Video games arrive at a crossroads

Game makers try to navigate the transition to a subscription model, E3 was boring as all get-out, everyone's waiting to see the next generation of consoles. Meanwhile, casual gaming explodes.

This year forced the gaming industry to take a long look at itself in the mirror. The ever-changing landscape of casual, mobile, and hard-core games has fragmented a marketplace once ruled by home and portable consoles from "the big three" (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo). In 2012, app-based gaming on phones and tablets has severely cut into the demand for separate portable gaming systems, platforms that Nintendo and Sony once thrived on. While Sony's new Vita portable impressed, its lack of consistent must-have game exclusives has proven to be its Achilles' heel.

In addition to other console manufacturers, Nintendo finds itself competing with the likes of companies such as Apple, who has successfully democratized on-the-go gaming to a 99-cent flavor-of-the-week experience. With the Wii U , Nintendo has released an innovative, albeit somewhat confusing and clunky console that -- at launch, at least -- hasn't resonated with gamers. Mark it: 2012 is the year where Nintendo's future is up in the air.

This year also is the first time we saw the current generation of game consoles start to show their age. Microsoft Kinect and Sony's cosmetic PlayStation 3 makeover bought each company some extra time for their aging home consoles, but 2012 was a less than spectacular year for new and original games in general. Consider the utterly lackluster E3 convention , one of the most substanceless and unexciting in recent memory.

Expect 2013 to be considerably more exciting, as the true next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony get rolled out, even as casual and app-based gaming continues its meteoric rise as millions more turn to phones and tablets as their primary entertainment platform.

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About the author

Jeff has been at CNET for more than five years covering games, tech, and pop culture. When he's not playing ice hockey or pinball, you can catch him live every day as the host of CNET's infamous daily show, The 404 Show and every Friday in CNET's first-ever tech comic, Low Latency.

 

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