Festive Feature #2 - Top Five Success Stories of 2012
Written Tuesday, December 18, 2012 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
While industry talk this year has centered on plummeting retail revenues, a shift to mobile and long console cycles negatively affecting consumer enthusiasm, there’s also been plenty to celebrate.
We’ve had stratospherically performing digital download releases, the launch of several popular new franchises, genres returning from the grave and even completely reinventing themselves. As the sun sets on the Xbox 360 there’s still plenty to celebrate.
To that end we’ve put together a list of this year’s Top Five Success Stories, documenting the triumphs of 2012. And while list features are always open to discussion, I bet you can’t argue with this year’s number one.
Let’s not kid ourselves, Japanese game development is on the slide. Asian giants like Capcom used to dominate the industry, with quality title after quality title. But in recent years that number of hits has slowed with Japanese publishers becoming increasingly reliant on squeezing every last drop out of ageing franchises.
Dragon’s Dogma is one of the few games to get it right. A fantasy RPG with great ideas like the Pawn system and a fresh approach to combat, it’s a brand new franchise that sold in excess of 1 million units. That’s enough to help make it the best-selling new property launch in Japan for a decade.
Evidence that Japanese developers can still go toe-to-toe with the very best Western studios, fingers crossed that Dragon’s Dogma heralds a new dawn for the region’s success.
Forget what happens in the game for a minute, Sleeping Dogs is one of industry’s very best underdog stories. Initially developed as a True Crime title, it began life as an Activision game before the publisher decided to ditch it mid-way through production.
So it’s a miracle that the game even exists, but what’s even more remarkable is just how good it is. Hitting shelves as a Square Enix title, Sleeping Dogs is a thoroughly entertaining game that even managed to show the big boys of the open-world genre a thing or two. Truly, if GTA V can nail contextual combat as well as Sleeping Dogs, we’re in for a treat.
Despite it’s “sluggish” performance at retail, a comment that Square Enix President Yoichi Wada has since backtracked on, Sleeping Dogs phoenix-like rise from the grave earns it a deserved spot as one of the Top Success Stories of 2012.
For years point-and-click adventure games have been a spent force, especially on console. Even Telltale Games, the genre’s most stalwart devotees, seemingly ran out of steam with last year’s lackluster Jurassic Park: The Game. Once more the genre was dead.
Fast forward 12 months and that same developer has put adventure games back on the map in a big way with The Walking Dead, enjoying the kind of commercial and critical success their peers can only dream of. The first season was a triumph and like a shuffling zombie with a gob full of his Auntie’s brains, we’re hungry for more.
Fantastic writing, touching relationships, pressured decisions and forking narratives have ensured that The Walking Dead is going to turn up on a whole bunch of Game of the Year lists this Christmas. If you’d have told us that in January we’d have laughed in your face.
Launching a brand new series is never an easy task. Publishers think gamers want familiar experiences and to a degree they’re right. You and I may want something new, but for many of the paying public a safe purchase is a good one. Just look at Call of Duty’s success.
Dishonored is different. It’s freeform approach to gameplay is its greatest strength, allowing us to approach areas of the game in a variety of ways. Coupled with a new world and characters, that’s not an easy sell. Many publishers may not even have supported it.
Yet Bethesda did and they were rewarded with 2012‘s biggest new IP launch. Indeed, sales were so high that even the publisher was surprised. “We clearly have a new franchise," said VP of PR and Marketing Pete Hines earlier this year. Hurrah!
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition doesn’t care about rules. An indie title, based on a PC game initially developed by just one man, it has trounced the opposition, temporarily dethroning Modern Warfare 3 from the top of the Xbox Live activity charts and making Mojang a hell of a lot of money in the process.
Just how much money? Well, it’s estimated that during one spell in August this year the game was making around $340,000 a day. Even more recently it was estimated that the game is still raking in between $800,000 and $1.2 million a week. And that’s almost purely by word of mouth.
Total copies sold now stands at around 5 million, making it an easy choice for the Top Success Story of 2012. An utterly brilliant game, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition deserves every penny and accolade.