It’s that time of year, the time where everyone puts together their somewhat mandatory beginning-of-the-year lists detailing resolutions, hopes, and whatever else they’re looking forward to. For me it’s a place to get back into the swing of things after a long and rather exhausting holiday season. That being said it looks like 2013 will have a lot of things worth paying attention to, not to mention the end of yet another console era.
I’m sure by the end of the year all of the things I list here will seem silly or pointless, but right now these are the things i’m thinking about as 2013 gets underway.
There had to have been a way to show how small it is without all those hands creeping me out.
Most of the news in the gaming world this year will be anchored by the release of consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The rumors are already flying; even one yesterday which gave GameStop some trouble when Sony started poking around with the idea of restricting used games on the PS4. Regardless of how things turn out for Sony and GameStop, this is but a small piece of what will be the year of new consoles.
But there’s a twist this year. Instead of just the three we’ve become accustomed to (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) there’s also the Ouya which hopes to find success in an Android based console and Valve which has their own Steam Box in the works and is relatively close to release. Steam’s release of Big Picture a few months back was most likely a test balloon for the tech which will most likely power the system, giving players instant access to the games they already own.
So the question is whether or not these fledgling consoles can make a dent in what has been complete console dominance by the big three. I’m not sure about the Ouya, but Valve has a knack for being a bit iconoclastic. If they can successfully bring the Steam experience to the living room it may be enough to shake-up the status quo.
The Fruits of Crowdfunding
Only 25 years in the making!
If 2012 was the year we funded games by giving money straight to the developer, 2013 will be the year to see if any of those developers can actually deliver on their promises. Anyone who has read my thoughts on Kickstarter and crowdfunding in the past knows that the real test for grassroots public funding isn’t whether or not they can raise the money, but whether or not any of the games funded are completed, distributed, and/or actually any good. We all like to think that this new type of funding is really sticking it to “the man,” but the reality is a lot of these developers are working without the support of a publisher for the first time. Say what you want about big publishers, they are still a resource for developers struggling to release a title – a resource that simply doesn’t exist through Kickstarter.
But that’s just the worry wart in me; there are some great games coming out, made by publishers that will most likely get the job done. Obviously there’s Double Fine’s title, but there’s also Shadowrun Returns, Wasteland 2, and Project GODUS just to name a few. The longevity of Kickstarter will be determined but how well these games are received. To be honest it’s a feat that shouldn’t be too difficult as these are games that everyone wants to like to begin with. While successful indie titles are great, there’s always room for…
I’ll play nothing but this all year if they let me build a home or own a business.
While I’m usually one for smaller indie titles, this year I’m actually excited for a few 2013 releases. It’s not that there aren’t always a few big releases on the horizon, but for some reason I’m unusually excited for this year’s crop. There’s the SimCity reboot/redeaux/remake, a trip back to the Gears of War franchise, the Elder Scrolls MMO, and of course, GTA V. Obviously there are more, but these are the ones I find myself looking forward to the most. Normally I would have a thing or two to say about the vast majority of sequels, prequels, and other forms of recycled content, but as its now pretty much commonplace maybe one of my resolutions will be to stop complaining about that particular industry quirk.
I spent a fair amount of time last year giving large corporate gaming a hard time, but truth be told sometimes the big, over-hyped, beat to death games are actually a lot of fun; they’re the summer blockbusters of the game industry. I used to have a problem with these kinds of games because it used to feel like that’s all there was to play, but these days there are tons of options and all sorts of different prices for players, making these larger games much more of a treat than they used to be. There’s still the problem of when a big game doesn’t meet the hype it puts out, which brings me to…
Blizzard’s next move
The pandas have saved the day, for now.
So Diablo 3‘s PvP is dead, Starcraft 2 isn’t catching on as an E-sport like League of Legends, and WoW can’t go on forever – although we have been saying that for some time – so what’s next for the once invincible developer? Well besides Heart of the Swarm, a “next gen” MMO, and a half-hearted MOBA, not a whole hell of a lot. I know it’s easy to give Blizzard a hard time about their never ending development cycle, but the reality is it’s a strategy that only works if the end product is worth the wait, something their last few endeavors certainly haven’t been.
I have to admit that I’ve been waiting to see what Blizzard does the instant WoW subscriptions begin to slip, something that hasn’t really happened for any measurable length of time. The last time subs dipped they fired about 600 people, and that was only a drop from 10 to 9 Million. I’m not hoping that they will fall apart, far from it – to me they’ve been the gold standard ever since I was a kid. The reality is that WoW has made things a little too easy for them, too much money and popularity for too long, and it’s the reason that Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 haven’t really caught on – they’ve lost touch. This year it will be interesting to see if they can regain their stride or simply become another out of touch corporate developer.
More Attention to Story?
Possibly the last The Walking Dead picture i’ll ever use *sniff*
I don’t remember the last time the industry came together to agree on anything, but The Walking Dead seems to have been almost everyone’s game of the year for 2012, pretty amazing considering it also had the least amount of gameplay of any game all year. I can’t help but think that’s a good thing for the industry which has, for the most part, focused exclusively on gameplay for years. Telltale Games and The Walking Dead have reminded everyone that games aren’t just about explosions and puzzles, they can be much more than that, they can be interactive stories as good as any TV show or movie (in some cases just plain better than the TV show).
Maybe, just maybe, this idea will spread. Instead of cranking out titles with more features, and thus more bugs, maybe a few developers will tone it down a bit and put some more time into developing better characters and better stories. It’s probably silly of me to think so, developers don’t chase awards in the same way that people do in the film industry, but maybe it will be enough for a few of our favorite developers to rethink their games and put a little more time into the characters that connect us to them.