2012 has been a great year for the gaming industry despite being a transition year. Transition year means that the old consoles don't sell as well as they used to and overall revenue from game sales in this time period declines. Also huge investments are being taken into the next generation of console and this is so expensive that many publishers go conservative with their current releases - usually ending up in sequels.
But usually during that time creativity runs rampant outside the large publishers and many new trends are born in that time!
So let's see what has been game changers in 2012:
Crowd Funding: smaller developers find money in the end consumer instead investors. This is cool as that money is "eaiser" to get than from publishers. This can be a good thing for experienced developers and a bad thing on not so experienced ones, as publishers usually share a lot of experience in professional production.
Nevertheless some projects on Kickstarter would never have seen the light if the players wouldn't have pitched in pre-release!
"Mobile" consoles: Smartphones and specifically the iPad have emerged as strong platforms for a multitude of games. Be it indie games or full fledged online MMO's; if you have a hit on the smart devices you can make a lot of money only compared to full fledged online games usually only found on PC's.
It seems that smartphone & tablet gaming is a disruptive force and will take market share from portable consoles and other gaming devices, eventually even consoles. Research has shown that households with tablets spend far less time on their dedicated gaming consoles than before.
The important thing here: the new devices allow smaller developers create and publish games worldwide without any outside help. The publisher model seems to be outdated for a lot of products but AAA projects. We will see tremendous new game formats coming from those devices!
Sandbox: MMO's came from sandbox (see Ultima Online or Eve Online) and seem to go full circle back to be sandboxes. Why the sudden popularity? Because sandboxes seem to solve one problem: the content race. Online game developers can't create content fast enough to satisfy their customers so they look for alternate ways.
Sandboxes are one way doing it, but only using sandboxes might alienate some players who at least need some guidance through the world. Not everyone has the urge to create his own fortune, some players want a red line guiding them.
For recent sandbox development check out Archage or Black Desert Online videos on youtube. Everquest III is also rumored to be sandbox only as well as Theralon a "true sandbox MMO", from the developers of Runes of Magic. And lets not forget Minecraft, the game of the year Dishonored or GTA V which is being released 2013.
The ultimate sandbox seems to be in development at Blizzard, which project Titan is rumored to be a sandbox where players can even play smithies or bankers in cities.
Perma Death: DayZ started it all; the player can die and actually lose everything. For older human beings who grew up with classic MMO's like Ultima Online you might remember that this is where online games came from.
Since World of Warcraft care-bear is modern, as you can't lose anything. The only game which kept Perma Death in the game is Eve Online. You can even lose your most precious skill level when you aren't careful with your clone.
So why is perma death suddenly modern again? The new XCOM, DayZ and even ZombieU offer game modes where the player really is afraid when he dies as there is game progress to lose.
And exactly this is what the latest wave of games bring back from memories: if you ever played a game where are left with shaking hands when you died - then you will miss that feeling forever. Games creating excitement, Adrenaline - its time that this kind of game play makes it back into the industry and I personally welcome this!
Meanwhile you can read the Top 50 defining games industry quotes.
Update: Read this too http://direcritic.com/2012/12/24/best-emergent-trends-and-other-things-of-2012/