Twelve Trends in 2011 That Should Go Or Stay

trends

2011 was definitely a fabulous year for the gamer. The industry had its ups and downs in many ways. There were new trends and trends that persist in gaming that we look at and hope they continue or go away. Video games continues to show its force as the dominant entertainment medium with huge sales for the usual suspects, not so huge sales for the unusual suspects, and calm period before the next generation of gaming storm. Yet, gamers are fickle and publishers are fighting for their dollars. To ring in the New Year, we gave out our Best of 2011 and Game of the Year awards. Now, I want to take a look at twelve trends in 2011 I want to see go or stay, starting with…

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Workforce Reduction

 

1. Workforce Reduction – The trendy way to say “layoffs” – GO

This year saw way too many people lose their jobs. Blame it on fickle consumers, AAA titles apathy, or just plain bad games. In a down economy, it is disheartening to see so many people forced into unemployment because of reduction or companies shutting their doors. Activision, Disney, SOE (Sony Online Entertainment, THQ, and Warner Bros. were the largest of many companies that saw restructuring in 2011. Developers like Bizarre Creations, Black Rock, Day 1 Studios, and even Team Bondi, makers of the hit L.A. Noire, ceased operations. Layoffs weren’t only limited to video game developers and publishers. Gamepro called it quits on their print publication and switched to an online presence only, deep within the recesses of PC World’s website. Ouch. They weren’t my favorite mag, but they were a long time institution in the gaming mag industry. I’m hoping 2012 fares much better for everyone all around. Maybe all of the displaced game creators can come together to create more…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Shooters

 

2. Shooters – Because we need more of those, right? – GO

Good God, are there enough shooters on the market now? I mean, we know the western gaming industry thrives on first and third person shooters, but when is enough, enough? 2011 was definitely the year of the aiming down sights. Battlefield 3, Bodycount, Brink, Bulletstorm; that’s four shooters that start with a B! Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Crysis 2, F.E.A.R. 3, Killzone 3, Operation Flashpoint, Rage, Resistance 3, Serious Sam 3; that doesn’t even cover third person shooters. Gears of War 3 and Uncharted 3; did I miss anything with a 3? Many of these games are borrowing so heavily from each other, or just happen to have so many similar elements, it’s becoming harder and harder to decide which ones deserve time in your gaming rotation. Forces are invading New York and it’s up to the one man wrecking crew (that being you) to save The City That Never Sleeps in Crysis 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Want to single-handedly purge the male Russian population in Europe, Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 have you wishing you could kill North Koreans just for a little distraction. Oh, hi Homefront. I personally split time between Battlefield 3, Black Ops (I know, I know), and Gears of War 3. I played a lot of shooters in 2011 and enjoyed many, especially the afterthoughts like Bulletstorm, Crysis 2, and to a certain extent, Homefront, but I’m about done spending gaming time peering down the sights of guns. I know shooters are here to stay, but publishers and consumers need to stop…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Playing It Safe

 

3. Playing It Safe – It is okay to try something different. – GO

It isn’t enough that shooters dominate a crowded market, but they, and quite a few AAA titles played it extremely safe in 2011. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Gears of War 3 were all really good games. They were also relatively the same games that they’ve all been in the past, with varying degrees of enhancements. You see it in all forms of entertainment all the time. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Back when PC gaming was all the rage, they used to put out, expansion packs and even mods for games. Call of Duty has gone down a very slippery slope in that their games are so similar to the previous ones that one can only wonder what’s left for them to try. But it isn’t just the makers of video games’ fault. Consumers eat it up. Why else is Call of Duty annually breaking sales records for ALL forms of entertainment. Batman: Arkham City was a very worth follow up to Batman: Arkham Asylum. Games are hitting a glass ceiling in the form of originality and innovation. Too many games flop because they fly so far under the radar that you only hear of them in year-end write-ups on sites and by then, its too late to support a company by buying it. The ship has sailed. People should be buying games like Bastion, Catherine, Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP, and well, just about anything in an…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Indie Bundles

 

4. Indie Bundle – Pay what you want, just meet the minimum. – STAY

It looks like those fringe developers are finally starting to get their due through an interesting pay model. Bundle up a bunch of different games and let the consumer pay what they want as long as it covers the minimum. If you pay more, the price goes down for the next guy. If you pay the minimum, it goes up for the next guy. Here’s a chance to get some great (and honestly, some not so great) games that you otherwise might not normally pay for. What a concept and its paying dividends for the developers.  Humble Bundle’s 3 and 4 have earned over $2 million dollars respectively. Considering that some of these games have been available on the Xbox Live Indie Game platform and have done jack shit because 360 gamers generally just aren’t into those types of games or would rather log time on those AAA titles mentioned above. I definitely want to see more indie bundles in 2012. It gives these developers a real chance to live out their dreams of making video games by putting cash into their pocket so that they can continue development on new projects. It’s totally win, win. Speaking of downloadable games, how about…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Mobile Gaming

 

5. Mobile Gaming – Wireless devices muscling out traditional handhelds? – STAY

Did you feel that? It felt like the winds of change. I think there just might have been a momentum change in the US gaming market. Mobile devices are integrating into our society quite nicely, whether its smartphones or tablets. Of all the things smartphones can do, games are quickly becoming one of their strengths. In a year that saw Nintendo stumble out of the blocks with the 3DS handheld system, some mobile game developers are driving dump truck loads of money to the bank. Angry Birds clocked 6.5 million downloads alone on Christmas Day and was past 600 million downloads since its release by December, generating $100 million in revenues for 2011. Infinity Blade has notched a not so shabby $30 million via the first two games, a soundtrack, and a book. Obviously, these are the big-timers, but mobile gaming has given us games at the fraction of the cost of console or traditional handheld games, sometimes for the amount of spare change in your couch cushions. The biggest draw to mobile games like the flinging objects, the insidious word games, the tower defenses, or the touchscreen slashers is the ability to pick up a game and put it down whenever you like. Americans as a society have the attention span of a gnat. Sure, hardcore games like Joe loves his Nintendo handhelds, but the average consumer with an iPhone likes the ability to take a moment away from the grindstone called work and play a round of Words With Friends and put their nose back to the grindstone without the boss knowing. We don’t spend hours commuting because we like to drive our own cars. Having the ability to jump onto Infinity Blade II and knock out a couple of fights while I wait in line at McDonald’s is a luxury you don’t really have with too many traditional handhelds. That’s the appeal of the mobile gaming. Of course, there are plenty of hardcore games available to the consumers, shooters, RPGs, and strategy. Just look at all the Square Enix…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Rereleases

 

6. Rereleases/Remakes – What is old is new again – STAY

Slap a shiny new coat on a last gen game and call it good. Actually, this is a tough trend to argue against because everyone wants to see their old favorites gussied up in HD with achievements and trophies included. Whereas you’d see a lot of games rereleased on portable gaming systems or the PSN and XBLA, now we’re getting full blown HD remakes of, well, everything. I loved being able to play Ico and Shadow of the Colossus for the first time on my PS3. Yes, I skipped a great deal of PS2 games. Hell, I love the idea that I can play classics like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, or Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen on a downloadable platform. Games like Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together and Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition were Best of 2011 nominees and were fantastic rereleases. And yet, I don’t really think the gaming community were clamoring for Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell, or Tomb Raider HD Trilogies. Worse yet, for every masterful rerelease like Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, there was the utterly lazy and shameful Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica. I guess being the selfish guy that I am, rereleases are okay if they are games I like, but then I’ve learned that there are games I didn’t get to play and having a chance to play them again on a current generation console is pretty cool. Game of the Year editions of games is nothing new, but I think Capcom is starting to stretch the limits of the double dip with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record and Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 rereleases. It screams cash grab. Kind of like…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends DLC & Season Passes

 

7. DLC/Season Passes – $$$ – GO

I think DLC is a great idea. If done correctly, it extends the life of games. It can offer some customization to gamers they might not have had in the past. The problem is publishers know that we will follow our beloved franchises to the ends of the Earth and they prey on us. Capcom is notorious for releasing costume packs for their fighting games and while I’d love to own all of them, even I can’t justify paying $1o to $15 for new costumes on all of my favorite fighting games. Activision finally priced me out of Call of Duty with the annual $60 retail game plus $60 worth of DLC every year. Now, you can just pay for a Call of Duty Elite membership and get all sorts of DLC updates for the flat $50 a year fee. Then again, I bit on the Gears of War 3 Season Pass because I knew that I’d buy all of the available DLC for the game as I did for Gears of War 2. What bothers me is when free DLC is provided or the ridiculous amount of gun skins Epic is putting out and none of that is included in my season pass. Not to mention, the genesis of the online pass was to punish the used game market and force gamers to buy an online pass through the publishers. Thank god for sales on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, right? Besides, what good is that online pass if…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Failure to Launch

 

8. Blown Video Game Launches – Epic Fail – GO

Why is it that more and more games meet their target release dates but are in such a state that we just paid to play a beta while developers attempt to fix all of their issues? This really all started with MMOs. I mean, we had no choice but to deal with crashes, bugs, patches, server downtime, etc. when Everquest launched. I remember staring at the damn load screen way too much early on. Now console gamers get to experience the same pains. Battlefield 3 had a blown launch? Servers are overloaded and people can’t connect? Par for the course. Call of Duty Elite was brought to its knees in the first week of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s release that they had to take it down to add more servers to accommodate the eleventy billion people that bought the game. Even my beloved fighting games couldn’t avoid stalling out upon release. It was probably a good day or two before I could really find anyone at all to connect with on Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition. I really don’t think this trend goes away, but maybe more companies should follow Bioware’s model of gradually allowing users access to Star Wars: The Old Republic. I mean hell, if you aren’t going to be playing the game within the first week anyway, what does it matter? You’d have more people playing your lackluster campaigns too. Or, maybe we could all work up a sweat with…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Motion Control Games

 

9. Motion Controlled Games – Casual, Hardcore, Undecided? – STAY (Because I bought a Kinect…)

Microsoft’s Kinect and Xbox 360 hardware actually had a great year for 2011. Sony doesn’t quite seem as dedicated to supporting motion controls like Microsoft is, what with Kinect integration into everything on the dashboard. And yet, it is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword that offered the pinnacle of the motion control experience on the aging Nintendo Wii. Look, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not too keen on working out with my video game system, but I have tried a couple of the workout…games? Some of them are pretty damn good at what they do. What I think some people were hoping for were killer apps to go with the Kinect and PS Move. There’s still a boundary that needs to be crossed to entice gamers to use their Kinect for more than a glorified webcam. We still aren’t all that keen on standing in front of our flatscreens and waving our arms around like idiots. Which is too bad because games like Zelda: Skyward Sword and its sales prove that hardcore gaming can be pulled off with motion controls. Microsoft wisely snapped up Twisted Pixel Games thanks to an extremely well craft The Gunstringer which blends shooter and platforming performed with both hands, thus, making standing in front of our flatscreens and waving our arms around like idiots fun. Oh, The Gunstringer is one of the few Xbox 360…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Exclusives

 

10. Exclusives – More Exclusives = More Competition – STAY

Naughty Dog teased us with The Last of Us. A few minutes worth of footage sold us on the latest Sony exclusive. That’s how it’s done.

Microsoft had a somewhat disappointing year when you look at it strictly from the standpoint of exclusives. Though the exclusives they had were outstanding. Microsoft definitely has a strong downloadable catalog backing it up (Bastion, Ms. Splosion Man, Orcs Must Die, Radiant Silvergun, Guardian Heroes to name a few), but where were the exclusive retail releases? Well, if you own a Kinect, there were definitely some titles worth looking at like Dance Central 2, Disneyland Adventures or even the Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, but if you don’t, Forza Motorsports 4, Gears of War 3, and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Not the lineup I’m looking for on my gaming system of choice, but let’s face it, they had so many other third-party titles to choose from, it isn’t like we suffer from a lack of games.

When I look over at the Sony side of the fence though, good lord the PlayStation 3 had a good year for exclusives. Uncharted 3, God of War: Origins, Infamous 2, LittleBigPlanet 2, Resistance 3, Killzone 3, Disgaea 4, and The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection are just some of the exclusives and they represent a damn broad spectrum of gaming. The Wii is obviously winding down its lifecycle, but even they put out two of the best games of their genre in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and the Japanese and European exclusive, (until April of 2012) Xenoblade Chronicles, one of the finest JRPGs in a very long time. Even the PC gets some of its own exclusive action.

Plenty of people are quick to write off PC gaming, but on the strength of indie games, MMOs, RPGs, and tower defense, not to mention still being the king of first-person shooters gaming, the PC is still quite formidable and not nearly as expensive to maintain as it used to be. Shogun 2: Total War, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings highlight games you’ll only find on the PC. What’s the point of all of this? I’d like to see more. I’d like to see more competition. It makes for great conversation and great games. It will very likely be a major factor in 2012 with the advent of…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Next Generation Gaming

 

11. Next Generation Gaming – “The future will be better tomorrow.” – Dan Quayle – STAY

2011 may be one of the finest years of gaming as this generation of console gaming winds down and the world looks toward the future. The hype train is starting up and it’ll be coming down the tracks full bore come this summer and fall. For the first time in E3 history, we will have the opportunity to see or compare all three new console systems in some fashion. Microsoft’s next Xbox, Nintendo’s Wii U, and Sony’s PlayStation 4(?) will be present, giving us a view into the console gaming future. Can Nintendo win back a hardcore fanbase alienated by shovelware and casual games? Can they maintain third-party support which has been pretty pitiful since the good ‘ol SNES days? Microsoft and Sony will have some work cut out for them but there’s no doubt that they feel pretty good about where they are standing. This may end up being a two dog race, but I have a feeling that the PS Vita might have a larger affect on Sony as a company if it isn’t successful, which right now, it is not, much like the 3DS wasn’t at first for Nintendo. Microsoft needs to get their heads in the game with better exclusives and more inviting games for the Kinect. The Wii has all been given up on, but Sony and Microsoft should continue to support their current generation systems. The PS2 paid off for years because Sony continued to support it. Portable gaming is evolving and I’m curious to see what that may bring in 2012. Mobile gaming may not bury traditional handheld systems like the 3DS and PS Vita, but I don’t quite think that console gaming companies are quite in touch with what’s happening around them. The world’s a changin’ and not only do we already have the 3DS and PS Vita to ring in the new year, the current generation running into the new generation leaves us with…

 

Addicted-Gamers 2011 Trends Can't Keep Up

 

12. Way Too Many Games to Keep Up With – Never a bad thing to have too many games – STAY

It is hard enough to keep up with all of the games, especially in the second half of the year, but this year was especially tough for me considering I started Addicted-Gamers. I didn’t get to play all of the games I wished I could. I didn’t get to continue working on my Gamerscore like I wished too. But, I got to play a ton of games that I normally wouldn’t have played and have an even better appreciation for all of the gaming systems available and their games. I want to see more games. More AAA titles, more indie titles, more original and innovative titles, more Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, PC, and mobile titles. I want bigger and better gaming experiences than I had for 2011. We here at Addicted-Gamers expect big things for 2012 and beyond.

About Mike M

Recovering Alcoholic. Addicted Gamer. Street Fighter Enthusiast. Writer. Graphic Designer. Comic, Movie and TV Show Lover. Ninja. All in those order.