Pocket-lint tech year in review 2013: The losers
Although we've had a fantastic year in the world of technology, gadgets and gizmos, with some superb products and entire new categories starting their invasion on the market, some companies will also, for one reason or another, want to forget 2013.
Pocket-lint has already lauded some of those we thought had an amazing year, so it only stands to reason that we look at some of those who didn't. It's worth pointing out though that we're not smug at the misfortune of any of the following. Indeed, we hope they also have an upturn in fortunes. All bar two are capable of that. Also, some on the list might have had a great year in other respects, but appear because of a specific and famous negative event.
Much was hoped for and expected from Ouya. After raising $8.6 million in its Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2012, everybody thought that it was the dawn of a serious competitor to the triumvirate of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft in the home console space. This year was to be the year of the Android games console.
Unfortunately, release delays, lack of playable content, and constant complaints about the controller ensured that the launch of the machine was considered less than successful. Even some Kickstarter backers who helped fund the project in the first place didn't receive their Ouya consoles for some time after they were originally promised.
Founder of Ouya, Julie Urhman is ambitious though and has already talked about Ouya 2, which is expected to be unveiled in 2014. Maybe next year will be better for Android console gaming, therefore.
We think even BlackBerry would agree with its inclusion on this list. Not only have its recent financial results been shocking - with a £2.7 billion loss in the third quarter of 2013 alone - but it also jettisoned several members of its management structure, including CEO Thorsten Heins in favour of new boss John Chen, and put out its latest Z30 smartphone with barely a nod to the press. Certainly a lavish launch event was never to be on the cards.
Not all is lost for BlackBerry, however. The company managed to successfully launch its BBM messaging service on iOS and Android and has accumulated 40 million users from those operating systems since. There's a long way to go to match the 400 million active users of WhatsApp, but it's a good start for the company in its aim to spread beyond the confines of its own dedicated hardware. There's a long way to go before BlackBerry is out of the woods, but perhaps a more software-led future could be on the cards. It has also signed a deal with Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, which suggests that new BB10 phones are feasible.
Sadly, while we've attempted to be positive about the fortunes of others on this list, we can't with Blockbuster UK as it has been shut down completely. Having entered administration in November it was a quick death for the video rental chain. It was announced in mid-December that all the remaining stores would be closed forever and staff made redundant. Just before Christmas too.
This all came after a buyout in March seemed to have saved the franchise. But fierce competition by streaming companies such as Netflix and Lovefilm, and rental services from iTunes, Google Play and the like, only seemed to illustrate just how little Blockbuster had moved with the times and the new owner failed to save it.
Blockbuster US also bit the dust in 2013.
There was a huge amount of interest in Canonical's Ubuntu Edge smartphone when it appeared on crowd funding website Indiegogo. The hardware, aimed at delivering the company's easy to use and popular operating system to smartphone owners in its most direct format, was proving to be a popular subject for discussion. However, it was less popular in financial terms as it failed to reach its funding goal and was subsequently scrapped.
We will still see Ubuntu on mobile devices next year, but not the Ubuntu Edge. OEM manufacturers are interested in creating mid-range Ubuntu-powered phones, but we won't see the phone come laptop hybrid most had hoped for.
We're actually fans of a lot, if not most, of what Electronic Arts does and many of its games in the last year, but we don't think any can argue that the launch of Sim City was anything short of a disaster for the company. The game even continues to suffer problems and is surrounded in controversy to this day.
When Pocket-lint first saw the game in action at E3 in 2012, we had high hopes for the latest chapter in the city-building franchise. A persistent online world where you and real-life players can combine to help each others' cities? Great. Time-shifted graphics? Superb. However, from the moment it was released on to the market in March 2013, everything went wrong.
Server outage meant that people who had paid anywhere from £40 to £60 for their game, couldn't actually play it at all. There was no offline mode, so when the online aspects failed, the game was unplayable. Fans of the series also found out that they could build only tiny cities in comparison to those available in prequels. And the micro-transaction system employed was bemoaned as bordering on criminality to many outspoken gamers.
Let's hope next year's The Sims 4 fares better.
Like Blockbuster, THQ left us in 2013. The publisher of the WWE games, Saints Row and a number of other big named franchises went into liquidation at the beginning of the year leaving many to wonder what would happen to all of its titles.
Almost all survived though, with other publishers picking up the reins in many occasions. WWE went to Take Two, which has since released WWE 2K14 on its 2K Sports label. Company of Heroes was acquired by Sega, which went on to publish Relic's first official sequel. And perhaps the biggest game to benefit another publisher was Saints Row IV, which was a great success for Deep Silver. We lament the loss of THQ though, as it brought us some good times over the years, not least the Steam fire sale at the end of 2012.
In some respects it could be said that Nintendo actually had a good year. Certainly, some of the home-grown games it has released for 3DS and Wii U have been nothing short of superb. However, the elephant in room remains the Wii U, which continues to be the next-generation console nobody really cares about.
Although it is claimed that 4.3 million Wii U consoles have shipped worldwide since its release last December, the combined sales of rivals PlayStation 4 and Xbox One topped that figure in just over two weeks. And it's a far cry from the projected nine million units it hoped to shift before March next year. Profits are definitely suffering as a result.
That said, the 2DS seems like an interesting launch for a reasonable price and the 3DS and 3DS XL handheld consoles are selling very well indeed. We won't be seeing Nintendo down the job centre any time soon, but it's hard to see the Wii U as anything but another GameCube.
READ: Nintendo 2DS review
Perhaps of all the entries on this list, HTC's inclusion pains us the most. It created what we believe to be one of the best phones of the year - a Pocket-lint Gadget Awards winner no less - but it cannot be ignored that financially the company has had a hard year. A very hard year indeed.
It slumped to a third-quarter loss of $102 million (£62.333 million) regardless of the critical praise of its devices, and it predicted a similar outcome for Q4 2013. On top of this, a UK court ruled that the HTC One and HTC One mini phones contained technologies that infringe on patents held by Nokia. At first, the ruling judge slapped an injunction on the mini, meaning HTC had to withdraw it from sale in the country. But on appeal, that injunction was lifted for the time being, allowing HTC to continue shipping and selling its phones in the UK. It will still have to address the patent issue in future though.
Not a specific company but a general format, 2013 seems to have been the beginning of the end for 3D in the home. Not only have television manufacturers moved on to other buzzwords and technologies in order to shift sets, but film studios themselves also seem to be giving up the ghost on home-based 3D entertainment. The BBC has even announced publicly that it will no longer be making or broadcasting any 3D programming.
Fox told Pocket-lint that it has suspended its 3D conversion plans as the tech is too expensive in relation to returns. And in quite a damning move for the format, neither of the two major next generation consoles launched with compatibility for 3D Blu-ray. It seems that a general indifference by the public to 3D in the home is now bleeding through to manufacturers.
It's an entirely different story in cinemas though, with Gravity being heralded as the greatest 3D experience there has ever been in movie history. We expect to see 3D continue to put bums on seats in theatres. Just not living rooms.
A company as large as Microsoft is bound to have had many successes over the year, but one specific thing sticks out when talking about the software giant's 2013: it decided to write off almost a billion dollars because of Surface RT "inventory adjustments". That basically means that the tablet was a huge flop, and Microsoft knew it.
Although it shipped almost 900 million Surface tablets in the first quarter of the year, that was said to consist mainly of the more high-end version, the Surface Pro, and that the other model was starting to be considered landfill. Certainly, Microsoft took every opportunity to slash prices of the Surface RT throughout the year, all the way up to the launch of the replacement model in October.
We fully expect Microsoft to have a positive 2014, with the year starting with the buyout of the Nokia devices arm finally being completed, but lessons in hardware manufacturing must surely be learned by its original Surface woes.
What companies or technologies do you think failed to make the grade in 2013? Let us know in the comments below...