A 2012 Retrospective – The Year in Review
Written Thursday, January 03, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
It’s easy to look at the stats from 2012 and think it wasn’t a great year for the video game industry. According to the NPD Group, the US showed 11 straight months of decline, with October 2012’s revenue dropping from $1 billion to $755.5m, compared to the same period in 2011. Console sales plummeted 37% in the US too, while software sales dropped 25%. So yeah, not ideal. In the UK, it’s similarly as bleak, with physical sales said to be down 17.6% compared to 2011. That said, it wasn’t all doom and gloom though, as the UK recently reported that their digital sales grew 8% to reach £552m in 2012, Microsoft sold a record 750,000 Xbox 360s on Black Friday and Black Ops II reached a billion dollars globally in 15 days, bettering the efforts of Modern Warfare 3 and Avatar to become the quickest entertainment product to reach a billion dollars. Go video games!
"Game of the Year, baby."
In terms of games though, it was actually still a strong year, but also an interesting one when under the microscope. Sure, there may have been no standout retail title that was as strong as 2011’s Game of the Year, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but there were just as many great games out there. In fact, in 2012 we gave out 14 90+ review scores, the exact same amount we gave out in 2011. If you take into account we reviewed a lot fewer games as well – 67 compared to 94 in 2011, partly due to a much quieter summer and what seemed like a quieter year in general – then 2012 must be seen as a success. In those 67 games, we gave out 23 80+ scores, compared to 29 in 2011, but that hasn’t stopped the average score rising from 74.6% to 76.85%. Not a bad rise for a year that was painted with failure before it had even got started.
We kicked the year off engrossed in Shepard’s final outing in Mass Effect 3, got up close and personal with Max in Max Payne 3, all before we got into the thick of the year, AKA “the fall!” A few sports titles – F1 and NHL – perfected their formulas in 2012 to get 90+ scores, but it’s the slew of games in the fall that hogged the limelight in the Game of the Year awards. Gearbox’s Borderlands 2 was the first to smash into the stratosphere, delighting gamers, critics and retailers alike, before Arkane’s brilliant Dishonored stepped up to the oche, becoming the best selling new IP of the year and exceeding Bethesda’s initial expectations. Then when the brilliant XCOM: Enemy Unknown turned up for us to lose ourselves in, we thought it couldn’t get any better. We were wrong and it was a game that came from leftfield that snapped up our Game of the Year award in 2012. Yes, the brilliant Far Cry 3 came into our lives and we couldn’t have been happier. We thought it was going to be good, very good in fact… we didn’t think it’d be this good. It was a pleasant way to bring a great year to a close. And if you think last year sucked to be a gamer, then you’re doing it all wrong.
"Dark Souls II gonna kill us dead in 2013."
Despite all that though, 2012 felt like a year of stagnation from elsewhere in the industry, what with the next generation looming and all. Every week these days seems to throw up a fresh set of rumours and new speculation with regards to the future, but that’s only natural as we sit on the precipice of a new era. That came across in the year’s trade shows particularly. E3 and Gamescom may have been full of great games for the press to take a look at, but all of the titles on show were scheduled for either a 2012 or early 2013 release, and fans and the press were offered very few big announcements or surprises. Watch Dogs and Star Wars 1313 being the obvious exceptions, and they’re blatantly going to be next-gen titles – like I’ve always said, if they don’t tell you a platform, chances are it’s next-gen. And the less said about the Tokyo Games Show, the better, while all the VGAs could muster up this year was The Phantom Pain – a completely unknown entity, presumably a Metal Gear title – and Dark Souls 2. This is an “awards” show that has revealed Mass Effect 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City in years gone by, so while both are hugely intriguing and interesting propositions, they hardly blew us away.
As a site and a network, we saw unprecedented growth in 2012, falling just 6,000 unique users short of the 4 million monthly uniques milestone – we’ll do it in 2013! – a 14.7% increase on 2011. It was also a year where we rocked Seattle with another successful pre-PAX party, announced our unprecedented and historic collaboration with Codemasters in designing the GRID 2 achievements and trophies, and followed through on our promise of more written features and unique video content. It was also a year where we launched our video platform – chalking up 1 million video views within the confines of the site – and took up hosting duties at London’s Comic-Con, the MCM Expo. All in all, a pretty successful year from a network standpoint if I do say so myself.
"Working hard at the MCM Expo."
Okay, we’ll tackle the elephant in the room while we have a minute too… Yes, the mobile phone app. Unfortunately 2012 wasn’t the year of our mobile phone app despite us saying it would be. That was mainly because we hit a few technical issues throughout 2012 – and by few, we mean a lot, and constantly. That said, we’re hoping to launch it in early 2013, but such is technology that I don’t want to sit here and put a date on it. Just know that we won’t launch it until we’re supremely happy with it. We’re perfectionists like that.
All in all then, if you base 2012 solely on the fact that both sites grew at an impressive rate, the quality of games increased across the board, and we had 14 games that we’d classify as must owns, then 2012 should be seen as a successful year. What we didn’t have was that truly standout game, we had tumbling game sales and the big announcements were few and far between. Roll on the next-generation we say. Oh, and GTA V.
And those 90+ games:
Street Fighter X Tekken – 90%; Mass Effect 3 – 96%; DMC HD Collection – 90%; Witcher II – 90%; Max Payne 3 – 93%; NHL 13 – 92%; F1 2012 – 90%; Borderlands 2 – 91%; Forza Horizon – 90%; Halo 4 – 90%; Dishonoured – 93%; XCOM – 95%; Assassin’s Creed III – 92%; Far Cry 3 – 93%.