With 2012 coming up fast, many of us are wishing and hoping for a fruitful, healthy year, preferably free of Mayan-predicted doomsdays. Conversely, in our darker moods, we think about ways in which the new year might be a soul-sucking series of struggles.
2012 is going to be a tense time for video game developers, too. The past couple of years have been volatile for the industry, and 2012 will prove no less challenging for the business thanks to some specific issues that are coming at us like a freight train:
Games vying for people’s time — It’s a busy world, and it ain’t getting any less busy. That means less and less time for video games–and the problem with that is, kids and adults alike have more game choices than ever before. Developers, publishers, and console engineers are going to have to find creative new ways to grab people’s attention, money, and time. Let’s hope their attempts don’t get too obnoxious.
Console transition — The Wii U will launch in 2012, and it’s highly likely we’ll get a peek at what Sony and Microsoft have waiting under the sheets. It’s been a long, long console generation, and we’re all eager to get on to the next stage. That’s why 2012 is going to be a bit of an awkward year for the Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3: we’ll have to decide if we’re going to spend money on games for those systems, or if we’re going to start stashing away for the next consoles in line.
Social game oversaturation — Is social gaming a bubble on the verge of bursting? Not quite, but there are a lot of free games out there, and a saddening number of them are clones of each other. Zynga, the king of social games, is having troubles of its own, with user numbers for new games like Adventure World already showing signs of peaking. Zynga won’t die tomorrow, and neither will the social game genre, but social games are experiencing some pretty intense growing pains. 2012 will be a year of growth and maturity for Mafias and farm animals alike, and when it’s done, we’ll see a more ordered, controlled environment as the half-assed imitators sicken and die off.
Fragmentation — Playing a video game at home is no longer a simple matter of picking up a console, or buying a game disk for your computer. Now there are multiple consoles on the market, in addition to PCs, in addition to tablets, iPhones, handheld systems, free-to-play browser games, and Android-driven smartphones. The good news is that there’s something for everyone. The bad news is that finding something that suits you can be overwhelming. From this vantage point, 2012 won’t bring us any relief from the confusion.
Convincing people to play $30-$60 for video games — The ongoing fragmentation of the industry presents another problem: wildly differing game prices. With the rise in free-to-play and cheap games, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to convince players of all ages, kids or parents alike, to shell out full price for triple-A games. This is going to be doubly true for handheld game systems like the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, both of which will be up against iPhones and cheap apps throughout 2012.