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Charlie Riot's blog

3:07 PM on 01.04.2012

Predictions: Hopeless Optimism

In terms of gaming, 2011 has been in one word: riveting. Game of the Year lists have been more unexpected and contentious then ever, and trying to pick only one game that stands out is nearly impossible. That being said, the expectations for 2012 are understandably high. Given the most recent trend of overwhelming success in the industry, here are some of my hopes, fears, and predictions for this upcoming year as I see it.

The 3DS Wake-up Call:

With the March release of the Nintendo 3DS, it seemed clear that Nintendo was putting their money where their mouth is in terms of innovation. It was something we had never seen before, and the idea of having a fully 3D experience without 3D glasses is still intriguing to say the least. Shortly thereafter, reports of eye strain, low battery life, and a lack of stellar, must-have titles were at a disheartening rate. It was clear that the Nintendo 3DS had been released too early for its own good, leaving the customer to have to do much of the quality assurance testing for themselves. Though Nintendo's "Ambassador Program" gave early-adopters a modest peace offering, the platform as a whole still has something to be desired: uniquely enjoyable games that can't be found anywhere else. Many of the initial games we were shown at E3 this year aren't available yet, and Nintendo has had to cut the price of their newest handheld to maintain sales. What Nintendo needs to realize is that a console is not popular because of its price, but because of the experience that it provides.

What I hope will happen:

Games like Animal Crossing, Paper Mario, Monster Hunter, and Luigi's Mansion will finally grace the 3DS and cause a spike in sales. Nintendo will see this and place an emphasis on games, which is, after all, why we're here in the first place. An improved model, as in a 3DS Lite, wouldn't hurt either.

What I fear will happen:

Anticipated titles will be pushed back and Nintendo will fail to see why their console isn't flying off the shelves. The eShop will continue to underwhelm and its ridiculous prices will turn many gamers to either the PS Vita, or the ever-affordable iPod touch for mobile gaming. The circle pad will fail to catch on, causing a rift in the market in which developers will refuse to develop for it.

Playstation Vita: Slow Burning Success:

The Playstation Vita is set to release in North America in only a month's time, and it couldn't come sooner. Given Sony's track record, it may be safe to assume that their PS Vita may not garner the same level of sales that the 3DS had at launch, but it will likely sell steadily over its lifespan. Launching at a modest $250 price-point, the Vita appears to have an interesting library of near-launch titles to choose from. The graphical fidelity in games such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss (which has already scored well in its own right) and Gravity Rush is stunning and hopefully the gameplay follows suit.

What I hope will happen:

The Playstation Vita will launch without a hitch, unmarred by technical faults. The launch line-up will be enough to sell initial units, causing more third-party developers to develop intently for this platform. Developers that utilize the touch controls will do so out of exploration and the games will be more engaging because of them.

What I fear will happen:

Sony's willingness to jump on the touchscreen bandwagon will result in a cavalcade of gimmicky shovelware titles. The console will fail to perform in North America and a lack of localization will cause many customers to find illegal alternatives to enjoy their Vita.

The New Generation:

With the announcement of the Wii U at this year's E3, the idea of having an entire fresh lineup of consoles is something we can look forward to in the future, but that almost definitely won't be this year. While the Wii U is slated for a 2012 release, the 3DS is available this moment, and the PS Vita is out shortly, it's doubtful that neither Microsoft nor Sony will be releasing anything in terms of home consoles for a while now. Hopefully it will be worth the wait in the end, but seeing as how we haven't even witnessed the slightest evidence of the final home consoles to be released this generation, they are likely still well in to development as to not disappoint.

What I hope will happen:

Though we will wait a great deal for the next offerings of Sony and Microsoft, it will be well worth it. The technical improvements will be impressive, and the launch line-ups will get people rushing to grab at their wallets, just not in 2012.

What I fear will happen:

Fearing that the current home consoles have capped out in terms of technical capabilities, Sony and Microsoft will race to finish their products first in order to declare innovation. This will result in hardware issues and a lack of viable game support.

The Meaning of HD:

It's no secret that developers have been handing off their previous-generation titles to third-party studios to bring them in to the world of high-definition. On one hand, this means that we can play our most beloved, though technically flawed games of the past in a more refined state. On the other hand, one can't help but feel that we're paying for the same games over and over. If done well, HD collections can be a nostalgic high like no other, such as the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, or the Shadow of the Colossus/Ico HD Collection. If done poorly, the veiled desire to suck money from the customer will be obvious and undesired, such as with this year's Tomb Raider HD Collection. If the improvement is noticeable and warranted, then consumers will be financially unharmed, otherwise we're simply paying a premium for a product that is worth far less than its asking price.

What I hope will happen:

The idea of an HD collection will only be used when the fanbase is able to support it. We will have a new way to pick up optimized versions of games in convenient collections.

What I fear will happen:

A slew of HD collections will flood the market, each having barely noticeable improvements from their originals. We will severely overpay for dated reproductions, which as gamers we should be used to by now.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 (360, PS3):

Developer: Square Enix Product Development Division 1, tri-Ace
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: January 31st, 2012

Given Final Fantasy XIII's financial success, regardless of fan response, it was no surprise when Final Fantasy XIII-2 was announced. The short term reaction to the original game was largely positive, though over time the fanbase has split, many criticizing the game for its linearity and debatably uninteresting cast of characters. Since the game's popularity has fizzled out, it would be no surprise to see Final Fantasy XIII-2's sales underperform whether the game is received well or not.

What I hope will happen:

Final Fantasy XIII-2 will remedy the problems found in the original, improving upon it in almost every way. The fans will respond well and the game will sell enough to be deemed a success.

What I fear will happen:

Square Enix won't realize why the original game had received such criticism, and the improvements made will be shallow and unwarranted. Poor sales will be blamed on the North American gaming market, and future Square Enix titles may not be localized.

SoulCalibur V (360, PS3):

Developer: Project Soul
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Released: January 31st, 2012

Given the previous titles in the SoulCalibur series, fans know what to expect by now. The satisfying and customizable arcade fighting in SoulCalibur is unparalleled, and hopefully this most recent iteration will be no different. Even though the online servers are split between its two platforms, players will have no trouble finding a match in the initial months of release.

What I hope will happen:

SoulCalibur 5 will have an improved story mode, emphasizing the characters we have grown to love. The optional campaign will be deep and feature improved customization along the same lines as SoulCalibur 2's stage-based weapon collecting mode.

What I fear will happen:

SoulCalibur 5 will fail to improve on the most important aspects of the series. Too much focus will be placed on the online modes, and offline players will not find a great deal of value in their purchase. It will be seen as "just another SoulCalibur title".

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (360, PC, PS3):

Developer: 38 Studios, Big Huge Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: February 7th, 2012

Following in the unfortunate wake of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur takes the player to a content-filled fantasy world, similar to recent games in the genre. It features character customization and story alterations that depend on the player's choices. The experience looks relatively polished when compared to similar games, and will hopefully provide a new avenue in the fantasy genre that players have yet to experience.

What I hope will happen:

EA will actually market Kingdoms of Amalur enough that it will perform well. It will receive critical praise and absolutely not be compared to Skyrim.

What I fear will happen:

"I don't need this, I already have Skyrim."

The Darkness 2 (360, PC, PS3):

Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: February 7th, 2012

The Darkness was mostly enjoyable with a few hiccups here and there, but The Darkness 2 appears to have a few new tricks up its sleeve to divert attention. It will feature a new art style akin to games such as Borderlands or Dark Cloud 2, not to mention a new method of inflicting mayhem which is referred to as "quad-wielding". Need I say more?

What I hope will happen:

The Darkness 2 will show players a new style of combat that will add depth and replay value, but there will be much more than the combat to convince players to make the purchase.

What I fear will happen:

The Darkness 2 will get lost in the sea of first-person action games that currently reside in the market.

Inversion (360, PC, PS3):

Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Released: February 7th, 2012

Similar to the way I feel about countless Namco Bandai games, I sincerely worry for this title. Inversion looks like an entertaining game from the short clips that have been revealed, but due to modest advertising, it is likely to fall by the wayside. Unfortunately for this style of game, we have similar, higher-budget titles to choose from, such as the recently released Gears of War 3. Aside from its intersting use of gravity-altering mechanics and fully destructible terrain, Inversion doesn't look like a "must have" game for this year, particularly with the type of customer that only buys two or three games a year. Hopefully it at least sells more than Namco Bandai's Enslaved from last year, but I don't think anybody is holding their breath.

What I hope will happen:

Inversion will tap in to the vast market of gamers that merely want an exciting action game with a large amount of destructibility. The game will be received well by critics, and Namco Bandai will outgrow their primarily niche-developer status.

What I fear will happen:

Due to the lack of attention paid to Inversion prior to its release, it won't sell well, even if it turns out to be a great game. Even worse would be if the game isn't enjoyable on top of garnering poor sales.

Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii):

Developer: Nintendo SPD Group No.1, TNX
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: February 13th, 2012

It's not fair. It's just not fair. Rhythm Heaven Fever is set to release next month on the Wii. It's a delightfully quirky rhythm game that features several micro-stories that are played out through dexterous button pressing, along the same lines as the WarioWare series. The previous title, Rhythm Heaven, sold remarkably well on the DS—in Japan. Unfortunately the game's niche audience may not pull through this time, and the game may underperform in terms of sales. On the other hand, it seems like it would be on the cheaper side of localization, so perhaps Nintendo is still making a healthy profit. I implore any or all Wii owners to pick up a copy of Rhythm Heaven Fever this February as to tell Nintendo that North America still wants to play Japanese localizations. This game is a bucket filled to the brim with smiles.

What I hope will happen:

Rhythm Heaven Fever will catch the attention of Wii owners by offering an uplifting experience. Its generous reception will allow future Japanese games to make their way to the North American market.

What I fear will happen:

The success that this series found on the DS won't be replicated on the Wii. After all, smaller, rhythm-based games do seem more at home on a portable system.

Twisted Metal (PS3):

Developer: Eat Sleep Play
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Released: February 14th, 2012

Given the track record of the console iterations of Twisted Metal, the chances of this game bombing (sales-wise, not within the game) are very slim. It's been long enough since the last real Twisted Metal that it couldn't hurt to revisit the series. If it's been a while since you've controlled a missile as it enters a giant doll-robot's face, then I think it's time to check out David Jaffe's latest work.

What I hope will happen:

Twisted Metal on the Playstation 3 is exactly what fans have been waiting for. It amounts to much more than simply a vehicle-based battle arena. The various character stories will be enough to warrant multiple playthroughs.

What I fear will happen:

Nobody truly cares about the Twisted Metal franchise anymore and it is simply released and forgotten. For shame, gamers. For shame.

Asura's Wrath (360, PS3):

Developer: CyberConnect2
Publisher: Capcom
Released: February 24th, 2012

Somehow this bizarre combination of third-person action and a character that looks suspiciously like Akuma has flown under the radar of many over the past few months. A year or two ago I would've said that this game has got to be pure gold, but Capcom has had a tarnished track record recently. Perhaps making a game that looks like something we've seen time and time again isn't in their best interest, but if Asura's Wrath succeeds, it may be the push Capcom needs to be back on the map.

What I hope will happen:

People will refrain from making obligatory God of War or Bayonetta comparisons and simply enjoy the game for what it is. The chances of this game being near-perfect are low, but it may turn out to be a hell of a game regardless.

What I fear will happen:

Akuma's Wrath (see what I did there?) will be frustratingly derivative and unoriginal, in which case I would suggest they include that screaming booth from E3 in every purchase.

Mass Effect 3 (360, PC, PS3):

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: March 6th, 2012

Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games of the year, Mass Effect 3 back on board the Normandy to solve problems in space, akin to games like Maury Povich for the Nintendo DS. In all seriousness though, this may be the heavy-hitting game of the year contender for 2012 if all goes well. While a newly added multiplayer mode and Kinect support may not have won the fans over, an engrossing story and satisfying combat may. Hopefully BioWare's recent addition to the Dragon Age series is left in the dust after the release of Mass Effect 3 so we can all move on with our lives.

What I hope will happen:

Mass Effect 3 will put a cap on the series and end with a bang. Characters found in the previous two games will emerge at some point for a cameo or two, and the decisions made in the past will effect how the game plays out. This game is in no jeopardy of failing financially, and is very unlikely to fail critically either.

What I fear will happen:

BioWare places too much of a focus on the multiplayer mode and not enough on the single player storyline. It becomes as contentious as Dragon Age 2 and is critically polarizing.

Ninja Gaiden 3 (360, PS3):

Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Released: March 20th, 2012

The previous two Ninja Gaiden games in the series have done well on their respective platforms. While Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 were a bit lacking on the narrative side, I personally enjoyed the journey that each game took me on. When buying a game where the primarily advertised mechanic is that you can decapitate and dismember enemies, you should expect a certain level of camp. When Ninja Gaiden 2 was released on the Playstation 3, certain elements such as the gratuitous level of blood, were removed apparently in order to preserve the framerate. Not to be too concerned with gore, but a ridiculous amount of blood is what the series is known for. Here's hoping the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of Ninja Gaiden 3 are on par with each other.

What I hope will happen:

Ninja Gaiden 3 ends the series and Team Ninja begins developing a brand new IP. While each Ninja Gaiden game has been great in its own right, moving on to something more original couldn't hurt. Here's hoping that the newest offering is refreshing and filled with exhilarating, skill-dependent moments.

What I fear will happen:

Too much of an emphasis was placed on developing the Wii U's touchscreen controls and the Playstation 3's Move controls, leaving the game buggy, unfinished, and with an uneven framerate.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (360, PC, PS3):

Developer: Capcom, Slant Six Games
Publisher: Capcom
Released: March 20th, 2012

This new direction that Capcom is spinning off in to makes me slightly nervous. It's not because the formula of Operation Raccoon City differs from what we expect from Resident Evil, but rather due to aversion of horror. Having four players online over flimsy headsets while their characters wield high-powered machine guns doesn't sound like a particularly terrifying experience (from the game, anyway). If Operation Raccoon City is alternatively an action game rather than a survival horror game, then the controls had better be competent, and they don't appear to be. Personally I would categorize this game as a "I need to see it before I believe it"-type game. I would be surprised if it turns out well, but that aside I sure would love to play a new Resident Evil game.

What I hope will happen:

This turns out to be like a more exciting version of Resident Evil: Outbreak for the Playstation 2, except instead of loading screens you get gameplay.

What I fear will happen:

Resident Evil will delve further in to the mainstream action game market. The controls and aiming mechanics will sum up to be a typical, sub-par third-person shooter experience.

Silent Hill: Downpour (360, PS3):

Developer: Vatra Games
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Released: Q1, 2012

In the words of Pope Jim Sterling via Podtoid, "Silent Hill: Downpour is a let down because it's poor". This phrase has been in the back of my mind and it surfaces every time I consider the validity of Konami's newest Silent Hill game. New information, however, seems to indicate that the developers are keeping classic Silent Hill gameplay in mind during development, paying attention to atmosphere over combat, and the protagonist's helplessness rather than a macho soldier attitude. We have very little to go on in terms of Vatra's past works (the Rush 'n Attack reboot, yipes), but hopefully Downpour is at least more interesting than Silent Hill: Homecoming. The absence of Akira Yamaoka's music will be missed though. Somehow Korn just doesn't feel the same.

What I hope will happen:

We get a more American take on the classic Silent Hill formula with new enemies, atmospheric locations, and exploration-intensive gameplay.

What I fear will happen:

Downpour will be another failed attempt to copy the critical success of Silent Hill 2. If they throw in some scary nurses for no adequately explained reason though, that would fix everything.

Dragon's Dogma (360, PS3):

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: March 27th, 2012

If you feel like there are an unusual number of open-world fantasy games coming out recently, you're absolutely right. Dragon's Dogma looks to take a little bit of Demon's Souls and Shadow of the Colossus and make some sort of strange, vague, yet intriguing concoction. It focuses on an MMO-type experience without necessarily having to play online. Frankly, it reminds me of White Knight Chronicles, but let's hope it does better than that. The fantasy setting has been seen many times before, but the multiplayer fantasy setting can certainly be explored further. While it's not as exciting as a new Breath of Fire game, given the subject matter we can just pretend that it is.

What I hope will happen:

A fresh look at the fantasy genre provides the framework for content support over the game's lifespan. The game is acclaimed enough that players demand more areas to explore and bosses to fight, and Capcom delivers until that demand is satiated.

What I fear will happen:

The game will flop but Capcom will continue to release overly expensive content for it regardless, or the game will do so well that they release Ultimate Dragon's Dogma six months later—at full price.

Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii):

Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: April 2nd, 2012

It's already fairly accepted that Xenoblade Chronicles is a success in the eyes of game critics, but it has some problems that may occur at launch. In terms of Japanese RPGs, we don't have many to choose from. When Xenoblade was announced for release in Europe, many gamers decided to import it as it wasn't given a release date in North America. Since this has happened, the primary hardcore fanbase has acquired and beaten the game thoroughly. The only market that's left is the people that didn't care enough about the game to import it, and likely won't buy it until some sort of price drop. Perhaps this won't make much of a difference, but it feels like low sales may influence future localization of Japanese RPGs, which is unfortunate.

What I hope will happen:

People will line up in droves to purchase what may be one of the last great JRPGs. People will buy second copies even if they have imported it already. They will buy copies for their grand parents, neighbors, dogs, etc. You see, Nintendo? North America loves Japanese RPGS. Can we have Last Story, please?

What I fear will happen:

Everyone who wanted Xenoblade Chronicles has bought it already, leaving not many people left to pick the game up at its launch.

Prototype 2 (360, PC, PS3):

Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Released: April 24th, 2012

The first Prototype was a unique take on a modern, open-world setting. It wasn't perfect, but for most players it was satisfying to slice-and-dice to an extent. Prototype 2 seems to want to build on this formula, allowing the player to have more useful mutations for the protagonist. Not much as been shown on Prototype 2, but so far there's no reason to assume that it will be an underwhelming experience.

What I hope will happen:

We'll be given a more expansive world to explore, and more consequences for the actions taken in-game.

What I fear will happen:

Prototype 2 launches with no significant hurdles—Infamous 3 is announced the day before.

Bioshock Infinite (360, PC, PS3):

Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: Q3 2012

It's difficult not to get excited at the thought of Bioshock Infinite. From what we've seen so far, it has the terrific gameplay from Bioshock, with a brand new story component: a supporting character. To me this feels like it will have the same difference in appeal that Half-Life 2 did in comparison to Half-Life 1's Alyx-less campaign. I can't help but feel that I'm going to care a great deal about the characters in Bioshock Infinite, and I can't wait until I can experience it for myself. This is the pinnacle of concentrated excitement, folks.

What I hope will happen:

The intensive voice acting will make the game shine, and critics of Bioshock's narrow corridors will be swayed. Here's hoping this game makes it in to 2012.

What I fear will happen:

Bioshock Infinite will end. We'll have to wait for a sequel.

Well, that's it. The topics I've discussed aren't necessarily all-encompassing, but are the games that seem to have the most interest in the community. Obviously there are some omissions of games that may not be released in 2012, so I'll list them below. I certainly hope that some of these games get released in 2012, but so far there hasn't been a specific date to prove it. If you have been able to read this entire post, congratulations, I wouldn't have.

The Post-2012 "Lump":

Assassin's Creed 3
Borderlands 2
Diablo 3
Darksiders II
Hitman: Absolution
The Last Guardian
The Last of Us
Lollipop Chainsaw
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Tomb Raider   read

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