It may not feel like it, but we've begun a very interesting year.

The industry has entered another transitional phase as the established dominance of current console platforms, now some five or six years old, begins to wane.

Nintendo, once the biggest player in the market with the phenomenally successful Wii, has seen hardware sales shrink. Motion control, the would-be darling of the casual games market, has foundered recently with developers seemingly unable to, or uninterested in taking full advantage of the possibilities presented by Kinect and Move.

Both Sony and Nintendo have continued to push portable gaming, introducing (or, in the case of Sony, about to introduce) new hardware into a rapidly evolving handheld gaming market.

But if the hardware landscape seems just a little tired or volatile, the software landscape looks relatively promising. 2012 will see the launch of many highly anticipated games, such as...


BioShock: Infinite

Fans of the original BioShock will likely welcome the news that legendary designer Ken Levine is back on board for this third instalment.

In addition to this, instead of the now-worn undersea confines of Rapture, the new sky-city environment of Columbia provides the backdrop to a story of superior American technology, airborne imperialism and turn-of-the-century intrigue.

Being neither a prequel nor sequel will assist Infinite to break away from the entrenched gameplay that made BioShock 2 less than inventive, although without the breadth of technical accomplishment employed in the original BioShock back in 2007, some may view Infinite as merely a pretty and somewhat curious distraction. Here's hoping Levine and his team at Irrational Games can pull another stunner out of the hat.


Borderlands 2

Gearbox really knocked one out of the park with 2009's Borderlands. This so-called "role-playing shooter" managed to exceed expectations in almost every area; the cel-shaded presentation, outlandish characters, extensive customisation and solid RPG elements endeared Borderlands to a new league of fans.

Gearbox are aiming for evolution, rather than a complete overhaul with Borderlands 2. New playable characters, improved AI, a more compelling story and better vehicle physics have all been promised.

Whether or not they can be delivered satisfactorily is something fans will have to wait until September at the earliest to find out.


Call of Duty 9

Activision recently registered blackops2.com, which could either be seen as a move to protect copyright, or the beginning of the most unimaginative run of gaming nomenclature since Final Fantasy. Either way, expecting innovation in a Call of Duty title these days is a bit like steering a glacier, so whatever happens there will be guns, explosions, a couple of new multiplayer modes, some zombies and 20 million sales in the first year.

It'd be great to see a wholly new setting with some genuinely interesting gameplay additions – there are plenty of wars that have barely featured in cinema, let alone gaming – but it makes little sense for Activision to take a risk when the status quo continues to break sales records.


Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

In closed beta since November 2011, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is undeniably an attempt by Valve to smarten up the franchise and rely on a considerable fanbase to relive the glory days when 1999's Counter-Strike was the most-played first-person shooter on the Internet.

It may feature new maps, a new mode, cross-platform play and improved visuals, however unlike 1999 it must now compete with the colossal Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. Can Valve manage to keep Counter-Strike relevant? Your guess is as good as ours.


Diablo III

Contrary to nay-sayers and doom merchants, Diablo III will be released in 2012 at some stage, of that we're confident. It will, without doubt, make a massive wave in gaming communities worldwide, as any title Blizzard releases generally does.

With traditional hack'n'slash gameplay, extensive quests, random loot, balanced character customisation, officially sanctioned PvP and a real-money auction house, Diablo III will likely be the most played title of 2012 for a significant number of gamers.

The beta may have only provided a glimpse of the potential hidden within this eagerly-awaited sequel, but it certainly demonstrates that Blizzard has poured their heart and soul into creating a worthy successor. Our money is on March or April for a final release.


Dishonored

There has been precious little revealed about Arkane Studios' steampunk-esque first-person shooter. Set in an alternate reality where industrial might is achieved by use of whale oil, Dishonored is slated to use stealth elements, plenty of gadgets, and a more simulated approach to open-world gaming by allowing enemies to persist within levels rather then be spawned at checkpoints.

Lead designer Harvey Smith should know a thing or two about gadgets and stealth – he's previously worked on Deus Ex and Thief: Deadly Shadows. Buoyed by the success of Skyrim, publisher Bethesda will likely stir up an impressive campaign for this one – let's hope they've learned from some of their mistakes in 2011 and are prepared to give it plenty of incubation time before release.


DOTA 2

The meteoric rise in popularity of the Defense of the Ancients mod has been well documented. From initial Warcraft III fame, this title has spawned an eSport unto itself, with multiple inclusions in cyber competitions worldwide and can rightfully be regarded as one of the most popular mods in the world. Much excitement was to be had when the standalone sequel, DOTA 2, was announced by Valve in 2010.

Perhaps an indication of the success of DOTA 2 may be seen with the willingness by the fervent StarCraft community to adopt StarCraft II over its predecessor?

With Valve in charge however, it's hard to see how DOTA 2 can fail to make a huge impact across the board.

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