Online gaming might be synonymous with Call of Duty's frantic deathmatches, but the best studios are transcending the clichés to embrace innovative new ways to compete, compare and collaborate with online friends.
With millions of UK homes on broadband and a relatively small amount of those homes gaming online there's massive scope for growth. Here's a few of the most innovative online games will transform the way we play.
Publisher 2K Games
Innovations Open world, random weapon generation
Innovating by transforming gun nuts into stealth MMO obsessives: Borderlands 2 offers the compulsive customisation and quest system of the beardiest MMO (think World of Warcraft), but within the framework of a brilliantly fun, inventive and accessible co-op shooter. With near infinite weapons to juggle, fewer dull 'fetch' quests and a huge, loading-free online world, this will make MMO fans of us all in 2012.
Innovations Anonymous co-op
Innovating by forcing you to befriend mysterious strangers - without saying a word: The people you meet in Journey are anonymous. No PSN names, no voice chat. You form a wordless bond (or not...) team up to solve puzzles, then part ways with unknowable, yet shared experiences. It's a unique new form of social experience.
FINAL FANTASY XIV
Dev Square Enix
Pub Square Enix
Innovations Accessibility on a vast scale
Innovating by creating a classic MMO anyone can play: While Borderlands 2's FPS combat makes its MMO quest system more palatable, FFXIV is pure stat-heavy RPG bliss. Better still, this version - unlike XI - has been designed to ease new players into its fantasy world.
Dev From Software
Pub Namco Bandai
Innovations Faction system
Innovating by infesting single-player with online nightmares: As you play single-player you side with various factions, and these alliances send other players - real ones - either to help you, or to kill you. It's a novel, bizarre fusion of solo and online play.