A 2011 Retrospective: Going From Strength to Strength
Written Tuesday, January 03, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
There’s nothing like sitting back after the New Year celebrations have passed and reflecting on what the previous year brought us. They do say it’s better to reflect before looking forward and that - as we do every year - is exactly what we’re doing now. It’s all well and good sitting here and saying that 2011 was the best year to be a gamer in recent years, but there’s a much bigger picture to be looking at and as you’re probably aware, it was a pretty eventful year in all aspects of the industry.
"Skyrim was one of the year's many, many hits..."
How good a year is for being a gamer is usually based upon one thing: the games… and rightly so. And in terms of the games, this year proved to be a very successful year from a quality perspective, although 2011 wasn’t without its fair share of disappointments. In terms of triple-A games though, the year saw fourteen 90+ games, up four from ten in 2010 and twice as many as 2009. It wasn’t just a case of triple-A titles, there were a lot of nearly games as well with twenty-nine scoring 80+, which incidentally was exactly the same as 2010 and one down from 2009. As a unit though, the games generally fared better in 2011 than they have done in the two previous years, with the average score rising from 72% (94 games reviewed) to 74.6% (93 games reviewed) - 1.6% better than 2009 (86 games reviewed), which unlike 2010 was a year not littered with shovelware Kinect titles.
This year was that good in fact, that like last year, there were so many games that in other years could truly have dominated our Game of the Year awards that really didn’t get much of a look in. Whether you’re talking Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Dead Space 2, or even Batman: Arkham City and Gears of War 3, they’re titles that took more of a backseat when in years gone by they could have come away with a handful of awards. In other years, titles like Rage, Portal 2, Rayman: Origins, LA Noire, Battlefield 3 and Dark Souls may have had more of a say, but the quality across the board this year was undeniable, with Skyrim – our highest ever scoring game here at X360A – leading the charge.
The feedback following our Game of the Year piece is as expected where opinions are involved, but the one piece of feedback that is frankly quite staggeringly short-sighted is the hate for EA. Dear internet, this is 2011 and EA hasn’t been the games industry’s proverbial devil for quite a few years now. Out of the fourteen 90+ titles this year, EA had a hand in – either development-wise, or publishing-wise – six of them. That’s nearly 50% of the triple-A titles that they’ve helped put out in the shops. Hell, out of the twenty-nine 80+ games as well, they had five of those too. People really are stuck in their ways.
"Did someone say "pre-owned?"
That hate probably comes around as a result of the whole “online pass” initiative, but it’s fairly obvious that this is an industry wide thing and not just confined to EA. Is it that wrong that EA wants a return on their investment, rather than watching GameStop, Gamefly and co. get rich at their expense? No. It’s business and it’s something that people will have to get comfortable with, as it’s clearly here to stay.
It wasn’t just about the quality in 2011 though, as revenue was on the climb as well and in November the industry saw a 15% growth in the US over 2010, year-on-year, seeing revenue rise from $1.45 billion to $1.67 billion. Sure, July might have seen a 26% drop in terms of software sales when compared to July in 2010 and may have been the worst month since 2006, but considering the lull in titles this year in the summer months and the fact that the NPD Group’s stats don’t take into account digital sales, that doesn’t really paint a very accurate picture… Will 2012 be the year where publishers finally decide to utilise those summer months more efficiently? We bloody hope so! Oh, and Activision’s Call of Duty was a record breaker in 2011, again, but that didn’t surprise anyone, we don’t think. Has it peaked though? We’ll see in 2012, no doubt.
"MS are the best selling console 9 months in a row. Ballmer is happy."
Despite hardware sales being down 9% in 2011 from 2010, Microsoft was able to celebrate its ninth consecutive month as the leading console manufacturer from a sales perspective. Sales of gaming accessories in the US dropped 34% to $273.8 million though, but considering it was the first complete calendar year without a peripheral-based musical game, that’s understandable – Rocksmith doesn’t count, before you pipe up back there.
2011 was a very tech heavy year too, with new engines coming from DICE (Frostbite 2.0) and Crytek (CryEngine 3), both of which performed admirably and proved that there was still some life in the 360 yet. Even EA’s ‘Impact Engine’ gave their sports titles a boost. Despite all that though, it wasn’t enough to keep the new console rumours from sprouting up all over the place and rumours are pointing to a possible reveal and subsequent release this year, although with Halo 4 launching in “holiday 2012,” that’s looking more and more unlikely… you know, especially considering that 343 Industries is adamant that it’s an Xbox 360 title.
One of the bigger talking points in 2011 revolved around a hacking pandemic, with various groups taking down publisher after publisher – whether their whole network was a victim, a la Sony, or specific publisher's sites, a la Square Enix’s community sites. Perhaps the biggest talking point was the latest dashboard update, which completely split the audience. Some praised it for its Kinect capabilities and integrated Kinect navigation system, whilst others lamented as the steps it took backwards in accessibility, general navigation and its over-complexity.
"The games might not have been in Tokyo, but the people turned out."
Of course, it wouldn’t be a 2011 retrospective if we didn’t look back at the year’s trade shows, where we pretty much covered every single one of them in 2011, including both PAX events, GDC and every major trade show in between. GDC in February gave us our first look at Battlefield 3, we headed up into the mountains at Bethesda’s BFG to check out Skyrim, E3 surprised us with the unveiling of Far Cry 3 and gave us a first real look at Hitman: Absolution, while Gamescom brought Borderlands 2’s official first-showing our way. It was a good year in terms of trade shows, but if anything, it only served to prove how the Japanese gaming market is struggling, with very few publishers making the effort to do anything remotely interesting out there. If this trend continues, I can see it falling by the wayside in just a few short years. 2011 also saw us ramp up the annual PAX Prime Party as well which not only brought more alcohol and good times your way, but a few key gatecrashers *cough* Marty O’Donnell *cough* Consider it our thank-you to you though, for your years of loyalty, and we’ll be doing the same this year, so get the date in your diary ready now!
So whether you’re talking news, trade shows or games in 2011, it’s been a year full of greatness and is one of the most memorable in my experience this generation. Not just because the games have delivered, but because there’s never been a dull moment. That’s all we ever want. 2012 is going to be a great year too no doubt, with… well, let’s not delve too deep into that just yet as we’ll cover that tomorrow, but as far as looking back goes, I’m fairly sure we can all look back and find some good in 2011. Us? We’ll look back and consider it as a huge, rousing success and one of the best years we’ve experienced as a gamer… Now we just need to find some time to play all those games before 2012 picks up a head of steam.
In case you’re interested, here’s the top review scores of 2011:
90+ games, 2011 (14):
80-89 games, 2011 (29):