January is a terrible month for game releases, but it’s a fantastic month for speculating about what’s down the road. We’ve pulled through yet another insane holiday season, and now 2012 stretches before us, filled with possibility. There are a lot of great games on the horizon, to be sure, but as with any other year, you just know some of the biggest ones aren’t going to see store shelves before December rolls around.
With the recent news that XCOM has already been pushed back into 2013 (no doubt partly to make room for the just-announced strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown), now seems like an especially opportune time to start making predictions about which other hotly anticipated titles we think stand the best chance of slipping into next year.
Above: This image may contain some hints
First, though, let’s take a look at last year’s predictions. How’d we do?
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Shipped on time, no delays.
Mass Effect 3: Delayed until 3/6/2012.
The Last Guardian: Release still TBA.
Diablo III: Release still TBA.
Beyond Good & Evil 2: Release still TBA (and likely won’t happen until the next console generation, so we’ll leave it out of this year’s lineup for being too obvious).
Above: Don't expect to see this until next-gen hardware becomes available. We know, we're disappointed, too
Battlefield 3: Shipped on time, no delays.
Saints Row the Third: Shipped on time, no delays.
I Am Alive: Release TBA for Q1 2012.
Half-Life 2: Episode 3: Release still TBA, likely shelved in favor of unannounced Half-Life 3.
Duke Nukem Forever: Included as a joke entry, but still saw brief delays before releasing in June.
Accuracy of last year’s predictions: 60%
So, OK, six out of 10 isn’t great, but it's not terrible, either, especially since every wrong prediction meant a new game we could play. With that in mind, here’s hoping we do even worse this year.
First announced: August 2006, March 2008 or March 2011, depending on how you define “announced.”
Since then, we’ve seen: A live-action announcement trailer that was devoid of gameplay (always a good sign), a CG trailer that was similarly devoid of gameplay, occasional bursts of screenshots and a hands-off E3 demo that’s since been shown off a couple of times.
Why we won’t see it: Like everything else associated with defunct studio 3D Realms, this open-world, sci-fi, bounty-hunting FPS has been a long time coming. And while the gameplay demo we’ve seen shows a lot of promise, the fact that we’ve seen that same demo a couple more times since E3 (at shows that were open to the public, but still) fills us with suspicion. Prey 2 is reportedly going to be an enormous game, and if it were really on track for release this year, we imagine publisher Bethesda would have shown us a bit more than just the same mission in the same area.
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): Our experience with Skyrim (which wasn’t even announced until December 2010, and then wasn't even shown in-game until the following month) has taught us that Bethesda can play things close to the vest with the best of them, so it’s entirely possible that the game has entered the final stages of production. If that’s true, then we’d expect to see it surface sometime this summer, or (more likely) in October or November as Bethesda’s big holiday release.
First announced: August 2008
Since then, we’ve seen: A smattering of screenshots and a few trailers, one of which features gameplay, and an eyes-on preview at Gamescom in August. Oh, and signups have just started for a private beta (available only to EVE Online subscribers), which may or may not be ongoing right now.
Why we won’t see it: Creating a massively multiplayer shooter is a pretty tall order. Creating one for PS3 and PS Vita, and making it persistent with an established, enormous PC MMO that revolves around complicated spacefaring economics, sounds like an absurdly tall order. And doing so when you’re a developer with little to no shooter experience, who’s just laid off a fifth of its workforce in October after saying said workforce was stretched too thin, seems like the start of a particularly cruel joke.
We like the ambitious scope of this project, which mobilizes console players as mercenary grunts fighting for a (presumably) more cerebral overclass of EVE Online players, but the logistics of it alone are terrifying to contemplate. We’re not saying developer CCP doesn’t know what it’s doing, just that we think it’s doubtful it can it do it by the end of this year.
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): As impossible as the project appears, CCP has been working on it for more than three years, so it could have its act together more tightly than we realize. In that case, the rumored summer release date seems attainable – although given the layoffs and reports that the beta was originally supposed to open at the end of 2011, a slip into fall or even winter is likelier.
First announced: August 2011
Since then, we’ve seen: A big reveal in Game Informer, a teaser trailer and a hands-off demo that was shown at Gamescom and PAX last year.
Why we won’t see it: This one comes down to developer Gearbox – or more specifically, the other stuff it’s working on. In 2012, Gearbox is also responsible for shipping the long-delayed Aliens: Colonial Marines in spring, and following that up with the (relatively low-profile) Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 not long after. Unless Gearbox’s staff is more robust than we realize, something’s got to give – and while it could easily be one of the two shooters we just mentioned, Borderlands 2, with its no-doubt huge scope, and wealth of potentially buggy enemies, weapons and vehicles, seems like a likelier candidate.
Such a move would let Gearbox focus its resources and push its comparatively simple shooters out the door, then concentrate on making its flagship product the best it can possibly be. That seems especially plausible when you consider that Borderlands 2 doesn’t yet have a clear release date beyond fiscal year 2013 (which begins this April and extends into March 2013), while the other two games at least have their release windows nailed down.
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): Assuming Gearbox resolves to get its surest hit out the door this year (in which case our money’s on it sidelining BIA:F4 or ACM), it still has a bear of a task ahead of it. As with most ultra-high-profile releases, though, we’d expect this one to try and squeeze its way into what’s sure to be another crowded holiday lineup.