2011 Final Grades for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony

As the year comes to a close, every media outlet and blogger is looking back and examining the top games from the past 12 months. While we here at VGW are doing that and more, we also wanted to take the opportunity to update our grades that we dished out at the mid-year mark. Earlier this year, despite the catastrophic crash of its online infrastructure, Sony was able to lead the pack with one of the greatest half-years of exclusive titles we’ve ever seen.

Now that the dust has settled from the busy holiday 2011, it’s time to look back and see what Microsoft and Nintendo did to close the gap. Again, as I did in my mid-year grading, I won’t just be looking at what company released the best games. I’ll be looking at how the companies addressed any issues that presented themselves in the first half, how they kept their user-bases excited to turn on their machines, and, of course, how well the companies made their consoles and handhelds the ones to own. Please note that sales and future hype will also play a minor role in the grades the companies receive.


1305932147 17 300x180 2011 Final Grades for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony

The Kinect has seen more optional cameos in hardcore games lately; a trend that we really don't have an issue with.

After having a meager exclusive line-up in the first half of 2011, Microsoft really beefed up their Xbox 360 offerings. September saw the launch of Gears of War 3 — the delay of which paid off, as it may be the best exclusive title console has ever seen — October, the release of Forza Motorsport 4, and November, the launch of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

Xbox Live continued to lead the pack in terms of providing the best online console experience. The app offering is something that Microsoft has grown over the past year, as they challenge Sony’s “it only does everything” promotional campaign. With unrivaled service, as well as the new ability to watch television through the console itself, the Xbox 360 is becoming a strong, all-in-one device. Before the year closes out, users will be able  to watch pay-per-view UFC fights, which is something that has never been offered through a console before.

The latest Xbox Live Dashboard update proved, once again, that Microsoft understands the organization that gamers desire for an entertainment device. The dashboard is both accessible and aesthetically pleasing, which is something that the Microsoft’s biggest rival, Sony, has failed to do with its flagship gaming device’s operating system.

360 300x168 2011 Final Grades for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony

The second half of 2011 saw an influx of 360 exclusives.

While motion controls really fizzled on the whole in the latter half of 2011, the Xbox 360 managed to not only release a decent collection of noteworthy games on its Kinect, including The Gunstringer, Fruit Ninja Kinect, and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, but also include optional Kinect functionality into several of its more hardcore games. The fact that Microsoft did not force-feed the Kinect’s features down the throat of the hardcore gamer is reason enough to attract praise. The idea of giving the hardcore gamer ways to enhance their experience in optional, non-intrusive ways, such as what was included in Forza Motorsport 4, and will be included in Mass Effect 3, is the way motion controls should work.

Microsoft may have had a strong second half, but the first six months were kind of rough in the exclusive titles category. The fact that Sony had so many titles coming out exclusively for PlayStation 3, while Microsoft failed to release much of anything is cause for concern. Even so, Microsoft’s sprint to the finish with Xbox 360 and Kinect makes it a very strong competitor heading into 2012.

First Half Grade: C+
Second Half Grade: A-
2011 Final Grade: B


nintendo 3ds 817924 g13 300x168 2011 Final Grades for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony

The 3DS: from failure to phenom.

The first half of 2011 was far from favorable for the legendary gaming company. With the Wii bringing next to nothing to U.S. consumers, and the 3DS launch bombing hard, nobody could have foreseen the bounce-back that the company saw in the second half of the year.

Nintendo’s strength has always laid in its exceptional first-party titles, and that was on full display in the holiday months of 2011. What made holiday 2011 so special for Nintendo is that the company was able to deliver on both of its active systems. The Wii received the much-anticipated Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, as well as the surprisingly awesome Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, which made many dust of their Wii and delve back into the wondrous world of Nintendo console games.

The 3DS holiday line-up was able to turn a disastrous launch into a strong first-year library of games. While Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D were solid remakes, the release of Super Mario 3D Land gave the 3Ds its first solid must-have title, along with the equally exciting Mario Kart 7.

Kirbys Return to Dreamland Screenshot 17 646x325 300x150 2011 Final Grades for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony

Everybody assumed Skyward Sword would be great, but Kirby's success on the Wii was a pleasant surprise to some.

The 3DS has momentum on its side at this point, with sales and positive reviews rolling in, as well as Nintendo making amends with scorned early adopters with the 3DS Ambassador program, the sky is the limit. Sure, the Vita may give the less-powerful handheld a run for its money, but catering to a different market than Sony’s upcoming handheld, as well as possessing a much lower introductory price, might just save Nintendo’s handheld.

The Wii may be all about the past, but with the Wii U coming in 2012, prospects are bright for Nintendo. The renewed commitment to supporting both first and third party titles will be the catalyst for success in the next generation of Nintendo consoles. As long as the company sticks to that commitment, the Wii U looks to be the right next step for Nintendo, as it will look to bridge that impossible gap between hardcore and casual gamers.

By pulling a 180 in the second half of 2011, Nintendo was able to salvage one of the most abysmal years for the gaming giant. By continuing to support the 3DS through upcoming titles like Metal Gear 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Resident Evil: Revelations, Nintendo might have a juggernaut of a handheld on its hands. Here’s hoping the developers don’t rely on the gimmick of 3D as much as they did the gimmick of motion controls on the Wii.

If the first half of 2011 wasn’t a complete and total waste for the Wii and 3DS, Nintendo would be rivaling Sony and Microsoft in 2011. Unfortunately for fans of Nintendo, 2011 just wasn’t a great year for the company, and the record losses reflect that.

First Half Grade: D+
Second Half Grade: A-
2011 Final Grade: C


800px PS3 slim console 300x185 2011 Final Grades for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony

Sony set the bar for the first half of 2011, but could it keep up that blistering pace?

After a turbulent, yet very strong first half of 2011 for Sony, many were left wondering how on earth the company could keep up the pace throughout the holiday season. The answer: they couldn’t. While Sony’s second half wasn’t bad, it didn’t equal the greatness of the onslaught of exclusive titles we saw in the first half of 2011.

Holiday 2011 was a good one for Sony, with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Resistance 3, as well as the re-releases of the God of War series, and the cult classic Team ICO games, hitting shelves, legions of PlayStation fans enjoyed the exclusive titles. Unfortunately, in terms of exclusive games, Sony may have had the worst holiday 2011 line-up of the big three. Keep in mind that this was one of the strongest holiday seasons of all-time, so even a below average holiday schedule by this year’s standards is great.

Sony unfortunately had a few misfires this second half, as well. The latest entry in the usually spectacular Ratchet and Clank series, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, was more lukewarm than great, and the hyped Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest fell very flat for the PlayStation Move. Unfortunately, falling flat is nothing new for the PlayStation Move, as the motion platform failed, yet again, to find a true identity in the second half of 2011. The platform should be praised for the audience it has found in the first-person shooter community, as the Move Sharpshooter continues to be a popular input method for games like Resistance 3, Killzone 3, and GoldenEye 007: Reloaded.

sony reveals playstation vita launch lineup for north america e1324607762573 300x225 2011 Final Grades for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony

Just try and tell me this isn't a sexy device.

With the Vita scheduled to release in holiday 2011, as well as the Sony PlayStation 3D Display, this was supposed to be the year of hardware for Sony. The 3D Display released and proved to be more than just hype, but the Vita never saw the light of day in the States in 2011 (unless you count deadmau5’s joke about losing his in a cab after the Spike Video Game Awards).

Perhaps it’s for the best that the Vita was delayed in the United States, as the Japanese launch spurred complaints both in the hardware and the software. The news surrounding the Vita has slowly grown worse as the cost of admission has soared to new heights with the announcement of the overpriced memory cards. In addition, reports of poor battery life, as well as firmware issues, have come out of the Japanese launch.

Even with all of its apparent problems, the PlayStation Vita will inevitably be one of the most coveted devices of 2012. With a sleek design, a do-it-all features list, and one of the strongest launch line-ups the gaming world has ever seen, the PlayStation Vita appears to have learned from the 3DS.

The only question that remains for the Vita is: how much customers are willing to spend on a handheld gaming device these days? With iPhones and iPads featuring hardcore games like Grand Theft Auto III, Infinity Blade 2, and Sonic CD, many consumers may want to spend a bit more on those, rather than buying a device that is mainly used for gaming.

The hardcore gamers will likely still gravitate towards the Vita, but, as the sales numbers showed in early 2011, $250 was too much for the 3DS, will Vita’s price (plus memory card) be too much for the gamer population? Sony will have to answer those questions in early 2012, but as far as 2011 is concerned, with such a strong first-party line-up, as well as a strong recovery from the PlayStation Network crash, this was a great year for Sony.

First Half Grade: A-
Second Half Grade: B
2011 Final Grade: B+

Please note that the final grade is not necessarily an average of the two half-year grades.

About Brian Shea

Brian Shea is VGW's Editor-in-Chief and one of the founding members of the site. In addition to leading the team at VideoGameWriters.com, he contributes such regular features as “Shea’s Say,” "Eleven Things," "Commercials from the Past" and “Essential Gaming."
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  1. Ryan Gleason says:

    * insert fanboy comment about you giving Sony an better grade than Microsoft*

    I still think Microsoft had the better year but the reason you gave for sony make sense, it also makes sense that it was so close between the two.

  2. Call me a BIG fanboy but just for Gears of War 3 alone I’d give Microsoft a final grade of A+ hehe. :)

    • Ratchet510 says:

      u are stupid it shows u know nothing about gaming at all, gears 3 is nothing compare to uncharted 3 cuz uncharted 3 is the perfect game of 2011. der is nothing wrong with U3 but gears 3 i know alot of problems, dont get me wrong i like gears 3 and i play it to but for xbox i like halo cuz its xbox main game dat made xbox big.

  3. Daniel Wise says:

    In my opinion, Sony should have a lower grade for the first half of the year. The hacking incident was definitely an unfortunate blow to Sony, but Killzone 3 and SOCOM 4 haven’t been faring too well since their releases. The community really sort of ditched those games for MW3 and BF3, or even jumping consoles altogether.

    However, Sony’s contributions and support for independent developers has been outstanding, so I guess that evens things out a little (particularly in comparison to XBLA and Wii Ware). However, like Microsoft, I don’t think their marketplaces cater best to gamers especially since distributors like Steam, GOG and Impulse blow the doors off the competition when it comes to worthwhile deals and sales.

    • I find it interesting that ya mentioned Impulse. Do you actually believe they have good deals? Since install I’ve just felt like they are on step behind Steam at all times and just mocking Steams sales. I’ve never really found anything on there worth while except for the free games I got for joining. Hell I don’t even play those. I’d love to see them become an actual competitor for Steam but I just don’t think there’s room for another monster like Steam.

    • NeloAnjelo says:

      The community didn’t “ditch” KZ3 and Socom for MW3 and BF3, as you suggest. These games just never lived up to their predecessors. Many people still playing KZ2.

      BF3 and MW3 came out a full six months after these games. Most online players would have already moved on anyway.

      • If your part of a said “community” for a game, you don’t just move on 6 months after release. You stick around and continually play the game showing it support not only online but also by recommending the game to others. At least that’s how I see it. You don’t just up and quit a game just cause the next big release of another franchise came out.

  4. Declan McCabe says:

    Yeah i think it was obvious that sony won this year. I bought most of the exclusives sony brought out. The hacking incident wasn’t their fault but they could of got it back up sooner. Nintendo’s was terrible only bought 2 games for my wii this year. But then again only one for the 360 “gears of war”. But in the end it comes down to what you prefer. I play my ps3 because of my mates. But i spend more time gaming on my pc. But hey come on 2012 :D

  5. I think MS easily took this year. I felt SONY was just staying a float with what they put out, the games were mediocre, TVs so far a flop (with little to no advertisement), & I think they are just sitting back banking that the VITA is going to keep them ahead. Nintendo made the right moves at the right times, they saved themselves I’m looking forward to 2012 for them to see where they take this 3DS. Again for me MS took it this year, besides packing all their releases into Q 3 & 4 I think they had the best year all around. To sum it up, by the time this year was coming to a close gaming wise I found myself buying a new 360, disconnecting the PS3, and gave up on Nintendo almost all together.

    • Ratchet510 says:

      first of all MS dont have anything good besides halo and gears, all der other exclusives suck, sony owned dis year with over 8 exclusives but stupid people rather play weak ass call of duty cuz its american, fuck dat shit sony’s exclusives own all games. sony is in first and nintendo is in second. da only good exclusive for MS in 2012 is halo 4 wich will be fukin great cant wait for that but yea dont listen to da media, reviews dont matter as long as u like a game cuz its right for u den reviews wont matter. i know thats da kind of person u are, u play wat everyone else plays cuz u cant deside on your own. ps3 sold more den 360 again, dont think i hate 360 cuz i dont i just read wat da developers say and i put it all together to have facts no oppinions.

  6. “With iPhones and iPads featuring hardcore games like Grand Theft Auto III, Infinity Blade 2, and Sonic CD, ”


    sonic cd is the worst version of the game and considered broken, forgettable. Sonic generations on the 3ds is a real game

    GTA 3 is considered unplayable with broken controls. Worst version of the game. The dedicated portables have better original gta’s

    infinity 2 is just sucky garbage

  7. By the way nintendo sold the most hardware and software this year in every single region. They deserve an A+

    kirby mass attack, dragon quest vi, joker 2, layton 4, zelda, kirby dreamland, and more first party

    radiant historia was the best third party game on any system

    • Jason Evangelho says:

      Just Dance 3 sold more than Kirby. Does that make Just Dance 3 a better game? No. These grades aren’t based purely on sales.

    • Ratchet510 says:

      if u wanna talk about sales den ill put weak ass call of duty mw3 in this, do u think mw3 is better den kirby mass attack, dragon quest vi, joker 2, layton 4, zelda, kirby dreamland, and nintendo more first party no u dont. Now u know sales do not decide da best games. radiant historia was not close to a next gen uncharted game not even close lol.

  8. Why did Sony get A- on the first half when the PSN outage, and Private security compromise happened?? A- near perfect??

    The PSN outage was the LONGEST outage this generation has ever seen??

    Wow…. just wow…

  9. ps3>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xfail360

  10. Microsoft should’ve got the better grade, just cause Sony had more exclusives don’t mean nothing…It’s quality over quantity & Microsoft’s few exclusives were better in quality than Sony

    • Jason Evangelho says:

      When we sit down to look at things critically (and without bias), it’s overwhelmingly clear that the PS3 had a ton of quality titles this year. Uncharted 3, inFamous, Resistance 3, Little big Planet 2, Motorstorm Apocalypse, Killzone 3…. it’s a lengthy list. Microsoft basically had Gears and Forza. Great games? Absolutely. But Sony’s committment to exclusives is appreciated by gamers, surely.

    • Ratchet510 says:

      lol wat u talkin about? wat MS exclusives had better quality den BF3 on PC not gears or forza. It was uncharted 3 dat has the best quality out of every game ever made but god of war 4 will take over again. gears of war 3 dont look as good as uncharted 2 lol, u need glasses seriously stop being a xbox fanboy and listen to wat da developers say instead of fans.

  11. Sam Brown (SBB) says:

    I’m not into the 360 at all, so my decision would come down to Sony and Nintendo. To be fair, both have gotten an equal amount of my play time this year, with my PS3 occupying the first half and my Wii/3DS occupying the 2nd half, so it’s kind of hard to choose between the two which one I thought had the best year.

    I guess though at this point, I’d have to go with Nintendo, as Skyward Sword, Mario Kart 7 3D Land, Return to Dreamland, Mass Attack, and more just provided me with so much fun and entertainment!

  12. TheHardware says:

    This article is laughable, Mighty high praise for the 360, highlighting sonys weaknesses, you didn’t mention GT5 which sold 7.3 million, Infamous 2, LBP2, ect ect. yeah I know the outage was huge, but you didn’t even mention that. despite terrible reviews for the kinect it did sell a lot, however the move isn’t very far behind. Sony deserved a B and Microsoft deserved a C+. after all we do buy these consoles to play Games and sony dominated with games this year.

  13. NeloAnjelo says:

    Good article. There are few points I’d like to add…

    The hacking incidient really did hold back Sony from having a great year. This however isn’t just where Sony is lacking… Where are all the great marketing ad campaigns of the past? Infamous 2 and Resistance 3 are really good games… not just by gamers’ standards but also critics. But they weren’t marketed at all.
    Sony 1st party support, and the growth of several studios are good for the Industry.

    Microsoft push on Kinect and the new dashboard is shocking IMO. As a hardcore gamer I could care less about talking to my console. Even worse though is the support for core gamers. I am not satisfied with just three core games from MS or getting multiplayer maps first. I want quality games.
    The new dashboard is now filled with ads, and they have removed Neflix sharing… I play for online, and I pay for Netflix… why should this be removed? Why should they be ads? I think this question isn’t being asked enough. MS fans seem to be content or just accept the lack of core games and the removal of things which they paid for.

    Nintendo… I am fed up of the shovelware. The last game two games I bought were Zelda:Skyward Sword and Metriod: Other M. I think this will be my last Nintendo console for a while.

  14. Of course Sony did better as exclusive games. I would give MS a C- in the first Half and A- in the second halft, and a B- overall.

    Sony first half a full A and A- in the second half. A- Overall.

    How many great exclusive games MS had in all 2011(excluding remakes) ? Gears, Forza, and ??

    Come on, we all know MS do not release many exclusive and new IP this gen. It’s all stuff we already saw on XBox1. Don’t complain about Sony receiving a better Score.

  15. Stuart Wright says:

    Would of been nice mentioning the whole Portal 2 cross platform play (Along with a free PC copy) but oh well…

  16. I dont see how Ms could have possibly won this year. What did they release? in terms of what this article was about sony destroy the competition and that is games. xbox fanboys keep talking about the network issue. well the ps3 isn’t based around its online service like xbox so I just kept playing games. I thought Ms did good this year delivering its normal run of the meal. I think forza is all but dead to the masses( it has its fans). Halo was ruined this year, just too much Halo. I picked up my 16th 360 this year so yeah it was a great year for 360. But the list of games sony delivered far out weighs kinect a dashboard update and a few repeat titles.

  17. Kid With a 3DS says:

    I am glad i held of on the 3ds until now i have been playing it almost non-stop since christmas mario kart 7 was a wonderful suprise the legend of zelda could consume my entire day if i let and super mario 3d land slowly ups the challenge giving me time to adjust to the new enviorment thoguh i do agree with nintendos low grade i also agree that 2012 will be a good year as long as titles such as paper mario and luigis mansion come fast enough because although the 3ds has some great titles releasing in early 2012 i fear if the summer is left untouched by it i will be disappointed in my 3ds

  18. Kid With a 3DS says:

    Ok i Have been reading some of these comments and i agree with the quanity over quality i own a 360 i bought gears 3 forza 4 and halo anniversary forza 4 can be entertaining at times but after so many seasons it just gets tiresome halo really wasnt half bad i enjoy playing it with my friends it shouldve been priced at 30 dollars though gears 3 on the other hand has been my favorite game this year the multiplayer was gorgeous and the campaign possibly the best i have ever played the add-ons just keep adding more great content i will say sony had a better year but
    people keep saying they delivered countless titles where only about 4-5 of those actually delivered 2/3 of gears experience

  19. Sony had some major exclusives this year Vita aside with LBP2, KZ3, Motorstorm Apocalypse, Infamous 2, Resistance 3, Ratchet:All 4 One, Uncharted 3 and a great PSN line-up…microsoft literally had Gears, Forza, and a re-hash of Halo(BTW IF we’re counting HD collections then PS3 takes the cake with ICO, and the GOW collection.) Nintendo was slightly better than MS in my opinion with pokemon BW, some 3ds hits like Mario Kart and Mario Land, and of course LoZ: SS. PSP was a total myeh and honestly we cannot judge the Vita yet…it has not been released worldwide…I just hope it finds it’s niche.

    Of course we could comment on how much hype each console has surrounding it in the future. Microsoft has some hardcore kinect titles to look forward to with Ryse and Fable:The Journey..both of which’s demoes received lukewarm reviews at E3. ANd 343 catches it’s big break with the new Halo 4. Theyve truly got a lot to prove but honestly I doubt Microsoft would release their flagship title into less than capable hands.

    Nintendo will be riding all on their new consoles next year. Zelda was clearly the Wii’s swan song and they will soon be lauding the Wii U as much as possible next year. I expect to see some major announcements for the system soon. 3DS future looks bright next year with Kid Icarus, Luigi’s mansion, Metal Gear SOlid, and Kingdom Hearts 3D all coming out. It’s clear Nintendo is attempting to bolster the 3DS as a new outlet for series’ that have found mainstream success on home consoles. Still they have much to prove as with MS next year.

    Then we come back to Sony. Obviously everyone has their preferences…my heart belongs to the PS3. With a steady and incredibly awesome set of exclusives this year, Sony looks to outdo themselves again with Twisted Metal(finally), Starhawk(finally!), Sly Cooper 4(also finally), The Last of Us and the Last Guardian. Whereas Microsoft’s success depends entirely on new business ventures and rookie developers next year Sony has it’s well-established network of studios pumping out long awaited, fresh looking sequels, with a few new IP’s from beloved studios Naughty Dog and Team ICO. With rumors of a Sony mascot brawler coming up AND new God of War IV popping out every so often I expect a few more surprise for next year as well. Vita’s success will also be crucial if Sony hopes to make next year more profitable. Just got to wait and see I suppose..

  20. Hmm my personal opinion is Sony has had the past 3 years hands down. The 360 had the first 3 years though and gave it a good run. The Ps3 had a rocky launch and I should have got a 360 at that time. People talk about staying a float but in reality Halo and kinect is the only thing keeping Microsoft in the game.All systems are kicking major arse though really Nintendo had it and still does since the Wii took the world by storm. I just never bought into the motion mess . I want a controller and guess im just part of the hardcore crowd. The thing people talk about is marketing ad campaigns and I rather Sony spend all that money in exclusives. Lol That is the difference , the hell with spending 40 million bucks on mountain dew adds and tv adds . I would rather all that money put on the next game , which is why we have too much to play.

  21. Sam Brown (SBB) says:

    Hahaha, I find it funny how my comment has a negative 3, simply because I said enjoy Nintendo games. :P

  22. LOL

    microsoft got a B why ???????????????

    wheres the games microsoft released zero games oh GOW and some kinect crap and it gets a B wtf microsoft has failed totally it started off with a huge lead loads of games and in the past 5 years it has dropped the ball majorly it has no new decent IPs nothing wow they released a xbox slim console and some crap where i get to jump around when im trying to play hardcore games lol

  23. Ryan Gleason says:

    No matter who wins or loses everyone is pissed off. What is wrong with internet people?

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