This is the time of year when my wife starts to complain, I lose touch with my friends, and my beard rivals Gandalf's, not in length but in how unkempt it is. This is the time of year where every gamer like myself starts to panic. The distress comes from the thought "how am I going to find the time to play all of the games that just hit store shelves?"

This year I find myself stressing more than I ever have. A quick scan over my prized game collection brings a startling revelation: The amount of hardware required to play this season's games has grown significantly. I have towering stacks of game boxes for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii. I have a smaller, yet still intimidating stacks for PC, PSP, and DS. And now I have stacks for Move, Kinect, and a list for iPhone and Android.

In this day and age of gaming, the so-called "hardcore gamer" who wants to see and play it all has to invest over a thousand dollars just in hardware, not to mention the funds needed to keep a PC current. Throw in software for all of these machines, and...well, there's a reason why I often lick the crumbs off of my plates and celebrate like I just scored a touchdown when I find a quarter on the ground.

Will I achieve my goal of playing everything I need to by year's end? I'm fairly confident that I will, but remember, I do this for a living. As soon as I finish writing this blog, I'm going to spin my chair around to finish off Epic Mickey. The question is: How much can the consumer see in a year?

I may be wrong, but most motion picture fanatics see all of the Academy Award nominated films. To see any movie, they either have to go to the theater, rent it, stream it, or buy it when it hits retail. Their expenses are minimal, and watching a film rarely takes over three hours. A movie ticket sets them back $10 to $15, and at the absolute most, a Blu-ray costs $30 (and if you're paying that much, you're a horrible shopper).

To see all of the game releases that have received buzz this year, gamers will need 10 devices, Internet connectivity for most of them, and, for a few games, additional peripherals. Not to mention anywhere from 6 to 60 hours per title. 

From the number of hardware choices consumers are faced with buying, it's easy to see gaming is moving in a new direction. This generation may end up showing growth in the number of gamers with machines, but the install base for each hardware type is much lower than we've seen in previous generations. I love that we have so many different ways to play games – be it with a controller, phone, or our body – but my fear is that the audience becomes splintered to a point that publishers become gun shy on larger budget games.

Yes, Call of Duty: Black Ops recently broke sales records and the established franchises continue to reach their fan bases, but what does the current landscape hold for new IPs and art house designs?

With the information I've laid out in mind, I'd like to turn this discussion over to you. What systems do you have? What is your stack of "must-play games" looking like right now? And what are you thoughts on the current landscape of gaming?