Ahead of the game: Predictions for 2011

Adam El Araby

The beginning of a new year is often a time for retrospection, looking back and taking stock of everything that happened so that we can look to the future more confidently. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to take a moment and imagine some of the wonders, delights and disappointments the games industry might hold for us in 2011.

The first major announcement of the year is likely to come from the ailing creator of the PlayStation. As PSP software sales have been flatlining for years now, Sony will finally unveil its successor. It’ll have the much requested dual analogue sticks, a touch screen and a touch sensitive pad on the back for camera control.  Following where PSP Go led, it’ll be digital-download only.

Unfortunately, the PSP2 will struggle in the shadow of 2011’s handheld behemoth, the Nintendo 3DS. Launching in Japan in March, the 3DS will be a massive news story this year. Its genuinely innovative 3D screen will blow away pretty much everyone who tries it, but health concerns arising from its affect on young years will trouble the launch. A high price will hurt it a little too, but it should still be able to sell out.  I have a feeling that the US and European launches, also scheduled for March, will face a slight delay as Nintendo focuses on supply demand in Japan. PSP2 won’t be released until later in the year and with an underwhelming launch line-up, it’ll face a long struggle to establish itself.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, free from handheld concerns, will also be re-adjusting its focus, squarely on Kinect. It’s obvious from the meagre amount of traditional core titles on their slate for 2011 that MS is all about establishing Kinect as their new platform of choice. A few of their standard first-party titles, such as Gears of War, PGR and Fable, will still be around but these will be used simply to placate the increasingly disgruntled gamers who’ve supported the 360 so far. We’ll almost certainly get to see the fruits of the new Halo studio, 343 Industries, and I can’t wait to see if they can live up to Bungie’s standard. Bungie themselves might want to make their next move known. It’s widely rumoured to be an MMO shooter, but whether they’re ready to show it remains to be seen.

Sony will face a more practical challenge this year, protecting their systems from increasingly powerful hackers. Recently the PS3’s once-thought-impenetrable security was blown open, making cripplingly widespread piracy a very real concern. Despite the risks, it could also make the PS3 more capable than ever with working emulators for a range of systems from the SNES to classic arcade games already available.

Rockstar will start building hype for the inevitable GTA5 this year. Expect a trailer in March or April to reveal the west coast-bound next instalment in the massive franchise. LA Noire will be disappointing. Deus Ex 3 will emerge in the latter part of the year and will almost certainly fail to live up to the expectations of gamers fondly remembering the iconic original. Final Fantasy Versus XIII just might make it out in Japan this year, but we’ll have to wait until 2012 to see what Nomura’s been brewing. I’d bet my diamond-encrusted Games Editor crown that it’ll be appearing on 360, too. A PlayStation Phone will finally hit the market, and no one will care. Valve might talk about Episode 3 but they’ll probably be too busy organising Steam Sales and counting their money.

The rising cost of development will force every publisher to cut back on Triple-A releases and result in an increasing emphasis on DLC and smaller downloadable titles.  More Japanese developers will follow Square-Enix’s lead in looking for western publishers to merge with in order to increase their presence in the European and North American markets. Capcom is a prime candidate for this. Oh and maybe, just maybe, Activision will grace us with another Call of Duty.

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