The Sony Shuffle
For Sony, much of 2012 has been spent trying to keep its feet firmly planted on stable ground. A task that has no doubt been made incredibly difficult with the launch of the PS Vita, executive reshuffles and the impending arrival of the next-generation. The year opened with Kaz Hirai stepping up to become president, just weeks before the release of the Vita.
Sony pointed to promising early 3DS sales as a sign of high demand for gaming-focused portables, and continued to stay optimistic during its own handheld's slow start. Ahead of its launch in the west, Sony Computer Entertainment America's senior vice president said the company sees Vita as 'a five to ten year platform'.
With PS3 sales in decline the PlayStation division lost £1.8 billion, and talk turned to its next console. Sony's French arm said the platform holder would likely be the last to announce its next console.
In 2011 Jim Ryan, president and CEO Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, said it would be 'undesirable to let Xbox 720 get a significant head start on PS4', but in 2012 Jack Tretton reminded the gaming world that Sony has never been the first, or the cheapest, indicating Sony would once again allow its competitors to get the jump on it for the sake of quality. A couple of days later it blamed the high launch price of the PS3 for trailing console sales.
On the software front Sony offered plenty of exclusive first party content to compliment its third-party library, but the big question has been 'where is Team ICO's The Last Guardian?'. At the tail end of last year Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian creator Fumito Ueda left the company. Despite assurances that it wasn't cancelled the painful lack of new media suggested otherwise. In February it was finally revealed that the game was going through a 'scrapping and rebuilding' process, with Sony later adding that the title 'will ship when it's ready'. The painful wait continues.
Arguably Sony's biggest moment of the year came from its acquisition of cloud-based gaming service Gaikai, the fruits of which we're still waiting to taste.
Gone, Not Forgotten
Sadly, 2012 was also a year punctuated with numerous studio closures. In the last 12 months we lost Bright Light, Studio Liverpool, Zipper Interactive, Rockstar Vancouver, 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, THQ San Diego, Ubisoft Vancouver, Paragon Studios, PopCap Dublin, a number of Zynga studios and more.
It might be too early, or too naive, to say the social gaming bubble has burst, but the drastically turning fortune of Zynga this year certainly invites the declaration.
If that wasn't enough of a sign, the swift exodus of executives certainly was. Decorated games industry executive John Schappert, who has held senior roles at companies such as Microsoft and EA, resigned; chief creative officer Mike Verdu left to start a new company; two additional key executives also took their leave.
Talent followed suit, with the most notable of departures being Words with Friends creators Paul and David Bettner, who quit the social games firm in October. It's questionable practises caught the attention of hacking group Anonymous and its empire of games began to crumble.
By November, Zynga boss Mark Pincus was reportedly 'close to tears' at a meeting set up by company investors.
Next-gen: Clearly Inconspicuous
"You're only really getting half a show this year. You're getting Wii U but you're not getting the other half of the story so it's a bit awkward," said EA Labels president Frank Gibeau at E3.
Awkward is the right word.
Microsoft and Sony have spent the majority of the year pretending the next-generation doesn't exist. Meanwhile there's been a circus of rumour and speculation: Xbox 720 is codenamed 'Durango', it might be called Xbox 8, it's a DVR, it's a tablet, it's six times more powerful than the 360, it blocks pre-owned games, it doesn't take discs.
Despite the plethora of news stories that have flooded the news'o'sphere, it's easy to feel just as confused about what new consoles have in store for us as we were a year ago. EA's Gibeau though has apparently seen both next-gen machines. They're spectacular, if you're wondering.
Of course, it's important to remember that the year was also packed with plenty of amazing looking games to get excited about.
From the ashes of True Crime rose Sleeping Dogs. The game which Activision deemed not fit to release went on to review well and generate a vocal fan base. Everyone loves an underdog.
French game design artiste David Cage showed the PS3 still packs a hell of punch at GDC, where he revealed 'Kara', a jaw-dropping techn demo that let onlookers peek through a window into the next-generation of video games.
Few could have guessed that it would be Nintendo of all companies that would make our dreams of a Bayonetta sequel a reality. But during a Japanese Nintendo Direct broadcast in September it did just that with the announcement that Bayonetta 2 is in production exclusively for the Wii U.
More recently, Rockstar threw us a GTA 5 curveball by announcing its fifth entry will have three protagonists, and drip-feeding us details on what is undoubtedly its most ambitious game yet.
And of course, that rascal Hideo Kojima finished up 2012 with one last prank: The Phantom Pain, a game that may or may not have announced Metal Gear Solid 5.