2012 was a strange year for gaming. We had a small amount of new hardware and a low turnout of AAA titles. The usual hyped up console exclusives were few and far between. Looking to online and more open platforms like iOS/Android and the PC though, we can see that things have been somewhat more exciting. 2012 saw a lot of behind the scenes developments; you can see the pieces all coming into place for what should be a spectacular 2013. Here’s a somewhat Sony-centric look back at last year.
Other than the Wii U launch, and the redesigned 3DS-XL, things were quiet on the console front. It’s obvious that a large portion of developer time was being spent on next generation hardware. That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of interesting news – it’s just been more sparse. Notably there was the launch of Halo4, which was a big deal, and proved that handing a franchise to another team needn’t be cause for worry. Otherwise exclusives have amounted to a load of JRPGs (finally) localised for the Wii, and tons of smaller, low profile games. In terms of big multiplatform releases we got Assassins Creed 3 and Far Cry 3 as well as.. Umm.. Ok, does anyone remember any killer 2012 console titles? Lollipop Chainsaw?
Lets be honest, Sony have way more to prove in the marketplace than anyone else right now. The company’s seen some serious financial issues, after 2011’s PSN breach, the time it took the PS3 to get its legs in the market, and the public’s view of the brand as a whole let alone it’s gaming products – there are serious mountains to overcome. Sony looked like they were treading water until their big guns are loaded up, leaving us beyond interested in what the next generation will bring. We saw the release of Twisted Metal – which didn’t cause much of a stir, Starhawk (I hope someone still plays it!), Sorcery (yay?) and Playstation All Stars Battle Royale. I’m sure some would say that was a good year for exclusives. It really wasn’t. Without Uncharted, Killzone, MGS, Resistance and God Of War, third party multi-platform titles took up the slack.
The Year Sony Left Hardware out to dry.
An infuriating thing with Sony is their scattershot approach to hardware and support. Realistically they have limited resources so they can’t shoulder all the blame, but right now things don’t seem in order. Where was the Vita support? It was a really slow year for what should be a hugely successful handheld. Someone needs to release a killer app for it fast.
Likewise, Playstation Move and the Sharpshooter. When you have the best motion tech in the industry, you really should do more with it. Wonderbook (an augmented reality J.K.Rowling Potterverse spell-book) is nice, and Sports Champions 2 was necessary, but wouldn’t it have been better if Sony had encouraged more devs to include motion support? Eg: Resident Evil 6 – Capcom have had motion support in the RE series twice before, there’s no excuse not to have it here too. Far Cry 3 – aiming the weapons with the Move could be brilliant for immersion. Alas, it wasn’t to be, and I’m really beginning to question if the Move has much of a future outside of “casual” gaming.
PSN Matures and The Rise of PS+
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom though, Playstation Plus has bloomed into something I don’t think anyone would have predicted when it launched. The frankly amazing “free” game library is worth more than the price of the service. (particularly on the Vita side, where it contains a good % of the platform’s worthwhile library) Bells and whistles like automatic cloud saves and store discounts are appreciated too.
The Playstation store had a big overhaul and is much more pleasant to as a result. The content is the important thing though and following on from the Flowers and Nobi-nobi-boys of the past, things continued to get increasingly arty and experimental. Outside of the PC indy scene there’s really no better place to find refreshing, unusual experiences. Unfinished Swan, Tokyo Jungle, Papo & Yo and most notably Journey elevate the platform much more than anything the big publishers have achieved in 2012.
Halo 4 has been a massive, well deserved success. Otherwise, MS have manouvered their surface software for mobile and tablets to be a good companion for the 360, taking some of the sting away from the dual screen design of the Wii U. Forza Horizon was strangely under-publicized, but impressive. Microsoft were obviously working hard on Xbox3/720/Durango development. Live has seen games like Minecraft have huge success, but all over, things seem to be on hold.
Kinect was bleak too; apart from children’s, party and casual games. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – whenever its use was anything more than supplementary in more traditional titles, the results were poor. Lets hope this year Microsoft re-affirm their commitment to more “hardcore” gaming.
A few well respected JRPGs came to the west in 2012, but otherwise the Wii has been quite dead (other than the yearly Just Dance releases and so-on). This obviously matters little now the Wii-U is here and all eyes are on that instead. The 3DS went from strength to strength, notably landing the best Resident Evil in years, and a much improved redesign with bigger screens and a sleeker body. Again I feel like Nintendo have secured their own little island in the industry where they can really do whatever they like without paying much attention to the other big players. Only time will tell if the WiiU comes out more as another Wii or another Gamecube though. (I wouldn’t mind either way – i prefer the Gamecube and its library to the Wii’s anyway!)
Windows 8 came and went, and despite the nay-sayers – really didn’t impact much on gaming at all. Far Cry 3 showed up the dated console hardware, as did users’ continued efforts to mod games like Skyrim to unbelievable levels of polish. The Indie space has gone from strength to strength and Steam’s Greenlight has resulted in a lot of coverage for obscure smaller titles.
Kickstarter has proven to be an amazing resource for game developers. Elite: Dangerous is now on its way, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams exceeded everyone’s expectations. 2012 was a good year in PC gaming all round, but 2013 will surpass it for many reasons.
Valve’s full screen Steam interface and the news of multiple incoming “Steam Boxes” has everyone’s attention. Can a truly PC-Based, quite open (comparatively) console beat the traditional three at their own game? What about the open source Android based efforts like the Ouya?
2012 had probably the two best zombie games ever released. The Walking Dead and Arma2 mod DayZ are worth mention for their incredible contributions to gaming. Both manage to stretch the medium in completely different ways (one narrative, the other in emergent gameplay and atmosphere). It’s amusing to see zombies being the central theme of two such important games. If DayZ were a standalone game in 2012 I’d be hard torn between these two for my personal game of the year. Excellent.
Community & Conclusion
Gaming culture and the public image of the medium came into the spotlight a lot in 2012. From a respectable and constant exposé of the horrors of attempting to play online as a female from sites like “Fat Ugly Or Slutty” and “Not In The Kitchen Anymore” and industry writers such as Leigh Alexander. The entitled, oppressive boys-club mentality of much of the scene has been brought to the public’s attention again and again. This can only mean progress moving forwards, as these issues are (finally) tackled head on by the community and the games’ creators themselves. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.
Then there was the controversy around the NRA, the Sandy Hook massacre and the usual scape-goating of games. I’d really rather not talk about that, it’s always too infuriating.
All in all I think 2012 was one of the most interesting years in recent memory – at least conceptually. What do you think?