We come to the end of our reflections on the year gone past. Granted, 2012 was a bit more subdued than we thought (and a lot more subdued once December 21st rolled on by), with only a few stand-out titles at E3, disappointments galore and more low-key titles that engaged our imaginations. However, those titles also carried far reaching impact and they showed that in an industry replete with blockbusters and AAA titles, there are still some choice games striving to provide a unique experience. For that matter, Kickstarter’s success also showed that gamers were hungry for some great new experiences. And we’ve finally got to learn just what was happening at Silicon Knights all these years (here’s a hint: Lord of the Flies has nothing on Denis Dyack). All that and more below.
The Supernova of Kickstarter/Public Funding
The year was famous for many things, but if there’s one thing developers will fondly look back on and remember about 2012, it’s Kickstarter. Until the digital public funding medium was used for games, it was well known just what kind of horrors a developer had to go through just to get its game published. In fact, some developers have relegated themselves to designing the same game, year in and year out, under the whims of greedy publishers (hi, Activision!).
But Kickstarter allowed developers to take away control from the publisher and put into the hands of those who mattered most: the gamers. If anything, it allowed gamers to finally have a say on what games they wanted to see come to the market. No excuses, no regrets, and every dollar made a difference. Double Fine Productions was the first to break out, earning 3,336,371 with their first Kickstarter. Then Obsidian’s Project Eternity gained some ground, and went on to succeed with 3,986,929 in backing. Let’s not forget the return of The Longest Journey, with Dreamfall Chapters also in development. Even the hallowed veteran Chris Roberts came out of retirement to announce Star Citizen and seek funding through his own website and through Kickstarter (which has unsurprisingly been a wild success).
Since then, we’ve had a myriad of different developers taking to the medium, using it to finance their games, but Kickstarter didn’t just ignite a dormant market for funding – rather, it showed that crowd funding via the Internet could actually work. Heck, even Peter Molyneux is down on his knees, screaming “hallelujah!” and “I’m indie! Fund me!” in the name of crowd funding support.
It’s also helped foster some innovations like the first console to be powered by Android, the Ouya. The next year will be amazing not only because of new projects in the pipeline like Black Isle Studios’ Project V13, but also because many of the Kickstarter projects will see release. It’s an exciting year, to be sure, and we can’t wait to see what kind of reception these games generate.
Knightfall: The End of Silicon Knights
It didn’t grab gamers by the wrist, urging them to listen to tales of madness and depravity. But admittedly, the story of Silicon Knights and their slow but steady decline into obscurity was an explosive one.
For the first time, via a former employee ousted from the studio, we got to learn of the cancelled projects the developer never got around to – including Eternal Darkness 2 – and the dealings of Denis Dyack as he personally drove his studio to the ground.
In between, there were annoyances with Activision, who wanted to see some kind of return on X-Men: Destiny, news about the development of a survival horror game known as The Box (which was somehow meant to be a Silent Hill title, and yet was taken to Sega for consideration), the revelation that Silicon Knights had continued using Unreal Engine 3 even after their monumental court case with Epic Games, a look inside the mind of Dyack, who wanted those who left the studio to have their names stricken off the credits list and awarded only “Special Thanks” (until Activision stepped in and called bullshit) and most importantly, how a single ego can systematically infect and annihilate even the most promising of developers.
BaZynga: Something Clever to Say How Farmville Dev is Dying
There was a time when I came across this article and was utterly disgusted. Simply put, when your CEO says stuff like, “I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar which was like, I dont know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it. *laughs*”, you know there’s a problem.
At that point, it didn’t bother me to see what happened to this company who was making money off of people with their shabbily designed “Ville” clones. So even when they went their own way from Facebook – which was hilariously some time before Facebook went into public trading – it only struck me as inconsequential.
Then there were the falling profits, resignations and absurd threats of legality. Sooner rather than later, Zynga had lost its way, with the once vaunted social games no longer offering the same modicum of returns. The developer tried and is still in the process of branching out into mobile development, along with developing board games with Hasbro for its titles, but it’s still in a free fall.
Such is the state of Zynga CEO Mark Pincus that even industry veteran Bill Campbell, currently director at Apple who’s helped many visionaries like Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt in their times of need, reported that he was in tears regarding the state of his company. Will 2013 be the year that Zynga finally folds?
The Next Wave of Consoles
The Wii U might have gotten a head start but quite frankly, rumours of Sony and Microsoft’s next consoles have been doing the rounds for a good couple of years now. You can read more about it here, but long story short, Microsoft’s newest iteration of the Xbox has been called everything from Xbox Next to Xbox 720 and more. Oddly enough, the Playstation 4 has remained pretty much that.
Both consoles are rumoured to be more geared towards the living room experience, with Kinect branching out into Glasses tech to allow for enhanced augmented reality functions. Sony for its part is looking into finger sensing, depth perceived technology, most likely for it’s Playstation Eye to give it Kinect-like functionality. The newest consoles, following leaked specs from hardware running Square Enix’s next gen title Agni’s Philosophy, might contain as much as 32 GB of RAM.
We can’t really say where it will go or which one will be a success, but the console war is about to heat up again. It may be a different generation with different expectations but come E3 2013, if both consoles are really going to be announced, the gaming industry will show once again that war never changes.