I had just started writing this annual preview of the coming year in games when I realized: All I have to do is copy and paste last year's preview.
Of the five games I wrote about, just one was released in 2012: "Mass Effect 3," which also topped my 2011 preview. The other four were delayed to early 2013.
So what I'm saying is, I'm really bad at this.
I wasn't always, though. In 2009, the first year I wrote a January game preview, four of the five games I listed came out that year. In 2010, I was five for five. I slipped to seven for 10 in 2011 before blowing it completely in 2012 (though, if you count my honorable mentions, I was a more respectable four for 10 last year).
Surely part of the problem is the volatility of game development, which could see a seemingly sure thing pushed back six months because a designer thinks there's room for improvement.
Artistically, that's commendable. As Shigeru Miyamoto said, "A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever."
But predictively, it's a nightmare. Which is why I'm going to temper this year's forecast with the odds of each game actually coming out in 2013. I'd include only the games with favorable odds, but that would just mean repeating predictions from previous years — and where's the fun in that? So I've thrown a few wild cards in for good measure.
OK, preamble over. Here are my 10 most anticipated games of 2013:
1. "South Park: The Stick of Truth" (Obsidian Entertainment; March 5 for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360) — I don't know many details of this collaboration between Obsidian ("Fallout: New Vegas") and "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. But the duo's involvement alone suggests this full-scale RPG will significantly outshine the body of subpar "South Park" games they had no hand in crafting. My first sign of hope? It's reported to at least partially play like "Paper Mario." My second? "South Park: The Game" takes the common roster of RPG character classes — paladin, wizard, rogue and adventurer — and makes its own irreverent addition: Jew. Chances of a 2013 release: 65 percent.
2. "BioShock Infinite" (Irrational Games; March 26 for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360) — "Bioshock" designer Ken Levine returns for the third entry in 2K Games' first-person action series, whose former underwater city setting of Rapture has been replaced by what looks to be an equally absorbing and mythical time and place. The early 1900s sky city of Columbia, wearing the stylistic influences of steampunk and the philosophical threads of American exceptionalism, could wind up being the most fascinating game character of the year. Chances of a 2013 release: 99 percent.
3. "The Last of Us" (Naughty Dog; May 7 for PlayStation 3) — Anticipation for Naughty Dog's postapocalyptic action-survival title is mostly stoked by its mesmerizing preview images and the developer's magnificent body of work ("Uncharted," "Jak and Daxter"). Also encouraging are the words of Naughty Dog developers, who have described in interviews the studio's ambition to elevate in-game storytelling and craft an emotionally resonant bond between the game's central duo: a father and 14-year-old daughter scraping for food while steering clear of an urban population infected by a fungal plague. Chances of a 2013 release: 90 percent.
4. "The Walking Dead: Season Two" (Telltale Games; undated for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360) — Lacking even the all-too-unlikely release date of "TBA 2013," I'm including this future release on this list simply because I know Telltale Games is working on it. Given how gripping and brilliant the first season of their "Walking Dead" adventure game was, just more of the same would be most welcome. More frantic trigger squeezes to put down zombies, more Sophie's Choices to make when a fellow survivor must be sacrificed, and more surprisingly devastated reactions to losing them. What will be interesting is seeing how Telltale picks up after the most recent episode, which left the few remaining humans in a pretty harrowing place. And I'm not sure I can survive the guilt of letting down Clementine again. Chances of a 2013 release: 25 percent.
5. "Watch Dogs" (Ubisoft Montreal; undated for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360) — Ubisoft's open-world hacking game — think "Grand Theft Identity" — became the toast of E3 2012 by promising new action in a new universe. Its demo hypnotized players with the sight of electronic devices spiderwebbing together in the game's HUD as protagonist Aiden Pearce strolls down the Chicago streets, able to hack into any of them to advance his still-unknown agenda. That's really all we know at this point, but that's more than enough to get excited about. Chances of a 2013 release: 20 percent.
6. "Tomb Raider" (Crystal Dynamics; March 5 for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360) — I'm not so much excited to play this Lara Croft reboot/origin story as I am to see how developer Crystal Dynamics depicts the long-sexualized heroine. The game has already been a flashpoint for discussions of femininity in games: Croft's marketed "girl next door" look that's more like "impossibly beautiful and shapely girl next door," the sexual assault that may or may not provoke Croft's first kill. I expect "Tomb Raider's" actual release will continue providing reasons for games writers and players to have this much-needed conversation about girls and games. Chances of a 2013 release: 99 percent.
7. "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" (Platinum Games; Feb. 19 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) — Once, the next game in the "Metal Gear" series edged perilously close to cancellation. After Kojima Productions struggled for years to push forward its concept of a stealth swordplay game with maligned supporting character Raiden at its center, Platinum Games came to the rescue. Now, "Rising" has been reconfigured as more of an action game in the vein of Platinum's "Bayonetta," and though the reinvigorated project no longer resembles a "Metal Gear Solid" entry (hence the name change from "Metal Gear Solid: Rising" to "Metal Gear Rising"), slicing and dicing as the half-cyborg ninja looks like fun balletic bloodshed. Chances of a 2013 release: 99 percent.
8. "Grand Theft Auto V" (Rockstar North; second quarter 2013 for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360) — This will be the biggest game of 2012, no doubt, but the reason it places so low on my list is the apparent lack of any exciting changes beyond "bigger and beachier." I'm hopeful the rock-solid shooting action of "Max Payne 3" signals some improvement to "GTA's" traditionally unwieldy play mechanics. That would certainly enliven the many hours I'm going to spend exploring the massive new oceanside city of Los Santos. Chances of a 2013 release: 90 percent.
9. "Gears of War: Judgment" (Epic Games and People Can Fly; March 19 for PlayStation 3) — I have a fairly nerdy reason — even for video games — for looking forward to "Judgment." One of the game's writers is Tom Bissell, author of "Extra Lives," one of the more insightful and resonant books I've ever read about the medium. I'm particularly interested in seeing how Bissell's sharp sense of games' artistic thrust, and their love/hate relationship with storytelling, translates into his first actual writing of a game. Also, few franchises are so reliably fun to play as "Gears of War." Chances of a 2013 release: 95 percent.
10. "The Last Guardian" (Team Ico; undated for PlayStation 3) — Fumito Ueda and Team Ico crafted two heavily atmospheric games in the 2000s, and both are among the first mentioned in the ongoing "Are video games art?" debate: "Ico" and "Shadow of the Colossus." Both wring surprisingly emotional substance from simple narratives with mythic glow. For that, they are widely adored. "Guardian" may seem silly: It focuses on the relationship between a young boy and a mammoth cat-bird. But prepare to be surprised, and to adore, once again. Chances of a 2013 release: 5 percent.