We’ve already had our say on the best this industry produced in 2012 – if you still need to catch up then head over to our awards page – but what do developers think was the best game of the year? We asked 15 people from across the industry for theirs, and while Journey is the clear favourite there’s some well-deserved love for The Walking Dead, praise for Borderlands 2 and, in a couple of cases, welcome disregard for release dates.
New Year’s Eve: a day when past and future meet, briefly clink glasses and go their separate ways. It’s hard to think of a better choice to celebrate such an occasion with than Animal Crossing, a game which spends as much time looking back as forward. Admittedly, it’s the first time in a few months we’ve visited our quaint little virtual hamlet, but we wouldn’t miss the tradition of spending the holidays there. Indeed, returning for a nostalgic trip round our old stomping ground for the festive season has become something of a habit.
THQ left it late. Days before Christmas it announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the last resort of an ailing US company, in order to ditch its $100 million debt and sell its assets to the highest bidder. It was a fitting end to a year in which it became clear that, at retail at least, anything less than unqualified success can spell disaster.
A month ago, Casey Hudson, executive producer of the Mass Effect series, asked the following of his 33,000 Twitter followers: “Parsing through your thoughts on the next #ME game. Would you be more interested in a game that takes place before the trilogy, or after?” It’s an innocent enough query asked on a casual enough platform, but is it one that should be being asked at all? What I want from BioWare in the next Mass Effect is fairly straightforward. I want their passion, excitement and enthusiasm. I want the game they want to make.
“Is the Vita on life support?” “Will the Vita really die?” It’s fair to say the irony of its name hasn’t been lost on critics of Sony’s portable. Such headlines may be a little premature, but nor are they entirely wide of the mark: twelve months after its Japanese bow, Vita is undeniably struggling, faced with the twin threat of a resurgent 3DS and Apple’s continued dominance of the mobile space.
It’s difficult to recall a time before Kickstarter’s game industry prominence, but just twelve short months ago the crowdfunding website had a considerably lower profile. Given the empowerment it has brought to developers, then, it’s ironic that the website kicked off 2012 at the centre of controversy as it became the source of a report that Atari was threatening legal action against developers it felt had infringed on its IP rights. But it was Double Fine’s campaign for a point-and-click adventure helmed by Full Throttle and Grim Fandango creator Tim Schafer that truly catapulted Kickstarter into the public consciousness.
Videogames and Christmas are indelibly linked, and we rather hope they will be forever. Much of that is due to this industry’s historic obsession with the final three months of the year; while release schedules are doubtless better spread out these days, big-budget development is still all about Q4. For most of us, of course, business considerations don’t come into it, and never did; there’s just nothing quite like a great game on a cold winter’s day, and if you’ve spent days or weeks looking forward to it, poring over magazine previews while eagerly eyeing the suspiciously sized present under the tree then so much the better. As such, if you love games, chances are there’s one in particular that you will forever associate with Christmas Day. If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably got many more than that.
Zynga’s rapid decline over the course of 2012 is thrown into sharp relief when you think back to January. Mark Pincus’ social game giant was in rude health, its continued growth apparently unstoppable following a long-awaited floatation on the stock market which netted the company a billion dollars (£644.7m). It was, though, also the first wobble in Zynga’s otherwise unflappable stride – a billion dollars is a great deal of money, sure, but the IPO, despite being the biggest flotation of a US tech company since Google’s in 2004, resulted in the company being valued at barely a third of the figure that was originally suggested.
When I first heard about Christmas Nights Into Dreams, just 12 months after the release of the original Nights, I remember thinking: “What a swizz”. This was in an age before I, or most of the developed world (if you can call Liverpool that, anyway), were using the internet regularly – a time when magazines and word of mouth were all we had.
We’re signing off for the Christmas and New Year break today, and this will be the last main post of 2012. We’ve plenty planned for the next week or so, though. Expect a couple of seasonal entries in our Still Playing series, a look back at the year’s most significant news, and developers telling us about their favourite games of the year. We’ve a special, and uncommonly personal, feature planned for Christmas morning, too.