The advent of a new generation...
With Nintendo having confirmed Wii U for release in 2012 it can be argued that the next generation is already set to debut in 2012. Will the Wii U see release in 2012? Well, we likely won't have a definite answer until E3, but Nintendo probably feel the need to push it out before the end of the year to get things going after having lost a lot of steam with Wii the last couple of years.
Rumours point to 2013-2014 as the likely launch of Sony's and Microsoft's next consoles. And with both players enjoying healthy sales figures at the moment, it is doubtful they will look to rattle the cage with announcements of new consoles at E3 2012.
Waiting an extra six or twelve months, may not only put money in the bank, but it also opens the possibility of putting Wii U in the uncomfortable limbo that the Dreamcast once experienced. Stuck in between generations, not really part of the current generation, not on par with the hardware of the next generation.
The last stand of the handheld?
With smart phones and tablets gaining a sizeable foothold with gamers, it will be interesting to see how Nintendo 3DS and the new PS Vita will fare. The Japanese market will obviously continue to be a haven for handhelds, but what is really interesting is to see whether there will be enough interest in Western markets to avoid fading into obscurity in the back shelves of game shops (á la PSP). The expected delay of the next generation will give Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita some breathing space to establish themselves while still remaining fresh in the eyes of the consumers. It will be interesting to see what will come of this, and the next year will likely dictate what kind of status 3DS/Vita development will be given moving forward.
That said, we've seen improvements from the Nintendo 3DS and we're genuinely excited about the prospects of the extremely powerful PS Vita. The real question here is whether the market has moved on. We hope not and that there is room for dedicated handheld gaming devices in the future.
A war of diminishing returns
What we've seen the last few years in the industry is a downward trend in overall retail sales, meanwhile blockbuster franchises like Battlefield, Call of Duty, Halo, Uncharted, FIFA, Assassin's Creed, and The Elder Scrolls, have been setting new records - something that really highlights a problem. Or perhaps, not really a problem, but the mid-sized (around a million in sales) multi platform franchises that once was the bread and butter of the industry is basically just draining publishers these days. Development costs to make a major release competitive paired with the level of marketing to get it noticed, dictates that the games sell 1.5 million (more in many cases). It feels as though some franchises are heading into 2012 needing a major hit, and with so many games competing for our money (with less of it around, both given the increasing sales of the biggest franchises, and the shrinking market.
It's not a great time to launch an original product, and perhaps even worse, if you're launching a sequel to a game that did okay a few years back. Games like The Darkness II, Darksiders II, Hitman: Absolution, Prototype 2, Silent Hill: Downpour, Rainbow 6: Patriots, the rebooted SSX and Twisted Metal, need to break out of the pack in order to give publishers motivation to bring out a sequel in the future. New propositions like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Binary Domain, Neverdead, Asura's Wrath, Dishonored and Lollipop Chainsaw, may struggle to get the attention needed for a new title needs in order to succeed. Reboots that are complete make overs of the originals, such as Kid Icarus: Uprising, Syndicate, and Xcom, may have an easier time getting some attention, but the disconnect with the old fan boys may work against them in a negating the benefits of being part of a beloved franchise.
Again, some of them may not even be good enough to warrant great sales to begin with, but this is assuming the games will turn out to be good.
With digital DLC for more popular franchises also eating away at the available gaming funds, it's hard to argue with the fact that 2012 is going to see a lot of big losers - not just because of lacking quality, but due to the crowded release list.
The digital revolution rages on
Whilst many were stuck talking about the downward trend of PC gaming for years, a revolution that saw the PC market revitalised snuck up on us. Steam, GOG, Gamersgate, Impulse, and other similar services have essentially unlocked a much greater market for PC games, and a longer lifespan for classic products. And while PSN and Xbox Live have done the same on the console side of things, it is not really until we have simultaneous digital and physical releases as the rule that the true revolution will take place. Sure, there will always be those who prefer a physical product, but given enough incentive (ie. speculation of upwards of 40% off retail prices of PS Vita titles on PSN), there is little doubt the shift from traditional retail to digital outlets will continue.
Not only does digital allow developers and publishers are larger share of the cake, but it also prevents used game sales - a dilemma the industry has been wrestling with for many years now. It is hard to imagine Microsoft and Sony launching their next consoles with day one digital releases, and we could see that sort of service rolling out as soon as next year. Particularly on PS3 where Sony have already tried the waters with Infamous 2.
Games we won't see in 2012...
Valve are making too much damn money to be in any rush to push out Half-Life 3 in 2012. But it may be officially announced. Possibly.
The Last Guardian has seen some staff changes as of late, and the project seems to have hit a brick wall. Nevertheless it is going to be very interesting to see what the project looks like next time we see it, and if Fumito Ueda is on hand to talk about it.
Is the PS3 exclusive Rockstar project Agent still alive? We don't know, but we don't think we'll see it during 2012, when Rockstar's focus is fully on Max Payne 3 and Grand Theft Auto V.
Gearbox Software have their hands full in 2012 starting with Aliens: Colonial Marines. With Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 and Borderlands 2 also scheduled for release it is likely one or both of those will slip.
After the surprising announcement of Far Cry 3 at E3 last summer, things have been very quiet. It could just be that Ubisoft have chosen to focus on other games, but there is a tingling sensation in our stomachs whispering "de-lay".
Some clueless analysts suggested that Blizzard would rush an announcement of Titan as the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic was approaching. Blizzard just don't rush into anything, and Titan won't see the light of day next year. It may get an announcement around BlizzCon time, but it's probable that Blizzard will focus on Diablo III, Heart of the Swarm and Mists of Pandaria in 2012. When you think about it, it's probably going to be their biggest year ever even without any mention of Titan.
Bioshock Infinite - hey, we hate to say it, but Bioshock is one of those franchises that doesn't need to go up against Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo and whatever else next fall has to offer. It could just as well get a release in February 2013 and sell even more. We think 2K may be wise enough to realise this.
Assassin's Creed III. Alright, we're really going out on a limb here with Ubisoft pushing out massive Assassin's Creed titles every twelve months while maintaining superb quality, but if Assassin's Creed III is indeed the next chapter in the series, then logic dictates we get a year long break.
World of Darkness. Not in 2012, probably not in 2013. The cut backs made at CCP Games are likely to push the reveal of this game back even further.
And we highly doubt Nintendo will pull out a big reveal of the Vitality Sensor any time soon.
Duke Nukem Forever won't... Oh, hold on. Nevermind.
The winners of 2012
Us. The consumer are going to be big winners in 2012. The current generation of consoles will drop in prices, and with such a heavy slate of releases scheduled price drops for recent releases are to be expected. The trend of aggressive sales and promotions across digital channels are also expected carry on.
PC gaming. With no high end console on the horizon, we're likely to see an even greater divide between the performance of PC titles on the top end hardware and the current consoles. Even if you're a console gamer at heart you'll be tempted to just plug your controller into your PC in 2012.
Independent developers. With that I don't mean the larger independent studios still alive out there, but the small indie developers out there with great ideas. The landscape has never been better prepared for great ideas to flourish and find success.
Digital. We've already touched on it. Digital is here to stay, and eat away more and more at the expense of traditional retail.
E3 2012. The anticipation for 2012's biggest gaming event is already building. Could it be the starting signal of the next generation of consoles?
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