Happy New Year! 2011 was certainly an excellent year for gamers; a bountiful harvest of high-quality games. With healthy doses of scandal, rumor, and fights, it was a fun year to write The Weekly Dish as well. How will things shape up in 2012? With a great lineup for winter and spring plus possible new hardware announcements this summer, things continue to look up. Here is a look back at the year that was, and at some of our hopes for various game industry players in 2012.
The Kinect really took off in 2011, selling millions of units and helping to propel the Xbox 360 to the top of the North American hardware sales charts through much of the year. In response, Microsoft executives started to discuss how they planned to integrate Kinect features into every first-party Microsoft game from here on out. Although Microsoft is doing very well in the gaming world, core gamers are increasingly leery about its Kinect-focused strategy and the increasing focus on non-gaming activities on the Xbox.
It would be nice to see Microsoft re-diversify in 2012. The Xbox 360 launched as a device that appealed to a broad gaming demographic, but now seems dedicated to either hardcore shooter fans or families who want to play Kinect. There are many great gaming genres out there, and we'd love to see more support for them from Microsoft this year. It would also be nice to be able to customize the Dashboard on the next Xbox, as the current Dashboard is about as much fun to navigate as Walmart on Black Friday. No, I don't want to check Twitter or use Bing; I just want to play Pinball FX.
It's been a rough year on this continent for Sony. Starting with the extended PlayStation Network hacking incident and ending with a bit of a whimper, 2011 sealed Sony's fate as an also-ran this generation. The PlayStation 3 has achieved reasonable sales success, but has never quite come out on top. Likewise, the Move has sold well but failed to generate much press or buzz. The PSP died off slowly and painfully, with shelves of UMD games disappearing in North America well before the launch of the Vita, and only Sony's PR department appears happy with the sales figures of the Xperia Play. Though Sony continues to do well in Japan, it seems like its gaming division is slipping here.
With the next generation just around the corner, we'd like to see Sony learn from its mistakes of this generation. The company came off the dominance of the PlayStation 2 with too much hubris, pricing the PS3 far too high and continuing to stumble with "me too" moves throughout the generation. Although Sony continues to state that it has no plans to announce a new home console, will that silence be able to withstand the release of the Wii U and a likely next-gen announcement from Microsoft? Can Sony adopt a more aggressive pricing strategy and recapture the hearts of gamers with the Vita? Can the company adopt a more honest approach to PR and a more truly innovative approach to hardware and software development? Will gamers ever realize that Kevin Butler isn't a real person? With Sony, it's always a mystery.
Nintendo had a particularly difficult year in 2011. When the 3DS launched in the spring, consumers judged the price too high and the software library too sparse. In the meantime, the Wii has been seriously on the wane, and very little was released for the machine this year. With Nintendo's stock plummeting, company president Iwata had to make some tough decisions, rapidly dropping the price of the 3DS in a move that some thought spelled doom for the device. Things began to look up during the holiday season, however. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword finally showed what motion control can do for core gamers, and Mario showed up to bolster the sales of the 3DS and position it well against the Vita for next year.
This year, Nintendo has the chance to start off the next generation with a bang. Without a ton of its own offerings for the 3DS during the first half of the year, the company needs to provide some serious marketing support for third parties and keep the device alive for late 2012's heavy hitters like Animal Crossing and Paper Mario 3D. We also need to see that the Wii U is going to be a serious contender that can last out the next hardware generation. Nintendo needs to ensure that the Wii U's hardware is powerful enough to allow for multiplatform releases for many years to come, or those smiling third-party developers will drop it faster than you can say "the sudden dominance of HD graphics."
We don't have room to write a personal note to each of the third-party developers out there, but we have some hopes and dreams for game developers as a whole in 2012. We'd love to see an end to the nickel-and-diming that big game companies have been increasingly adopting in 2011, between online fees for used game players and rapidly proliferating paid downloadable content. Gamers are becoming increasingly irate about games that seem to have had things cut out of them so that they could be sold a month or two later for five dollars. Of course, it'd help if we gamers would stop purchasing all that crap. Seriously, guys. Just stop buying it and it will go away.
We'd also like to see third-party developers stop overlaying their own social and copy protection schemes on those already present on gaming platforms. This is particularly bad for PC gamers, who don't like to deal with, say, Ubisoft DRM on top of Steam's DRM. It's increasingly affecting console gamers too, though, with games that won't save if a user isn't online or walled-off "communities" for specific games that just layer user names upon user names. Game companies, let's make 2012 the year you decide to punish the bad guys and reward your paying customers instead of the other way around.
Finally, we'd like to see third parties concentrate on quality over quantity this year. The gaming industry is becoming increasingly competitive, and the strategy of tossing out a bunch of half-baked games and hoping that some of them stick doesn't work anymore. Our shelves are stacked with shovelware, and the headache of sorting through it all means that smaller quality games are being overlooked. Companies, if you're going to make a game with motion controls, pretend you're Nintendo and do it right. If you're going to make a licensed game, be classy like Rocksteady and make a good one. If you're going to make a "girl game," make one that's actually fun to play—and maybe try to restrain yourselves a bit on the pink bows and ribbons? Putting out a smaller number of higher-quality games is good for gamers and for companies' bottom lines.
Happy New Year, everyone, and to the adults amongst my readers, remember to drink and game responsibly this Saturday. By that, I mean remember to take videos and post them to YouTube for everyone's enjoyment. Oh, and don't drive afterward, because that's just stupid.
By Becky Cunningham
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*