As the year winds to a close, it's becoming possible to get some perspective on just what happened in gaming this year. If promises were kept, expectations met, games loved or trends followed. What exactly were the major companies up to in 2012?
One company managed to stay busy while avoiding perhaps the one thing people wanted most. Though it was missing the obvious signifier moment — the announcement of a new console — 2012 was nonetheless a year of change for Microsoft, as a game company and otherwise.
With Gears of War in an off year, Microsoft returned to the story and title that started it all, as Master Chief kicked off a new trilogy in Halo 4. Meanwhile, they were doing a complete revamp on their home and mobile software as Windows 8 was rolled out. Following this trend of change, CEO Steve Ballmer took the axe to Windows president Steven Sinofsky, who had been the heir apparent to the Microsoft throne, forever altering the timeline.
With the amount of big exclusive games slim, Microsoft instead focused itself on downloadable titles and entertainment. The content on XBLA continued to thrive, with great titles like Spelunky, Mark of The Ninja, and Minecraft. Microsoft's E3 presentation focused on their desire to become the home's entertainment hub, integrating new and original video content, as well as sports and music to the Xbox Dashboard, and the release of SmartGlass. While hardware sales remain high, Microsoft is clearly building to something new. Hopefully it will be called Entertainment 720.
Bye-Bye Microsoft Points? Someday soon, Microsoft will hopefully be phasing out Microsoft Points. While this change has yet to be implemented on Xbox Live, the simple fact that Microsoft acknowledged the biggest complaint about their online purchasing system is a sigh of relief for gamers that's been a long time coming. Microsoft's arcane attempts at cheating extra money out of its fans — who it apparently considers rubes — has made buying games from the XBLA almost prohibitively frustrating, purchasing rigid packs of points to then purchase games with instead of just, y'know, buying the fucking game. In the Windows 8 Game Store you can now purchase directly with a credit card, and this change, lord willing, should come to your Xbox. Please.
Not Ruining Halo While it didn't exactly shock the world, there was still a sense of trepidation mixed into the excitement following the news that Master Chief was coming out of retirement. Would he be like Jay-Z and struggle to reclaim his former glory? Like Mike Tyson, and tarnish his legacy? Or like Brett Favre, flashing his junk all over town? Luckily, he did none of the above, instead making a great showing in Halo 4. 343 Industries more or less knocked it out of the Library, and there's no doubt that this series will remain at the forefront of gaming for years to come.
Windows 8 With its market share continually falling in comparison to Apple, Microsoft attempted to shoot some adrenaline into its sales this year by revamping their OS with Windows 8. Sporting a whole new look and feel (one that borrows liberally from the paradigm established on the Xbox 360 Dashboard), Windows 8 has been more-or-less well received by most groups. One faction that isn't so pleased, however, is gamers. While reactions on our site have ranged from somewhat annoying but "fine" to downright disastrous, you didn't see any PC gamers beating down the door to praise it.
Halo 4 "Playtime" Rewards Not exactly the type of thing that will tank your stock, but Microsoft's November "promotion", which offered Microsoft Points in exchange for Halo 4 multiplayer hours, was simply embarrassing. Sure, the concept of getting "money" in return for playing games is dandy, but the frugality on display was tone-deaf. To get the "big reward" you had to play approximately six hours every day for the entire month. That "big reward?" Approximately $US7.50. Just enough to buy some salve for your thumbs. And dignity.
What did you all think were Microsoft's best and worst decisions this year?
All games were published or distributed by Microsoft Game Studios Happy Action Theater - February 1 Alan Wake's American Nightmare - February 22 Microsoft Flight - February 29 Kinect Star Wars - April 3 The Splatters - April 11 Trials Evolution - April 18 Fable Heroes - May 2 Skyrim DLCs - June-December Deadlight - August 1 Mark Of The Ninja - September 7 Joe Danger 2: The Movie - September 14 Harry Potter for Kinect - October 9 Dance Central 3 - October 16 Forza Horizon - October 23 Halo 4 - November 6
For these 'Year In Review' segments, we'll be taking a look at what major gaming companies did in 2012, with summaries of their biggest news and releases, best and worst decisions, and complete lists of the games they were a part of. Check back tomorrow for a look at another major company. It rhymes with "pony".