Even though I haven't been posting for the entirety of 2011 I've still been paying attention to the gaming trends throughout the year, so I figured that there's really no better way to end this year than with a look at what ultimately happened throughout it.
Perhaps the most pertinent thing that comes to mind when I think of the year as a whole is the first time (at least that I can remember) that Nintendo released a portable console that showed even minor signs of struggling. The somewhat lukewarm response that the 3DS invoked and the subsequent price cut was something that stuck out in my mind as a sign of the way that gaming is changing. People have iPads and smartphones now that are just as ready and able to play games as the traditional handheld devices are. The scope of said games might not be the same, but when Angry Birds is all you really need to kill some time on a bus ride or on a lunch break, then why do you need a 3DS or PSP taking up more space on your body and demanding more concentrated bouts of playtime.
The other bit of news from Nintendo was of course the announcement of the Wii U which will launch next year. Of what I've seen so far I'm decidedly unimpressed, and the other coverage shows that I'm not alone in being so. The Wii was a sort of perfect storm of factors that helped Nintendo back into the spotlight when most people would have assumed they'd be laughed off the stage. The price point and the marketing to everyone, not just gamers but everyone, propelled the system to the top spot of consoles sold this generation. The question is: will such a feat be repeatable? It seems that for the most part the honeymoon is over, and the lack of AAA third party games, the less powerful hardware, and the overall awkwardness of motion controls means that people might be less willing to give Nintendo's next console a chance as they were with this one. Perhaps I'm wrong, in fact it might be quite likely, but only time will ultimately tell.
This was also mostly a year of sequels. Series like Battlefield, Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, The Elder Scrolls, Saint's Row, Batman, Zelda, Gears of War, and likely many more I'm missing all made a big mark on the industry this year. As I've said there's nothing wrong with sequels, it gives developers a chance to refine what was already good and also get enough gains to perhaps take on riskier ventures. This year though also saw the implosion of the Final Fantasy series, and a lot of people have criticized the market as beginning to stagnate on the whole under a sea of 2 and 3's. That's not to say that there weren't original games though: games from big studios like L.A. Noire and independent offerings like The Binding of Isaac proved that there is still room for creativity in gaming. It's a fine line to tread I believe.
All in all, I'd say that this was a pretty stable year. There have been rumblings that we might see the new Xbox by the end of 2012, but if those prove to be the rumour mill spinning out of control then we are not likely to see anything from Microsoft or Sony until at least 2013. In the meantime the same issues of digital rights, content distribution, and the oft times tumultuous relationship between game makers and game players will likely continue to be the focus of debate and issue for the coming future.
That said who's to say what highs, lows and other general surprises 2012 might have. It's just a matter of taking it as it comes. I look forward to being back in the new year, so until we meet again: Merry Christmas (or whatever else you happen to celebrate or not celebrate) and a Happy New Year.
This is Grahf, signing off until 2012.