You didn't notice? Seriously, stop reading this article right now and find your nearest window — don't worry, we'll wait. Good, you're back. Did you notice the flying cars and newly built steel sky-scrapers on the horizon? Yeah, exactly. The future, huh?
Unfortunately the future isn't quite as exciting as late 70s movies and television shows had us believe, but it's still set to be a pretty pivotal year for games — PlayStation especially. Not only will this year house the release of a brand new PlayStation platform (well, unless CNET's 2012 predictions come good), but it's also likely to be the first time we start hearing about Sony's next home platform too.
Click through the jump while we pull out our crystal ball and thrash out some predictions for PlayStation in 2012.
No official PlayStation 4 announcements, but plenty of rumblings. As the curtain closed on 2010, Sony still hadn't announced the PlayStation Portable's successor — but at the time, rumours about Sony's next handheld platform were rife. We expect a similar thing to occur in 2012, as Sony keeps tight lipped about its next home console, but the media begins to feed on scraps.
Sony's clearly turning its attention to PlayStation 4; a recent batch of rumours suggested that one prolific PlayStation developer was already planning a launch title for the new machine. In 2012 we'll start to learn about specifications and projects, but nothing will be confirmed.
We fully expect Microsoft to lift the lid on its new system at some point in the new year. Couple that with the release of the Wii U, and the media will probably put pressure on Sony to release details about the PlayStation 4 sooner rather than later. But it won't — it will wait and see what the other systems have to offer.
But that doesn't mean Sony will be late to the party again. The new XBOX will probably launch in 2013 — especially given the success that the 360 is enjoying in North America at the moment — and the PlayStation 4 won't be far behind. We're predicting a January 2013 announcement for the system, followed by a late November launch. The PlayStation Vita was clearly on the same timescale before the Japanese earthquake turned Sony's production facilities upside and down, and we expect the platform holder to eye a similar (and hopefully more successful) turnaround for the PlayStation 4.
As for the system itself, we're expecting an easier development eco-system packed with social features. The PlayStation Vita is a hint at the future — and it proves that Sony's still very much about cutting-edge hardware, without isolating developers. Expect Shuhei Yoshida to allow Sony's top studios — Guerrilla Games, Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica, etc — to have a huge amount of input into the next PlayStation platform.
And in the interest of launch titles — Uncharted 4, WaterStorm and Guerrilla Games' next IP are all projects we expect to start hearing about.
PlayStation 3 drops to $199, overtakes XBOX 360 at last. It's amazing to think that after all these years, the PlayStation 3 has still not reached mass market price. Sony's subtle price-cut to $249 at 2011's Gamescom pretty much cemented 2012 as the year that the platform would reach the sub-$200 price-point. We're expecting a subtle, but very successful year for the PlayStation 3 in 2012.
With talk likely to be all about the next-generation, PlayStation 3 will be a secondary point of discussion in 2012. But we actually expect the system to be at its most attractive. There's no sign that Sony's going to quit with the quality first-party support, with The Last Of Us, Twisted Metal and Starhawk all on the horizon. There'll be some big software announcements for the platform too, that will accompany its latest price-drop later in the year.
One thing that we tend to predict every year, but fully expect to occur in 2012, is the PlayStation 3's eventual success over the XBOX 360. It's true that Microsoft's machine is on fire in the United States right now — but the PlayStation 3's not exactly kicking its heels in the region either. It's outside of the USA that's pivotal though, and Sony continues to prove its strength in continental Europe and Asia — which will ultimately be the edge that pushes the PlayStation 3 ahead of the XBOX 360.
At this point, Sony taking second-place in the console war is pretty much a moot point — the difference between the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 is likely to be minimal at the end of the generation. But given the mistakes Sony made earlier on in the generation, it'll certainly serve as a testament to the platform holder's determination. And we certainly don't expect PlayStation 4 to suffer from the same problems — in fact, out of all the console manufacturers, we think Sony is in the most envious position going into the next generation.
PlayStation Vita enjoys modest opening year. The smartphone comparisons are not going to go away. You're certainly not going to see the last of the "dedicated portable gaming systems are dead" columns going into 2012, but we also expect the evidence to diminish. It's an opinion thing at the moment, and it's going to stay that way throughout 2012. Because the reality is, portable gaming systems are not dead — the last couple of months of ridiculous 3DS domination have proved as much.
We're keeping our expectations for the PlayStation Vita's opening year fairly grounded, but we think Sony is too. It's clear that out of the gate Sony is selling to the traditional PlayStation gamer, and that should be enough to carry the system through its opening 12 months. Don't be surprised if Sony makes some deals with a couple of top-tier Japanese developers — Square Enix, Capcom, Level-5 — in order to stir some enthusiasm in the system's home region, but also don't be concerned if the device never quite makes an assault on the 3DS.
One of the biggest problems with gamers is their inability to look outside of the black and white, and find the grey sitting in the middle. That kind of mentality attaches a stigma to various products in the industry that don't necessarily set on fire, but it never takes into account the simple fact that a product can be successful (and thoroughly enjoyable) without beating the competition. PlayStation Vita will probably be that device. As long as it provides an ecosystem strong enough to support great games, then we'll be satisfied.
One area we do think the PlayStation Vita's going to succeed — and prove itself in 2012 — is through its ability to be flexible. More than any other system, the PlayStation Vita is perfectly poised to capitalise on a vast array of experiences. This is something that's demonstrated in the system's launch line-up, which spans cheap downloadable games, to cheap retail games, to middle-tier retail games, to high-profile retail games. And Sony will surely introduce another layer onto the model in 2012, with the release of PlayStation Suite — a label which we think could prove wildly successful if Sony approaches it properly. While Sony's been pretty quiet about PlayStation Suite since its initial announcement, we expect the App Store like initiative to become another pillar of the platform holder's video game business in 2012.
Sony Smash Bros debuts on PlayStation 3. We're pretty certain a crossover brawler based on various PlayStation properties is in development, especially after all the rumours that emerged last year. And so we expect Sony Smash Bros to get its full debut in 2012.
While the speculation seems to point towards a fun, casual, party fighter in the vein of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros, we're expecting something a bit more traditional from Sony Smash Bros — a Street Fighter-esque experience as opposed to the arena action found in Nintendo's similar series.
It'll depend how far along Sony Smash Bros is in development as to whether it actually releases in 2012, but we expect the game to form a big component of the platform holder's E3 press conference and booth. It's more wishful thinking, but we want Sony Smash Bros to be a true celebration of the platform's history and heritage, packed with inane references and ridiculous lashings of fan service.
If Sony Smash Bros turns out to be that, then we're not sure we'll be able to contain our excitement.
God Of War IV is announced at E3. If PlayStation 4 is going to make up a big component of Sony's 2013, then there's got to be one last bang in the PlayStation 3's line-up. God Of War IV is almost certain to be that game. Sony Santa Monica's first outing on PlayStation 3 still exceeds virtually every other game released this generation, and we expect the developer's second title to be a similarly enormous leap. Like God Of War II back on the PlayStation 2, we fully expect God Of War IV to be doing unimaginable things with soon-to-be-replaced hardware.
We had hoped that God Of War IV would steer the franchise in a new direction, with a new narrative, but recent rumours seem to point to the return of Kratos and online co-op. While we're not sure we're entirely keen on the idea, we trust Sony Santa Monica to do something incredible.
We expect God Of War IV to be kept quiet until E3, where the game's announcement will probably close the platform holder's press conference. Expect bangs.
Sony goes on final acquisition frenzy before PlayStation 4. It's no secret that Sony has one of the strongest first-party development line-ups in the industry. With the acquisition of Sucker Punch and Media Molecule in recent years, Sony's really strengthened its portfolio. We expect the platform holder to go on one final splurge in 2012, in order to further secure its line-up before the release of PlayStation 4. Among the names we expect to get snapped up, thatgamecompany and Quantic Dream are probably the most likely — especially if Team ICO collapses following the departure of Fumito Ueda. We'd also tag Novarama and Zindagi Studios as other likely candidates.
Sony will get the taste of what it feels like to lose a valued developer when Insomniac Games releases its first multiplatform project in 2012. We expect the company to be much more aggressive in locking up names in the future. And, honestly, if it manages to purchase thatgamecompany and Quantic Dream, then it's pretty much assembled a PS4 dream-team from where we're sitting.
Agree, disagree? Let us know what you think 2012 holds for PlayStation in the comments below.