I wanted to write a 2012 predictions piece about how uncertain I am about what gaming in 2012 will look like. Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to format such an article. By sheer coincidence, Tim Bray recently wrote a similar piece on his personal blog (albeit about topics much more serious than gaming). I liked his approach so much that I had to unashamedly use it as a template for my own attempt. Here then are my Bray inspired 2012 Gaming Uncertainties.
Playstation Vita – Will the West embrace it as tepidly as they did the PSP? And will it perform as well in Japan as everyone thinks (and hopes) it will? Already the analysts of the world are framing this as Sony’s fight for survival, and if their words really do have an impact on the business world, then should we be afraid that they seem to have their minds already made up about the Vita’s chances?
Personally, I think the Vita is a fantastic piece of hardware for the price, and it should have legs for years. But what I think doesn’t matter one bit. The only thing I’d dare to suggest is that Sony will be in trouble if all they focus on is portable versions of PS3 games.
3DS– The 3DS is doing better than the DS did at this point in its life, so all the proclamations of failure are kind of silly. I wonder, though, if the market has changed so much that the measure of success has shifted as well. People still expect Nintendo to prove themselves, and I’m no longer sure what the hell they have to do anymore to accomplish this. Wait, I do know – smartphone versions of Nintendo franchises. Since that won’t be happening any time soon, let’s move onto the next topic…
Smartphones – The market is there, and growing. There’s no more debate as to whether they are legitimate, or whether they are a threat. The only thing left to ponder is whether their influence will be better or worse for gaming as a whole. The “traditional” industry, as it were, was already on the path towards monetization of its products. But I feel that the app store gurus have accelerated the speed at which bad practices take root in the industry. We now have publishers who are ready and willing to use the same tactics as Vegas in order to con people into parting with their money (and keep them coming back). What else might we see? And will the trend toward cheap, quick, brainless games lead to another crash? The consumers being targeted by App makers are the most fickle of them all…
Wii U – The details are still sparse, and the hardware looks like it might be out of date upon arrival. In a world which relies more and more on devices featuring ARM processors and low power consumption, the latter fact might not actually be a problem. There seems to be two versions of Nintendo, one which focuses on pleasing fickle/hyporcritical/conservative/confused fans, and another which ignores everyone and shows us what we want. I don’t think we can say anything about the Wii U until we see which face of the company shows up for this next console generation.
Microsoft – Microsoft is not afraid to throw things away and force people to move on. They did it with the Xbox 1, and the most recent 360 dashboard update essentially has no patience for anyone without a Kinect. And yet thanks to the success of the Kinect, the 360 could theoretically survive for a couple more years. Microsoft could go down one of two paths by year’s end. I have a guess as to which it will take, but I’m not quite certain enough to say it with confidence.
Indie gaming – I love the idea of indie games, and the options it grants to players and developers alike. I can’t stand the types of navel gazing, vague, occasionally hostile products which indie game design so often churns out. The word “indie” has taken on a meaning wholly separate from “independent”. Where will the “scene” decide to go next?
Consumers – What is it we want from games? What kinds of experiences do we like, for how many hours, and at what price? And can we accept the fact that we might not be able to have it all exactly the way we want?