Last Friday I predicted 2013 was going to be a good year for quality video games, but not such a good year for those quality video games actually selling. I stick by that, but that doesn't mean 2013 won't have its share of breakout hits. As 2012 demonstrated, the mainstream gaming populace are increasingly willing to get behind indie titles (The Walking Dead, Journey) and original IP can still, sometimes, succeed (Sleeping Dogs, Dishonored).
So, here are seven games that may just outperform expectations...
Dark Souls 2
The first Dark Souls actually managed to sell over a million copies worldwide, an impressive feat for a mercilessly difficult dungeon hack, and I think Dark Souls 2 will do even better. For one it's being made a bit more accessible, and two, it looks really nice. Dark Souls 2, just in terms of visuals, looks like a triple-A production all the way, as opposed to a niche experience for RPG masochists. I think Dark Souls 2 has a shot at beating out the likes of Dragon Age III to become the most successful non-MMO, non-Pokemon RPG of the year.
The Walking Dead proved that, against all odds and expectations, a mature, independently developed adventure game could be a major success in 2012. A new season of The Walking Dead will be coming out in 2013, and it'll do well for itself, but this article is about surprising successes. The surprise will be Fables -- another "based on comics for adult people" adventure game series Telltale Games have been quietly working away on.
The source material is great, Telltale is on a roll, and as you may have noticed, twisted, modernized takes on fairy tales, myths and monsters are kind of in right now.
Double Fine's Adventure Game
Speaking of indie adventure games, Tim Schafer's thus far unnamed adventure game that instigated the Kickstarter funding revolution in 2012 arrives in 2013, and it could be the biggest success of Tim Shafer's career to date. Schafer went a little bit astray with Brutal Legend, but I think he's going to rise to the challenge and deliver something truly special in 2013.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the latest in Nintendo's series of cute, low-key life sims has been a major hit in Japan, topping the charts week after week and spurring a major uptick in 3DS sales there. The Animal Crossing series has been stuck in its ways for a while, but apparently New Leaf changes just enough to make jumping back in worthwhile. I predict the game will sell almost as well in North America -- expect this one to rank surprisingly high on year-end sales lists.
I think Remember Me is going to be this year's Dishonored -- the original IP that comes out of nowhere and succeeds because, well, it's just really good. Remember Me is a cyberpunk brawler/stealth game with a twisty storyline, adventure and RPG elements and a main protagonist with a pretty nice ass. The game hits on a lot of the gaming industry's current obsessions, and I think it has a good chance at being successful if the developers can bring all these elements together into a cohesive whole.
Really, it comes down to Capcom -- they know how to hard sell a game when they want to, so hopefully they take a chance on Remember Me.
Wind Waker HD
We're going to see one of the most unexpected comebacks in gaming history this year. Hardcore Zelda fans have already re-evaluated Wind Waker, and this year the mainstream gaming public is going to as well -- in 2013 Wind Waker goes from subject of scorn, to critical darling and major sales success.
Then Nintendo will unveil the art style for the next Zelda game and everyone will lose their s--t all over again.
Beyond: Two Souls
Okay, before everyone gets on me, I don't necessarily think Beyond: Two Souls will do better than The Last of Us. It think there's a good chance, but that's not the point. These articles are about expectations -- I think The Last of Us will perform below expectations, and I think Beyond: Two Souls will perform better than expectations.
As strange as this is to say, adventure games are actually in again right now (to a certain degree at least), and I think David Cage's "choose your own adventure movie" style games have the potential to appeal to mainstream audiences if done right. They're simple, there's little opportunity to get lost or confused and they look great. Beyond: Two Souls has actual actors with talent doing the voices (instead of random French people) and a plot a little deeper than "generic thriller" -- it could be Cage's best game yet. Also, don't forget, the far-from-perfect Heavy Rain sold over 2 million copies. There's no reason to believe Beyond couldn't top that.
So, which 2013 games are you calling as potential breakout hits? Do you think certain entries on my "flops" list should be on the "surprise successes" list (or vice-versa)? Don't hold back folks.