2013 is just a few hours away, but before we move onto a new year (filled with new games and systems!) let’s take a look back at the year that was: 2012. There was a lot of good and bad in 2012, and since I don’t want to spend too much time dwelling on the negative aspects of the year, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.
2012 was a weird year for video games: while there were still plenty of great titles worth playing this year, 2012 was definitely an awkward transitionary period for the games industry: the Xbox 360 and PS3’s time in the limelight is definitely winding down, and it seems like most of the big publishers and developers decided to wait 2012 out and bide their time until the PS4 and the next Xbox are unveiled. Things in the games industry are definitely changing, and it seems like nobody is safe: once seemingly unstoppable companies like Zynga collapsed as the social games bubble burst, THQ filed for bankruptcy, Sony sunk even deeper in the debt that they’ve been building over the last 5 years, and even Nintendo, a company who has spent the better part of this generation making money hand over foot, struggled to turn a profit this year and stumbled during the Wii U’s rocky launch. Overall game sales across all systems and platforms are declining, and it’s becoming clear that the industry is due for a big shake-up in 2013.
I went into 2012 with an optimistic attitude, even though I knew that the current generation was nearing it’s end: after all, as anyone who had the pleasure of playing Persona 4 or The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess five or six years ago will tell you, sometimes consoles get some of their best games right before the end of their lifespan. There was still plenty of great, big budget titles this year, like Halo 4 and Darksiders 2, but 2012 was also host to some of the biggest high profile disappointments in gaming’s short history. Everyone struggled this year, but while some companies and games managed to survive 2012 with their dignity intact, there were others who weren’t so lucky: this list is about them. Before we look forward to all the great games (and new consoles) that we’ll be playing in 2013, let’s take a look back at the games, events, and trends of 2012 that we’d all rather forget.
Resident Evil 6
There were a lot of sequels this year that didn’t end up being quite as good as their predecessors (Assassin’s Creed 3, for example,) but no sequel this year managed to be as disappointing as Resident Evil 6. RE6 was supposed to be a sure thing: the game was supposed to blend the traditional survival horror aspects of classic RE games with the relentless, tense action of RE4 and 5. Instead, we got a game that did neither: the traditional adventure elements were shallow and boring, and the action completely dropped all the elements that made RE4 so great and unique in favor of terrible QTE’s and overly bombastic scripted events that sacrificed gameplay in favor of cinematic excess. Despite supposedly being in development for years by the largest team that Capcom has ever assembled, RE6 felt muddled, rushed, and half-assed.
While the game launched to strong sales thanks to the Resident Evil branding, Capcom has since admitted that sales of the game in the following weeks and months have plummeted as word of mouth about the game’s quality (or lack thereof,) has spread, so hopefully Capcom will learn from RE6’s mistakes and will work to make the inevitable Resident Evil 7 into the quality game that we should have gotten in the first place. Resident Evil is one of my favorite franchises, and the series definitely deserves a better flagship title than RE6.
Video games are once again the scapegoat for all of society’s problems
In the wake of the tragic, seemingly endless rash of mass shootings that have happened throughout America over the year, people have started questioning just what is it about American society that’s causing all these random acts of violence. Always looking for an easy scapegoat, opportunists in the news media and in American politics have once again made video games into the source and cause of all of society’s ills: within hours of the shootings in Newtown, news outlets were reporting that the deranged shooter was a hardcore fan of Starcraft 2, seemingly implying that the shooter’s love of Blizzard’s unrealistic, sci-fi strategy game somehow motivated his insanity. The NRA, one of America’s largest lobbyist groups with tons of politicians in their pocket, even went as far as to state that the creators of violent video games like Mortal Kombat and Bulletstorm were more responsible for the tragedy at Sandy Hook than the people who gave the shooter access to his guns. They’ve even advocated the censorship of violent games and movies, seemingly oblivious to the hypocrisy that comes from trying to defend the Second Amendment by advocating a type of censorship that completely ignores the First Amendment.
Instead of asking the hard questions about our society and what reforms we need to make in order to prevent such pointless tragedies from happening again, it seems like some Americans would rather take the easy way out and turn video games into the scapegoat for all of our country’s failings. It’s the same type of moral witch hunt that morons in previous generations applied to things like comics and even music, and as our society’s newest form of mass media, it seems like video games are once again the latest easy target for idiots trying to apply overly simple solutions to extremely complex problems.
Sony’s handling of the Playstation Vita
The Playstation Vita is a cool piece of hardware with lots of potential… but you’d never know that from the way that Sony has treated the platform since its launch in America earlier this year.
With its massive, beautiful screen and nearly PS3-level horsepower, the PS Vita should have been a guaranteed (and much needed) sales hit for the ailing Sony, but they’ve fumbled their handling of the system in almost every regard: new releases for the system are few and far between, and there’s even less worthwhile upcoming titles on the schedule for next year. While initial launch numbers were promising, Vita sales plummeted (and have never recovered,) in the weeks that followed, so much so that Sony is no longer releasing individual Vita sales numbers in order to avoid embarrassing themselves.
The sad thing is, Sony already has a roadmap for how to fix things: Nintendo was in the exact same situation last year with the 3DS, and they managed to turn that system’s fortune’s around (at least in terms of sales,) with a massive price drop and the acquisition of some high profile third party exclusives, like Monster Hunter 4. Sony so far has been hesitant to drop the price of the Vita, and their big Vita titles for the Fall, Assassin’s Creed Liberation and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, both flopped following a less than positive critical reception. Sony needs to dip into their wallet and give the Vita both the price drop and the exclusive, original titles it desperately needs to survive, but so far they’ve been strangely hesitant to even try and do anything that would fix the Vita’s situation. Hell, during their E3 press conference this year Sony spent more time talking about specific, individual PS3 games than they did the entire Vita line-up. Sony says they’re still committed to the platform, but despite their lip-service, it seems like they’re treating the Vita like an afterthought, a problem which will only probably get worse as Sony shifts their attention to the launch of the PS4 next year.
The Vita is an amazing piece of hardware with a handful of good games, but it should be so much more than that, and it certainly shouldn’t be selling as badly as it has been throughout the year. If Sony wants consumers to have any sort of confidence in their future hardware, they need to turn things around for the Vita, and they need to do it ASAP.
Mass Effect 3’s ending
Okay, I’m sure by this point you’re tired of hearing about people bitch about ME3’s ending. So am I… but that doesn’t change the fact that Mass Effect 3’s ending was one of the most unwelcome “…wtf?” moments of the year.
Of course, I don’t think that makes Mass Effect 3 a bad game: I still think it’s completely stupid to grade a lengthy, interactive experience solely on the last few minutes of narrative (regardless of how bad it was,) while ignoring everything else it got right in terms of visuals, the preceeding 99% of the story, and most importantly, the gameplay. I still stand by my review, and I still think that Mass Effect 3 was a game that got almost everything right… but regardless of that, it’s still definitely regrettable and disappointing that Bioware tripped up right at the saga’s climax. I’m sure most reasonable people have moved on from Mass Effect’s underwhelming ending at this point, so I hate to even bring it up, but considering the hype and the build-up the ending, it’s hard to not feel a little blue-balled to this day. Of course, some people still haven’t moved on from being angry about Mass Effect’s ending and are still sending death threats to Bioware employees as we speak. Which brings me to the my next topic…
Angry, overzealous fanboys that made the entire gaming community look bad
For as long as video games have existed, there have been always been stupid, childish fanboys who spend more time arguing about the “console war” than actually playing games, or morons who refuse to play a game because it’s on a system they don’t like or because it’s published by a company who committed some (probably imagined) slight against them. But while these fanboys usually harmlessly stick to a secluded spot of the internet where they can pretend like their opinions actually matter, their stupidity reached new heights this year as the worst aspects of the gaming community became more vocal and their behavior became more extreme than ever.
Take Mass Effect, for example: I think we can all agree that the ending was divisive, and a lot of people, myself included, hated the ending. Now, a reasonable person would simply say to themselves, “Well, that sucked, maybe I think twice before buying another game by them again,” and would then move on with their lives, but this year diehard “gamers” decided to voice their disappointment in the stupidest ways possible: Bioware employees were stalked, death threats were sent, and one particularly entitled fanboy even reported the game to the government’s Better Business Bureau, with a complaint that most lawyers agreed would probably be laughed out of the court (it was.) It wasn’t even relegated to Bioware, either: certain members of the fighting game community reacted like spoiled children when somebody had the nerve to ask them to stop acting like spoiled children, and apparently we aren’t even allowed to discuss the possibility that there maybe might be something wrong with the way that women are portrayed in games without inciting an angry, Aspergers fueled temper tantrum.
Regardless of which side of the argument you fell on on any of these issues, there’s a way to debate things and voice your disapproval without acting like a 13 year old throwing a fit in class. Over and over throughout the year, the most vocal and visible members of the gaming community chose to not do things the proper way, and the entire gaming community and industry looked worse for it. Gamers are often stereotyped as a bunch of whiny, socially-inept man-children, and looking at how some “gamers” overreacted to the big stories of the year, I’m not sure that stereotype is entirely untrue. It’s repulsive, embarrassing behavior, and it perpetuates a stereotype that then unfortunately gets applied to the vast majority of sane, rational gamers. I’ve met plenty of intelligent, reasonable gamers in my life, and I find it incredibly disappointing that any attempt at respectful, thoughtful discussion about games this year were completely drowned out by the never ending parade of morons who seem to have so little going on in their lives that they demand that people lose their jobs, get raped, or die because somebody made a game or said a statement that they didn’t like.