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2011 was arguably the biggest and best year in video game history. In terms of consumer choice, game production and of course sales, the video game industry knocked the ball out of the park last year. 2011 was headlined (or rounded off) with a bigger than ever line up of pre-Christmas games including Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Arkham City, Uncharted 3, Skyward Sword and Modern Warfare 3 to name but a few. So with the Christmas season of 2012 imminently approaching, I can’t help but look at the games lined up for release this year and feel a little bit deflated.
In reality, it was almost impossible for this year’s line up to even come close to the 2011 pre-Christmas madness. I’m sure many a reader will remember scanning through articles, previews and reviews trying to decide which games to buy, because, you know, our ‘wallet is going to feel the pinch’ come November. While gamers revelled in gaming delight, game developers and publishers (particularly the big parties) were rolling in cash, or so various comment boards would have us believe. The big question is how could any line up hope to come close to that great collection of games?
Don’t get me wrong, the 2012 Christmas season is packed with great looking games. From new IPs like Dishonored and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale to big budget blockbusters like Assassins Creed 3 and Resident Evil 6, there’s a lot of quality gaming to get stuck in to this holiday season. Add in to that the release of a brand new games console and a new Call of Duty (which in terms of media attention is probably, unfortunately, the most significant) and you’ve got a bunch of reasons to get some extra hours at work. The strange thing is I’d argue that this year’s line up is actually shaping up to be of a much better quality in terms of production values, originality and ingenuity than 2011 ever was. The real difference, however, is that the games of 2012 are far more evenly divided.
On the one hand you’ve got all action with Black Ops 2, modern stealth with Hitman: Absolution or more historically focused players have Assassin’s Creed 3. Role-playing levellers have Borderlands 2, while pure action fans can play Tomb Raider. There are countless categories to which you could assign this year’s games, but the point is it’s much easier to choose the games you want. Last year I was baffled over Call of Duty or Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3 or Arkham City, Skyrim or Assassin’s Creed? I got sick of my own indecisiveness, as I am sure did many others. This year, there’s little of that confusion. Personally, I’m buying Assassin’s Creed 3 because I love the work they’re putting in to it, Dishored because I love an interesting game world and probably PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale so I can play it with my mates.
This much more simple ‘buying strategy’ stems from a much better spread of game styles and genres. Where last year the huge FPSs and adventure games battled it out, 2012 sees a much better division to cater for every taste. So here’s the strange thing, as I’ve made rather obvious this year’s holiday line-up looks great, but yet, I still stand by my comment that it leaves me feeling deflated. This, I believe, is because the hype just hasn’t been as strong. While 2011 saw media wars and endless ‘guides to Christmas buying’, 2012 has been about showing great games at their best, not horrible screenshot comparisons and VS articles.
So to answer my initial question, this year’s line-up can’t match the hype of 2011 purely because there’s so much less friction between both games and gamers. After the manic troll-fest of 2011 it seems we’ve all calmed down and matured a little. And while that means games have received a little less attention this year, it does also mean they’re more likely to please and surprise us by the time we actually get playing.
Thanks for reading