I won't lie to you. After my dismal 2010 predictions campaign I played it safe with my 2011 picks. PSP 2 with a touch screen? Sure. Playstation Move will suck? Done. New Nintendo console announced? Boom. I hit some softballs, sure. Am I proud? Not really, but I'll take what I can get. This year things get a bit hazy as the whole industry seems to be on the cusp of either announcing new consoles or coasting through one more year.
My first prediction is so bold they're going to turn it into a Doritos flavor.
Sony will not announce a new console this year. Instead, they will re-launch the PSN as a more competitive online service with heavy Vita integration.
There you have it! Read on for predictions from the GWJ staff. As usual, I encourage everyone to make their own predictions in the comments. I'll be locking the thread up for posterity in a few weeks so no take-backs! Looks like some industrious forum members have already started talking about last year's picks in this thread.
Nintendo will announce a price and release date for the Wii-U at E3. Price will be $299 and it will ship in the fourth quarter. Lacking any major first party titles at launch, Nintendo will lean on 3rd parties like Ubisoft to fill out the library.
Microsoft will not announce a new console this year. Expect more of the same in terms of Kinect focus and integration.
There will not be a new MMORPG released this year without a free way to play.
Onlive will begin to beta an "Onlive HD" type service that will give premium, HD resolution streaming of new games for customers with the bandwidth to handle it.
Activision will avoid launching any major new franchises this year. Instead, they'll stick with what sells and wait for the new round of consoles before announcing what Bungie is working on.
Freemium Will Innovate or Die - With the freemium model's widespread success comes increased scrutiny, even from casual consumers. Players of all stripes are getting wise to its cruder hooks, like multiple in-game currencies that can be bought for real money. The games that will succeed will be those that meaningfully reward players for microtransactions — not those that restrict access to content until cash has changed hands.
Chrome Will Emerge as a Viable Gaming Platform - Sure, pickings are slim right now; the Chrome Web Store kinda looks like a flea market stall selling cheap knockoffs of iOS and Facebook games. But the recent release of Bastion on Chrome raised a lot of eyebrows, including mine. If a game that made nearly everyone's best-of list this year can succeed in this format, other developers will take notice.
iOS/Mobile Games Will No Longer Sit at the Kids' Table on Year-End Lists - Speaking of best-of lists, the gaming press's instinct to segregate those upstart young mobile games from their console/PC elders in their year-end roundups will continue to fade. More outlets will not feel the need to publish two different lists. Instead, we'll see mobile games interspersed with traditional titles — with fewer apologies.
Sony and Microsoft Will Announce Next-Gen Consoles - ...which will be in stores for holiday 2013 at the earliest.
Diablo III Will Finally Be Released - ...but as a First-Person Shooter. Trololololo!
Erik "wordsmythe" Hanson
Indies oversaturate: The glut of bundled indie sales and markdowns will take its toll. Maintaining interest in indie development will feel like trying to keep up with RSS feeds and social networks, and we'll all have to reprioritize, trim down to focus only on curated links/reviews, or give up and stick to bigger releases.
Newsgames: For smaller games to gain attention in 2012, they'll have to either latch onto or create controversy. Simply being "fun" or "cute" or even "compelling" won't gain enough buzz. As it's an election year in the US, it won't be easy to catch headlines independent of politics in the the US. Controversial games won't necessarily be any good, but you might end up playing them so that you'll be able to speak from knowledge when your relatives or coworkers start using one thin title to rag on games in general.
Gamification plateaus: Plenty of folks hated gamification as soon as it began, and many expected the trend to disappear as quickly as it appeared. But it's not going to blink out of existence. Rather, it's going to move like any other social trend, becoming more popular with less trendy groups — meaning gamification is going to catch on more with soccer moms and middle managers of boring companies. In some places, that could just mean modest improvements on goal-setting and feedback. In others, it could mean a return of a series of cliches from Glengarry Glen Ross.
Charlie "TheWanderer" Hall
Zynga Catches Fire From The Inside Out - There are several possible scenarios I can imagine this billion dollar giant imploding from. First, there's some kind of SEC trouble, some overstatement of this or understatement of that. If that happens, then someone goes to jail and the rats abandon the sinking ship. Second, there's the human relations nightmare that ends up in civil court. They've already overstepped once and got a bit burned. If this happens the company goes sour, but since their customers have little to no brand identification with "Zynga" the company, the IP, which they do know, sells well to other gaming concerns. Zynga ownership comes out smelling like a rose. My bias is large here, but I just don't trust them.
OnLive Gets Bought Out - AT&T, already an investor in the company, doubles down. They then take a hard left and lunge for Nintendo's jugular. Seeing weekness and before their next console can even get any attention in the media at large, AT&T waves their e-peen around ushering in the post-console era. Their color is white like Nintendo's, 50% child-focused, and heavy on the touch and waggle. Piggybacking on an unlimited data plan with a monstrous monthly fee, they promise and deliver AAA games anywhere. Their cloud-only strategy, iOS integration, and thousands of miles of bandwidth support it. Hard line, in home connections continue to work okay, but mobile reception is still sh*t. In 2013 the gambit fails taking OnLive with it.
Board Game Revolution - Something snaps with the old gaurd and a traditional board game springs forth on the dinner tables of America with integral, inviolate tablet integration. It is something engaging that captures the minds of old-school wargamers as well as children.
Games Meet Politics - In this hotly contested election year there is more advertising than ever in the game space. On Facebook, in MMOs, there is a heated race to capture the votes of gamers. It all goes sour when someone plants the wrong ad in the wrong game, and there is a slew of attack ads where gamers are villainized and caught in the middle. Eventually it blows over, and nothing comes of it but a Twitter-rage filled fury of "email your senator"-ish bluster. Obama wins in a squeaker. On page two there is a bit of a blowback towards the makers of Bioshock: Infinite. They get too close to the flame of American history as understood by those who misread it regularly. They become the topic of a few immigration debates on the floor and much lol'd at Fox commenters.
Christos "CY" Reid
Mojang's Cobalt and Scrolls do not perform well - Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that neither game is even going to touch the level of popularity Minecraft experienced, but from what we've seen, Cobalt is a decent platform-shooter hindered by overly complex and badly thought-out controls, and Scrolls is simply a CCG with the looks of a Dragon Age Flash title. I think their overconfidence in their IPs running against the confusion or cynicism of those waiting to experience them is going to hurt.
World of Warcraft will become unrecognisable - Having just come back after a break since mid-Burning Crusade, it's clear that with Pandaria heading towards our computers, the most popular MMO in the world is shifting rapidly towards becoming more accessible, more open to microtransactions, and less like the hardcore screaming-on-vent experience it started out as. What this will do to its client base seems simple - out go the old, in come the new/young.
Non-Rabbit Julian's Predictions
The Indie Crystal Ball: Fez and Monaco will actually get released this year. And it's not like I already predicted that last year. Most of the reviews of Dear Esther will, in some way or another, debate the question whether this experience constitutes a game or not. "This game is 'Minecraft meets [insert game/genre]'" is a description we'll be reading and hearing more often.
Poof: Social games are here to stay, but this year we're going to see some companies fold or at least shrink notably. Turns out that, surprisingly enough, the growth potential of the market is not endless.
Been there, done that #1: It's been more than 10 years since Nintendo introduced a new major IP with Pikmin. (I'm not really counting software like Wii Sports/Fit/Party here since they don't have a specific universe, narrative, and identity: It's about generic Miis being integrated into mini-games.) While they surely know how to innovate within existing franchises, I wouldn't mind exploring a completely new world for a change. The Wii U line-up to be shown before and at E3 2012 probably won't deliver on that though. Nintendo will also admit that they were never quite able to figure out what to do with the Wii Vitality sensor.
Been there, done that #2: Activision will announce the return of Guitar Hero.
Captain Ob(li)vious: 99 percent of the people who threw temper tantrums about Diablo III featuring an RMT auction house and requiring the user to be online all the time will get in line on launch day. Quite the daring prediction, I know. Also, I'm guessing the game will ship in March.
Allen "Pyroman" Cook
Apple with open the AirVideo spec to device manufacturers, with an eye on turning the iPad into a viable home gaming system.
The big three of the next gen of consoles will be Microsoft, Nintendo and Apple. Sony won't show up until it's way too late to matter.
Microsoft's next console will focus on digital distribution, and more importantly they will fix XBL Indie Games so it can more directly compete with the various App Stores that are popping up all over the place.
Games that require specialized peripherals will continue to succeed, despite the music genre implosion.
OnLive will announce their integration with a major digital distribution service.
Cory "Demiurge" Banks
Apple Targets Consoles With New TVs - Not at launch, but by the end of the year the House That Steve Built will actually, honest-to-God take on the big 3 with an app store. We already know there are Apple TVs coming with iTunes integration, so it's not a stretch. The controller? Your existing iOS devices. Get ready for Tiny Wings 2 on your TV.
More Kinect in 2012 - It's selling gangbusters, even without significant 3rd party support. That will change, however, when Activision announces a major Kinect title at E3 from one of its big development house. Outside of optional support in AAA titles, Sony's Move will sit still.
Diablo 3 Becomes Top-Selling Title of 2012 - Just because I was wrong last year doesn't mean I'll be wrong this year. Diablo 3 will sell more than any other title, including console titans. Why not?
The Old Republic Starts Feeling Old - First, EA will announce that its shipped record numbers of SWTOR and generated huge subscription numbers (whatever number it takes to justify $150 million in development costs from BioWare to shareholders). Then, as the months creep in, subscription levels will drop. You'll see excitement when BioWare announces its first expansion at E3, but even with a full dev team working on it, it won't ship until next year. It'll be a shame, since SWTOR is the best MMO to come out in years.
WoW Will Not Go F2P - Ever. But Mists of Pandara will be the lowest-selling expansion yet.
Wii U Will Not Cost U Much - After the 3DS pricing error, Nintendo will cut features to bring the new Wii down to $199, if not cheaper. Should be easy to do, since they've hardly announced any features anyway. There still won't be much software support for launch, however, and Nintendo will scramble to get big third party publishers to release early.
That's all I've got for now. Kind of hardware heavy, but oh well.
Sean "Elysium Sands
XTV -- Xbox will announce plans to incorporate Xbox and Kinect technology integrated into a television as part of their next gen plans.
SWTOR clears 3 Million -- By end of 2012 Star Wars: The Old Republic will clear 3 million users.
The Three Box -- Valve will announce and release a pack akin to the Orange Box that will include Left4Dead 3, Portal 3 & HL2 Ep3
Digital Distribution -- 2 major publishers will announce proprietary digital distribution services built off the EA Origin model.
F2P -- No plans are announced in 2012 to move World of WarCraft or SWTOR to a free to play model.
Julian "rabbit" Murdoch
1: Wii U launches with the ability for two controllers. We don't care very much.
2: The new Xbox is officially announced, and Microsoft aggressively
pursues the inclusion of basic Xbox functionality in other devices
(ala Airplay), like TVs.
3: Diablo 3, while selling very well, fails to get the kind of "still
playing it 3 months later" legs that gamers expect.
4: A major successful release comes out exclusively for Native Client.
5: We'll see a major successful iOS game get the boardgame treatment,
not the other way around.
Colleen "momgamer" Hannon
Mobile Gaming and AAA Gaming Will Continue to Blend: With the release of classics like Final Fantasy III (and the rumored rest of the series) on the iOS devices, the line between tablets/phones and big disk games will continue to blur.
WiiU is going to show great potential, but choke on content: Once they get gamers past the rumored painfully high list price, they're going to have to get game developers to deal with a whole new control model. It will be a painful, spotty mess for at least the whole first year as companies scrabble like mice in a Mason jar to figure out how to work old-school keyboard and controller control schemes intelligently with the tablet interface.