The gaming awards season rolls on! On Jan. 7 the 2013 Independent Games Festival announced the finalists for its main categories, honoring games like Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon and other indie hits of 2012 like FTL: Faster Than Light. While the IGF Awards are a highlight each year at the Game Developers Conference, their counterpoint is the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ D.I.C.E. Awards, doled out to the best and brightest across the industry from small indies to major publishers. The AIAS announced the nominees for this year’s D.I.C.E. Awards on Monday morning and the list bears good news for 2K Games, Ubisoft, and Telltale Games.
The Game of the Year category features most of the same titles that have populated other lists, including Digital Trends’ own. Up for the honor are Gearbox’s Borderlands 2, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, thatgamecompany’s Journey, and Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown, giving publisher 2K Games two spots on the list including Borderlands. Ubisoft’s late-2012 entry Far Cry 3 also makes the cut.
Thatgamecompany, Telltale and Ubisoft also both made the shortlist for the Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction award for Journey, The Walking Dead and Far Cry 3 respectively, but joining them are Giant Sparrow’s The Unfinished Swan and Arkane’s Dishonored.
An increasingly important category at the D.I.C.E. Awards is the Mobile Game of the Year category, but this list bears few surprises and, with one exception, ignores many of the more promising independent games to his mobile platforms. Ubisoft’s Rayman Jungle Run, Big Fish’s Fairway Solitaire, the Zynga-published Horn make up the disappointing list. Independent studio Robot Entertainment and its addictive strategy game Hero Academy stands out amongst the other nominees.
Most telling in terms of demonstrating just how dramatically the video game industry changed in 2012 is the Outstanding Innovation in Games category. Those game prominent in the Best Game and Best Direction categories are also accounted for here, namely The Walking Dead, Journey, and The Unfinished Swan. Joining them is Capybara and Queasy Games-developed Sound Shapes. The outlier in this category is Nintendo’s Wii U flagship NintendoLand. NintendoLand stands apart not because it’s nominated in the other categories its competitors dominate, but because it is chiefly a disc-based retail game. All of the others are digital-only releases (though The Walking Dead and Journey received disc-based releases well after they came out.)
Regardless of who wins, the 16th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards prove that a game’s distribution, whether digital or retail, no longer defines it.