I have written before how I like to make predictions about the future of the game industry. This post will be a compilation of my predictions for the best games of the year. I like to wait until I can read and hear about a lot of the big games of the year before I do this. After all, I cannot make a prediction if I do not know what games are even expected to be out.
I make my predictions based on a combination of factors. Mostly it is hype surrounding the game, but I also think about other factors such as the developer’s history of games, the previous games in the series if it is a sequel, and what I personally think from the preview footage of the game. I generally weight full game releases higher than expansion packs. An expansion pack has to be perfect to beat a full game.
Winner: BioShock Infinite
Other Contenders: Halo 4, Max Payne 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, The Darkness 2
I expect the latest Call of Duty to sell like crazy as always but tend to favor games that bring something new. Call of Duty games do bring small changes but not enough when compared to other shooters. For example, Halo: Reach scored an average of 91/100 on metacritic while Black Ops only managed 81/100. I expect Halo 4, BioShock Infinite, and Max Payne 3 to all score higher than Black Ops 2.
BioShock Infinite has the most hype of those three games ever since its amazing reveal trailer. It also seems to be the most fresh. I cannot think of any shooter that takes place in a city in the clouds. There are just so many opportunities here for new gameplay. Halo 4 is a strong contender as well, but I have a feeling it will be delayed. We know almost nothing about it still, and its release is less than a year away. It will probably get Xbox 360 Action Game of the Year but not Overall Action Game of the Year (all platforms).
Max Payne 3 and The Darkness 2 are other contenders with much darker worlds and storylines than the popular realistic military shooters. The Darkness 2 did not seem to score that well, so I cannot see it winning many awards. I think Max Payne 3 has a chance to steal this award. The previous two games scored very well, but I see it as being similar to LA Noire. It will be a good game and score well but not enough to win the big awards.
Winner: Grand Theft Auto 5
Other Contenders: The Last of Us, Journey, Resident Evil 6, Grand Theft Auto 5, Darksiders 2
It is all Grand Theft Auto 5 this year. No game can compete with it. The Last of Us will be a great game, but will not be able to compete with the open world of GTA5 or the amount of content in general. I think The Last of Us will have a really tight story and gameplay similar to Portal 2, but history has shown open world is more important in the critics’ eyes.
For example, The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim won most of the big awards last year. The gameplay, characters, and story were generally considered to be worse when compared to Portal 2, but all those were overridden by Skyrim’s open world. Therefore, Grand Theft Auto 5 will win Action/Adventure Game of the Year.
Journey should be commended for even being considered this year. It is rare that an indie game can compete with the big budget games, but Journey will do very well. I can see it getting 9/10 on average across the industry. It will be a great game like The Last of Us but very short and sweet.
Darksiders 2 sounds like it will be a good game as well, but judging by the last one it will not be a perfect game. At the minimum there will be minor bugs and design flaws that will pull its score down. It also has not received much press coverage or interest from gamers. I think it could be like Enslaved: Odyssey to the West; it will score well but just not be popular for some reason.
I expect Resident Evil 6 to do better than Resident Evil 5 but not as good as Resident Evil 4. RE5 removed a lot of the survival, replacing it with more action. RE6 seems trying to appease everyone by having three parallel storylines: one with the traditional survival gameplay, another with more action-heavy gameplay, and the last with a mix of both. I am just not confident Capcom can balance and polish all three. Games that focus on one style of gameplay generally score higher, because it is very hard to do them all well in one game.
Winner: Mass Effect 3
Other Contenders: Diablo 3, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Final Fantasy 13-2, Borderlands 2, Xenoblade Chronicles, Risen 2
The two biggest RPGs of the year are being released early this year: Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3. These two are probably the most anticipated RPGs of the year, but Mass Effect 3 being multiplatform will be more popular overall. No matter how good Diablo 3 is, Mass Effect series has won universal appraise over the years. The last game in the trilogy is going to dominate most of the awards.
There are a number of other good RPGs this year, but none of them will really compete with these two heavyweights. Final Fantasy 13-2 scored okay, but not great. Likewise, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, did not score good enough to win RPG of the Year. Xenoblade Chronicles will score well, but lacks the newness factor since it was already released last year in Japan. I expect Risen 2 to score similar to Risen 1 and not win many awards.
Borderlands 2, however, could be a sleeper hit. There is a lot of hype behind the game, and almost everyone that played the original had good things to say about it. Despite that, I still think Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3 will score better and win more awards.
Winner: Command & Conquer: Generals 2
Other Contenders: XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Dawn of War 3, Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, Civilization 5: Gods and Kings, Victoria 2: A House Divided, Total War: Shogun 2 – Fall of the Samurai
There are not that many full game releases this year in the Strategy category. However, there are a bunch of big expansions this year. The only possible full game releases I see this year are Command & Conquer: Generals 2, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Dawn of War 3, but I expect Dawn of War 3 to be delayed into 2013.
Commang & Conquer: Generals 2 has the best chance of winning Strategy Game of the Year. The West loves military-themed games. They always sell well. Company of Heroes dominated the awards when it was released, and I expect the same from Generals 2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown will be a good game, but turn-based strategy is just not as popular as real-time strategy.
There are also a slew of expansion packs for strategy games this year. I think Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm will do the best, if it actually releases this year. Everything I have seen points to it being pushed back into 2013. If released it could possibly win the best strategy award, but Generals 2 and XCOM would have to be really bad for that to happen.
I predict the remaining expansions will be in this order: Total War: Shogun 2 – Fall of the Samurai, Civilization 5: Gods and Kings, and Victoria 2: A House Divided. Real-time strategy is generally more popular than turn-based, so Fall of the Samurai will get more awards. Gods and Kings and A House Divided are much closer, but Victoria 2 is considered to be a much more niche strategy game. Gods and Kings will likely get more attention (and more awards) than A House Divided.
Winner: Guild Wars 2
Other Contenders: TERA, The Secret World, Dust 514, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, Planetside 2
Guild Wars 2 has been talked about in the MMO community for years now, but the anticipation is just as big as ever. The hype continues to grow as more and more information is revealed about it. Guild Wars 2 could revolutionize MMOs by eschewing a number of MMO conventions in place of new and improved ones. It is the most likely to be appealing to Western gamers.
The Secret World takes place in a refreshingly new setting as far as MMOs are concerned with no character levels or experience and a more modern world. The setting feels similar to All Points Bulletin where lawlessness rules but in an older 1900s period. Unfortunately, this setting is usually very niche. It will not appeal to a very wide audience.
TERA has been discussed quite a bit as well, but mainly as a more hardcore alternative to World of Warcraft. It seems like world PvP that was lost in World of Warcraft’s recent years will be a bigger part of TERA with a number of other quality-of-life improvements to the genre. I think TERA could be just as good as the above two MMOs, but the anime style characters are an unfortunate turn off for most Western players.
Dust 514 and Planetside 2 are the next tries as the coveted mainstream MMOFPS that brings in the Call of Duty crowd. Dust 514 brings the interesting concept of having a connected world with EVE Online. Major events in one game will cause changes to the world of the other. Planetside 2 is planned to be mostly the same as the first game but with many improvements.
Call of Duty players have historically not been willing to pay a subscription fee, but now there is Call of Duty Elite. It shattered most expectations, and a good number of Call of Duty players are now enrolled in it. That’s not a good sign for these two MMOFPS games, though. The Call of Duty crowd is already paying a subscription fee. It will be hard to get them to switch now.
That just leaves the World of Warcraft expansion. I predict it will score similarly to Cataclysm. Most players considered Cataclysm a disappointment or at the least, not any better than previous expansions. I think Mists of Pandaria will be considered better than Cataclysm. However, the game has really lost it’s appeal over the years. It will not score higher than 8.5 and will not be a factor in the best MMO of 2012.
Overall Game of the Year
Winner: Grand Theft Auto 5
Other Contenders: Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, The Last of Us, Guild Wars 2, Journey, Diablo 3, BioShock Infinite
This one will be the most unpredictable since some of the games may not even be released or get cancelled. Others might be huge disappointments. Grand Theft Auto 3 and 4 won most of the big awards the years they were released. I expect no different for Grand Theft Auto 5. I have seen nothing that could change my mind. The game has a lot of big hype. The gameplay will be just as good. The open world will continue to be the best in its class. Grand Theft Auto 5 will be Game of the Year.
Of course, there are a bunch of other games to consider. Here is my overall ranking for the year.
- Grand Theft Auto 5
- Mass Effect 3
- BioShock Infinite
- Diablo 3
- The Last of Us
- Halo 4
- Guild Wars 2
- Max Payne 3
- Command & Conquer: General 2
Unfortunately, I do not have time to watch for news about all the game genres, let alone play the games. For this reason I do not really know what makes a good Fighting, Sports, or Racing game. The people that play those games look for certain things. I do not play Fighting, Sports, or Racing games and do not follow them.
My predictions would amount to throwing darts at a dartboard. They would be random and probably be mostly wrong. Also, I do not think this will affect my Game of the Year prediction as those three genres usually are not even nominated in that category.
These are my picks for the year, but next year I want to write a follow-up comparing what actually happened with my own predictions. It is always fun to compare your predictions with what actually happened. I will just make one more prediction here: only 60% of my predictions will be correct (including this one 🙂 ).
Just for reference, my prediction for the best selling seventh generation console (Xbox 360, Wii, PS3) put the Xbox at #1, Wii at #2, and PS3 at #3 for launch with the PS3 eventually overtaking the Wii into the second place spot by the end of the generation. I was right that the Xbox 360 would beat the PS3 but wrong that the Wii would dominate sales so much.