2012: A phenomenal year for smaller development teams working in the downloadable space
I can’t remember another year where these games have been in such high quantity and quality. Ironically it has also been the worst year for the Summer of Arcade, Microsoft’s way of showcasing the “best” downloadable games out there. In the past, Summer of Arcade did do exactly that. However this year, with the exception of Dust: An Elysian Tail, all the best Xbox Live arcade games were released outside the Summer of Arcade. Honestly though, I don’t think this sector requires promotional events on the part of Microsoft or any of the big three to support itself any more (although they don’t hurt). Right now, there is more awareness and coverage for these games than there has ever been. It isn’t Mass Effect 3 or Halo 4 competing for the top spot in most people’s game of the year lists; it’s the likes of Journey and The Walking Dead that I hear people championing.
By praising the downloadable scene, I don’t mean to suggest it has been a poor year for big-budget games. There have definitely been some great experiences from the AAA side of the market. But I, and I’m sure many others, have started to feel this side of the industry stagnate. “Sequel, sequel, sequel, FPS, sequel, sequel, sequel.” Maybe I am being a bit unfair; there has actually been some great new IP from the big budget side of the industry this year, like Binary Domain and Dishonored. Plus there have been games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown which, while not technically new IP, felt fresh in a market where turn-based strategy games have become a rare sight. Overall, I still can’t shake the feeling that the downloadable scene is where almost all of the creativity is at these days.
This year also saw the release of Sony’s new handheld, the PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo’s step into the next generation, the Wii U. Now unfortunately, at the time of writing, I do not own either console. I’m a student and unfortunately, I like eating and living indoors. I know, I know; I should get my priorities straight. Seriously though, I would have really liked to have had an informed opinion on both these consoles, as I think it’s fair to say both have had an impact in their own way.
What I can comment on, which is semi linked to Vita, as I now own three games for a console that I don’t even own, is PlayStation Plus. Sony really did play it smart with their subscription service this year, and I imagine Microsoft must be taking a long, hard look at Xbox Live right now. If they aren’t then they’re fools. PS Plus has become about rewarding people who use their PS3’s frequently, rather than blocking features that should be free, like Xbox Live does. If you bought a PS3 now, and just subscribed to PS Plus and didn’t buy any other content, you’d be set. In your first month of use, you will have already gained access to eleven games at no extra cost. And then every month after that, you’ll be collecting more and more games for your digital collection, and it only cost you a £40 subscription for the year. You’d think the catch would be that the games that they are offering aren’t really ones you’d want. But Sony played it smart, offering quality content every month. Right now you can claim Batman: Arkham City, Vanquish, Limbo, LittleBigPlanet 2, Crysis 2, Bulletstorm, Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition, MotorStorm: Apocalypse, inFAMOUS 2…You get the idea, I don’t need to list them all. This represents insane value for money and, if you own a PS3 (or a Vita for that matter), you’d be crazy not to take advantage of this.
That’s it for my general thoughts on 2012, but I’m sure you’re all wondering what my favourite games this year have been. Well, just below you’ll find a video that reveals all. Just to sum up my thoughts here, I’ll say that it is my belief that 2012 has been a great year for video games, but it has been a great year in unexpected ways.