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The Year that will be... 2012

It's that time of year, the time we set aside to speculate and perhaps even provoke one or two of you. What is 2012 going to be like? Here's our take.

Will we see something from Microsoft's and Sony's next consoles in 2012?

The advent of a new generation...

With Nintendo having confirmed Wii U for release in 2012 it can be argued that the next generation is already set to debut in 2012. Will the Wii U see release in 2012? Well, we likely won't have a definite answer until E3, but Nintendo probably feel the need to push it out before the end of the year to get things going after having lost a lot of steam with Wii the last couple of years.

Rumours point to 2013-2014 as the likely launch of Sony's and Microsoft's next consoles. And with both players enjoying healthy sales figures at the moment, it is doubtful they will look to rattle the cage with announcements of new consoles at E3 2012.

Waiting an extra six or twelve months, may not only put money in the bank, but it also opens the possibility of putting Wii U in the uncomfortable limbo that the Dreamcast once experienced. Stuck in between generations, not really part of the current generation, not on par with the hardware of the next generation.

The last stand of the handheld?

With smart phones and tablets gaining a sizeable foothold with gamers, it will be interesting to see how Nintendo 3DS and the new PS Vita will fare. The Japanese market will obviously continue to be a haven for handhelds, but what is really interesting is to see whether there will be enough interest in Western markets to avoid fading into obscurity in the back shelves of game shops (á la PSP). The expected delay of the next generation will give Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita some breathing space to establish themselves while still remaining fresh in the eyes of the consumers. It will be interesting to see what will come of this, and the next year will likely dictate what kind of status 3DS/Vita development will be given moving forward.

That said, we've seen improvements from the Nintendo 3DS and we're genuinely excited about the prospects of the extremely powerful PS Vita. The real question here is whether the market has moved on. We hope not and that there is room for dedicated handheld gaming devices in the future.

A war of diminishing returns

What we've seen the last few years in the industry is a downward trend in overall retail sales, meanwhile blockbuster franchises like Battlefield, Call of Duty, Halo, Uncharted, FIFA, Assassin's Creed, and The Elder Scrolls, have been setting new records - something that really highlights a problem. Or perhaps, not really a problem, but the mid-sized (around a million in sales) multi platform franchises that once was the bread and butter of the industry is basically just draining publishers these days. Development costs to make a major release competitive paired with the level of marketing to get it noticed, dictates that the games sell 1.5 million (more in many cases). It feels as though some franchises are heading into 2012 needing a major hit, and with so many games competing for our money (with less of it around, both given the increasing sales of the biggest franchises, and the shrinking market.

It's not a great time to launch an original product, and perhaps even worse, if you're launching a sequel to a game that did okay a few years back. Games like The Darkness II, Darksiders II, Hitman: Absolution, Prototype 2, Silent Hill: Downpour, Rainbow 6: Patriots, the rebooted SSX and Twisted Metal, need to break out of the pack in order to give publishers motivation to bring out a sequel in the future. New propositions like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Binary Domain, Neverdead, Asura's Wrath, Dishonored and Lollipop Chainsaw, may struggle to get the attention needed for a new title needs in order to succeed. Reboots that are complete make overs of the originals, such as Kid Icarus: Uprising, Syndicate, and Xcom, may have an easier time getting some attention, but the disconnect with the old fan boys may work against them in a negating the benefits of being part of a beloved franchise.

Again, some of them may not even be good enough to warrant great sales to begin with, but this is assuming the games will turn out to be good.

With digital DLC for more popular franchises also eating away at the available gaming funds, it's hard to argue with the fact that 2012 is going to see a lot of big losers - not just because of lacking quality, but due to the crowded release list.