The subject line of an e-mail I got yesterday declared, without punctation, that "Xbox 360 is Home to the Most Anticipated Games of 2012".
At first, I snickered and sneered.
Sure, it is. Or will be. Or whatever.
Because it'll have that sure-fire Nintendo classic, that…. oh, wait, I realised, there's not much on the horizon for Nintendo systems that we know about.
Oh, but there's Sony. Quietly, gradually, Sony has built a stable of in-house game developers that rival even Nintendo's in breadth of expertise and ability to make fun games. In 2012 they'll surely have that game I've been waiting for for ages… The Last Guardian. Or maybe they won't, because there seem to be problems with that game. I can't count on it. But they've got The Last of Us. Surely that's 2012? Could be.
Microsoft's hype e-mail may have blurbed the truth. I'm hard-pressed to name many confirmed 2012 games that won't be coming to Xbox 360.
"What about Diablo III?" you shout. We can assume that's 2012. We can assume it's on PC. Who wants to assume it won't be out on the Xbox 360 (and PS3), too?
Mass Effect 3? PC, PS3… 360. BioShock Infinite? PC, PS3… 360. Assassin's Creed's next? Call of Duty's next? Probably the PC, the PS3 and the 360.
Should we get Grand Theft Auto V in 2012, we should be getting it on the Xbox 360 and the other machines powerful enough to run it.
Microsoft's e-mail, I must tell you, didn't mention any of the games I just mentioned.
- Halo 4
- Fable: The Journey
- Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure
- Kinect Star Wars
Surely, you're excited about playing at least one of those. (I'm excited about at least two.)
Three of those games have something in common. Three will be made to be controlled with the Kinect. Only Halo 4 seems to be a controller game. That elevates Microsoft's hit hands-free sensor system over Nintendo's blockbuster Wii Fit Balance Board. Nintendo was content to sell its Wii peripheral and then let other people make games for it. Microsoft is telling us that 3/4 of its important 2012 games — at least the ones it can tell us about in this e-mail — use their add-on.
I don't know if the gradual improvement of Kinect games is what quickens the heartrate of the kind of people who dream in December of 2011 about the video games of 2012. I think those people care less about Kinect and being the controller, though I could be wrong. I do think those people await the next big games and see, from Final Fantasy XIII-2 to Metal Gear Solid Rising a line-up of 2012 games that seem destined to be on the Xbox 360 and on competing platforms.
With the Wii fading toward zero new games and Sony keeping the spotlight mostly on the 2012 works its creators are making for the portable Vita, the Xbox 360 does have more room than expected to appear like the catch-all, every-game console.
We can puncture that a little. Sony will have big exclusives and they won't just be The Last of Us. Nintendo will have a whole new system, the Wii U, and will presumably release at least one major game on it — be it the system's Super Mario 64, its Wii Sports or simply its Luigi's Mansion. The PC will have Diablo III, to the extent it has it for itself plus a slew of indie games. If we count portables — and why shouldn't we? games can be anticipated on any machine? — Nintendo's got Luigi's Mansion 2, a new Kid Icarus and a batch more big ones coming to 3DS; Sony has a horde of PS Vita games, from Sound Shapes to a Resistance spin-off, coming to Vita.
The vibe Microsoft wants to convey is that its second-place console is entering into PS2-level ubiquity. The Wii has stalled. The PS3 has trailed sufficiently for any significant third-party publisher to decline to put a game on Sony's machine without also putting it on Microsoft's. The Wii U plans are quiet, and with the Vita occupying Sony's hype space, so too are the plans for 2012 PS3 games. So, briefly, the Xbox 360 has the rhetorical advantage in the gaming console race. Its caretakers can boast that it does have most of the most-anticipated games coming in 2012. And that's why this might be as sweet as it's ever been for a company that, 10 years ago, barged into the gaming console market with a machine that was loved for few things other than for playing Halo.
This week's Xbox 360 hype blast wasn't a lie. It was the Kinect-powered truth, for now.