over a further week passed before Microsoft made a proper announcement about it.
"This is where... gaming gets N-Gaged
" - or at least that was what Nokia hoped would be the case when they launched the device around the world on October 7th. It wasn't long however before some retailers had the N-Gage game deck now selling for £0.00!
By the end of 2003 it still wasn't too clear on how well N-Gage would do during the next 12 months - the strong support from major publishers is clearly evident with 7 more titles
being confirmed, but there's still that issue of the price which seems to be holding things back.
EyeToy waves hello to 1m sales
across Europe in less than six months - an impressive achievement and highly understandable with the device getting widespread interest from all age groups and even featuring in the reward room of Channel 4's Big Brother reality TV show.
With details of the Christmas television schedule appearing in the papers it couldn't have been much more topical for Datel to announce a new application for Sony's EyeToy - as if there's not enough Junk on TV...
Xbox owners found GTA snatched from Christmas line-up
, but better news comes a day later when Microsoft launch Gotham 2 Xbox bundle
as a last ditch effort to make Xbox the console of choice against stiff competition from both Nintendo and Sony, with all three consoles getting price cuts during the run-up to Christmas.
2003 has been a busy year with some fairly major developments, although no real major console announcements - we feel that they'll be saved for E3 2004, where it seems likely that both Microsoft will announce Xbox 2 and Sony will give confirmation of PlayStation 3. The next 12 months should be an exciting time for gamers, and we've got some major plans for GamesPaper during the next few months - more about those nearer the time...