7 tech falls from grace

Once-popular games and services that lost their way


Watching something that was once great go through the tragic decline from essential to average to laughing stock and finally horror show is a sad yet fascinating part of the world of technology.

It's not the same as watching a much loved product become obsolete through the sheer passing of time, since that at least has dignity; rather it's watching changes in direction and development warp something into such a horrific mess that you just wish somebody would take it into the back garden and put it out of its misery with a shovel.

Here are seven of the saddest cases of recent years.

1. Operation Flashpoint

More of an exercise in brand necrophilia than a true sequel Codemasters recently released its follow up to the classic military simulator Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. Using a completely different development team, setting, characters and engine the new game, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising owes more to Call of Duty and Rainbow Six: Vegas than the original.

Although Dragon Rising is not a bad game on its own merits, expectations from the original lead to a lot of unwelcome comparisons and disappointed fans who wanted a true sequel as opposed to one more contemporary shooter.

2. Facebook

At first this was a great idea: find your friends, post up pictures, send messages, all things that are good.

Facebook now is more a personalised spam cannon, popping up in the email inbox every day to ask stupid questions about people you haven't seen in years. The good stuff is still there, but is it worth the dig?

3. Sonic The Hedgehog

Oh Sonic, what have they done to you? Remember the first Sonic the Hedgehog game on the Megadrive? It was as good as Mario, hell Sonic 2 was probably better, and that's praise indeed for an orthodox platformer.

Sonic had it all, his own console, his own schtick, he could have been bigger than Kong. Now look at him; sharing a Winter Olympics game with Mario.

4. Steam

In many ways Steam is great and getting better: one stop games shop, update provider, decent social networking, even a pretty nifty chat interface.

What's not to like? The answer comes from the prices. In December 2008 Steam changed its prices from dollars to local currencies. On the one hand switching from $ to £ on the prices let's you know what you're spending, but on the other hand simply swapping the currency with no consideration for the exchange rate increased the cost of most games by more than a third.

Steam is now one of the most expensive games distributors around and has gone from a greener, more convenient alternative to buying a game on disk to a luxury option.

5. Nintendo

Plenty of people love the Wii and it has been a clear and resounding commercial success. But there's something more than a little tragic at seeing what was once a cutting edge console and game developer reduced to flap-happy Wii-mote sports games and rolling out another title in the Zelda franchise every couple of years. It's like if Ferrari ditched sports cars to make shopping trolleys.

6. Resident Evil games

While some games, such as the Rainbow Six series, can trace the decline of their unique selling points to a need to adapt for the console market the Resident Evil series has always been console based.

So when Resident Evil 5 waddled out of the paddock having abandoned even the pretence of being a survival horror game in favour of becoming just another high octane third person shooter it was a dark day. Not that it was bad, it just wasn't Resident Evil. Another series embraces the generic. So it goes.

7. MySpace pages

In principle MySpace was a trailblazing social networking system that people around the world could use to stay in touch, listen to music and view pictures and whatnot.

In practice it was never really easy enough to use to be considered fun and having served as proof that social networking was something that could really take off it was ripe to be usurped by the Next Big Thing.

The embedded audio endears it to some but few services have gone from ubiquitous to niche in such a short span of time.

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