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2012 in news: January ruled by SWTOR, next-gen

This year started off with Star Wars: The Old Republic's lurching to life, some feverish next-gen rumouring and Sony prepping Vita's western launch. Get the first of our monthly retrospectives for 2012 below.

The chatter wouldn't stop. Gamespot said the next Xbox could have a tablet component, and it was rumoured the machine would have six times the power of Xbox 360. Six times! Imagine that.

For every month in our 2012 retrospective, hit this.

That was the news. Now we've signed off for the year - to return on January 2, 2013 - it's time to absorb the incredibleness of yet another 12 months at the computer gaming informational coal face.

January 2012, then, wasn't especially inspiring in terms of games news, and was dominated by ongoing stories related to Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA's big-ticket MMO launched just before Christmas 2011, with 1 million subs signing before release and 60 million hours played in the game's first two weeks. Analysts at the time were bullish, predicting 3 million sales in early January. The game even won a Guinness World Record for having the most amount of dialogue in an entertainment product at 200,000 lines.

There was a great deal of talk about content updates for TOR around this time. Bioware promised to release patches “almost every week”, and Update 1.1, Rise of the Rakghouls, was the first big post-launch ship.

Rakghouls would “show everyone how serious we are” about SWTOR, said BioWare.

Negativity was showing around the project even at this point. BioWare said getting the game to market was “like teaching elephants to do ballet,” and one analyst estimated EA has invested close to $500 million in SWTOR.

EA stock dropped 3% after another analyst expressed doubts about the game, and even though some insisted it was too early to write anything off, the MMO's decline would be one of the more cringeworthy stories of the entire year.

The mood wasn't helped by news that the UK games retail market fell 13% during 2011, Japan being down 8% for the year, and GAME's holiday sales hitting a 15% low.

A few key releases shrugged off the 2011 gloom, however. XCOM: Enemy Unknown was announced, to much jubilation, and The Darkness II geared up for its early February release with some bloody PR. Mass Effect 3 was preparing for a March release, with confirmation of a February 14 demo and the inclusion of Jessica Chobot as a character.

Next-gen mondo shoutfest

Which, while being exciting, wasn't a patch on the height of next-gen rumour fever straight after the Christmas break. MCV kicked everything off in the first week of January with a confident claim that both PS4 and the next Xbox would be shown at E3 2012. The story blew up, despite CES proving a no-show for anything related to the next-gen Xbox, and both Microsoft and Sony made outright denials that either machine would emerge in any form in 2012.

The chatter wouldn't stop, though. Gamespot said the next Xbox could have a tablet component, and it was rumoured that the machine would have six times the power of Xbox 360. Six times! Imagine that.

Xbox 720, it was claimed, would have Blu-ray and an anti-used game system. Wii U got in on the act, too: it was to be twice as powerful as Xbox 360, said a Develop story. Two times! Imagine that.

The only bit of next-gen news that could be called fact was a confirmation from Nintendo that Wii U would launch by Christmas in all major markets.

While the gossipers gossiped, Sony was prepping for Vita's western launch in February. SCE UK said it was planning the “biggest campaign we’ve ever executed” for the handheld's arrival, and launched a series of swish hand-on events across the country. Vita demos became available at all GAME stores, and the machine was to be sold for as little as £80 at GameStation.

While Sony in the west was putting a brave face on it, though, Vita sales were decreasing with alarming rapidity in Japan. Vita's success, or lack of it, would return to plague Sony later in the year.

Another story which arrived in earnest in January and would foretell of greater woe in the back half of 2012 was that of THQ's first serious stumbles. The publisher moved out of the children's market altogether and started shelling staff. The company was threatened with NASDAQ delisting - a concern it avoided - but the signs were all too clear, even this far back.

That was kind of it for January. Brian Crecente quitting Kotaku and senior Joystiq journos jumping ship was the first sign of the formation of Polygon, and SOPA got squashed in the US. Good times.

Next: February. For every month in our 2012 retrospective, hit this.

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