Read all about it: 2012's biggest game news events
20th Dec 2012 | 12:09
With the end of 2012 swiftly approaching there's no better time to take a retrospective glance at all the major happenings of the year. The last 12 months have brought us tremendous highs and heartbreaking lows, and we've been there to report on every single one. Below you'll find a round-up of all the biggest headlines from 2012...
Devs and execs moving on to greener pastures is a frequent occurrence in the video game world. But rarely has there been as many high-profile exits and reshuffles as there were in 2012. God of War creator David Jaffe left Eat Sleep Play to focus on casual games, Robert Bowling left Infinity Ward to start his own studio and, following the release of three critically acclaimed titles, thatgamecompany founder Kelle Santiago went in search of new challenges.
Of course some moves were under less than ideal circumstances. In March the overwhelmingly passionate producer and spokesman of Capcom's recent fighting games, Yoshinori Ono, succumbed to exhaustion and was hospitalised. Following his recovery, Ono-san handed over the Street Fighter reigns and stepped out of the limelight.
The biggest shocks came in March and September. First, Peter Molyneux did the unimaginable: he left Microsoft and Lionhead. According the legendary game designer, the arrival of Microsoft's chair police to adjust his seat was the final push he needed to make his next move.
Six months later BioWare co-founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka announced they were leaving the studio and retiring from the games industry entirely. Zeschuck admitted his passion for making games had waned, while Muzyka said he felt it was time to begin a new chapter in his career.
Three Hard Quarters
Let's not beat around the proverbial bush: THQ has had one hell of a rough year.
The Saints Row publisher started 2012 having to bat away rumours it was being sold and detailed an "updated business strategy" involving cutting loose the kids licensing games business to refocus on "core video game franchises and digital initiatives for the future".
A month later its sales and administrative staff were on the chopping block too; it lost 240 general and admin personnel as part of its revised business strategy, and then CEO Brian Farrell took a 50 per cent pay cut. The blows just kept on coming, as shortly afterwards the company announced a net loss of $55.9 million (£35m) for its third fiscal quarter. The uDraw tablet reportedly cost the company $80 million in lost revenue. Unsurprisingly, it withdrew support for the product, not that many people cared.
It wasn't all bad news, thanks mostly to the positively received Saints Row: The Third. The publisher upwardly revised its Q4 sales guidance and trimmed predicted losses. But while it was on track to report better than expected results, it was hardly in a position to celebrate.
Despite this, THQ has a strong line-up going into 2013, with
A Little Less Epic
Honestly, news that Cliff Bleszinski left Epic Games didn't come as a surprise. Yes, it was one hell of a shock, but a surprise? Not really. As the man himself pointed out, he's been at the company since he was a teenager. Bleszinski has tireless toiled away at Epic, where he was instrumental in the creation of some of gaming's biggest franchises: Gears of War and Unreal Tournament to name just a few - it was only a matter of time before he decided to take a break.
We could have imagined Cliff starting up his own studio, but some people are so intrinsically linked to a studio that the mere thought of them leaving doesn't compute. Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, was such a man, and in December he resigned.
Prior to that Epic Games' director of production Rod Fergusson left the Gears of War studio to join BioShock developer Irrational Games. Those were both a shock and a surprise.
It wasn't just a change of the old guard at Epic this year though, a few fresh faces made an exit too. People Can Fly, the studio behind
End of the GAME?
GAME was pushed to the edge of destruction by an unstable economic climate and rutheless competition from online retailers and opportunistic supermarkets. In February, facing serious financing issues, it began reviewing its overseas operations. Its troubles quickly turned into a katamari of stock deficiencies, layoffs and withdrawal of support from leading publishers.
By March the retailer's stock dropped to an all-time low and the firm put itself up for sale in a bid to avoid administration. Things started to look up when Comet owner OpCapita offered to buy out the group's lenders and repay suppliers.
The Gamestation brand was laid to rest and 122 of its stores were rebranded over the following months, setting GAME on its long road to recovery.
Design your own ending
BioWare's Mass Effect series has spawned a large and vocal audience of fans over its three current-gen releases. So when the gaming public decided Mass Effect 3's ending didn't live up to expectations it's no surprise we all heard about it.
A lack of closure, plot contradictions and little representation of players' own game choices were the perceived problems with the ending, and fans ended up feeling fairly hostile towards the developer.
The new conclusion didn't satisfy everyone, but arguably its biggest impact was in the potential repercussions it has for gaming as a whole. Has BioWare set a precedent? If gamers moan enough in future, can we expect to change Kojima's Metal Gear endings and bring Aeris back from the dead?
Cutting out the middleman
2012 was the year gamers voted with their wallets.
Kickstarter is a platform where creators can pitch ideas to the public, who in turn donate money to get the project off the ground.
In February Double Fine, the studio founded by Monkey Island, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango creator Tim Schafer, pioneered the platform for gaming when it made more than $1 million in 24 hours for its adventure game.
The incredible success of Double Fine Adventure saw hundreds of indie projects flock to the crowd sourcing platform, with notable titles such as the new game from Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts and Peter Molyneux's new god game securing the funds to enter full development.
Some of the biggest names in gaming, including Platinum Games and Obsidian now see the appeal of cutting out the publishing model and going straight to the customers, but Kickstarter's not been without its problems.
The infancy of the platform has been exposed via the risk of funded games never getting made and even developers using Kickstarter to fund another Kickstarter.
The early success of the platform has been astounding, however the real impact will certainly be measured in the coming months when we see how many of the titles actually make it out.
The Sony Shuffle
For Sony, much of 2012 has been spent trying to keep its feet firmly planted on stable ground. A task that has no doubt been made incredibly difficult with the launch of the
Sony pointed to promising early 3DS sales as a sign of high demand for gaming-focused portables, and continued to stay optimistic during its own handheld's slow start. Ahead of its launch in the west, Sony Computer Entertainment America's senior vice president said the company sees Vita as 'a five to ten year platform'.
With PS3 sales in decline the PlayStation division lost £1.8 billion, and talk turned to its next console. Sony's French arm said the platform holder would likely be the last to announce its next console.
In 2011 Jim Ryan, president and CEO Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, said it would be 'undesirable to let Xbox 720 get a significant head start on PS4', but in 2012 Jack Tretton reminded the gaming world that Sony has never been the first, or the cheapest, indicating Sony would once again allow its competitors to get the jump on it for the sake of quality. A couple of days later it blamed the high launch price of the PS3 for trailing console sales.
On the software front Sony offered plenty of exclusive first party content to compliment its third-party library, but the big question has been 'where is Team ICO's The Last Guardian?'. At the tail end of last year Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian creator Fumito Ueda left the company. Despite assurances that it wasn't cancelled the painful lack of new media suggested otherwise. In February it was finally revealed that the game was going through a 'scrapping and rebuilding' process, with Sony later adding that the title 'will ship when it's ready'. The painful wait continues.
Arguably Sony's biggest moment of the year came from its acquisition of cloud-based gaming service Gaikai, the fruits of which we're still waiting to taste.
Gone, Not Forgotten
Sadly, 2012 was also a year punctuated with numerous studio closures. In the last 12 months we lost Bright Light, Studio Liverpool, Zipper Interactive, Rockstar Vancouver, 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, THQ San Diego, Ubisoft Vancouver, Paragon Studios, PopCap Dublin, a number of Zynga studios and more.
It might be too early, or too naive, to say the social gaming bubble has burst, but the drastically turning fortune of Zynga this year certainly invites the declaration.
If that wasn't enough of a sign, the swift exodus of executives certainly was. Decorated games industry executive John Schappert, who has held senior roles at companies such as Microsoft and EA, resigned; chief creative officer Mike Verdu left to start a new company; two additional key executives also took their leave.
Talent followed suit, with the most notable of departures being Words with Friends creators Paul and David Bettner, who quit the social games firm in October. It's questionable practises caught the attention of hacking group Anonymous and its empire of games began to crumble.
By November, Zynga boss Mark Pincus was reportedly 'close to tears' at a meeting set up by company investors.
Next-gen: Clearly Inconspicuous
"You're only really getting half a show this year. You're getting Wii U but you're not getting the other half of the story so it's a bit awkward," said EA Labels president Frank Gibeau at E3.
Awkward is the right word.
Microsoft and Sony have spent the majority of the year pretending the next-generation doesn't exist. Meanwhile there's been a circus of rumour and speculation: Xbox 720 is codenamed 'Durango', it might be called Xbox 8, it's a DVR, it's a tablet, it's six times more powerful than the 360, it blocks pre-owned games, it doesn't take discs.
Despite the plethora of news stories that have flooded the news'o'sphere, it's easy to feel just as confused about what new consoles have in store for us as we were a year ago. EA's Gibeau though has apparently seen both next-gen machines. They're spectacular, if you're wondering.
Of course, it's important to remember that the year was also packed with plenty of amazing looking games to get excited about.
From the ashes of True Crime rose Sleeping Dogs. The game which Activision deemed not fit to release went on to review well and generate a vocal fan base. Everyone loves an underdog.
French game design artiste David Cage showed the PS3 still packs a hell of punch at GDC, where he revealed 'Kara', a jaw-dropping techn demo that let onlookers peek through a window into the next-generation of video games.
Few could have guessed that it would be Nintendo of all companies that would make our dreams of a Bayonetta sequel a reality. But during a Japanese Nintendo Direct broadcast in September it did just that with the announcement that Bayonetta 2 is in production exclusively for the
More recently, Rockstar threw us a GTA 5 curveball by announcing its fifth entry will have three protagonists, and drip-feeding us details on what is undoubtedly its most ambitious game yet.
And of course, that rascal Hideo Kojima finished up 2012 with one last prank: The Phantom Pain, a game that may or may not have announced Metal Gear Solid 5.