Trends of 2013: The golden tail

New hardware won't detract from the joys the old machines will give us this year.

2013, so we're told, is going to be the year of mass disruption in videogames. It's when the old ways are finally eroded by the new, and when new hardware's going to show up to a party that may already be long over. It's when PC gaming should cement itself at the top of the tree, when Microsoft and Sony are to unveil their own takes on the future and when the concept of a traditional console cycle is to be scattered to the winds, replaced with disparate hardware iterations and a million new ways to play games. In fact, given the current rate of hardware announcements Microsoft will have announced the new Xbox by the end of the week, and its successor will be unveiled some time next Tuesday.

Come December things are clearly going to be very different. There will be casualties as double-A publishers find themselves squeezed out, and there will be success stories as double-A games find a new, more lucrative home on Steam or are magicked into life via the power of crowd funding.

It's going to be twelve months that, no matter how you look at it, are going to be terribly interesting. But that's not the reason I'm excited about the next twelve months, and I don't think necessarily it's the reason you should be either. There's a strange dawn on the horizon, but more exciting is the golden dusk we're about to enter for what's likely the last traditional generation of consoles.

The trend of 2013 that's most exciting isn't new business models, it's not new ways to play and I don't think it's even the prospect of new hardware. What's really tantalising is that the next twelve months should bring us the finest crop in what's already been a pretty impressive generation of games, and it should all add up to something of a vintage year.

It's not a new trend, although its return is certainly very welcome. As the PlayStation 2 spent its last few months on the frontlines before it was packed off for a long and well-deserved twilight that blinked its last only just recently, it enjoyed a blissful Indian summer that resulted in some of the best games of the last decade.

Sony's machine was sent off with a brace of impeccable JRPGs in Final Fantasy 12 and Dragon Quest 8 - two games that arguably were their respective series' peak in what would turn out to be a final dance in the limelight for the genre - as well as the savagely pretty God of War 2, a game whose beauty has been barely diminished by the passing years and ever-evolving technology.

And then there's Okami, which with its faded blossoms and dry brown parchment paper already had the delicate touch of autumn about it before it became entwined with the PlayStation 2's bronze days. It put paid to the recently coined myth that new IPs can't flourish at the tail end of a generation - as did Black, Shadow of the Colossus and Bully. It's not a phenomenon exclusive to Sony's machine, either - the Xbox was sent off with Psychonauts and Jade Empire, the Gamecube's swansong given a full-blooded voice through the likes of Resident Evil 4 and Twilight Princess.

Seven years on, and despite the dramatically different landscape, it looks as if the trick's about to be repeated once again. 12 months ago when the EG team sat down to compile a list of Actual New Games, a compendium of the games that would be offering new flavours of wonder and awe. It was, a little disconcertingly, tough to pick out a convincing bunch from the armies of clones and sequels.

This year the tougher task was whittling the selection down, and the list we landed on stirs a little something inside me. Maverick indies such as Quadrilateral Cowboy and Super Time Force rub shoulders with curious follies brought to life by multi-million budgets such as Beyond and Watch Dogs.

There's a certain snugness to old hardware, the well-explored architecture of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 providing a comfortable home that's the perfect base for expeditions into more daring ideas and styles. Even the year's biggest sequels, GTA 5 and Bioshock Infinite, have an audacious edge, Rockstar's effort with its player-led cross-cutting narrative and Irrational's with its willingness to tackle uncomfortable politics.

It helps, of course, that in the likelihood that there is new hardware from either Sony or Microsoft then it's likely to be accompanied by a lacklustre launch line-up. Tom's recent run-down of made up next-gen made up games may have been in jest, but there's a little kernel of truth there: console launches are, as a rule, accompanied by clumsy games that are still a little unsteady on their feet.

No matter what new hardware offers up, and no matter how incremental the leap may be, I don't think that's about to change. Come December, the game that's going to be topping the best of lists is likely to be one that's being played on hardware that's sitting in our living rooms and offices right now.

The consoles we own, and the PCs and mobiles we all play on, are capable of so many more surprises over the next twelve months, and it's here, for sure, that the most dazzling games will be. 2013, I think, all boils down to one very simple, very wonderful thing; more games, and more brilliant ones at that.

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