Disclaimer: I’m no analyst. Neither am I particularly skilled when it comes to writing blog post intros. So without further ado, here’s a bunch of wild-ass predictions about what’s going to happen in the world of vidja gaems in 2013.
1. Durango and Orbis (or Xbox 720 and PS4, or NeXtBox and PL4YST4TION or what have you) will both be released in the fall, approximately a month apart.
Reasoning: This is pretty much confirmed, right? I’m going to go with this being pretty much confirmed.
2. Fallout 4 will get announced with a Fall 2014 release date, either at E3 or at the Spike VGAs. It will run on an updated version of the Creation Engine, be on all next-gen platforms and will not have a scaled back version released on 360 and PS3. In terms of content, Fallout 4 is going to take place on both the East and the West coasts of the US (perhaps with a change of locations towards the middle of the main quest).
Reasoning: The release date is a no-brainer; with Bethesda’s last two in-house games (New Vegas not included), there has been approximately a three year window between titles (early 2006 to late 2008 between Oblivion and Fallout 3, 2008 to late 2011 between Fallout 3 and Skyrim). Due to the rockstar-developer status now maintained by Bethesda Game Studios (thanks to Skyrim’s huge mainstream success), both the people running Spike and any one of the console-makers (most probably Microsoft) would jump at the chance to improve their own ratings or the sales of their hardware by pulling the guys who made Skyrim out on stage with their new game. It’s simply a question of who ponies up the most money. Going along with that, it’s in the best interest of the console makers to ensure that Bethesda limits Fallout 4 to Durango, Orbis and PCs; a title like that will sell systems like gangbusters, provided it is only available on those systems. As for the locations, Jason Bergman (the Bethesda producer who oversaw New Vegas) is quoted as hinting that the Mojave might factor into 4, and this news story details how there have potentially been Bethesda location scouts running around Massachusetts and chatting it up with MIT.
3. EA will announce and have a beta released by the end of the year for a multiplatform, fully free-to-play Mass Effect multiplayer title with social hooks, developed by a non-BioWare studio. This will not be the same title as Mass Effect 4.
Reasoning: I don’t have any numbers to point to, but I’m willing to bet a significant amount of imaginary money that the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer microtransaction supply pack initiative was quite a profitable idea. I cannot imagine it would take too many resources to spin off that style of multiplayer into its own game. While such a release would be received less than warmly by the core fan base, the money that would come in from the more casual crowd would more than make up for any sort of fan ire in the eyes of the EA suits. I actually rather hope this prediction does not end up playing out, but looking at it from EA’s standpoint, it makes an incredible amount of horrifying sense.
4. Just Cause 3 will come out in the fall, as a launch title for both the Orbis and the Durango. Rather like the first title in the series, it will be a bridge between generations and also be released on the 360 and PS3.
Reasoning: Avalanche Studios’ 2012 holiday card bears several Just Cause-themed designs, such as an object being composed of guns (in this case, an air freshener) and the hint of Rico’s face in the rear view mirror. That, coupled with the phrases “Nearly there…” and “See you in 2013!” provides some pretty compelling evidence that Just Cause 3 will poke its head out of the quagmire of rumor and speculation and become an actuality next year. Considering the standard set by Just Cause 1, with the generational bridge, it is no great stretch of the imagination to presume that the third title in the series will do the same.
5. Grand Theft Auto V will be the swansong of this generation of consoles. Despite a few technical issues, it will garner at least a 93 on Metacritic and (with some opposition from Bioshock Infinite) will be the go-to Game of the Year across all publications and websites. It will be the second-highest selling game of the year, next to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4 (which it will eventually beat in lifetime sales). Rockstar will announce a PC version during an earnings report in the fall, due out in spring 2014.
Reasoning: The technical issues are a given; there’s no way that framerate isn’t going to be sub-30 (probably around 20) on 360 and PS3. As for the Metacritic, no in-house developed, 3D console title in the GTA series has scored below a 95. Due to the inevitable technical problems, I expect a bit of a slip in the average, but nothing too major. As for the GOTY stuff, the sales figures and the PC version, those are just hunches.
6. Watch Dogs will not come out in 2013 and it will not come out on 360 and PS3, no matter what the logos on their website say. We will see more of it at E3, but the game will not be released until 2014 and it will be on Durango, Orbis and PC only (I have no opinion regarding a Wii U version).
Reasoning: The graphical fidelity coupled with the heavy online integration hinted at in the demo indicates to me that Ubisoft would be reluctant to release such a blockbuster new IP in a gimped format on the 360 and PS3 when far more powerful systems are just around the corner. I am no network engineer, but I feel that they would also be disinclined to develop such a heavily online game across more networking ecosystems than is necessary, and putting out versions for PS3 and 360 would not be a particularly wise allocation of resources.
7. We will FINALLY see Half Life 3, but we will not necessarily play it until 2014. It will be announced along with and released day and date with Valve’s Steambox (it might even be preinstalled on the systems).
Reasoning: It has to happen sometime, and Valve has confirmed the existence of their Steamboxes. Seems to me like a major hardware announcement is as good a time as any to unleash Codename Ricochet 2, especially if Valve is hoping to compete directly with next gen consoles. Half Life 3 is the killer app to end all killer apps.