My most anticipated games of 2012

Next year looks like it’s going be the best year for games yet – it’s what I tell myself at the end of each year, but it never turns out to be so. 2012 might just change that, given that new installments of some of my favourite franchises are slated for release next year. Following are my five most anticipated games of 2012:

5. Max Payne 3

Spoiler: I’m a sucker for great storytelling. There’s nothing that I enjoy more in video games than engrossing plots with interesting characters and this list shows it – all the games on it are story-driven. And that’s the part I’m most excited about in Max Payne 3. Now, I haven’t yet played the previous two titles, I’ve only seen the disappointing movie. But that doesn’t mean I’m any less excited. Quite the opposite – I can’t wait to get my hands on Rockstar’s next sure to be masterpiece!

4. The Last of Us

I know, I know – the release date of the recently announced The Last of Us is yet to be set, but, hey, I can hope it will be out by the year’s end, right? The reason why one would want to play this game as soon as possible, besides the whole world ending in 2012 thing, is pretty fucking clear, I think. For me, it’s the holy-fucking-shit visuals and cinematic feel in general. Plus, it’s coming from the guys who bestowed us with such gems as Uncharted and Jak & Dexter.

3. Grand Theft Auto V

I’m the type of gamer who prefers his games serious in tone, the kind who would pick Grand Theft Auto over Saints Row any day. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the franchise’s galore of black humor, I friggin’ love it (The Lazlo Show FTW!). It’s just that it’s the story that makes me motivated to keep on playing all throughout the game. Although we don’t know that much yet about the game, the first trailer shows just enough to make a GTA fan, like myself, all giddy with uncontrollable excitement. Visuals are much improved, mountains are climbable (or so it seems), planes are back (yay!), pets finally exist, oh, and pesticide can be sprayed on immigrant workers! What’s not to love?!

2. Mass Effect 3

Funnily enough, this one appeared on my last year’s most anticipated list when it was still scheduled to be released in Fall 2011. Now, BioWare promises March 2012 is when the game will hit store shelves for certain. Like I said earlier in the year, Mass Effect 2 is one of my favourite games ever made (second only to BioShock, in fact), so finding the threequel on this list is no surprise. Promised to take the best elements of 1 and 2 and improve upon them, Mass Effect 3 might just be the title in the series which will cater to the needs and expectations of both ME 1 and 2 fans (I fall into the latter group). And let’s not forget that Mass Effect 3 is considered to be the last chapter of Shepherd’s story arc. Fingers crossed Bioware delivers a fitting conclusion to one of the best stories told in gaming. Bring on March 6!

1. Bioshock Infinite

It’s been quite some time since Bioshock Infinite was announced in 2010 and, interestingly, there is still no end to the wait in sight, apart from official word that it’s coming in 2012. Considering the original’s late August release served the game well financially, it’s a safe bet Infinite will be released around the same time. Although much of the game is still under wraps, the game continues to amaze with what little is thrown at us even to this day which speaks volumes. From time to time, I still go on Youtube and watch the lauded 10 minute video demonstration (see it below if you haven’t yet, you owe it to yourself!). It really exudes what the game is all about – a riveting atmosphere which is rarely found in games, strong narrative which keeps you playing for hours on end, well-developed characters, complex and engaging combat system, and astounding art direction. This video was all it took to sell me on the game and I’m surely not the only one. I have a feeling the original Bioshock will no longer be my most favourite game of all time by next year’s end. Its aerial counterpart is looking more and more like its rightful successor.

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Top 5 Games, Movies, TV Series, Comic Books of 2011

Following are my personal top 5 games, movies, TV series, and comic books of 2011. I simply listed them and didn’t explain why they were my top choices, as I really couldn’t be bothered. Bear in mind that there are still some movies/games I’ve yet to see/play this year (Uncharted 3, Infamous 2 on the games’ side, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Moneyball on the movies’ side).

Top 5 Games:

5. Dragon Age 2

4. Dead Space 2

3. Portal 2

2. Batman: Arkham City

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Top 5 Movies:

5. Insidious

4. Let Me In

3. Bridesmaids

2. X-Men: First Class

1. Drive

Top 5 TV Series:

5. The Killing

4. Game of Thrones

3. Sons of Anarchy

2. Boardwalk Empire

1. Breaking Bad

Top 5 Comic Books:

5. I, Vampire

4. Aquaman

3. Swamp Thing

2. Batman

1. Animal Man

Ideal PLCM strategy for a game IP: Impossible or feasible?!

Wow, my last (oops, and first!) post was on January 20! Lots of things have happened since then :). I’ve been trying to update the blog regularly but found no time to do so, because of a plethora of things I had to do. Besides coping with my part-time student job at a local hotel, I’ve continued my work as a community manager on the Facebook fan pages of the uni I go to (alongside my best friend, that is) and spent many hours studying for the exams still waiting on my plate. Not only that, but I also paid another visit to my thesis mentor to pinpoint my thesis topic which I can now finally reveal as “The product life cycle management (PLCM) of console-based videogame franchises”. That’s right, a topic RIGHT up my alley and one that should keep me motivated straight to the end! 🙂 Obviously,  I’ve also made sure to keep the dust off my 360 and PS3 ;).

To maintain the gaming nature of my blog and better explain what my thesis will be about, I’ve decided to focus this post on my chosen thesis topic. What’s interesting is that I’ve had many ideas of what to base my thesis on in the past year and the topic that I’ve now chosen didn’t surface as an alternative until as late as two weeks ago. Before I came up with the chosen one, I was mainly thinking of writing about the success of Nintendo’s Wii, due to being able to muster up many interesting points about it, and the lack of appeal of the Xbox 360 in Japan. As soon as I learned that the point of a thesis is certainly not to simply explain what has already happened, especially since it’s now commonly known that Nintendo made use of the reputable blue ocean strategy for its latest outings (minus the 3DS), and, in the case of the Xbox 360-related candidate, that I would need a lot of hard-to-get data (preferably primary), to even consider tackling the question, not to mention that this issue doesn’t only pertain to the Xbox 360 but many other Western products, I went back to the drawing board.

It was 4 a.m., I think, and I was counting down the last hours until the end of my night shift. As usual, I was scavenging the interwebs for any leftover morsels of game news that I had yet not absorbed or, possibly, news hot off the press, but to no avail. Therefore, I just sat back and started thinking about the burning news that had broken a few hours earlier – “Activision cans Guitar Hero and True Crime: Honk Kong!”, “Genuine shocker: No Tony Hawk this year!!11” – and it was in that light-bulb moment that I somehow connected the story of the day to my need of a thesis topic. I fired as many questions related to this topic as I could to test its validity: “Everyone is now suddenly bitching about there being no Guitar Hero planned for this year and blaming Activision for running the franchise into the ground, and while the gamer side of me definitely agrees about the latter, is Activision really the culprit here? After all, it’s just business and they are doing nothing but catering to the demands of their investors. What if they knew what they were doing all along? What if precisely this outcome was part of their PLCM strategy for Guitar Hero from the moment the sales had dropped? But aren’t they just jumping out of the pan and into the fire as far as their already damaged reputation is concerned? Won’t this have any lasting negative consequences further down the road, either when dealing with their new/existing business partners or from the eyes of the consumer? I mean, they have already cemented themselves as the new most evil game company (previous title holder being EA) in many a gamer’s perception. How much lower will they let themselves go in that regard?” And so on :).

To cut it short, in the end, I asked myself what the ideal way to handle a game intellectual property (IP) from the moment it’s born actually was. Presuming the first iteration is successful (this will be one of my initial assumptions, as I don’t intend to talk about the things that make one game successful – that’s a whole other story), what’s the next step? When’s the next release? How much time and money do you invest? How frequently should you be releasing your games? What is the best way to both keep your game franchise in fans’ minds and prevent it from becoming stale, on top of reaping the best possible profits? Is there any such thing as a perfect PLCM strategy for a game IP? Now that’s what I really want to find out, for the industry’s and, naturally, my own sake.

Wish me good luck! 😉

Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2011

A few weeks ago, I celebrated the start of yet another new year (a bit too much for my liking, as well as that of my colleagues) and, along with it, all the games that are to hit store shelves in 2011. Taking a glance at the paucity of 360 exclusives coming down the road, I turned my hopeful eyes to the multiplatform side of the spectrum and was feeling a whole lot better in a matter of seconds, thanks in large part to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, and Batman: Arkham City. Usually, it’s the exclusive titles that I  always look forward to the most, but not this year…

That is until I made a quick decision to finally get myself a PlayStation 3, spurred by the large amount of overdue income I had just received. The funny thing is that I was thinking of getting one last Spring but decided against it, because I wasn’t able to count on the fingers of my two hands the number of PS3 exclusive titles I had interest in playing, so I thought it best to just rent my friend’s PS3 sometime by the end of the year. However,  by the end of 2010, Sony announced plenty new PS3 exclusives scheduled for 2011/2012 which made me think about getting one again. After counting more than 20 titles, I told myself I couldn’t ignore it anymore and simply HAD to get one. All of this (from the time I started considering it again to the point of actually hooking it up to my LCD) took less than two days which made many of my friends peg it as an impulse buy. Not according to me, of course! 🙂

Anywho, going back to the actual topic of this post, which is my top 5 most anticipated games of 2011, here are my most awaited titles this year on both Xbox 360 and PS3:

5. L.A. Noire

Man, was I happy to hear L.A. Noire was coming to Xbox 360 as well last year (remember, I didn’t have a PS3 yet back then). We heard very little about the actual title before we got a first look at the title in video form in November which is why I didn’t pay too much attention to it (it was just the idea of it being a previously PS3-exclusive title that got my attention). It wasn’t until I witnessed the MotionScan technology in that first trailer that I put the game not only on my radar, but also my must play list. That’s just the tip of the iceberg! In addition to the promising facial animation system, the game also boasts top voice acting talent, part of which is the excellent Aaron Staton from Mad Men, the (first?) chance to play the role of an actual detective (note, not a raging, trigger-happy, murderer in disguise), dynamic gameplay filled with numerous possibilities of how to solve a muder, and, above all (for me) a story which doesn’t take a back seat to the other features (I’m a huge fan of crime drama).

If that wasn’t enough, it’s being published by none other than Rockstar Games, the developer/publisher behind last year’s heavy Game of the Year contender, Red Dead Redemption. Yeehaw!

4. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Now, I have to admit, I have never played an Uncharted game (I’m waiting for Uncharted 1 to show up on my door step from Zavvi.com), but I have heard/read so many incredible things about the franchise, especially the jewel of PS3’s first-party line-up, that is Uncharted 2, that last month’s announcement of the threequel got me totally pumped up for Uncharted 3. Also, the debut trailer look absolutely drop dead gorgeous.

I was on the fence between Gears of War 3 and Uncharted 3 for this 4th spot but chose the latter in the end, because I tend to like action-adventure games a lot more than shooters. Sorry, Gears. I still love ya, though!

3. Batman: Arkham City

Like many others, I was very taken aback by the high overall quality of Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009. Who expected a licensed game to kick so much ass? And from the developer who previously made Urban Chaos: Riot Response?! I thought so… Now that the bar has been raised for comic book games, the question that bugs me more and more is whether or not Rocksteady Studios is capable of one-upping the original with the sequel. From what we have been able to see so far (still no gameplay footage sadly!), the game makes us hopeful for an even better Batman experience than Arkham Asylum was able to provide.

Now that high expectations are pinned on the title, can it still deliver the goods? I sure hope so!

2. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

A new Elder Scrolls game is expected later this year and it’s not an MMO, as was heavily rumoured up until its announcement last month which makes me extremely happy. Kameo: Elements of Power may very well be the first Xbox 360 game that took away my HD virginity, but it was Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that truly wowed me for the first time on the system and gave a nice taste of what I can expect in the years to follow. Even now, a little less than five years later, I still fondly remember traversing the beautiful beast-infested lands of Tamriel, slaying monsters left and right, and leveling up my knight more and more, only to find out those pesky rats level up with me. It’s the only game in my life in which I invested over 200 hours and that speaks volumes (usually, I’m done with a game after the first playthrough) and because of that it still remains to be one of my absolute favourites on the Xbox 360.

1. Mass Effect 3

For years, Oblivion was my favourite Xbox 360 game, but when Mass Effect 2 graced the 360 with its release, Oblivion was dethroned (at long last). What Mass Effect 2 did for me can hardly be expressed in words. I’ll just say this: it totally eclipsed Mass Effect 1 and fixed everything that I didn’t like about the original – the unintuitive inventory system, clunky shooting mechanics, odd pacing and some more trivial stuff (I liked the elevator rides, though – much better than a static screen that says loading). I loved the story, the atmosphere, my reliable intergalactic team, the superb voice acting, seemingly endless dialogue, the fun combat system, the surprisingly calming mining mini-game etc. In other words, I can safely say I loved EVERYTHING it had to offer which is an incredible feat, as I can be quite a critic when it comes to new media. To say I am psyched for Mass Effect 3 is a colossal understatement!

There you go, my top 5 most anticipated games of 2011. Next time, I hope I’ll have a better idea of what to write about :).

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