Plenty to play for

by Shane Dillon
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THERE’S no doubt about it – looking back, 2012 saw some outstanding games releases on virtually all platforms, while it also became clear that the current console generation is rapidly heading towards retirement.

As always, a number of interesting new titles appeared; long-awaited sequels (and, in some cases, prequels) finally jumped up; some by-the-numbers titles sold lucrative amounts, despite being by-the-numbers updates.

In less welcome gaming news, a number of big name studios bit the dust (so goodnight, dear Psygnosis) while others fired staff left, right and centre to cut costs (with Dublin also caught up in such rounds, as many PopCap employees found out, unfortunately).

On an encouraging note, the gaming year was – more or less – bookended with the launch of interesting new consoles, with Sony’s Vita appearing near the start, while Nintendo’s WiiU got plenty of interest near the end.

While the PS Vita subsequently found itself in the same boat as Nintendo’s 3DS, with both handhelds notably underperforming and proving rare indeed to see in the wild, mobile gaming again saw huge strides, with IOS-driven games continuing to cannibalise certain sectors of the gaming market.

Apple’s vicelike grip on mobile gaming strengthened, driven by a number of trends, while other gaming platforoms, including Facebook, also saw significant gains, as people who wouldn’t otherwise think of themselves as “gamers” still dabbled.

On a side note, trends in gaming were mirrored in some ways in a variety of technological fields, as consumer PC and laptop sales continued their nosedive while tablets climbed.

Apple stumbled a number of times (at the time of writing, its widely-derided Maps app still has Dublin Zoo sitting off Dame Street), while Microsoft faced mixed  reviews over its Surface tablet release, and drew criticism over its Windows 8 OS.

Even more interesting was seeing ratings agency Fitch downgrading the debt ratings of Sony to “junk” status near the year’s end, thanks to widespread malaise in its technology sales.

As the most visible point of technology around us, smartphones continued to dominate tech headlines, with the latest Apple iPhone proving nice, but not so different to the last one, while former phone giants (such as Nokia) continued to drift ever closer to disaster, caught on the hop by the rapid rise of rivals.

Still, it’s worth pointing out that the wide range of excellent games titles released in 2012 underlined why current consoles enjoyed the longest life-cycle of any platforms, to date, with the follow-up consoles expected to be revealed in 2013 having a pretty hard act to follow, given the quality of some of these titles.

Nintendo’s Wii U is first out of the traps on that one, showing a great leap forward for that company – err, to more or less match the current industry standards.

One thing’s for sure – on the gaming front, there are some terrific treats in store for 2013 (see panel, right).

Whetever new consoles and titles are on the way, it’s already looking like (20)13 will be a lucky number for these gaming giants, not to mention having a lot for gamers to look forward to …

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